Island Life - Year 2007B

Vol. 9 Weekly News, Reviews, Music and Satire Sunday 2007


Welcome to the 2nd half of the 9th year of this weekly column. The Annual Volume is broken into two sections to allow for faster page loading.

This site has been in continuous operation since late 1998. Issues published in past years can be viewed by clicking on the "Past Issues" hyperlink at the bottom of this page.

To review news and items for the first half of the year 2007, click the sailboat or this hyperlink: 2007 FIRST HALF.

To return to the present time, click here: THE HERE AND NOW.

DECEMBER 30, 2007


Dear Readers, this is the last entry for 2007. As usual we will provide complete visitation stats and the annual Flight About the Bay Introduction in the New Year. We have loads of plans for you out there, with a vastly expanded multimedia section and a more newsworthy format so you do not have to scroll down endless pages to find something of interest. We have graphic and music artists who now want to add their contributions and, a special treat, a return to the marvelous voice of Jacqueline Suzanne later in the year. A professional recording studio has offered their services at no charge, we have professional musicians calling on the phone, and so the sky is the limit.

Why should a blog be simply a congealed thing defined by dudges with no imagination. We intend to make this thing soar, baby!

And to top it all, that most wonderful of news: 2008 will be George Disaster Bush's last year in office, and probably in any elected office anywhere, including Texas Dogcatcher.

So the Administration sabotaged the economy to provoke a certain Recession on the heels of the Housing/Mortgage Disaster (on the heels of the Iraq disaster on the heels of the Terrorist Bin Laden Disaster on the heels of the S&L Disaster on the heels of the Katrina disaster on the heels of the Medical Insurance disaster etc. etc. etc.).

It will be okay to be poor as crap, just as long as that fool Bush and none of his miserable weasels are in control. We will make do.

We are used to adversity in California; you newcomers, just get with the program. We have had gold fever, earthquakes, fires, and Ronald Reagan, so we are well inured to disaster, for we have grown old with it as a constant presence.

That is why Minnesotta in the wintertime makes perfect sense to all of us. Of course life is miserable. Only a fool thinks he can enjoy life.

Those hot tubs in Marin? Invented and designed for hopelessly crippled and demented persons with shocking injuries that need such treatment. Its the dangling Orange of Illusion and Deception created to lure the unwary and milk their wallets. The sybaritic lifestyle is a myth. Go home people, you will find no ease here in Calfornia. Just all of you go home. Look at the traffic and you can see there can be no ease here at all.


Alright we will try to keep this short. The inevitable Retrospective of the Past Year. The Past Year Sucked.

Okay, glad we are done with that.

But to carry out our duties, lets bolster Time's Deathwatch with our own. Passed this year were the following Lights of Earth:

Ingmar Bergman 1918-2007
He said the theater was his faithful wife, the movies his alluring mistress. His day job was as Sweden's top stage director, but occasionally he would kidnap his troupe of superb actors (Eva Dahlbeck, Max von Sydow, Harriet and Bibi Andersson) and make a film. From these vacations came some of the medium's grandest, most ambitious and most lacerating works: The Naked Night, The Seventh Seal, Through a Glass Darkly, Persona, Autumn Sonata. In more than 50 films over 60 years, Bergman turned his private obsessions into universal human drama and left an indelible legacy.

Steve Fossett 1944-2007
He was one of those remarkable folks who calmly did remarkable things without fanfare or trumpets or self-promotion, a feat that far exceeds any sort of award or media acknowledgment for he remained a human being while breaking records right and left in experimental aircraft. His plane disappeared near our summer haunts in the High Sierra and there he and his plane remain, unfound, jammed into some deep snowbound crevice.

Jerry Falwell 1933-2007
Its hard to think of a more detestible creature than this Baptist pastor from Lynchburg, Va., who was the most effective galvanizer of the religious right during the obnoxious Reagan Revolution. Falwell's lobby group, the Moral Majority, was crucial in delivering Evangelicals to the Republicans in the 1980s and hatred to the masses. Smarmy and avuncular, not fire-breathing, he denounced gays as "brute beasts," predicted that the Antichrist would be Jewish, and said it was feminists, abortionists and secularists who had made God allow the Sept. 11 attacks. Yet Hustler publisher Larry Flynt called him a friend. A demon among the Believers, corrupting all with "honey'd words." Good riddance.

Robert Goulet 1933-2007
His rolling baritone and suave good looks made him a star of Broadway, Vegas, movies, radio and TV—for five decades. Aware that his type of fame, old-school and easily parodied, was unusual, he enjoyed it to the fullest, enthusiastically joining in the fun while still scoring all the best tables in town. He long outlived the antiquated style that had thrust him into the limelight, and so remained a sort of icon of self-inflated Tartuffery for decades.

Merv Griffin 1925-2007
He was the warm show-biz uncle who wanted everyone he brought on his talk show to become a star—and some did, including Richard Pryor and George Carlin. He laughed at his guests' jokes, gushed at their stories and perfected a breezy, unironic manner. The former Big Band singer's instincts also informed his entrepreneurship. In 1964 he created Jeopardy! and later invented history's most successful game show, Wheel of Fortune. Some called his shows fluff, but they drew huge audiences because Griffin understood that TV appealed to the lowest common denominator and that in the end, the sheer numbers would win out over taste or intelligence.

David Halberstam 1934-2007
He was an author and a chronicler of the Times and he did not shirk the weight of substantial Prose. If the 20th century was the century of bigness — big ideologies, big institutions, big wars — then Halberstam was one of its most apt chroniclers. Rather than nibble at history's edges, he sought to report and explain the outsize events and people of his lifetime in massive, fearless tomes. His best-known books, like The Best and the Brightest (about the Vietnam War and the brain trust that got the U.S. mired in it) and The Powers That Be (about America's major media outlets), were analytical, often judgmental looks at the workings of power and its tendency toward hubris.

Yolanda King 1955-2007
Born into the storm of the civil rights revolution, King grew into an activist in her own right. The eldest child of Martin Luther King Jr., she was 2 months old when the family's house was bombed during the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott and 12 when her father was shot. King carried her father's message of equality and nonviolence into her career as an actor and producer. Her company, Higher Ground Productions, sought to "educate, empower and entertain," and she often portrayed civil rights figures, like Rosa Parks, in the TV movie King; the widow of Malcolm X, in the film Death of a Prophet; and the daughter of Medgar Evers, in Ghosts of Mississippi. Acting, King said, "allowed me to find an expression and outlet for the pain and anger I felt about losing my father."

Evel Knievel 1938-2007
Time reported that "Robert Craig Knievel Jr. died in November after 69 years, which by all rights is more than twice as long as it should have taken him". Indeed the stuntman had survived a number of spectacular accidents as he continued to push the envelope on what he could do with a motorcycle flying through space. EK claimed that he had broken every bone in his body during his career - twice. During one incident, a photographer was killed, and after that Knievel never performed a stunt in public again. But long before that, his stunts which began with circus jumps over trucks and ended with leaps over canyons, had made him into a genuine American icon and a Myth.

Norman Mailer 1923-2007

Novelist, essayist, filmmaker, provocateur-at-large — no writer of his generation looked more deeply, or with such an original turn of mind, into the predicaments of his time. He was just 25 when he became abruptly and unmanageably famous for his first novel, The Naked and the Dead. It was 1948, America was looking for its Great War Novel and there was Mailer with his jug handle ears and his curly hair and a compelling book based on his experiences as an infantryman in the South Pacific.

He became a feature at lit salons, bringing his own bottle of Jack Daniels and engaging in a long vitriolic spat -- which basically made no sense at all -- with literary lion Gore Vidal.

All through his career Mailer would carry with him a few persistent preoccupations. One was that technology was the devil's instrument, the means by which everything that made us human would be gradually leached away. It wasn't just the atomic bomb that Mailer detested. He could write about "the scent of the void that comes off the pages of a Xerox copy." He hated the telephone so much he wouldn't give phone interviews.

His other great topic was manhood, and the problem of how to achieve it in a culture subsiding into room temperature. Like Hemingway, Mailer was fascinated by boxers and liked their company. He was also prone to drunken fistfights. As for women, he had something close to a mystical view of sex, of the female body as a mystery that a man must enter and possess. And his hatred of the emerging order of techno-rationalism extended to a distaste even for birth control. All that, plus the fact that in 1960 he had stabbed his second wife Adele — though badly injured, afterwards she refused to sign a complaint against him — made it inevitable that he would become one of the main targets of feminist writers in the late '60s and early '70s.

With every passing month he promised the Great American Novel, which never really was forthcoming, as such a definition could never be left in the hands of the author himself, no matter how grandiose. Irascible, irritating, obnoxious, pugnacious, self-inflated, wildly self-important, opinionated, argumentative and thoroughly objectionable, he remains nevertheless one of the most significant men of letters during the last century. Even Vidal would have to admit that.

Marcel Marceau 1923-2007
A gentle man, a silent performer, a valiant hero during the French Resistance, Marceau can not simply be dismissed as "just a mime". Death did that, but legions of admirers will retain the memory of this extraordinary talent for generations. Although the inventor of the modern mime style, he was given the only spoken line in Mel Brook's Silent Movie: "Non!"

Luciano Pavarotti 1935-2007
He was a big man with big appetites and loved to flourish his trademark handkerchief at the end of performances. The last of the Great Classical Tenors, his was a voice they don't make any more. And probably never will again. Several millions attended his funeral service in Italy.

Max Roach 1924-2007
Unless you are a poet or a musician, you might not know about Max Roach. As a founder of bebop, the inventive bandleader made percussion a star player, melodically driving rhythms disturbed by loud bass-drum beats, sudden silences and erratic riffing. He created, in essence, the idea of the drum as a lead instrument in Western Music. Roach, who anchored seminal recordings by Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, later composed for theater, tried hip-hop and formed an acclaimed all-percussion band.

Arthur Schlesinger 1917-2007
He was America's jaunty celebrity historian. Schlesinger, a bow-tied liberal centrist, didn't just record history — he helped make it. He published influential studies of crucial presidencies, notably Andrew Jackson's and Franklin D. Roosevelt's. And he wrote about John F. Kennedy from close range, as a White House "special assistant" who advised on policy. During the deliberations of the United States decision to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, with President Kennedy and his closest advisers, he was one of two persons who opposed the strike[1] (the other being William Fulbright); however, he sat silent, except writing a private memorandum to President, not wanting to undermine the President's desire for a unanimous decision; this decision was recalled later with bitter regret by the rueful Schlesinger.

His notes from those years became the basis for A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, which won him the second of two Pulitzer Prizes. The first was garnered by his 1945 book on Andrew Jackson.

Kurt Vonnegut 1922-2007
We have written earlier about Mr. Vonnegut. He survived the bombing of Dresden as a POW in 1945 (by taking shelter in a slaughterhouse) and a suicide attempt in 1984 before time — a favorite subject of his black humorist fictions— finally caught up with him. Both cynical and sentimental, furious and full of good-fellowship, Vonnegut combined a defiantly idiosyncratic temperament with a universal approachability. Time commented "He distilled the dissatisfaction of his entire species in the cauldron of his boiling brain."

Generations of college students adored him for his brief, concise writing style and his cynical, self-deprecating wit.

Vonnegut was born Indianapolis in 1922, the son of an architect. His early life shows the kind of aimless lateral peregrinations of someone who was in the process of inventing a kind of person that hadn't really existed before. He put in a mediocre stint at Cornell before enlisting in the army in 1942, during World War II. Shortly afterward — and within a year of each other — two events occurred that would prove to be formative for Vonnegut. In 1944, on Mother's Day, he came home on leave to discover that his mother, an unsuccessful writer, had committed suicide with sleeping pills. In December of that same year Vonnegut was captured during the Battle of the Bulge and sent to Dresden as a prisoner of war. On February 13, 1945 the unprotected Dresden was leveled in a massive Allied bombing assault so intense it created an enormously destructive firestorm. Well over 130,000 people died. Vonnegut survived by hiding in the basement of a slaughterhouse.

He later claimed that this incident had no effect upon his character or his career, which featured over 14 successful novels, three short story collections, five plays and five works of non-fiction.

Although he died a literary celebrity, lionized by the culture of which he was so unsparing, Vonnegut was always drawn to outcasts and failures in his writing: criminals, the deformed, the exiled, the damaged, the insane, anyone who no longer had a stake in repeating society's familiar lies. The cast of Cat's Cradle includes one of those outcasts, a midget to whom Vonnegut gave the title speech:

"No wonder kids grow up crazy," the midget says. "A cat's cradle is nothing but a bunch of X's between somebody's hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X's..."


"No damn cat, and no damn cradle."

Boris Yeltsin 1931-2007
In his finest moment, according to Time Magazine, he stood atop a tank in 1991 as a defender of a new Russia, rallying opposition to an attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev. Later he acted as a reform-minded steward of his nation's moves toward dissolution of the old USSR. He allowed the former Soviet republics to drift away peacefully, though he waged a disastrous war against Chechnya. But his greatest service came in 1999, when he showed Russians how a ruler freely lets go of power. Never before had rulers agreed to surrender an entire government and an entire State for the good of the People. History is likely to be kinder to the memory of this man than any Reagan or Bush Pretender.

Mary Tyler "Molly" Ivins 1944 – 2007

Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as “Shrub,” died 1/31 after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

Ivins was born in Monterey, California and raised in Houston, Texas.

Ivins made a living poking fun at politicians, whether they were in her home state of Texas or the White House. She revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.

More than 400 newspapers subscribed to her nationally syndicated column, which combined strong liberal views and populist humor. Ivins’ illness did not appear to hurt her ability to deliver biting one-liners.

“I’m sorry to say (cancer) can kill you, but it doesn’t make you a better person,” she said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News in September, the same month cancer claimed her friend former Gov. Ann Richards.

Ivins’ best-selling books included those she co-authored with Lou Dubose about Bush. One was titled “Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush” and another was “BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bush’s America.”

Ivins’ jolting satire was directed at people in positions of power.

“The trouble with blaming powerless people is that although it’s not nearly as scary as blaming the powerful, it does miss the point,” she wrote in a 1997 column. “Poor people do not shut down factories ... Poor people didn’t decide to use ’contract employees’ because they cost less and don’t get any benefits.”

In an Austin speech last year, former President Clinton described Ivins as someone who was “good when she praised me and who was painfully good when she criticized me.”

Ivins loved to write about politics and called the Texas Legislature the best free entertainment in Austin.

Lynn Lyndberg 1941-2007

Gone from our circle here was the precious light of Lynn Lyndberg. A pioneering spirit, she helped run the New Mexico Shelter for Wild Animals, raising two bobcats in her own home until they had achieved formidible size and to the point they could be re-released into the wild, cared for all kinds of wild birds, including eagles, was a founding member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, founded a botanicals business, helped develop the "cold cap" device for cancer patients, and touched many thousands of lives with her gentle humor and intelligence.

"Toi, tu auras des etoiles comme personne n'en a . . . . Quand tu regarderas le ciel, la nuit, puisque j'habiterai dans l'une d'elles, puisque je riarai dans l'une d'elles, alors ce sera pour toi comme si riaient toute les etoiles. Tu aras, toi, des etoiles qui savent rire!"

"You -- and you alone -- will have the stars as no one else has them . . . . When you look at the sky, because I am living in one of them, it will be as if all of them are laughing when you look at the stars. You and you alone will know the stars that laugh!" (from Le Petit Prince)


This past year the Island went through a couple minor revolutions. Frank Mataresse of the City Council finally dragged City Hall to the point of officially condemning the War in Iraq and requesting return of Guard troops to protect the estuary and Port with qualified language. This happened after the Mayor and several Council members had been safely reelected during the Wipeout that saw the Democrats regain majorities in all Congressional Departments.

The courts wiped away all remaining arguments against the Cineplex Monstrosity and that complex began massive construction, shutting down Santa Clara and Oak Streets in the adjoining blocks.

In a subsumed series of reports, the beleagured Hospital, really an outpatient clinic by now, implored for yet more duns upon landholders to keep afloat, even as yet more services were cut back or simply done away with. Recently, however, the VA has concluded an agreement with the Hospital to treat veterans there in an highly anticipated move that should renew the coffers of the strapped LAFCO.

In a curious move, some agents moved to privitize the only money-making operation the Island has control over: the Chuck Corica Golf Course. The Golf Course, although beset by declining enrollments, nevertheless still earns well over a million dollars a year - profit - in green fees. The expanding puzzlement over this devious effort stymied the process for now.

In April, a tanker truck collided with a buttress in the middle of the Maze early in the morning and the ensuing fireball brought down a critical Maze overpass, causing all sorts of commotion and major traffic disruption for weeks.

In October, a recent imigrant from Mongolia was shot to death in a botched robbery attempt by a gang of teenagers from Oakland. The gang was quickly apprehended, but the ensuing investigation has roiled the Asian-American community with charges of racism against the Island Police Department.

Ending on a positive note, O'Connell Volvo on Webster began selling versions of the all-electric Zap car, and followed up with all-electric versions of a pickup truck and a scooter. Folks say the vehicles are cute as the dickens.


This year, Ms. Morales became engaged to Mr. Rodriguez, with the official wedding date postponed due to Contretemps Unforseeable. An invite has been sent through the usual devious channels to the captain of the Iranian Submarine. Suzie had an affair with an Irish boy who broke her heart when he returned to Erin. The Annual Island Poodleshoot came off swimmingly, safe for an unfortunate altercation at the Pit, when Paul Bailiff of Marin appeared with an Illegal Kill in the form of an alleged rottweiler and personal pet of a Known Citizen.

A substantial portion of Everett and Jones BBQ sauce was employed in the dispatch of the said rottweiler.

The investure of Newark by Eugene Shrubb's Army of Bums continued with the highlight of the public hanging of the Newark City Manager, since no Mayor or City Council could be located.

The discharge of Wally's revolver into the roof of the clubhouse belonging to the Native Sons of the Golden West resulted in some archetectural disruptions and serious construction damage as well as the invasion of a nasty racoon who further occasioned some further disarray that included the South Wall being blown out onto the lawn, serious plumbing disabilities and fractious tree limbs and one destroyed fish aquarium plus a broken nose. You will need to go back and examine just what happened to David Phipps and Javier that day for its all a muddle.

And now we are done with this year's retrospective. Go forth young man, and live life anew. Forget about last year for its done with.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. With the rain coming in, things warmed up a bit and we even enjoyed a few warmish sunny days. Now that the Longest Night of the year has passed, we all look forward to lengthening days and the swelling of sunlight as Sol Invictus brings his chariot around the banked turn of the solar system.

Mr. Howitzer is still looking for his rottweiler, Sweetums, missing since Thanksgiving and has put out a reward for any information. In a possibly unrelated bit of news Paul Bailiff has left the country for a while and is spending this year's Holiday period in Mexico. His exact whereabouts remain unknown.

The Native Sons of the Golden West held their annual Holiday Banquet over at the newly repaired Historic Hall and there was a great deal of roistering that evening down by the docks. They say that a Great Recession is coming on so might as well live it up while one can.

Over at the Shoreline Squat, Marlene and Andre are gearing up for the New Years, certainly to be as destructive as the one last year when Xavier blew out the power all along the street trying to tap into the AP&T power grid at a streetlight so as to get free power for the house.

That's the way it is on the island. Have a great New Years.

DECEMBER 23, 2007


The longest, darkest night of the year passed last night with temps rather frigid for us here along the Gold Coast, but the waxing moon reaching full tonight put a merrier face on things.

These things at the end of the year tend to wind on a good bit, much like your uncle who has had too much Holiday Punch and insists on telling those stories about being around the racetrack during the Tet Offensive, so sit back and prepare ye for the lard. Next year will be a better one, for sure.

Speaking of merrier, just finished GK's , Pontoon, and rather liked it. Not just because it was a refreshing dip after enduring the two hour Coan Brothers orgy of relentless nihilism, No Country for Old Men, but turns out Garrison can write extended things besides those wonderful little monologues he does for the PHC on NPR.

Pontoon features most of the usual Lake Wobegon suspects, but the novel length treatment forces Garrison to more fully develop a few of the characters than is allowed during a fifteen minute speech. And as it turns out, this Lake Wobegon comes off with more than a few cracks and wrinkles in its moralistic hide, with several of the stronger characters deciding that the limitations of the town are too much for them as they abandon the oh so attractive winters for Alabama and California.

Not as deep or serious as Faulker's unpronounceable county in Mississippi, Lake Wobegon nevertheless has become a sort of portable world carried beneath the overcoat somewhere in or about the chest region, and possesses far more warmth than Faulkner ever could give to anybody or anything.

As for the movie version of No Country for Old Men, the critics are daft and deluded and illiterate in saying the Coan brothers remained true to the original. They changed the ending entirely, changed the nature and character of Anton, and completely departed from the one thing that possessed any sort of meaning or integral value in McCarthy's book. For example:

In the book, Anton returns the money to his employer with apologies that some of the cash went unavoidably missing due to actions outside of his control. He does not kill any of the employer's assistants and he walks away, leaving the man puzzled, but alive.


The Island-Life Miscellany is out, a sort of annual curmudgeonly treatment of the holidays. CD's of the thing are available from the Usual Suspects. For those of you living outside the Golden State, USPS and these hyperlinks will just have to do. Click on the blue text to download. Make yer own damn CD if you want one.

Introduction: Javier Maldonado
Singer: The Editor
Soundeffects: Aquavit and waterglass
Guitar: Parson Willem Nyquist

Primary Singer: Denby Montana
Backup Singers: The Lincoln Avenue 12-Step Program Rehab Clinic
Orchestra: The Island B-Sharp Discordant Symphony. Conducted by
Professor Isaac von Kichern by kind permission of BMI/ASCAP

Primary Singer: Denby Montana
Backup Singers: The Island Homeless Men's Shelter Choir
Instrumental Music: The Island Poodleshoot Band.
Guest Star: Chad on banjo-cuisinart and Inflatable.

1st Female voice: Suzie Morirse Por Estrella
2nd Female voice: Jaqueline Suzanne l'Etoile
3rd Female voice: Susan Jimsternen
4th Female voice: Eiranne Suhsaihnn ni'Aisling
Chorus: The Hoophole Island Choir, Conducted via telephone by Prof. Peter Schickle
News Announcer: Denby Montana


A recent article in the East Bay Express claims "Alameda is becoming a bona fide shopping, arts and entertainment destination" (12.19.07, Vol. 30, #11, page 13), citing the South Shore Mall facelift, new trendy upscale shops, the Cinema megaplex, development at the old Naval Base (called The Point), and the new Rhythmix Cultural Center.

Now hold on a minute. Just to whom does this writer owe serious favors? There are major issues with every one of the supposedly glowing developments mentioned in what is clearly a "puff piece" article.

The South Shore Center is clearly still undergoing its facelift with most stores faced with plywood scaffolding and construction barriers. A couple "big box stores" have dropped plans already. As for this Cinema megaplex, the place is months, if not years away from being put into operation. Yes, we certainly need a movie theater in a town which has not seen a movie house succeed for some forty years. Except for Central Cinema, which is appropriately sized for the Island. How are all six hundred patrons going to crowd onto the Island with its narrow three-block long downtown to line up for that parking garage? They will file dutifully and patiently over the narrow two-lane steel deck drawbridge that is known for pitching SUV's into the drink at the slightest moisture on its metal drawbridge, should no one be planning on halting all traffic by sailing a jaunty yacht under its opened span.

And when the movie lets out, they will all file out patiently, again, over that same two-lane bridge.

As for The Point, open space for rabbits and sawgrass for some six to eight years now, loaded with lots of lovely Superfund toxics, well, that fellow has remained undeveloped because two major national developers have fled in horror from the project, setting us all back to square one each time and succeeding developers have all possessed levels of meretriciousness and venality to disgust ... well to disgust an Anton Chigurg in a Coan Brothers movie.

Rhythmix shows up as the sole contender with a scrap of honor in this mess, but they have yet to hold a single event that can fill its 200 seat performance space.

As for the "busy Park Street" , it remains horrendously congested with stores folding up and going out of existence every week -- for reasons we will describe anon -- and please note, our metropolis possesses a downtown that is scarcely one block wide and four blocks long. That is not a "retail sector", that is more commonly called a " planned pedestrian thoroughfare."

On the North-west side, we have the city jail, a high school, and the empty Carnegie Library restricting growth. On the South-east side we have a "sports bar", the blighted haven for sex offenders and addicts called the Harbor Motel, and private dwellings.

In conversing with several small business entrepreneurs on Park Street and out at the Point, we find story after story of City Hall intransigence and obstructionism to all kinds of new ideas and quite a few well-tried old ones. According to our sources, a handful of Old Guard members of the Park Street Business Association rule the roost, including the permitting departments inside City Hall. And if these Old Guard don't like you, they see that any business you attempt to start will surely fail.

In one notorious instance, a bookstore was driven out of town when the owners were required to apply a five million dollar liability insurance policy -- obtainable from certain "acquaintances" at a discount, of course. This policy was not to cover the inside of the store -- oh no, certainly not that -- it was meant to cover the sidewalk area in front of the store.

This nonsense has nothing to do with Measure A and everything to do with old fashioned cronyism and money under the table.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Lauren Do: have any comments?


All the agog and attention focusses on the very special Thompson Avenue, where the kind folks from the Postal Service set up a special mailbox designed with a single North Pole destination for all missives, and where the folks there really kick out the Xmas jams when it comes to electrifying the place. But we really should pay attention to some to some of the less ostentatious displays on the island, which require no less effort for that the folks who live in these houses must actually go to work and report to so-called Superiors, and that distracts from decorating time.

So here we go. Starting with the Island-Life Social Coordinator's front lawn and a jolly Claus.

Deer are always a favorite around here at this time.

And here is a whole family.

The full moon shone bright on the Solstice. Here it hangs over an Island House.


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 gestures 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 secularize 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.

And 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

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 scatter-gun 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.

In those days, there was a ferry landing built right there where they have one now in the place called Larkspur, for the intentions were to build adobes and presidios up north so as to forestall any expansion of the Russian settlement from Fort Ross. So it was not difficult to obtain boats of sufficient size and number to bring the war party across. Nevertheless, a little ducking and a little wet spray cooled their heat a bit.

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 festivities. 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, "No es pecado matar esos indios gentiles."

"Today we make a great slaughter!"

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 de amor,
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 de amor,
Todo duerme en derredor;
sobre el santo niño Jesús
Una estrella esparce su luz,
Brilla sobre el Rey
Brilla sobre el Rey.

Remember that 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 de amor,
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 soldiers 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.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The freeways all around have been clogged with such numbers of people, many of them complete idiots who appear to never have ever had any familiar intercourse or instruction with the machine called by you and me "automobile" or that thing known by you and me as "traffic" that the vast majority of Islanders have remained for the sake of safety at home, doing their holiday shopping online with that magical thing called "the personal computer", and because they all have disabled the Microsoft firewall, the antivirus, the antispam fisher-king thing, the malapropism generator, the dingus of AT&T, the Ashcroft Security Center, the Yahoo Messenger, the Yahoo Twaddler, and the Poodleboot, everything goes swimmingly quite against the advice of nephew Albert who is a geek and a programmer in several languages not spoken by any sentient human being, for Oracle's IBM division of Linux and Hijinx

But he couldn't fix your DVD player or your thumb-thing, and now everything simply works despite his worst admonitions so the Vista thing can go take a hike for now.

The latest scuttlebutt has it that the Wii, an essentially unpronounceable device much like the entertainer who used to be known as Prince, produces brainwaves extraordinarily attractive to the German cockroach. The Koreans found this out, and you sure can trust those guys to tell the truth as they see it.

We knew this all along. Put a bunch of acne-impacted college student programmers into a dorm room with stale boxes of old pizza and spilled coca cola and of course, that is what you are going to get.

So now we have made the perfect device to destroy civilization while fostering its inheritors. And every perfect idiot is going to rush right out and buy one to hasten the End.

How comforting.

Over at The Squat on Shoreline, Marlene and Andre wade through the wreckage of the Lupercalia/Sol Invictus/Wicca/Chanukah dinner, a sort of joyous feast of whatever people have managed to scour up with this year being especially bountiful. With twelve people and four dogs and uncountable cats all practicing everything from Unitarianism to Hari Krishna, Marlene and Andre see no reason to peg their holiday on any one theology, so they all celebrate as many as they can.

One day Jesus, Xavier and Pahrump all came home shouting with glee from working a banquet at the Claremont Hotel, and each proceeded to pull out one raw porterhouse steak after another from their coat pockets like magicians doing a bloody hat trick in which the bunny had met some terrible disaster. But from Pahrump's pants leg emerged the piece de resistance: a full rack of lamb!

They all ate well this year, each remembering previous years of Brussels sprout soup in miso.

The place was a mess after the party, but then, it always was in the best of circumstances. In the corner the tree glittered with Marlene's ornaments from Russia in its old washtub and cinderblock mounting.

"Hey!" said Andre. Who threw bones into the Xmas tree water?"

It is otherwise a fairly quiet nice. Earlier, four squad cars had raced down Lincoln to the West End, their sirens all howling, but for now Officer O'Madhauen sits sipping coffee from a Styrofoam cup in his Crown Victoria near the Old Cannery. Which they are planning to turn into tony live-work spaces sometime soon. Put some life back into the old brick warehouse now bordered by weeds and a chainlink fence.

Over at the Old Same Place, Suzie gives a nod to the Season by wearing a fetching Elf Cap while she serves up drinks at the bar. Jose, Javier and Eugene are all sitting there on stools and talking about the dismal Raiders season.

Lynnette and Susan ride up to their flat, switch off their headlamps and lock up the bicycles in the shed out back before coming in with their shopping prizes, blowing on chilled fingers and tossing woolen caps into the closet before snuggling under the down comforter in front of the TV set with hot cocoa and their selection of holiday DVD's: The Ref, Bad Santa, Nightmare Before Xmas, Mixed Nuts, and Elf.

Father Duran of the Church of Many Holy Names is chatting before the hearth with Father Guimon of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint in the Rectory of Many Holy Names after they have wrapped up this year's Pageant, which featured a Medieval Morality Tale that had both of them performing as Virtue and as Saving Grace come to rescue poor Everyman lost in the Dark Wood of Error. Father Duran still has vine leaves in his hair from his costume, looking a bit like some creature from a very unchristian time.

Across the street, Pastor Nyquist and Maria have put all the kettles away from this year's Holiday Banquet and he is nodding off with a glass of sherry. Between the two affairs, that corner of Grand Street had been bustling with little angels, one or two devilish characters, a number of robed saints, and great numbers of Islanders of all sizes, coming and going and shouting in the frosty air, "See you next year!" as if that were some truly original expression. But now the calm and the peace of the full moon shines down on the Island.

Reverend Rectumrod had taken the unusual step of leaving for the Holidays to his native Georgia, abandoning his flock of some four or five souls. But his version of the Liturgy is so stark and bare, unadorned and scornful of any sort of merriment and celebration that it made no sense to keep on with his American Flag tie and his black suit. His is Church of Hellfire and Damnation and These are the Last Days, so there is no jumping up and down or singing in his church, save for dirges. So the members of his congregation all went over to Pastor Nyquist, believing that stern Lutheranism would be a good substitute for Sanctified Brethren of the Third Baptist Church. Quite to their surprise, Pastor Nyquist welcomed them all with open arms and invitations to the Banquet which turned out to be warm and pleasant and full of jolly people and they rather liked this version of Biblical interpretation very much.

So much so, that a few of them decided, well might as well stay with this Pastor and not go back to the other one. But these resolutions were made in secret.

Bear and Susan are already snuggled up and asleep, bathed by the holiday lights wrapped around Bear's Harley, parked as usual, in the livingroom. Percy Worthington Boughsplatt, dressed in satin pajamas of the same color scheme as his vintage 1939 Mandeville-Brot coupe, sips brandy from a snifter while his long time consort and live-in companion, Madeline tidies up in the kitchen, wearing an apron and high heels and, as usual, nothing else other than a fetching silver wrapping bow in her hair. As a member of the Berkeley Explicit Players, Madeline fondly remembers her old associate, the Naked College Student, who passed away this year and a tear escapes her eye.

"I say, Maddy, you still have a fine bumper there." Percy says.

Madeline turns. Looks down. "You are going to ruin those pajamas," she said.

"Am I now?"

"If you do not, I am about to. Take them off." And she removed her apron.

Well, dear and gentle reader, let's draw the curtains now, shall we. That's the way it is on the Island, this peaceful night of a thousand stars. Have a great week.

DECEMBER 16, 2007


This week's headline photo comes courtesy of the Office backyard where the Chanukah bush has been glowing all week. On Thursday, the day after Chanukah, somebody went out and plugged the shrub back into the electric avenue. Now that the High Holy day is over, the bush is become the Solstice Shrub. Just a simple heart glowing in the darkness.

Saturday, December 22, 2007
7:00 PM

From roving reporter Mike, we have announcement of this year's annual "Unsilent Night" in Babylon. Since 1992, musician Phil Kline has prompted a delightfully unscripted and unorganized event in the Mission Dolores area. This event has acquired venues in several of the world's major cities each attracting several thousand people to the impromtue occasions.

According to Phil, the rules are simple. " It’s like a Christmas caroling party except that we don’t sing, but rather carry the music, each of us playing a separate track that is a “voice” in the piece. In effect, we become a city-block-long sound system!

Join us and bring a boombox, or anything that will blast a cassette, CD or Mp3. (Cassettes sound the coolest, but we realize cassette players are getting scarce now.) The more tracks we play, the bigger and more amazing the sound is. . . If you’d like to participate, please e-mail the contact listed for your city for instructions. If you’d like to participate but don’t have a boombox or a music player with speakers, you can just show up and join the parade. Everyone is an important part of the procession. Help us make a BIG (and joyful) noise. This is always a free event and all ages are welcome.

Our reporter says that the actual experience of the event far exceeds any wordy description and is well worth the price of a BART ticket to experience.

In addition to New York, UNSILENT NIGHT is presented in cities such as Los Angeles; San Francisco; San Diego; Santa Barbara; Philadelphia; Atlanta; Cleveland; Tallahassee; Tucson; Houston; New Haven; Boulder; Baltimore; Charleston; Asheville, NC; Manassas, VA; Milledgeville, GA; Bowling Green, OH; Banff, Alberta; Vancouver, BC; White Horse, Yukon Territory; Hamburg and Berlin, Germany; Middlesbrough, England; Melbourne and Sydney, Australia.


(This is the continuation of the 3-part series about Olga, the Russian Waif, raised in the forbidding fortress of the Moscovy Hermitage and sent forth into the world unadorned and bereft, where she made the decision to accompany the Siberian Fur Trappers Company to Nuovo Zembla, sometimes called Nuovo Estoty and now called America by its conquerors. Due to storms and poor seamanship their ship, the Moego Ada, berths a bit south of their intended destination, the Russian settlement at Fort Ross. While berthed in this seemingly safe harbor, another ferocious storm comes up, causing a good deal of trouble for the novice sailors . . . ).

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.

The men could do nothing about this storm, but only tie themselves to whatever seemed likely to remain fastened and watch helplessly as the waves battered the ship. Already four men had simply disappeared over the frothing gunwales.

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, having accomplished sufficient enough for its brief mission.

The pilot, who was Gregoriy, looking at the body of the captain, whose white-blind eyes stared up like those of a fish that had given up all hope, and 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, some hours later, 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 desperately with any air left for the mother of god to carry them home. Then, at dawn, came the final wreck of the Ada in a swirl of salt foam and splinters and desperate cries.

In the morning, on the beach of Drake’s estero, the sole survivor of thirty-two, 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.

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?” she said in English, 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, wrapping about her bare shoulders the tattered rags of her Hermitage shawl.

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 in a curiously familiar manner.

Olga could not have known of these people and their brief encounter with the Spanish Europeans further south.

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 while mumbling something in that Costonoan dialect.

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 about the exact details, 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 quite nicely.

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, and did not seek out Fort Ross or the other European encampments further south. For now, after many many adventures, Olga had found a home.


The unusual weather has driven the seagulls far inland and they have been circling above Wally's Fish Market for some days now. The temperatures have hovered around freezing and every morning the frost has blanketed the roof across from the Offices. Winter has come on with a vengeance and with serious intent around here, and from report further East, we hear these reports of terrible ice storms.

Unfortunately, we must report that further ice storms are on the way. Tomorrow the storm hits early morning and that means mid-week friends in Minnesotta and Nebraska and OK will get slammed once again.

We are unfortunately well versed here in disasters of fire and flood, but have no experience with ice and snow, so we wish you all the best.

Thank you for your message / but I don't understand / I don't understand these things / You know some people won't understand these things. / Just won't understand these things ./ I know you are strong / May your journey be long / Now I wish you the best of luck.

Xavier Rudd comes over the battered boom-box with serious intent.

With all of this uncertain weather the seagulls have been flocking over the parking lots here, indicating severe weather is to ensue for somebody.

The installations have proliferated all up and down Lincoln Avenue with houses limned in lights. The Channukah bush has become the Official Solstice Tree for the Offices here and so we have avoided all sorts of arguments when Channukah ended midweek. Mornings come with frost and black ice on the neighboring rooftops and all the native Southern Californians run about wearing three layers and more. Oh, would they know a proper Minnesotta winter, they would cease to complain.

Meanwhile one can recognize the odd and rarely found native San Franciscan striding along in shorts and sandals, kicking up ice crystals at his heels. Cold does not exist except as a state of mind imported by dour Easterners.

Over at Andre and Marlene's Squat, the tree, sitting in its iron washtup bath, has taken on a wonder of lights and tinsel and those fabulous orniments inherited by Marlene from the Russian grandmother. After an evening of beer and spaghetti and Andre noodling on his Ibanez f-hole archtop and Javier banging on the turkey pots, there the thing stands, a wonder of Christmastly color and lights and all sorts of things. Assortments of colored condoms from the Planned Parenthood Clinic festoon the branches amid the homemade strings of lights cobbled together by Mancini, who gathered electrical cords from abandoned appliances so as to fashion together an hodgepodge of LED lights governed loosely by a circuit board ensconced in an old shoe box.

Pahrump twisted a lot of aluminum foil to make the tinsel and everybody added some little dangle to add to the general decorational hysteria.

Then there was the crowning glory of the Russian orniments complete with a perfect glass angel perched on the top of the very utmost spire of the tree and there she glowed, secretly knowing all the hardship and troubles and strife of this earth but paying that sort of thing no mind, for she was the Punk Angel of Altogether, a tough Angel with stitches and safety pins in her ears and she was all right for she was one of them, having crossed the oceans in a box and then been shunted aside as a worthless thing in the minds of others, and left to rot in poverty and neglect until Marlene should claim her back again.

Down in the Fruitvale district, where the dealers have shot out the streetlights, the Dealers said to Sharon, "Don't you worry. We will protect you. In the Fruitvale the quonset hut of the Sausal Creek Crisis Center makes its home in all seasons and in all seasons, the bereft of the world, the 5150's, the mad, the hopelessly insane, the needy, the shrieking and bouncing off the walls, the simply bad off needing meds, all come looking for some voice to tell them, well, your searching is done now, Pilgrim. We will issue an RX.

This Sharon came home after her double shift, needed to pay off the medical bills and the expenses of a sordid "hit and run" on her car to see this tree, glowing like some lost hope in the darkeness. And although the Editor had in mind a story in which some manic event resulted in the catastrophic destruction of Marlene's precious orniments, we find that at last, such endeavor is foolish and counterproductive. Marlene and Sharon have suffered enough. So let us retire to our brandies and our goblets of wine to observe this hour dispassionately.

Marlene and the whole Sick Crew of the Squat and Sharon gazing upon the wonder of lights made by the efforts of a few people. Across the way, the midnight train howled through Jack London Square, and echoed in a waver across the estuary.

This life is full of such ugliness and greed and horror, but every once in a while, a tree stands lighted in the darkness, as if symbol of something, or perhaps sufficient unto itself: a beautiful thing that needs no explanation.

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

DECEMBER 09, 2007


The mellifluously named Debra Owen has sent us a line dropping the scut on the Frank Bette Center for the Arts and all about its delicious Holiday Boutique, featuring loads of artists who have all provided affordable items costing under $10 a piece, all added to the usual assortment of exquisite works priced at the connoisseur level.

Debra wants you all to know about the current call for gently used fine arts, crafts & decorative arts.

Debra says, "Give new life to your once enjoyed treasures now hiding in your basement by donating them to Frank Bette Center for the Arts. Let them be adopted into a loving new home, while you make room for great new additions to your collection.

This is an easy and fun way to support Frank Bette Center for the Arts programs."

Artwork Donations are welcome all year, with Pickup Service available, however last day to drop off donations for the Opening First Friday Gala is Sunday, 10:30-5:00, December 30 2007. The Gala event will be held Friday, January 4, 7-9 PM and close with a Silent Auction Saturday, January 19, 5-7 PM.


So you don't want to buy Chinese this year for anybody you care about -- for reasons that should be obvious by now, even if you do nosh on lead paint and plumbum briquettes for snacks -- and you simply despise the ugly commercialism, pushing and shoving, rampant corporate greed and general nervous jumping up and down in shopping malls.

O girl, fear not, we are here to help you out. And you too, guy.

For shopping without guilt, look no further than the National Green Pages published by Coop America ( You can even over a tax deducible gift of the Green Pages itself, a semiannual catalog of everything good and useful you could ever want, all from stout union or worker-owned shops and all of very high quality.

From skin care products to auto garages and automobile alternatives, the National Green Pages has it all. Hmm, maybe your brother-in-law who stopped voting GOP sometime recently might be just the man to get one of these right about now.

Perhaps Made in America is your ticket to patriotism and to social well being. Be informed that the Navajo Nation has an excellent website chock full of food products, jewelry and clothing made right here in the Continental North American Continent. No lead-based paint on these toys my friend. These are not cheesy experiments held together with Elmer's and tin solder, but genuine works of art made of sturdy materials and solid workmanship quite unique for Native American crafts. In addition to the pleasure of forwarding gorgeous works of art, a portion of each purchase is solidly tax deductible. A tax deduction gift! Our accountant's beady little eyes acquired an unnatural sheen when he heard that, but its true. A portion of proceeds go to benefit a charity supporting the Navajo. Prices range from the low 10's to well over $2,000 for one-off artworks. Go to and click on the PRODUCTS\main tab.

Right here in San Rafael, Dharma Trading has art supplies and clothing made of natural fibers. Drop in or check out

Of course, our cynical staff always has the contrarian position of "Just buy nothing at all and do not buy anything."


The Holiday Season is locked into place and if you don't have a gig for NYE by now, you will be celebrating with Mums and the radio at home.

Les Claypool returns on Seas of Cheese for his 3rd rendition of the Hatter's Ball at the Fillmore. The Spanish Harlem Orchestra handles Yoshi's Oakland, while the Count Basie Orchestra handles the starchier Babylon crowd, although Ledisi ought to loosen things up over there before returning to the warmer side of the bay for the 2nd.

At the grittier Warfield, Cake with The Lovemakers holds forth into the new year.

This is the first year in thirty-six years, save for the one after Jerry's death, that no Grateful Dead performance disturbs the night on NYE at the Bill Graham Civic or the Kaiser Auditorium. Phil Lesh and friends do not appear at the BGCA until the end of January, while Warren with Mule remains conspicuously absent this season and Bobby Weir appears not at all anywhere.

Well, we had to forgo the annual tradition of the Not So Silent Night for the first time in ten years due to straitened financial circumstances, so perhaps we can understand.

The purple chandeliers of the venerable Fillmore will shine down on the resurgent Jaguares on the 12th, followed by bad boy Popper with his Blues Traveler the next night. The Greyboy Allstars snick the 14th. Social Distortion has added a fourth show to the three that are sold out for the 8th. Its been 20 years and a million tears and look at the shape I'm in. A broken heart and a broken nose and an empty bottle of gin.


It may be a Holiday Tradition. It may be just a Story. It may be our fading claim to the title of being a "writer". Yet, here returns the three part story of Olga, maiden of the Russian Estoty and savior of her adopting people one fateful Xmas day well over one hundred years ago. Read now, about the story of Olga. First of three parts.

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 diminutives, nicknames, surnames, and whatnot names so characteristic of the voluble 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 Monastery 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 exercised 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 walloping 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.

No wonder that Canada gets confused from time to time.

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 expeditions 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, in that time, 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 enterprise 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.

(To be continued next week)


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After a spate of rain with its warming trend, the seagulls have all moved out and positively chilly temps have seized the nights with a glace of ice and sub-freezing weather. Stray Jack, the stray cat, has been huddling beneath the dryer vent for warmth and one of the older raccoons wandered by looking for a handout before scrunching under the old shed across the yard.

The chilly weather has not impeded folks from putting out the lights for the season. Chanukah started this past week and the House Chanukah Bush is glowing out back while latke parties are being held all over the place.

Over at Marlene and Andre's household, at the two-bedroom shambles they all called The Squat, Piedro, Jesus, Tipitina, Marsha, Xavier and Markus the dog all fetched back a nice full evergreen. It took that many of them because nobody in the household owns a working automobile, so they had to trundle it back from the lot on Grand Street with the help of the old Flexible Flyer wagon that serves part time as grocery cart and ambulance. This year the crew actually bought a tree, as Xavier got into bad trouble the time he cut down Mr. Howitzer's pine, so much so that he pulled kitchen duty plus garbage duty for a whole month at the Squat -- once he got out of jail.

It had taken some time to save money for this project, scouring dimes from the gutter, working overtime at the Slut Hut Coffeeshop on Park Street, and hawking scalped tickets. Finally Crackers and Rolf actually had to get regular jobs for a while, working as UPS Holiday Temps when Suan shouted at all of them she was tired of footing all the bills around here every month and if they wanted a tree they could jolly well pay for one themselves and shove it up You Know Where. Suan stomped off to her job at the Crazy Horse in the City and didn't come back for a few nights, sleeping as it turned out, in the Employee's Lounge and Restroom and dining on vending machine sandwiches.

So there they were, all singing Social Distortion songs as they rolled on down Grand Street in the bicycle lane with a Douglas fir in a red kid's wagon for a carreta. Then the most amazing thing happened.

They all got back without breaking anything or anybody and everybody sat down for a spaghetti dinner that couldn't be beat because that was the rule according to Marlene. First you work, then we eat.

Marlene's spaghetti was a special treat and everybody tried to be around when the day came up, for her sauce was worthy of Chez Panisse or any of those fine eateries and establishments where they don't put catsup on the table. Some catsup went into Marlene's sauce, in fact, and that was her special secret. Left over tomatoes too mushy for salads, the parts of the squash which had not gone soft, sprouted onions from the mulch pile out back, basil from the same place, citrus rind such as lemon peel, and about two or three handfuls of garlic with olive oil and any thing that had been on sale at the 99 Cent Store.

After the Great Distribution, Andre got the old washtub and Crackers got a cinderblock from out back and this provided the tree's foundation in the front room. Marlene and Alexis had already festooned the windows and the dogs, Bonkers, Wickiwup and Johnny Cash with tinsel made of Mancini's old fire-suit from from when he had worked at Pacific Steel Foundry.

Soon the crew was all tuckered out from their various responsibilities of tree gathering, roughhousing and scarfing up spaghetti so the tree stood there, solitary and green and looking well enough as it was when nature made it and man cut it down.

It was the tradition that the tree would stand as such for a night and a day, reminding everyone of where it had come from and so that its natural spirit would emanate forth in beauty and harmony. Certainly, The Squat could have used a healthy dollop of both.

The Wiccans in the household would hold rituals and cast all sorts of spells and ride their skateboards chanting mystical incantations, so this was a very great moment when the tree stood there and they all looked at it. On the floor in a cardboard box next to the washtub sat Marlene's ornaments, the ones from her Russian Grandmother.

The world may be at war and the President an imbecile who cannot see the fingers in front of his face, but a tree remains a tree, and that's a fact.

Far off the long ululation of the train passing through Jack London Square echoed across the water, which slapped its oily slap against the pilings of the fishing wharf which has been closed ever since the Cosco Busan tore open and dumped 50,000 barrels of oil into the Bay. But all along the Shoreline Road, the apartments glittered and twinkled like little galaxies, each apartment hosting its own little constellation of lives, laughing, suffering, hurting, making love, talking on the telephone, watching television, making music . . . Whatever.

And that is the way it is on the Island this chilly night of a thousand stars. Have a great week.

DECEMBER 2, 2007


This week's headline photograph comes courtesy of Kirk von Ingersoll's loving wife, Medea, who is not only a real magical chef with a doggie kettle, but also a very talented photographer. Here is a shot of Kirk displaying his nice 12 pounder catch last Thursday at the Poodle Shoot, hooked and ready to be dressed. Kurt snared this fine specimen with a trap made of used guitar strings and baited with a tattered copy of "The Reader's Digest Abridged Compendium of Classic Bodice Rippers."

Kirk uses only Dean Markley strings.


Down the street the local Ace hardware store, Andy's , has announced the new season with its new storefront display. This year the display features no disastrous dinner feasts or an endangered children playing with live power tools, nor do we see any hint of the subterranean mouse city as in years past, but only old Santa sitting there in the corner with a child on one knee and a dog on the other.

Further down the street Pagano's Novelty Shop once again has put up its little animated town set on snow bedecked terraced hillsides. For a short video of this little world by night, click on the photo below. The MPG is about 4meg.

Missed the 31st Annual Island Yacht Parade wherein dozens of decorated boats of all sizes cruise up and down the estuary between the island and Oaktown and Jack London Square. Still to come on December 8 will be the annual Mayor's holiday tree lighting down by City Hall on Santa Clara Ave. They are sure to be all kinds of mulled cider, skating on artificial ice, rock 'n roll Christmas carols, and our own special pride and joy, the nationally known Tap Dancing Christmas Tree Ensemble. Not every island has a group of Tap Dancing Christmas Trees. And of those that do, few send their group each year to Washington, DC in an effort to drum some kind of sense into that fool's head who sits in the White House.

Whatever works.

Island life did manage to catch a part of the Open Studios weekend here. Shown here is a selection of Jim Kitson's recent multimedia work. Each plaque has been gessoed with a thick mixture of sand and paint on wood to create the illusion of stone. Layers of copper sheeting and mesh are then applied and then selectively patinaed. The result is a calmly considered evocation of iconic power which Jim calls "postindustrial primitivism". In their suggestive simplicity each piece possesses a quality that emanates hints of some forgotten preliterate civilization that exalted shamanistic journeys into the unconscious. Jim has often stated a kind of fantasy in which one of his sculptures is taken deep into the woods far from trails, there to be left and later found through any kind of happenstance by wondering strangers.


Several ugly wrinkles have developed in the case dealing with the murder of Iko at Washington Square Park on Halloween. Iko Bayarsaikhan,15, was hanging out with about 10 friends when she was shot in the back in what police say was a botched robbery attempt. In the first instance a group of misguided people have led a series of protests against the Island Police Department, claiming a that racial profiling and anti-Asian prejudice have been involved in the investigation.

The vast majority of islanders consider these allegations to be nonsense. The investigation into this crime against an Asian victim has proceeded with the aid of several witnesses, including all 10 of Iko's companions, all of whom are themselves of Asian extraction. The department has behaved in an exemplary and thorough fashion, resolving this investigation in a matter of days.

The second wrinkle also succeeds in diffusing the first allegation. It appears that the youth, Tony Tran of Oakland, is part of a gang that went on a rampage that night, attempting several robberies and intimidating several groups of people before the murder. Witnesses also described Mr. Tran and his companions mocking Iko and others after the murder. They apparently thought it was quite funny how the victim fell after being shot in the back.

The Island Police Department can be accused of many things, but not of racial profiling in this case. The allegations appear to be a blatant attempt to shunt attention away from the nature and seriousness of the crime committed and appear to have been stimulated by relatives of Mr. Tran.


The holiday season is upon us and that the music is divine. Beneath the purple chandeliers of the Fillmore owes a lot many winds up its four-day run tonight. The story did floorboards shall not rest for long for Deborah Harry will stalk across them with attitude on the ninth. The Jaguares, who disappeared for a while, return in force with infectious Latin rhythms on the 12th. John Popper is again out of jail to return in force with the Blues Traveler band on the 13th. The following night the Grayboy All-Stars shall condition you with their funky folk. New Year's Eve Les Claypool sails in on seas of cheese for the annual New Year's Eve Hatters Ball Extravaganza. Over at the gritty Warfield, the John Butler Trio finishes up tonight with Brett Dennen performing as warmup. KFOG's annual Concerts for Kids is entirely sold out. G. Love and Special Sauce takes over The Grand at the Regency Center on the 10th.

Over in Oaktown the always oblique Tori Amos rocks out on her harpsichord on December 9 at the Paramount. She sings great, performs great, and always looks great, but few are those who actually can understand what the lady is singing about. Never mind -- its high Art and good music. Looking forward into the new year we note that Social Distortion plays for three days of the fourth to the sixth at the Fillmore. It's been 20 years and a million tears and look at the shape I'm in...

Looks like Taj Mahal is back again in what may become a tradition at Yoshi's returns for a New Year's Eve concert, but this time for the new venue on the other side of the Bay in the Fillmore District. The time is long past when the hookers would get up to do a line dance in the blues bar across the street from the Fillmore theater. That place is now John Lee Hooker's Boom-Boom Room. John Lee has passed away and the Boom-Boom Room is ultrachic.

Don't get us started on how things have changed. People can play tennis on the tennis courts in John McLaren Park now I've heard. Will wonders never cease. Used to be the burned-out cars got in the way of a good volley.


The weather has finally settled its mind, all the leaves have fallen and frost has formed every morning on the rooftops and the cars all down St. Charles Street. Ivy boldly looks forward in this time with great big signs at the Garden Center advertising Genuine Holland Bulbs! Sure to be a find crop of tulips when the seasons change, but that is a bit far ahead to look right now. We have reports from our contacts in Minnesota that the first snows have pelted the place, turning all as it should be into the Great White North once again.

Seagulls have taken to circling over Paul's Grocery and by that we are to understand that there are storms at sea soon to hit here and then to advance over the mountains to afflict the East Coast.

High winds kept knocking over the Official Island Life Holiday Bush, which is a sort of potted fir tree that has seen many vicissitudes to this moment of being draped with tinsel and Chanukah lights. Down Lincoln many homeowners have securely lashed their lights to railings and posts in anticipation of Serious Weather.

Over at the Squat on Shoreline, Marlene and Andre have started hanging up decorations around the place in a vainglorious attempt to make the flat somehow less squalid, albeit not less expensive, for now is the season of the Landlord's Gouge, and everywhere there is lamentation upon the land for the landlord and the Property Management Firm hold sway with exceeding wroth and utmost desire.

That is why twelve to fourteen people live somewhat officially in Marlene and Andre's two bedroom flat on Shoreline, not including ever present girlfriends, boyfriends, pets, and bands crashing on the livingroom floor. Its a typical household in the Bay Area in its arrangements and survival skills.

Marlene and Andre occupy the lions share of the Master bedroom with a full-sized bed and a table in a space shared by Washoe, a guy from Nevada who seems to be Indian, although he says little from his rolled tatami on the floor, Pedro, who sleeps in the closet on a cot, Occasional Quentin, who has slept in virtually every squat on the Island at one point or another and who holds four separated and distinct jobs, and Markus the dog who is indiscriminate with whomever he sleeps with on any particular night being a 40 pound Labrador mix. He is especially valuable during the winter and cold nights for no one has paid anything like a heating bill for several years. It has been quite a long time since anyone knew who belonged to Markus and to whom Markus must attach ownership. That person left long ago.

In the smaller bedroom, Piedro, Jesus, Tipitina, Marsha, Xavier and Rolf have arrangements with Suan, Alexis, and Crackers for sleeping there in shifts for not all can possibly fit in that room all together at once. This is much aided by Suan's employment as a stripper in a bar which income is supplemented by the occasionally porn film job and this situation results in several open berths on working nights with predictable regularity.

This leaves the livingroom and the lower echelon of the household. There, in company with whatever band might be passing through town, one finds Mancini, who sleeps under the coffee table with great regularity, Sarah, a statuesque R&B singer for the band called "In Memory of Sister Rosetta Tharp", who sleeps wherever she wants, and Pahrump, another Indian who sleeps anywhere someone is not and who keeps all of his worldly possessions in a coffee can. Bonkers, Wickiwup and Johnny Cash provide lollygagging warmth in winter and loads of luscious licks in summer in addition to a plethora of cats which have multiplied beyond number and name ever since the long departed Julee and Josh left the unspayed and untutored Fork and Knife behind to increase with zest and pleasure.

The landlords, a charming pair of lapsed Lutherans, have lived in Ankara ever since the Ronald Reagan Infliction upon this country and so have long not visited the property nor attended to its neighbor's complaints. 'Twas ever thus.

On this given evening, Marlene is trying ever so much to create a sense of home with the hapless help of Andre by stringing holiday "icicle lights" all about the place. This seems to be counterproductive according to Andre, as the glare will surely impact somebody's sleep schedule somewhere somehow. But Marlene has this supply of ornaments held over from her Russian grandmother, brought over in a travel trunk from the Old Country and newly uncovered in a storage unit unearthed by relatives who swiftly devoured any stick of furniture and bric-a-brac of E-Bay value before Marlene could set her lights upon what was left: tattered pre-revolution newspapers and a box of sordid Xmas ornaments. But such ornaments! Exquisite blown glass not seen on the earth for nearly one hundred years, hollowed and gilded eggshells, amazingly delicate works of porcelain and glass.

This year, Marlene promised herself the Holidays would be different than all the others. In this humble squat she would bake a fabulous feast and turn the place into something like the home she had never known. Her father had died early. Her stepfather had been a predictable brute. Her mother had been a lush.

She would now turn all of that around. Only need one stable spot for a genuine Xmas tree from Walmart, yet to come. Soon as she got paid. And this was most significant for she had never owned a single thing in her entire life.

O this will not end well, thought Andre and he went walking along the shore where he came across several handbills concerning a missing rotweiller belonging to a Mr. Howitzer.

At this time, Mr. Howitzer was at wit's end trying to locate the location of his beloved and perhaps sometimes irascible "Sweetums", who had gone missing ever since Thanksgiving. His usual placement of sweet-potatoe pie and mincemeat had gone entirely untouched and Mr. Howitzer was quite put out.

His neighbors breathed a collective sigh of relief in this time, for "Sweetums" was known to assault the postman, children and anyone passing by for Mr. Howitzer was loose with the chain and looser with instruction upon the animal. He thought it rather "cute" whenever Sweetums had brought back portions of some animal he had dismembered in his travels.

In any case, let us leave Mr. Howitzer stapling yet another "Finders Reward" bill upon the telephone pole, for it is highly unlikely he shall ever encounter Sweetums again in this life and the Devil probably has the next one handled and in his pocket well enough by now.

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

NOVEMBER 25, 2007


Friday night we caught Mary Zimmerman's latest offering at the Berkeley Rep. Argonautika is a dramatic retelling of the Jason and Medea myth, full of Zimmerman's inventive and quixotic reinterpretations of classical texts. This is the same Mary Zimmerman who delighted audiences with her masterful adaptation of Ovid's "Metamorphoses".

In this version of the 3000 year old tale, the powerful witch, known to the world as Medea, has been rendered as a waifish victim of any number of forces larger than herself. Zimmerman employed the Peter Green translation of the text left by Apollonius of Rhodes (c.350 B.C.E.) and the version written by Gaius Valerius Flaccus -- a Roman version composed some time around 100 B.C.E.

There is actually no authoritative version as the earliest compositions of this story were made by putting together scattered legends and myths which probably originated before the dawn of the Bronze Age, and which alluded to the time of the Great Goddess and pre-Greek matriarchal cultures.

According to the Wikipedia, "The myths involving Jason also invoke Medea. These have been interpreted by specialists, principally in the past, as part of a class of myths that tell how the Hellenes of the distant heroic age, before the Trojan War, faced the challenges of the pre-Greek "Pelasgian" cultures of mainland Greece, and the Aegean and Anatolia. Jason, Perseus, Theseus, and above all Heracles, are all "liminal" figures, poised on the threshold between the old world of shamans, chthonic earth deities, archaic matriarchies, and the Great Goddess and the new Bronze Age Greek ways."

The story is a set a generation before the time of the Trojan War, around 1300 BC, but the first known written mention of it comes six centuries later, in the age of Homer (800 BC). The tale came out of the region of Thessaly, in Greece, where early epic poetry developed. The Greeks have retold and reinterpreted it many times since, changing it as their knowledge of the physical world increased.

The basic story of Jason and the Argonauts goes as follows: Jason is sent on a suicidal quest by King Peleias of Iolcus (played with delightfully scenery-chewing humor by Alan Gilmore) to retrieve the legendary Golden Fleece in the kingdom of Colchis (located on the shores of the Black Sea), and specifically in the city of Aia, itself located by legend and ancient Greek historians on the" eastern edge of the world". King Peleias has been warned by an Oracle that he shall lose his kingdom, usurped from Jason's father, to a man who shall arrive wearing one shoe. Jason, who had been sent away as an infant at the time of his father's murder, arrives at the gates of the city wearing one sandal, having lost the other while crossing a stream carrying an old woman who had asked him for help. The old woman reveals herself to be the goddess Hera (played by a wonderfully imperious Christa Scott-Reed) and from that moment on Hera remains Jason's benefactor.

The fleece itself is an artifact of yet an older myth in which two children are rescued by a flying ram only to have one fall to her death and the other murdered upon arrival Colchis by the brutal King Aietes. The ram is killed and it's fleece hung on a tree guarded by a sleepless dragon.

Jason gathers together a ship's crew of the most famous heroes and demigods in Greece and sales upon the ship named the Argo. After many adventures along the way he and most of his crew arrive at Colchis where the king offers to simply give the fleece away if Jason will only succeed at three labors, including harnessing magical bronze fire spewing bulls to a plow with which he is to sow the earth with Dragon's teeth. The teeth will sprout into an army of warriors that will attack him.

Induced by the gods to fall in love with Jason, Medea helps him in these labors by employing her magical powers. In return Jason is to take her away to his home.

At this point Zimmerman departs from the more commonly known versions of the story. Her Medea (played by the diminutive Atley Loughridge) is literally transfixed by Cupid's arrow. Harrah has gone with Athena to persuade Aphrodite (a vapid and giggling Tessa Klein in platform shoes) to somehow get the bratty Cupid to work his magic between Medea and Jason.

Sofia Jean-Gomez's brash tomboyish Athena is alone well worth the price of admission. Her character goes through perhaps the widest range of emotional display, from hauteur to pity to anger, to delight and to, of course, reasonable discourse. Here she consoles the grieving Hercules after the loss of his companion.

As Jason stands in the court of King Aietes pleading his cause Medea sits in the corner of the room. Cupid fires his arrow and, delivered by Aphrodite, it pierces Medea as she looks at Jason. For the rest of the play, this arrow transfixes the suffering Medea, whose dress becomes bloodier with each scene.

The killing of Aietes is omitted by Zimmerman, and the killing of her brother by betrayal is softened considerably. In most versions Medea tricks the daughters of Aietes by killing a goat or a sheep which she then tosses into a magic pot. From the pot the revived animal leaps, having also grown younger by years. The daughters slaughter King Aietes and toss the pieces of his body into a pot provided by Medea, but this pot contains no magic and so the king dies. The brother is dismembered by Jason and the pieces strewn about the island so as to delay pursuit while the family gathers up the body parts for proper burial.

Zimmerman instead has the furious Aietes send an armada against the Argo, which is beaten back with some loss of life by winds called up by Hera. The trip home is stripped of the usual adventures as these serve largely to demonstrate the power of Medea as a witch. Jason's betrayal is presented with painful honesty in a scene that has Jake Suffian's Jason backing away from the incredulous and disbelieving Medea. "You don't understand," Jason says as he backs out the door. "It's all bigger than us." Unlike other versions, this betrayal occurs shortly after their arrival home.

As in all the versions, Jason dies alone and bereft under the hulk of the rotting Argo. The infanticides and the death by burning of Jason's wife are described in an offhand fashion by the goddesses, who have become a bit bored by the whole story. "Too bad about the burning and those children." Medea is dragged across the stage wrapped in a shroud, a cast-off remnant of the Big Story about the Fleece.

"What shall we do with this one?" Athena asks Hera, who shrugs indifferently. It is wise Athena who chooses to tell the infrequently told story of Medea's entry into the Elysian Fields, there to marry Achilles. The two goddesses then prepare the girl "for the Change."

In nearly every version, Medea is presented as a very powerful feminine force who worships Hecate and who possesses extremely potent magical powers. She is the granddaughter of the sun god Helios and a niece of the witch Circe. In most of the versions the death of Jason is specified, but not that of Medea. Some say Medea married Achilles in the underworld. In another version of her legend, Zeus tried to court her but failed; for being the only mortal to ever successfully resist him, she was granted immortality by Zeus' wife, Hera.

Presented on bare boards with props that are mostly skeletal forms draped with cloth, Zimmerman's Argonautika relies on the physicality of her form of theatre, the language of the text, and pure imagination to hold the audience for every minute of its 2.5 hours of stage-time. The play substantially succeeds. Those reviewers who look for "arc of the character" and for more erotic heat between Jason and Medea miss the point. The figures of Greek myths and legends never were meant to represent literary individuals as we understand them in the 21st century; they represented ideas, concepts, intangible forces of nature or the psyche of humanity. Zimmerman's play remains true to that concept.

As in the past with Zimmerman productions, the acting style is a sort of mix of Commedia del Arte and Grutowski, featuring broad physical gestures, acrobatics, stylized tableaus and exaggerated movements, all of which adds to the iconic presentations. The stream across which Jason carries Hera is presented by the company waving long swathes of blue cloth. As he carries her, she swings around from his back to ride his hips face to face in moment charged with eroticism.

The show was scheduled to run up to December 16, however Word has it that it has already been held due to popular demand.

Mary Zimmerman, Adapter and Director
Daniel Ostling, Scenic Design
Ana Kuzmanic, Costume Design
John Culbert, Lighting Design
Andre Pluess & Ben Sussman, Sound Design & Original Composition
Michael Montenegro, Puppetry Design
Cynthia Cahill *, Stage Manager
Amy Potozkin, Casting

Christa Scott-Reed, Hera
Jake Suffian, Jason
Sofia Jean Gomez, Athena
Allen Gilmore, Pelias and others
Jesse J. Perez, Idmon and others
Andy Murray, Meleager
Chris Kipiniak, Castor and others
Casey Jackson, Pollux and others
Søren Oliver, Hercules / Aietees
Justin Blanchard, Hylas / Dymas
Ronete Levenson, Andromeda and others
Paul Oakley Stovall, Amycus and others
Tessa Klein, Aphrodite and others
Atley Loughridge, Medea


Island--Life staffers trundled on over to Babylon to help with the 29th annual fundraiser for the Women's Building. The affair takes place every year after Thanksgiving at Fort Mason Center. Several hundred artists were represented this year at the Herbst Pavilion. The event allows for high quality artworks to be showcased in a prestigious venue along the San Francisco waterfront.

According to the Woman's Building Mission Statement, "the Women's Building is a multiethnic, multi-cultural, multi-service center for women and girls. Our mission is to provide women and girls with the tools and resources they need to achieve full and equal participation in society.

The Woman's Building provides services and programs to empower women and girls to become self-sufficient . . . , a home to other nonprofits . . ., and a community center which facilitates and promotes education, advocacy and action. Community groups and individuals use (our) classrooms, auditorium and meetings rooms for activities such as political organizing meetings, celebrations, arts performances and exercise."

You can find their web site at

Each year The Celebration of Craftswomen features several hundred artists who offer their works in ceramic, fiber, glass, leather, metal, wood, body care products, and fine art encompassing many different forms of media as well as sculpture. Although the economy is not doing well, as we all know, the first weekend of this to weekend Expo saw crowds of discerning shoppers seeking high quality handmade artwork.

This is a very good venue where to find that unusual gift for that special person this holiday season. Perhaps a set of high-quality earrings, a necklace, or an exquisite handmade felt scarf. One enterprising artist makes beautiful glass pieces out of material that ordinarily would be discarded in a landfill -- old traffic light lenses, glass pane doors, and other construction material.

The Herbst Pavilion at Fort Mason Center will open again next weekend for the final show. For further information and to obtain tickets in advance call 650-306-0420 or go to


This year rosy-fingered dawn opened the curtains of the night upon a brilliant cloud free day and most glorious weather for a delightful poodle shoot. In the East, the great doors of that brilliant stable swung open to let the blinding-white horses of Helios leap forth to launch that streaming chariot of the sun across the blue heavens.

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, Kirk Johnson on harp, Professor Schickele on Hardart with Inflatable, Karen Rega 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 "extraordinarily unique".

Padraic took a few moments to read the Rules and introduce the Special Guests for this year's event: The Marin-Based Chapter of the Native Sons of the Golden West.

The annual White House Representative, "Buckshot Dick" sent apologies for his inability to attend.

Libations and offers were made to honor the gods, and wise Athena, Goddess of the Hunt, sent down a token in the form of an owl who perched upon the buckeye tree with imperious mein while gusty Boreas sent a gentle sirocco across the lagoon.

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 -- the 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.

Javier quickly won the First Bag of Day award with his Mauser nice shot by the Old Stone Wall near the Old Same Place.

Down by the Cove, Wally -- armed with his modified Bear Pistol -- got into a sort of contest with the lithsome Mary Beth Whittamore, who had brought her vintage "Hunter's Pet", which is a sort of .410 caliber bicycle gun once made by W. Stevens and designed for black powder use. Mary Beth had employed her significant welding skills, however to up the caliber to a .555 with a reinforced chamber of titanium alloy, proving there is no end to caliber size and no limits to feminine capabilities. Here is a picture of Wally with his Bear Gun equipped for 50 cal explosive shells.

The two friends had great fun potting poodles hiding behind palm trees. Wally would simply blast the trunk away to reveal the Fifi behind the former tree and so with his next shot, would bag his game.

Jim Kitson, of Santa Clara Street, earned a Style Award for his ingenious Poodle Trap Au Bufano which consisted of something that looked like a Primitivist Sculpture of iron, heavy ship timbers from the wreck of the Forlorn Hope and several round stones, each weighing in at some two hundred pounds. At the base of Jim's erection, a slice of Mama Reebop's Sweet Potato Pie had been set on a pile of kibbles all neatly arranged on a lace doily. French perfume, used to scent the trap, was offered up to the Grey-Eyed Goddess and to Short-Haired Eris, Goddess of Parking and Discord.
When the game took the bait, several of those stone balls rolled off of the top of the sculpture, making quite a nice furry pancake for the Bar-B-Que and all the gods were well pleased.

Mary Beth, preferring the more delicate approach, would enrage the beast by setting fire to pink ribbons, a sight everyone knows a Fifi cannot abide. As the animal charged, Mary Beth would pot her game on the run. The two took bets on numbers of devastating head shots and many were the decapitated carcasses brought to the "pit" that day. There is nothing lovelier than a pretty lady blasting away with a .555 pistol.

Over at the BBQ, Kirk and visiting Mike Rega put on a spectacular demonstration of "deep fried poodle" on their special Southern Poodle Cooker. It was so much fun, and the meat so moist, others also wanted to try their hand at it. Click on the pic to watch the movie. Sometimes the kills are not quite killed before they go into the pot, hence the need for the hoe chopper there.

Everything was going really well, with all the folks giving thanks to the gods for a successful hunt, enjoying their fried poodle, BBQ poodle, "pulled" poodle, puppy stew, kimchee poodle, and poodle-kabobs when Paul showed up at the pit with his game.

PADRAIC: Paul, what the hell is that?

PAUL: Its my catch.

PADRAIC: Paul, that aint no poodle.

PAUL: Its poodle enough for me to eat it.

PADRAIC: You know the rules.

PAUL: I don't care about the rules. I am going to cook and eat this thing.

PADRAIC: Where did you get that thing and why did you kill it? Was this some sort of accident?

PAUL: It was no accident. It bit me and now I am going to bite it. Happened over by Washington Middle School. Damn things should be ona leash . . . .

PADRIAC: Let me just look here at this tag . . . Good God, it says "Sweetums" / Oliver Howitzer 62 Fernside! This aint no poodle; it's Mr. Howitzer's rottweiler! You just killed somebody's pet!

PAUL: Its not a pet, its an ungoverned monster with teeth that bit me. It was all self defence.

PADRAIC:What are we gonna do now? What if Mr. Howitzer sees his dog like this?

PAUL: Throw him on the 'Que -- I'll make him disappear fast enough. I'm hungry!

PADRAIC: O, I do not think this will end well . . . .

Yes, the gods are mysterious in their ways. They treat us like flies for their sport. Grim visaged Fate stalks the earth in pursuit of the intractable Mr. Howitzer, but all who attended this years Annual Island Poodleshoot and Barbeque had a grand time, save for a dog bite or two.

That's the way it was this Thanksgiving on the Island. Have a great week.

NOVEMBER 18, 2007


It is fall, November, and the wind blows briskly, scattering the leaves left in the drifts all along Grand Street and Santa Clara from the now barren oaks. The crisp clean a fall air stirs the blood and the gelid light in the morning makes a fellow feel, well, a little bit peckish. Its the time when a young man's fancy turns to sturdy woolen sweaters, long hikes in the woods accompanied by ruddy-cheeked gals wearing high leather boots, 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. Also see the sidebar.

In addition to the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ, long-time readers have some particular delights in store as we reprint an excerpt from the Work In Progress 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 reprint a 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.

As usual, anyone handy with a bucknife is welcome, as all kills need to be brought to Padraic at the grill, fully dressed and cleaned, all according to the rules 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.


Island-Life sent our reviewer over to Oakland's venerable Paramount Theatre Saturday night to take in Ben Harper on his swing by the West Coast tour promoting his new album "Lifeline". As it turned out the show was sold out.

First, when one says, "Oakland Paramount Theatre", one is not talking about a dingy little box slapped up casually by some impresario. One is talking about a genuine historical jewel that is the pride of the East Bay.

Oakland's Paramount Theatre is one of the finest remaining examples of Art Deco design in the United States. The Paramount Theatre was built as a motion picture palace, during the rise of the motion picture industry in the late 1920s. Palace was both a common and an accurate term for the movie theaters of the 1920s and early 1930s. In 1925, Adolf Cukor's Paramount Publix Corporation, the theatre division of Paramount Pictures, one of the great studio-theater chains, began a construction program resulting in some of the finest theatres built.

Designed by renowned San Francisco architect Timothy L. Pflueger and completed in late 1931, it was one of the first Depression-era buildings to incorporate and integrate the work of numerous creative artists into its architecture and is particularly noteworthy for its successful orchestration of the various artistic disciplines into an original and harmonious whole.

Its exterior with its 110-foot high tile mosaic of enormous figures by projecting Paramount sign, which can be seen up and down the street both day and night, but it is the interior that rises to unequal heights. A 58-foot high grand lobby, with side walls made of alternating vertical bands of warm green artificial light panels and muted red piers, and with both ends and ceiling decorated with an almost luminescent grillwork, forms a regal introduction. Rare and costly materials are everywhere: hand-adzed quartered oak, Hungarian ash crotch, birdseye maple, Balinese rosewood, Malaysian teak, and Italian marble. The auditorium is unmatched for its refulgent splendor. Its gilded galaxies of whorls, patterns, gold walls with sculpted motifs from the Bible and mythology. Outside and in, the Paramount radiates the dream-world escapism with which sought to beguile its customers. There will never be another like it. The Paramount organ was built by Wurlitzer for the Paramount Publix theaters: a four-manual, twenty-rank model called the Publix I (Opus 2164), which cost the fantastic sum of $20,000 in 1931.

After its initial brief blaze of "movie palace" glory in the 1930's, this remarkable auditorium suffered three decades of neglect and decline until its rescue by the Oakland Symphony, the City of Oakland and numerous private donors. The building was purchased by the Board of Directors of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra Association in 1972. A painstaking and authentic restoration was completed in 1973.

In 1975 the City of Oakland, the present owner, assumed ownership from the Oakland Symphony Orchestra Association. The Paramount Theatre became a California Registered Historic Landmark in 1976, and on May 5, 1977, was declared a National Historic Landmark. Walking into the main lobby, with its gold ornamentations along the walls, curving staircase and glowing light fixtures is like taking a trip back through Old Hollywood. Public tours of the Paramount Theatre are given on the first and third Saturdays of each month, excluding holidays and holiday weekends.

Restored to its original splendor, meticulously maintained, and fully upgraded to modern technical standards, the Paramount now serves all the arts. The Paramount Theatre is the home of the Oakland East Bay Symphony and, as one of the San Francisco Bay Area's premiere performing arts facilities, hosts a year-round schedule of popular music concerts, variety shows, theatre, and - of course - movies.

Now to the music. Warmup for Ben Harper was Piers Faccini who follows up his critically acclaimed initial solo effort of 2004, with this year's release of' Tearing Sky', a sort of multicultural assemblage of various styles borrowed from all over the world.

Born in London, Faccini speaks four languages and considers himself a “mongrel” of sorts, one who has gypsy, Polish, English, Irish and Italian blood running through his veins—which he thanks for creating an openness in his life and a curiosity with which he has been able to absorb cultures and music from around the globe.

Defined in the Wikipedia as "an English singer, painter and songwriter" he appears to have spent most of his time prior to recording as a spoken word artist in France where he was raised and now currently lives.

Most of the critical references to this artist can be largely ignored as either irrelevant, or mindlessly slavish in praise without meaningful explanation or understanding. We at Island-Life think that this is a shame, because in fact the artist is quite good at doing what he does. Superlative in fact. Furthermore, we have from a reporter in Tennessee where this artist performed at this year's Bonaroo Festival, the pleasant discovery that the artist is a decent human being and a warm person.

So now, the review. Faccini is all about vocals. Yes he is a singer/songwriter, however the quality of his vocals are so far beyond anything that is out there that the vocals command immediate attention. He does have some quasi-folk songs sung in a voice reminiscent of Nick Drake, however his powerful vocal instrument is several octaves and several degrees far beyond anything the short-lived English folk singer could ever have accomplished, even had he not destroyed his life with drugs and alcohol. In performance Faccini sticks to fairly simple finger picked patterns on his guitar, accompanied by a bassist and a percussionist, with his remarkable voice filling the entire hall with uncanny ululations that seem to come from some primeval source within all of us. From Nick Drake, he ranges far afield from Jim Morrison to Moroccan goat herders. The effect is one of simple folk melodies composed upon some forgotten bucolic hillside, English skiffle songs presented in some lowdown bar, and Mississippi blues that segue into complex middle eastern ragas echoing across the sands of northern Africa, albeit with level 10 distortion at the amp. The actual lyrics matter less than the voice employed as a musical instrument.

We would say, that at this performer were to adopt some kind of easily packaged presentation with artificial construct similar to David Bowie, you would enjoy astounding financial success, however we don't think he wants that and we don't want that either, for there is a place for the man who has no place, who is understood as belonging to Every Place, the Universal Citizen of the World who makes by his very existence passports meaningless and all divisions between people senseless as they really are.

It is no surprise that Ben Harper and his people have adopted this artist into their own.

By the time in the Harper took the stage with his band "The Innocent Criminals", every single seat in the house was occupied. It was quite clear from the very beginning, that Ben Harper had come into the very center of a place which was precisely the source of his immense popularity. After several years of trying this and that, it appears that Ben Harper has finally found the center and focus that he has lacked in the previous efforts.

Harper was born in Claremont, California, U.S. (in California's Pomona Valley, 10/28/69). Ben Harper's father, Leonard Harper, was African-American with some Cherokee Indian ancestry, while his mother, Ellen Chase, is of Russian Jewish descent. His parents divorced when he was a child. Okay He began playing guitar as a child in Claremont. He eventually specialized in the acoustic lap steel guitar (Weissenborn guitars). As a young man, he recorded an LP (Pleasure and Pain) with fellow folk guitarist Tom Freund. After this limited edition record, Harper got a record deal with Virgin Records, who released his debut album, Welcome to the Cruel World (1994).

From early on in his career, his music received more attention in Europe than it did in his home country. While he was a well-known and respected figure in the States, in countries like France, Germany, Switzerland, and The Netherlands, he was a star, receiving a great deal of airplay and critical acclaim. His popularity in Europe is such that he was French Rolling Stone magazine's Artist of the Year (Artiste De L'Année) in 2003, and his tour that year for Diamonds on the Inside played to packed arenas across the continent.

Along the way he has collected a legion of fans who hang upon his every word in every single song, sometimes deservedly so. Harper is an artist who is earnest, and committed to, and devoted to, the idea that he and his music can make a social difference in the world. It is quite clear that in his lyrics speak intimately to the passionate longing and dreams of his audience. From the very first note he had every single person in every single seat standing and screaming, with the overall sensation that here, finally, somebody was saying what needed to be said.

"Those men who send the children off to die/ shall hear Death's constant whisper."

His version of "Gather Around the Stones" developed particular resonance here.

You're too young to know
That you're too young to go
There's no freedom to be found
Lying face up in the ground

Ashes from an unfinished life
Are all that's left
In a tear-drop-shaped locket
Hanging from his mother's chest

You whip the back of freedom
'till it bleeds an oil stream
Then you sail down upon it
In your killing machine

Oaktown, by its very nature, as a place of multicultural diversity and vibrancy is precisely the kind of place that sees Ben Harper as a Native Son who speaks the essence of Its longing for freedom and justice. The Paramount Theatre, with its fixed seating arrangements is not well designed to accommodate what happened Saturday night. As each song ratcheted the energy higher, the people began to leave their seats and dance in the aisles until the end resembled the high level high energy of a revival tent in the deep South.

Harper commented during a brief pause that you really enjoyed coming to this region of the country because of the feeling that the Revolution was still alive in America. He is version that night of "People Got to Lead", acquired a significant anthemic power. When he closed out with the 10 minute long, very emotional song based on the Rodney King episode, he proved that the desire of the people for justice extends far beyond the platitudes of CNN and the embarrassing lickspittle quackery of FOX pseudo-news.

"You may shoot me with your guns/ You may cut me with your knives/ But I shall rise/ We shall rise/ We shall rise."

The recorded music CDs barely do justice, in fact they do quite an injustice to the extraordinary energy and passion of this remarkable artist, as especially demonstrated Saturday night at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland. It appears that after a decade, Ben Harper is finally hitting his stride, demonstrating the immense potential of a very talented musician and composer.

Incidentally, the version of "I Don't Want to be Your Whipping Boy" is spot on.

The Rodney King song was so powerful, there was some question that an encore would even be performed as roadies began detaching cables and taking apart the stage set, however after several long minutes then Harper returned to the stage with his signature Weissenborn lap steel guitar to lead-in to the song "Lifeline", performing a version of "Romanz in D Moll", revealing his extensive classical musical training. He then brought on the entire band to continue for another 30 minutes of beautiful music. His diehard fans were left ecstatic, and many were the newly found converts to his fan base. We can say we have become among them.

In Upcoming Events we note that Iron and Wine will be coming to the Paramount on the 30th.


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 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 aggressive whites.

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.

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 who wound up 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. 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.

And there you have it, the story of the first Thanksgiving in California.

[This here tale will be excerpted and published in the sidebar in due time]


Lack of time for bids is the opportunity to introduce the candidates for the presidential election as represented by Our Island. Once again, the liberal ticket shall be represented by Papoon, he of the ground squirrel hustings. The conservative demographic will once again be represented by Babar, he whose image requires no change from the GOP symbol. A new addition comes from the Green Party in the form of Tannenbaum, a local fir tree who possesses the advantage of a lack of speech which shall not confuse anyone who desires to "stay on message".


Well it's been a quiet week on the island in our hometown, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Various gloomy skies have covered overhead late into the afternoon, getting everyone the impression of impending rain without ever coming to the act. Seagulls have come screeching in over the supermarket parking lot, circling and crying out, with all indications of an off shore storm just about to land. But nothing of the sort has taken place.

Someone down at City Hall misdirected the committee to establish a sister city to the Island from Minnesota to some inexplicable place in China. The Chinese, although puzzled, have been courteous and very open to any sort of suggestion or arrangement, although this village in China does not appear to understand the idea of a Sister City Concept. No one can pronounce its name or spell it in any sort of meaningful way. Our delegation there seems to have become bogged down in many meetings that have involved a local fermented beverage that is rated at 150 proof alcohol. Meanwhile applications to Lake Wobegon remained in a kind of stasis or limbo, if one were so theologically inclined to remark.

The local chapter of the Native Sons of the Golden West seems to have repaired their Meeting Lodge at the Marina, and deliberations are underway for the Annual Pancake Breakfast, which is considered as a sort of pre-loading affair for the hearty eater.

Down by the waterside, the oily slick left by the wreck of the Cosco Busan against the Bay Bridge slides across the water and the usual crab fleet that used to set out in the early dawn sits clinking and rattling in the dull wind because of the Governator's interdict against crabbing because of the water pollution.

Crabbers sit around on boats, knitting ropes and carving whalebone, listening to the radio, unable to go out and do the only thing they know how to do.

"Everyone I know is in the fight of their life / And I believe / I believe in a better way. . .".

People start running lights because they simply do not care. Fistfights start up in the Old Same Place Bar for no reason, with Padraic having to wade in with his Kerry-stick to break it all up. These days everybody is dissed and nobody gets respect.

Somewhere some asshole hangs a noose from a doorknob like its a witty punctuation, instead of a stupid-ass fuckup. And we shove inexorably, as if we have not done so before several times, to the ugly moment when mindless sacrefice demands the stupid letting of yet more innocent blood so that the stupid machine of injustice balances out temporarily to allow the massive Moloch of the System to continue to grind more bodies up between its teeth of violence.

"I can change the world with my hands / with my own two hands / with my own two hands"

A voice of hope comes crackling over an old dirty radio somebody set up on the bulwark. There is that against the noose. That the move toward the Light is gradual one, and not measured in Great Leaps or Movements or Decisions. The People must learn to lead, or every individual will be led by Another. When the People lead they shall not be led astray.

Here in this Place, a single desk illuminated by the pool of a desklamp. All around the immense darkness of Ignorance and Unknowing extends in all directions. No one important reads this or will read this until these bones are dust.

It is true, as the Reporter said, nothing we do in this "blog" matters a damn.

Nevertheless there is that hope that years from now some Searcher shall find these words and find such comfort as to continue on their journey with better hope. If Disaster destroys all we know now, here remains the idea of Revolution, persistant through Cyberspace. That some day all men and all women shall live together as equals regardless of any superficial differences. That I shall again look into the eyes of the man across from me and see the eyes of my brother.

Okay now, lets get back to Radio. By that, we mean the conventions established by this space for the Moment.

Fog is shoving back across the Bay and over the Hills. Far off comes the toot-toot of fog horns. Great decisions are made far off in Great Cities, but here the Fog horns hoot distantly across the expanse.

Andre has come home with the bag of groceries he got from Paul's. Celery, wine and tofu. Oh yes, and mushrooms. Those are important. Marlene is already in the kitchen, wearing her Black Flag apron. The singer from Garbage is screaming about paranoia from the boom box on top of the fridge.

Soon the smell of sauteed onions and mushrooms fills the apartment. Did you remember to get more olive oil?


Someone drops the spatula.

"Eff you!

"Well eff you then!"

They smile and their fingertips touch. Outside, the cloud-wracked moon sputters light over the high tide along the Strand and the midnight train comes howling across the estuary, right on time as it winds its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront.

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

NOVEMBER 11, 2007


Six Oakland teenagers arrested in connection with the slaying of a 15-year-old girl at an Alameda park on Halloween each will face a murder charge, police said. The oldest will be tried as an adult.

Three boys were taken into custody Tuesday morning after investigators served arrest and search warrants in at least two locations in Oakland, including a residence in the city's Laurel district. Three more were seized Friday evening.

Weapons and ammunition also were seized during the searches, including a .22-caliber handgun that police said may have been the one used to kill Ichinkhorloo Bayarsaikh, a recent émigré from Mongolia.

Bayarsaikhan, a junior at Alameda High School, was hanging out with about 10 friends at Washington Park when five teenage boys approached and tried to rob them, police said.

The shooter fired five or six shots — some over the heads of the victims — and Ichinkhorloo was hit once in the back.

The boys arrested range in age from 13 to 17 years old. Their names were not disclosed because they are minors. Police said all have gang affiliations.

The Alameda Police Department is continuing to ask for the public's help in identifying those responsible for the shooting. The Police Department has set up a hot line that is staffed by an officer 24 hours a day.

Anyone with information regarding the shooting is encouraged to contact the Police Department at (510) 337-8381.


We mourn the passing of Norman Mailer, of the nation as Prince of American letters, who for decades reigned as the country's literary conscience and provocateur with such books as The Naked and the Dead" and "The Executioner's Song." He was 84.

Love him or hate him, Norman Mailer remains immovable as a rock within the mainstream of American literature a direct descendent and in character of the legacy of Hemingway and Faulkner unable to be ignored.

Mailer had numerous minor run-ins with the law, usually for being drunk or disorderly, but was also jailed briefly during the Pentagon protests in the late 1960s. While directing the film "Maidstone" in 1968, the self-described "old club fighter" punched actor Lane Smith, breaking his jaw, and bit actor Rip Torn's ear in another scuffle.

But as Newsweek reviewer Raymond Sokolov said in 1968, "In the end, it is the writing that will count."

Norman Mailer was born Jan. 31, 1923, in Long Branch, N.J. His father, Isaac, a South Africa-born accountant, and mother, Fanny, who ran a housekeeping and nursing agency, soon moved to Brooklyn.

Mailer earned an engineering science degree in 1943 from Harvard University, where he decided to become a writer, and was soon drafted into the Army. Sent to the Philippines as an infantryman, he saw enough of soldiering to provide a basis for his first book, "The Naked and the Dead," published in 1948 while he was a postgraduate student in Paris.

The book sold it millions of copies, and many critics dubbed Mailer, the new Hemingway, America's voice.

The late 1950s saw Mailer ally himself with the Beat generation, however his career really took off during the turbulent late 1960s.


KFOG'S Live Archives Volume 14 is out, and copies still available from Peets coffeehouses throughout the Bay Area. As usual, all proceeds go to benefit Bay Area Foodbanks for the hungry. The annual KFOG. Concerts for Kids series will be announced shortly. Live 105 has announced the lineup for this year's Not so Silent Night Concert, with headliners Modest Mouse appearing at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.


A recent oil spill in the bay has resulted in dozens of beach closings and restrictions all along the shore here on the Island. This last week a tanker crashed against a tower buttress of the Bay Bridge, causing 54,000 gallons of oil to spill into the bay, causing an ecological disaster of monumental proportions. Hundreds of people are involved in the cleanup effort. However specialists indicate that the damage will persist for any number of years. The ones pristine Crab Cove has been declared off-limits to visitors as is most of the Eastern bayshore coastline.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The week has passed with morning gray skies that have given way in the afternoons to bright sunshine except for a day or two of pelting rain. A few stray dahlia's struggle with bright color against the moody background of the old fence. The island PD has closed off the back way to the Mariners Square, due to flooding, reminding all of us that we live on an island. Autumn is coming on with sure inevitability.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar orders for Mai Tais and Manhattans have given way to Irish Coffees in the evening hours. Hester of Prince Street has tented her roses underneath layers of polystyrene now beading up moisture of condensation. Father Guimon of the Church of our Lady of Incessant Complaint has taken to quoting Bob Dylan extensively during his Sunday lectures, focusing especially on the song., The Times They are a Changing.

Reverend Rectumrod, of the first Baptist Church of Eternal Condemnation, issued his annual sermon entitled a Cold Day in Hell is Coming and all Liberals are Going.

Pastor Nyquist, of the Lutheran Church on Grand Street, was more subtle during his Sunday sermon, remarking that now it was time to turn one's clock back to God.

During this time, the average person exchanges summer wear for winter wear. Marlene and André, our local punk rockers, were no exceptions to the rule. Into the closet went Summer's safety pins and rhinestone G-strings to be replaced by heavy leather and chains suitable for the rainy season.

All of which indicates a long desired change in seasons is due here and everyplace.

At the corner of Buena Vista and Sherman Officer O'Madhauen sits in his cruiser sipping the warm coffee from a Styrofoam cup, while the air gradually mists over the window's surface.

Nighttime dew begins to bead on the surfaces of plants and the hood of his cruiser. Crackles come over the radio of distant troubles happening in other towns. None of which are his concern. His concern is this small place set on the edge of the San Francisco Bay,a small-town troubles of its own. This officer may hear of many things, but this place is his own special place.

From across the water comes the long wavering wail of the through-passing train traveling through Jack London Square from the port deep in the dead of night. It is a long ululation headed by a glowing coal of headlight, a worm winding its way through an impenetrabable darkness.

In the deepest reaches of the darkest night, there is only this bright pool of light by the writer's desk, and out there, the glow of the Eternal Worm winding its way inexorably through the eternal nighttime that will eat up everything and inherit all we have done and striven for.

Tracers arc in the distance. The flashbang of grenades echoes down the alleys. Rumbles and rose-colored lights come over the horizon. These are the days. Rumors of war.

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

NOVEMBER 4, 2007


This week's headline image is courtesy of the IPD in the form of a sketch of a man who shot a 15-year-old girl Halloween night.

The Alameda High School junior was hanging out with her friends at Washington Park when the shooter and about six other juveniles confronted them and demanded their valuables shortly after 10 PM.

After displaying a handgun, the suspect - described as an Asian male juvenile opened fire, hitting the girl once in the back, Alameda police Lt. Art Fuentes said.

She was pronounced dead at Highland Hospital in Oakland.

After demanding their property, the teenager fired about six shots over the heads of the victim and her friends, causing them to duck and scatter, police said.

Alameda police ask anyone with information to call 510-337-8340.


The editors they are a'changin'. In a press release from the Alameda Sun, we learn "The Alameda Sun and its parent corporation, Stellar Media Group, Inc., have named Julia Park Tracey as publisher and executive editor of the newspaper. Tracey will also oversee book publishing, business development and marketing, event management and community outreach. Tracey is the founding editor of the Alameda Sun and is also one of the owners of the publishing company.

Tracey started the Alameda Sun with founding partners Turowski, Kos and James Spratley in September 2001. Spratley was the first publisher, Kos was creative director, Turowski general manager and Tracey (then Julia Park) was editor. Tracey was made a partner in January 2002. Spratley left the newspaper in 2002 and the company has been without a publisher since then. Tracey left the newspaper for an editor’s position with Alameda and Oakland magazines in 2004, then led her own publicity firm, working with artists, performers and non-profits. Tracey has been acting editor at The Music Scene and co-editor at The East Bay Monthly since 2006. She left The Monthly to return to the Sun as publisher and executive editor.

Island-Life welcomes this enterprising woman back into the local press fold here as one of the few woman publishers in the Golden State.

after the quake AT BERKELEY REP

The signature experience shared by one and all persons who have lived any length of time in California involves the rumble and shake of the earthquake. Just this week a 4.3 short, sharp shocker rocked the place. So it is no surpise that a play featuring the disastrous Hanshin earthquake of 1995 would pull in the masses here.

The author of the work on which this play is based (Haruki Murakami) refers also to another disaster which occured that year a month later: the Aum Shinrikyo gas attack in the Toyko subway system which killed 12 people outright, severely harmed another 54, and probably injured another 4,000 people.

The Aum Shinrikyu was a cult originally founded on Buddhist tenets, but which gradually became more extreme as time when on. The gas attack was meant to divert police attention away from the cult's activities.

Adaptor and Director Frank Galati has fashioned out of two stories contained in the novel an intriguing play about the struggle between the healing power of the Imagination and destructive power of emotional trauma.

Junpei, Takasuki , and Sayoko form a friendship bond during their undergraduate days at Kobe University. Their triangle morphs into something else when the shy and withdrawn Junpei fails to express his love for Sayoko, who then marries the outgoing and athletic Katagiri. Although the couple has a child, named "Sala", Junpei remains a "family friend" right through the eventual divorce, often coming over in the middle of the night to tell stories to Sala (played with sweet innocence by (Madison Logan V. Phan ) so as to quiet the child. The nine-year old Sala has fits of screaming and insomnia, complaining about the "Earthquake Man" coming to put everyone into a "box".

It is during one of these episodes Junpei, who has become a moderately successful writer of short stories, creates a fiction about a six-foot tall frog who comes to save Tokyo from a gigantic worm. ("Same thing happens every time. I write a story. The story is published in a magazine. Nobody reads it.")

Frog (played by suave and erudite Keong Sim) pays a visit to humble bank employee Katagiri (Paul Juhn) to enlist his aid in combatting a giant worm who Frog says will cause a giant earthquake that will destroy Tokyo and kill hundreds of thousands of people.

Parallel to this story of "Superfrog" is a story about Honeybear, who finding a bucket on his mountain, goes to the city to sell honey in an open plaza.

The bear story, while evocative at moments, fails to resolve, but does allow us to see Junpei's development at an artist and as a person in his relationship to Sala and to Sayoko (Jennifer Shin).

Many critics have pointed to some "he said, she said" lines in the play as examples of how the adaptor has failed in translating writerly passages to the stage. These critics fail to make the connection between such constructions and the habit, developed most notably by August Strindberg and absorbed by Asian dramatists, of having characters vocalize aspects of their unconscious in a way that never occurs "in reality". Indeed the Jungian version of the Unconscious permeates the play so much it could be added as an additional character.

This technique allows for presentation of certain visuals that would be otherwise either impossible or ridiculous to depict literally on stage, such as the moment when Frog's body erupts with streams of nauseating creatures that attack Katagiri.

Much about the play concerns the realm of the Imagination and its necessary inclusion to a life. And the life that persists without imagination is both one of loathing and self-loathing as early on, the salaryman Katagiri states: "Who am I? I am nothing. I don't do anything except eat, sleep and shit!"

Indeed even the set design, a spartan bare stage with jet black boards and an immense arch overhead forces the audience to fill the space with the images culled by the actors speaking their lines. The Kobe earthquake, when it does occur, occurs via the magic of dolby surroundsound in the form of a deep 20 second-long rumble.

The overall effect is one of evocation of personal memories of lost love, wordlessness in the face of powerful emotions, fear of the unnameable and the unknowable, luminous archetypes in the form of the wordless bear and the grotesque Superfrog, bittersweet melodies, painful self-realizations, and joy in small triumphs at last.

The play has been extended to December 2, as every performance has been selling out.

Haruki Murakami, Author
Frank Galati, Adaptor and Director
James Schuette, Scenic Design
Mara Blumenfeld, Costume Design
James F. Ingalls, Lighting Design
Andre Pluess & Ben Sussman, Sound Design & Original Composition
Malcolm Ewen, Stage Manager
Erica Daniels, Casting
Amy Potozkin, Casting
Marissa Wolf, Assistant Director
Keith Parham, Assistant Lighting Designer
Rick Sims, Assistant Sound Designer
Andre Pluess, Music Arranger
Jeff Wichmann, Music Arranger
Jason McDermott, Music Arranger

Keong Sim, Narrator / Frog
Hanson Tse, Junpei
Gemma Megumi Fa-Kaji, Sala
Madison Logan V. Phan, Sala
Jennifer Shin, Sayoko / Nurse
Paul H. Juhn, Katagiri / Takatsuki

Jason McDermott, Cello
Jeff Wichmann, Koto


It's been a quiet week here on the Island set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. As usual, the temps are fluctuating in a manner calculated to disturb and befuddle. First it is hot, then the night brings enough cold to knock down the struggling dahlias. Then it is back to hot again.

Meanwhile all the Oaks along Santa Clara Avenue have suddenly dropped their leaves in a great huff.

The warm spells have become shorter, and the cold spells a bit longer, indicating that something is afoot.

Entirely unaware of the potential dangers, Karen Rega has been feeding the raccoon family that lives over by the Mastic Senior Center at night by extending her broom laden with goodies out of her second floor window to the tree that grows there. Her husband Kirk has been stomping about the house wondering just who ate all of the apples and crackers.

The investment of Newark by Eugene Shrubb and his Army of Bums from Sacremento continues to drag its weary feet into its sixth year. No Weapons of Mass Doo-doo have been found. From Osama Bin Lassie, we hear nothing but the occasional video passed via various surreptitious channels, which generally features a lot of insensible howling and barking and exhortations to Poodle Jihad.

We do have a rare shot of the Army's new secret weapon, designed personally by The Shrubb and which is planned to be used against neighboring Blogistan. Here it is:

Makes a feller darn proud of America, don't it.

We will have to cut things short this week, due to various ailments among the Staff here.

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

OCTOBER 28, 2007


This week's masthead pic comes courtesy of NASA, which took a picture last week passing over Southern California with its twelve fires, six of which appear to be directly caused by arson.

This week our hopes and tears and such prayers that may be of any use go south where nearly one million folks have been displaced by the infernos raging through the drought-stricken and beetle-infested pine wood hills. Because of the long argument between those who want to privatize the car of parkland and severe budget cutbacks, the woods down south have not been cleared of dead trees and brush for several years. Private industry, seeing no profit in clearing areas of lumber rendered useless by the pine bark beetle has not stepped to the plate with the results we see here.

The disaster has caused various snafus already with some Island-Life business connections (cf the story and pic below).

Because we are, unfortunately, are well practiced in responding to natural disaster here, and have a general understanding no one from the East will ever lift a finger to help us, California has developed much more sophisticated means for handling extreme conditions than Louisiana ever had or will have, hence our response has been much more organized than was seen during the Katrina fiasco.


Sometimes the heart stops in the mouth. Sometimes a gentle hand comes down from somewhere to shield you. Sometimes "its only a turn of the wheel" and sometimes things are really FUBAR, otherwise known by old tars as "situation normal as usual."

Here we present a pic of the former Island-Life Official Transport.

Island-Life staffer and occasional Event Coordinator, Sharon Hursey, was heading north on Broadway after completing a turn when out of the darkness hurtled a dark behemoth with its lights turned off. The SUV crashed into Sharon's Toyota at an estimated 45 miles per hour (zone is posted at 25) and kept on going without a hitch. Stunned, Sharon pulled over to see no traffic in either direction -- a silent and empty street. She then attempted to drive home, not knowing the extent of damage to her car, but was forced to pull over again after half a block on smelling "burning odors."

She then exited the car through the passenger side window, as the frame had twisted so badly, it had completed sealed the doors, although it did destroy the trunk lock.

Meanwhile an irate neighbor, having seen the entire event, bravely chased down the driver of what turned out to be a Chevy Suburban, and flagged down police, who eventually booked the man on a number of charges.

Sharon is okay, save for bruised ribs and seatbelt rash at the shoulder.

The SUV, incidentally, melted down when it lost all of its coolant after the accident and the driver attempted to evade apprehension. One less SUV, one less asshole on the road.


Some of you have asked about the local newspaper article that mentioned The hyperlink is here:

It astonished us no end to learn that others found our little Island worth writing about. Extensively. Ad hoc, ad infinitum, and ad nauseum. We are shocked, simply shocked. That we are not alone.

Here are hyperlinks to others who make the Island their home. With some trepidation we included these, as it appears some of these folks write rather well and are funny -- sometimes intentionally so.


The following table comes to us over the wire from Dataquick Information Systems and concerns the local stats for home foreclosures.

The number of Bay Area homeowners who received "notices of default" from their mortgage lenders rose sharply in the third quarter of 2007 compared to the same period a year before, a result of loans in recent years to unqualified buyers, and falling home values and sales, experts said. Foreclosure activity in California is at a record high, as measured by default notices, which are the first step in the foreclosure process.

or area
3rd Qtr 2006 notices
Change from
3rd Qtr 2006
Contra Costa
San Francisco
San Mateo
Santa Clara
Santa Cruz
Bay Area
Central Valley


Everybody has to earn a living -- even Island-Life staffers, who need to pay for all the glamour and flashbulbs, fancy bling, faux furs, stretch limos and other extravagances required for their respective positions of Copyboy, Janitor, Coder, Galley Proofer, etc.

Some of us work as IT technicians, a job which surprisingly does not feature associations with fabulously chic movie stars, strutting fashion models, parties attended by David Bowie or champagne and caviar, as we belatedly learned.

We were shocked. Simply shocked.

Not that we would have anything meaningful to say to David. Or Iggy Pop. We just would find it positively luscious to bask in the aura. We are sure you know what we mean. But IT simply provides no path in this direction. Think asbestos-clad utility closets and chilly Operations Centers.

One thing we do have is the occasional tidbit. Our sister, Beatrice, has enjoyed a torrid affair with ex-Monty Python John Cleese, for example (we have pictures, Bea!). Which brings us to a certain hyperlink for a technical service provided by storage wonks Iron Mountain. And John Cleese's own contribution to the world of IT, found through chasing the trivia found on a techie newsletter. So, feast your eyes on John Cleese and the highly patented "IT Question Machine."


Checked in to the Local down the boreen, McGrath's Pub, so as to enjoy our local fave band, Houston Jones, a band we have reviewed before.

Good to see the boys not only still in form, but continuing to develop their skills and chops and general insouciance. Finally noted here lead singer's favorite beverage on the job: Makers Mark.
Multi-instrumentalist Chojo Jacques has added a rough and tumble electric guitar to his fiddle and mandolin, while Chris Kee has expanded his bass weaponry to include an electric jazz bass.

In addition to the music of a brand new CD, the band has a whole set worth of new songs and instrumentals that significantly advance the repertoire such that fewer and fewer "covers" come up any more, while the ones they do tend to have quite original and interesting arrangements.

Their live performance had a real fifties rock 'n roll feel to it, as Glenn "Houston" Pomianuk seems to be channeling Carl Perkins and the whole period these days. That is if Perkins had fallen asleep while listening to Django Reinhardt on LSD.

Crisp and precise on single string runs and on brass-tube bottleneck, Glenn remains an American original with his left-handed upside down strung guitars. We detected some forays this time into alternate tunings, indicating that the man refuses to let gray hair stop his development.

Keyboardist Henry Salvia appears to have finally hit his groove with the band, earning at least two standing ovations for some fairly sophisticated work, occasionally pumping an Afro-pop feel into what otherwise would be a very White presentation, with Stevie Wonder cropping up on one riff near the end of the evening. Henry doesn't barrelhouse or stride so much as compose off the cuff musical "phrases" that may extend some ten bars or more in length, which repeat with variations in a ladder-like fashion until the final resolve. The effect is fairly incendiary, to say the least.

Now for the CD, Calico Heart. This one features mostly songs the band has tried out for a while in public, including the politically-charged Roads to Dominion, which sounds far more packed with emotion live than in studio, but which still packs a punch for its 10:33 minutes length and still includes Chojo's remarkable raga on fiddle during the eerie instrumental portion.

One and a piece with the band's refusal to stay serious for long, this CD includes Henry Salvia's impishly coy "Sleepy Armadillo" and the "Ballad of Cosmo and Tilly". The title characters of this "cautionary tale" were apparently real figures known to Chris Kee during the dissipation period of the infamous "Sixties." They were two émigrés from England, hence the "Rule Britannia" reference.

The thing one aims for when one comes to H&J, is their infallible talent for tapping into the heart of the American Heartland psyche by finding the Lone Exception walking beside the road. And this Lone Exception turns out to be an American Icon. Determined women tired of the old same furrows in the soil and their bodies, tired of waiting for the world to catch up, looking to the aurora borealis. An old drunk gazing at the stars. A crazy man living on the edge of town achieving apotheosis as a preacher. An unknown figure thinking about life having lived and reminiscences by firelight. And some fisherman living down by the ancient shore of the ancient lake, hearing of a man who walked on water and attending amid the multitude to be abandoned by the shores of Galilee.

These are simple stories of enviably simple lives. The orchestration begins with deceptive simplicity, but stacks on layer after layer until the song moves like an immense wave. In fact, Chris Kee, who writes most of the songs and music for H&J typically writes about the Heartland with a feel for thousands of miles of America extending in all directions, while this CD presents an America with the sudden and fearful boundary of the Sea and the River, as if water boundaries had just been discovered.

A curious gem embedded in this CD concerns a strange horse race with a strange history. In Omak, Washington, near the Indian Reservation of Colville and hard by Keller Mountain, the Native tribes there once held a sort of initiation rite in which horses were ridden over a steep mountain pass down to a river and across. This pass was some 70 degrees or so in grade, so the theory was that if you and your horse survived, you had done your rite of passage.

If you did not survive, well, too bad.

Modern Decay, sometimes called "Progress", put an end to this procedure in the form of a dam that filled the valley there with a lake. So ended a tradition. Perhaps it was well so.

In 1935 when the Anglo publicity chairman for the Omak, Wash. annual Stampede came up with an idea to put the small town of fewer than 5,000 on the map. Omak is just across the river from the Colville reservation. So why not copy the old Keller Mountain race the Indians used to hold?

It does appear a local tradition of significantly darker import resided behind this, but lets keep to the official record for now.

The idea worked, and boosters now call the event the "World Famous Suicide Race." Each year 20 horses qualify and run four consecutive nights after the rodeo performances are finished. At the crack of the starting gun under the cover of darkness, riders spur their horses 120 yards to the edge of Suicide Hill before plunging down the 50 degree slope (some sources state 62 degrees) 210 feet to the Okanogan River. Once they hit the water they either gallop or swim across the river the width of a football field to the other side where they sprint a last 500 feet to the rodeo arena where the crowd waits. It's all over in a matter of minutes.

Unfortunately, some riders -- and a fair number of horses -- fail to finish. The horses are shot on the spot. The people are treated as usual in such circumstances. Skull fractures, broken bones, lacerations, etc.

Island-Life has a photograph of the somewhat sanitized race in recent years. Promoters sought to Disney-fy the dangerous event by adding rules that featured crash helmets for riders, life jackets, and strict qualification standards. Yeah, right.

According to the official notes, the riders consist of both [White] cowboys and Indians, as the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, whose 1.4 million-acre (56,000 km) reservation borders Omak, consider the annual race a tradition that extends back to the tribe's days as horse warriors in the Wild West.

Tribe members view the race as spiritual and the ultimate demonstration of the rider's ability to become one with the horse, where their riders pray in sweat lodges to prepare for their races and adorn their horses with sacred eagle feathers.

Now for the unofficial tidbits. O we knew you just live for such things!

Seems the race had long possessed an unsavory and unofficial aspect. For many years the race was conducted at night, with riders providing the only light by carrying torches. That version certainly featured its own unreported casualties. But during this time an alternative, and more infrequent, race took place nearby on a steeper, far more dangerous route that included an 80 to 90 degree incline which inevitably caused death to both horse and rider. Except in some rare exceptions. It is on this race which the CD song focuses.

Angry promoters deny any such thing ever happened.

It's America. Go figure. Houston Jones "Calico Heart"? Joe Bob gives two thumbs up and says, "Check it out." And if Houston Jones comes to your town, definitely go and request Travis to sing, contrary to all PC sentiment, "Joanie the Jehovah's Witness Stripper."


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The weather turned moody and diffuse this week as we moved out of the heat wave into honest Fall and all the leaves clustered in heaps on the side streets around the parked cars, as if to find sanctuary among the hubcaps from the sweeper.

This is the time when all the folks who can do so decorate their lawns or their porches with such memento mori as suits the venue. Last Halloween Tommy and Toby held a party at their flat down by Otis with Marlene and Andre helping out. Marlene and Andre are the town punk rockers and they had come up from the West End to visit. Their skateboards were leaning against the wall. Susan and Lynnette had driven over from Park Avenue on their bicycles and Suzie came as well along with a number of others.

Lynette, who is Jewish, had managed to bring over a casserole in her saddlebags without spilling a drop. This casserole was stuffed with oysters, shrimp, crab and pork. Surprisingly, it really was quite good.

Besides the usual feral female cats, a couple pirates and assorted space aliens, the apartment overflowed with a Mr. Hanky (that was Chris Lindberg, who held a devotion to the South Park television show), the Almeida family dressed as a bag of marshmellows, the Island-life Editor come as a dead and rotting Ronald Reagan, several members of Congress dripping with blood and looking a bit vampirish, three Bin Ladens, and at least one premature Xmas present. Tommy, dressed as a hamster and Toby, dressed as an elderberry bush got into an argument that started over the spoiled flan on the stove. This sequed into a heated discussion about Toby's relatives, who did not approve of Tommy, nor their "lifestyle."

"That's where you get your finicky finicky finicky sort of attitude about toothpaste! You are just like Uncle Albert!"

"Oh you think you are so . . . so neat! Well you!"

Suzie, dressed as a chimney sweep sat there nursing an unaccustomed Manhattan on the comfy chair while a hamster in the kitchen shouted at a weeping berry bush.

In an evening which had begun acrimoniously, and which showed signs of descending into atavistic savagery, Claude, visiting from New Mexico, managed to intake quite a bit of punch which somehow got him into the mood to breakdance, but all he could do was spin around on his back on the floor. He had gotten into a tiff with Mr. Hanky, the Xmas Poo a little earlier over the nature of women and certain unpleasant memories had stirred up. The two had been married to the same woman, although at different times, and now the woman was with neither man. When an otherwise distinguished professor of physics in his sixties dressed as a cockroach begins spinning around on his back in the livingroom, weeping all the while it makes for an ugly sight and Shanti, wearing an appropriate Arkin Pest Control outfit began shouting at him. Suzie sighed.

This of course got our pair of punks in a dither, and so two zombies started shouting "eff you!" with ratcheting enthusiasm, but since they always said that to each other, few paid any attention.

The door was open and a girl, about eight or nine walked in. She was barefoot and wearing what looked like an old-fashioned nightgown with a Peter Pan collar. The time had just passed midnight.

The girl walked up to Suzie through the crowd and stood in front of the woman. This is what she said.

"Please tell them to stop. I can't rest. Please. It hurts."

Well, of course. Late hour. Neighbors and all. It was a wonder no one had called the cops.

Seeing this, Susan walked over to stand there and block any more cockroach gyrations and Claude came abruptly to a halt with his eyes staring wildly up at the ceiling. Susan told Shanti to be quiet while Lynette went into the kitchen to intervene between the hamster and the elderberry bush. An odd chill filled the room.

The little girl looked somehow familiar, with her dark hair tumbling down in sleepy curls. She stood there, not smiling, then turned and walked out of the door, down the steps and over the breakwater dune to the beach with the full moon lighting everthing up quite clearly. There, she kept on going out over the mudflats exposed by the low tide and vanished as Suzie and Marlene and Andre stood there in the doorway, watching.

"Effing A!" said Andre. Everyone else was as quiet as the grave.

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

OCTOBER 21, 2007


This week's photo comes courtesy of the presskit from the Shotgun Players' production of Bulrusher, a Pulitzer-prize nominated play by Eisa Davis.

The Shotgun Players have intrigued various members of Island-Life ever since 1992, when Patrick Dooley gathered another ten folks together to perform a series of serious plays in the basement of La Val's Pizza Parlor in Berkeley. From these humble origins, which had the company presenting an eclectic mix of challenging plays by Beckett and Mamet, the company moved some productions to a splendid natural amphitheater in the Berkeley Hills where they continued a spirit of "guerilla theatre" in requesting no admission fees; all money was collected by passing the hat. The troupe acquired some renown for its skills as ensemble actors held together for more than another decade, garnering critical praise and a large devoted following in the process, eventually moving onto formal stages, such as the Julia Morgan Playhouse. A couple of years ago the ever-rising company obtained the playspace on Ashby and MLK right there at the Ashby BART station and their star was finally set in the skies as a permanent fixture.

As of 2007, the Company has won won several prestigious Dramalogue awards for direction, set design and production; the 1998 SF Weekly Black Box Awards for Best Company, Production and Acting; the 1999 SF Bay Guardian Award for Outstanding Theatre Company; and four 1999 Bay Area Critics Circle Awards for Entire Production, Original Script and Ensemble for local playwright Adam Bock's Swimming in the Shallows and Choreography/Fight Direction for Romeo & Juliet.

Preserving the spirit of "black box theatre", the company typically puts on very challenging work, even when it comes to Shakespeare, selecting "Troilus and Cressida" of the Bard's offerings for their last outdoor season.

They now regularly employ Equity actors in their increasingly proficient productions.

Sunday, our Island-Life Cultural Coordinator obtained coveted Tix for the Reviewers to hop onto a show during the "extended production" part of the Pulitzer-prize nominated play "Bulrusher." As we arrived some three hours before showtime, folks were begging to be put on the "wait" list at the box office.

So much for the Company. Now for the play, Bulrusher.

The Anderson Valley is loosely defined by the triangle of the towns of Albion, Boonville, and Point Arena in Mendocino County, shading down to Cloverdale and Gualala on the border with Sonoma County and the California coast. The region has consisted historically of towns defined by the logging industry, fishing, and some specific outdoor sport activities, including abalone diving, snorkeling, and growing smallish patches of marijuana. Point Arena consisted of some three buildings, on the last visit, and a Park where scuba divers would lay out their gear. Albion possessed the high sum of four buildings and a population of some 41 count, leaving Boonville, with its beer distillery and B&B's the major burg in the area separated by the Coastal Range from the winery and tourism mess that starts with Clearlake and Kelseyville. The Russian River, heading due south at this place, also helps separate the area physically from the world-at-large.

Physically and geographically, the place is sparsely populated and densely wooded with coastal sequoias marching down in phalanxes to a sort of ridge that then descends quickly to beetling cliffs that drop yet again from Route 1 to the ocean. Thick fogs pour in all along the shore in the evening and creep with minor and major successes over this near ridge along the shore. No gold was found in this area, the Spanish found no reason to settle here, and the succeeding American conquest has left the area largely undisturbed for generations.

The people who live there live distinctly by choice, with disdain for wealth, and with large antipathy for government interference, or external interference of any kind. The cold and wet climate, coupled with isolation, has sort of re-created the same sort of Pomo culture that valued the local communal individual over the Outsider and which existed there for some 10,000 years before the Europeans wiped it all away.

From the substrate of this social loam, playwright Eisa Davis has crafted a play about identity, belonging, family, race, love, and insight.

In a survey of reviews, it seems clear the audiences are getting what the jaded reviewers are not. The New York Times termed the play a "coming of age story". The "Chron" said it started slow with static scenes, but "eventually got going." The Oakland Trib crowed about the hometown origins of the playwright, so of course its take read predictable.

The set, staging, text, and dramaturgy are enforced by the physical presence of the Navarro River, one of the many streams elevated by name to river status that flow some inches deep for several miles out of ridgetop springs to the ocean. In the wettest year, one can cross the Navarro dryshod by stepping on stones the some ten yards required at any point. It's banks are typically pebbles or mucky reeds. Lisa Clark has done a nice job of constructing a riverside mix of shore and tule and plank-wood dock for the production, with a sort of evocation of leafy overhang.

Set in 1955 amid the sequoias and tule-dotted streams that surround the real town of Boonville California, and written partly in the local dialect of "Boontling", a spicy language devised by residents so they could converse about things without outsiders understanding the gist, the play follows the arc of the title character as she comes of age amid the squabbles and celebrations of her small hometown. She is one of two Black residents, has fortune-telling powers, and is an outcast of sorts among outcasts because she is a foundling, discovered as a baby in a basket by a town resident floating in the river and raised by the White schoolteacher (played with wonderful taciturn dignity by Terry Lamb).

Over the course of the next 190 minutes (one intermission), we observe and take part a bit, the workings of a small town where the main industry -- logging -- has shut up and moved on, leaving only odd jobs and Madam's strictly run and surprisingly moral bordello as the only main economic base. There is the town Fair, Fourth of July, and the annual Dance as social activities. Otherwise, in answer to Vera's question, "What do you do here for entertainment?", there is Bulrusher's laconic response, "We drink."

One rainy night Bulrusher gives a lift in her orange truck to a sopping Vera, a girl who has just traveled across the country to get away from the increasingly fractious Birmingham Alabama. Its 1955 and Vera shows Bulrusher a picture printed in Jet magazine of the murdered Emmett Till, astonished that in this place Bulrusher can walk into the town saloon's front door and be served a drink along with any White. The two form a bond and as Bulrusher learns about herself and who she is, they develop a wonderful love relationship in which the water of the lush Navarro is both backdrop and agent.

Local productions here have taken to water on stage with great zest (perhaps influenced by Rep's Les Waters successful and elaborate use of pools and waterfalls), and here Lisa Clark has a waterfall along with the tule and lily-pad shores of the river. Actors plash and play and romp through the set, pour bowls of water over themselves in repeated evocations of baptisms and cleansings, squirt orange juice at one another and generally make a delightful mess. It can be said that fluids -- water, juice, blood and even the flows of sexual intercourse -- provide more than just a thematic motiv, but also provide themselves as active agents. The moisture of sex, semen and vaginal flow, produce Bulrusher and one other significant pregnancy. Bulrusher reads the future by dipping her hands into water another has touched. Blood flowing from Boy's battered nose and mouth causes him to realize a few essential things the very callow youth (played with impish zest by newcomer Cole Smith) has repressed beneath plain self-concern. Near the end, the relationship between the two rivals in love is neatly and economically resolved when the one carefully walks up the steps to enter the kitchen of his former adversary to set down a hip flask. In response, the other sets out two glasses and the two end their conflict sharing a drink of whiskey with only a few words.

For a play with so much lyrical language packed in, there is a remarkable economy in the writing. The character of Schoolch says not a single word some five scenes into the play, communicating much with a single shrug. The first act closes with the graceful movement of a bird landing on a twig when the one character turns to the other, saying simply, "I guess I can't hide anything from you." Silently, they kiss and lights fade out.

It is rare that a playwright can present such a balanced set of different characters. Usually a couple of the ensemble turn out to be "flat" in favor of developing the protagonist and antagonist. Here, however, the play is less about a single character coming to learn about herself as an entire community, and by extension, Society, coming to grips with what the playwright sees as social adolescence. In 1955, an entire important segment of American society was forced to enter stores by separate entrances, forced to use separate drinking fountains or go thirsty, and otherwise was kept apart from public enterprise and discourse. However, 1955 also saw the birth of the Civil Rights movement as well as a new kind of music the character of Logger calls "That electric stuff." and which Boy attempts on his acoustic guitar. The times they were a'changin'.

Music and song, by the way, play a significant part in this production, with Cole Smith ably strumming and singing and clapping his hands to help backdrop the action.

As for the times changing, Ms. Davis, a relative of SF State's firebrand professor Angela Davis, has a wiser Vera returning to Birmingham carrying the new hope in her belly, a baby conceived during a rape by a White policeman. Angrily, Bulrusher announces, "You want me to kill him? I can kill as many White people as you like." There is no looking away from ugly realities, in other words, however, Vera announces, "We will show them. We will take all the pain they can inflict and then open ourselves outward . . . and show the world . . . love."

Now that is something perhaps the hard-core thug rappers could pay heed to. Not self destruction, wasteful gang bangin' and community wrecking criminality with the absurd and nonsensical sop of a gift of basketballs after the murder of our boys (sorry I riddled your homeboy with bullets after trashing the place with drugs; here, have some basketballs.), but genuine reconciliation and determination for peace. The founder of the Crips would be alive today had he paid attention to that message.

Its interesting that Vera is the one who brings these kinds of realities to Bulrusher, who didn't even know she was Black until Logger told her at the age of five. And Vera is the one who finds a kind of reconciliation after being thrown violently out of the Birmingham department store by White "crackers" for wandering in through the front entrance.

"You mean you like living her among all these ofays?" Vera says, when she learns that there are only two Black people living in town.

But Boonville is not Birmingham and there is always a third force in every drama. As Logger says, "There's the Pomo living up the road on the Reservation. Those people are the Blacks around here."

And with astonishing power, Ms. Davis brings "those people" to the front quite effectively near the end as the terrible and wonderful revelations unfold and the bordello Madam (played by a frosty and iron-willed Louise Chegwidden) reveals herself to be quite a bit more than initially presented.

In short, Joe Bob gives the play two thumbs up and says, "Check it out." The play is much like California itself -- not without its problems, but in sum a wonderful and well composed mixture possessed of lush beauty and running water.

Cole Smith - Boy
D. Anthony Harper* - Logger
Jahmela Biggs - Vera
Britney Frazier - Vera Understudy
Kirya Traber - Bulrusher
Louise Chegwidden* - Madame
Terry Lamb* - Schoolch
*Member of Actors' Equity

Production Team
Ellen Sebastian, Chang Co-Director
Margo Hall, Co-Director
Patrick Dooley, Artistic Director
Dave Maier, Fight Director
Elizabeth Lisle, Production Manager
Clark Suprynowicz, Composer/Music Director
Jahana Azodi, Stage Manager
Jarrod Fischer, Lighting Designer
Lisa Clark Scenic Designer
Mina Morita, Dramaturg
Sarah Lowe, Props Master
Valera Coble, Costume Designer
Lili Smith & Kevin Keul, Lobby & Installation


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. This past week the rains came in with a vengeance and there was some brisk cool weather right up to Sunday when suddenly the winds knocked all that business away and what they call "Indian Summer began in earnest. Sun came out and all the drooping tomato plants perked up again with fond hope. The Almeidas put out their luminari in the form of plastic jack o' lanterns on the lawn there, and Suzie hung the spiderwebs in the windows of the Old Same Place Bar, so things are shaping up nicely for Halloween.

The big question each year is what to go as, what to wear. Not just for the Office party, but for the fun stuff as well. Father Guimon is hosting the annual Halloween Dance over there at Our Lady of Incessant Complaint again, while Pastor Nyquist is having a do over at the Lutheran church annex there at Grand and Encinal. Tommy and Toby are going as Little Bo Peep and her sheep, with a flock of one. It's likely they might stay in costume all week so as to then drop on over to the Castro, if that affair happens again. Susan and Lynn are going as a "leather daddy" with slave. Some of the folks here had to ask just what that was, but never mind. Should be interesting. Padraic will be dressed all night -- he promises -- as a grape. Dawn is going be a banana while Suzie is debating whether she should dress as a romain salad or not. She is concerned about comments from the male customers.

Officer O'Madhauen was thinking about going to the Castro in his uniform, but was dissuaded by several heterosexual members of the department.

When Ms. Morales proposed going as a palomino to the Filipino-American Ball, she started quite a tempest for Mr. Rodriguez is going as a vaquero, and it is well known that the start of the school season put off their plans. They are not yet married and that started tongues wagging, so Ms. Morales had to go in search of another costume idea.

The Native Sons of the Golden West are going as an ingenious joint enterprise -- a fifty-foot green caterpillar. Which should make dancing quite a spectacle if they can manage it.

Meanwhile the night has cooled off the sun's ardor from today and the House of Blues has Jake once again talking out the side of his mouth with a fedora upon his radio head.

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

OCTOBER 14, 2007


This weeks headline photo comes courtesy of the folks who decorate lavishly for Halloween down on Grand Street. Because of this week's heavy rains, decor got largely postponed except for this fellow gracing a fine Victorian.

As long-time Bay Area residents know, the biggest and splashiest and funnest holiday in the year is one that more or less ends October. From the annual Exotic Erotic Ball in Babylon, to the hundreds of decorated clubs with their theme parties to the neighborhoods that bond together with lavish decorations and official "Safe Routes" for the kids to go trick or treatin' and the extraordinary Los Dias de los Muertos hosted in the Fruitvale with amazing commemoration altars, skeletons and sugar skulls this is one weeks-long party impossible to miss.

Even our local hardware store enters into the swing of things, as Paganos ushers in the change of seasons with its own very special shop window.

In other news, we finally fixed the shortcut to the Reviews section. The responsible parties who broke it have been tossed into the official Island-Life Oubliette.


Erica over at Frank Bette Center is calling for artists to gather up their stuff for a Holiday Boutique, now in its third year. This one promises to be the best yet, as the Center is listed in the Open Studios Tour for December 1 & 2.

Requested items include Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and other Holiday Ornaments, Cards, Magnets, Glass, Jewelry, small 3-D pieces, Scarves, Ceramics, Origami, Wood, Textiles, Purses, Hats, Small paintings, prints and photos no bigger than 8"x10" on table top easels or table top bins.

The regularly scheduled show will be hanging on two walls in the Signature Salon. The FBCA will display art work on table tops and the other two walls, and will handle sales and taxes. The entry fee is the lowest of any show in the Bay area at just $10 but of course is taking 30% on all sales.


Seems both NorCal and LA started singing that old song by The Boss, who is coming around here for two shows at the Coliseum. First off, the County Animal Control people got a call about some creature which had met its end on the Nimitz in Hayward near the A Street exit, but when the officers got there they found it was not a deer or a raccoon but a person who had body parts strewn for dozens of yards. The critical artery was closed for several hours while homicide detectives cleaned up the grisly mess.

Police were able to lift fingerprints from the hands, recovered separately but mostly intact, and identified the man as 37-year old David Connolly of Berkeley. Witnesses reported seeing Connolly trying to hitchhike from Berkeley to Hayward unsuccessfully before he climbed onto the back of a parked truck without the driver's knowledge. Connolly held on for some time, but eventually lost his grip and fell to the roadway of the busy interstate.

After the Bay Area recovered its collective appetite from that event, several trucks collided in a tunnel under Route 5, causing chain-reaction pileups and an inferno reminiscent of the horrific Caldecott fire experienced here some years ago on Route 24.

Thirty-one vehicles — including big rigs and one passenger vehicle — were involved in the crash 30 miles north of Los Angeles according to CHP. Truck cargo ignited during the Friday night pileup which may have been facilitated by rain-slick road surfaces.

The fire spread from vehicle to vehicle, sent flames shooting nearly 100 feet in the air outside the tunnel and reached temperatures as high as 1,400 degrees.

The tunnel is a truck bypass that runs beneath eight lanes of I-5, the main West Coast interstate, linking Mexico and Canada. It is also a major route from Los Angeles to the city's northern suburbs.

The southbound lanes of I-5 were closed for 2 1/2 miles; the northbound side was closed for about a mile. Officials hoped to reopen the southbound lanes Monday with detours around the tunnel area. Other northbound lanes could reopen 24 hours later.

At least three are dead from the SoCal accident with 10 more injured as they fled on foot from the tunnel, but police expect to find yet more bodies as the fire department hauls out several dozen incinerated vehicles. Highway 5 remains closed above the 550 foot tunnel going in both directions, as officials fear the intense heat of the fire may have weakened the freeway structure much as it did here at the Maze a few months ago here.

Governator Arnold has declared a State of Emergency in that district where the freeway typically supports some 225,000 cars per day and is a main transport artery for SoCal produce and goods brought into the enormous Port of Long Beach.

Will bad luck never cease?


Adding to the general transportation woes, Terminal 2 at Oakland International Airport -- the main hub for Southwest Air -- shut down entirely on Monday at noon and was evacuated, snarling air traffic and stranding thousands of passengers. That not enough trouble for you? Well they shut down and evacuated Terminal 1 as well, resulting in a near complete closure of the normally busy airport from noon to ten after two.

Reason for this largely unreported snafu? Bomb threats of course, with a specific flight referenced. No report on what, if anything was found. Just another happy Columbus Day with a major closure in a routine that is becoming so common these days it barely warrants a brief mention in local news.

And for this we gave up habeus corpus? Heck, we have done more to ourselves this past weekend than several armies worth of wannabe jihadists.


Proving once again that our criminals are no ordinary breed of con, Paul Martinetti and Suzanne Roberts got themselves arrested with 230 marijuana plants and three pounds of the wacky tabacky packed up neatly and "ready to smoke" according to police. The plants, grown in the couple's garage ranged from a few inches to well over four feet in height. What makes these entrepreneurs looking for a way to earn some spare cash during hard times more interesting are the ages of the two, which police reported as 73 and 68 for Martinetti and Roberts respectively.

Narcotics officials had known of the operation, which they called "well organized, but not very sophisticated" for some time, but held off arrests, stating that they wanted to develop leads to other growing operations.


Someone expected to collar the local chapter of AARP, or the St. Barnabas Bingo group, perhaps? A secretive network of pill-pushing grannies? No, we here at Island-Life know the reason for the delay perfectly well. As longtime residents of the Island, the aged couple knew to avoid any and all traffic infractions, which is the major cause for arrest here and the primary lead-in for catching just about all sorts of crime, from parole violations to methamphetamine.


Come rain or shine, the Monterey Music Summit shall hold forth some righteous grooves from the 20th-21st. Cake, Ozomatli, and local fave Michael Franti will make sure the place stays warm down around the former capitol for the Golden State if G.Love's Special Sauce, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Tea Leaf Green, Animal Liberation Orchestra and M'Shell N'Degeocello somehow, inexplicably, fail to hold your attention. Visit for details.

You can catch Ms. NDegeocello with her bass and all at the Independent on the 22nd. Joy Division may have ended tragically at the end of a rope, but all members of Interpol, which hails from the same era, are alive and coming to the Bill Graham Civic on the 20th. Under the purple chandeliers of the venerable Fillmore, we note the original lineup of the Pogues coming in for some raucous Irish stuff from the 22nd to the 24th. Hot Hot Heat will entertain you with tight pants and moves that will enchant anyone still in love with British Mod.

The Nowa Cumig Institute may not be known to you, and Dennis Banks, who founded it may sound teasingly familiar, but some really good folks are coming together for a project benefit on the 3rd in his name at the Fillmore on November 3. Dennis Banks is an Anishinaabe born on Leech Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota and the name Nowa Cumig is an adopted name, meaning "center of the ground" in Ojibway.

Now for the details. Banks has devoted his life to improving the lot of Native Americans He is cofounder of the American Indian Movement (1968) and participated in the 1969 – 1971 occupation of Alcatraz Island. He has been very instrumental in several actions, including the takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Washington DC when officials refused to meet with him and representatives of AIM after a march that crossed the country.

He also spearheaded the movement on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1973 to oust the corrupt government-appointed chairman. These activities led to the occupation of Wounded Knee and a siege of 71 days

Under his leadership, AIM led a protest in Custer, South Dakota in 1973 against judicial proceeding that found a White man innocent of murdering a Native American. As a result of his involvement in Wounded Knee and Custer, Banks and 300 others were arrested and faced trial. He was acquitted of the Wounded Knee charges, but was convicted of incitement to riot and assault stemming from a confrontation at Custer. Refusing to go to jail, he went underground, continued any number of controversial activities, which only earns our undying admiration for the man who just would not quit until then Governor Jerry Brown granted the firebrand total amnesty and refused South Dakota's request for extradition.

Which makes us like and admire the former Governor as well.

Eventually Banks did return to South Dakota to serve out an 18 month prison sentence. After that episode he worked to ease the alcohol and drug problems on the Pine Ridge Reservation and to stiffen penalties for robbing the gravesites of Native Americans.

As for Nowa Cumig, its mission statement goes as follows:

To establish peace among the races through education. To share values and traditions, and in doing that, to find a common ground. To build on this foundation of respect, understanding, and love so that future generations of every race enjoy the differences of each group while inherently embracing the human family as one. To build up and sustain the welfare, pride, and condition of indigenous communities by establishing Native businesses based on local historic cultural practices of food gathering, production, processing and distribution as well as converting natural resources into marketable art and cottage industry products for sale outside Native communities. Nowa Cumig Institute strives to create educational programs, seminars, events, conferences, rallies, and retreats designed to share with men, women and children throughout the world.

The project now seeking funds is called Longest Walk II, an event to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Longest Walk 1978. Another great Walk will take place with a mission to Clean Up Mother Earth on its route. The Longest Walk will begin on February 11, 2008 in San Francisco and end 4,400 miles and 5 months later in Washington D.C. on July 11, 2008. The message is: ALL LIFE IS SACRED.

So that is what it is all about and we extend support and encouragement for this worthy effort.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Summer ended abruptly with blasts of day-long rains this week, knocking all the oak trees along Santa Clara into the next season and overwhelming our gutter system, which operates more on wishful thinking and fond hopes than any realistic draining capacity. All the four-wheel drive high suspension SUVS went creeping through the six-inch deep ponds with tentative steps, like girls afraid of getting their frillies damp.

Saturday bloomed gorgeous with sunshine and clear skies, but reports have come down from the hills that all the passes were shut due to snow except for major Route 50 and more wet stuff is coming in this coming week. Good time to settle in with lots of Earl Grey tea and honey. Sit and watch the patter on the windowpanes. Times like these, glad to be indoors with a comfy chair. Think about friends not so fortunate. Man Mountain, the homeless man who pretty much lived in the doorway of the Jack London Parking Garage, a massive bulk looking furtively out from unknown layers of wool, for something on ten years and more, finally found his way to Sausal Creek Outpatient Facility, so that fixture is on the move.

Tommy and Toby have parked their sailboat, the Lavender Surprise, at the East End Marina and have been making ready for the winter lay to. All the serious commercial fishermen are talking about tuna moving further out, but the serious amateurs are stoked about the start of salmon season, which sort of launches irregularly in the streams, but has already taken off in the salt water.

The following lakes were stocked with trout Monday: Contra Loma Reservoir (Antioch), 500 pounds; Lake Chabot (Castro Valley), 2,500 pounds; Horseshoe Lake at Quarry Lakes Regional Park (Union City-Fremont), 500 pounds; Shadow Cliffs Reservoir (Pleasanton), 500 pounds; Lake Del Valle (Livermore), 750 pounds. In Marin County, the DFG claims Bon Tempe and Lagunitas lakes also were planted.

With the heavy weather coming with high swells, the Old Same Place has been packed with captains of the sport boats who know its better to lose a day or two of paying customers than have half a dozen executives upchucking foi gras on your nice clean decks because of motion sickness, so Suzie and Padraic have been pretty busy slinging shooters and drafts. The Native Sons of the Golden West came in to hold their planning meeting for the Winter Art Sale/ Pancake Breakfast because they discovered that no one had patched the roof of the Clubhouse at the Marina.

Everyone had known, or should have known, that the hole made by Wally's revolver made during the last July Fourth BBQ would cause a problem once the rain started, but there was no rain all through July, August and September, so whoever was supposed to arrange to fix the roof must have forgot about it and there was a whole lot of shouting and finger pointing when they all showed up on Tuesday to find the place a sopping mess. Wally's revolver had been altered during a trip to Alaska to take .50 caliber shells with the idea of stopping grizzly bears perhaps, but with poor attention to aim and control in something like a hand-held revolver. The short of it was, the gun went off during a discussion about the author of the National Anthem and when it went off -- the gun, that is -- it put a neat entry hole in the underside of the roof while taking out several feet worth of shingles and plywood as it erupted topside in a geyser of building materials, and left behind a fairly respectable hole.

Every once in a while throughout the summer someone in a contemplative moment would look up and think to himself, somebody had better do something about that hole. But the way things go with the Native Sons and their meetings, things like roofing tend to be forgotten before the end of the evening in a tequila haze. Arlene took away Wally's gun and locked it into the rolltop secretary under the aquarium and so even that reminder passed out of sight and out of mind. With that rain coming down so hard recently, it opened up that hole a little more and so Javier came in to find a dead pigeon in a fairly large pool on the floor and a racoon raiding the fridge. The raccoon got all the ambrosia made by Wally's wife and most of the fish from the aquarium.

Well, Javier tried shoving the raccoon out of the place with a broom, but the raccoon had found the crisper bin by that point, and -- as everyone knows -- the raccoon is a form of small bear and also, as everyone knows, no wise man ever gets between a bear and food. The racoon sort of snarled at Javier and David Phipps, who had shown up by this point with Patricia, and batted away the broom after biting off a piece of the handle in irritation. It was Javier who thought of the revolver and so he and David both tried to hold the gun steady and aimed at the raccoon while Patricia continued to unload the Volvo, wondering what was going on.

When the gun went off, it missed the raccoon of course, but blew out the back of the refridgerator and shorted out the lights as it punched a fair section of the wall out into the lawn. In their excitement one of them pressed the trigger again -- later on they would argue about just which one of them had done it -- and this bullet decapitated the hotwater tap valve before continuing on its journey of mayhem, and a jet of water shot up to the ceiling.

The bullet sort of ricocheted off of something in the wall they found later to be the main gas line to the kitchen and smacked neatly through the aquarium that sat on top of the rolltop desk that contained the treasured historical documents granting the Island its official charter for the Statewide organization and David howled as he went to save the precious papers. He did not howl because of the possible loss of the documents. He howled because, like many Northern Californians, his natural attire in wintertime -- no matter what the real temperature -- was Bermuda shorts with sandals, and the sandals did little to protect his feet from the broken aquarium glass on the floor, which nearly severed his big toe.

Patricia, a native of Columbia, had crept up to the doorway with understandable caution on hearing the gunshots. Seeing her husband bleeding and in pain, she thought at first Javier had attacked him in a fit of madness, so that is when she leapt into the room like a fierce tigress and hit Javier in the face rather hard with her handbag, breaking his nose and causing him to drop the gun.

The gun went off one last time as it dropped to the floor and the shot put a fair-sized crater into the floor. They found out later from the smell that it had killed a fat old possum who had been living underneath the building for years.

The wail of Officer O'Madhauen's siren became louder over the ringing in their ears. Other than the raccoon choosing this moment to run out the door with a carrot in its mouth, things did not progress well from there. When the Officer showed up at Wally's house later that day with several questions, he arrested Wally for having an outstanding parking ticket and an altered, unregistered firearm as well as a lack of common sense.

So it was the planning meeting of the Island chapter of the Native Sons of the Golden West took place in the Old Same Place Bar, and although the mood began somewhat cantankerous, things soon sorted themself out in favor of business. In public like that, some of the usual items of order had to be revised. They couldn't perform their sacred opening ceremony, for that one is secret, nor could they recite the Oath of Featality, for they would have felt silly. The Oath is written in Spanish and Latin and few of them possessed a command of either language. Patricia had to correct their spelling some time ago on the written documents, and they had made her an Honorary Son because of it out of gratitude.

With everybody coming in all at once to the Old Same Place bar, drink deliveries were not as prompt as usual but fishermen are a patient lot. Fishing is an occupation that teaches at least one solid core value of importance and one can learn much from a commercial fisherman.

There had been some discussion about starting up an alliance with the local chapter of E Clampus Vitus however the rumored severe initiation ceremonies of the secretive order, which involve a block and tackle, blindfolds, and a supine ladder caused some members grave misgivings. The arguments against any sort of relationship with a secret society which may or may not have had close association to the Emperor of China were great, but then, on the other side, there was the argument in favor of drinking.

At the end of the day, it was thought best to table the idea, as recent events probably had not cast the reputation of their own organization in a favorable light.

Some of the fishermen, knowing of the recent contratemps with Pedro Almeida and another firearm kept mum on overhearing this resolution.

It's getting on now to the witching hour in the Offices of Island-Life. The last reporters have gone home and the House of Blues has a Jimmy Reed tune shuffling quietly from a radio somewhere out there. The long ululation of the freight train passing through Jack London Waterfront from the Port of Oakland comes wavering across the water. Almost like a dog responding in kind, a police siren goes chasing down the long corridors of the night and fades away. The radio goes off and a staffer leaves. Now, there is only the sound of humming machines in the newsroom, and the through-passing train. Strange de Jim has often commented on how one hears the sound of that train especially clear on foggy, moody nights like this.

Some say, the Wild West was ruled by the six-gun, but that is not true, generally speaking. In truth, the West was settled and made solid by solid men who built things, and bullets are haphazard things that build nothing. In truth, at the famous OK Corral gunfight, those who survived did so by simply standing still. Anyone who ran about and jumped nervously up and down like they do in the movies got shot and that should be a lesson for all of us.

The patient fisherman bides his time, waiting for the gale to blow over, then puts out to sea, knowing there is still the matter of luck to attend to. Yes, even for the careful who make the best choices, it all comes down to a matter of luck. Fishing teaches core values far better than the most doctrinaire Minister of the Faith.

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

OCTOBER 7, 2007


This week we present another one of Harlan's cyclic postings on his fence and wall. Harlan has posted several items referring to American Indian and Jewish culture with personal attachments to American Indian claims. Here we have a classic example of either WASP confusion or Minority genius. Or maybe meshugganah nonsense. You decide.

On other parts of the fence we see references to the Crow and the Iroquois tribes of North America. There is also a reference to a "sukkah".

Let's start with Juan Rodriquez Bermejo. This is the name associated with the man who first sited the New World, and is important only in that 1. his name is in dispute and 2. a cash prize was offered to the man who first saw the New World by Queen Isabel.

With this amount of tease, we pursued the avenue to find that almost all English language accounts diffidently refer to the man in the crows-nest as Bermejo, "sometimes called Rodrigo de Triana", and leave it at that.

Not Island-Life, which possesses formidable linguistic forces at its disposal. A glance at the Spanish version of Wikipedia reveals a great deal more about the Moor, for that is what he was, as it seems. He is defined -- in the Spanish texts -- as being a "converted Moslem" [un hidalgo morisco (musulmán convertido al cristianismo)]. Furthermore, we learn that the promised prize to the first to spy the New Land, was directed to the Ship's Captain, and not to our dear Juan Rodriquez. Was this the first example of "If its Brown, its Down!"?

There is a lot of local history about the "converted Moors" (moriscos), some of whom returned to Morocco, and some of whom entered public life after the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. They never had it good, for the Inquisition started soon after their formation and most eventually departed Iberia.

The Ship's Captain honorably refused the prize, worth several millions in today's spending power, saying, "I am not the one. It is Rodrigo who has earned this." Go figure.

The first Non-native man to spy America may not have been a European but an African, or at least a Moslem. Well. In that case, thank you Harlan.

As for the Native American references, they are so oblique as to be meaningless.

A Sukkah is a temporary and symbolic shelter with part of the roof open to the sky. In modern America, this sort of thing usually is in the form of a cloth "tent" for kids to play in and often with an aluminum frame. It is a clear representation of the temporary nature of abode during Diaspora or the 40 years of wandering in the desert. The spelling reflects the singular form of the word Sukkot, which is the holiday of commemoration of god's benevolence during those 40 years and literally refers to the word meaning "booth", or "shed". The holiday lasts seven days in contemporary Israel and typically takes place in the Fall.

Coincidentally, this time occurs about the time of the end of Ramadan, a time of great joy for traditional Moslems.

Otherwise we can only say nothing much of Harlan's wall makes any goddamned sense at all. None at all. Much like America. Much like the Island itself..


During a recent unofficial and very much off the record conversation, Registrar pro tem David MacDonald stated that "there always has been a paper trail [for the election ballots]. It's just that some people don't recognize it."

We have known David for a number of years and can say the man never states what is unequivocally untrue -- nevertheless, he is inclined -- and understandably so -- to stretch the given truth with singular flexibility.

He was trying to guide the Department of Information Technology into the 21st Century just when its major client department, the General Services Agency stated, in effect, "we have no need of your mainframe any longer. So we will stop paying 1 million dollars rent upon it starting next month. We now have our own Microsoft server to handle all of our needs. Thank you for your past trouble."

About the same time, all of the qualified heads of the Registry of Voters resigned to retire or move to better locations, leaving the Board of Supervisors to ask David if he would kindly take on the ROV with some 1.5 million voters during a very contentious time in politics -- in addition to his 15,000 existing County IT users.

We admire David McDonald's ability to retain hair coverage during this "interesting" period of history.

Right about now we discover at Island-Life that Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith recently voided a 2004 vote on a Berkeley medical marijuana measure and ordered it returned to the ballot next year.

Judge Smith did so because of the county's refusal and inability to provide data from electronic voting machines that would have enabled challengers of the outcome to get a definitive recount on Measure R, which failed by a mere 191 votes out of more than 50,000 cast. If approved, it would have allowed medical marijuana clubs to move into retail areas of the city.

Americans for Safe Access sought a recount as well as access to the electronic ballots, internal logs and other records of the electronic machines to make sure ballots had not been tampered with after votes were cast.

Then-Registrar of Voters Bradley Clark charged the group $22,600 for a limited recount of ballots cast on controversial touch-screen voting machines provided by Diebold Election Systems, Inc. The county has since dumped the controversial machines.

A state appeals court sided with the plaintiff's pursuit of the electronic system's internal records. Earlier this year, however, Smith found out that the county had returned the machines to Diebold and scolded officials about the lack of wisdom in doing so prematurely.

A visit to a warehouse in Texas found that only 20 of the 482 returned machines still contained information from the 2004 election and that 96 percent of the data needed for a valid recount had been destroyed.

Judge Smith, finding that "information on those machines is lost completely," ordered a new vote on the same measure next year. She also ordered the county to pay attorneys' fees and reimburse plaintiffs for the earlier recount conducted without the disputed voting machine data.

As an injected addendum, we report here that it was an Island-Life staffer, on retainer to the County to help restore data during a critical ROV outage during 2001, who urgently reported to IT staff verbally that the planned Diebold contract needed to include failsafes and parallel processing with paper trail systems and was told "Mind your own business. That's not what you are paid for here." The Staffer reported verbatim "It is customary for IT to institute parallel systems during migrations that will report parallel results during all phases of data collection in every implementation so as to ensure absolute accuracy and foolproof verification."

The Staffer has over 15 years of professional IT experience, which was disregarded with the results as you have seen.

Island-Life: We try to protect your liberties and interests, if only allowed to do so.


We have this item over the wire from Rose Kapolczynski, Campaign Manager, Barbara Boxer for U.S. Senate.

Where can you enjoy the company of Senator Barbara Boxer, Vice President Al Gore, and the incredible musicians Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne -- all in one place?

They'll all be together at a reception in San Francisco on Thursday, October 11th to benefit Barbara's re-election campaign.

Who: Senator Barbara Boxer, Vice President Al Gore, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and supporters like you

When: Thursday, October 11th, 4:00pm -- 6:00pm

Where: Grand Ballroom of the Westin St. Francis Hotel, 335 Powell Street, San Francisco (click here to view a map).

Three different levels of tickets are available -- General Admission ($150/person), Reserved ($250/person), and Students/Seniors ($100/person)

This one is interesting in the assembly of the particular persons involved. Jackson Browne may be seen as the quintessential Californian artist who has not sacrificed personal values in favor of any Mammon. Joe Bob says, "Check it out."

Contributions to Friends of Barbara Boxer are not tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes.
FEC #C00279315


Folks who typically use the obnoxious Park Street Bridge, surely the most ill positioned and badly-constructed artifices of its kind anywhere, will have yet more cause to lament as the Union Pacific continues forward with plans to renovate a long dormant railroad spur paralleling Fruitvale Avenue. Local residents are already up in arms about the drawbridge rising during rush hour and similar obstructions on the metal-grid surfaced structure which sometimes causes SUVs and the like to go skidding into the estuary.

In truth, the entire area on the Oakland side consists of badly signaged, poorly routed and imperfectly constructed connectors that also host seismically unsafe overpasses and hazardous on and off ramps which have caused traffic headaches to Caltrans and drivers for several years now. In addition, the road surfaces are significantly degraded with extensive potholing. On the main Fruitvale overpass, a nearly two inch seam opening reveals the ground for some one hundred yards and some thirty feet above the ground. This is rather unnerving to a motorcyclist passing along this path after just leaving the Island.

Meanwhile, fools and dreamers still preserve the idea of light rail passing along this way to serve the Island. Somebody please contact William Gibson here, for this is the realm of Sci Fi fantasy. Oakland just tore up the approach rails to the Fruitvale bridge as a navigation hazard.


Mr. Hellman held his seventh Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival here in Golden Gate Park during the Fleet Week Celebrations downtown in what has become a sort of peace machine versus war machine sort of antagonism here. Every time the Blue Angels flew overhead in a clear deviation from standard flight path over the bay, thousands of middle fingers raised up to signal their collective disapproval. Take your war toys away and play somewhere else. This place is devoted to music, peace and beauty.

Traffic snafus and accidents in the Tube shunted our intrepid Correspondent from his main assignment to cover Chris Smither at the Porch Stage. From all accounts, Smither was a solid hit there, as none of the other stages hosted anyone of his stature at the time. Our man did arrive in time to catch the last half of James McMurtry at the always interesting Arrow Stage, a spot designated as the place where new stuff is happening, which in bluegrass and Country is not always a welcome assignment, trending more usually to knee-jerk tropes and received opinions -- witness what happened to the Dixie Chicks. McMurtry, however, is an unabashed freethinking rebel in the spirit of the Outlaw, an archetype which has a definite place within the Country/Americana genre.

McMurtry, although identified with the Austin, Texas music scene, was raised in Leesburg, Virginia before departing at a young age to live in Alaska and New Mexico before settling in Texas. His most recent work has been fairly political, featuring direct criticism of George W. Bush, a rare occurrence among the country-western/rockabilly circuit with which he is most identified. Nevertheless, his most cogent and most interesting song offering with the greatest popularity has been the virulently working-class anthem "We Can't make it Here," with its direct criticism of GWB, the Iraq war and Wal-Mart.

His set proved to be energetic and pogo-jumping full of excitement, unleashing a major-sized can of whoop-ass on an enthusiastic crowd. His rendition of the Internet-released"We Can't Make It Here" brought forth enthusiastic cheers from the crowd even before its end.

The HSBG Festival is the brainchild of multimillionaire Warren Hellman who just likes to here good music. This is the seventh year he has held his fest in Golden Gate Park. The gathering has expanded from a single stage to over six stages and three days hosting the absolute best of anything having to do with Americana music today. Last year well over 250,000 people gathered for Phil Lesh and the Waybacks to close out Sunday on the last act. And, as usual and according to tradition, the maps supplied misplaced the main Star stage on the wrong side of John F.Kennedy Drive. Oh well.

We wandered over from the Arrow Stage to take in what we anticipated to be a rather minor stage with a talent known only to a few within a musical world. That turned out to be Alison Brown with Joe Craven on fiddle and mandolin and something over 50,000 folks had packed the vale there in front of the "Banjo Stage".

Among them, there in the crowd, in the middle of the crowd, in the middle of Golden Gate Park, in the middle of San Francisco, in the middle of California, but quite on the edge of the United States, were a couple oddfellows. Look at the expression on that woman's face and see what has her concerned there in the middle of a pleasant bluegrass festival.

Alison Brown is an odd duck among odd ducks in the world of folk/country music. A musical prodigy who began performing at age 11 with nationally renowned country musicians in SoCal, and who did a banjo gig at the Grand Ole Opry before finishing high school, she attended Harvard and UCLA, earning an MBA there. After a stint with the Smith Barney Financial Group, she quixotically assembled material for a solo debut followed by gigs with none other than Allison Krauss and then Michelle Shocked with any number of Grammy nominations just floating through the door like butterflies. Not content with accolades, she started pioneering the rare five-string banjo and recently released a CD of Django Rheinhardt-influenced tunes.

Clearly not a lady who is content to stand still for any two seconds, she has taken a humble instrument and elevated its use to very high levels usually equated with progressive jazz. Her performance on Saturday included her long time companion, Gary West, on bass but also featured a full sized Grand piano as well as Mr. Craven on fiddle and mandolin. As a nod to her bluegrass roots, she brought up Laurie Lewis (national fiddle champion) and Dale Ann Bradley to do a very traditional "Hummingbird", but her more interesting moments were jazzy renditions from her new Django-influenced catalog, including a "Mambo Banjo" which worked surprisingly well. She concluded with a jamming "Glasgow Return/I'M Naked" that would have brought the roof down had their been one. This video catches the end of "Django Latino."

From the tail-end of Brown we caught the tail-end of the spirited Flatlanders set. The Flatlanders are a country band from Lubbock, Texas founded by Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, and Butch Hancock.

Gilmore founded The Flatlanders in 1972; it has been performing on and off since then.

The band's first recording project, from the early 1970s, was barely distributed. It has since been acknowledged, through reputation and then Rounder's 1991 reissue More a Legend Than a Band, as a milestone of progressive, alternative country.

The three musicians continued to reunite for occasional Flatlanders performances. In 1998 they contributed to the soundtrack of The Horse Whisperer, and then in 2002 released their long-awaited follow-up album, Now Again, on New West Records. In 2004 this was followed with Wheels of Fortune, again on New West. Latterly, they have become associated with the New Country sound now collecting around Austin.

It was clear that the group had found its niche Saturday as many thousands had gathered around the Arrow Stage to hear these war-horses stomp out some serious boogie. One woman in the crowd practically swooned when Gilmore started singing, exclaiming, "He sounds just like Willie!'

Well, some similarities may be there, but the man had only one hole in his guitar and let it stand.

That said, the group had quite a dynamic presence and definitely exceeded expectations, pulling in a very large crowd from all sections of the park. They finished up with a humorous song about a hitchhiking, car-jacking Jesus Christ who forgives a man's sins when offered a beer.

After the very exciting Flatlanders, Michelle Shocked stepped on stage and proved what makes a SuperTalent stand head and shoulders above a mere Star. With the declining sun burning deep into the eyes of the band, with her rhythm section showing up fifteen minutes late after stage entry, with the sound board and balance remaining so out of whack that Michelle was forced to wave her arms repeatedly to get the attention of an apparently stoned soundman, and at one point had to step to the back to distinctly scream "amp volume to the fucking channel!" she proved herself to be a consummate professional who has earned any number of Grammy nominations for very good reason.

The Wikipedia says Michelle Shocked (born Karen Michelle Johnston, 24 February 1962, in Dallas, Texas) is a U.S. singer-songwriter whose music and performances are influenced by her Texas roots, her political activism, and a self-assured style that her first major label producer likened to troubadours such as Joni Mitchell, Spider John Koerner, and Dave Van Ronk.

She is the daughter of a carpenter and a woman who would end up committing her to a psychiatric hospital when she was 22 years old. She graduated from high school in Gilmer, Texas and received her bachelor's degree in the Oral Interpretation of Literature from the University of Texas in Austin. She was raised in a strict Mormon household and worked her way through college. A product of divorce she ran away from the home provided by her foster father -- a career military officer. Her mother has publicly stated that Michelle's birth was "a tragedy of premarital sexual relationships" and it is clear the mother-daughter relationship is quite strained.

Diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic when incarcerated by her mother in an institute in Dallas, she was subjected to repeated rounds of shock therapy.

Michelle's name dates back to the name she gave when arrested in 1984 at a protest called "The War Chest Tour" during the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, California. The demonstration challenged the practice of US corporations giving campaign contributions to both Democratic and Republican parties, benefiting from political favors regardless of which party is elected. "Michelle Shocked" was a play on words intended to resemble the phrase "shell shocked". The front cover of one of her best-known albums, Short Sharp Shocked, shows her restrained by the chokehold of a San Francisco policeman in a front page photograph published by the San Francisco Examiner the following day.

While living in Comiso, Italy, Michelle was raped and spent her recovery period in a separatist commune.

Hell, just that detail is enough to make you want to hug the gal and thank her just for survival, let alone coming out of that as a fiercely independent and vital artist adored by millions.

She generally is known as a quixotic leftist folkie. Her most popular song was the top 40 hit "Anchorage", but songs like 45 RPM Soul, Come a Long Way, and Prodigal Daughter have provided the soundtrack to a fair number of feminist radicals for many years.

Saturday, she started off with a version of a Sister Rosetta Thorpe gospel tune with a bit of initial patter about how Thorpe was one of the first artists to employ an electric guitar. Rosetta Thorpe was a gospel R&B Superstar before the word had been coined. Insanely popular and transcending the boundaries of "race records" during the forties, her wedding was held in a football stadium so that thousands of adoring fans could attend.

As long minutes passed, during which her bassist failed to appear and the soundboard continued to throw every obstacle in her way, and people started to leave, the courageous and indomitable woman rose above it all and took the audience with her in what must be remembered as a definite Best of Festival Performance. The slightly built, angular framed woman turned the folkie "Anchorage" into a shouting pogo-jumping anthem, after stating "Well, this was not supposed to be on the setlist, but here goes anyway".

A bassist appeared from another band and Michelle immediately plugged in to tear into a rousing "Smokestack Lightning" that pulled people away from the Bruce Hornsby/Ricky Scaggs novelty playing over at the Banjo Stage, never letting up one second in a truly amazing electric performance. Never have we seen anything like it and seldom will people see anything like it again. This is one woman who put the spine and energy of punk rock back into Americana. By the end of her too short set, Ms. Shocked had turned what could have been a sure dud into a stomping, hand waving, screaming success, doing material from her new CD as well as favorites from her old catalog.

And if anybody needs to know, one bass position remains open out there for a very fine and excellent and sure to succeed band led by one of the most exciting and dynamic performers gifted with a powerful voice in the business.

Much more on the subdued side, Gillian Welch has come up from relative obscurity into sudden limelight through her work on the soundtrack of "Oh Brother Wherefore Art Thou", in which she has a cameo appearance as "the woman on the train." She does old style bluegrass, but had a minor hit a while ago with the atypical "Flat Black Ford". She performs with her songwriting partner, David Rawlings, and Saturday proved there is a definite interest swelling up in America in the old musical styles.

Wonder why this pic is so distant and fuzzy? Heck, she is just a lil' sweet thang twangin' some purty gee-tar. Here is a partial shot of some of the crowd. That part going up the hill there in Speedway Meadow extends to, and overflows the road.

Trying to find someway to get the whole business, we scrambled up into the trees and the steep hill on the south side where another several thousand people had clustered all the way up to the curb on Middle Drive.

Which kind of shows how a little thing can become such a success one might as well go hunt for the smaller draws, or peg out way far away from the madding crowd to get some peace. In fact, folks had spread blankets and set up picnics the entire length of Speedway Meadow to the polo fields.

We ambled on over to the Star Stage to catch the delayed start of a little band called Los Lobos, which is most definitely not just another band from East LA. In a self-deprecating moment, the lead singer thanked the crowd for "hanging around" to listen. Probably the best representative band that day of California's diversity, the group blends elements of blues, rockabilly, jazz and their own Mexican-American heritage. The clip included here (click on the photo) is of part of the extended intro to their popular "One Night in America".

You want to hear the rest of the song, you say? Buy a ticket, guys. Or pick up the CD. Its all good.

Seeking to escape the City before the end of the day for Fleet Week and the massive exodus of people from the crowded six stages all still cranking excellent music we cruised by Robert Earl Keen, also holding forth before a sizable crowd in his boots and ten-gallon Stetson, and took in the popular T Bone Burnett thumping the subtly political "Zombie Land", before snagging a bit of Steve Earle who started up with a long intro about how he came to sing one of Dylan's songs. The crowd before the Banjo stage had gotten even bigger by becoming denser with humanity.

T Bone Burnett came suddenly out of a 14 year recording hiatus with his collaboration on the "Oh Brother" soundtrack and seems to have caught the wave of sentiment for quirky Americana music, while Steve Earle has a new CD out which focusses on the New York Greenwich Village folk scene of the early sixties.

The trouble with the HSBG Festival is that the scope and range and extent of talent offered is so vast, it is hard to choose what to see and hear, as one must necessarily leave something out. Even missing Chris Smither, the day was a great one and a fine time was had by all.

Not to forget the barrooms and streetcorners where these Superstars began, a string of pearls decorated JFK Drive on the way out in the form of newbies. So, in commemoration of the Great Unknown, here is Moeprovencher ( come down from Seattle just for the Fest.

Yes, we donated the "wicked dollar". Because we support live music, and that is because live music cures all sorts of social ills including penury, chilblains, venereal diseases, meanness, sickly constitutions, rampant conservatism, nervous jumping up and down, and, in addition, it bolsters the economy, refreshes the body politic, stimulates discourse on major subjects of the day, promotes decent moral values with only a few exceptions, revivifies the soul as it eases anguish, and, besides, it is good for you, too.


All the leaves are falling along Santa Clara Avenue and we have drifted down the year finally to October in whirling burnt siennas, copper-golds and the brilliant splash of the vine maples. It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The morning glories are withering and even the leaves of unkillable four o'clocks are turning pale as the incarnadine flowers open sooner in the afternoon, and stay open longer late into the mornings, however the sweetpeas now seem to have found their purpose in life as they clamber higher over by the old fence.

Officer O'Madhauen paid a visit to the Jackson's around the block. He took Ofelia Jackson out to his car and set her down their, asking what was the problem. Some one had called about a lot of screaming and so Ofelia said she had been just shouting at herself.

Well now. Ofelia.

Yes, she had been quite upset and had been shouting at herself, mad about burning the toast and everything being so impossible and so on.

I see Ofelia. Could it be your new boyfriend has something to do with it.

Oh no, oh no. Never you mind its all right.

Could it be this boyfriend is not supposed to be living with you in that apartment?

He's just visiting . . . .

He's been visiting two months now, Ofelia. Pause. Does he have a driver's license?

No, he don't drive. Or work. That man will be the death of me some day. But its all right. I'll keep it down, sure I will.

The trials of one's neighbors should be kept, like fresh bread, shut in the cupboards, but sometimes things do spill out. After last week's annual blessing of the fishing fleet by Father Guimon, Pedro Almeida went over to the annual end of summer BBQ held by the Native Sons of the Golden West at the yacht club and there he went on a bender, so to speak. As a man descended from the original Portugese fishermen who had established Sausalito, he was the object of many a toast, and even though Sausalito has more to do these days with docking the lavish luxury boats of the extraordinarily wealthy, and the fishermen with their families are long gone from there, he was much the subject of admiration for being both of Portugese extraction and of the fishing industry, the remains of which now flog their half-sized tunas and mackerel to the restaurants on the tourist trap Fisherman's Wharf. He was doubly admired in that most of the members of the Island chapter of the Native Sons hailed from New Jersey and Rhode Island, so real Native Sons were hard to come by, and was seen in his happy marriage to Angelica to be a sturdy example of red-blooded, manly California.

As the discussion turned to eradication of the non-native eelgrass plant along the shores, Pedro ambled out of the club, down the dock and set about in a desultory way to sail on back to the other side of the Island, when, while up on the roof of the wheelhouse, he sat down to lean against the antenna pole, feeling a bit woozy, and just sort of fell asleep. Unfortunately, he forgot to tie up again so that he drifted out into the Estuary and was heading out past Angel Island into the shipping lanes when Toby and Tommy saw him slumped over the wheelhouse and his boat wallowing.

Their boat was named The Lavender Surprise, and sported a great big flag bearing a bright gold lambda symbol upon it and you never saw such a trim, jolly craft for each of the two had sailed upon the Bay since the ages of three and four, respectively. Thinking there had been some foul play or an heart attack, Toby got out his Mossberg maritime riotgun while Tommy steered their 30 footer along side of Pedro's ketch to find Pedro snoring loudly and a pelican gazing askance.

He looks kinda cute, said Toby. What do you think we should do?

I think we should see if he wakes up, said Tommy.

You do? said Toby.

Yes, I do.

Since the ketch was wallowing so, and their own boat was too slight to come along side without fear of sinking themselves, they shouted quite a bit there to no effect, as Pedro kept right on snoring and the pelican kept right on gazing. A tanker was coming on from afar and they lay drifting in its path. The sound of its warning horn came wavering across the expanse between them. In addition they started drifting rather close to the smelly fishing vessel and that's when Toby got it into his head to fire a couple rounds into the air to see if that would make anything happen. Well that did wake up Pedro's labrador, who, having a similar taste for grain alcohol to Pedro, went to the gunnale to throw up before ambling over to Pedro to lick his face and then wake him, as was his wont when licking failed, by biting him on the meat of his calf.

That got him up, sure enough. And he howled, for the hair of the dog had bitten him in a most literal fashion and gay pirates were at hand and fully armed.

Perceiving danger, the pelican departed.

Are you all right? Tommy asked. D'you want help? Shall we come aboard?

Come aboard and you may lose a leg, Pedro said, for he liked not the jaunty sailor's cap perched on Toby's curls. It was too clean.

Seeing their good deed accomplish and no further need of assistance here, Toby and Tommy tacked around to the other side of Angel Island where they frolicked at anchor in the lee of the wind.

Pedro got himself and his dog in more or less seaworthy shape to come about and narrowly get out of the path of the tanker and so head on back to the Island. It was not until he had entered the inlet there that he noticed Bonkers, the dog, nosing a brightly colored swatch of feathers laying in the bilge. It was his wife's macaw, which had escaped under circumstances described a few weeks ago to live on Coast Guard Island. It was not dead, but stunned by the shotgun blast. When the bird woke up, it hopped around and fluttered with the dog chasing after it and Pedro cursing at them both until the bird bit Bonkers on the nose before fluttering up to the sonar disk on top of the wheelhouse.

When they got close enough, the macaw took off with great indignation back to the relative safety of CGI, while Bonkers continued to howl with pain and Pedro continued to groan with misery for he was cold and wet and had a hangover. When he got home he told his wife he had seen her escaped pet and had tried to catch it without success. This made her love him all the more. She was happy to hear that the bird still lived and had not fallen victim to a neighbor's cat or some such thing.

Sunday, being a day of rest for fishermen, he lay in bed a long while. And any escape from near death always makes a man pensive for a while until he forgets. He lay there watching his wife moving about in her yellow robe, combing her hair and getting ready for the day as the golden light streamed in through the window over the red and blue coverlet. Her hair had turned an iron gray, and she was not so vain as to hide it with artificial color. He rather liked that simple honesty. She was a good woman and they had lived together some twenty years now. Her hair was gray, and it had come to October and they lived in the autumn of their lives. Soon it would be time to sell the old boat or give it to his son, although the boy fished only for pleasure and not to put things on the table or furnish the house.

You know, you are still beautiful, he said, quite out of nowhere. And she turned to look back over her shoulder with surprise.

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

SEPTEMBER 30, 2007


This week's headline photo comes courtesy of Jose and the garden out back behind the Island-Life offices. This fellow may have enjoyed his packaged lunch there, but soon enough, a finch terminated his residency between the jasmine and the sweet peas.

And if the above headline seems a bit oblique, here are the words to Joan Osborne's "Spiderweb".

I dreamed about Ray Charles last night
And he could see just fine

Dreamed about Ray Charles last night
And he could see just fine, you know
I asked him for a lullaby
He said, "Honey, I don't sing no more"
No more, no more, no more
Ray don't sing no more

He said, "Since I got my eyesight back,
my voice has just deserted me.
No 'Georgia On My Mind' no more...
I stay in bed with MTV."

Then Ray took his glasses off
And I could look inside his head
Flashing like a thunderstorm
I saw a shining spider web

Spider web (repeat 3x)
In Ray Charles' head

I dreamed about Ray Charles last night
He took me flying in the air
Showed me my own spider webs
Said, "Honey, you had best take care.
The world is made of spider webs
The threads are stuck to me and you
Be careful what you're wishing for
'Cause when you gain you just might lose"
You just might lose your...

Spider web (repeat 3x)
What Ray Charles said

When you're feelin' lonely
When you're hidin' in your bed
Don't forget your string of pearls
Don't forget your spider web

When I go to sleep tonight
Don't let me dream of brother Ray
No, no, no, don't...
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad he sees
Just like him best the other way

Spider web (repeat 3x)
What Ray Charles said...
In Ray Charles head

All I got's my spider web
Keepin' me alive
C'mon Ray


Robben Ford inspires quite a range of responses, and the responses typically sort out between those who understand something called The Circle of Fifths, triads, and why some people call the capodaster "the cheater," and those who just want to have a nice blues groove with vocals.

In essence, Robben Ford is a musician's musician with crossover appeal. Like JJ Cale, he is one whose work tends to be more admired than listened to, although unlike Cale, few have attempted to cover what Ford does. This may be due to the fact that when Ford performs even an old standard like "Running and Hiding" he so thoroughly owns the piece there is little reason to attempt a copy.

Born in Woodside and raised in Ukiah, he started gigging professionally at age 18, with his first frontman none other than Charlie Musselwhite.

He then worked as part of Joni Mitchell's backup band and after forming his own band, worked with Miles Davis, and toured with George Harrison on the ex-Beatle's only tour. This was all before 1989 when he helped close out the original lineup of the Sunday Night Band with Marcus Miller etc.

Operating at a rather high frequency right from the beginning, Robben Ford has been called by Musician Magazine one of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of the 20th Century", putting him up there with Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, Segovia and Django Reinhardt. That is not bad company with which to share some ink

So why don't we hear more of this feller? Well, some of this has to do with early success allowing the man the space to do only what he likes coupled with a general aversion to self-promotion. Plus a particular defect that has cost him many many points among the "nice groove" crowd, which might be the majority of music buyers. Although a consummate lyricist with words that shame most wannabe writers, the man's vocals seldom reach above the level of "just capable." He has one vocal key, one register, and no real vox chops.

His guitar is stunning. He seldom changes tuning, never works with effects, rarely even changes instruments, and still manages to make 90 minutes sound like ten, but when he insists on singing, the realization comes that one is enough. As someone once famously shouted to Frank Zappa, "Just shut up and play yer guitar!"

That said, Ford approaches the instrument he uses so well with mastery that clearly exceeds all expectations. He employs solid-body electrics made by Baker, lately, although for years he used a custom-made Fender. The appointments on his instrument look workmanlike, and avoid flash and dazzle, as one would expect from someone who sports his hair in "Humboldt County style," sort of retro-hippie. His stage manner is very typical of a practical musician who has worked his way up under folks with significantly large stage presence. As for stage patter, there was none at all. Here I am and I am here to work. Let's do this with no fuss.

His latest CD features a nice peace-oriented song that is hitting top 100 airplay, called "It Don't Make Sense You Can't Make Peace", but this and other radio featured hits he avoided during his stint at Yoshi's on Thursday night.

His string attack is sure and solid. He employs a flatpick to deftly pursue melodic lines and never, not once, does he descend to the triplet runs that pack lesser talents seeking to punch in some excitement without trying. Instead, he composes long eight and ten bar phrases that are seemingly organically grown from the fretboard between the standard blues four bar repetitions. Because his lyrics avoid the 12 bar expectations, and he devotes himself almost exclusively to single string lines, his changes seem to arise from some mystical place that is both strange and familiar. The nature of this familiarity comes from hitting notes that basically still add up to the chord that should be there in that place as expected, and his habit of repeating licks a diminished third up or down the neck.

The result is an effect that is, and must necessarily be, sharp and precise. With Robben Ford, there is no maundering or empty noodling. When improv occurs, it happens within jazz constructs and expectations. As a result, his "Down the Line" has become a staple to progressive rock stations across the country and guitar aficionados nod when they hear reference to the man's name. That said, he can be quite exciting to hear live as he rips through impossibly complex pieces, occasionally dropping down to simple blues progressions. Thursday night he avoided that one in favor of a homage to BB King called "Indianola".

Thursday night, the Yoshi's crowd, raucous and noisy in the middle of the week, shouted and stomped their approval for a very tight set and a fine time was had by all.


Special note: Ben Harper shows up for a rare acoustic show at the intimate Paramount Theatre November 17th. Also not to be missed is the increasingly better and better acoustic Iron and Wine on the 30th.

In small print we see the original lineup of the Pogues takes over the Fillmore for three nights, October 22-24; expect some raunchy Irish reels and some good craig for that one.

As mentioned previously, Neal and Peggy's Bridge School Benefit takes over the Shoreline for two days at the end of October. This year's lineup features Metallica, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) joining Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Jack Irons. John Mayer plans on showing up. Tom Waits continues this year's theme of odd pairings by sitting with the Kronos Quartet.

The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival opened up its media salvos this Sunday for next weekend. The free festival features the best available music on several stages congregated loosely about Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park. From its single stage and an attendance of a few hundreds, the fest has grown into a massive multistage extravaganza that last year saw some 250,000 folks gathering about the main stage for Phil Lesh and the Waybacks closing out a very exciting three day festival. This year Jorma Kaukonen, Emmylou Harris returning, T Bone Burnett with Gillian Welch, and other notorieties will show up at whim and sometimes according to schedule. Many of the smaller acts are well worth wandering over to Babylon to catch -- just don't even think about trying to drive anything like a car within a mile of GGP, for parking shall surely be unobtainium.


Our roving couple on the street, Karen & Kirk, report that ACT's Sweeney Todd gets two thumbs up for a fabulous production.

Reports have it that the longest running Blues Festival in the country ended with over 7,000 happy fans doing the boogie to Charlie Musselwhite, who always tends to liven things up with masterful mouth harp in his usual self-deprecating manner.

Tom Mazzolini started the Festival in 1972 as a sort of public education in the origins of the West Coast Blues styles that sprang up during the postwar in Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco when the region's large influx of wartime African-Americans turned from building warships and planes to making things like music. The Festival's first venue was the UC Extension Annex at Laguna.

Hosted the same day the annual Bridge to Bridge run ran its course right past the Festival site at Fort Mason, giving runners a little juice midway. Also held on Saturday, making for quite a busy weekend, was the flamboyant Love Parade, moved to SF from its hometown when blue-haired Berlin refused permits for the naughty and exuberant march. Police estimated a crowd of some 65,000 walkers, some wearing costumes and wild hair, some wearing nothing at all.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, our Hometown. With all the doings over there in Babylon this week and weekend, we have had enough to do with handling the inexorable rise of the Parking Lot, which is sure to be the tallest structure on the Island with all of its six stories casting a shadow upon the diners at Jacks Diner. And the Cineplex Monstrosity continues apace as well. Fergus, our photographer, went on down to the Strand to take pictures of sand sculptures somebody had carved into the sand bank that is supposed to hold back the Bay when global warming has caused the seas to rise, but by the time he got there, high tide had run up against the embankment and he would have needed a rowboat to snap the gradually failing artwork. They had been really nice works with very witty sayings carved there beside them, but now it was all washed away. Meanwhile we had a nice full moon this week and this was a fine sight enjoyed by all, but unfortunately Fergus went out and got drunk upon his disappointment about the sculptures and all the photo opportunities lost, so you will just have to trust us about the full moon.

The dahlias have all started to mold up while the morning glories are still going strong and the Kentucky pole beans are making a second comeback here even as the tomatoes start bursting with last-minute harvests. Time to start laying in those cream-based soups and chilies. Speaking of which we noticed Paul out there roasting his supply one at a time in his usual manner: using a propane blowtorch to sear the skins of them suckers.

What the tomato and the walleye is to other parts of the world, is our chili pepper. Cultivation of various chilies, from the mild Serrano, to the incandescently fiery habanero, has risen in this area to a fine art. This is a fine and rare art, for the chili does not grow naturally in Northern California, any more than the eucalyptus or the heavily imported palm tree. The eucalyptus was brought in by mistake by farmers seeking a quick and easy windbreak. The palm tree has been brought in by people from Los Angeles who desire to change the weather and the natural order of things here. Those people, bundled in swaddles of down and wool, cannot understand how we NorCals walk about in November wearing huaraches and shorts even as the sleet and snow continues to fall, and it is they who have instituted this thing called "Global Warming".

Foolish mortals: a bit of fog and wind stiffens the character and improves the morals. For heat, we depend upon chilies. Which we roast upon our verandahs with propane torches. Which are then -- the chilies that is -- worked into fajitas or any such thing involving tortillas prepared properly upon the open flame of the gas stove with a flip here and a flip there and you are done.

Walleye are not known around these parts. We have trout and the salmon and the sometime largemouth bass. Where pike occur, there is great lamentation and a serious industry to remove them, even to the extent of killing everything and everybody in the vicinity. Entire villages have been turned into ghost towns during the effort to extirpate a couple of pike who have wandered there innocently from some foreign place like Minnesota. And those towns look now like something from the Andromeda Strain, sage brush rolling across the square that fronted City Hall.

Speaking of Minnesota, we congratulate its Native Son, Garrison Keillor, for his award from the prestigious Steinbeck Awards for Literary Excellence. This award was administered prior to anyone having read "Poona", so you may be sure that serious consideration to his life's work went into it. Few non-Californians have earned this prize, and just about nobody from Minnesota, and certainly no Lutherans, so Mr. Keillor is to be congratulated on many accounts.

But as for chilies, Susan and Lynn were having lunch over at Juanitas. Sue and Lynn have lived together ever since Lynn moved to the Island from Boston and they are quite the affectionate couple. In any case, they had the chili rellanos, which turned out to be not very good. Susan hails from New Mexico where they make the rellanos in a dry batter, and they are so good few soil their rellanos with any sort of salty enchilada sauce.

One thing Juanita does make well is a margarita that is served in a massive punchbowl with shots on the side.

Well Susan and Lynn had had a couple of those margaritas a piece when they thought it would be a really good idea to hope on over to the farmer's market there, pickup a load of chilies, and just do up a load of those New Mexican style rellanos themselves. This made the two of them really excited so they downed the third margaritas really fast. Perhaps too fast. The trip to the farmer's market wended its path in a wavering sort of way up two blocks via blue bicycles with the leftover rellanos from Juanitas stashed there in a styrofoam case strapped to the back of Susan's bike.

They were so giddy they bought a bag of poblanos, a bag of serranos, a bag of habaneros, a bag of jalapenos, and a bag of the notorious Hatch chilies -- extra hot.

But at the traffic light there across from the aquarium store on Park Susan put her foot down and something just didn't operate correctly for she kept on going down and finally fell over. Lynn, also three sheets to the wind, bent over to help her up but forgot to dismount and so she fell over on top of Susan. The styrofoam container of stuffed peppers sort of popped open then, and that is when Hardy, the bassett hound named after the writer Thomas Hardy and belonging to Mr. Howitzer ambled over and snarfed down a load of those peppers, cheese and all. The leash looped around the parking meter let him just within snarfing range. Then he got into the habaneros while he was at it and the dog was quite enjoying himself there for a while as the two gals got themselves together with the help of Suzie, the bartender for the Old Same Place.

The dog sort of sat back with a strange look on its face while the remains of the farmer's market chilies got gathered up and restowed on the bicycles.

That's when Mr. Howitzer came out and unlooped the leash holding back Hardy,who took this opportunity to go bounding down the street in pursuit of a Almaden water truck, Mr. Howitzer running after until his leash caught the edge of the book cart there in front of Books Inc., sending numerous mass trade paperbacks flying in all directions and tripping up Mr. Howitzer who went down hard on a stack of bodice rippers. Susan and Lynn were no help at all, for in chasing after the dog, they collided with each other and went down once again and this time they were not laughing.

Hardy bounded through a pair of dogwalkers being led by their daschunds and lept over a baby carriage, which so infuriated a rottweiler that he tore loose from the toy store there and took off after him. The Almaden truck turned left onto Santa Clara, but Hardy kept on going. Hardy knew exactly where he wanted to go: the estuary with its expanse of cool water. Officer O'Madhauen saw this chase going on, two drunk women on bicycles, a disheveled Mr. Howitzer shouting and waving his cane, an enraged rottweiler, and a crowd of kids on skateboards all chasing with the owner of the rottweiler down Park Street and this presented numerous problems for many of these folks were jaywalking, crossing against the light and otherwise engaged in treasonable activities even as several irate drivers violated pedestrian right of way. So, the Officer put on his siren and his lights.

And all the dogs up and down Park Street started up a great howling.

This commotion caused the commanders of an Iranian submarine which had surreptitiously entered the estuary from the Bay to become concerned that they had been discovered, and so, while desperately trying to back out of the narrow space there they caused Eugene's fishing boat to nearly capsize.

Holding on for dear life near the bridge, Eugene was overjoyed to see what he thought was a rescue dog paddling furiously towards him. It was Hardy and Hardy had not jumped into the estuary to drink the water. No. When a dog eats something that turns out to have been a bad idea, that dog gets rid of the bad idea one of two ways. Either it goes out fore or it goes out aft and Hardy chose the latter method, right there beside Eugene on deck.

We shall go into the aphrodesiac powers of chilies another time for that is entirely a different story.

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

SEPTEMBER 23, 2007


It's not until the 30th of October, but Halloween is the Bay Area Official Holiday, typically lasting a couple weeks and featuring numerous costume parties, the Mexican Dias de los Muertos, and lots orange and black color schemes. Our own Paganos Hardware starts things off with a sure and clear signal as to the change in the seasons. Here we have a shot of the main storefront window to our local hardware store here on the Island.


Proving once again there is something just a little special about our criminal element here, local police apprehended a would-be robber at Highland Hospital's Trauma Center. Seems the fellow had tried, with the help of one other, to break in to a house on the 2400 block of Santa Clara Avenue so as to heist a load of marijuana, but found they had broke into the wrong residence. Finding no drugs of worth to steal, the two fled, but in so doing the man shot himself in the foot with his shotgun.

It is our conviction that the miserable state of public schooling is responsible for our hapless convicts. If only the fellow had learned his times tables properly he would not have entered into a life of crime -- or at the very least, become far more successful in his chosen enterprise.

In other Crime Blotter news, ten automobiles were reported stolen on two separate days last week, several graffiti taggers committed egregious misspellings, and a dog bit another dog in an unrelated incident.


While checking out a biker rally in Martinez one year, our roving reporter shoved back from the picnic table there when a burly fellow hopped up on the table to stare intently off into the distance.

"Just checking on my kids playin' on the other side of the hedge," the biker explained.

Some Berkeley Yups are learning what people on the Fringe have long known: your kids are safer with those greasy-looking, leather-clad, savage bikers than under the eyes of the most conservative of blue-hairs, for the cardinal rule among the hardest of the hard core biker set is "nobody but nobody messes with the kids. Or else."

This rule extends even to the "one percenters", all of whom possess rap sheets longer than both of your arms chained together.

There is a fair amount of discussion and theorizing about just why this is so among folks who otherwise have few morals or scruples to count on, but lets just take it for granted as a fact proven time and again.

Seems a fellow up in Berzerkeley on Roosevelt Avenue has been handing the kids grief for making kid noise in the playground there at Temko Tot Park. He has been harassing the kids and parents for some time, at least for some time until the motorcycle gang called Bikers Against Child Abuse roared up on their Harleys and started handing out coloring books and toys.

Biker Dave Scott said his group is not about violence.

"We try to give kids their world back once they have been terrorized," Scott said. "People get the wrong idea when they see leather. We're just a helping hand from an unexpected source. If a child is living in fear, we adopt them into our family and we say, 'See all these bikers here, you're a part of our family and there is no reason to be afraid.'''

Scott said they hand out their business cards to children, and if the child calls, "we come back."

The "gang" has been known in the biker community for some time, and typically responds to general threats against the well-being of children, but also may respond to particular issues until such time authorities can be called in to rescue the child.

The response from the parents of children at the park has been overwhelmingly positive.


The chief Editor has come down from his recent newspaper interview with a writer for the Island Sun, so we are not going to be messing with the name of that periodical for a while. Especially since the reporter blue-penciled all the stupid things and outrageous claims. Which may have been the influence of a bottle of 37 year-old Glenmorayeel single malt scotch. If you are new to this space, please be prepared for claims of outrageous presumption.


Phone numbers will begin dropping off the Do Not Call list in June when the five year re-registration date is reached.

The cherished dinner hour void of telemarketers could vanish next year for millions of people when phone numbers begin dropping off the national Do Not Call list.

The Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the list, says there is a simple fix. But some lawmakers think it is a hassle to expect people to reregister their phone numbers every five years.

Numbers placed on the registry, begun in June 2003, are valid for five years. For the millions of people who signed onto the list in its early days, their numbers will automatically drop off beginning next June if they do not enroll again.

"It is incredibly quick and easy to do," Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection, said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. "It was so easy for people to sign up in the first instance. It will be just as easy for them to re-up."

But Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., says people should not be forced to re-register to keep telemarketers at bay. Doyle introduced legislation this week, with bipartisan support, to make registrations permanent.

"When someone takes the time and effort to say 'I don't want these kinds of calls coming into my house,' they shouldn't have to keep a calendar to find out when they have to re-up to keep this nuisance from happening," Doyle said in an interview.

The FTC built the five-year expiration date into the program to account for changes, such as people who move and switch their phone number, Parnes said.

Doyle, however, points out that the list is purged each month of numbers that have been disconnected and reassigned to new customers.

People can register their home and cell phone numbers or file complaints at or by calling 1-888-382-1222.

The registry prohibits telemarketers from calling phone numbers on the list. Companies face fines of up to $11,000 for each violation.

Information on the House bill, H.R. 3541, can be found at


The 35th Annual SF Blues Festival is due at Fort Mason with quite a tasty lineup featuring the unconquerable Charlie Musselwhite and local fave Tommy Castro, plus the sacred steel of slide virtuoso Robert Randolph. Sunday's edition will showcase Joe Louis Walker, the ribald Sugar Pie DeSanto, Jimmy McCracklin and Alan Toussaint, who has just dried out his New Orleans boots after a tour with Elvis Costello.

It's gotten difficult to picnic out there on the lawn in the Poor Man's seats, and the Gold Circle has steadily grown over the years to the fifty-foot range, but the festival still remains a high spot that closes the summer season on the West Coast. Yet another new rule: No coolers bigger than 12"x12" allowed. In other words, you must and will partake of vendor supplies this time.

Parking, as has become expected down by the Marina during events, shall be made of Unobtainium except by virtue of a new Babylon ordinance that triples the ticket price during Special Events to $85 a pop. Take the bus, dude. Even a taxi is cheaper.

You could rethink attending the Monterey Festival instead as well. We need to start protesting this ...sssstuff.


Well, its been a quiet week on the Island set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, our Hometown. Eugene Shrubb is finally talking about pulling his Army of Bums gradually out of Newark. As long time readers are aware, Eugene, President of the California Bums, invaded Newark with his Army of Legislature Bums some five years ago in an attempt to find and remove an alleged cache of Weapons of Mass dodo in the form of terrier-ist Poodles. No WMD's were found, but the whole affair descended into a terrible and seemingly inextricable quagmire for as it turned out, the citizens of Newark failed to realize they had been invaded for quite a while, and pretty much nobody cared anyway as Newark lacks a Mayor, a City Hall or even a Town Council, and seems to lack any self-respect in addition to its wants.

Some Newarkians even thought the invasion might spruce up the place a bit, and maybe get rid of some of those eyesore body shops and linoleum outlets cluttering the main drag there. Others -- largely inhabitants of San Lorenzo and other neighbors, blamed the entire fiasco on a subterfuge to raid the City of its liquor deposits. Meanwhile the months of the Occupation segued into years and the Coalition of the Swilling has dwindled, leaving Eugene few political allies, save for the incendiary and highly Ultraconservative Reverend Rectumrod along with the Official Mouthpiece of the Bum Government, Fanny Foxx Spews (FFS Channel X).

As usual, Ann Coulter remains unintelligible and full of bile towards anyone reasonable.

September here is a time of transitions. The dahlias are still in bloom, but the leaves have all gotten that white fungus which will eventually knock them all back. Mr. Peepers has been scurrying along the top of the fence, storing up all kinds of things and can't be bothered for interviews. September is a time for long walks on the Strand, a time of meditation on things planned and happenstance, on failed opportunities and accomplishments.

Officer O'Madhauen thinks about the time he collared a would-be armed robber after the man hit the U.S. Bank on Otis, but made the mistake of performing an illegal U-turn on Park. O'Madhauen chased him down Santa Clara until the man crashed into Mrs. Almeida's chicken truck, sending Cornish hens and Dutch bantams scampering in all directions. The robber set out running between the houses there with Officer O'Madhauen and Mrs. Almeida running after him, losing him briefly until Mrs. Almeida spied the guy hiding up in branches of a maple in Mr. Howitzer's back yard.

The officer shouted up at the man to throw down his gun and give himself up. Right then, Officer Popinjay's cruiser drove up onto the front lawn and the Officer shone a spotlight up into the tree, even though it was midday.

When the man let his pistol fall to the ground -- it was a .45 caliber hogleg Colt -- the gun went off and the bullet sang right by Officer O'Madhauen's left ear before it went through Mr. Howitzer's window, shattering the glass, and ricocheted off of the brass fantod on the edge of the desk and then the bird cage before getting stuck in the bell of an antique flugelhorn hanging on the wall.

The macaw in the birdcage flew out of the broken window and sailed out over the estuary near the Fruitvale bridge beneath which an Iranian submarine glided on its way out to the Bay and back to sea. The macaw lit on top of the periscope and many were amazed at the sight of a brilliant red, gold and green bird sailing in this manner before it took off again to land on Coast Guard Island, where it lives to this day.

After scolding both the Officer and the robber, Mrs. Almeida paid a number of boys on skateboards a quarter each for every chicken they brought back.

It would be years before Mr. Gallipagus would put that flugelhorn to his lips to play a tune right before the November Poodlehunt, and blow a mighty toot that would dislodge the bullet into Jose's beerstein, and all would be amazed.

In any case, that bullet provided Officer O'Madhauen many years of reflective moments and that is the main point here. Mr. Howitzer still has that brass fantod and he meditates from time to time upon the scratch left by the bullet.

As for you, Howth is on a high hill, but you were born below. In a dark and empty house stands a child, longing for his mother. And all the leaves falling, burning just like embers in colors red and gold.

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

SEPTEMBER 15, 2007


This week's masthead photo was prompted by the recent inexcusable grovel-act performed by General Petraeus before the eyes of millions and is supplied with the help of and contributor Chad.

The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits. -Albert Einstein

And on the same subject, here is a poem by Calvin Trillin, written some months before after the release of the Baker-Hamilton Report

Four Options to Those Prosecuting the War in Iraq

To think about fading for Hail Mary passes.
To sink this report in rhetorical gasses.
To stop seeing progress through rose-colored glasses
And recognize this as the worst of morasses,
From which we must exit, though slow as molasses.
To simply do something to cover their asses.


In 1922 Island resident Joseph Rosefield figured out how to keep the oil and the ground peanuts from separating in an old treat, thereby inventing Skippy brand peanut butter. He stepped up production of the suddenly popular schmear with the opening of a factory that stood on the corner of Webster and Atlantic from 1930 to the mid 70's. In celebration of this factoid and to snag a last excuse to party in the streets, the West Island Business Association hosted a two-day fest on Webster with music, food and general frolic.

The main business on Webster remains O'Connell Volvo, which has jumped into the eco-transport with a lineup of 100% electric vehicles, including a car, a light truck, and two motorcycle/moped machines. The Force appeared in force to help out, and here we see a Storm Trooper trying out one of the mopeds, perhaps to supplement his star wars cruiser.

There were many bands worth mentioning, as well as the very popular Beatles-imitation band. Of special interest were two groups set at opposite ends of the street.

We caught the end of the Flux, who did a sort of Phish channel during their set. The official language puts them as follows: "The Flux is a quintet of musical veterans who came together to create high-energy music with a positive social and environmental message. Blending Afro-Cuban rhythms, progressive jam rock, and funk into “AfroJam,” they have forged a musically sophisticated style that still heats up the dance floor. “

We’re taking Western harmonies and melodic ideas and setting them over traditional African rhythms… or, sometimes, our own warped versions of them,” explains singer and guitarist Joe Balestreri. Members of the band have been seen playing with artists such as Zigaboo Modeliste, Albino!, Samba Ngo, and the Josh Jones Ensemble. See

At the far end of the spectrum we enjoyed the raucous garage rock of a young quartet calling itself Fauna Valetta which presented raw rock evocative of Joy Division and the pure rollick of the Ramones. Their MySpace page was lamentable and obfuscatory, but if they don't implode they ought to do well out there.

Also among the activities at this refreshingly noncommercial fair was a climbing pillar. Here we see a young feller getting just about to the top.

Over from Oaktown, the Crucible's Firetruck with a built-in forge provided all sorts of fascination for those who like to watch things burn and see strong ladies pounding iron into submission. Proof ironwork aint just for guys.

To our great pleasure we had a brief chat with a fellow who just might become the next Mayor of Babylon. Yes, we met the many-storied Jim the Clown and here he is, greeting the masses and doing what he does.

We told him he looked more like a Presidential Candidate, and he seemed well pleased with that observation.

In general there was all kinds of wine and beer and nosh and music and jumping up and down and at the end of the day a fine time was had by all.


Two toxic waste events will be held here, giving Islanders opportunity to dispose of those space-wasting CRT's, televisions, cell phones and other e-waste in a responsible manner.

You do know it is illegal to dump cell phones, batteries, florescent bulbs, batteries, and other e-waste materials in the trash, don't you? Generally, it costs to drop stuff off at any of the Bay Area disposal centers but these disposal days will be entirely free to island residents.

First up will be the Chamber of Commerce with a drop point at the old Southshore Mall at the north side of the former Safeway parking lot on September 21 and 22 from 9-3. Call 888-832-9839 or visit for details.

Next, the DPW will host a drop on 51 West Trident on the grounds of the old Navy Base on October 20th from 9-2pm.

A good resource for all of Alameda County is, which lists locations for old paint, toxic fluids, cooking materials, couches, appliances, and many other types of waste.

The more people use these kinds of services, the easier it will become to setup more regular disposal days and locations.


All local musicians be aware that the City Public Arts Committee has organized to parlay out money collected from development groups who now must ante up 1% of development fees to the arts on the Island. And we really are looking at beaucoups of development here in the next few years. Naturally, this being a bureaucratic affair, no one really knows about this pot being collected and as yet, normal human beings have had no input into how the money is to be used. Except an ad hoc group calling itself the Alameda Musicians Forum has set itself up to track the doings of the CPAC. There was an informal meeting of this group and any interested musicians Saturday, which is done with, natch, but you can still follow up for the formal CPAC meeting on the 27th at City Hall when disbursal means is listed on the agenda.

All meeting agendas are posted outside City Hall on the Town Hall board there on Santa Clara X Oak.

To contact the AMF, write c/o Music Scene, PO Box 1509, Alameda, CA 94501. You can also e-mail MUSICSCENE@EARTHLINK.NET and call 510-484-3001 for information about any music event taking place on the Island.


A group of Indie Rock promoters are getting a festival out on Treasure Island way out there in the middle of the Bay. They could not have picked a more difficult location for people to get to. They could not have picked a more difficult location for people to get to, but the lineup was pretty impressive, starting off with David Byrne and the Thievery Corporation followed by Modest Mouse the next day. Hear that many of the sets out there really cooked.

Yoshi's is heating up with Lavay Smith climbing up out of Cafe du Nord for a Monday gig. Next up will be the notorious blues guitar god, Robben Ford, covering the 26th through the 30th. He has a few things to say about New Orleans and how it don't make sense they can't make peace.

Beneath the purple chandeliers of the venerable Fillmore you can expect the fey Cat Power on the 19th with her upgraded sound. Cat appears to be adapting her sound, so will be worth listening to going forward. The jazz assembly of Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood drops in for the weekend, Friday and Saturday for an End of the World Party. Or perhaps Little Walter will Ride Again.

For East Bayers devoted to the local scene -- and looking for Tix in the more reasonable $10/head range, Will Bernard takes over the Ashkenaz with The Flux (reviewed above at the PB&J Festival) in a recommended show.

The Boss is blasting into town October 26th for the Oracle Arena, and Tix are on sale this Monday at Ticketmaster, however we note the "gray market" guys like Stubhub are already offering tickets, so you better be fast on the speed-dial come Monday.

Also coming in while the weather remains warm -- er, warmish -- Phil Lesh and Friends fill the Greek this month and look for Gov't Mule headed by the indefatigable Warren Haynes in November at the Fillmore.

Looks like it was a packed house for Sinead O'Connor Saturday night at Davies Symphony Hall.

(Strunz & Farah at The Herbst)

The Island-Life Review section got itself collectively healthy enough to foray out for the benefit for Benicia Performing Arts Foundation. You might not remember Strunz and Farah, for they began their careers together some twenty-five years ago, unless you are a devotee of fine Latin-inflected flatpicked guitar jazz. The pair, Jorge Strunz from Costa Rica (plus a dozen other points south) and Ardeshir Farah from Iran, merged the diamond with the pearl in their astonishing 1980 Mosaico, when they forged a distinctive sound, blending various Latin, Afro-Latin, jazz, and flamenco styles into an intoxicating brew that they have occasionally peppered with Middle Eastern influences.

For a time after their incendiary beginning, they floated into an easy listening Al di Meola sort of fusion jazz lacking the requisite passion that Jorge first imported from his significant flamenco background, but latterly they have seemed to find their fire again, perhaps by working with younger musicians still possessing the fire in the belly, and Saturday night they certainly turned a 90 minute non-stop, no stage-patter set into one all too short explosion that actually brought one of our Island-Life staffers to tears with the virtuosity and emotional power of the performance. Two standing ovations from the very discerning black tie Herbst Theatre pit also attested to the renewed vitality of the pair, who were backed by a flautist and bassist from Cuba, plus a more than capable percussionist.

It was high-energy rocking jazz of the sort that shocked the world before RodGab were even born, but which seems to have snagged public attention now that concert goers want, and can appreciate, the unadorned performance which can highlight the distinctive sonorities and tonality of the acoustic dreadnought, which have long been subsumed beneath the fuzz box and the Spector "wall of sound."

The ensemble worked through several instrumental pieces, never touching anything like a capo, never detuning their guitars, remaining entirely magical and relying on energy, improv and varied dynamics and technique to keep the audience enthralled. At one point, Strunz began hammering unbelievable 32nd notes into a dense tapestry that evoked Philip Glass and his wave-live motion changes. At another point, the two went into Middle-eastern drones that would have been entirely appropriate performed upon an oud, and which resolved into a raga. Avoiding golpe and rasquado techniques, their flamenco methods restricted themselves to triad sequences and chordal progressions with typically flamenco descending resolves. Not too ashamed to play to the crowd, there was a fair amount of fun and flashy single-string triplets right up to the bridge and back.

Nominated for Grammies any number of times, winners of Gold Record Million sales several times over, the two have well deserved reputations and with any luck, will continue to push the boundaries now popularized by groups like Incendio and Rodrigo y Gabriela.

BTW, there is a nice video on YouTube of the group performing at the Paradisio Hotel shortly before Saturday's gig. Here is the URL.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. There are other islands plopped into the Bay, but none quite like this one. In other parts of California, signs of the impending weather changes occur great and subtle, but here we note the high fog staying longer each day and all the staffers who hail from SoCal refuse to put away their shorts and huaraches. Mr. Peepers, the tree squirrel, has been digging up the yard like some avid 49er hunting for El Dorado, as if the weather really might change for the worse. Better to be prepared just in case.

Down in Pasadena, all the maples and oaks along the drive to the Huntington have started to turn remarkable colors, but -- pause to check -- the maple across the street still appears a robust green and all the oaks along Santa Clara still wave their leafy bundles, even though piles of brown scatters are collecting for the street sweeper to take up and the evenings get a tang in the air as folks fire up the hearths. Boxes of Presto logs have appeared at Wongs Drugs, replacing potting soil, and the entire gardening section vanished one night, to be supplanted by racks of bats, skeletons and webby ghosts.

When you live in a place like California, and on an Island set in the Bay, the changes of the seasons are subtle. It takes a certain kind of soul to pay attention, and pay attention we must, otherwise time passes, the sky clouds over and suddenly rain pelts down with divine vengeance, washing you and yours away. Some people think that California is a lotus land of ease and shallow contentment, lax values and moral decay. Well, like many places there is some of that. Marsha, a dark-haired girl moved away one year to go live in New York City, there to become an investment banker.

Oh to be young and live in the World Metropolis where men move darkly with neatly pressed powerful suits, patrician heads among the marbles. And women wearing the latest mode from Paris, holding long stemmed cocktail glasses containing fluids of neon red or blue, talking about smart, intelligent things. In New York City, when you are young and have a job, something is happening every hour of the day and the world is far more interesting than that dull provincial place where the common language is Spanish instead of elegant French, where the unruly democratic masses trample elegance, where people are so into recycling plastics, where Uncle Joe parks his fishing boat on the street to irritate the neighbors, where people actually reuse trash-bags.

But something happened to Marsha in New York City. When we saw her last, she had rings under her eyes and looked pale. She was thinking about moving back, she said. Seems one day, quite in the middle of the day, she was walking along near the Avenue of the Americas when she tripped and fell down. Quite hard in fact. A young man stopped and she thought to herself, how nice, he is going to help me up.

He didn't help her up. He grabbed her purse and ran off with it. And when she struggled to stand up, someone walking by brushed against her and she fell down again. And the person who brushed against her just kept on walking. And she sat there while people walked by her, each going about his and her business, not paying any attention to the woman on the ground there and she thought about her life in New York City up to that moment.

Truth was, her squalid 10th floor walkup apartment, cost so much she had not the money to go out and do the things she had imagined she would do. Instead, she spent most of her time, seven am to nine pm each day working to pay for the apartment which had seven bolts on the door. The only parties with colored cocktails she had been to had been business affairs in which the conversation had been about the exchange rate, the market and the evils of the Democratic Party. And instead of a stream of wonderful lovers, she had had one single affair which had ended in a shouting match in a restaurant, at the end of which, she had been stuck with the bill.

She got herself up and hobbled over to a bench. And right then she started to cry.

In the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington D.C., each state is allowed two statues of important people who stand there to represent each respective state, its founding and its character. California has a statue of Junipero Serra, the Franciscan friar who established the Mission system that helped to colonize California for the Europeans. The other statue is that of Thomas Starr King, a person many do not recall, but a man who best exemplifies California over all others, and a most wise choice, although this choice might not stand for all time.

Mr. King was a man of rectitude, hard work far beyond anything the hardest worker knows today, a great orator, and a kind heart. He was a Unitarian Minister. He is there because he threw himself into the cause of preserving California as a state free from slavery, and as a solid member of the Union of the United States of America. He is the only man who still possesses a public grave in a cemetary in San Francisco. It's right there on Franklin Street, near the heart of downtown at Geary/Van Ness. Rev. King essentially saved the Union during the Civil War, by defeating the Southern Copperheads with persuasive language, and was acknowledged posthumously by Abraham Lincoln for having done so. King knew that the way to capture California was to go to the heart of the common man, and so he wore himself out travelling up and down the Sierra foothills, to Sacremento, and down to Los Angeles, stopping only when his heart gave out.

Thomas Starr King is a far more appropriate symbol of the Golden State than any other pretender.

More details about the remarkable man can be gotten from Richard's podcast at

It is night now. And the House of Blues is coming to an end, with Joan Armitrading on as guest. From far across the water comes the ululating wail of the through-passing train as it wends its way from the Port through Jack London Waterfront. All is peaceful for a short time as the fog wisps around the stanchions of the Fruitvale Bridge with the dark towers of the attached train trestle ramping upwards.

The trestle is an anachronism, for neither end connects any more to tracks. Oakland tore up the last feeder lines a few months ago on its side, but our Council refuses to do away with the old trestle, hoping some day that the trains will run again as they did that day when the celebration train rolled across after the transamerican railway got completed before the Oakland terminus had been completed. So for a short time, our humble Island held the honor of Western Terminus of the Transamerican Railway -- a floating fixed point binding the Union together.

Come on home, Marsha. Come on home.

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



This week's masthead photo comes courtesy of Doyle McGowan of Guerneville on the Russian River and features a nice fixer-upper right on the river and close to the amenities of town. A bit of elbow grease and you can see yourself out on the deck there with a nice glass of crisp Chenin Blanc.

Well, you might need to know a bit of carpentry as well.


Every once in a while we check in on our various foreign desks to see what is happening abroad. We know that The Shrub has been causing trouble for the US latterly in Asia, so we don't even need to go there.

Main headlines for Der Spiegel (European Edition) concerned the most obvious thing associated with Germany of the 20th Century: Nazism. On the one hand an outspoken NDR Moderator (= talkshow host) was fired for speaking out over a period of time in terms reminiscent of our Ann Coulter of FOX, and with a lamentable nostalgia for some aspects of the fascist regime of the 30's.

On the other hand, the astonishing news that a violent neo-nazi cell was broken up by -- not the Germans, but the Israeli police, has raised some eyebrows. Self-hatred is not a new one for any group, but a Nazi terror group housed in Tel Aviv? Oy, veh iss mir!

The little band of thugs has beaten "dozens" of Ultra-Orthodox Jews, identified gays, while smearing the swastika in synagogues.

Another report discusses a knife attack in Frankfurt by a Neo-Nazi upon a Rabbi there. The Rabbi survived the attack, during which the perp reportedly shouted "Shit Jew! I am going to murder you!" as he stabbed the holy man in the abdomen in front of two friends.

Continuing the theme of violence, a special report goes over the infamous "Stammheim Night" and the "German Autumn of 1977 in which members of the homegrown terrorist organization "RAF" kidnapped and murdered a former SS officer, industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer. In the initial attack, Schleyer's driver and three police escorts were killed.

When the government did not accede to demands that certain RAF members be released in a prisoner exchange, the group hijacked a Lufthansa airliner in October, landing eventually in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Elite German anti-terrorist commandos stormed the plane with the permission of the then still surviving Somalian government and all but one kidnapper was killed. None of the commandos or the plane's hostages were killed except for the plane's captain, who had been murdered earlier.

Schleyer was murdered in response. His body was found in the trunk of a car. All arrested founding RAF members were found dead in their high security cells. They had committed suicide by way of handguns smuggled into the Supermax Stammheim Prison by their attorneys. This episode concluded a decade-long sequence of violent murders conducted by the RAF.

In other news, Der Spiegel has a special report on record-high oil prices, which has resulted in seven European nations banding together to fight the "Oil Establishment."

From the pages of the considerably more conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine, we see the headline is all about Petraeus and his report on Iraq, due tomorrow with the headline: "PETRAEUS: It didn't work as we had hoped." The substance of the report questions the extent of any real progress made, and lists several doubtful conditions, such as the strangled situation of the Iraqi Parliament and the doubtful allegiance of the army and police.

As any true conservative rag would do, the secondary headline concerns itself with the Stock Market, and essentially describes the same concerns and anxieties most of the financial organs here are preoccupied with, featuring most prominently, "What will the Fed do next?"

In Algeria, the people turn out in large numbers to protest against a recent terrorist attack there attributed to Al Qaida.

In Morocco, Islamist Radicals failed to garner sufficient support in recent voting to take over Parliament there. In fact, their count at the hustings was barely 37 percent.

The General Secretary for the CDU, something akin to the Neo-Con wing of the GOP, has stated his desire to have crucifixes placed in all classrooms throughout Germany.

The rest of the FA includes the usual pop found in Time and Newsweek. In fact, many of the articles appear to have been shopped out to all three news outlets with identical language in translation.

In Belle France, the headline in Le Monde concerns the Algerian terrorist suicide attack which killed 30 people and injured another 47 in Batna and the resulting spontaneous popular protest which featured the slogan " Non au terrorisme, halte à l'instabilité, ne touche pas à mon Algérie" ("No to terrorism! End to instability! Do not touch my Algeria!"). An estimated 20,000 people were present.

Secondary headline concerned the recently elected conservative's drive to reform the government as a priority. It is expected that Sarkozy will outline his proposals on the 18th before the French Senat.

Reform is the keyword in all communications from the new government there.

There are various articles on recent momentary issues in Central Europe, including the protestation of Poland against a European interdiction of the Death Penalty which protest some have found "incomprehensible."

From The Guardian, out of the UK, we have the irritating emphasis upon the McCann family story and their Madeleine, also a main headline in the Herald. But from the Herald we expect no better.

The Israeli neo-Nazi ring is discussed and the Petraeus report is anticipated with "The surge must go on" with a note that the General is expected to defer any exit of troops until April of 2008. Yuck.

In an interesting development, the conservative Torys are proposing packages attractive to green voters with a focus upon short airline flights and landfills with rationing coming up again on the bills.

The return of Pakistan's exiled Narawan Sharif has some major space along with anti-terror measures taking place in that country.

El Mundo featured largely local news, with a headline about an ETA (Basque group) explosion at a gas station in which no one was killed or hurt. The Spanish have always been the more sensible people.

The more respectable El Pais also featured the terrorist bomb in Logrono, and included as subhead the Algerian story in Batna.

The next main story concerns the Petraeus report, indicating now that most of the world is looking hard at the way things are going in Iraq and how officials are officially reporting on the situation there. A little tweak here is the reporting upon local requests from Iraqi officials that the troops draw down now. Not much about that is being reported here.

Elections are happening elsewhere in the world and it appears that the progressive Colom has won his seat in Guatemala with 60% of the vote.

Our usual Spanish reporter bailed on us this time, so we had to bash through this on our own. We read and sort through dozens of foreign language papers and media in five languages so you don't have to. Another benefit of reading Island Life.


The Voodoo Festival's three full days of music -- October 26, 27 and 28 in New Orleans -- will kick off with appearances from Rage Against the Machine and Kings Of Leon (Friday), the Smashing Pumpkins, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals and Sinead O'Connor (Saturday), Wilco, Dr. John and Fall Out Boy (Sunday); more than 100 acts will appear in the Voodoo Music Experience's three distinct performance areas-Le Ritual, Le Flambeau and Le Carnival.

Single day tickets are $40 each. Full weekend passes at just $115.00 will allow fans to enjoy the entire three days of music a City Park. There are no in-out privs.

Previous festivals have been plagued by miserable organization and lousy information as well as poorly trained staff, so it remains to be seen how this thing plays out. The French Quarter was largely untouched by the pump failures that flooded much of the 9th Ward and Garden District, but the Park is north of the Congo Square area and is normally a place of tangled bayous and woods.


The Fall Season is shaping up with a gorgeous lineup at the ACT and Berkeley Rep, featuring challenging new work and some old standards from old firebrands like GBShaw. BB King continues his indefatiguable regime of on the road travel and the Pogues are coming back (Yippee!).

Our neighbor down around Monterey, Neal and Peggy Young will host their annual benefit and personal party with some of his friends on October 27-28 at the Shoreline in Mountain View. This time, Metallica, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Vedder with Flea and Jack Irons,Tom Waits with Kronos Quartet,John Mayer, Tegan and Sara, Regina Spektor show up to help out the school that helps out kids with disabilities. The entire affair is Peggy's dreamchild and is a major event in the Season every year.

At the venerable Fillmore, we note the following notable concerts.

Tuesday, 9/11/07 Los Lonely Boys
Wednesday, 9/12/07 Steve Vai

Wednesday, 9/19/07 Cat Power & Dirty Delta Blues

Friday, 9/21/07 Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood
Saturday, 9/22/07 Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood
Morrissey closes out the month

Houston Jones has done so well and has a powerhouse CD in the tank so we shall not see them at McGraths until September 22nd. Hope to see you there.

We support live music because live music stimulates the local economy, rescues lost souls, inoculates against radical Conservatism, cures chilblains, ague, gout, arthritis, and all manner of ills, revivifies the soul, galvanizes the body politic, generates enthusiasm for life and besides, it is good for you, too.


Last on the local news circuit today we report that the Island Chamber of Commerce will host an Electronic Recycling Event at South Shore Sept 21 and Sept 22 from 9 to 3. Contact or 888.832.9839 for details on no-fee disposal.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, our Hometown. This week most of the schools started up classes for the new semester for all the young folks and all the parents have finished running about getting those pencils and notepads and such for the new scholastic year. A few community colleges had already started the classes some three weeks previously. This makes for diversity.

Lines of young sixth and seventh grade hooligans have reappeared in their irregular army ant march along the sidewalk, the lawns, the street even, on Grand at the usual hours of the day, all carrying backpacks or handbags of some kind, bumping into one another, hitting one another, jumping on one another, and generally causing a mild ruckus the way kids do, picking up any old thing that manages to wander into their path.

"Look there's a dog turd! I dare ya to pick it up!"

"Ewwww . . . !"

Onset of autumn is signaled in the Bay Area by high fog, making for dreary mornings while the temperatures cool things in the evenings. The amaryllis is all blooming along the fences here and the Canadian geese are gabbling on the greens of Washington High School. Ms. Morales has returned to her teaching duties at Longfellow Middle School, but she walks with a spring in her step and blushes easily. Due to various contretemps her wedding was postponed so that Mr. Ramirez's side of the family can come over from the Philippines, those who survive and all of the invitations had to be sent out again with corrections in a great flurry at the GPO.

High tide came in Saturday night and every two hundred yards on the Strand you could see a knot of two or more men sitting in lawn chairs fishing for mackerel and perch down there with long poles tipped by weird LED bulbs hanging in the dark under the high fog through which the glare of lights from Babylon across the water flickered and glittered. Each man wrapped himself in a parka and even though there was no need they talked in low voices among themselves in Tagalog and Spanish because the mood called for it that way.

Out back behind the dumpsters the old grandpa raccoon, a decently sized fifty pounder, lumbered off under the spotlights to squeeze under the broken fence there and a chirring and chittering was heard in the shadows beside the battered sequoia that grows wild beside the Island-Life offices. One day the landlord had a group of fellows come to just look at that tree -- which at the time towered twenty feet above the roof -- and maybe get an appraisal for a trim and a shave. Some kind of miscommunication occurred, as sometimes happens around here, and the men lopped the tree down to a couple feet below the roofline, giving it a sort of buzzcut similar to that of a new recruit for the Marines. As if in shock and surprise, the base of the tree erupted with a dense confusion of sprouts in protest and now the raccoon family lives there, some nine or ten of them.

The fat ground squirrel has been scampering along the fence there, engaged in squirrelly business, digging holes where no squirrel ought to go and causing Jose some anguish about the roots of his tomatoes. Autumn is coming on and squirrels and raccoons have some serious business to attend to around here. As well as the Canadian geese. A change upon the land is coming. Even as General Petraeus makes ready for what shall surely be an uncomfortable day in the Nation's Capitol on Monday.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie mopes over her book, hardly reading what's in it when Eugene comes in for a drink, the usual. Seems things between her and the Irish boy didn't work out and he returned to that green land leaving behind another sad lassie in another port. O the rogue. And she resolves to have nothing to do with any guy any more forever. Better off alone.

She looks at Eugene snarfling his beer like some animal.

Yes, better off on her own with her cat, Marbles, and her studio rented apartment and her Sundew in the window, eating hapless gnats.

Earlier in the day, the coroner had come for Stephanie behind the Harbor Bay Motel. Passed away at forty-eight because of the drink, a lifelong battle with the booze. She had lived for years up there on the second floor, getting more and more vicious and cruel to her neighbors as time dragged on. She would place the lawn sprinkler so as to liberally water the driver's side door of a lady parked there and she would buttonhole and shriek at visitors to others coming to the apartments. "What are you doing here? Who are you? Get away, just get away!" She yelled at anyone for making noise coming up the creaky old stairs, which as manager for a time, she refused to have fixed. The overhead landing light remained dark and burnt for months, and now it will never get fixed.

She seemed to have no problem with money and had just bought a brand new fire-engine red pickup truck.

There is a way to live alone and there is a way not to. And there her sad son-in-law left to lock up the place, see about the papers, leave food for the cats and otherwise tidy up a mess left behind.

Down at the corner of Buena Vista and Sherman, Officer O'Madhauen sits in his cruiser with a cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup at the edge of the industrial park there, where the empty cannery sits behind chain link fence, a dark brick colossus waiting to be reborn. Along Lincoln Avenue, nothing is moving and Peter steps out of McGrath's to look up and down the long shady street, then steps back inside. It's a quiet night on the Island until the long ululation of the through-passing train wavers across the estuary from Jack London Waterfront. Must be near midnight and sure enough, Jake comes on the radio to introduce the House of Blues Radio Hour and Suzie reaches up to adjust the volume in the Old Same Place Bar.

Percy Boughsplatt drives up after his Sunday drive along the coast in his resplendent and immaculately restored 1939 Mandelville-Brot coupe. As usual, he is dressed in a suit of beige and cream colors that matches the scheme of the pristine leather interior. He is accompanied by his companion of some years, the young Madeline of the Berkeley Explicit Players who have maintained a public nudist policy for as long as anyone can remember. Tonight she wears the minimum of boa, shoes and a London Fog, fastened by the minimum of one button. Perfect Manhattan for him. Margarita for her. No salt. He accidentally knocks over his drink, but buys another with a minimum of fuss. Waistcoat splattered, but no big deal. Life is full of event and one can always get another waistcoat.

There they are, the perfect happy couple. What does it take to be happy in this world? A contentment for what one has, a simple obsession for something simple, such as a car, a reasonable companion, an absence of bitterness over spilled drinks and spoiled clothing. There is a way to live with yourself and a way not to.

Suzie wonders what ever happened to Stephanie's husband and why that long battle with the booze ending the way it did.

A pile of orange pumpkins and cardboard black cats sits at the end of the bar, waiting for the next big holiday in October. When you were a child you dressed up because the adults told you, and you ran from door to door to get handfuls of booty tossed in a sack because that was just the way it was. The innocence of children. And the first day of school after the too short summer was exciting there in your desk with your neat bundle of pencils and pens in a little translucent plastic box that never seemed to last the year.

Long ago there had been a little girl named Stephanie who had skipped rope and run up Grand Street with the others and the days were both too long and too short, depending how close to Christmas it was. What ever happened to that Stephanie so long ago? Her and the Angry Elf? What happened to them to turn them into people filled with so much bile?

This is the side of California that hides its face; it is the side of eternal disappointment that there never was any Eldorado and gold does not just "grow" in streams like a plant. It is a saddened and miserable Mulholland the day after the San Franciscito dam broke, killing some four hundred people in what was then the worst disaster to befall the Golden State. The day after Mulholland challenged doubters on that very dam, stamping his foot with the announcement, "This is a fine dam and there is nothing wrong with it!"

And yet, the orange decorations lay there, and the kids still stream up Grand, and some of them grow up to fine, decent and caring people, the best in the world despite the tragedies. Halloween is just around the corner.

Its the story of two houses: On one side of the river sits the old house, derelict, abandoned, forlorn, bitter; that could have been your life. On the other side, sits the house filled with life and laughter. No stranger to disaster, for sure, but rising above it all. And we have come full circle back to Doyle.


Its a dark night in a City that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the Old Same Place Bar sits one gal still pondering Life's persistent questions.

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



This weekend the sun arose to grant the Golden State seams of the Mother Lode of sunshine and warmth. Friday chased people from work with 96 degrees on the Island, while Marin and other points reported triple digit temps even as the clock ticked down to the Bay Bridge closure at eight o'clock. Long lines of cars streamed out to the lakes, starting Thursday in anticipation of terrific gridlock, and everybody made alternative plans and created alternative routes, resulting in relatively smooth flow from Friday through Sunday with all arteries experiencing heavy traffic, but only minor stoppages.

The Bridge remains closed until Tuesday, so there is no way that horrible, labile, obnoxious boss will manage to intimidate a soul back to their desks a single minute early.


This weekend sees the entire Bay Area collapsing into a heap of quivering, overworked bodies, all steaming under the hot sun and Bar-B-Queing like mad while neon-spandex bicyclists zip on down the trail of dehydration and occasional collapse. But there is some good news on the labor front here, with our chastened Governator now attending dutifully to the Union strength that built California, the Waste Management drivers celebrating their recent victory over a stupid, intransigent and foolish Management that attempted to bust one of the strongest unions around without success.

Down along the Strand, the windsurfers are all darting back and forth over the water like so many terns and the Canadian Geese have arrived to chomp and poop on the Middle School playing field. It's a Labor Day weekend like any other, with fun and frolic occasionally disturbed by the terrible and temporary disaster of a beesting or lighter fluid contretemps by the BBQ grill.

Doyle fell off of his ladder, wrenching that old hip out of place, but just hauled himself back up again, and after a brief respite, was hobbling about with his chainsaw, cutting limbs from a tree that fell on his property just to show them young whippersnappers how to get things done with no bellyaching. Except for when one of the kids came bounding in, fresh as a daisy while he was napping and grabbed his leg for a good, solid yank in pure adolescent fun, which caused Doyle to set up such a howling the dogs all chimed in all along San Jose Avenue.

We have insider dope that the nurses have won their battle during the contract negotiations over at Catholic Health Care West, which should hearten all of us, for it is the nurses who do the real work in any medical facility. The Whiplashes over at CHW are all chewing their handlebar mustaches and muttering, "Drats! Foiled again!"

Take heart, gentlemen; these results all benefit the patient, after all. Who is supposed to be foremost in concern n'cest pas?


Island-Life continues production during this holiday for your general entertainment and enjoyment. Because that's our job. Also working through the weekend are any number of performers at the vastly expanded Oakland Art and Soul Festival, held over there around the base of the Great Oak at City Hall in Frank Ogawa Plaza, hard by the 12th Street BART station.

Entrance Fee has gone up from zilch to a sawbuck, but the ride is always worth the effort. Headliners of note were, beginning Saturday: The Lovemakers, John Handy, local Zydeco Flames, Island faves Tom Rigney and Flambeau, nouveau phenom Brigitte Demeyer. Sunday started out hard and fast with locals Luce, big band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Grammy winning Lucinda Williams, followed by Birdlegg and his Titefit band showcasing the mouth harp and really oozing bluesy class with Johnny Rawls.

Tomorrow features a heavy gospel beat issuing day-long testimony before City Hall, while the Blues stage presents the Caravan of Allstars, Sonny Rhodes and Fillmore Slim. Over at the Multi-Culti zone, you will enjoy high points Samba Ngo, and the remarkable Mo'Rockin Project -- whom we have reported on earlier in these pages.

The festival also features some unique tents highlighting our diverse community besides the savory and more than usually tasty Festival Food lineup. And this musical lineup is by no means exclusive of a great many other extraordinary lights, especially on the Latin stage. No need to fret about what to do if you can't get over to the colder side of the Bay; we have plenty right here on the Warmer Side.

Word! If you snag some E&J BBQ, request "extra hot sauce" or you surely will be disdained. And if you hearken from Oakland, testify, testify.


Latest flap on the Island is the squabble over the Belt Line property which featured so prominently in the story Dos Erizos (see sidebar). The master plan deciding the future uses of the property has been put off until legal contretemps are settled between the City and the absentee owner. In other news, Firefighter Reilly responded to a boat on fire, where it was stored out on the West End. Numerous fires have started out there at the abandoned Naval Base as thieves strip copper wiring for resale.

Our children are above average. Well, that is the official report on our high school sophomores when the exit exam results were published. We have yet to hear from Lake Woebegon on this very important issue. Unfortunately, the results for our Alma Mater, Island High, show a lamentable 21 per cent pass rate as compared to 82 per cent for the rest of the Island.

The Fighting Ground Squirrels shall yet triumph.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown, set here in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. With the recent heat wave, which always closes the Summer with great gusto, the streets have emptied of folks, save for the occasional celebration. The Augustin family had a two day fandango across the street for several birthdays and all the kids looked on as the piñata was hauled up that old oak tree amid a galaxy of black and white balloons. Another Icarus hauled aloft, only to be pounded down after many thwacks amid an excited scattering of candies and children's hands.

Right now, all the fans are whirling and humming all through the Island-Life Offices. The Chief Editor keeps mopping his forehead, and much of his deforested pate, with a kerchief, while a drop of sweat hangs from the tip of the copyboy's nose. It remains hot here well past nine thirty pm. Due to situations impecunious and medical, the annual Island Life Mountain Sabbatical has been canceled this year and now here we are, all sweating away.

Several of our Secret Courier Hamsters have returned from Minnesota wearing life preservers and dragging inflatable canoes; we do hope everyone is all right on the edge of the prairie.

On a more serious note, the State legislature is putting together a referendum to formally protest the war in Iraq and request the troops be returned home ASAP, which is nice development. The measure was proposed by State Assemblyperson Sandre Swanson (D-Oakland), and has passed the Senate for submission on the February primary ballot and challenges the policy of preemptive war among its other provisions requesting an end to the military occupation of Iraq. Swanson's cousin died on board United Airlines Flight 93, the highjacked plane that crashed into a Pennsylvania field.

Next week, we will do the periodic survey of international news published in Spanish, French, non-American English, German and whatever else we can scrape together.

Meanwhile, the fans revolve as a large sphinx smacks against the screen. A good night for mothing.

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

AUGUST 26, 2007


It was a delightful Sunday with marvelous sunshine breaking through the moody fogs of early morning that greated folks at Jackson Park on the Island. Sunday saw the 8th annual Art in the Park take place with music, poetry, and all kinds of face-painting, balloon popping, hot dog munching frolic. Pat Payne's table opened the way in fine form with her steel raptors.

Notable were the elaborate handbags of the euphoniously named Wanda Fudge next to the exquisitely done handmade woollen felt pieces of Susan Laing. Ms. Laing works her creations directly from raw, freshly sheared wool, which she hand dyes with natural materials before working into scarves, table decorations, wall hangings, cat toys, and necklaces.

Beside her booth Mr. James Kitson presented his interesting multimedia panels made with copper, sand and paint on wood.

Opening the day with a nice mixture of sound evocative of Tori Amos and Yes, Kat Downs performed on keyboards with her band at the old gazebo.

Mary Rudge, the Island Poet Laureate, read some of her work before an open mike session.

In general it was a pleasant day under the sun dappled trees and a fine time was had by all.


Long time readers know about the airman found up on Mount Mendel not far from our usual summer haunts. That fellow, lost some 45 years during a training mission, turned out to be a son of Minnesotta. Now, as global warming causes the snows and ice to recede, explorers have found another body of another fellow crewman on that ill-fated flight up on the slopes of Mendel.

The second set of human remains was found in Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierra Nevada range on Wednesday, as little as 50 feet from where climbers spotted the ice-entombed body of Leo Mustonen in October 2005, park officials said.

Military anthropologists plan to analyze the largely decomposed body, which they believe could be one of three men who was flying with Mustonen when their AT-7 navigational trainer plane disappeared after takeoff from a Sacramento airfield on Nov. 18, 1942.

On board were Mustonen, of Brainerd, Minn.; pilot William Gamber, 23, of Fayette, Ohio; and aviation cadets John Mortenson, 25, of Moscow, Idaho, and Ernest Munn, 23, of St. Clairsville, Ohio. A blizzard is believed to have caused the crash.

All four were given a military funeral in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, but for decades the servicemen's families have struggled to find closure. Mustonen was laid to rest in his hometown last year.

Military officials planned to notify families of the three men Monday, said Robert Mann, deputy scientific adviser for the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, which concluded in February 2006 that the first body was Mustonen's.

Rangers located the body exposed on a remote rock glacier between granite boulders, his undeployed parachute, stenciled "US ARMY," just inches away. The Air Force was part of the Army until 1947.

"It looks like his head was just resting on the rock," said Debbie Brenchley, the first ranger to see the remains Friday after the backpackers reported the find. "You can see he has a wool sweater on, and a white collar and a ring on."

Progressive erosion of the glacier ice and snow due to the effects of global warming has left some areas bare of ice, enabling the find.

The body will be analyzed by military forensic specialists who are trained in DNA analysis to determine the lost airman's exact identity. The peak is barely four hundred yards from the path of the annual staff sabbatical in Darwin Canyon. Mendel is the jagged one on the right.


We have been discussing just what the devil is wrong with people these days. Seems that yahoos and knumbskulls rule the roost everywhere, or seem to. What is it that turns otherwise reasonable folks into raging A-holes?

Take the Angry Elf, for example. He stamps his little feet and balls his tiny fists in rage and causes no end of trouble for anybody any time he manages to secure the slightest bit of power for himself. The extent of his bile is unfathomable and his ill-will has no boundaries. He enters people's homes while they are away and does caca in the corners, breaks lamps, tears up papers and otherwise messes with folks just trying to keep body and soul together.

Essentially, the Angry Elf is a miserable little sociopath. And there are many of these kinds of people all over the place these days.

Their justification is usually the same bland paranoid hysteria uttered by any run-of-the-mill extremist: they are "defending themselves", they are"enforcing rules and order". The end result is inevitably the stark symbols of hatred, as in the wall built by the Isrealis in the West Bank, the wall built along the US - Mexico border, the Twin Towers attack of 9/11, the suspension of Habeus Corpus, a neighbor tossing herbicide poison over the property line, the hate signs of an X-ian Right Wing protest, or in the case of the Angry Elf, his repeated acts of trespass.

So many seem over the line these days, shouting from their SUV's, purchased and driven so that they can destroy anything they happen to hit, shoving into the head of the line at the BART station, shooting guns at a couple of wayward teenagers. In the latter incident, the man fired his rifle at a pair of teens who were already running away after daring each other to step a few paces onto the "scary land beside the cemetary". The one teen, hit in the neck, wound up crippled for life. And for what?

Always, they say they are "defending themselves." Against what? Being "dissed"? Oh you pathetic little Elf. It's not our fault you stand five-two in your socks.

There comes a point where cultural relativity breaks down entirely. We don't have to "understand" a bunch of thugs who seized a couple of airplanes with box cutters to commit murder. Its not necessary to empathize with the Angry Elf in his paranoid madness. Yeah, sure the world has changed around them and they feel things are out of control. Times have changed and all the local shopkeepers speak Chinese. So what. Everybody else lives in the same predicament. Just get over it, dude.

Truth is, the world never really was under control and your neat little Manhattan never really was as predictable or well-regulated as you claim to remember in your infantile nostalgias and maybe that old Mohammed practiced a little rhetorical symbolism instead of being flat out literal. The golden "gifts" of the martyr just might be "shining raisins of insight" instead of literally "virgins." For example.

Yes, times change. Women get the right to vote and African-Americans can buy property in Danville without being run out at the point of a shotgun. Some things do change for the better and life goes on in its usual messy way of causing clutter and baggage on the landscape.

Practicing road rage on the Highway of Life gets you nowhere but the loony bin. So all you folks out there screaming red-faced into your cell phones, just grow up. And get back in line with the rest of humanity. You aint nothing special and maybe your sister just wants to wear something colorful instead of that old stupid burka and your brother has every right to be as out and flaming gay as he wants to be. And your neighbors have their own lives on track, even you do not. That's just the way it is.


It's been a quiet week on the Island here in the San Francisco Bay, our hometown. Summer is getting on and Mr. Whipple has been putting out the Back to School signs over at South Shore Shopping Centre. Down at the Strand the windsurfers are catching the last warm days of sunshine with their colorful parasails and bright masted surfboards. All the ground squirrels are out foraging, setting things by for the mysterious winter that never seems as harsh as it should be, but you never can tell. One year it just might snow, and for a ground squirrel that would be terrible indeed.

Sympathies and commiserations to our friends in the Midwest during this time of disastrous flooding. And speaking of Minnesotta and our Sister City there on the edge of the prarie, our new fire chief, David Kapler, is coming from Rochester, MN. Mr. Kaplan was chief in Rochester since 1993 and was just one of three candidates from out-of-state who applied to replace the retiring Jim Christiansen.

Apparently, it takes a cool Norwegian to handle the hot spots around here and we extend a warm welcome to Mr. Kaplan.

Meanwhile our application for Sister City to Lake Woebegon remains in a state of indeterminacy. We understand that Mr. Keillor is a very busy man, and with all the hundreds, perhaps thousands of applications for this coveted status probably flooding the little post office there in Minnesotta he might not even have seen our application just yet. And the Midwest has experienced a fair amount of severe weather, so we will just have to be patient. In fact, our carrier pigeons have been coming back quite sodden from all the flooding out there.

Mayor Beverly and the Council finally passed that anti-war resolution first proposed a year ago by Frank Matarrese. The resolution "calls upon the President, Congress and the Governor of California and our state legislators to take immediate steps to establish a diplomatic approach to the violence in Iraq. . . ". The previous resolution calling for the return home of the National Guard was amended to include all service members. There were no dissenting votes against the measure last Tuesday.

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

AUGUST 19, 2007


This week's headline photo comes courtesy of Jose's garden where two amaryllis have survived the poisoned onslaught from Old John.


Craig M. Hightower died Tuesday morning when an SUV slammed his motorcycle against a retaining wall near the Webster Street Tube while abruptly changing lanes. SUV drivers often shift lanes here without signaling or obeying standard traffic procedures because of their insulation from surrounding traffic stimuli. SUV drivers often excuse their selection of their socially obnoxious choice of vehicle in that they wish to destroy anything they happen to hit in traffic.

The SUV driver was a member of the Coast Guard driving to work at the Coast Guard Island, which some people apparently reach by driving through the main Island to the High Street Bridge, and then crossing over from another bridge in Oakland to the destination.

Traffic Officer James Gordon said both vehicles had come out of the Posey Tube into Oakland from Alameda and were headed eastbound on Seventh Street.

He said the Coast Guard member told police he was on his way to work at Government Island in Alameda and that police believe the motorcyclist was also on his way to work.

Gordon said Hightower was in the far right lane, which the SUV — a 2006 Chevrolet Equinox -- abruptly entered without warning.

Anyone who witnessed the accident is asked to call police at 777-8658.


In various venues we have the following to expect and anticipate:

MARK OLSON (Founding Member of The Jayhawks) - Aug 12th - Cafe du Nord
MATT NATHANSON - Great American Music Hall - 8/14 (Borders Unions Sq 1 pm, free same day)
KEB' MO' & ROBERT CRAY - August 16 - Mountain Winery
TEJA GERKEN - Aug 18 - Noe Valley Ministry
PETER CASE - Aug 19 - Cafe du Nord
NOE VENEBLE - Aug 22 - Cafe du Nord
CROWDED HOUSE with PETE YORN - Aug 26 - Paramount
SAW DOCTORS - Slim"s - Aug. 30
LUCINDA WILLIAMS, LUCE - Oakland Art & Soul Festival Sept. 2
OLLABELE - Sept 6 - Great American Music Hall
RICHARD THOMPSON - Fillmore Sept 7
BRANDI CARLILE with A Fine Frenzy - Sept 8 - Fillmore
OLLABELLE, THE FINCHES - Sept 21 - Great American Music Hall
JOSH ROUSE - Sept 27 - Independent
HOT TUNA ACOUSTIC - Sept 29 - Fillmore

At the Greek:

Fri, Aug 24-25 Gipsy Kings
Sat, Aug 25 Gipsy Kings

Sun, Aug 26 UB40 Plus special guest The English Beat / Elan
Mon, Aug 27 Joss Stone plus special guests Raphael Saadiq / Ryan Shaw
Tue, Aug 28 Crowded House Plus special guest Pete Yorn / Liam Finn
Wed, Aug 29 Wilco Plus special guest Richard Swift

Stevie Wonder jumpstarts everything in September on the 5th.


Monday, 8/20/07 The Robert Cray Band Keb' Mo' and Band 'Bringin' It Back Home Tour'

Beastie Boys 8/24/2007 8:00 PM
Kings of Leon 9/04/2007 8:00 PM

Also we note in the nonmusical vein, Garrison Keillor comes around to speak at the Marin Veteran's Center at the end of September. Check City Box Office for Tickets. A number of us are hoping to press applications for Sister City Status to Lake Woebegon in the Great Man's hands sometime backstage.


Tradition has it that WC Handy was standing on a train platform in Mississippi when he saw and heard a man using a knife to make a keening sound on the strings of a guitar and that is the moment when the blues were born.

That was by no means the beginning of feeling the blues, nor was it the end of it all.

Some say the blues aint bad, but Robert Johnson sang, "Oh them blues are the worst feeling I most ever had!" It was Etta James who said the blues aint nothing but a good man -- or woman -- feeling bad. The Icepick, Mr. Albert King, first claimed to have the "blues power". On the other hand, Son House said, "Some people today, them young ones, say they got the blues about this and about that and so many things. It's all a lot of . . . sssstuff! The blues is about what happens between a man and a women. Its about relationship. I been married six, seven times. Been divorced four times and put three of them in the ground, so believe me, I know what I am talking about . . . ".

Son House knew something of the blues for sure, but he forgets that black sail ship coming in with chains, so we guess there is something more to the blues than what he said. He also didn't mention that stint on Parchman Farm for killing a man in self defense -- and that is another kind of blues.

The kids today they say, "Oh that old I, IV, V stuff is boring! Why you people have such a fascination with the Blues at all?"

Well, one thing about the Blues we can say with some certainty. It is always about life and the real feeling. You will never hear "I Got the Old Unicorn, Space Alien Abduction Deep Down Leprechaun Blues" or anything like it. No, the blues is about being broke and out of work, or missing your baby, or hard time traveling, or being mistreated by somebody, or even joyful praise (for we do have the sanctified blues) like the upbeat Robert Randolph tune "I Need More Love."

The blues don't have to be sad, necessarily. They can be all about sad times being put behind because those times are put behind. Taj Mahal used to sing a song that went, "I was so sad, I walked around with a per-MAN-ent frown. But now I am so happy, I could cake-walk into town." And Tommy Castro likes to get up on stage with a grin as he lists all of his "Nasty Habits." Howling Wolf was known to get so excited he would climb the stage draperies -- something frightening to consider, as the Wolf stood six-four and weighed nearly three hundred pounds.

Make no mistake, the blues come from a place where deep despair keeps a lot of people their only company, but its also about life and getting through it as best as one can. There is always a bit of tongue in that cheek singing about the "Hard Time Killin' Floor." Its all about the feeling and not about any structures. Real feelings about the real things people do to each other.

Javier in the copy room tells this story about him having the blues.

"Those days I was livin' in a place up above a used clothing store on Mission Street in the City. Just come back from Espana, broke (they stole all my money in Madrid), no more girlfriend, lousy warehouse job on graveyard shift. It was the terrible time of the Reagan Depression Era and nobody could get any decent work. Been looking for months. Had three roommates. Russians. And all of them crazy. Igor kept using my towels in the shower, man, and he always made 'em stink of onions. The girl's mother came from out of nowhere one day and just moved in. I don't think she liked the situation and so they were always screaming at each other. What is it with Russians, man?

I'd come back from the warehouse, all wired, before sunrise, and sit in what was supposed to be the living room, only nobody had any money to put furniture in there, so all that was there was a fruit crate and a single chair. I'd sit in that chair looking out on Mission Street at the corner with all the lights off. Across the street was the all night Excelsior Liquor Store with the store's name flickering and buzzing in neon. I think the "el" was burned out already.

Along came a car, an old beatup Monte Carlo, with somebody half hanging out the rear passenger window, their legs kicking in the air and somebody screaming inside. I think they wanted the driver to stop but he just kept on going, slow but not stopping and ran the red light with the old bald guy from the liquor store watching from the sidewalk.

Right then I felt like my life was noplace, had never been any place and had not a good god damn chance of going anyplace. That, to me, was the blues. . .".

And as Dan Ackroyd comes on in his "Jake" persona, we will leave you with those words.


Well, it has been a quiet week on the Island. The morning glories are all out in force everywhere, and Ms. Sanchez has been harvesting her six-foot high Kentucky beans. The raccoons and the squirrels have been harvesting the corn all over, although it was not planted for them. What with the squirrels and raccoons getting fatter and fatter, they are having some difficulty climbing the old sequoia out back and so have taken to sleeping on the roof. Eugene has been looking into Wild Game and Raccoon Stew recipes, so we'll just have to wait and see what becomes of this situation.

Kenny the Clown, a professional who lives here on the Island, but performs down on Fisherman's Wharf, has announced his candidacy for SF Mayor, apparently feeling that Mayor Beverly is unbeatable in the next election in his hometown.

Heck, we already have a couple clowns inhabiting the Executive Office in DC, so why not locally and literally.

Summertime on the Island is, as one would expect, a bit nautical. The sand shelf extends out from the beach some one hundred yards, keeping the water about three feet deep for the wind surfers and general frolickers there. For those who prefer fresh water, Lake Chabot nestles in the baked hills not far from Castro Valley. Inland, the temps reach triple digits almost every day, so we Islanders tend to cluster more along the cooler shores.

In the old days we would all get into someone's jalopy experiment and drive out to Shadowcliffs, where an old quarry operation had left pits of what must have been hideously unsanitary water, but which made really great natural skinny dipping pools until the park service got a hold of it and turned the place into a waterslide park. Its closed now, but maybe they'll open it up again someday.

There was another place to swim in Sunol, but latterly the stream appeared to be a mere ghost of itself, barely a few inches deep. And so we drove back after BBQed oysters and watching the sunset, a photograph on the dashboard so that every streetlight told a picture. No more night swimming.

In the IslandLife offices, the hum of office machines and the dim glow of florescent lamps.

In Poly High, there used to be a centrally located fountain in the middle of a little courtyard. On hot days, you could throw some of that water on your face, but you wouldn't want to drink it of course. One time Jimmy, who was mean, threw Larry in and held his head down until the boy nearly drowned, earning himself a suspension for a month, which he spent cheerfully off in San Bruno, shooting at rabbits with a pellet gun. The fountain is gone now, as is most of the school -- they closed the place and tore all of it down except the gymnasium, so there really is no going back. And they built a bit housing tract up on San Bruno Mountain, although the rabbits may still be there for all that is left. Eventually Jimmy got sent to Juvie for robbing a 7-11 with Fat Fernando. Last saw him working as a clerk for the Safeway.

If one does not have memories, then one must use each day well. For now, a few bee survivors are visiting the dahlias, butterflies are dancing all about the daisy bush, and Señor Erizo snuffles with his lady friend under the hedges of the Island College. Its time to get the fly rod and gear all together and go exploring. Try out that newly tied hare's ear. See a friend about a boat. Climb a madrone while there is still time, while the sun still warms the smooth limbs until the branches hold you like a mother.

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

AUGUST 12, 2007


It's been all over the Press in Oaktown, with ripples spreading far and wide, how the once noble Your Muslim Bakery has been ordered to liquidate its assets subsequent to criminal investigations that feature extortion, drugs and murder on the list of no-nos while so many are asking, How the heck did a deeply spiritual project that once worked wonders for the Community fall so miserably low?

When Yusef Bey (born Joseph Stephens, 12/21/35) moved his Your Muslim Bakery from Santa Barbara to Oakland in 1971, his products were based on strict sanitary dictates stipulated by the Koran, and his associated ministry promoted financial self-reliance as the key to Black independence. Coming on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, Bey, was well poised to accomplish a great deal of positive good, and for a time, he and his workers did just that, cleaning up parts of Oakland long abandoned by public agencies, clearing out the drugs, the crime and the violence.

Not affiliated with Louis Farrakhan's movement, the Nation of Islam, his group seemed well situated to appeal to moderates in the Black Community, although his ideas had many similarities with that of Farrakhan, including the idea that the Black man represented the best image of God, while the White man exemplified, or was literally, the Devil. Such ideas had been previously formulated by Franz Fanon but it was men like Bey who first put the ideas into practical use.

Into the early '90's, Bey's several sons became involved in purely criminal activities. Akbar Bey was murdered on the corner of Shattuck and 50th, his body well laced with opiates and his reputation thoroughly infused with the descriptor, "a little street thug," earned perhaps by his penchant of carrying several loaded firearms.

Two more sons, Nedir and Abaz, were convicted of the torture and beating of a Nigerian home-seller.

Bey ran for Mayor in 1994, but lost against incumbent Elihu Harris with only 5% of the vote to his credit.

Things continued to decline when Bey himself was charged with 27 counts of rape of four separate girls under the age of 14 in 2002. One of the girls gave birth at age 13 and with the prosecutor claiming positive DNA evidence, Bey died of cancer before the first trial.

Waajid Bey took over the Bakery in 2003, but after a protracted disappearance, was found in a shallow grave off Skyline Boulevard in late 2004.

Antar Bey then took over the business, but was shot to death at Martin Luther King Way near 55th Street in October of 2005.

Yusef Bey IV, perhaps not observing closely the fates of the previous owners, took over the Bakery in late 2005. After two liquor stores were vandalized, ostensibly under the dictates of strict Muslim anti-alcohol dictates, Bey was arrested for having led the attacks.

In the interests of balance, this particular act has some resonance in the Black Community other than the base charge of vandalism.

Here are quotes from a interview done in 2006. Yusef Bey IV was 19 at the time.

"JR: What is the objective of the movement to get liquor stores out of the Black community?

Yusuf: We had liquor stores in our community for a long period of time, and we know what goes on around these liquor stores. One thing about it, is its not just liquor stores, they sell crack around theses liquor stores, they're able to buy crack and drugs out of the liquor stores, and things like this are not supposed to be done by so called Muslims.

If you say you’re a Muslim, you should have the action of a Muslim. If you say your going to be a Muslim and an follower the Mohammed you should have the actions of following Mohammed, not selling drugs or selling alcohol, or selling things in your store that's not good for our people. That's killing our people."

Bey was arrested again in February of 2006 for attempting to use false ID papers to purchase a luxury Mercedes in Vallejo, trying to open a bank account with bogus ID, and carrying a loaded 9mm semiautomatic pistol.

Rather indefatigable, the younger Bey was arrested in spring of 2006 for trying to run down three security guards in his BMW after being bounced from a strip club.

On October 24, 2006, $900,000 in debt to the IRS and to the mortgage holder, Your Muslim Bakery filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In December, the once pristine facility received four major health code violations from the Alameda County Environmental Health Department. The major violations included issues with grease, lack of smooth and cleanable surfaces, lack of adequate stove hood venting, and inadequate lighting. In addition inspectors cited four minor violations involving employee behavior and cleanliness.

In May of 2007, Joshua Bey and tow other men kidnapped two women in a fake police car, apparently under instructions from Yusef Bey IV, taking them to a house rented by the Bakery, ostensibly to extort money. While the younger woman was being tortured in the house, an Oakland police officer, investigating the sight of the bogus police car, fortunately happened upon the scene, freeing the women while the men escaped.

Finally, we arrive at the final events that toppled this increasingly erratic and downward spiraling empire of foolishness. Chauncey Bailey, the well-respected editor of the Oakland Post, was in the middle of an investigation into the finances of the Bakery prior to its bankruptcy proceedings when a handyman employed at the Bakery, Devaughndre Broussard, shot him to death near Alice Street on August 2, 2007. Alice Street is a short alley on the edge of Chinatown broken by a children's school playground, and features the well respected Alice Arts Hotel, a collective for performing artists of all kinds.

Broussard is another example of how once promising prospects went tragically bad, severely injuring himself and the Community. Broussard had grown up in the hard time Western Addition of San Francisco, an area known for prostitution, drugs and violent crime. He worked his way out of that place by participating in the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business program "Young Entrepreneurs" for disadvantaged Bay Area youth and scored among the three top 10th grade students in a competition, winning a $100 savings bond with an innovative investment plan.

The following day, virtually every major player associated with the Bakery was arrested in connection with the murder and the establishment on San Pablo Avenue itself was raided. Over 22 people were detained with yet two more sought by police.

The Alameda County Health Department closed the bakery, after rat droppings were found inside, and dead rats found on the rooftop, among other filth and waste which was leaking into drainage lines. As a result, police officers called in Oakland's Vector Control during the raid, along with the State of California Department of Fish and Game and the Alameda Country District Attorney's Office environmental crimes unit.

The investigations are ongoing into the crimes listed, plus half a dozen more involving kidnapping, assault, and at least two more murders.

The history is so bad, it makes one weep. Were the original intentions of the founders shunted aside by people who did not understand the real problems and who corrupted sincere intent? With all the problems Oakland has, Your Muslim Bakery could have been a shining light, a formidable force for the good and a powerful symbol of Black pride, and at times, those who had not descended into thuggishness, made it so, for not everyone involved with the Bakery was of low caliber. Meanwhile, events occur such as reported by one of the former accountants for the Bakery, an otherwise untainted man, who reported shots fired at him, but which probably were unrelated to all these related events. After all, everyone has gotten used to gunfire now in Oakland, for it happens now all the time.


On our modest little Island we have our own minor issues that touch upon the outside world in odd ways. Seems the High Street Bridge, one of three connectors is of the same design that recently plunged tragically into the Mississippi River a few days ago. Upon examination the bridge failed, and has been deemed unsafe by CALTRANS together with a couple other nearby flyovers in Oakland. The bridge, along with the one going over to Fruitvale, had already been slated for seismic retrofitting, and funding appears to have already been assigned prior to the annual late summer state budget gridlock.

In another item, the planned Safeway gas station hit a roadblock in the form of neighbor opposition to a 24-hour facility, however the project seems fated for inevitable go-ahead after a recent City Council Meeting. Since two gas stations had already existed in the same general location prior to the shopping center renovation, objections appear largely without serious grounds. Island-Life favors the new station, for otherwise there is no public toilet available for miles around the clock, and we have memories of needing to use the one they removed to insert the perfectly useless Walgreens extension.

Finally, a group calling itself the Island Bicycle Dog-Walkers Collective went over to the often disputed Bicycle/Pedestrian bridge so as to conduct safety tests, as after all the hoopla over the collapse of the Mississippi bridge at the Twin Cities, seems no one has seen fit to pay attention to their own concerns.

While a large number of folks, including Fat Ferdinand, jumped up and down on the bridge, several observers stood off to the side taking measurements, apparently not including sufficiently scientific preparations for such an experiment. When Fat Ferdinand was asked the simple question, "What would you have done, had the bridge failed during this test?" Mr. Ferdinand opened his eyes wide and then rushed off to Mickey D's at South Shore, there to order and devour 12 "Happy Meals" so as to ease his emotional state.


Something about listening to Skinny Puppy leads not to tranquillity of mind, especially when it comes to medical issues, but nobody here trends toward the sanguine in anything. The latest report on the Island-Life staff shows all members recuperating in various degrees of discomfort and pain meds, but basically on the incline upwards and with everybody out of the hospital in various conditions left by pain meds. Thanks to all who sent in word of commiseration.


On the Upcoming List, we note that heartthrob Patti Smith returns to enchant under the purple chandeliers of the venerable Fillmore this Tuesday, August 14th. This time around she shows up with a bevy of critically acclaimed innovative covers, ready to belt. Be ready to hear some strong opinions. Joe Bob says, "check her out." You too will fall in love. Robert Cray shows up with his band, fronted by Grammy winning Keb' MO' doing his own modernized take of Old School on the dobro on August 20th after doing the Mountain Winery on the 16th. The Stevie Wonder return is sold out at Mountain View, of course, but try the Shoreline for the other show. Heard Tix were still available as of this morning.

Bruce Cockburn performs with Ron Sexsmith at Montalvo on the 17th, but avoids the major venues here. Crowded House comes to Oakland's Paramount on the 26th.

Oakland's Art & Soul Festival is September 2nd this year. Be ready for a nominal cover charge as this event has ramped up in quality over the past couple years.

A friend of Michael Franti's Spearhead, named Rex Suru, is currently in studio working any number of guest musicians on a tasty world beat thing. We have heard pre-release tracks in the can, and can say this one shall be one to look for when it hits CD Baby.

Also at CD Baby, Dave Elias has some new stuff for those tech-heads who like the good stuff in acoustic and in plugged-in formats pumped out in Hi-Fi only your megabucks Bose speakers can handle. He is still doing impromptu stuff with guests down in San Gregorio's General Store. Guests sometimes included the likes of Thomas Dolby. Never know who will show on Sunday afternoon.

As summer winds down, please note that the remarkable Sunday BBQ at Rancho Nicasio continues, with Grammy-nominee Marcia Ball ending August on the 26th. September booms out big with Angela performing herself on the 9th. The following weekend sees Elvin Bishop back in fine form after a too long hiatus, and Pablo Cruise concludes what hopefully will be a still warm Indian summer on the 30th. If you go, have two house margaritas, but make sure you have a designated driver. We seem to find Richard Thompson in there in small print, but we do know that he will be around for September performances at the Fillmore in September so maybe he will really show up.

KFOG has their fourth local music CD out, which includes a track from New Monsoon. At five bucks and support of Music in the Schools, you really cannot go wrong. Previous CD's have featured pretty tasty tracks.

And how can we forget the son of Frank Zappa performing his dad's work at the Berkeley Community Center on August 20th? Information is everywhere and we really enjoin you all to attend. For we all at Island-Life support music, as music invigorates the local economy, rescues lost lives from oblivion, cures chilblains and all manner of social evils, promotes good health and decent moral values like anti-war sentiments, and generally bucks up the blues -- besides it is good for you, too. Music is a sign of Life in these harsh times, and you should support live music everywhere, for the modern day composer refuses to die.


Its getting into the late hours of the evening when the sunset has long since subsided into the striated bands of azure and crimson that mark the end of days. Its the violet hour, when the human engine sits humming over its desk. Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown.

The Sunday Night Jam continues over the Office PA system and everyone is muttering about his and her task here and the Chief Editor has a beige Band-Aid on his head visible through the aureole of white hair on his quite thinned scalp as he bends over those slippery galleys. Some kind of scratch due to his daily intake of Heparin. Such is the life of Chief Editors. The Asian Desk is trying to communicate with India about something, dimly visible via the blue light of a desk florescent.

"That's 'Jose'. Spelled Jay, Oh, Ess . . . No! I said Jose, dammit! No, not Jose Dammitt -- Jose Villaflor! With a 'jay'! No haitch! No Oh! Spelled, listen now, jay, oh, ess . . ."

These linguistic difficulties persist when you have a newsdesk spanning several continents. Trying to teach an Indian Spanish names in America can be trying. And we do have other problems. But we manage. Yes we do.

"Willy, is Cleveland anything like Budapest?"

Nevermind that reference. If you do not "get" Jim Jarmusch, you probably have not read this far.

Meanwhile the Irish Desk -- its own independent department -- is suddenly all abuzz with Norway for some unknown reason. And the State of Minnesotta. There are line items about making something called "lutefisk" and the sturdiness of Norwegian farmers coming all a cropper over the wire. And the glory of ice fishing in summer. We really need to look into that one. Could be a Special Feature in there somewhere.

The Irish Department is keeping mum about all this, as if they have something really sweet under their collective hats. Well, we shall have to just wait and see.

Meanwhile the newly created and installed Security Department is running about with videocams and radios, causing all sorts of ruckus. Seems the humble Island-life Offices have been Watergated, invaded, violated, burgled in fact.

Yep, some fool saw fit to burgle the Island-Life Offices, as if we had risen to the level of the Democratic Party of 1972.

Some keys, some papers and some hats were taken, during this security breach and now some 64,000 of you know the truth: the Conservatives are really more incompetent than ever you thought. They seem to have gotten worse, in fact.

Heck, in Watergate, they sought to steal a bunch of names and anything else useful. In our case, they stole some keys, immediately rendered useless, and some hatwear. We feel a bit reduced in level, for what kind of idiot steals hatwear in the presence of thousands of dollars of computer equipment and valuable data? Somebody should send a message to the local GOP HQ, telling them, this is the reason you have lost control of the House and the Senate and are about to lose the Presidency: you have incompetent dodos working for you, and you are very incompetent yourselves.

Hats! Really! What a bunch of idiots! HatGate! Once this goes out, you will be laughed into extinction, and the Democrats will be able to put up the World's Ugliest Dog for election and still win! You losers! Clinton or Obama? Heck, they could elect the Purple Teletubby at this point, you assholes.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar Suzie called in sick for the first time in five years, which makes us wonder what is going on Down There. She has been seen at Trader Joes and other places about town, bumping into things with a smile on her face and talking with a slight Irish accent. Seems other events more momentous than HatGate are afoot.

Also noted Senior Ramirez bopping about town with an unusual spring in his step. He has been arranging caterers for the grand wedding of the Island this summer season and sending all sorts of invitations. He was just over at the flower shop -- one of the last remaining ones on the Island -- there on Santa Clara, ordering yet another bouquet under the art deco shop front.

Someone in Ms. Morales' class at Hawthorne Middle School inquired just what the fuss was about as it seemed Ms. Morales was blushingly busy lately and large sprays of flowers have decorated her desk most recently.

As everyone knows, there is to be a great wedding between Ms. Morales and Senior Ramirez later this year and all readers of Island-Life are invited to attend. This is to be a grand affair and the premier event of the season, so we implore those of you who can attend, to mark your calendars. Just as soon as we have a firm date. Yes.

It should be noted that Summer in Alta California north of Monterey involves a good deal of fog. At some unknown moment, very late in the year according to Midwest folks, the fog breaks and we have a sudden enjoyment of sun and frolic and this undetermined moment is our real summer, and if you missed this, you are either Mark Twain or a Dudge, neither of which is a desirable person to be, for Twain is dead and so is a Dudge. That is why Native San Franciscans wear sandals and shorts all year long. They are only preparing for that Moment that lasts perhaps a week, when sun warms the pavement and golden rays bathe the hothouse tomatoes.

Perhaps we are a bit odd, but that is just the way we are on the Island. Have a great week.

AUGUST 5, 2007


This week's headline photo comes from the Muwekma tribe and features a shot of the former sanctuary on the outlet of Islais Creek, one of the creeks that helped to make Potrero Hill into an island for thousands of years until the American Conquest.

This is leads into a remarkable story of environmental failure, total greed, continued extortion from Native American groups, and general injustice and miserable fuckup in which nobody benefits in the slightest and everybody for miles around is injured.

The facts are well documented on

This story is preceded by a relatively unrelated case in which the Muwekma tribe was officially dissolved by the US federal government some years ago by a lazy bureaucrat who did not want to complete some forms, so he checked a box on a form listing the Muwekma tribe as being "extinct", although any number of representatives could have stepped up and challenged him officially.

Well, the government gives nothing and the White Man only takes, so that may have been seen as a blessing at the time. Still, times change and the tribe, which has continued unabated -- increased in number in fact -- has seen need to protest that they do, in fact exist, which even our Alito-crippled court had to admit only a few months ago. So the original people who inhabited San Francisco have arisen in force.

Now we come to Islais Creek, one of two major creek mouths that still exist on the eastern side of San Francisco. Islais Creek once flowed along Alemany Boulevard and Channel Street into the cut now present. As with many of the streams that flowed from springs on Twin Peaks and John McClaren Park this creek bordered by marshes, was gradually hemmed in, bridged, covered over, and culverted into near extinction. Just on the north side of the creek mouth, now surrounded by an industrial wasteland, a strip of land was granted to the Muwekma as a sanctuary park, which was developed with native plants into a vital place for thousands of wild birds and any number of estuary creatures, while the landside, bordered with stone rip-rap provided a safe haven for hundreds of native plant species and well tended gardens in a fee-entrance park visited by nearly a quarter million visitors per year.

Hundreds of houseboats moored in the half-mile long estuary, providing home to the folks that make San Francisco a unique place.

In 2001, MUNI construction caused a terrible environmental disaster in that above-ground works caused sub-surface collapse of a sewer main under the park. The resulting remediation attempts destroyed the parking lot and one third of the park. The construction and remediation attempts caused severe erosion and disastrous flooding of the are after heavy rains. When presented with a bill for lost revenue of the park on behalf of the Muwekma tribe, MUNI refused to pay, claiming insufficient funds to pay.

Because of the flooding and erosion, MUNI came in during 2005 to remediate the damage to the estuary, even as all the houseboats were moved out to Mission Creek. Another one third of the park was destroyed, virtually annihilating the entire effort. The Miwukema, who are most certainly not extinct, have decided to fight this one out tooth and nail and god go with them in this enterprise.

Given a worthless strip of land along an industrial wasteland, which then was virtually destroyed, the Miwukema might have some cause to complain at this point, especially given all their continuing troubles.

That is all I have to say right now on this subject.


The outspoken new editor of the Oakland Post was shot to death Thursday near a downtown courthouse in what police suspect was a deliberate hit.

Chauncey Bailey, 57, was killed around 7:30 a.m., Oakland Police spokesman Roland Holmgren said. Witnesses told police a man wearing a mask shot Bailey multiple times and then fled.

Bailey was a familiar fixture on the local news scene. He was a reporter for The Oakland Tribune for more than a decade before June when he was named editor of the Post, a weekly newspaper geared toward the Bay Area black community.

Bailey grew up in Oakland and worked with several area media outlets, including KDIA radio and Soul Beat TV, a local cable channel. Before that, he worked for 10 years at the Detroit News.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums made an official statement on the editor's death, remarking that the crime and violence in the city remain his most difficult challenge.

Lately, the violence in Oakland has surged to unprecedented levels. In one 48 hour period, five people were killed by gunfire in the bloodiest period since the gang wars of the 1980's.

Recently, the police have identified a prime suspect in that of a 19 year old employee at the New Muslim Bakery, a business under sharp scrutiny by Bailey. The business has been raided by police and documents confiscated.


Coming up sometime soon will be the Irish Issue, perhaps conflated, perhaps not, with the Mexican Issue. It's all rather confusing, and perhaps a bit exciting, to live in a place that the Mexicans and the Irish have had their stamp. The Mission District in Babylon across the Bay, was begun as a Mexican enclave, swelled and fullfilled as the ghetto of the Irish, and finally become full circle home to nearly 68 Spanish dialects plus a bit of Portugese thrown in as the best Brazilian restaurant for miles locates there.

And there is a remarkable link between the Irish and the Spanish we have yet to relate. We all know those doughty Danish and Norwegian Vikings invaded Ireland any number of times, resulting in the invention of Lutefisk, which was supposed to repel the invaders. This replaced the "toasted, all in" for lunch on the main menu in every notable establishment. Even today you can ask about that, and you shall not get a straight answer.

The Norwegians never really wanted to become Vikings, but it was the Danish who corrupted their otherwise decent souls for a time until King Olaf won a great war of independence

Lutefisk is salt cod buried with lye in the ground until thoroughly contemptable before being left hanging for months to dry on clotheslines and reconstituted with bilge water and aquavit.

The Danish, loving self-abuse and denial, embraced lutefisk with zeal, much disappointing the Irish and the English. The English simply refused to advance culinary skills beyond "mushy peas", while the Irish had need to defeat the Norse at Baile ath Cliath with no thanks at all.

Meanwhile, lutefish continues to this day, with no one in Norway or Denmark making the stuff, while gobs of Americans produce this inedible jellied muck every year. Funny lot, those Americans.

In any case, the Spanish took great umbrage at this lack of English cuisine development and made up a great armada so as to bring any number of decent cooks to the English Isles and perhaps conquer the place decently for once and for all, since the Romans had failed miserably some years ago.

Unfortunately, cooks are not sailors and landlubbers fare ill when ill wind blows, so when a hurricane got itself up to speed, it destroyed the Spanish Armada utterly.

This resulted in no one conquering England and the English have been insufferable as a consequence ever since.

The survivors washed up in Dover and in Ireland. In Dover, the survivors were killed and eaten, as is the English custom with boiled beef.

In Ireland, a more civilized place, the Spanish sailors were welcomed in as natural enemies of the English, married, allowed to make salsa, and generally feted well. Hence, we have the Light Irish and the Dark Irish. The Light Irish are of mixed Danish extraction, and as everybody knows, mixing a Catholic with a Dane results in unlovely things. The Dark Irish are a mix of Spanish and Firbolg, with makes for a dicey stew in any circumstances. But a stew which is piquant.

There you have it, kids, your basic history lesson for the day and everything you need to know about Danes and Irish. Now run about your duties and your obligations and gallop down the boreen with the old saying, "He who pisses in the wind, shall not forget the return home."


Thoughts and prayers go out to our brethren in Minnesotta re the bridge collapse across the Mississippi River. We are all too familiar with disaster here in California, and we well know the pain and fear and anxiety as the post-disaster hours stretch on for days, while emergency workers go about their grim business of finding the lost ones.

Here is a Navajo prayer, forwarded by friends in a time of despair.

"Walk on a rainbow trail,
walk on a trail of song,
and all about you will be beauty.
There is a way out of every dark
mist, over a rainbow trail."


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown. The Offices have settled down to their usual humdrum processing of news and sundry gossip. In rapid succession we deal with all of the headlines that have crossed our desk. "Law secretaries in increasing demand."

In response: In your dreams, assholes.

Officials say they still don't know what caused the fire that destroyed a vacant warehouse on 2235 Clement in the heart of a disputed and vastly valuable section of vacant shipbuilding structures.

In response: It was arson. Done for the money. Assholes again!

Fur flies at the Animal Shelter where the local manager terminated several volunteers.

Come again? How do you "terminate" a volunteer at a financially strapped Anything?

Word has it the volunteers had the temerity to ask questions about procedures. Hence the boot. Another asshole!

Quel Suprise! We found out the Island will host the demolition of the Suisun Bay warship reserve fleet. These reserve warships have been kept floating in the bay past their time restoration and now rot as toxic sumps. We found out, all of us found out, the Mayor and Council found out, by reading the newspapers. Seems nobody thought to inform the Island that a few hundred toxic warships would be dismantled here under experimental guidlines.

Assholes yet again!

The Navy crops up again in the form of a plan to shroud a toxic waste dump on the Island, giving the slim excuse that since all the drums have been crushed, all the contents would have long since leached out into the Bay due to natural corrosion and rust.

Well now, that is certainly comforting.

The waste includes oil sludge, plating waste, strippers, acids, mercury, PCB, radiological waste, pesticide, batteries, and infectious waste. And now it has all "dissipated " into the Bay.

Perhaps this is the reason your kid has six fingers on each hand? May we have our own Republic now?

Meanwhile Mayor Beverly and Council are trying with all their considerable skills to make the Island a model of Green Something.

What this Something is, no one has properly defined, and perhaps it is well so.

With the Navy dumping toxic waste on the West End and Old John dumping herbicide by the gallon in the Gold Coast area and the East End suffering numerous raids upon the Harbor Motel for all sorts of chemical infractions on Park Avenue, one would think the Council hard put to maintain such a distinction as being a Green Anything. Unless one allows the production of Crystal Meth and Cannabis as Green Industries.

We suspect not.

We apologise for departing from our usual linguistic reticence. But now that that the falcon spins in a widening gyre and some rough beast has slouched off to Bethlehem to be reborn the Age of the Moron is making a seque early into the Age of the Asshole, we feel such a pull to the juvenile impulse of saying just exactly what we mean and what we see that we cannot resist. In the Age of the Asshole, all kinds of wrecked managers and stupid ass fools shall wield sway over the people and numbskulls shall hold sway throughout the land. Bumbling and fascistic property managers shall impose ridiculous rules and the land shall groan under their weight.

Perhaps you have felt that way all along.

But let it be known that at the end of the Age of Assholes, the Age of Common Sense shall usurp the faulty towers of stupidity and petty Napoleonism. Thus speaketh the Toad of Knowledge.

Some intimate communications have been initiated with the Mayor of Lake Wobegon through extracurricular means. Yes, we know bypassing tradition and all that is dangerous, but these times require strong measures. The Island is beset by all manner of fools and rationalists, including not a few Unitarians among them, not that we castigate any faith more than any other.

It is time that we gird our loins and gather our flocks and generally hearken unto the Word, for the falcon spins in a widening gyre and the rough beast slouches back from Bethlehem and the Age of the Moron, begun by the onset of Bush, is now come unto fullness of time.

Meanwhile, Suzie sits over her book by the dim light of the bar lights as Aisling comes in the front door and orders a Guinness because Guinness is good for you. While waiting for the stout to "stack", he had himself a Redtail. For the lubrication.

At the end of the bar, Mr. Howitzer, looking at the television up in the corner commented loudly that the liberals were all a pack of fools. The GOP debates were in full swing at the moment.

Aisling mentioned there didn't seem to be much alternative as the GOP seemed rather stacked with dunces as well right now. To which Mr. Howitzer retorted that he supposed Aisling didn't care for terrorists.

This seemed a rather abrupt segue into nothingness, but then Conservatives practice abruptness every day.

Aisling commented only that he wished someone of responsibility would actually do something about terrorism instead of mucking about and Mr. Howitzer liked this not at all. He then inveighed against foreigners coming in and messing up the American culture. Mr. Howitzer was a businessman, a proprietor and a man of the community.

Suzie changed the channel on the television to ESPN and delivered the Guinness to the tall, dark man with an Irish accent.

Mr. Howitzer wouldn't let up on it and went on about the foreign "wetbacks" taking all the jobs and then doing them badly, as which comment, Suzie retorted that she was half Mexican and born in the country and her family went back in California in the generations for some 400 years.

Still Mr. Howitzer would not let go, for stubborness in the face of reality is a trait of the modern Conservative. He then went off against bilingual education and the refusal of the Hispanics to learn English, at which point Aisling sort of lost it and shouted, "Oh shut yer stupid gob ya omadhaun!"

Mr. Howitzer, seeing he was outnumbered, downed the last of his martini and stormed out.

Suzie asked Aisling where he was from after a moment of merciful quiet.

Enniskerry. South of Dubhlin.

You say Dove Linn?

O every place in Ireland has two or more names. Dubhlin means "black pool". Its also called "The Ford of the Hurdles". After a battle against the Danish Vikings. The Danes, of course, never have been Norwegian, he added, somewhat inexplicably, perhaps thinking of his meeting with Pastor Nyquist earlier in the day at the bus stop.

Now just why is it that you have two names for everything in Ireland?

Well the Irish didn't have street signs when the English came as there never was a need. Everybody already knew how to get anywhere and the Romans had made decent enough roads everywhere one was really needed. But the English went about with their 1877 Ordinance Survey making maps, putting up signs and generally causing a bother with this renaming into English every hamlet, road and town, for like Mr. Howitzer, they did not much care for bilingual education at all and so the Gaelic was forbidden. That's why Kingstown is really Dun Laogaire.

Suzie commented something of the sort had occured in California and so although her great grandmother had been Azteca and her great grandfather had owned a grant encompassing much of the San Bruno Mountain and what is now South City, here she was some four hundred years later, tending bar and listening to people like Mr. Howitzer.

What's that, he asked, pointing to a gilt piece of paper stuck to the corner of the bar mirror.

O that's an invite to the biggest wedding on the Island this year. Ms. Morales and that Senor Rodriguez. Everyone is going.

That a fact.

True enough, she said, falling a bit into Aisling's infectious accent. You can come to, if you are an Islander.

All my life, it seems, said the Irishman. What's that music there?

That was Bruce Cockburn playing over the System. And some fellow -- sounds Irish. Forget his name. I like 'em both, so I made this CD. Mix of things.

Luka Bloom. He's Irish all right. That Cockburn is playing at the Solfest coming up. You going?

Ah, don't know. Crowds . . . and by myself . . . um, and all. . . .

Well, a girl can have company if she wants . . .".

Everyday is the rainy season
Every night is a full moon . . .

As it turned out, Aisling stayed that night past closing in the Old Same Place Bar.

Goosebumps all around my skin
Whenever you come into the room
Fresh wild smell of jasmine
Love is a monsoon

Lets just leave the two just like that, a graceful woman's hand reaching up to pull the cord and turn out the light.

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

JULY 29, 2007


This week's headline photo comes courtesy of Harlan's House. Appears the man is going through a bit of hard times with folks stealing his tools and his mother passing away. But after a brief chat with the man, it becomes clear that not much of what he says can be taken for literally "true" in the sense of being objectively verifiable, as the man is clearly as daft as a hamster in Spring.


There is a place for us. The IslandLife staff were assembled this week for a rare United Staff Meeting Conference, rare in that we staffers live distributed across several world time zones and several continents. Heck, even the California contingent seldom meets in person. So this was some special Event.

For your information, canned cheese tapas and box wine were served.

Appears things have gotten dismal and worse than obstreperous due to the continued fling with Fascism in our National Government and our Medical Situation in the Pressroom. Yes, it is indeed difficult to hold one's chin up amid the Amoxicillin, Cyclowhatsit, Flexeril, Tylenol #3, Percocet, Percodan, frog splints and all whatnot.

No, we are not out to investigate the veracity of Michael Moore's "Sicko".

The Esteemed Editor in Chief, Denby Montana, stepped up to the microphone (and linked videoconference devices) to deliver the following speech, broadcast in simultaneous five language translation: English, Spanish, German, French, and Yoruba. (Yes, we have a North African Correspondent, in contact with Nigeria, Mali, and points north).

"Fellow Islanders! Welcome to this rare Meeting! Seems many of our recent reports have been on the Downside of Expectation. The Editorial Board has responded with many Negative and Bad Vibe Issues which only now are being reviewed as being contrary to our Mission. Our Mission must be restated here.

The Mission of is to enhance Life Quality everywhere the Internet Emporeum reaches by enthusiastically supporting Music, Culture, The Arts and all things worth Living. We support Music because it stimulates the local, and general economy, revivifies the blood, encourages free thinking and free speech, cures all manner of social and psychic ills, as well as quite a few physical ones, enhances social mores and decent values, promotes well-being among all kinds of people and, besides, it is good for you.

Our Mission is to highlight the seldom seen, the often ignored, the possibly passed-over treasure here in the Bay Area. "

Here Chad interjected with a comment. "Could you, like, cut this short so that we can get to the wine before it gets warm? I mean, really, this stuff needs to be served chilled."

Chad is our HTML coder.

"All right then." responded Mr. Editor, his white hair flying as usual about his head in an aureole of distinguishment.

"Ahem! Let it be known by me, the Chief Editor of IslandLife, that we now do not bow down to that Strange Power who lately shook before the strength of our assault . . .".

"O f--k, this is going to go on, isn't it.?" said Sharon. She is the Punk Music Review Editor.

"But...", continued our indefatigable Editor (in five languages, mind you), "I say let us banish dull care and forbid these onerous thoughts in favor of Great celebration for that Life left within us. Let us celebrate the victory of every music concert, every artistic achievement, no matter how small, as a victory against Death, the Ultimate Deceiver. So we have Dislocations and we have Cancers. Those things have no great affect upon the World at the Moment and should not cast us into the Sea of Despond! We shall not accede to the demands of our Archenemy Mssr. Raisonable! To hell with reasonableness! We demand Fortuity! We demand joyeux. "

Many more words were spoke by our Editor, even as he partook of the barrels of mead and wine supplied there. Others broke formation and soon partook and soon, the aisles of the staid and dour Island-Life offices thronged with chatting colleagues and lively talk and some were of mind to invite folks from neighboring offices in the ACME building, such as Richard of, but we have no information as to the results of this foray, even as the schnapps broke out on the European end of things, and the Asian contingent opened a bottle of Wu Jia Peh.

It seems not much work was done that night. Apologies all around.


Saturday dawned sparkling clear for a gorgeous day all around the Bay which hosted a number of events in every town. Saturday saw Oaktown hosting its own contrary Jazz festival in opposition to that in Babylon out on the spit of land developed at the end of 7th Street. The park is brand new, and hosts several acres of open space as well as restored wetlands that provide home to a flock of pelicans, generally considered to be benchmarks to environmental health. (Line #13) between West Oakland BART Station and Middle Harbor Shoreline Park makes the connection by bus.

Drove out along 7th Street quite off the map to a brand new City Park to hear some live jazz and generally mingle with the people of Oaktown. Caught Pharaoh Sanders and Mo' Rockin' before the chill drove us out of there. Must say the location is something to be remarked about, at the very least and the MO Rockin' crew commented "Is wonderful to see so many flowers out there -- you are all flowers you know -- all different colors. Some red, some yellow, some pink . . . if is just one color not so good."

In fact the best of the East Bay happened Saturday, with a large demonstration of every ethnicity available, dancing and grooving to top notch jazz music from around the world. For the lucky thousands who came to Middle Harbor Park Saturday, those people enjoyed a truly gorgeous day in splendid company with the best people in the world.

The MO Rockin' Project is grounded in three guys from Morocco, backed by Richard Howell and practically his entire family on tenor and soprano sax, all doing a nice mix of original Middle Eastern-inflected jazz works. They played true balanced jazz without the insistence of traditional Middle Eastern "pop" that can grow as tiresome as any American standards.

And just to remind you where these guys come from, out strolled a well-toned belly dancer who delighted the crowd and especially the kids who danced, cartwheeled and tumbled all around her.

Richard Howell's son, Timothy Howell, played a nicely effective solo on drum. Glenn Pierson added Western feel via keyboards.

At the conclusion of the invigorating set, Yassir Chadly (on oud) said, "We know there are three ways all of us got here. There is no One Way. No "My way or the highway." No. All ways are best and the same."

After a short break, headliner Pharaoh Sanders took the chilly stage with his quartet in white gloves as the fogs started gathering in the background. Described by Ornette Coleman, no minor light himself, as "probably the best tenor player in the world", he moved from playing rhythm and blues into jazz with Coltrane and Sun Ra. He is known for extensive "free jazz" and "sheets of sound", although his playing tends to be more directly emotive than the highly abstract playing of others doing progressive or avaunt garde jazz and often injects impressive solos into his performances. Click on the photo to hear a brief clip.

It was difficult to tear away Saturday night, but many out there were wrapped up in down sleeping bags as the warmth ebbed away.


Did a light trip fantastic along the main drag to catch the Island Art and Soul Festival with our Social Coordinator. We were the couple strolling down the way with a tall, rolling Summit Hospital IV morphine rig hooked up with flashing neon lights that spelled out LOVE! Sorry if you missed it.

Attending were the Island Allstars, consisting of former members of the Allman Brothers and Doobies et al.

As usual, there was all kinds of sausage dogs, wine sipping, Chinese photographs, straw hats, music, beer sloshing, scampering kids, bounce houses with happy jumping up and down and all sorts of fun for two days out there on Park Street. In short, a fine time was had by all.


Light fades over the Island, our Hometown. It's a curious thing to have a Hometown, for not everyone has such a thing during these days of emigration, world wars, mass dislocation, and so on. Mr. Montana, our Man on the Street, has no real hometown to speak of. When asked where he is from, he invariably answers with whatever airport last sent him to California.

This causes some problems, but only for those who want literal responses, and those sorts of people do not count here. Mr. Montana has no problem with where he is from. Each stamp in his passport documents the path and he knows himself, and that is the main thing.

Mr. Amir Sayed comes from a place largely unpronounceable and finds such concerns absurd, for the main fact is that he is here now and that is the main issue for him and his family. Latterly he came from Texas, and so we understand that such a place was worth leaving. Texas is not like Utter Padesh in India, but it does have much more in common that one would think at the outset. The weather is execrable in both places, for example.

This Island has been our Hometown for some 15 years and this Bay area our Homeplace for another twenty beyond that. And Mark Knopfler is playing on Live from the Archives.

A lovestruck Romeo sings a streetsuss serenade
Laying everybody low with a lovesong that he made
Finds a streetlight steps out of the shade
Says something like "You and me babe how about it?"

That is the sort of song we grew up with. That is the song and the musical we know. That is the lifelong thread of rhythm in our lives.

Juliet says hey it's Romeo you nearly gimme a heart attack
He's underneath the window she's singing "Hey la my boyfriend's back
You shouldn't come around here singing up at people like that
Anyway what you gonna do about it?"

What is it to have a hometown? Not everyone has one, really. In this case the Island is a place where Truth, Beauty, Justice and Equality shall, unlike that other World, reign supreme. In this Hometown, all are welcome, unlike that other place, without regard to Nation, to religion, to place of birth, to sexual orientation, to any bodily preconditioned, or any other precondition.

Come up on different streets they both were streets of shame
Both dirty both mean yes and the dream was just the same
And I dreamed your dream for you and now your dream is real
How can you look at me as if I was just another one of your deals?

This is the place where all should feel safe, beyond the power of Angry Elves and their hate-filled ways.

I can't do the talk like they talk on TV
And I can't do a love song like the way it's meant to be
I can't do everything but I'd do anything for you
I can't do anything except be in love with you

Today, numbers of folk passed by the T-shirt table, thanking the Staff for presenting the alternative to the obscenity of the Administration in simple protest. Sometimes a simple recognition is sufficient. And here's another old song by Mark Knopfler.

Long long time ago a man came down the track
walkin' thirty miles with a sack on his back.
He set down his load and he made himself a rest
Made a home in the wilderness.

What makes a place a Hometown? Not brick and mortar. Where is the brick and mortar, for example, of Lake Woebegon?

he built a cabin and a winter store
and he ploughed up the ground by the cold lake shore . . .

People perhaps. Here on the Island we have a few. Some with all the faults in the world: shallow, petty, mean. But some with beaming kindness, generosity of spirit, courage and intelligence. Much like people anywhere, probably.

and the other travelers came riding down the track
and they never went further and they never went back
then came the churches then came the schools
then came the lawyers then came the rules
then came the trains and the trucks with their loads
and the dirty old track was the Telegraph Road

One looks over to the shelf and sees the line of Park Street Faire glasses, each with a different year printed on them. Perhaps it is simply history and the passage of time that makes a place special.

Then came the mines - then came the ore
then there was the hard times then there was a war
Telegraph sang a song about the world outside
Telegraph road got so deep and so wide
like a rolling river. .

Still, these things are not enough, really to make a place a Hometown, a place the mind inhabits and wears like old shoes. Sometimes, of course, the place gets a little prickly. Maybe a bit too small and the shoes don't seem to fit any more and life feels all wrong.

And my radio says tonight it's gonna freeze
people driving home from the factories
there's six lanes of traffic
three lanes moving slow. . .

I used to like to go to work but they shut it down
I've got a right to go to work but there's no work here to be found
yes and they say we're gonna have to pay what's owed
we're gonna have to reap from seed that's been sowed
and the birds up on the wires and the telegraph poles
they can always fly away from this rain and this cold
you can here them singing out their telegraph code
all the way down the telegraph road

You know I'd sooner forget but I remember those nights
when life was just a bet on a race between the lights
you had your head on my shoulder you had your hand in my hair
now you act a little colder like you don't seem to care
but believe in me baby and I'll take you away
from out of this darkness and into the day
from these rivers of headlights these rivers of rain
from the anger that lives on the streets with these names
'cos I've run every red light on memory lane
I've seen desperation explode into flames
and I don't want to see it again. . .

From all of these signs saying "sorry but we're closed"
all the way
down the Telegraph Road

In fact, the concept of Hometown is exactly that. Here, where even the ground cannot be trusted to stand still, Home is a place that inhabits the imagination and slowly grows with you over the years. If everything burns down around you -- and here it literally has more than once -- the Hometown remains, a place you can revisit time and time again, just like that village up north in Minnesota or Faulkner's unpronounceable County in Mississippi.

Here, Suzie works every night in the Old Same Place Bar, still pondering life's persistent questions. Officer O'Madhauen sits in his Crown Victoria down by the empty Old Cannery, sipping his coffee and watching for speeders. Eugene Gallipigus polishes his Poodle-hunting rifle, dreaming of a perfect bag for next Thanksgiving. Padraic and his wife brew up another kettle of his special Home Brew. The Editor throws up his hands at yet another typo, his remaining white hairs flying about in an aureole about his grizzled head.

Not everyone is nice on the Island, of course. There is still Old John throwing poison over the fence in a vain attempt to kill Jose's jasmine tree. Can't leave that one out. And the Angry Elf stamps and stamps his feet, balls his tiny fists in rage and curses his hapless fellow neighbors.

However, sometimes joyous things do happen to make it all right. Ms. Morales and Mr. Morales have announced their impending wedding. And guess what? All of you are invited! O its going to be quite a shindig over there at the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint. Father Guimon shall preside and the reception will be held out at the Point in the old Navy Officer's Club. Furthermore, right in Our House in the Middle of the Block, Bryan's wife, Toshi, is expecting a new tenant sometime this week.

And she sure looks it too. That kid is going to be a solid eight pounder when he pops out.

So what do you think about that? The endless cycle of rebirth and renewal happening right here for real. So, attend to our editor's wise words -- for he is not always wise -- and banish dull care. What if the operation hurts, the splints get in the way, the bone marrow gone south. Life goes on until it ends. And so we repeat the words of a friend, hard and true.

"Truth is, young man, you are going to watch everyone you love and care about die. And then it will be your turn, too. So, what do we do? We might as well join our talents together, such as they are each by each, and sing and dance and make music."

If we did not, the world would have only the long dwindling without song or music or dance, and that would be terrible indeed.

And across the hall, a new life is just about to come into the Island, our Hometown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week. And try to find the song that is in you.

JULY 22, 2007


Sorry for the delay this week. Due to a rash of medical emergencies and illness, usual publication missed the Sunday-Monday deadline. Much of Monday was spent in various emergency rooms and the place looks and smells like some Civil War hospital anteroom.


This image courtesy of, oh who cares. Let us at least give the widow this much courtesy of anonymity. Too many scenes being played out across America these days. Just like this one.

Caught the DVD of "Black Snake Moan", a movie that could have been trashier than it turned out to be by description. Man finds a half-naked woman town whore beside the road all beat up and chains her to the hot water heater down in Tennessee to cure her of her Evil. Opening scene is of Christina Ricci and her Justin Timberlake boyfriend separating as he goes marching off to war. Tears and separation down through the ages. Proud City Fathers watching as they marched off to die.

Had a long talk with a feller from the Philippines. Gray speckled hair of another generation. Talking about military service. He did it on board the Navy during the Vietnam fiasco. So did his son. His son-in-law not so lucky, finding himself in the Army for two Iraq tours. Due out in a week and the footpatrol wanders into a minefield. Point dies instantly, but our man not so lucky. Back at MedVac they took off his leg as the most merciful thing to do.

So, the return plane deplanes loaded with hundredt percent limpers and crawlers, all wounded and sent back with congratulations from Uncle Sam. Seems nobody comes back permanently these days unless they be finally too badly off to return, and even some of these our Gov't returns to active duty.

You heard that right. Amputees are being returned to active duty, so pressing is the "need" by our maniacal President. He who would be King.


Speaking of nasty things like war, the WWII still has repercussions around here.

The site of a munitions explosion that crippled the main West Coast port on the Pacific during World War II and killed 320 people - the majority of them black sailors - may become part of the National Park System. Right now only a few shattered pilings mark the site of WWII's worst homeland disaster.

A ceremony was set for Saturday (July 21) to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the blast at Port Chicago, which helped fuel a movement to desegregate the military because of the ensuing treatment of the black survivors.

On Friday, U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., announced a measure that would make Port Chicago Naval Magazine up near Richmond eligible for federal funding for a visitor center, to hire educational rangers and maintain aging facilities

Sometime in the early morning, 63 years ago, a tremendous blast detonated well over 3,000 tons of explosives, obliterating three ships, knocking down walls and shattering windows up to half a mile away. No one knows exactly what happened, as anyone who could have seen the event died instantly. The port was used to load ammunition by hand into transport ships, and the work was largely performed by African-Americans supervised by White officers. When 110 White sailors were given a month's leave from the dangerous duty, while all Black servicemen were ordered back to work immediately, a general strike was called in an attempt to improve safety procedures. Threatened with courts martial and charges of mutiny, all but fifty servicemen returned to work. Those fifty were imprisoned until their Presidential pardon after the war was over.


A light earthquake jolted the San Francisco Bay area last Friday, breaking glass and jarring nerves, but no injuries were reported.

The 4.2-magnitude earthquake struck about 4:40 a.m. about two miles east of Oakland, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The tremblor was felt on both sides of the San Francisco Bay and lasted up to 10 seconds.

Residents east of San Francisco were shaken awake as pictures slipped from walls and objects tumbled.

A 2.2 aftershock came 13 hours later.


Ilene Gracias has brought out her tomatoes from her basement glo-light-house and Marlene has put out her lettuce, and the Bashful Boy has reappeared in Pagano's in an inconspicuous storefront window, as befitting the Bashful Boy's nature. All of which announces the Change of Seasons from Spring to Summer.

All over the Neighborhood, folks are setting out their tomatoes and lettuce according to the example of Ilene and Marlene. But the Bashful Boy remains as he always was, hiding his face behind something to conceal something yet more. Old Albert, who works at Pagano's will say nothing of the Bashful Boy. Who is he and why does he hide his face under that straw hat and plethora of curls above a sturdy checked shirt and overalls? Has he been bad, or committed some other unknown sin? Is he ashamed before the bashful girl who is seldom in evidence? Has he some secret yet to be divulged? No one around here knows, for he is known as the Bashful Boy and he hides his face. He is a mystery, this Bashful Boy. And he is one of ours.

Meanwhile the spat between Jose and the Old Man John continues. Old Man John grumbles about the elevated fence but refuses to acknowledge his involvement in the affair of the Strange Garden Poisoning. All the dahlias have turned white with holes and the spinach is destroyed. We seem to have moved abruptly from The Age of the Moron into the Age of the A--hole, where a--holes reign supreme, causing all sorts of damage to the public and the rest of us by dint of their importunate demands. They seem to be everywhere these days, driving in ponderous SUVs purchased so that they can destroy anything they hit, yacking on cell-phones, snarling at employees, cutting in line, shouting at their wives, tossing poison over the fence, berating hapless renters while refusing to fix the light sockets, revoking habeus corpus while refusing to defend our liberties, general provocation and nervous jumping up and down.

Why can't more people be like we imagine Garrison Keillor to be? Stately, dignified, moderate, circumspect and possessed of good decent common sense as well as bright red tennis shoes.

Meanwhile the newsroom smells like camphor and liniment and with all this gauze and vicodine about the place its a wonder anything gets done at all, let alone on time.

Still, when you are having a real bad day, its good to think about somebody having an even worse one. Here's a shot sent to us from China. Just think how the pilot of this ferryboat must feel after he knocked out the bridge buttress there in Jiu Jiang.

There goes the through-passing train at Jack London Waterfront. Time to wrap things up. Next week we'll be in a better mood. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

JULY 15, 2007


This week's headline photo comes from the Sunday T-shirt Table next to Pagano's Hardware. A fellow Island-Life staffer has made a hobby out of making silk-screen t-shirts and selling them for next to nothing beside the fertilizer and propane tanks of the store. Here is an example of one of his graphics.

At $10 a pop, the man certainly cannot be making much money, as he himself claims. He states he works on computers all day and never interacts with human beings, so he does this activity to take him out of the house and meet people. We at Island-Life heartily approve and have offered our endorsements and graphic skills, so don't be surprised if you see our own logo on the table.



While in correspondence with our European Desk about matters Over There, the topic ran across -- as it nearly always does -- the matter of American wackiness and credulity. Seems the recent line item about a man attempting to fly across the US in a lawnchair strapped to helium balloons was just too much for our sensible German contact to accept as real, even though the man barely made it 193 miles. Well, for those of you who believe a picture is worth a thousand words, here is the official AP newswire photo of a man hovering in a lawnchair some 11,000 feet above the earth.

The man's name is Kent Couch (47) and he considers Bend, Oregon as home from which he launched himself with the aid of 109 balloons.

The last attempt to fly in a lawnchair with helium balloons (does this sort of thing have a club membership or something?) the man ascended some two miles above Los Angeles, startling the pilot of at least one jet airliner no end as he drifted across the main flightpath for LAX.

The details of that event are as follows:

The flight of Larry Walters, a 33-year-old Vietnam veteran and North Hollywood truck driver with no pilot or balloon training, took place on 2 July 1982. Larry filled 45 weather balloons with helium and tethered them in four tiers to an aluminum lawn chair he purchased at Sears for $110, loading his makeshift aircraft (dubbed the "Inspiration I") with a large bottle of soda, milk jugs full of water for ballast, a pellet gun, a portable CB radio, an altimeter, and a

Donning a parachute, Larry climbed into his chair from the roof of his girlfriend's home in San Pedro while two friends stood at the ready to untether the craft. He took off a little earlier than expected, however, when his mooring line was cut by the roof's sharp edges. As friends, neighbors, reporters and cameramen looked on, Larry Walters rocketed into the sky above San Pedro. A few minutes later Larry radioed the ground that he was sailing across Los Angeles Harbor towards Long Beach.

Walters had planned to fly 300 miles into the Mojave Desert, but the balloons took him up faster than expected and the wind didn't cooperate, and Walters quickly found himself drifting 16,000 feet above Long Beach. (He later reported that he was "so amazed by the view" that he "didn't even take one picture.") As Larry and his lawnchair drifted into the approach path to Long Beach Municipal Airport, perplexed pilots from two passing Delta and TWA airliners alerted air traffic controllers about what appeared to be an unprotected man floating through the sky in a chair.

Meanwhile, Larry, feeling cold and dizzy in the thin air three miles above the ground, shot several of his balloons with the pellet gun to bring himself back down to earth. He attempted to aim his descent at a large expanse of grass of a north Long Beach country club, but Larry came up short and ended up entangling his tethers in a set of high-voltage power lines in Long Beach about ten miles from his liftoff site. The plastic tethers protected Walters from electrocution as he dangled above the ground until firemen and utility crews could cut the power to the lines (blacking out a portion of Long Beach for twenty minutes). Larry managed to maneuver his chair over a wall, step out, and cut the chair free.

Larry became an instant talk show celebrity, but apparently was not paid much -- or anything -- for his appearances on television. The FAA, not so easily amused, announced that they were fining him $4,000 for violating four regulations: operating "a civil aircraft for which there is not currently in effect an air-worthiness certificate," creating a collision danger to other aircraft, entering an airport traffic area "without establishing and maintaining two-way communications with the control tower," and failing to take care to prevent hazards to the life and property of others.

Although Larry Walters never made another balloon flight, he did inspire someone else to try the same feat. On 1 January 1984, a licensed pilot, parachutist, and chute rigger named Kevin Walsh outfitted himself with 57 weather balloons, each six feet in diameter. Armed with five knives and carrying a parachute, Walsh tethered himself to the helium-filled balloons (no chair) and took off from Minuteman Airfield in Stow, Massachusetts, at 7:00 AM on New Year's Day. He shot into the sky even faster than Larry had, hitting the 1,000-foot mark in twelve seconds, reaching 6,000 feet in two minutes, and peaking at 9,000 feet after four minutes, losing his glasses in the process.

When one of Walsh's balloons popped, he came back down to 6,000 feet and settled in to enjoy the view. He had wrapped his tether lines in foil in the hope that they would show up on radar, and, sure enough, he was picked up on the screens of controllers at Boston's Logan airport, where he produced a radar blip the size of three stacked jetliners. After a 45-minute flight Walsh cut himself free of the balloons and parachuted to the ground, landing in Hudson and walking away.

Once again, the FAA, those darned killjoys, came down hard. Walsh was cited with four violations of FAA regulations and fined $4,000. Numerous television and speaking engagements failed to match the cost of the fines.

As for his inspiration and mentor, Larry Walters, he broke up with his girlfriend of fifteen years, his speaking career didn't pan out, and he worked only sporadically as a security guard. On 6 October 1993, Larry hiked to one of his favorite spots in Angeles National Forest and put a bullet through his heart at age 44, ending on a sad note the career of a true American Original.

More details, as well as documented substantiation for this often embellished "urban myth" can be found at

Now, if you want to view something incredible, such as a sexual harassment assault upon the head of a major European Economic Power, feast your eyes upon this photo. The slimy perp has gone, to this point, unpunished. We deeply regret the great and severe discipline of the German bodyguards assigned to this detail. Any other Head of State would have shot the miserable bastard down during the attack.


It was a busy weekend for firefighters on the island as the old Safeway caught on fire at South Shore, sending billows of acrid smoke into the Office Max across the parking lot and causing all sorts of happy shenanigans among the skate-rats, who circled the entertainment like so many, well, rats about the sinking Flagship of Industry. You should have been there.

Perhaps sharpening their skills on the same day, someone set fire to an abandoned warehouse on Clement, burning the structure to the ground in a three alarm blaze.

Any coincidence these buildings both involved in disputatious real estate transitions pitting development entities against local Community Anti-development interests? Naahhhhhhh.


We have firsthand reports from the Local 70 picket line at the increasingly acrimonious lockout of employees at Waste Management facilities in Alameda County. The lockout and general strike is spreading beyond the borders of Oakland as Management digs in its heels after its sudden and preemptive lockout last week, which -- naturally provoked a general strike from Local 70. Workers report that contract negotiations were still in progress when they found themselves abruptly locked out with no warning one morning in what appears to be a blatant attempt to proactively break the power of the Unions throughout California. Waste Management is a Texas-based corporation, which does not surprise us for some reason. They have been imposing increasingly stringent "safety rules" and moving for more liberal (on management's behalf) guidelines for firing. Most of their recent efforts appear to be gross power plays, rather than attempts to improve anything like service and they seem to have been trying to provoke an unpopular strike for some time. Failing to provoke a strike, they simply created one via the unnecessary lockout, as nowhere in the negotiations can we find any discussion from either side about pay increases.

The Union rep seems puzzled by the lockout and its purposes, for they were asking for very little, as it turns out, during contract negotiations. And Management reps confirm this, to our astonishment. Management's beef here is that they want to write a "no strike allowed" rule into the contract, clearly a piece of nonsense. Furthermore, Management accused Local 70 of conspiring with Locals in LA to strike simultaneously, which has never happened as far as we at Island-Life can tell.

A Local 70 rep scoffed at the "conspiracy" charge, claiming "Hell, we can barely communicate with our own people, let alone a Union located 800 miles away. They seem to be giving us an awful lot of credit for what we cannot do."

It does seem that Management is less paranoid -- although some of that emotion is certainly detectable -- than concerned with putting its foot down and firmly establishing itself as the Chief, Primary, and Major Player here, with no Unions at all to muddy up things. In short, they are acting like sixth graders who demand the entire playground for their own.

Garbage collection is one of the last salt-of-the-earth industries in America which simply cannot be offshored. The men who work the trucks and haul remain among the few last exemplars of non-skilled large-scale labor in the cities. The few we have talked with remain courteous, polite and considerate to a fault with solid heartland values we had thought had become myths of another time. The work, classified as "toxic waste handling" due to the numerous needle sharps, medical disposals, illegal vile chemicals and much worse, is fairly brutal and costly to a man's health. A hauler typically develops permanent sores two feet long across his back due to chafing from the carry strap used in places where the robotic equipment cannot be used. Eventually the sores and the inevitable knee injuries force a man within a certain number of years into another segment of the company or to quit.

Waste Management USA is part of a multinational conglomerate. Its California department operates municipal utilities from the Oregon border down to San Jose and represents a multi-billion dollar industry.

The men on the Line indicate they have seen evidence of the more than 350 scabs brought in, and expect tomorrow to get, shall we say, rambunctious. Everybody knows what the other side usually does, and the whole thing lacks imagination for something new. The common tactic is to have supervisors drive the trucks out past the gates before 7:00am so that scabs can then take over to clean the increasingly filthy Oaktown streets, a situation caused entirely by spoiled Fratboys. It is now 10:00pm on Sunday evening and they are collecting baseball bats in the old style. In eight hours, blood will spill in Oaktown and all due to a bunch of coddled whiteboys insisting on having their way.

In the end there will be a tremendous howling, erupting from the people with their garbage-clogged streets, from the nasty stung Management stooges and from the half dozen newly widowed after it has descended into some terrible dawn of the savage locust in unprincipled and atavistic savagery.

And the flames will leap higher and higher on the Day of the Locust.


Lissen up. Word! Major Babe Debra Owen is sending out an All Hands Needed for this weekend Plein Air series of events. Yo, dude, we be outta town for the intro on Monday tomorrow. Besides the usual meeters and greeters Ms. Owen needs some photogs out there working they buns off with the shutter. You hear?! Got some lens to offer, contact Frank Bette Center for the Arts, (510)523-6957. This may be a chance to add to your portfolio and, you know get like published man. Build a clip file. Dig?! Keeping it real, your major stud here at Island-Life, Denby. Just trying to keep the Island scene in full Color.


The Health Care District is terminating 39 FTE's at the troubled Island Hospital, reducing staff once again to 402. Administration claims the Hospital is "in good financial shape", while admitting some of the forcast numbers are a bit, well, fudged. The Hospital, preserved largely due to panic persuasion of voters who were somehow convinced that if an earthquake dropped all the bridges to the Island, we would be entirely without emergency services. The catch here is that the hospital has no trauma center and so will be entirely useless when such an event will transpire. Ensuing financial shenanigans have resembled a sort of tarantella of budgets as each election involves yet another property tax to keep the monster afloat even as it cuts services down to the bone.

In reality, the hospital does nothing more than any County Clinic at a tenth of the cost in that it provides triage for serious cases and sends them over the intact bridges to realistic emergency care.

Will someone please call Micheal Moore?

Also on the troubled list is the municipal golf course, which -- according to the accounting department -- has been losing money for some two years. A closer look at the numbers shows the course some 2 million in reserves and some one million in the black, offering up another million dollars to the City in profits. How then is the Corica Golf Course in the red? Seems a departmental arrangement of terminology. Maybe this does not happen in your town. Perhaps we are as unique as we claim to be, even to the level of high finance. The Course has an arrangement in which it pays back to the City a percentage of its profits, but once the profits hit City Hall, the numbers are counted as "remunerated expenses". So you see, no matter how much the golf course brings in to the City, its contribution will be discounted against the mythical category of "expenses."

Nobody here took accounting, and at IslandLife this truth has resulted in unfortunate financial consequences. That Russian fishing trawler was a bad investment in hindsight, for example.

Nevertheless, it seems to the common mind that the column labeled Expenses really should be kept entirely seperate from that of Income. And never the twain shall mix or something like that.

Yet now we hear that the proposal to "privatize" comes up with no regard to the disastrous previous attempt to do just that. They did try to privitize the golf course. It was an abject failure. Frankly, we at Island-life find that wacking balls about a sandy poodle-ridden wasteland to be a sodden failure of will and collosal waste of time, yet we do note that some 300,000 holes were made last year at the Corica Golf Course and that seems to represent a significant revenue stream which no amount of accounting shenanigans can conceal. Even in view of the fact that golf is basically a silly, foolish and nonsensical sport.

What would Arthur Ashe do in such a situation? Arthur Ashe, one of the last dignified and respectable sportsmen, demonstrated a significant aspect of enviable calm repose and sophistication.


The 79th Summer Faire happens 7/25 and is hosted by the Welfare Council at the Groundview Pavilion (300 Island Drive). The Annual fundraiser will feature a lunch buffett and summer faire market. Donations are $40.

Rosenblum Cellars will host the 11th Community Faire and Wine tasting as a fundraiser for Meals on Wheels. Angelas will supply food and Tuckers will provide exotic ice cream. 3 O'Clock Jump will drive the music with its 17 piece band and the Oakland Raiderettes will supply some eyecandy for the gents. That and all more Sunday 1-4 at 2999 Main Street out on the Point.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown. A few empty warehouses burned down and a tree fell on a car in the East End. Otherwise not much of note has taken place. Summer in this part of California involves doubtfull BBQ grills, mindful of the chill fogs and a certain amount of watchful gardening. The spat between Filipe and Old John shows no sign of abatement, even after a rather colorful shouting match at Old John's door where he laughed at the medical complaints from Filipe.

Over at the Coluseum heard that a bunch of drug-taking millionaires ran around in circles before a medium-sized crowd, but few serious folks paid much attention to the All Star game. Baseball used to be a sport of the clean and honest, an American Pasttime. Balco has made it past time. Lets go watch a soccer match.

Over at the Crucible, the Angry Elf supervised the crowd. Wearing black to suit his mood. With ticket prices ratcheting up to $45, and the Angry Elf in charge to boot, we skipped out on the festivities this year. Have no word on how the annual Fire Festival went. At forty-five bucks, some of the joy in the event seems to have departed.

Over at the College, under the hedges, found Señor Erizo and his companion snarfling happy and safe. Some good in this world remains. For some reason, they were celebrating Bastille Day with champagne. Have to love a country whose national anthem begins "Let's go kids!"

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

JULY 8, 2007


There's been a contretemps at the troubled St. Charles Apartments again. This one only tangentially related to Management in that Management refuses to engage in any useful or helpful manner. Seems Filipe noticed all the vegetable plants around the base of his jasmine plant had wilted with brown spots just about overnight. Then he noticed that the top of the otherwise perfectly healthy seven-foot high jasmine tree was all browned. Then he noticed a wide cone-shape of brown dead grass with the funnel tip coming from the jasmine plant. And then he noticed the dahlias turning bone white.

Then he recollected nausea, vomiting and other unpleasant effects. Gee, couldn't have been his diet -- he had been eating healthy greens right from the garden.

Then he recollected his neighbor across the fence, Old John, ordering him to "cut down that damn jasmine plant." Old John hates the sight of jasmine near his garbage cans over on the other side.

Filipe ran around the corner and started shouting and saying all kinds of mean, nasty, ugly things while Old John pretends he knows nothing about it. So Filipe added several feet to the top of the fence this weekend and now Old John's prized pepper plants are in the shade. Not good for pepper plants.

Meanwhile all of Filipe's spinach and chard have died, while the jasmine tree is going great guns and seems to love all the fuss and bother.

Stay tuned for further developments.


Among the notables, we note Steven Stills appearing solo at the Palace of Fine Arts tomorrow night.

Brett Dennon, a sort of breathy singer/songwriter with some fairly decent lyrics drops in to the Fillmore on the 12th and is warmed-up by an acoustic Mother Hips. Not bad for the middle of the week.

That short stick of dynamite, Ani Difranco stops in at the Warfield this 14th to astonish and amaze one and all with her unique jazz-rock fusion. Galactic appears with friends at the Independent on the 25th and 26th. August 14th, sweetie and heart-throb Patti Smith shows up beneath the purple chandeliers of the Fillmore, to vituperate and harry our miserably aweful political leadership with punkish attitude. With the two female powerhouses a month apart there is no excuse not to hear both of them. Last time, Patti sold out the house, despite doing a free concert up in Berkeley.

Still in the hot month of July, we remark that Earth, Wind and Fire will Celebrate and Sing a Message to You in Oaktown (natch') at the Paramount. Show some Gratitude. The Stringcheese Incident occupy the Greek outdoor ampitheatre for both days of the weekend, starting the 21st, with special guests Sound Tribe the first night, and Railroad Earth with Hot Buttered Rum for the next night. The Cheese have a new CD out which is far more disciplined than previous efforts. "Sometimes a River" appears to be a cross-over hit for the jam-band, and for very good reasons.

Next Sunday 25,000 folks will do the AIDS walk. Check out to volunteer or register.


In 1776, as Father Junipero Serra struggled up a sandy peninsula to the banks of a deep creek, there to found Mission Dolores and the town of Yerba Buena, later to be renamed San Francisco, a band of about 53 men gathered in a room to sign a document announcing independence from Great Britain for 13 former colonies. As Garrison Keillor has said, of those 53 men, nine would die during the ensuing war, six more would be captured and tortured, and the rest would persist during that war in doubtful hope of an experiment in new governmental design never before attempted in the history of the world, knowing that failure in the short term meant certain execution for each of them and failure in the long term certain disaster for all of the people in those 13 colonies and for the world at large. They did win that war and in 1792, the French monarchy was pulled down. One by one, over the next few years, the old aristocratic governments of Europe tottered and fell. The monarchs there either banished or reduced to mere figurehead symbols.

In California, the first July 4th celebration came not, as you would expect, after 1846 when the US basically seized the territory from Mexico, but much earlier in 1836 in Yerba Buena while the territory was under nominal Mexican control. Well, not control, let us say, for control over California had really been held by no one since 1791, and even then it can be argued neither Spain nor Mexico ever really had control here, for the Californios freely deposed their appointed governors whenever they had a mind to do so and essentially ran their own affairs for many years, simply ignoring dictates from Spain or Mexico City as it pleased them to do so. Forbidden to trade with foreigners, they dealt happily with any ship of any nationality that would drop off decent goods for any number of cattle hides they wished. By 1846, California was effectively its own country and Mexico lifted not a finger to defend its territory, whereas the Californios assembled their own irregular defence force to fight several battles, more or less successfully, which this space will recount a bit later in the year for the details are really juicy.

The first Independence Day celebration was held by Jacob Leese, the second civilian to settle in Yerba Buena and also, the second foreigner, for his mercantile store and house was preceded by that of William Richardsen, a ship-jumping English sailor, who had erected four posts and a canvas roof previously in 1833. The first inhabitants to constitute what would become San Francisco happened to be foreign, for nothing existed on that windswept sandy peninsula, save for several monks herding an handful of miserable Native Americans while failing to grow food in the lousy soil, and the crumbling Presidio, which consisted of several crumbling adobes protected by rusting, mold-covered cannon. Things were better across the Bay at Rancho San Antonio, then run by Don Luis Peralta.

Leese so entered into the spirit of things in Alta California that, when he finished his store, held a great party, which happened to occur on July 4th, and so after raising the Mexican flag, Jacob Leese raised the American rag for the first time in California. When his marriage to the daughter of General Vallejo, then commandante of the Presidio, was announced he held yet another party. History does not record the party held April 13th, 1838 when Rosalee Leese was born, the first non-Indian Born and Raised in San Francisco.

(Thanks to Richard of for finessing the dates here.)


July 4th bloomed here after a period of dank chill with gorgeous cloud-free skies and moderate temps. It was everything that California is supposed to be in the minds of strangers and visitors.

This week, the Island viewed the 32nd Annual Mayor's July 4th Parade, the biggest little parade in America. This year there were well over 155 entries, as well as a nice 16 page printed program. And the Little Tramp came back!

After a lead off of the usual political suspects and the Coast Guard -- based on neighboring Coast Guard Island -- the parade got underway with a mix of the local businesses and independent floats, although the lack of out-of-town presenters was acutely felt, and gave a sort of Rotarian uniformity to the affair. In years past, when the entry count exceeded 189, the folks from Grass Valley with their fire dragon, and the Chinese contingent of suppressed religious sects added a real zing to the parade, and even the controversy of the GLBT floats and the Love Float with its battle against the Hate Group contributed some welcome seasoning. It is America, after all. The appearance of the Lawnmower Racers Club from the Valley was a welcome injection of flavor.

And, of course, this is the Bay Area, so we had our martial artists all out there doing impossible things with their bodies.

Welcome during this parade were the anti-war Code Pink people and the Democratic Party, also vocally anti-war. Nice touch placing them right after the WWII veterans.

The Island, with its vacated Navy Base, remains home to the USS Hornet, the aircraft carrier that used to fetch the Gemini capsules after various spacewalks and moon landings in the pre-shuttle days. The carrier is a museum now, and the flight deck is rented out periodically for formal dances.

This is the West after all, and we saw 18 entries in the Equestrian category. Viva los Caballeros! Viva los Vaqueros! California cultivated the finest horsemen in the world during its early years, and these folks would go outside, find a free range horse and have it saddled and ridden faster than you can say, go fetch a cup of sugar from the neighbor. The horsemen were so good they could capture or kill a 1,500 pound grizzley bear armed with nothing more than a rope, a knife and a good horse. Many of the riders in the parade could trace back family ties to the early 1700's.

In this shot, you can see the fellow on the far right as the horse comes down from a full two-legged rear-up. All horses pranced in time with the clopping of their hooves to the rhythm of the preceding band.

This year, the Little Tramp returned, riding a slightly larger scooter than in years past, perhaps in compromise with aching and aging joints. But our man is back and scooted along, dodging horsepiles and detritus with aplomb.


We have to wonder about Old John. Several neighbors have asked the same question: What kind of person dislikes jasmine, after all? Go figure. Can't penetrate the workings of a neighbor's mind -- or lack thereof -- sometimes. Kill a neighbor with poison so as to have garbage cans free of jasmine flowers. Takes all kinds.

We live during interesting times. That, itself, is a curse. With the worst American President in history, leading the pack not by a nose but by several lengths, we spin inexorably into a time of Interesting Times ahead. Even Time magazine, that bastion of the lawnmower, well-matriculated society, has come out with a lead article entitled: "After Bush: How to repair the damage".

Unsupervised concentration camps, torture not only employed, but actually justified, secretive wiretapping and other surveillance of citizens, bunkered public buildings everywhere, exhaltation of military values, spontaneous invasion of foreign countries, wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians, removal of basic liberties and rights such as habeus corpus: all this lends itself well to a degredation of the Great Experiment to the level of some dictatorial facist republic. Which seems to be what the Republicans wanted all along anyway. Democracy is impossible anyway, they say, and so they redefine the nation as a word they call "Republic" so as to raise themselves in a linguistic artifice above truth.

In a true insult to intelligence and to justice, Mr. Bush (not my President and never was or will be) commuted the sentence of arch-traitor Libby so as to shield his administration from yet more damage. The GOP is gradually coming around to realize that the Administration is so bad, so disastrous, that their own interests have been damaged beyond repair for the next one hundred years.

Yet in 1776, all of these word-lip issues seemed so important as to balance the worth of a man's life. Perhaps the Great Experiment will continue. Perhaps not. These days we witness the most severe trials. There remains a remote chance that the principle of one man, one vote shall overcome all the shikanery and evil. America remains an unruley and cosmopolitan people. It is the very fact of difficulty in organizing and reining in such a people that makes this country perhaps a little better than others. The fact that no one can make everybody do the same thing at the same time is a good thing and a strength. It is a strength that some kid can unfurl a banner with the nonsense message, "Bong Hits for Jesus". Yet there are some who would limit this freedom. Perhaps that is the issue, in that those who would limit our freedoms must needs remain free to express their opinion, yet remain free enough to potentially dominate for a time.

Rule what you will in your formal courts with high starched collars. There will be another one hundred thousand students to unfurl one hundred thousand banners announcing any sort of dada statement like "Bong hits for Jesus." Essentially, F**** You.

This is all grand Stuff and not the purview of the Island. We are a small island set in the emerald setting of the San Francisco Bay, a California Island that imagines itself a small town in the Midwest.

Down at the Old Same Place, Suzie bends over her book. The Old Same Place was closed on the Fourth. One of only three days per year the watering hole remained shut. This year, owner Claudias Hippocampus, got a parade float perched on a flatbed truck with palms and congas with a vaguely tropical motiv. The band performed various Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley tunes while passing a bottle of anejo tequila back and forth until, by the time the parade reached Webster Street, the bass player had collapsed into the papaya and the drummer had slumped into a hopeless shambles among the ferns, waving his drumsticks in the air while failing to make contact, but still trying to provide backup vocals to songs not on the list. The lead guitarist kept thrashing out a version of "Crossfire" until they had to throw him into the ice bucket reserved for the beer keg. He burst from this treatment screaming and ran all the way down Santa Clara until no one could see him any more and of course, by then, the party was over.

Officer O'Madhauen was in the parade driving a big Harley Davidson, which he does not normally drive, but which he imagined was really cool. He kept dumping the bike every time the parade had a turn and the regular cycle patrol was really put out having to get him upright each time.

Eugene Gallipagus rode in the Poodle Hunter's Boat, in fond and abject admiration of the NRA, and his float was much admired for its foliage and jasmine profusion. A mock-up of a tiny toy poodle up front exploded periodically to the great delight of the kids.

Percy drove his immaculately restored two-tone 1949 Mandeville-Brot Coupe with full running boards and plush leather upholstery with his consort, the nearly nude Berkeley native and Explicit Player, Sonja, resplendent in feather boa and shoes. Parents were enjoined to avert the eyes of their children.

Next, Bear appeared with the Island Riders Group, a collection of well-bellied, hirsute, leather-vest clad gents riding loud, purely American Iron. Naturally. Perched on his pillion, was the neatly dressed Sophia in a man's dress shirt and carrot pants.

Then we had the local Filipino float, and who should be sitting up there among the palm fronds and glitter but our very own Ms. Morales and Mr. Sanchez. And Fey with her friend from the County. O look at Ms. Morales and Mr. Sanchez. Holding hands, we might add. And well they might for they are engaged to be married this summer and this wedding will be featured right here on Island-Life. You betcha. This will be a fandango to remember.

Yes all the Island-Life people were there at the parade and it was a grand affair with all sorts of yelling, big float hand waving jumping up and down kinds of stuff and at the end of the day a fine time was had by all.

Applications are still in the works to make the Island a sister city to Lake Woebegon. We imagine that only a few small bureaucratics details stand between our present state and certain immortality. The carrier pigeons have been returning with a suspicious wooziness, however and juniper berries are suspected.

Down at the Strand, cars all lined up to let knots of people out onto the wave-lapped beach in the dark. All along the Bay you could see fireworks going off in the far distances. Babylon's synchroed works bracketed the Bridge and personal fireworks lighting up the streets terracing San Bruno Mountain. San Leandro's explosions bloomed way down south, but nothing came out of Oaktown this year due to construction at the Waterfront. Suzie was there with Ned while the stiff, cold wind off of the Bay threw windbreakers and hats on everyone.

Ned was trying to explain why he didn't want to go up to the Russian River for the jazz festival. Or even to the jazz festival in Babylon this year.

"Actually, I don't like jazz," said Ned. "And, to tell the truth, I don't really like you that much. You are too serious."

The wind blew and the explosions went off in the distance. It appeared that some sort of grand finale was in progress. Over at Hunter's Point, the ack-ack of AK-47's fired out from the Project towers speckled the coastline. Now and then, a bottle rocket lifted from one of the yachts at the Island Marina with a whoosh.

"Can't we just have meaningless sex?" Asked Ned, apparently trying to soften the blow. Tact was not his forte.

Suzie shook her head. Actually, she did not like Ned that much either, and a great sense of relief and freedom swept over her on the beach. Finally, she would have time to herself and an end to all these stupid arguments. While Ned muttered apologies and all sorts of embarrassing things, she wondered if Herbie Hancock would play this year with a Latin ensemble.

Later they stumbled over the dunes to the car in the dark. They did not hold hands and he drove her silently to her studio flat.

"Keep in touch," he said.


Now, with the scent of gunpowder in the air, and the ragged remains of sparklers and Black Cats rolling in the gutters, it is the day after the Fourth and in the Old Same Place Bar Suzie occupies her time by reading her anthropology book. Miles Davis plays softly over the speakers.

She wondered if Ned would ever learn how not to be obtuse and cruel and she hoped this would happen before he hooked up with someone else.

"The Bonobo are a friendly tribe, who never fail to demonstrate affection for one another during any chance encounter in the African rain forest . . .".

Its a dark night in a City that knows how to keep its secrets. But in the Old Same Place Bar sits one bartender still trying to puzzle out Life's Persistent Questions.

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

JULY 1, 2007


Due to illness this week, we missed most of what was happening, including Hot Tuna at the venerable Fillmore. And of course there was the sold out show by Rodrigo y Gabriela and Jonny Lang in the same venue. And Pride Day in Babylon? Spent it in bed, sweating.


Most of our little rowdies heeded that Alice Cooper chestnut to spend their free time in time-honored activities such as impaling themselves with fish hooks, chasing loose balls into the street, and torturing small invertebrates, but for 875 kids, the screech of the blackboard continues. Fortunately for these and any kid under the age of 18, the Unified School District is supplying no-questions-asked free lunches at five locations, including Encinal High and Wood Middle School. Call 748-4008 x129 for information.


On the heels of the developer pull-out from the Point development project comes news of another pull-out in the form of Target dropping plans for a big box store at the Southshore Mall. Target had refused to downsize its building from 135,000 square feet, which concerned many that such a monster would overwhelm the residential area with all kinds of problems. Harsch Inc. is completing its massive facelift for the mall, complete with a name change to Towne Center, but is not overly concerned about Target's runaway.


A minor item on page three just might launch an Island company into national or even international news. Advanced Cell Technology, with a facility here and in Worcester MA, has developed a stem cell line which does not destroy the embryo. And thats big news for USA researchers for much critical work has been stymied in this country because of the Bush Administration's intransigence against stem cell research. The breakthrough announcement was made in Australia at a International Society for Stem Cell Research meeting.


The 32nd Annual Mayor's Parade kicks off with a charity run at 9:45am on the Fourth, followed by the parade itself at 10:00. This year we count 153 entries listed in the handsome official program. The day winds up with a 4:00 pm Jump and Jive Jubilee at Ritter Park, featuring bounce houses, music and food. Then, of course fireworks launched from Jack London Square and from the Babylon waterfront.


Recent reports about Germany's upset over the Scientologist Tom Cruise playing Claus von Stauffenberg in an upcoming film about the failed attempt on Hitler's life are, according to our European Bureau, highly exaggerated. Apparently it is only a single relative of the national hero, Stauffenberg, and a single tabloid magazine which is making loud complaint. According to our correspondent there, "Most of Germany loves Tom Cruise and could care less."

The charismatic Stauffenberg attempted to blow up Der Fuehrer with a briefcase bomb, but someone in the meeting moved the briefcase to the opposite side of a very heavy oak desk. The bomb succeeded only in injuring Hitler and during the ensuing purge, Stauffenberg was executed by firing squad. Nearly two thousand more co-conspirators of the plot to kill Hitler and seize control of the government were also executed over the next few months.

Scientology is regarded by the German government as a peculiar American cult.


Its been a quiet week on the Island. The Old Judge has been knocking about his back fence hacking at the undergrowth there. Contacts in South Lake Tahoe are going to be checking in this week as to what happened over there during the big forest fire.

There is no more dead growth on the Old Man, the 100 foot sequoia out back. Old fellow even seems to have filled out a bit. This is the time of fading sage blooms. Come spring the desert erupts with color and the heady scent with the magic time fading quickly, but there are a few flowers still poking out here and there. Nothing like a hearty Western Stew heavily laced with sage.

People are surprised to see Stetsons and boots walking around here, forgetting, gosh darn, this is the Original West, home for Dusty and his pal. Tales of the Lonesome Cowboy. Actually, our cowboys were all Latino's so most of them looked more like Cheech and Chong rather than Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood.

Since no land is really perfectly flat, herding those beeves involved fetching them, bellowing and complaining out of stream-cut arroyos and such. You just try getting something weighing well over 500 pounds to move from where its got itself stuck sometime.

Most of the grand cattle ranches were totally destroyed midway through the Gold Rush when massive flooding -- caused by heavy rains and cutting down all the trees in the Sierra foothills, turned most of the Central Valley into an immense lake and all the streams into raging torrents so evil the steamboats just left the riverbanks and plied along the former roads and highways. Imagine a great big old steamboat churning down Highway 5 and you get the picture. O Susannah!

The last big cattle ranches survived, believe it or not, in the vicinity of Owen's Valley -- until LA drained out all the water from the Owen's River, killing the cottonwoods and grassland around the time of the Great Depression. There are just a few small ranchos now, and nowadays all the cowboys ride Kawasaki's for their work. Vaqueros and caballeros.

During the 1830's, though, the grand haciendas held forth with massive herds of cows and horses. Those people were the best horsemen and horsewomen in the world. They were so good they could bring down a 1500 pound grizzley bear with nothing more than a horse, a knife and a riata. They did not stable the horses, but would let them run free in the coastal hills. Whenever a fellow needed to ride, he simply found one somewhere, threw a saddle over its back and off he would go.

This July 4th, a few Native Sons will appear in the Parade -- placed towards the back end for some reason -- and the famous thoroughbred named Thunder will appear doing his tricks for the kids, spinning about and prancing sideways.

HIgh tide was in this weekend and the skies were crowded with kites and bright parasails tugging windsurfers across the water along the shore. It is a California Summer.

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

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