Island Life

June - Dec. 2008

Vol. 10 Weekly News, Reviews, Music and Satire Sunday 2008

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Welcome to the 10th year of this weekly column. This space is updated each week, 52 times per year.

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.

Because of the large size of each year (360 pages+), each year is split into two files to make viewing and downloading content easier. This section covers June - December. To read issues published January - May, go to the ARCHIVES Hyperlink:

ARCHIVES

BACK TO CURRENT ISSUE


DECEMBER 28, 2008

YOU ASK ME WHAT I WANT THIS YEAR, SO LET ME MAKE THIS KIND AND CLEAR

This week's headline photo comes courtesy of the Pagano's Down the Block storefront. Andy Pagano has long since passed to his rewards, but the block on Lincoln still bears the name of Mr. Alameda on many a storefront window. A fine tradition continues of recognizing the major holidays with imaginative and whimsical displays. At this window an entire town is laid out in split-level miniature with ice skating rink, car dealerships, taxis, shops, pedestrians, carolers, carnaval theme park, and everything you can imagine with minor mini-dramas played out everywhere. Tucked up in the corner, surrounded by heaps of fallen snow, we notice a couple finding a way to keep warm this chilly night of nights.

I DON'T NEED BOXES WRAPPED IN STRING OR DESIRE AND LOVE AND EMPTY THINGS

It's the end of the year and a whole lot of people are sitting out the hoopla. Nevertheless, if you do decide to go out here are some concerts worth noting.

Pharoah Sanders is at Yoshi's East, but not doing the New Years there. Mary Zimmerman's "Arabian Nights", which we reviewed here a few weeks ago, has been held over to the 11th of the new year.

For NYE the venerable Fillmore will bring back the Butthole Surfers with Negativland for a punk new years.

Bill Graham's birthday bash on the 10th will feature New Orleans-based Funky Meters and long tall Marcia Ball, master of the Gulf Coast piano styles, with the eternally sexy Bonnie Raitt, which ought to blast the doors off with that estrogen-powered combo.

The Pretenders are returning in March to the same venue.

The GAMH is sold out with Fantomas, so fergeddabouddit. High Country holds forth at the Freight, however.

Thievery Corporation is doing a NYE gig around here at the SF Concourse with the Burning Man drum outfit Mutaytor.

The quirky and exciting reggae group called O.A.R. has the Warfield for the magic night.

We note that homeboy Les Claypool is performing in Zappa does Zappa at the War Memorial Opera House with 3D glasses involved. But in High Style, as befits the Opera House.

JUST A CHANCE THAT MAYBE WE'LL FIND BETTER DAYS

(Reprint from 2007)

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.

Olga Prevents A Massacre
(A Xmas Story)

It was the time of ice and sharp short light -- that time of year when the earth has turned its face furthest from the sun and the darkest of nights locks up the running streams into crystal lachrimae, when a runner plunged breathlessly into the village, panting out of breath and near deranged out of his mind with fear and warning. Everyone crowded around him. Two white war parties were marching. They were upset about something and as usual, when this happened, they killed every human being they could find.

Runakason lived among them at that time and he was mortally terrified of being dragged back to the missions.

He did not know that this would not happen, for the time of the missions was coming to an end. But Olga knew, for Olga had seen this happening: Some people, finding game scarce now that that the great herds had been killed or driven off, the immense flocks of birds shot out of the sky, had taken to stealing horses from the white men for food. Sometimes they stole other things, too, but what could one do? They had taken the land. They had taken the game. They had cut down the oaks so now there were few acorns. They put people on a farm then took the farm away. It was all impossible and everyone was starving.

The Mexicans, infuriated by the thefts, would band together and teach those people a lesson. It did not matter that they killed just anyone, whether guilty or innocent. To the Mexicans, the Indians were all in it together, all the same, brutish and lacking reason, barely human. 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 t Europeans 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.


TONIGHTS THE NIGHT THE WORLD BEGINS AGAIN
(This will be available as audio podcast and on the annual Island-Life CD)

It’s been a quiet week on the island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.

Javier noted seagulls flying over the supermarket parking lot at Mariner Square, and sure enough a dockwalloper swept in on the heels of a train of others to drench the Bay Area with rain and high winds.

In addition we note that we have a new President, this one elected without any quarrel about the process. In conjunction with the Solstice, which took place Sunday, we observe that the days will gradually become brighter and the nights shorter as we move forward to a time in which the darkness that has infected our Commonweal for some time shall yield to a period of luminescence, in which the bleak darkness of the past shall fade to bad memories.

All of us here welcome back the Island-Life messengers from their missions. The Editor has generously given the week off to recuperation from their injuries.

The mission to find the mayor of Lake Wobegon failed -- again. so our offer of Sister City Status remains up in the air for the time being.

We always wanted to be like Mr. Keillor, growing older and wiser with each broadcast over the years, talented and known by talent, dispensing avuncular wisdom, fabulous Scandinavian women hanging on his arm, adored by millions and going to work wearing red tennis shoes.

We didn't get talent or any of that; we just got older. . . . [sigh]

In any case, the messengers up north got misdirected to a place called Bear Lake and got entangled with a scheme to smuggle Canadians across the border from the numerous maquiladora towns up there. It all ended in terrible mess involving Homeland Security, the Coast Guard – which keeps a cutter stationed there at Bear Lake – and the INS.

So, we'll renew our KQED membership and try again next year to find the Mayor.

As for the mission to save private Opus, well, sad to say that one didn't fare so well either.

The messengers made their way through the dense lines of circumlocution and graphical challenges to encounter the formidable Ms. Grimoire at the Bloom county animal shelter after finding the Herald offices desolate, the daisy patch paved over, and cutter john's wheelchair in the weeds.

Turned out that Bill the Cat had been taken in by an adult bookstore of questionable repute on Columbus Avenue in San Francisco to be a canvasser.

The boys snuck by Ms. Grimoire to find only two surviving penguins in the coop. The first proved to be an eyeshade-wearing sardonic fellow by the name of Sparky.

The second was one of Scandinavian origin named LINUX, who seemed to be happy enough there, looking for all the world like he had just polished off a mess of herring.

They could have at least brought back the wheelchair.

Last Sunday was the first day of winter. We know its winter around here because the fog has a slightly different shade.

People are celebrating the Season on the Island, each in their own way. The lighting of the tree happened during the first week of December and there was the annual parade of yachts with Tommy and Toby aboard their sloop, the Lavender Surprise.

They failed to take a prize for their disco theme lighting, but did garner honorable mention for Mr. and Mrs. Claus, both dressed in leather bustiers, fishnet stockings, and high heels.

The workmen have finished patching up the bullet holes and burn marks in Reverend Freethought's Unitarian Church, left behind after this years Poodleshoot sort of went door to door to all the churches on central Avenue after spilling out of the First Church of the Sanctified Elvis in a violent melee with

Eugene blasting away his 50 cal Rhino gun with impressively bad aim amid the tear gas and the pew cushions set on fire.

The Baptist Church remained closed through the Holidays, as Reverend Rectumrod had to return to Texas to calm his nerves for a spell after Thanksgiving.

Over at Mr. Howitzer's he held the annual Friends and Family dinnerparty at the place with the two stone lions in front on Grand Street. Mr. Cribbage attended as did Mr. Blather, Mr. Pescatore and Mr. Dudgeon with their wives. And the talk circled, as would be expected, about the recent elections and what the future holds for the Golden State, which they saw as less than optimistic.

The increase in rents might be forstalled, due to the Recession, for example. That rents would fail to rise on a regular basis was a matter of deep concern.

Mr. Howitzer had his replacement dog there. Mr. howitzer managed to finagle service dog status for Snookums even though there is nothing physically wrong with Mr. Howitzer beyond a game leg and his defective heart.

At his other property, the household managed by Andre and Marlene, they also had their own dinner party of sorts after André finished up practice with his band the hapless few.

This year the band will depart from its usual setlist to include some golden oldies for the ancient codgers at the Native Sons of the Golden West New Years celebration, Including golden oldies from the Rolling Stones hits. and a few sedate classics, such as “Don’t Bogart that Joint”.

So Marlene whipped up a fine feast with fixings from the Island Charity for Hapless Families and from the garden out back and some items borrowed, more or less, from the greengrocer by Mancini and Pedro. Mr. Howitzer had parked his RV on top of what used to be the garden but they found so much soil under the lumber pile they all managed to get some greens and beans going there and the ironmongery made a real fine trellis.

Andre's band had done a concert at the Elks BPOE house and knowing there was to be a banquet then, they all wore trenchcoats with deep pockets, coming away from that gig with bread loaves, butter, potatoes, broccoli, two porterhouse steaks, salad dressing, and loads of croutons.

So there they were, all the residents of the one bedroom cottage: Occasional Quentin, Piedro, Jesus, Tipitina, Marsha, Javier, Rolf, Mancini, Suan, Alexis, Sarah, Pahrump and Bonkers the dog with his pals Wickiwup and Johnny Cash, both labradors of uncertain mixture.

Its a jolly group, a bit crowded ever since the rents rocketed through the roof, necessitating yet more roommate additions, but jolly nonetheless and Mr. Howitzer still believed he was renting out the place to just three people, which was fine by them, for he would have just raised the rent even higher -- and they didn’t want that.

Marlene had done up the Holiday tree -- which Jesus and Javier swore they had found on the beach, a nearly perfect fir six feet high -- with her grandmother's Old Country orniments again, fully expecting every year the 150 year-old glass would be pounded to dust amid the typical household mayhem, but was in a bad mood still on account of the wedding fiasco during the Poodleshoot.

In retrospect, choosing the grotto of the First Church of the Sanctified Elvis with its twelve-foot high portrait of the The King done on velvet and collection plates that bore slots for cigarettes as well as the names of Las Vegas casinos does not appear to have been prudent and she was really in a wax with Andre about it and the destroyed wedding dress. It had been her mothers, one of the few things that got saved before she was institutionalized and her father disappeared with the truck, the family jewels, and just about all of the bank account.

In fact, thinking about the dress at all just brought up worse memories. When her mother died at Napa, she had been left with nothing but a small trunk of things. And the dress. Now here she was in this . . . this house and this . . . this man, no, this child! What had he been thinking?!

When Andre came into the kitchen after practice she had just burnt the buns in the oven and it looked bad to the company at large. There was likely to be an argument and an argument meant no dinner for hours, if not days.

That's when Andre said, "Well y'know we still have each other."

There was a pause as timid faces peered from around the door jamb. Breath stopped and the sound of the ticking clock became awfully loud as Marlene stared back with a blank expression for a very long time.

After a time that dug seriously into Eternity, Marlene blurted out, “EFF YOU!”

Barely an heartbeat later, Andre responded, “Eff you!”

The ticking of the wall clock seemed to increase in volume for what seemed an eternity until the two threw their arms around one another in a passionate kiss.

"Awwwwwwwwwww . . . !"

The little gale that came when everyone let out sighs of relief caused the stove burners to flicker. Things had gone back to normal. Everything would be all right.

Down the street Officer O'Madhauen's cruiser prowled around the corner and up 8th street past the park, looking for speeders, DUI and jaywalkers on this night of nights that featured double pay.

At the Lutheran Church, in what was becoming a regular tradition, Pastor Nyquist had a guest for post missal brandy. Father Duran from the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint.

It had been the habit of each minister to take a long walk around the block that held both their churches, reflecting upon the Mysteries and composing sermons in their respective heads, with Father Duran walking clockwise, and Pastor Nyquist walking, naturally for a man of his cloth, anti-clockwise. for years they did this, never meeting except for that one nodding moment half way around, until the day of the Big Rain and the Umbrella Contretemps and the abortive Combined Faith Based Initiative in which the two joined forces for a time with Rebbe Mendelnusse and Mustapha Kemal of the Islamic Mosque to bring the Spirit and Things Sanctified to the Bars and taverns of the Island.

Well, that one didn't end very well but the two remained friends, inviting each other to attend to New Year's on alternating years in the one or the other chambers.

And each year always ended the same, with Maria or with Sister Josephine coming in to switch off the buzzing TV set in the corner, bank the fire in the grate, tuck in first the one then the other with a quilt in their respective chairs and turn out the light as the new year rolls into the next.

And then, naturally as it has each night nigh to the stroke of twelve for the past ten years of Island-life, then comes from far across the estuary past the clinking ship masts of the marina, then comes the eerie wail of the through-passing train as it winds its way through the Jack London Waterfront from the industrial port of Oaktown to places far away and unknown, leaving behind the faintly slapping waves and the distant hoot of the foghorns.

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

BETTER DAYS

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
Cuz I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And desire and love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

And it's someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And thats faith and trust and peace while we're alive
And the one poor child that saved this world
And there's 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

lyrics by John Rzeznik, Goo Goo Dolls

DECEMBER 21, 2008

BRIGHT WINTERS DAY

This week's headline photo comes from the storm-sodden backyard of the Offices here and the brave lights of our decorated shrub living out the storm during the Hannukah time.

Its the annual Island-Life Channukah bush, still glowing through the murk and wrack of wind after all these years.

The times are stormy. The lights burn on.

GOOD KING WENCESLAUS LOOKED DOWN

The king may have been good back then, but this Incumbent is scarcely that as proved by his every actionable action to the present minute. From Chad we have this video of last minute gifts from The Decider.

You will need adobe flashplayer to watch this. Be aware that this link will take you away from this site to Youtube.

THE XIANS AND THE PAGANS SAT TOGETHER AT THE TABLE

Island commuters should soon be passing the waters in grand style with green attention very soon.

This week the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) christened the first of its fleet of ferries, Gemini, to enhance the region’s emergency response capability and water transit network. Representative Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and WETA Board Chair Charlene Haught Johnson performed the christening ceremony.

Gemini’s exhaust is 85% cleaner than EPA emission standards for Tier II (2007) marine engines, and is ten times cleaner than existing Bay Area ferries. In 2004, state legislation approved WETA’s strict air emissions standard and its Regional Ferry Plan following completion of required environmental documents.

Significant emissions reductions are achieved by incorporating selective catalytic reduction and a blend of biodiesel and ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. Two solar panels installed on the bridge deck will gauge the feasibility of solar power in the Bay’s foggy conditions. The catamaran’s sleek hull design reduces fuel consumption and minimizes shoreline response to wake impacts.

Other innovative measures include sonar for avoiding whale strikes and floating debris. Additionally, the U.S. Geological Service completed a three-year rafting bird study to enable WETA to operate the vessels with minimal impact on water birds for safety and security, the bridge was raised and eight-foot wide windows were installed to give the operator a 360-degree view.

WETA’s 149-passenger vessel will be put into service on the Alameda/Oakland Ferry and Tiburon routes in January 2009 after modifications to the Alameda and Oakland docks. Gemini will also be available as a spare vessel in case of temporary disruption of transit service or damage to the Bay Area highways and bridges.

There is no word yet as to what will become of the retired catamarans.

YOU ASK ME WHAT I WANT THIS YEAR . . . JUST A CHANCE THAT WE MAY FIND BETTER DAYS

Its been a quiet week on the Island. Late rains have come sloshing in after the seagulls started flocking over the Safeway parking lot, driving everyone indoors and into scurries from doorway to car and back for essential chores.

Tonight is the the darkest night of the year, and simultaneously the first night of Hannukah, the festival of persistent light, so we are all fervently hoping for an end to a reign of darkness that has infected the world for what seems like far too long.

Over at Marlene and Andre's place, Occasional Quentin looks out the window and remembers in the burnt embers of his memories sleeping out under the pines in Golden Gate Park through the winter and the cold drip of water through his tattered sweater.

Snuffles Johnson has secured shelter in the Oaktown Homeless shelter, so he is all right for this evening, although he has yet to spend a night or two under the eves of the Mastic Center when the shelter closes up before he can get over there from the soup kitchen.

Officer O'Madhauen sits in his cruiser down by the old brick cannery, a warm cup of java nestled in his hands as he watches for yellow-light runners.

All of the craft fairs and street scenes are done for the year, with barely five days to go before the Major Announcement. All over the Island women are frantically hunting for ribbons and bows and scotch tape and any sort of properly sized cardboard box while the guys are sitting back, flicking through the channels before the big change takes place in the airwaves and wondering just what the fuss is all about.

The fuss is all about illusions and a certain magic in the air that takes work, dammit, to make it happen.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar Suzie is serving up red and green concoctions dreamed up by Padriac, consisting of layers of creme de menthe, grenadine, cream, and kentucky bourbon. The thing is supposed to be called a "pousse cafe", but the patrons are schlocking down the numbers faster than boilermakers and Suzie can barely keep up with any sort of style with the windows all steamed from the cold weather without and the hot times within.

In comes a hot number wearing a red dress and a long fall of auburn hair to her shoulders to order a standard Manhattan. She's wearing thigh-high felt boots and a certain style.

At that moment the Dar Williams song about the dinner with the Xians and the pagans was playing softly over the air.

Eugene, sitting as usual at the corner of the bar with his shot of Wild Turkey and a beer, is all a-goggle, such that he just cannot keep from, well goggling. Never before has he encountered such beauty. Perhaps in the pages of Penthouse, maybe, but not in person.

In a few days, the big day will pass, the new year will pass, and all hopes and dreams will pass to the next period of time in some kind of desperate hope that the next time will turn out to be a little better than the last. All the families will be scavenging the feast and packing up the leftovers in plastic and the surviving couples will be nestled in their beds.

In the shreds of the wrapping and used tape blow away the real desires unspoken the day after.

Eugene has never hoped for anything except for perhaps a good shot at a Silverhair on Thanksgiving Day, realizing that wan hopes were not destined for such as he.

After all, the assholes really never are going to give you anything. That is not the Plan.

So there he was on the edge of the Old Same Place Bar, the wannabe hunter gazing at the beautiful Liza, glowing in a glory of red and gold and exquisite auburn air, and who then looked back at him and said,

"There's a new President and a new spirit in America and I feel like celebrating. Hey. What are you doing New Year's Eve?"

Suzie's mouth dropped open. So did everyone else's.

Just then the long wail of the throughpassing train came ululating across the water from Jack London Square from the chill darkness of the Port's immense cranes over the choppy salt estuary to the little warm room of the bar, stopping all of Time in that moment of frozen wonder.

And that's just the way it is on the Island. Have a wonderful Xmas.


DECEMBER 12, 2008

IF YOU FEEL LIKE LETTING GO / HOLD ON

This week the headline photo is of little Sudharto, the latest beneficiary of largesse from the techie newsletter, WindowsSecrets. Long time IslandLifers know that, as a professional requirement we keep tabs on things computer via several usually dry as toast communiques.

WindowsSecrets began life as the brainchild of nationally known Fred Langa in the form of the Langalist. Fred realized that those of us living in the industrial First World enjoy significant advantages over most of the rest of the world. Out of the goodness of his heart, Fred initiated a program that diverts a portion of the subscription fees to assist children living in the Third World who otherwise would face issues of survival, never getting a chance to get a leg up in the world. To date, the newsletter has helped over 12 individual children, victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, and victims of the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

Fred retired for a while, but hard times and bad luck forced him to unretire, so hes back working to help others make some sense of the wierd machine called "The PC".

In a world that seems to get nastier and more brutish each day its nice to get news over the transome about somebody practicing just a little kindness and self-awareness to make at least one corner of the world a little better.

THE SCOURGE OF THREE DOTULISM REMAINS PERNICIOUS

The Editor wandered into a Bank Robbery the other day shortly after the thieves made off with the cash at the Marina Village Bank of America Saturday afternoon, which makes this the second time the mini-branch has been rolled, and the second time the Editor has wandered into a bank robbery in his usual manner of unconcern and unawareness. Since no traffic infractions occurred during the holdup, the perps got clean away . . .

Thompson Avenue is lit up again this year and will be so as part of Xmas Tree Lane from 5:30-10pm each night, and Santa will be appearing nightly 6:30-8pm . . .

A fellow woke at 5:00am by his barking dog to discover a white man, about 6'2" rummaging inside his house in the 1700 block of Eagle, who threatened the homeowner before departing with two laptops in a very Grinchlike manner . . .

PSA: SANTA IN WONDERLAND ON FOURTH STREET

Berkeley, CA – All good little girls & boys are invited to visit with Santa to whisper their holiday wishes to His Jolliness, and sit in his big red sleigh in Wonderland at 1809B Fourth Street up in Berkeley. He and his elves will visit every Thursday through Sunday ‘til 6 p.m. through Dec. 23 when they must fly back to the North Pole to tend to Santa’s workshop.

Using a ribbon from the tree in Santa’s Wonderland, attach a new pair of socks filled with small toiletries then purchase a gift book for children in Berkeley who are homeless. Donations benefit Harrison House homeless shelter and their Children’s Learning Center. Outside, the canopy of trees is filled with dazzling lights, music fills the air, and the Snow Queen, Pied Piper, and toy soldiers roam the street while the stores stay open late.

ITS ALL RIGHT SHE SAID. YOU CAN MAKE IT UP NEXT TIME.

This is one we have been putting off for a while. Long time Island-Lifers know that we can be a little sharp at times, and we do have our standard punching bags, or at least a few groups we like to rib just a little. One of those is the Native Sons of the Golden West, which we recently learned to our great astonishment is an actual organization that still exists and once in a while performs a good deed or two.

Briefly, the non-profit is a kind of State-wide thing loosely organized into local "Parlours". Membership is open to any and all who can prove ties to anyone who arrived in the Golden State prior to statehood itself. In many cases this really devolves into anyone born and raised here.

In the past the group has been charged with racist tendencies, but at present the Parlours do include folks of all persuasion, including Hispanic and Asian-American members.

Mostly known for erecting those bronze memorial markers at historical sites, the group also performs a number of charitable works, including a side project raising money to assist children with facial birth defects.

Okay, everybody out there say, "Awwwww. . . ".

So although we may continue to poke a little fun at this group -- everybody needs a little humor to keep them in line -- we promise to temper the steel in the future and sow a field with golden poppies in contrition. You can learn more about them at www.nsgw.org.

Oh yes, there is also a Native Daughters of the Golden State as well.


I REMEMBER I REMEMBER WHEN I LOST MY MIND

This notice is just too delicious to lump with other calendar items. The SF Symphony will be proud, well, sort of ashamed actually, to perform the works of Johann Sebastian Bach's "forgotten son", PDQ Bach, December 20 at the formerly distinguished Davies Symphony Hall.

Professor Schikele, the man who "discovered" the lost masterworks in an attic of a public alehouse lining a birdcage, is to make a special appearance.

For the glitterati this shall be quite a special evening in which the most illustrious musicians in the world shall be called upon to precisely toss a B flat right into a brilliant septet in C major. Right in the most excruciating location -- behind the davenport.

This one is a definite "do not miss". Unless you care about those casual musical verities of rhythm, harmony, texture, timing, firm control, and the right notes in the right place in order.

WELL I AM AN IDOT WALKING A TIGHTROPE OF FORTUNE AND FAME

As what has become an annual Tradition, the Island-Life staff trundled out to the sold-out Live 105 Not So Silent Night Concert, held this year at the Oracle Arena before 15,000 adoring fans. Managed to snag Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party. Arrived too late to snag Jacks Mannequin. Heard we did not miss much and one reviewer for the Mercury News commented "The Orange County piano-pop quartet, led by vocalist-pianist Andrew McMahon, sounded like Ben Folds Five being run through an "American Idol" sanitizer. The group delivered 25 minutes of lightweight tunes, all of which wouldn't sound out of place next to a Jonas Brothers tracks on a Radio Disney play list."

Music. Its a rough road.

Franz Ferdinand, hailing from Scotland, performed a tight, energetic set although they never seemed to get what city they were performing in, as the lead singer Alex Kapranos, kept saying, "Put your hands together San Francisco!"

No dude, the Oracle Arena is in Oaktown across the Bay.

Nevertheless the music was rocking, including the high point of "This Fire" and "Take Me Out." Stylistically the band does rhythmic post-New Wave stuff with a lot of flash. Lyrically, well its only rock and roll arising at one point to "I woke up this afternoon thinking, I am going to make someone fall in love with me tonight."

Bloc Party, out of London and headed by the quirky but charismatic Kele Okereke, manage to put in a more varied performance that, in our opinion, had a bit more edge than Franz. Okereke has the vocal chops hands down over Ferdinand's Kapranos, no question about it. He and his band, lacking the drop-dead model good looks of nearly everybody in FF threw themselves physically into their performance, knowing the sandwich slot is a tough one, between FF kicking off and preceding Death Cab. Nevertheless their underground hit "Helicopter" rose way up and the spirit of Past Masters, like Jimi, nodded their ghostly heads.

Death Cab For Cutie is a band we, like the Merc reviewer, have seen more than a few times this year, a problem for a band whose cataloge is yet thin, as good as it is. The standards,now well known by the fans, were performed energetically and about as fresh as Gibbard can make them.

The Killers, by report, closed out with a fairly lackluster performance more evocative of The Other Radio Station, which was holding its own annual Concerts for Kids that night with Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders at the Paramount, than KITS, which presents itself as The Alternative Station. Thats too bad, as we have liked the Killers in the past, and have liked what we saw as very dynamic shows. According to the Mercury reviewer, "The group's retro-rock sound borrowed from a variety of sources, from synth-pop to roller disco and from '80s David Bowie to classic Cure, but it was rarely compelling. Not surprisingly, the Killers did their best work on the early single "Somebody Told Me" and other material from the 2004 debut "Hot Fuss.""

It may be that the Killers, slated for a sold-out Warfield gig the following night were holding back. Even the best has an off night, and the annual NSSN, in its move to the larger Arena venue generally tends to be a fairly spectacular experience.

Incidentally, the word is that Chissie tore up the stage with a blazing performance for the annual benefit for children held by KFOG. March 4, the Pretenders return to rock out beneath the purple chandaliers of the venerable Fillmore. Better get your tix now.

COUNTING UFOS, SIGNALLING THEM WITH MY LIGHTER

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The seagulls came in over the backyards on Saturday as the clouds roiled and the temps dropped to nearly East Coast levels. Sunday we all awoke to the thrash of rain on the windows and hope that this weather will turn into the long awaited snow in the Sierra. It's the start of the second week in December and all the slopes remained chill and barren, postponing the ski season and stiffening the fear of extended drought.

Down at the Pampered Pup, Leroy served up mugs of coffee and bratwurst to help warm the souls of folks eyeing the skies and postponing the fetching of the annual Holiday tree in the dripping rain. Wally came in, feeling fairly self-satisfied, as he simply dragged the aluminum fir from the garage again to post it in front of the window, festooned with lights gotten from the sale bin at Longs Drug Store as usual. Each year it was Wally's wont to get brand new lights from the drug store, and right on January 3rd, if he had tied one on, or on January 2nd if he hadn't, take a pair of electric shears to the strands like giving a Marine haircut to an immense shag, before defenistrating the pristine ersatz fir and so quickly dispose of the Holiday Season in about fifteen unromantic minutes.

The decoration part was always a chore, for he usually tried to enlist the aid of any sort of divorcee in the aisles of the Longs or the neighboring Lucky's, however this year Lucky's disproved its name and so he decorated the tree to the sounds of his favorite Meatloaf CD while downing a fifth of Jack Daniels entirely by himself.

Do not mention Thanksgiving to Wally. That's when he tried to snag the leggy Joanne into an orgiastic feast abord his boat, but failing that was made to attend to the family thing held by his brother down in Sunnyvale, so he just chucked the uncooked bird over the gunwales. Sunnyvale, being far and his brothers not a place of rest with kids and cousins and all meant that he had to drive back that night without drinking and, what is about as bad, without securing leftovers in the form of any portion of stuffing.

And he knew, its all about the stuffing. Stuffing the bird. And so on.

Instead he sat there among the cousins and shrieking progeny at a card table with Martha, who looked pretty much as she was: a woman managing to escape Rehab while living in a trailerpark by selling holiday sausage meats.

Nevertheless, there he was in the Pampered Pup, feeling a bit optimistic, or about as optimistic as one can during this fairly dismal time. The Xmas day was coming up and there remained the ebullient New Years in the face of our Nation's apparent return to some form of sanity, which surely would help with aligning the stars and getting into Joanne's very tight pants.

Leroy, dishing out chili dogs, remained highly sympathetic. He was still recovering from the Halloween Party in which his dramatic aerial entrance costumed as Batman to Jose's Batboy resulted in such mayhem and the regrettable failure of attracting the attentions of Arlene, who had fled that apocalyptic disaster with her beehive hairdo on fire amid a great shattering of the ceiling disco ball.

Well, you'll just need to scroll down and read about it if you skipped that issue.

This week a full moon hung heavy over the Bay Area, attended by Jupiter on the one side and Venus upon the other. And as usual the heavens had their effect upon the people. Its been especially busy over at Sausal Creek Treatment Facility. Snuffles Johnson was there in the trailor when a man came in, quite agitated and started praying and blessing each article of furniture, which quite put Snuffles off of his feed such that, after he got his medication, he walked all the way back to the Island over the drawbridge in great haste, promising to himself that he would try to become sane with every step. It was a 15,400 step program so to speak. And so when he got to the Island he found his favorite bench and cogitated how he would do this feat, consulting the various voices that spoke to him and dismissing the more vulgar ones with contempt.

Wally passed him on the way to the Old Same Place and tossed a quarter at him. The Old Same Place was warm with chatter and the dim lights and Suzie slinging out the drinks with Dawn and Padriac cooking up buffalo wings in the back while the rain pelted down.
Occasional Quentin had finished his autobiography and been taken back into the fold of the squat on Otis, leaving all much amazed at his story of growing up in the Bay Area (this story will be posted in full with emendations in the sidebar) and the revelation of how the Ribeltad Vorden bar had gotten its name.

In the bar Wally met up with Paul, a long distance sailor from way back. Ever since Paul had attempted to sail his boat True Reality around the Horn of Phipps after taking fifteen hits of Purple Windowpane he had been a changed man. Whereas in ordinary men, such an experience would have driven them stark raving mad, Paul emerged with a startling clarity about himself and his generation. He now led a conventional life with a charming helpmeet and a house in Marin and suitable attachments to prove his solid attachment to the earth. No one knew if he had ever really sailed around the Horn, but such issues became non-issues in the face of True Reality.

Unlike Quentin, who had become quite unhinged after his overdose, Paul had become hyperrealistic to the point of becoming as near as one can the spitting image of the Vulcan Spock. In reality.

This made Paul dangerous and entertaining and Wally engaged him with enthusiasm for Wally was a man who hunted with a converted revolver that shot .55 caliber rounds with little fear.

The two of them made plans to go boar hunting in the mountains around Aptos where apparently the pigs were becoming pestiferous.

Now it should be mentioned that this kind of activity is not the usual sort of thing the average Islander does. But it is very native Californian and the Sons of the Golden West would approve.

The average Islander considers bocce ball to be rigorous exercise and trends toward bridge clubs and garage sales for entertainment, not pig hunting in the mountains, but we do have many who have moved here from the City as rents have risen there.

In any case, as these two concluded their discussions, Tipitina finished her tale of romantic woe to Suzie, who offered sympathy, another drink, a wiped place to place her elbows and a napkin to dab away the tears. The Holiday Season has begun its assault and the absences cut that much more deep. Everyone is strung out on hope and dreams in this time, while the irritating tingle of the Salvation Army bell and the howl of the mall carols smashes against the ears in a tsunami of expectation coupled with inevitable denial.

Tipitina, small dark girl crying her heart out on the edge of the Old Same Place Bar. In a City that knows how to keep its secrets, stands one bartender still pondering Life's Persistent Questions.

In the Island-Life Offices all the copywriters have gone for the night and Chad has rolled up his stuff in his banjo bag and driven off, and the Social Secretary packed up her smart bag, leaving the solitary Editor sitting at the table, a single figure in a pool of light shed by a single lamp while all around the immense ocean of darkness and incomprehension.

From far across the water comes the ululation of the through passing train as it glides through the Jack London Waterfront from the dense pack of the port with its forest of cranes to the open spaces of places unknown.

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

DECEMBER 7, 2008

HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS

This weekend Santa's Sleigh paused for a few nuts and bolts from Pagano's Hardware in front of the Island-Life offices before scooting off to collect the Big Man in Red for the Annual Mayor's tree lighting ceremony.

This is no beater that Santa drives, but one that packs a Chevy 357 under the, um, hood.
The Elf flipped up the hatch to display quite a piece of hardware.

As for the Main Puller, Rudolph is equipped with energy efficient LEDs to light the way.

Now how green is that for a red nose?


JOE TURNER HAS COME AND GONE
(Photography by Kevin Berne)


(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Teagle F. Bougere and Dan Hiatt star in Delroy Lindoís production of Joe Turnerís Come and Gone by August Wilson.

Took in the ongoing production at the Berkeley Rep of August Wilson's Joe Turner Has Come and Gone, second in the Pulizer Prize winning ten play series that documents the Black experience from 1900 to the 1990's, each play taking on a seperate decade. Delroy Lindo, fresh from his romping triumph with last year's Blue Door at the Rep, returned to direct.

August Wilson, who died of liver cancer October 5, 2005, won two Pulitzer prizes, seven Tony awards, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best American Play eight times as well as numerous other prestigious citations from nationally renowned organizations.

He is generally regarded as a giant of American theatre who has long sealed his place among the literary lions of American letters with William Faulkner, Langston Hughes, Arthur Miller, and the other luminaries in the heavens.

The director, Delroy Lindo, comes to the Rep with significant chops and experience. He was named Best Director by LA Weekly for his Medal of Honor Rag. He appeared in the Broadway and national tour productions of Master Harold…and the Boys; and on Broadway in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, for which he received Tony and Drama Desk nominations for best actor. He won an NAACP Image Award and a Helen Hayes Award nomination for his performance as Walter Lee in A Raisin in the Sun, produced at the Kennedy Center and LA’s Wilshire Theatre. He appeared in The Exonerated at London’s Riverside Theatre Company, and this summer portrayed the title role in Agamemnon at LA’s Getty Villa.

His film credits include The Cider House Rules, Clockers, The Core, Crooklyn, Get Shorty, Gone in 60 Seconds, Heist, A Life Less Ordinary, Malcolm X, The One, Ransom, and Romeo Must Die. Delroy’s television credits include Kidnapped, The Exonerated, Glory and Honor, Profoundly Normal, Soul of the Game and the Peabody Award-winning Strange Justice. He has written, produced and directed documentary interviews featuring Spike Lee, Charles Burnett and Joan Chen.

The play is set in Wilson's native Pittsburgh in the year 1911, a time in which hundreds of thousands of Black Americans headed up to the industrial north in search of jobs after the collapse of the antebellum South's economy, which had relied upon free slave labor to conduct business for hundreds of years. The rise of Jim Crow laws, and such things as the true historical figure of "Joe Turner" (actually named Joe Turney) helped impell this migration to the boomtown north.

In the opening stage direction, Wilson says, "They arrive carrying Bibles and guitars, their pockets lined with dust and fresh hope, marked men and women seeking to scrape from the narrow, crooked cobbles and the fiery blasts of the coke furnace a way of bludgeoning and shaping the malleable parts of themselves into a new identity as free men of definite and sincere worth."

As for the Joe Turner of the title, which references a song composed by WC Handy and which is sort of sung by the character Byrnum "Binder" Walker in the second act, he was a White man and the brother of Tennessee governor Pete Turney. Turney, acting with authority as Sheriff, would press Black men into forced labor, often for years at a time, spontaneously and without allowing communication to loved ones. Women finding their husbands missing would be told, "Joe Turner's been here. He's come and gone with a long chain with 50 links to it."

The reality was so horrific that Turney became this mythic figure in song as Joe Turner.

Memphis Minnie alluded to this process of looking for one's lost husband in her "Where is My Good Man Gone?" as did many other songwriters.

All of the action takes place in the living/dining room of a boarding house kept by the Holly family, born and raised citizens of Pittsburgh. Seth works nightshift at the factory steel mill, and earns some extra cash on the side making tin pots while letting out rooms. To this boardinghouse comes a mysterious and vaguely frightening man named Herald Loomis, played strongly by Teagle Bougere with his daughter in tow as he searches for his wife, Martha, missing for over ten years.

The circumstances of his missing wife and just why his attitude is so threatening to the point that the ultra-pragmatic Seth refuses to tell his lodger where he believes his wife is staying help create a nice little tension of intrigue.

Wilson's genius is in the portrayal of what and how and process without necessarily pointing accusatory fingers. We see the pain and terrible consequences of racism on individual human beings through the effects of immediate events, individual deeds that result in long-lasting injury.

A high point in the play arrives at the end of the first act, when Loomis abruptly interrupts a joyous "Juba" with a mad outburst in which he relates a vision of seeing bones rise up from a body of water, walk across it and take on flesh as they arrive to shore, still walking as they become people. But Loomis is tragically seperated from this "evolution" as he falls exclaiming with despair as he writhes on the floor "My legs won't get up! My legs won't get up!"


(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Barry Shabaka Henley, Kim Staunton, Don Guillory and Brent Jennings star in Delroy Lindoís production of Joe Turnerís Come and Gone

Wilson suggests here, and in other places in the play, the real injury is the internalization of learned helplessness as a consequence of racism. The evocation of the black-sailed slave ships and the boneyard of the Atlantic is emotional and wrenching.

Loomis is an interesting figure in his pent-up rage and borderline madness waiting years for his cultivated obsessions and the repressed "song of himself" to awake, a madness that is a consequence of living with impossibility right against the skin, so close. Bougere gives an humanity to a fairly common figure that often seems wildly inscrutable at first glance, the sort of haunted figure who literalizes metaphors, often with violence.


Teagle F. Bougere stars in Delroy Lindo’s production of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson.

"You want blood? I'll give you blood!" he shouts as he rips open his shirt and slashes himself with a butcher knife.

He is a man whose identity was removed by force, and who searches for his lost wife so that he can begin his life. But for ten years of searching, he has postponed living for so long, he has become a tense wire of a man possessed of sullen silences split by sudden outbursts.

Yes, the play is intense, for all of its two hours, thirty minutes and focussing intently on such a minute space in the livingroom (save for a couple segments involving the children out in the yard) really creates at times a sense of compression as well as a sense of a great deal of personal history having happened prior to all the current events. Everyone on stage, saving the children, comes on with a load of historical baggage that needs to be dealt with by each in their own way.

Binder (Brent Jennings in a complex, powerful performance) falls back on his African roots and, among all the characters is the one who probably was born under slavery, casts magic spells to connect people together. Rutherford Selig (played with amiable doofiness by Dan Hiatt) hails from the Old South and makes money selling the pots made by Seth while acting as a "finder" for people trying to locate missing people. His ancestors were people who chased down and located runaway slaves, an history that does not bother Selig in the slightest. "Heck, my people used to find your people for the White landowners. Now I just find the same people for you people."

It can be said that Wilson's play possesses such rich evocative language and construction that it practically directs itself with only a push on the tiller here and there from Delroy Lindo.

One mention should be made of Scott Bradley's impressive set which features an impossibly long staircase behind the main area and a stylized view of the Ohio River waterfront with skyline and bridges as backdrop. Folks who know something of stage falls in theatre will have a great deal of sympathy for the actors and actresses who traverse that 1.5 story high staircase.

The play has been deservedly well reviewed, and we also throw in our endorsement for the revival of a masterpiece of theatre, well acted and well produced in conjunction with the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre.

Many of the critics have remarked that a seperation of time and the recent Presidential Elections allow us to be thankful for changes in society. Well, the changes are indeed welcome, but there are plenty of Harold Loomis's still out there, and the damage of what was done persists down through the generations, systemically and within individuals. So patting oneself on the back may be a bit premature. A single act simply cannot erase, mollify, or heal well over 400 years of institutionalized horror and one will expect persistent consequences as one hopes for gradual healing as the song returns to the man who finds it in himself.

Interestingly there was an unintended strong evocation of a very different sort of "finding the song" as dramatized next door by Zimmerman's Arabian Nights during the musician's quest story told by Scheherezade. The Scheherezade story concerns a man who learns that the song is something granted by a Higher Power, and that the nature of himself is one bound to God.

Loomis, by contrast, needed to find the individual song of himself, that thing which sets him apart both as worthy and as connected to humanity.

There is a lot in the play. Go see it.

August Wilson, Playwright
Delroy Lindo, Director
Scott Bradley, Scenic Design
Reggie Ray, Costume Design
Cliff Caruthers, Sound Design
William H. Grant III, Lighting Design
Dwight Andrews, Music Director
Douglas A. Jones, Jr., Dramaturg
Cynthia Cahill, Stage Manager
Amy Potozkin, Casting
Alan Filderman, Casting
Victoria Northridge, Studio Teacher
Taura Musgrove, Assistant to the Director

Cast (in order of appearance)

Barry Shabaka Henley, Seth Holly Barry
Kim Staunton, Bertha Holly
Brent Jennings, Bynum Walker
Dan Hiatt, Rutherford Selig
Don Guillory, Jeremy Furlow
Teagle F. Bougere, Herald Loomis
Inglish Amore Hills, Zonia Loomis
Nia Reneé Warren, Zonia Loomis
Tiffany Michelle Thompson, Mattie Campbell
Keanu Beausier, Reuben Mercer
Victor McElhaney, Reuben Mercer
Erica Peeples, Molly Cunningham
Kenya Brome, Martha Pentecost

RAMPANT THREE DOTULISM EVADES ERADICATION EDITOR ELUCIDATES

The recent letter to the editor of the Island Gerbil about leaf blowers has blown up its own tempest of Andy Rooney-style curmudgeonly complaint, such that the complainers sound louder than the original cause of all the ruckus. . . . Another developer, Catellus Group, is suffering financial seizures after its holding partner, Prologis, saw its stock drop from last year's soft $71.79 to $2.53 per share, which means that the Alameda Landing project may just tank out, especially after the lead prospective tenant, Cliff Bar, backed out entirely . . .
On the other hand, the Point developer seems healthy and happy, despite its abandonment of the Oaktown Oak Knoll project, which is just too bad, as we were kinda hoping the Point would be made into a nice open air park, while Oaktown could really use Oak Knoll developed . . . The outrage at Pat Koons and her recent newspaper article in support of fascist government-controlled marriage still has not peaked, indicating that some people still are paying attention around here . . . The wave of vandalism that continued all November, featuring smashed window glass and grafitti seems to be winding down in favor of grand theft, indicating a seeming increased interest in our youth in the value of private property . . . The recent article in the SF Comical Real Estate section on the Island's struggle to balance small town feel with controlled development felt a bit too much like a realty puff piece in its overall tone and in its overly optimistic statistics, indicating that wishful thinking continues apace in the housing market here. . .

THE HOME OF THE BLUES

It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Temperatures have dropped and every morning sees a thick carpet of dew rolling diamonds down the windows of the cars parked on St. Charles Street.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar Occasional Quentin is winding up his autobiography. After his entire family had been exterminated in a freak ferry accident, he went to live in the Golden Gate Park after the house was seized by creditors from Texas.

For a while he continued going to school until the Famous Dunking in 1969. School provided a pleasant and monotonous routine, which seemed to also provide a sense of normalcy to a guy living under the third pine tree on the left inside the Panhandle. Besides, the gym offered the opportunity for the occasional shower. And he never really gave up the idea of going on a real high school date with a real high school girl until the very end.

In 1969 America was going through a kind of event that has been compared at times favorably and at times unfavorably with the eversion of the sea slug.

The sea slug will, if properly challenged, evert its innards upon the floor of the seabed, which should so discourage predators from continuing, that they do not continue.

The problem is that the sea slug is left hollow and empty and the predetor is left in the same condition.

So everyone is left unsatisfied in the end.

Thus was America as it commenced bombing the shit out of a bunch of southeast Asian tribesmen.

Parallel to this was a fountain that stood in the courtyard of Poly High.

It came upon a day that a group of stalwarts seized upon Quentin for all his studiousness and his AP English attendance and in that fountain they gave him a forcible dunking, while destroying his irreplaceable books.

Perhaps they did not like him reading Ulysses, or his reading of Rimbaud.

In any case, the dripping Quentin wandered from the grounds of the school, never to return.

Instead, he encountered a couple of freaks with long hair, colorful serapes, striped bell-bottoms and sandals near the tree in Golden Gate Park where he had been sleeping for the past six months. The freaks noted that Quentin was on a real bummer trip so they decided to share in the spirit of the first lesson learned in Kindergarten.

One of them brought out a baggie with strips of paper printed with cartoon figures. In Quentin's wet fingers dissolved, almost, but not quite, the images of Mickey Mouse in his Sorcerer's Apprentice getup. Told not to waste it, he shoved these and a few more pieces of paper in his mouth.

The unequal pupils of the one guy suddenly got very large when he saw that and the two hippies looked at each other, shrugged and walked away.

So there Quentin was when he started to feel really strange, at first exhilerated with boundless energy. This energy became lightning bolts shooting from his fingers. The tree next to him started moving, writhing, until the bark bulged out, becoming a tangle of twisted snakes.

That's when Quentin thought he should get out of there and so he started moving through the Park with trees writhing all around him and the sky becoming the latticework of Father Duran's confessional screen and thats when people started melting all around him into puddles of water which became knee-high grass and all the buildings turned into paintings by Mondrian, making it really difficult to cross the street.

Clearly this was not real. Clearly he and everybody had become a character in a book written by a science fiction Author. All of Reality was illusion, just made up by some guy in a wooden chair sitting in front of a desk in Heaven or Sunol, a place he liked very much. He thought he should get over to Bernal Heights, to the bar where he knew some people.

That bar was a curious place owned by a crusty guy named Doyle, who had been sent up to Pelican Bay for half-ounce possession. Well, in those days, fairness and compassion and justice were not things to be considered by people who longed to preserve "the spirit of '49". In spite of his experiences, Doyle was a genuinely warm-hearted guy who got hold of this tavern and sent off to Japan for the finest woodworker there to inscribe on a redwood plank the Argentinian National Motto, "Libertad y Orden."

Why Japan and why Argentina are things best left to speculation, for the plank returned with the bold logo, "Ribeltad Vorden". The name stuck and so all the menus got reprinted and Doyle developed a fine community there of drinkers and the occasional live music supplied by bands with wierd names like Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, and the Warlocks, all playing really trippy music but all having a great time to which all were welcome, including Quentin with leaves in his hair and a sort of scraggly beard.

He never made it to the bar for he was arrested for vagrancy while trying to swim across the street, which had become a river infested with hippopotomi, for the citizenry was much up in arms about the Hippy invasion and consequences to the Californian way of life, as they saw it and this drug thing was entirely out of hand.

So it was, while held in a cold cell on Seventh Street, in a tank among the hookers, the DUI, the pimps, the petty thieves and the pushers, in the now fashionable SOMA district, amid a seachange of changes for the City, Quentin stared at the moon and the moon stared back at him, with Jupiter on the one side and Venus upon the other.

Unto Quentin was given a great Gift. He whose entire family had been extinguished and who had lost his home and who had been dunked in the fountain of Poly High for the crime of reading French was visited by The Author.

The Author reached out upon a moonbeam and with boundless pity touched Quentin upon the temple and so, drove Quentin entirely mad and so has Quentin been since that night in the Seventh Street Jail. From that night forward he was entirely insane and cared not about fame nor wealth nor standing.

Eventually he found himself on the Island, which at that time was dominated by a Navy Base and so was not a desireable place for Citizens to live, and there he was embraced by the small household of Marlene and Andre gave him sanctuary, seeing there the simplicity and honesty of the prophets.

While the Island may host fine ambitions and all the like, it also has hosted prophets in its time and the time of the prophets may be at hand. Thus sayeth Quentin.

As he finished his report there in the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie called Last Call. And from far across the broken fields of Buena Vista flats and the choppy estuary came the long ululation of the throughpassing train as it wailed through the shuttered and silent Jack London Waterfront to parts unknown.

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

NOVEMBER 30, 2008

ARTIFEX ET ARS PULCHRA, VITA BREVIS, MALUS, ET ACERBA

This week the headline photo comes from the 30th Annual Celebration of Craftswomen and features the lovely artist, Lisa Arquette, with a portion of her of one of her bronze sculptures. The artist gracefully allowed this photo before the booth had been completely set up on the day prior to the start of the annual benefit for the SF Women's Building.

A "full frontal" shot of this work is provided below.

Lisa hails from the little town of Joseph, Oregon, which boasts some three metal foundries in the vicinity and where nearly every single inhabitant (pop. 1024) is an artist of some kind or other. And these are not artists who do sad-eyed clowns or imitation-Remingtons -- they have substantial international renown and much of their work is on display at the National Mall in Washington D.C., including parts of the National W.W.II Memorial.

Ms. Arquette works with wood, bronze and glass, combining slender, elegant bronze cast in sensuous whirls with chunky, polished and lacquered redwood and manzanita to create tables, lamps and stand-alones that evoke organic growth.

Bear in mind this piece is substantially made of bronze, starting with the "lost wax" method. Feast your eyes before someone snaps it up for this museum gallery item is priced accordingly.

We think it would go well between the Apollo Belvedere and the original Bernini in your anteroom or foyer.

OPUSI EFFEMINATUS MAGNIFICENTIA, OPUSI MASCULINUM MISER

Island-Life staffers have assisted on setup day for various artists intermittently for the past twenty years. This year the Women's Building benefit at Fort Mason features a smaller space and a more selective gathering of high-quality artists.

The San Francisco Women's Building is a multiethnic, multi-cultural, multi-service center for women and girls. Their mission is to provide women and girls with the tools and resources they need to achieve full and equal participation in society. Founded in 1971, the Women’s Building is a woman-owned and operated community center located in San Francisco’s dynamic Mission District.

Since its move from the offices established on Brady Street in 1971 to its present location at the former Sons of Norway in 1979 The Women's Building (TWB) has sponsored over 170 emerging organizations, many growing into established nonprofits, such as La Casa de Las Madres (San Francisco's first shelter for battered women), The Women's Foundation of California and LYRIC (Lavender Youth Recreation & Information Center). In 1999, TWB underwent an extensive renovation & seismic retrofitting, reopening in September of 2000. They estimate that over 10,000 people pass through the doors every year to take advantage of a variety of services or attend trainings and cultural events.

The annual benefit typically showcases work from various artists from all over the Western United States, many of national and international renown.


Besides ceramics and bronze sculpture, wonderful work in felt and other textiles always draws a substantial crowd.

The Celebration continues next weekend, and is well worth the investment to visit for a couple hours or so. There is basic "festival food" available inside the food court area as well as local Marina District restaurants as well.

 

PSAs: UPCOMING EVENTS

The mellifluously named Lisa Bullwinkl informs us that children up to age 12 can mail a letter to Santa Claus by using special mailbox at the Berkeley Main Post Office during this holiday season.

Beginning Tuesday, December 2, 2008 through Friday, December 19, 2008, letters may be deposited in a special ‘Letters To Santa’ mailbox located in the lobby of the Berkeley Main Post Office, 2000 Allston Way. All letters will be delivered promptly to Santa and he and the elves will merrily answer each and every one.

Also, there will be a special Box on the greensward beneath the old oak on Palmera Court for kids here on the Island again this year.

KPFA will hold its annual Crafts and Music Fair December 13-14, 10-6, with food, music and fine art at the Concourse in Babylon. BART and Caltrain will provide free shuttles for folks, as parking is notoriously tight down there in SOMA. See www.kpfa.org/craftsfair for details.

Over in Sausalito, the IBC will hold its 40th Winter Open Studios, kicking off with a gala reception on Friday, December 5th. Admission is free to the old converted shipwright's building at 480 Gate 5 Road. See www.icbartists.com.

THE 10TH ANNUAL ISLAND POODLESHOOT AND BBQ

This year the 'Shoot began with uncommon festive ceremony in view of the Tenth Anniversary of this traditional holiday.

As usual rosy-fingered Dawn parted the curtains of the night to step lightly across the dew-dappled fields under Michelangelo skies, muscular with gods and gleams of fast-approaching Phoebus, until she reached nigh unto the hedge privy to make there the streams of gold that ease us all pleasurably into the day.

Gently she kissed the eyelids of still-sleeping Padriac, mighty Innkeeper and Guardian of the Hunt, but he stirred not except for a brief snort of somnolence for Morpheous held him firmly in his shadowland.

That's when rosy-fingered Dawn gave Padriac a mighty wack startling him awake and banishing abruptly that dull old Morpheous for Dawn O'Reilly was not to be trifled with.

By the time Padriac and Dawn had arrived at the "Pit" there in Washington Park, the Island Atonal Marching Band and Hoophole Choir were setting up their instruments.

This year, the band included Rex Suru on tuba, Kirk Johnson on dweezil harp, Professor Schickele on Hardart with Inflatable, Karen Rega on broomstick-washtub bass, Helen on Hapless 85-Key Harmonium, Goody Thompson and Lucky on percussion and conch shell, Pat Aston on kettledrum with tapas, Doctor Smallberries on oud and five-string Acme Vaporware Fantod, Ken Collins on the Banjo-Bandsaw Anomaly. Oscar Matzarath on Tin Drum, Oscar Kring on spittoon and stuffed monkey, Carol Traylor on horned crepuscular and bass zither, and Rachel Linzer on Brass Shrieker with Mugwhumper while Shawn and Nancy Grey performed the oboe-bassoon-clarinet-trumpet-resin tooter Occlusion Device.

Ken's 20 minute solo on the Bandsaw Anomaly has been described by critics as "unique in the annals of music".

After the band performed a spirited rendition of the well-loved Venezuelan National Anthem, arranged by Terry Gilliam and John Cleese, the Island Chapter of the Native Sons of the Golden West entered from the one side and the Native Daughters from the other, all dressed in white and wearing crowns of golden poppies. They gathered in a circle and intoned the traditional Poodleshoot Chant in the ancient language of Nuovo Zembla as recorded by E Clampus Vitus.

They turned in a circle clockwise, then anti-clockwise, then interlocked their pinkies with arms raised and each then emitted a delicate fart.

Padraic took a few moments to read the Rules and introduce the Special Guests for this year's event: members and clergy from The First Recondite Unitarian Church and Stablery of Sonoma.

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

Libations and offers were made to honor the gods, and Glaucous Athena, Goddess of the Hunt, sent down a token in the form of an owl who perched upon the buckeye tree with imperious mein.

With a jolly crescendo from the horn section, the line of hunters then moved out into the field under a grey sky -- the Tenth 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 AK-47's and the frequent whump of percussion grenades adding to the Holiday Cheer.

Jeff Silva won a prize for First Bag of the Day, by using a cleverly-designed hand-thrown cluster bomb.

Eugene Gallipagus sallied forth with his updated fifty-cal rhino-gun and quickly found himself hot on the trail of a brace of silverhairs who turned off of Grand Street and attempted to seek sanctuary in the Church of the Sanctified Elvis on Central Avenue.

Unfortunately, it was in the nave of this church that Ms. Morales was ardently attempting to change her name with Mr. Ramirez in a a long delayed joint wedding with Susan and Lynette, Tommy and Toby.

Because the Catholic Archbishop had put the screws to the pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint upon hearing about the same-sex marriage events to be included in the program, Father Guimon had been forced to bow out, such that the loving couples had need to go in search of a minister for some weeks, until they finally found a sympathetic ear in that of Reverend Sanctus Sanfroid. With a Reverend and a church edifice, it was no problem to haul in Rebbe Mendelnuss, and Pastor Nyquist of the First Presbyterian Church for a genuine mixed wedding in thorough-going California style. The Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint sent a token Deacon to stand there looking uncomfortable in an effort to save somebody's soul on behalf of the One True Church.

Since Church and State are seperate by law and Constitution, Proposition 8 had no effect upon any of the proceedings, some of which had been handled at City Hall by clerks with very sweaty palms, but a wedding is a ceremony in a church and a civil union is what everybody else gets regardless.

Pastor Lisa Freethought of the Unitarian Church was engaged in marrying off Andre and Marlene the same day, so the Island was just as chock full of joy as it was of churches on the day of the Poodleshoot.

One person, most decidedly not ever joyous, stood outside the Church of the Sanctified Elvis with a crowd of picketers who shouted the most base and obscene things imaginable. Among the milder picket signs, was one that read, "GOD HATES YOU!" That person outside the church was the irate Fred Phelps, the very same man who finds Billy Graham a false prophet, the Pope a demon, Ireland a nest of serpents and the country of Sweden to be Sodom and Gomorrah. Fred Phelps hates so many people and institutions that the only person ever recorded to have liked him was Saddam Hussein.

Phelps has his own church of course, in the state of Kansas where they tolerate his ilk, and where the primary credo is that all gay people are hated by their god and deserve to die terribly. It might be added that Mr. Phelps is not a nice man.

Into this melange, just at the critical moment of "I do" happened beneath the nine foot high poster in velvet of Elvis in his white suit, charged several poodles, followed by Eugene blazing away and several other hunters armed with the usual assortment of firearms, morningstar flails, katana swords, crossbows with explosive-tipped arrows and the general sportsman set of paraphernalia complete with nets and steel-jaw traps.

The Phelps congregation scattered like Chaff upon the Wind blown by the Lord, dropping signs and bullhorns in their haste.

One erring shot blasted the sign hanging from the armature there at the street, causing the heavy board to crash down on the unfortunate Mr. Phelps, who went down in turn like a sack of rocks to lie out there, spreadeagled and unconscious.

That's the odd moment when everybody noticed he had left his fly unzipped.

In any case, the poodles ran amok in the church, causing all sorts of mischief and stealing from the collection plates and the big fruit basket offering until Bear drove them out by flailing a chain from a 1939 Shovelhead Harley -- which he had worn about his waist as a cummerbund for his tuxedo. Lynette also performed with valor, using the crescent wrench she always kept about her for mechanical emergencies, with great effect and she was rewarded in the doorway with a warm kiss from Susan.

As he stood panting at the door, watching the poodlechase head pell-mell for the Unitarian Church across the street, Sophie, his consort of many years laid a hand on his arm in admiration.

"Bear, you are a filthy beast, and I love you." she said. Such are the ways of love, inscrutable and mysterious.

As it turned out, once everything had sorted itself out, it was she who caught the first bouquet.

Sound of trumpets tooting victory here.

But to leave that happy scene we turn to the disorder upsetting the normally sedate church of Reverend Freethought where hunters chased poodles who had been reinforced by a battalion from the Island Dogwatcher's Association. As Marlene, Andre and the Reverend snuck out the side door a pitched battle ensued which caused much hurt to the old building. Out of respect for the Reverend, the hunters abandoned firearms and explosives, resorting to bladed weapons, knuckledusters, and truncheons.

The Dogwatchers were armed with terrible leash flails and impermeables, while the poodles had their natural defences of teeth, claws, and their chemical arsenal of bodily fluids as well as semi-solids.

Reinforcements arrived from all sides and every angle and every window a gunport, every pew a trenchline of war in smoky semidarkness, for all the lights had been shot out and a murk from the burning hung a pall over all as the battle spilled into the street.

It was all a terrible orgy of destruction, an atavistic regression into primitive savagery worse than a Raiders football game in which Lex Talonis became the only law as everyone descended into bestial violence, going at it hand to hand in the pews, tooth and nail. Soon the battle overwhelmed the Baptist Church next door and the marquee there became riddled with machinegun bullets.

Not even the Archbishop could halt the carnage, for he was thrown by a percussion grenade from his replica Popemobile and brought low among the fallen leaves of autumn where he lay groaning.

It was then, during the island's Darkest Hour, a great Miracle did happen. There, amid the smoke and reek of battle strode the form of a mighty God, larger than life, a God fierce of mien and bearing a long cigarette holder in his clenched teeth and the glitter of a monogram on his shirt cut through the viscous air: HST.

The spirit of Hunter S. Thompson had returned to earth, called forth from the Hereafter by the women in the First United Church of Wiccan Faith down the street.

With a wave of his hand he distributed Purple Windowpane, mescaline, Brown Death, Crystal Blow, Cut Rock Cocaine, PCP, and a thousand other things equally as devious as the mind of the most perverted swine of the Neo-Con Movement, them that deflower virgins in barnyards and stripmine the Nation's Treasury with their Whores of Babylon, fornicating upon the desks of Congressmen to prove a point.

Yes, worse things than so concieved. And the minds of the Enemy were deranged and so ran amok down to the water where a contingent of the Iranian Navy had just landed. This was the Special Delegation invited to the Mixed Wedding Reception (to be described later) from the Iranian submarine Chador.

When the Iranians encountered the demented poodles they drew their sharp scimitars and slew them upon the Strand, exclaiming, "Infidel dogs!" But they attended not the BBQ, for such flesh was considered by them devoutly as "trafe". The Dogwalkers fled across the infamous Bicycle Bridge and were seen no more and there returned peace to the Island.

Back at the Pit, many a weary hunter returned with little to show for all his trouble save for his intact skin and his life.

But the great keg of Padriac was broken open to allow the Water of Life to flow freely and assuage all wounds while a flank of Ahi was thrown on the barbi so that none would go hungry and so there was feasting and merriment into the night.

So ended the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ of 2008, which shall be remembered for many long years to come.

I WANNA SAY "THANK YOU! THANK YOU"

It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. This past week saw all the families, great and small, doing that Traditional thing, whatever it may be for each. When Marlene and Andre escaped from the Poodleshoot they headed back to the only relative security they had known -- the one-bedroom squat on Otis which was shared with twelve other residents. Not including dogs.

Because the rents had risen so astronomically in the area in such short of time, people who actually lived here found it necessary to double-up and sublet to the max. Of course no fool can really afford $2,000 per month for a single bedroom. There are realities to consider here.

So Marlene and Andre's place had collected the maximum above average in sublets, largely because Mr. Howitzer couldn't be bothered with the place beyond collecting rent for that is what Island landlords do: they collect money for doing nothing. Basically how it works.

Marlene was terribly put out about her wedding being interrupted by a gang of poodles and numbskulls and she was in quite a wax for some time and nothing Andre could do or say would improve the situation.

"Eff you!" she said every five seconds or so.

The usual Female/Male Situation since time immemorial.

But as the evening wore on, inhabitants gradually gathered, as not often happened except on holidays when there was no work to be had.

There was Occasional Quentin, engaged in telling his pathetic life story. Then there was Suan, cut loose from the strip club for the day. And forlorn Javier and Jose, both limping from various wounds.

It was Thanksgiving, crissakes and everybody always hungry most of the time.

Well, nevermind the wedding plans dashed. Andre, put on the potatoes. And she got busy with the charity turkey and the sauces and all whatnot on the stove for there was an household to feed.

So it was on Thanksgiving night, November 2008, Marlene dished out beans and stuffing, still wearing a gravy-stained, somewhat powder-singed, erstwhile wedding dress while Andre carved the turkey and handed out slices and that night on Otis, nobody went hungry for there was plenty for all.. Even the Unitarian Minister, Reverend Freethought tucked in after a brief blessing that included the validity of all faiths, for it was deemed unwise to return to the rectory until morning.

It could be worse. You could be in a similar situation whoever you are, or something more dire.

At least all were well fed that night in November as the salt sea winds blew and the billows swelled to 20 footers outside the Golden Gate.

They had shelter for the moment, the wretched of the earth. And they had food.

At the end of the night, cleaning up, Marlene put aside her wedding shawl, all ruined with cranberry sauce, burns, shrapnel holes, and gravy and burst into tears. She would never be normal. She would never be Middle Class. Nothing had ever worked out. Life had always been f----d. She was f----d. It was all f----d. Goddamn f----d.

O the sobbing of a young lady is the pain of the entire world.

Andre, gaunt frame of hunger and desperation leaned against the fridge. What can you do? It was all f----d. The entire "financial crisis" a made up f----d situation from the beginning. All the fancy KEOG and 401K and IRA alphabet soup and f---- knows what a stupid con game.

They wound up in each others arms, the dishes only half washed, the pan awash in a sea of grease.

"Eff you!" she said passionately.

"Eff you!!" he responded equally as passionately. And they went to bed.

From across the water, under the crescent moon with Venus and Sirius glowing bright upon the choppy estuary came the long ululation of the throughpassing train as it passed through Jack London Waterfront.

That's the way it is on the Island. Make love not war. And have a great week.

 

NOVEMBER 23, 2008

FIRE, FIRE, FIRE! FIRE UP YOUR LIGHTER!

This weeks headline photo comes courtesy of A Shift, Station 1 of the Island Fire Department. Seems those rascals stole the plaque made by Jim Scarbrough for his team and shipped it to Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel Stranahan in Anbar Province. Stranahan carried the sign into all kinds of unlikely places and had himself photographed, narrowly missing disciplinary action when he tried to take it on a parachute jump.

The pictures mysteriously showed up on Scarborough's computer, which caused the fireman more than a few headscratching moments.

The sign returned with the reservist personnel of 4th Force Reconnaissance Company November 9th as part of the troop drawdown and will be returned to the firehouse with signatures of the men from the corps and an Iraq Campaign Medal.

Now if we only kept a sense of humor like that instead of bombing and waterboarding people, we all would be a lot better off.

NO MOVERAN

Our roving correspondent came across the giant inflatable figure of a twenty-five foot high rat surrounded by a number of beefy fellows carrying signs at Southshore Mall recently. Apparently
Elk Grove-based 3D Construction, which is currently doing the build-out for the future Kohl's Department Store there, isn't paying the wages and economic benefits that have been established for union contractors here in Alameda.

The picketers are from carpenter's union local 68L, but are not striking as the construction company has imported nonunion workers from the Sacto area.

The protest has been going on intermittently for about a month.

If this is the way Kohl's plans on behaving here, once they start up operations, perhaps we all should consider shopping off the Island.

MUSIC IS A STRANGE BROOCH IN THIS ALL-HATING WORLD

Femi Kuti steamrollered through the Fillmore Saturday with strong Afro-Pop, while OAR took the Warfield by storm on the 21st with their unique Reggae/Motown mix. Some of his band dropped by underneath the Studios here to jam with Rex Suru, who is coming out with a brand new CD soon.

Rex generously provides technical assistance to the annual Island-Life CD.

Upcoming items of note include the Alt-rock group The Decembrists at the Warfield 11/25, followed by the latest Hot Thing in Blues, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings on the 28th. The quirky and lively Greyboy Allstars user in the new year.

Under the purple chandeliers of the Fillmore, we note Los Lobos, not just another band from East LA, taking over 12/5-12/6.

The powerful bass of M'Shell N'Degocello holds forth with Funk on the 7th. The multi-culti Ozomatli with bring Southwest sounds for the week 12/11-12/14.

We welcome back a healthy and invigorated Adam of the Counting Crows 12/15-12/16. Now that he is off the meds for depression, the lead singer has slimmed down and is causing fainting spells among the female populace with an updated songbook.

LIVE 105 is holding its annual NSSN on the 11th this year. The Killers are returning as headliners, along with Death Cab for Cutie and Bloc Party among other highlights. Bloc Party's big one is called "Helicopter." We have heard it on prerelease about a year ago and it rocks. So should the band and as for the Killers, well, they are just to die for with a whip-cracking nonstop show.

On the other end of the dial, KFOG's Concert for Kids features the Pretenders this year, fronted by Amos Lee at the Masonic. Bring a new unwrapped toy for the tykes when you come.

If you miss Chrissie Hynde that night, you can always pickup the very collectible Live Archives CD that KFOG puts out to benefit Bay Area Food Banks at any Peets Coffeehouse. In addition to being very collectible items that feature one-off live performances by the world's most notable musical artists recorded in very intimate settings, but the CD's remain attractive stocking stuffers for the Holidays.

This one features a load of acoustic stuff that should complement any rarities collection well.

At Yoshis, we note the Broun Fellinis appearing 11/24, tomorrow, in the version held across the water in Babylon. The popular Tuck and Patti hold forth 11/28-11/20.

On the warmer side of the Bay, McCoy Tyner occupies 11/19-11/23 at Jack London Square. Eric Benet brings his New Orleans guitar to several shows, which were largely sold out on last check, but some slots for 11/20 and added shows available.

At the Freight, getting ready for their big move to downtown Berzerkeley, we note Blame Sally taking over for the post-digestive date of 11/28. Ask for "Planet Ranch", a song that features a misfit maniac guiding a group of banker's wives from a cocktail party into the desert at night to locate space aliens with his transistor radio.

Our mellifluously named correspondent, Ms. Bullwinkl, kindly informs us of Berkeley's annual Festival of Lights.

Celebrate light in the darkness on Monday, Dec. 1, 3-6 p.m. at the Festival of Lights in Civic Center Park circling the fountain in Berkeley. Make a luminaria to light the walkways, build a gingerbread house, write a letter to Santa, draw your hopes for the future on Berkeley’s giant New Year’s Card, get your face painted, donate a warm coat or canned food. Enter a raffle for Twelve Nights Out in Berkeley - 12 free passes for two to a dinner out or performance from Buy Local Berkeley. There’s holiday music and entertainment, hot chocolate and cookies, and Santa and his elves arrive on a Fire Engine at 5 p.m. with treats for good little girls and boys. And when it gets really dark at 6 p.m., watch as the redwood tree behind City Hall glows in the night as Vice Mayor, Laurie Capitelli turns on the lights.

Santa and his elves arrive by Fire Engine at 5 p.m., letters to Santa, art projects, entertainment, tree lighting at 6 p.m. Visit www.buylocalberkeley.com for more info.

Finally the Bay Area simply would not be what it is without something really quirky and deranged going on. Over the transom we obtained the following item of interest to all kid-lovers everywhere.

Larry Flynt's Hustler Club is hosting the kickoff event for a fundraiser series at his club on 11/26. Text RSVP SFtoy to 35350.

Say what?! Nevermind. Even nekkid ladies can be generous. Sometimes more so than the well-dressed.

Sigh. Sometimes we really miss the absence of Press credentials and free entry.


YOUR TREASURE LIES BURIED IN THE GARDEN OF YOUR HOME / YOUR FUTURE LIES IN YOUR DREAMS

Our Island-Life Event Coordinator managed to score Tix for Press Night at the Berkeley Rep for the long anticipated return of Mary Zimmerman to the Bay Area with her latest collaboration, The Arabian Nights.

Opening Night tends to feature glitches and problems and cold starts that get ironed out as the season progresses, so we tend to avoid them, despite the buffet and cheap champagne.

Sitting there we noted all the best and brightest and most savage of the Bay Area Critics slouching in their seats all around. You can always tell a Professional Writer by their cynical demeanor and their looks of jaundiced dissatisfaction with virtually everything.

In this case, we have to say, this production exploded from the start with no-miss energy and visually stunning presentation that grabbed each and every audience member by the lapels within the first 45 seconds to shake them all awake and not let go for a second until the gasping Scherazade, about to couple with the murderous king who holds her fate, shouts from under the king, "Intermission!"

The audience enters to the Thrust Stage area, a unique space in that the audience surrounds the performance area on three sides, to see a bare lightbulb hanging over a pile of white drop cloths in front of a distressed concrete back wall with exposed wiring and pipes. Two men dressed in antique middle east costume enter with djembes (West African hand drums) and a vaguely Middle East filigree lamp one man hangs over the bare lightbulb.

After a hesitation, the two launch into furious drumming as the entire cast of some fifteen person enters at a furious run to unveil the stage and construct the setting with Oriental carpets, pillows and divans under a hail of tossed pillows. This frenetic and startling beginning works well to set the tone of magic and setting, which morphs over the course of the play from vaguely "Oriental" to Persian, to Iraq, to, in the final moments of the play, present day Baghdad with a final, terrifying image.

According to the Wicki, "One Thousand and One Nights (Arabic: Kitab 'alf layla wa-layla; Persian: Hezar-o yek šab) is a collection of stories collected over many centuries by various authors, translators and scholars across the Middle East, North Africa and Indian subcontinent. These collections of tales trace their roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Persian, Indian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian literature. In particular, many of tales were originally folk stories from the Caliphate era and the Sassanid-era Pahlavi work Hazar Afsan (lit. Thousand Tales). Though the oldest Arabic manuscript dates from the 14th century, scholarship generally dates the collection's genesis to around the 9th century.

What is common throughout all the editions of The Nights is the initial frame story of the ruler Shahryar (from Persian, generally meaning king or sovereign) and his wife Scheherazade (from Persian, generally meaning townswoman) and the framing device incorporated throughout the tales themselves. The stories proceed from this original tale; some are framed within other tales, while others begin and end of their own accord. Some editions contain only a few hundred nights, while others include 1001 or more "nights."

That's the Wickipedia. Our own take is that during the 18 Century, the tales became robbed of any relevance and became mere "entertainments", while the original stories possessed a bit more pointed satire as well as moral cautionary fables. But over the course of well over a thousand years, the collections developed lives of their own with some well-loved tales, such as Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves of purely Western English origin.

One figure who figures largely in the tales, and especially in Mary Zimmerman's version is an actual historical personage, the Harun al-Rashid; also spelled Harun ar-Rashid. He was the fifth and most famous Abbasid Caliph. He was born in Rayy, near Tehran, Iran, and lived in Baghdad, Iraq (March 17, 763 – March 24, 809).

He ruled from 786 to 809, and his time was marked by scientific, cultural and religious prosperity. Art and music also flourished significantly during his reign. He established the library Bayt al-Hikma ("House of Wisdom").

Since Harun was intellectually, politically and militarily resourceful, his life and the court over which he held sway have been the subject of many fictional tales: some are factual but most are believed to be fictitious. One story known to be true was the story of a mechanical clock sent to Charlemagne, which the Frankish court took to be a powerful talisman of magic because of its regular sounds and amazing things it would do upon the hour.

Zimmerman's take here, since obviously one cannot present nearly a tenth of the stories on stage in any reasonable amount of time, is to select, arrange and orchestrate several of the lesser well known stories so that the first section features the most ribald and frankly erotic stories that manage to captivate the murderous king who kills a virgin bride each night in memory of being cuckolded by his first wife. The idea is that killing the bride on the first night skips by any possibility of betrayal.

Along comes Scherazade (Sophia Jean Gomez) who beguiles the King Shahryar (Ryan Artzberger) into postponing the murder until daybreak brings temporary relief.

The Second Act is far more thoughtful and "elegiac" section which features a remarkable exegesis of the Koran and Islamic thought as "Sympathy the Wise" comes to challenge the wisest scientists, philosophers and theologians of Calif al-Rashid's court.

Also, it is during the second act that the accumulation of repeated details and placenames, now familiar to us in the West for reasons other than this story, develop powerful resonance. "I searched for him far and wide throughout the land. In Anbar, and Basra, and Mosul, and finally, Baghdad did I search for him . . ." . One character says, looking for the author of the "Forgotten Song", one of the more profound tales from the First Act. Eventually he comes across three women who know of his quest and one of them says to him,

"Oh man, know that the author of the song is not the writer. Not even your own songs. The author is God and you are but the instrument . . .".

In fact, this production, with all of its violence and vibrant sexual couplings is one of the most morally infused productions presented at Berkeley Rep, with stern reminders to Christian and Moslem alike to heed to their true precepts rather than illusory pride-infused deceptions which lead only to stupid violent acts.

The play is full of quick witticisms and sudden knowledge delivered at times with grace and at other times "with a hot knife."

As Sympathy, the victor of the intellectual debate contest refuses the offer of marriage from the Calif, she says over her shoulder, "Kings don't need Sympathy."

The final, chilling image presented after the incantation following the formal marriage of Scherazade and the now humanized King Shahryar ("And the nights of Baghdad became bright as day.") Involves no "lights down" but a tangled heap of bodies with the faint sounds of an air raid siren dying away on the wind.

Despite this dry-eyed stare at reality as it is today, Zimmerman presents an essentially optimistic Theatre in which stories present a transformative power that can heal and lead to change. Her dramatic style is steeped in Commedia dell Arte and Grutowski's tableaux arrangements, and over time the regular Company of actors on which she draws have become at ease with the unconventional approaches to rehearsal and production development.

Gomez, who presented a marvelously complex Athena, at times bratty, at times wise, at times kind, at times cruel in Argonautika fills out her various rolls as Sheherazade and beast of burden. And we have the always enjoyable Allen Gilmore returning as Scheherezade's father, Ishak of Mosul and other characters, including one hysterically funny cameo as a madman member of an acrobatic troupe.

Kudos to the various members of the cast who, by report, were required to learn and then perform musical instruments they had never seen before. Especial mention of Jesse Perez who consistently turned in very funny performances as a randy pastry cook, a frustrated robber, and a wildly inventive contender improv-ing a story about his life in an attempt to secure ownership over a bag found on the ground.

The section in which the ensemble acts out the stories of five tales simultaneously in a interwoven layered babel of sound and motion was pretty impressive as well.

In short, Zimmerman has returned once again with a triumph that possesses all of the good qualities we look for in excellent world-class theatre. In addition to plenty of memorable "moments", the whole is delightfully engaging, cathartic, magical, musical, thoroughly engrossing, visually sumptuous, morally instructive, and transformative in the best way.

What else would anyone want from theatre?

Mary Zimmerman, Adapter and Director
Daniel Ostling, Scenic Design
Mara Blumenfeld, Costume Design
Andre Pluess & The Lookingglass Ensemble, Original Composition & Sound Design
T.J. Gerckens, Lighting Design
Michael Suenkel *, Production Stage Manager
Cynthia Cahill *, Stage Manager
Stephanie Klapper, Casting
Amy Potozkin, Casting
Jeremy Bloom, Assistant Director
Jennifer Pardilla, New York Casting Assistant
Carrie Virginia Lee, Assistant to Ms. Klapper & Ms. Pardilla

Cast

Ryan Artzberger - King Shahryar
Allen Gilmore - Scheherezade’s Father / Ishak of Mosul / Ensemble
Sofia Jean Gomez - Scheherezade
Stacey Yen - Dunyazade / Azizah / Ensemble
Barzin Akhavan - Harun al-Rashid / Ensemble
Louis Tucci - Jafar / Sheik al-Fadl / Ensemble
Noshir Dalal - Madman / Greengrocer / Ensemble
Pranidhi Varshney - Slave GIrl / Ensemble
Melina Kalomas - Perfect Love / Ensemble
Evan Zes - Sheik al-Islam / Abu al-Hasan / Ensemble
Nicole Shalhoub - The Jester’s Wife / The Other Woman / Ensemble
Jesse J. Perez - The Pastrycook / Robber / Ensemble
Alana Arenas - Butcher / Sympathy the Learned / Ensemble
Ramiz Monsef - Clarinetist / Sage / Ensemble
Ari Brand - Poor Man / Boy / Ensemble

YOU CAN GET WHAT YOU WANT AT ALICE'S RESTAURANT

It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
The hot days of Indian Summer are giving way to our normative season of fogs and nighttime chills. All of us are checking the Snow Report with high expectations, for the radio is still reporting Severe Drought Conditions persist.

Meanwhile folks on the Island are pulling out those old recipes for Grandma's Special Stuffing while lining up the calendar for visits and how many to feed this time. After long seasons of troubles and difficulties people are all looking forward to a Thanksgiving with only the usual family arguments to disturb the peace and the smell of roasting turkey and cranberries filling the air much as it always has.

We are looking at Troubled Times ahead for all of us, and this following a season of Interesting Times, which means we appreciate anything that continues unabated all the more.

As mentioned earlier, the men and women of 4th Force Reconnaissance Company returned earlier this month from Anbar Province to a very emotional welcome, so although there will be fewer at table than in years past, we all are very thankful for those who can be here this time.

The Island is not a very important place, relative to Bright Lights Babylon across the water, nor to even humble Oaktown, which hosts the Raiders and has much to be proud of in its storied streets. We are a fairly small place with not much to say for ourselves in terms of quality of life or housing desireability. In fact, the Island has always been the last place one would choose to live in the Bay Area, with many preferring to buy out in Tracy and Modesto and even Newark before thinking about living here in our crowded, dowdy streets that have curb arrangements dating from 1882.

But there are those who chose to live here because they like it enough. This is a place that really is in the nature of a small town somewhere in the Midwest in its mind, where courtesy is still a priority over getting first in line.

And in this time the sense of smell is the primary evocation of Things Past, far better than any tea-dipped French cookie. Rasins baked into something. Oranges employed in manners unknown to nature and to theologians. Brown sauces bubbling on stoves all over the Island in unnamed pots.

Briefly we drop in on Quentin, Thanksgiving Day at Saint Anthony's, 1972.

"Yo, brother, hang up that fork a moment. I know you are hungry. Here, in this place, first we pray, then we eat."

We will return to Quentin for the conclusion of our series of Growing Up in the Bay Area a bit later.

Over at Andre and Marlene's place they are all gearing up for the grand feast in their own way. Because the place is a place of no money, every inhabitant is called upon to provide a portion. Onions arrived via Jesus who picked veggies in the valley for a while to make a few dollars. Same with Tipitina who brought in several heads of seedy celery. Marsha scored day-past-date 'shrooms from Whole Foods. Xavier brought in past-date apples. Markus, the dog, brought in a dead seagull, which was discarded.

Rolf scored cans of boullion from the Dent and Damaged sale at the Canned Goods Warehouse.

Piedro brought in enormous bags of bruised cranberries he had got from god knows where.

Everybody pooled foodstamps.

Sarah and Pahrump and Marlene put in dollars from stripping and temp work to get the turkey.

At the end of the day, it did look like something like a feast would happen in spite of all odds and Wickiwup and Bonkers and Johnny Cash barked most joyously at the house of Marlene and Andre.

Andre began laying down cables for the Thanksgiving concert by his band, The Hapless Few.

For the first time in a long time it seemed that something similar to hope was about to happen. Or if not hope, then at least something good enough to pass for now.

They all had each other and they all had a place to sleep and they all felt thankful for that.

There was the small problem of Marlene needing to work Thanksgiving Day until three at the Bay Area Landlords Association, because that was the nature of the work there and the nature of her employer, but she got Pahrump to fill in for her duties until she could get free. That was why so much had to be prepared well ahead of time for she and Andre, employed at the South City warehouse as a Stuffer, the most capable persons in that dyslexic household, would be engaged to the last minute.

'Twas ever thus.

So there they were, gathered around the linoleum kitchen table with its tannic stains while Andre noodled on his guitar in the corner and things bubbled on the stove with scents of cinnemon and clove.

That's when Marlene said it. That question which took everyone aback.

"Andre, when are we ever going to get married?"

This caused an hiatus of some sorts right there and then. Things stopped happening all over. The clocks paused breath and even the pots stopped bubbling for a second.

"I dunno. Why not next week?" said Andre.

That's when the long ululation of the throughpassing train in Jack London Square came wavering across the water of the estuary. And Time resumed its inevitable and inexorable progress to the hours of all our deaths. The conversation resumed and the pots bubbled and the clocks all returned to their accustomed tick-tock.

That is just the way it is on the Island. Have a thankful week. And see you at the Poodleshoot.

 

 

NOVEMBER 16, 2008

C'MON BABY LIGHT MY FIRE

This week's headline photo comes from Tom York of Oaktown, who sent this pic of fitting justice.

The associated text reads "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it."

The postscript says "I've got one thing to say to the Firefighter who did this . . . GOOD JOB "

THOSE SAME DARK FORCES ARE THE ONES THAT BURN CROSSES

You may not know Fred Phelps. Probably not if you are a reasonable person who practices any kind of common sense. Here is a picture of Phelps doing what he does best -- promote hatred and violence.

Mr. Phelps is a pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), an independent Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas with an estimated membership of 71, 60 of whom are directly related to Phelps either by marriage or blood or both.

He is a disbarred lawyer, founder of the Phelps Chartered law firm and previous candidate for political office. He and his family are currently notorious for their anti-gay protests, claiming that most natural disasters and terrorist attacks are God's punishment for a society that tolerates homosexuality.

In his latest bid for State office he won 31% of the vote in Kansas, according to Wikipedia.

Phelps and his followers frequently picket various events, especially military funerals, gay pride gatherings, high-profile political gatherings, and even Christian gatherings and concerts with which he has no affiliation, arguing it is their sacred duty to warn others of God's anger. When criticized, Phelps' followers say they are protected in doing so by the First Amendment. In response to Phelps' protests at military funerals, President Bush signed the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act into law in May 2006, and, in April 2007, Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius signed into law a bill establishing a 150 foot no-picketing buffer zone around funerals.

Some 17 states have followed suit with similar restrictions on protests near military funerals, and a segment of the veteran's motorcycle club Rolling Thunder has created a special mobile chapter called the Patriot Riders which forms a human barricade between Phelp's congregation and funeral mourners whenever he shows up to bother grieving family.

Phelps says he is an old school Baptist, and holds to all five points of Calvinism. Phelps particularly highlights John Calvin's doctrine of unconditional election, the belief that God has elected certain people for salvation before birth, and limited atonement, the belief that Christ only died for His elect, and condemns those who believe otherwise, although present-day Calvinists have disavowed all connection to him and the WBC, as have most of the world's "established religions."

The group is built around a core of anti-homosexual theology, with many of their activities stemming from the slogan "God hates fags," which is also the name of the group's main website. Gay rights activists, as well as Christians of virtually every denomination, have denounced him as a producer of anti-gay propaganda and violence-inspiring hate speech.

Two of his sons, Mark and Nate, who allege that their father is a child abuser who repeatedly beat them with a leather strap and a mattock handle (similar to an axe handle), insist that the church is actually a carefully planned cult that allows Phelps to see himself as a demigod, wielding absolute control over the lives of his family and congregants, essentially turning them into slaves that he can use for the sole purpose of gratifying his every whim and acting as the structure for his delusion that he is the only righteous man on Earth.

In addition to gays, Phelps has directed his ire at General Wesley Clark, John Kerry, Jews, the Republic of Ireland and, for now predictably bizarre reasons, the nation of Sweden.

Phelps and the Westboro church run the website godhatessweden.com. Phelps has declared that the heavy Swedish losses in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, ... were God's punishment of Sweden for the promotion of homosexuality. In particular, Phelps has criticized Sweden's prosecution of Åke Green, a rather intolerant preacher of a similar but less radical stripe. Phelps' designed a granite monument pictured on his website that claimed Green is a Christian martyr. He also has said the terrible losses to the Swedish people during the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 were justified god's revenge.

In response, Green has called Phelps "appalling" and "extremely unpleasant", which led to Phelps taking down his monument of Green.

As for the Emerald Isle, which Phelps calls the "Pink Isle" he has had this to say.

“ (We)...warned America about Ireland’s sad, sick, sodomite culture and fag Irish Senator David Norris’ case before the European Court of Human Rights. (Incidentally, the “Openly-Gay” Irish Senator Norris was represented before that Strasbourg European Court, by the famous Irish President, Mary Robinson.) We warned that WBC has had lots of experience with Ireland’s militant sodomite citizenry, steeped for many decades in ignorant, blind, idolatrous Catholicism, belching out their vile fagspeak, slander, and blasphemy against God and His Word – cursing WBC members as guests on Dublin talk-radio shows. Remember, Martin Luther said Catholic churches, seminaries and monasteries are nothing but sodomite whorehouses filled with unnatural brute beasts and devils. We warned that the very leprechauns of Ireland are likely to be fags!"

Didn't think those jolly leprechauns frequented bathhouses, but nevermind.

The long list of Phelp's misdeeds and various hatreds goes on for quite some length. He has been sentenced to prison several times for perjury, assault, and any other number of crimes, but that Fifth Amendment item keeps coming around to save his sorry hide and his successful inflammation of passions at every trial has resulted in mistrial after mistrial. Make no mistake, Phelps is not an idiot -- he knows very well how to work a crowd into a frenzy.

At funerals for Iraq-war veterans his followers typically shriek obscenities, declare the death was a just and proper act of God against sinners and accuse the deceased and family of any number of violations against Nature and God.

One would think a turdblossom like this would be on best of terms with the likes of Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham (with whom he once worked in close association), however he names both as "false prophets" with Graham among the worst of the worst. Phelps considers Graham the greatest false prophet since Balaam, and also condemns large church leaders such as Robert Schuller and Jerry Falwell, in addition to all current Catholics.

Not to worry, for Mr. Phelps liked at least one person on this godforsaken earth: Saddam Hussein. In 2003, before the fall of Saddam Hussein during the Iraq War, Phelps wrote Hussein a letter praising his regime for being, in his opinion, "the only Muslim state that allows the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to be freely and openly preached on the streets."

So why waste space on someone who is clearly a nutcase of the worst order, a national embarrassment?

Because, my friends, he is coming here. Yes, Mr. Hate is coming to the Island.

One stands agog amid swirling leaves of autumn's gentle, breezy revolve and wonders, just what in Sam Hill about our humble Island would bring the Paragon of Distemper here when we have troubles enough!

Well remember Prop 8 and all that equally intemperate distortion of truth and justice that surrounded its passage? Realizing that polls and news reports kept folks home by the boatload Tuesday when the Presidential outcome seemed clear and without doubt all in order well before the West Coast straggled to the polls with some meagre 55% showing up, instead of the expected 85%. The "swing states" had all been taken well before five pm. Most just forgot about the dozens of Propositions, Measures and Referendums out there, figuring it was all minor stuff. And on the Island, the vast majority of the measures were no-brainers.

Except Prop 8 changed the State Constitution and invited the Government into each and every private home. Out of some 39 million people, some one million decided the matter by a margin of a bare few thousand.

Which leaves our stalwart High School here to present the play called The Laramie Project as their Season Main Stage production in reaction to this foolish and anti-Californian Proposition. The play documents the reaction of the people of Laramie, Wyoming, to the murder of Matthew Shepard. Shepard was found beaten to death and tied to a barbed wire fence beside the road in Laramie in the depths of the Wyoming winter, a winter that is features bone-cutting winds dropping temps down to 20 degrees below zero. Forensics experts declared the man was still alive when first tied to the wire.

Phelps is a character in the play and is portrayed negatively. No surprise there. When the play was made into a movie by HBO, (The Laramie Project), Phelps and the WBC traveled to New York City to picket the HBO home offices with signs reading "United You'll Fall." This play really sticks in an egomaniac's craw and Phelps is one egomaniac who has made squelching this part of 5th Amendment guarantees a life work. Phelps says he consistently sends his followers across the country to picket every performance he finds out about. According to Phelps,

“The Laramie Project is a tawdry bit of banal fag melodrama – sordid, cheap, unaffecting, drearily predictable – without the least artistic or literary merit or redeeming social value. Indeed, its only purpose is to promote sinful, soul-damning sodomy by playing on the sick, maudlin emotions of doomed, godless America and thereby to recruit ill-bred teenagers to lives of sin, shame, disease, death and hell."

It is certain as death and taxes that Mr. Phelps will bring his roadshow of hatred here. Phelps and his family picket approximately six locations every day, including many in Topeka and some events farther afield. On Sundays, up to 15 churches may receive pickets. By their own count, WBC has conducted over 30,000 pickets, in all 50 states, in over 500 cities and towns. Their travel budget exceeds $200,000 annually.

We leave you with the words of the grieving Albert Snyder,father of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder (KIA, Iraq, 2006), whose funeral was disrupted by the WBC in March of 2006.

"They turned this funeral into a media circus and they wanted to hurt my family. They wanted their message heard and they didn't care who they stepped over. My son should have been buried with dignity, not with a bunch of clowns outside."



YOUR GHOST

We have an update of sorts on the tragic death of Troy Lancaster. Lancaster was murdered in early August of this year as he sat in the courtyard of the housing complex where he lives. At last count, there were some 340,000 search hits on his name and his murder.

Michael James Edgar, 19, was arrested in connection with the slaying of Lancaster. A news blackout followed after police identified Anthony Lamar Harris, 19, as an additional suspect in the murder in late August.

Police believe Troy was intentionally singled out, but gave no motive for the killing and declined to speculate.

A message came over the transome from someone claiming to have known Troy for some time, possibly romantically. This person denied any involvement with drugs, a statement we are inclined to agree with. Here is the text of the message, unedited. Names are always withheld unless requested inclusion.

". . . i want to give u the correct information because i knew him 100% and i just want you to know that no troy was not involved with drugs at all as i should let u know i know him very well for many years and i also say he was my boyfriend twice and i knew him very very well so it hurts me to know that people are saying that i know it was a long time ago but still i think troy was the best kid in alameda thank you"

Lauren Do has a thread on her website, Blogging Bayport, which highlights some of the highstrung feelings on the matter. http://laurendo.wordpress.com/2008/08/12/arrested-development-the-follow-up/

It's quite a lot of verbiage, much of it insensitive and obtuse, but revelatory in the way people think around here, despite Lauren's honorable attempt to retain some form of reasonable discourse until overwhelmed. Well, murder is rather extreme and will tend to inflate extreme passions.

Whatever. The man starting out life in his first full-time job, whatever his superficial faults may have been, certainly did not deserve a bullet and the dude that killed him is an asshole that deserves long, hard time.

'nuf said.

NOVEMBER'S GOT HER NAILS DUG IN DEEP

This month brings around a somber series of anniversaries. Thirty years ago, within a span of four days, the Mayor of Babylon, one of its best loved Supervisors, and some 900 people died in seperate violent incidents.

On November 18, 1978 news broke of the murder of California Representative Leo Ryan, who was in Jonestown, Guyana to check on the remote community built by members of the Peoples Temple who had relocated from San Francisco. The next day came news of the mass suicide of members of the Peoples Temple.

On November 27, 1978 half an hour before the press conference that would announce his unwilling retirement, former Supervisor Dan White entered City Hall through a basement window to avoid metal detectors and made his way to Mayor Moscone's office where he shot the Mayor to death. After reloading, he encountered Supervisor Harvey Milk in the hallway and killed him with three shots to the head at point-blank range.

White was aquitted by a sympathetic jury all-white jury which had been systematically purged of all gay, all minority and all potentially critical persons of first degree murder despite having just assassinated a mayor and a City representative of one of the largest cities in the United States.

Instead he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and given seven years time, with time off for good behavior. The resulting outrage produced the White Night Riots in which over 61 policemen and a conservative number of 100 citizens were injured as City Hall and City property burned through three troubled nights. Witnesses describe patrolcars of policemen rushing into the Elephant's Walk Bar on Market and beating patrons indescriminately with truncheons before fanning out through the neighborhoods to randomly attack pedestrians.

In response, thousands of angry people gathered to tip over police cars and set them on fire, ram the doors of City Hall, setting the building on fire and giving back good as given with the beatings, sending many an officer to the hospital.

Eventually order was restored by virtue of all parties becoming exhausted. Dianne Feinstein took over the helm as Mayor pro tem and so began her long ascent in power.

In the end a sense of shock lasted for quite a while by this triple whammy of death and mayhem. The entire Bay Area suffered PTSD for decades on account of it. So many knew someone who had died, it was uncanny.

What does it mean that this week marks an approximate thirty-years anniversary for these things? Not much. For cults we have a meaner spirited Fred Phelps, who has none of the love and belonging and inclusiveness that characterized the early days of the People's Temple before it went really sour. For Stupidos blasting away with their surrogate penises on folks better than themselves, we still have fools enough. Witness Iko and Troy and the damage done there.

At least for a brief moment the People's Temple tried to do something for the betterment of all, before a megalomaniac took control, which is more than you or I can claim.

We planned a grand retrospective, but on second thought, it were better to let some demons sleep, or "they will devour us -- they must be suffered to slumber or we perish."

Let us arise and breath the clean air like free men and put aside these bugaboo tales of premature burials and horror with no more preoccupation upon the morbid and grotesque beyond what is necessary to get the job done for today. The Past is indeed all horror; let us look then with hope to the future. We have to, for we have no choice.

Only sixty more days of Bush and America's first Black President takes office. Imagine that. Some scant hope there.


MY CITY WAS GONE

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The soft unearthly warm winds that set in here as a doppelganger of the Santa Anas down south, have left wierd warm weather and cloud-free skies that threaten sunburn. Down south they have their own problems with the winds that are fanning the terrible fires there and our heartfelt wishes go down there to succor those who have lost homes. Some 500 homes were lost in the trailer park and another two hundred wealthy homes have yielded to the flames, sending about 10,000 folks in migration and flight. It sure wasn't a quiet week in LA.

Its a mighty time, its a terrible time, and no way to get past this one without some loss and suffering.

All of us are feeling the pinch and none more than the squat on Otis where Marlene and Andre keep house among a menagerie of about fifteen or so residents in that one bedroom habitude.

As things have tightened all over, the local landlords have racheted up the rents to exhorbitant levels such that no normal human being can afford two weeks, let alone a single month in a place that is fraught with psychotic managers and hamfisted repairmen who first learned plumbing in some kind of juvenile corrections facility. As a consequence folks have responded reasonably by subletting and resubletting their spaces.

In other words, put the screws to people with no room to move, they will find a way to screw you back in return.

Right now Big People Far Far away are making the first ponderous moves to shift Power that determines the fates of millions and entire Nations. Our Rulers in Congress are argumenting back and forth about whether to bail out the Big Three and how to do it if so.

But here on the Island, we have had enough of Grand Plans and Great Designs. Of Mavericks and Changers. It's 60 days of letting somebody else work like a dog for a change while we put up our tired togs beside the fireplace, curling our little Hobbit toes to put aside Adventures for a while.

From far off come our bedraggled messengers and hamster warriors newly returned from the Saving Private Opus Episode. Their full report and the import of their momentous failure to skirt Ms. Grimoire at the County Animal Shelter shall come later.

For now we are all gathered here as a family, Javier, Jose, Chad the Coder, Denby, the Editor, the messenger pigeons, the warrior hamsters, Schmidt the photographer, Aisling the head of the International Desk, and Mr. Howitzer pounding downstairs, demanding the rent be paid on time for once.

Heck, we still got two weeks. Nearly. Let him wait.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar Suzi pours another beer for Quentin, holding forth on his autobiography and apologia as to why, just why, Quentin is Quentin.

We last left Quentin in the makeshift morgue at Fort Mason, berating his dead relatives. Here he is now, a boy without a relation in the world, cut loose in California, which nevertheless requires a boy of a certain age to attend school until he is thoroughly done. Which in his case meant Poly High, out there in the Ave's, hard against the Panhandle.

Poly was not a bad school and was counted among the Big Three in Babylon in those days in terms of excellence. First and foremost was Lowell of course, but who is counting now?

After his Tremendous Loss, Quentin thought it politic to at least appear sorrowful, for his exclamations of delight always terrified the social workers such that they threatened to send him to Sonoma -- and some of you know what THAT means. By Sonoma, they meant the medieval fortress of an institution with glittering bars, thick walls and the sounds of screaming dissipating over the bucolic fields where underpaid migrant workers from Mexico and Stockton gathered up the grapes under the blistering sun.

Oh, if we haven't said this already. Welcome to Northern California.

Quentin's methodology was to take up French Symbolist poetry and be seen walking around the fountain of Poly High carrying Illuminations or similar stuff.

He also puckishly took up French language instead of the more popular Spanish, which proved to be a political mistake later on.

So one day, Reuben Blades and some cholos confronted Quentin beside the fountain. They took away his book and they dragged him away to the restroom.

It turned out that Quentin's family had remained stout Protestants in the Land of Catholicism and this kind of thing simply would not do.

Why the restroom? Because the fountain was too good for him. Instead of the fountain, they baptized him several times in the toilet.
Which had been thoughtfully employed previously.

Sic Semper Poetis.

So Quentin returned to his house in the avenues to find a moving truck excavating the contents. Being of curious mind, and naturally concerned about these proceedings, he inquired just what the hell was going on as the movers handled Sophie's aquarium by pitching the contents into the garden, where gobies and guppies flopped amid the marigolds.

No rent, no mortgage, no stay. The Landlord here is God. And this is California, God's Country.

Perhaps he should not have laughed at those social workers, for they are employees of the Government. In any case, with a small bundle of things including a knapsack and a sleeping bag, Quentin went off to sleep in the park and join the Spirit of '69. Thus began the long history of Quentin, born and raised in California, but never welcomed Home.

Quentin ambled over with Jose and Javier to the Offices of Island-Life where the lights burned into the darkness, for there were few places to go and at least at Island-Life, he had a place to stay for a while. We at Island-Life are from Everywhere and Nowhere but we all are become Americans and here, all are welcome.

As the Editor reviewed the election figures one more time and as the tape from Germany chattered gutterspeech in the background the long wail of the throughpassing train in Jack London Square ululated across the bright moonlit waters of the estuary.

Somewhere a tired, plumpy penguin rests for once and for all in his snug quilted bed beside an eternal nighlite while the Great Shadows move behind their immense curtains to the Eternal Dance. Good night moon. Good night cow. Good night daisies. Good night Bloom County. Good night noise. Good night Opus. . . .

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

NOVEMBER 9, 2008

ITS A WILD, WILD LIFE

This week's headline photo comes from the trees outside the Peoples Republic of St. Charles, where the neighbor who lives below the woman who took the photo of the sharp-shinned hawk earlier this summer took this pic of a little bandit hunting for a handout.

Seems the folks there have taken to passing cookies to the little rascals out on a limb there by means of a long-handled broom.

Report has it the little fellow got himself a job in the City and no longer comes around for handouts.

See. So-called "entitlements" do work to benefit everybody. Especially peanut butter cookie entitlements.

In other news we fixed up some of the blog hyperlinks in the sidebar. Apologies to Lauren Do for sending traffic to Modern Muse by mistake.

The people responsible for the error have been caught and suitably punished in the Island-Life Official Oubliette.

JUST A MATTER OF TIME

Time isn't after David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, but its running out on Proposition P, which seemed to have passed by a razor-thin margin -- and may still pass even yet -- however each hour narrows the gap on the City Measure meant to plug the immense hole in the budget. As of a few hours ago, the count for Measure P was just 1% in favor.

Measure P - City of Alameda
Total Precincts: 52 Precincts Reported: 52
Contest # of Votes % of Total
Yes 15256 50.70
No 14836 49.30

The difference between these numbers and those reported 11/5/08 is due to Provisional and Vote by Mail ballots.

In other races, Obama still leads by hefty margins Statewide, Countywide and Islandwide.

City results President
Updtd 11-09-08 7:08pm
DEM- Obama 438536
REP- McCain 107292
PF- Nader 4949
GRN- McKinney 2776
Write-in 2199
LIb- Barr 2176

State California
100.0% ( 25423 of 25423 ) precincts
reporting as of Nov. 9, 2008, at 7:07 p.m.
Statewide Results
Candidate Votes Percent
Barack Obama (Dem) 6,653,393 61.0%
John McCain (Rep) 4,067,264 37.3%
Alan Keyes (AI) 32,419 0.2%
Cynthia McKinney (Grn) 30,123 0.2%
Bob Barr (Lib) 54,329 0.5%
Ralph Nader (P&F) 85,771 0.8%

Looking at the electoral map for the Golden State we see the coastal cities voting substantially for Obama and against Prop 8. Some of the borderline counties, like Lake, showed narrow margins in favor of Prop 8, perhaps indicating changes in demographics that will likely play out more seriously in years to come. The Central Valley and sparsely populated counties like Inyo went well over 75% in favor of the hatefilled Proposition, almost certainly due to the high religiousity found there and depicted so effectively in the movie version of the Upton Sinclair book Oil!. The Central Valley still remains a Bible Belt region, however large numbers of folks settling in places like Modesto to make the 90 minute commute to the Bay Area may change all that with time.

This has already happened to the areas around Tahoe where constant exposure to the external world has reduced the effects of willfully insular ignorance that masquerades in the name of "traditional values."

As some people have commented, it takes a 2/3rds majority to modify taxes, but it takes only a simple 1% majority to change the Constitution such that essential rights are taken away from a minority. Something aint right about that.

One of our Staffers spent the night at Demo HQ on the Island just off of Park Street and Alice Lai Bitker showed up to watch the telly with the cheering folks there. Turns out the Pro Prop 8 folks gathered on the corner to shout obnoxious hatred at the HQ and another group of Anti Prop 8 folks who just wanted to get married. Various names were thrown at former Supervisor Bitker, who needed to have the epithet "Lesbo" explained to her.

Our Staffer ran over to the costume store to get lightning bolts for her hair, claiming, "Nobody messes with The Goddess."

YOU CAN GET ANYTHING YOU WANT AT ALICES RESTAURANT

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, discussions of moral strictures and Ayn Rand, and the delightful pleasure of blowing away Fifi with a brand new Mossberg 8-gauge loaded with big game buckshot and a bear-slug or two in the .52 caliber range.

Yes, dear friends, the Tenth Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ will soon be upon us and the rules will be reposted next weekend.

For Official Make Glorious Island Poodleshoot Benefit Rules, go HERE. Also see the sidebar.

Its hard to believe the passage of years, but yes, this year marks a full decade of Poodleshoots and general Thanksgiving Mayhem involving firearms, bladed weapons, the occasional industrial flamethrower, and sharp impermeables. How we survived it all is anyone's guess.

In addition to the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ, long-time readers and Newbies alike have some particular delights in store as we reprint the description of 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, a kind of Family Tradition. We will include some helpful tips on Green Shopping for gifts direct from the National Green Pages and finally we will 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.

This year the Poodleshoot will be held in conjunction with several weddings and all attendees should enjoy a fine repast at the Combined Reception well supplied by victuals from the Official Hunt.

NEW TIMES! NEW TIMES! NEW NEW NEW TIMES!

Rampant three dotulism seems to be spreading unchecked; the East Bay Mess has cut back many of its more loveable features, but the ellipsis survives . . . Kidnapping reported October 29th on San Antonio, but barely a whisper about it in most local papers here . . . Dog bite on Sherman in the 1800 block on October 30 restores our faith in the Crimestoppers Notebook, as no week is complete without dog bites man or man bites somebody . . . November 2nd assault with a deadly weapon in the form of a beer glass. A beer glass . . . !? Election Day started off well with a road rage incident at the Posey Tube at 6:00am. Man in a pickup truck blocked another man from entering the tube, then chased him in his car down Main Street (on the old Navy Base) and then tried to brain the fellow with a metal pipe. Each time, disgression took the better part of valor as the victim fled with pipe thrown at his car. Was it the bumperstickers . . . ? Finally, the day after Tuesday, a woman was found sprawled across the hood of a car, not wearing any pants. When questioned, she appeared disoriented and claimed that her pants were in the laundromat, while the car belonged to a friend of hers, both statements proved to be false. It was not clear in the report if the woman was wearing at least underpants. . . .

ONE NIGHT IN AMERICA

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The recent storms here hammered the roofs and the trees, knocking a few limbs off onto cars and pushing a quantity of roof detritus that has collected for quite a while down to the walkways. A stray cat has been living on the roof of Pagano's Hardware for about two years now. It first showed up there looking for sanctuary, being an unspayed female set down somehow in a plethora of males, so the roof seemed a logical place at the time to get away for some quality alone time. The folks across the way living in the converted attic there started feeding her, so she soon gave up her wandering ways and things looked all set for a vaguely romantic setting of cat on the roof and nobody bothered, except that now that she had at least two full squares a day, and a disinclination to descend the roof, she just laid her business up there after eating and went somewhere else to sleep.

As people know we have had a drought in California, with little or no rain to wash down the roof and so after a couple years of scat collecting up there, drying out in the hot California sun day after day after day, there was quite a lot of to do, so to speak, to flush away when the rains did come along. Last week the rains came and the cat did whatever cats do when it rains -- it made itself scarce -- and the gutters clogged up, overflowed then suddenly burst a logjam of turds down onto the walkway between Pagano's and the People's Republic of St. Charles.

Morning dawned clear and bright and who should come across piles of cat turds in the alley, but Regiment Mike, the Building Manager.

Now one should know something about Mike. He has lived alone and unmarried in that building for some forty years and his primary occupation is Policeman for the City in addition to his unpaid position as Building Manager. There are those who choose the honorable profession of Peace Officer who retain some semblance of human warmth and humanity and understanding of people.

Mike is not one of those. He chose Peace Officer because it has rules and regulations and a uniform that requires little or no thought to maintain and he can do nothing else. He can tell people what they must do and they must perforce obey him for he carries a gun and a badge.

When he saw the piles of scat his nature was to immediately ascribe blame and assign responsiblity and devise suitable punishments.

Punishments such as evicting every animal in the building, birds and fish included, for surely someone put that pile of turds right there deliberately. There could be no other explanation as there was so much of it.

Entreaties, logic and expostulations had no effect on the man for a crime had been committed and he was to see that the malefactors be punished. Attribution must perforce be ascribed.

The Golden State has such people in abundance. It is rather sad they continue to persist year after year, but the truth is, they never will go away for they were born and raised here. They bring down the quality of life for themselves and for others and their heart bypasses never seem to communicate the message to themselves. They just medicate and keep on going on to everyone's distress.

Meanwhile its become the Cat Scat Flap over at St. Charles. Stay tuned for further developments.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar, Quentin was winding up his long autobiography in front of Jose and the girls there. After starting classes at Poly High in the City, one balmy day the family was set to go out on a grand excursion to Alcatraz on the Red and White Ferry. This was all Uncle Adolph's idea, for the Native Americans had just been evicted there after their brief Occupation of land that, according to one law still belonged to them, and according to another law, belonged to the Park District.

Uncle Adolphe had always been a virulent supporter of Herbert Hoover and a firm denier of any Liberal Guilt or New Deal Socialism, so his idea was to uphold law and order by retaking Alcatraz, as it were, for the sake of Puritan Rectitude. There was, in addition, fresh in his memory the somewhat recent prison uprising at San Quentin -- which actually had occured well before Quentin's time -- in which three men successfully took over an entire wing, killed several guards and held off the entire US Navy which shelled the outside of the prison from battleships in the Bay before dying in a fullisade of bullets.

Later it came out that the three had retreated to deep inside the prison and shelling the exterior walls did nothing except kill and injure hundreds of inmates who had been guilty of nothing beyond staying obediently inside their cells without taking part in the slightest way with the uprising.

Nevertheless, it was Uncle Adolphe's position shelling the prison had been a strong signal of deterrence to any possible future shenanigans and was admirable in its ruthlessness. And there would be a clear view of the pockmarked walls from the jaunt across the Bay so as to instruct the younger family members in what was right and proper.

So the day came and the ferry was chartered. It was the MV Gillespie and the entire family was booked aboard, including Quentin.

Except Daphne had played a trick on Quentin. She told him his ticket had been sent to the old address in the East Bay, but when he got there in a huff, he found it had been sent to the new address in the Avenues. So he hustled on back only to arrive there as the boat departed with all the family aboard except him and so he went over to push quarters into Laughing Sal at Playland by the Beach. Ha, ha ha. She must have thought it was really funny at the time.

The big ferry lumbered about halfway out to Alcatraz before its engines quit and it drifted with the tide toward the Golden Gate. Not to worry, as the boat was big enough to weather any sort of conditions and it was a matter of time before the Coast Guard arrived to pluck everyone off.

Unfortunately two items caused a revision in that plan. The Coast Guard Cutter was out practicing with the Blue Angels for annual Fleet Week and the ferry ran into Halfway Rock. This Rock had been seen as a danger to navigation in the 1800's and so had been substantially destroyed with dynamite, which had removed all visible trace of the big thing jutting up out of the water at the entrance to the Golden Gate. But everywhere there it was over 70 feet deep in the channel, at Halfway Rock, it was barely six on flood tide.

The Ferry ground against this object, took on water and, well within sight of shore near the place that Jimmy Stewart fetched a becoming starlet from the ice cold waters in Vertigo, abruptly sank, taking with it the entire crew and eighty-five members of the Sausalito Rotary Club along with just about the entire Quentin Clan, Uncle Adolph and Daphne inclusive.

Within a matter of hours, Quentin was orphaned and bereft of all family ties, although not so bereft he mourned the passing of the majority of his relatives, who had proven during his lifetime up to that point to be largely hindrances and obnoxious assholes getting in the way of peace, love and happiness.

They brought him up to Fort Mason where everybody they could recover from the sand sharks was laid out under sheets inside one of the halls. Since he was the only surviving family member of the clan that had descended from Herman and Wilhelmina Bocksbeutel, who had travelled by way of covered wagon and mule to the Golden State in 1885, it was his duty to identify everybody. And as he did so, he smartly kicked each corpse, which rendered the coroner so aghast that he kept him away from the other mourners in the hall. The Reverend present left the hall entirely and went across the street to have several Irish Coffees.

When Quentin got to Daphne, after his peculiar form of ID, he leaned down and said, "You aint nothing but meat." So much for reconciliation.

When asked by news media persons what he planned to do next, he answered much to their discomfort, "Celebrate!"

As a writer called Kurt Vonnegut would exclaim aserbically later, "So it goes."

The story of Quentin continues next week. His travails at Poly High and how he wound up on the Island.

In the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie wiped the bar and set up the glasses to dry. She settled down to her anthropology book for that interminable class at City College. "The Bonobo extended family includes all members of the local tribe, whom they greet without exception with devotion and warmth. Because the habits of the Bonobo are so diffuse, it is entirely possible that any other tribal member is quite possibly a close relative, so they make no distinction in otherness. All are equally treasured and adored as kin . . ."

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 puzzling over Life's persistent questions.

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


NOVEMBER 6, 2008 SPECIAL ELECTION ISSUE

CH,CH,CH,CH, CHANGES

This week Island-Life staff manned the polls as volunteers. Here is our report from Precinct 304500 in Alameda County, California.

November 4, 2008 will go down in history as the day America finally did the right thing, shook off the lethargy that has been miring the country in hopelessness for nearly a decade and sent a sharp retort to the wildly cheering World, "Yes we can and yes we did!"

Over and beyond the clear choice for radical change in choosing the first Black President in history here, we also demonstrated to the World at Large our general distaste for the past few years of incompetant, clueless and downright injurious internal and external administration policies that often maintained a cavalier attitude as expressed in such outrageous statements as "Face reality? We make our own Reality" and which seemed to reverberate in sympathetic vibration in McCain's insulting and flip selection of an unvetted, unprepared, inexperienced beauty queen for a running mate, who would have been second in command to the most powerful position in the world had he won the election.

The national results are still coming in and we delayed our report until North Carolina resolved its close race with a victory for the Democrats there, but three other states remain in limbo, with Alaska unbelievably still undecided even though one candidate concievably faces a lengthy prison term for a seven count conviction against federal law.

Well Sarah Palin claims to hail from Alaska, and if Ted Stevens and her are prime examples, they can all go hang. We only have sympathy for the Inuit, who have all of this folderol foisted on them from really wierd White people.

Now to the numbers.

The National numbers have been published in plenty of places. This is how California and this County voted.

Statewide, voters chose Barack Obama over John McCain by 6,335,893 votes, or 61.0% to 3,874,726, or 37.3% with the majority of the votes for the GOP candidate coming from the sparsely settled, less well-educated areas inland.

Statewide, Props 1A, 2 and 3 passed with hefty margins of 52%, 63.3%, and 54.85 respectively, giving the nod to high speed rail, standards for confiing farm animals and bonds for children's hospitals. As in other parts of the country, the restricting of abortion Prop #4 got thoroughly trashed with 53.4% ignoring latecoming scare tactics. This may be a function of this Prop attempting to layer on yet more complexity to an already divisive issue when the issues it raised really seemed to be handled at present without difficulty.

Props 5 and 6, both concerning law enforcement and sentencing both got tanked at 59.8% and 69.5% voting solidly NO. In the first instance, nobody wanted to support reduction of sentencing for any kind of drug offence, no matter how slight, and in the second instance, people balked at the double wammy of more bucks pulled from the general fund with no increase in revenue coupled with strident and costly measures to build more prisons while finding new and more efficient ways to put more people into them.

65% disliked the sweetheart deal Prop 7. billed as "Renewable Energy" that would have repayed owners of truck fleets for converting to less polluting natural gas and filled the pockets of a single gas supplier in the bargain.

People around here are calling Proposition 8, which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry at City Hall, a momentary hiatus in history destined for dustbin status and certain legal challenges. 52.1% voted in favor with some 70% of the Black pro-Barack camp enlisting for yet more minority stomping and an undetermined number of Hispanic Catholics heeding the fire and brimstone that descended from pulpits on the previous Sunday.

The outrageously unneeded Propostion 9, which also faces serious legal challenges passed with 53.3% largely on the basis of sympathy for victims' rights, although this aspect of the prop was already covered by existing law.

The other Alternative Fuels prop, #10, also met a solid demise with 59.9% voting no against bond authorization. This one would have destroyed small supplier competition and the people paid attention to reason here.

Prop 11, aptly named for this is the 11th time GOP folks have tried to get redistricting to pass finally saw gold with 50.65 narrowly defeating the anti folks by .4%. This one also faces an uphill battle to implement.

Prop 12 passed as a no-brainer supporting the troops at 63.5%.

Now for local results.

349,460 folks voted in this county for Barack Obama, some 78.54% against the diehard GOP at 85,646 which put them at barely 19.25% . Ralph Nader got all of 3,858, which is less than 1% of the electorate.

This made for a turnout of 55.86% from the 803,009 total registration. Certainly nowhere near the anticipated 75-80% turnout expected, probably due to the early news reports that indicated a defacto Obama victory long before the polls of the Golden State had closed when critical swing states were reported as having "fallen" hours previously.

Also, folks pressured to register by the intense drives may have just torn up their information and taken the path of least resistance in staying home on Tuesday. They never voted and never will and that is going to always be the case.

Drilling on down, we found fairly predictable results for the US Rep. for the 13th District pursuing the same pattern as other Congressional Districts here, in that incumbent Pete Stark defeated his challenger with 76.16%.

Interestingly, our county voted against State Propostions 4-11 with solid margins exceeding 55% in all cases,save for prop 9 at 53%.

Most of the coastal areas seemed to vote similarly, with their cosmopolitan and well-educated populations contrasting with rural Butte, Amador and Inyo Counties tending to vote in 75% ratios on the side of wildly conservative Orange County and San Diego.

Coming home to the Island, we welcome back incumbents DeHaan and Gilmore for another round of abuse as Councilmembers. Doug and Mary won with 31.16% and 28.96% a piece, with Tracy Jensen and Justin Harrison pulling a fairly respectable 23.26% and 16.34%.

This is not exactly a vote in favor of business as usual on the Island, as these particular members are not exactly members of the Old Gard.

All City props passed with healthy margins, including the contentious Proposition P at 50.66%, with bitter language continuing right to the end but with voters finally deciding that somebody had better start footing the bill to keep this place the Island of Fine LIving. Or at least the Island where everything still works. Prop P slaps an increase of the transfer tax during home sales, so many saw that as a tax that simply does not affect folks who buy here and want to stay put.

Its those wannabe house flippers who got their panties in a twist over that one.

As we have said before, start sellng houses under $200,000 here and there will be no problem at all with a tax that is based on sale value.

Ah, but only a blatant idiot believes the days of "flipping" houses are not gone, never to return in our lifetime.

In the Gold Coast District folks voted solidly at about 78% for Obama, with a sliver of a margin for the objectionable Prop 8, which still needs to meet all kinds of tests. Interestingly, the pro 8 folks, so virulently against equality they physically attacked people on street corners here are saying they will not contest any legal issues, feeling that their claim to be a majority over a minority was sufficient victory.

Hmm, logic is not involved here. Nor was it ever.

So that is the way it all fell out this historic election for the 44th President of the United States. Later on we will report on Precinct shenanigans and how things can be made better with a long way to go. We also had a staffer reporting from the Demo HQ, which briefly became a frontlines battlefield between two opposing camps on the Prop 8 issue.

Have a great rest of the week. Its going to be a very interesting four years.

NOVEMBER 2, 2008

SEE THESE EYES SO BLUE / THEY'VE BEEN ASLEEP FOR 1000 YEARS

This week's headline photo This week's headline photo comes from San Antonio Street where a line of spooky items appears to include either an endorsement or an intimation of dire consequences.


PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER

Well everyone is doing it, so here goes, our list of endorsements and a quick cheat sheet on the election props. We recommend going to your printer properties and selecting a page range of something like 1-5, otherwise, you are going to need to run out to Kinkos if you print this entire page here.

If you are sick of all this blather, skip on down to the SPOOKY GIRLFRIEND heading.

PRESIDENT AND VP OF THE UNITED STATES

Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Its not just that he is a Dem or that one would be written into the history books by choosing him should he win, there are several items outside of the rhetoric, the missleading, and the "gotcha" journalism of the media on both sides.

His health care proposal, while not without some issues, is clearly superior to that of McCain who, despite his "maverick" claim, does not really challenge the broken system at all with his plan, but simply shovels dollars into it. Not a good idea. What Obama proposes is the first time anyone seriously wants to rewrite the ground rules of the system, and that is long overdue.

On the war side, now that Bush has capitulated to a timeline of withdrawal, the main issue is how quick this pullout can take place. Make no mistake, our main objective in Iraq is precise and definitive: Our primary goal is to get out. ASAP. All other goals are subsidiary to this objective and serve to implement our first desire -- to leave.

Regarding the economy, Obama is clearly ahead. An analysis of the tax relief plans by both parties shows that virtually everyone will recoupe 100% increases in tax relief under an Obama plan in comparison to McCain's. In other words, where McCain offers $500, with Obama you get $1000. The only exception would be for people making $250,000 per year or more; Obama is correct in his claims, according to the numbers.

Still on the economy, we note that McCain was head of the Senate Finance Committee during and after the S&L debacle when he failed to implement the regulations that would at least, even tinted by GOP desires, have moderated our current Wall Street blowout. He wasn't a maverick then, and we sense from his statements that he will resist the necessary regulation on these wild horses of the stock market.

Finally, while moderate spending is an ideal for which to strive in most times, the last thing anybody wants is a fiscal conservative in charge during a major recession, choking the money supply. Its not our opinion McCain would do that; he has said many times that is EXACTLY what he would do just when the government, the last big financial player left standing, needs to start spending bucks like water, nevermind the deficit for several years.

The deficit, while certainly large, is a sufficiently small portion of the GNP that the beast can stand to swell a bit for a while until the breadlines get shorter.

As for McCain's choice of a running mate, we hardly think that selecting someone to fill the #2 Position in the World because they look good in a swimsuit is hardly indicative of sane and sound judgement, let alone prudent decision making. Perhaps, with time, Palin can become with diligent preparation worthy of national office, but for now, we think the job of Vice President of the United States is not the same as running a garage or a plumbing business.

By contrast, Biden brings excellent experience and qualifications to the job such that we feel if the Prez needs to turn to someone close at hand for advice, we are encouraged here that the decision made will be well-informed. Biden is such a good choice that we feel confident that, unlike the Incumbent, Obama will select well-qualified people to conduct the nuts and bolts running of the country. No more stable-managers running the federal disaster agency, for example.

US REPRESENTATIVE

13th Congressional District
Fortney Pete Stark has impressed us for many years with his diligent attentiveness to what people really want. He doesn't push an agenda, operate remotely from DC or go by a "mandate." He does try very hard to find out what people want via his town hall meetings, his email requests, his personal mail surveys and so on, and when the people tell him, he has been singularly effective in carrying out their wishes.

STATE SENATOR
9th State Senate District
Loni Hancock is an assemblywoman Democrat shifting over from term limits to a more challenging role in Sacto. Of the three on the ballot, she is most likely to win in that she is most representative of the district, which is 90% Dem. We like Marsha Feinland (Peace and Freedom Party) but we don't think she has much of a chance.

STATE ASSEMBLY
16th Assembly District
Sandre R. Swanson is running for re-election. He is not flashy, keeps his head down and has served the public in various capacities for 30 years. He like that he supports universal health care among the usual list of things people support. He is a protege of Dellums and more recently of Barbara Lee, whom we really like for presenting the sole objection in Congress against the Iraq invasion. He also managed to secure the 252 million dollar dredging project for the Port of Oakland. Nothing wrong found here.

ISLAND CITY COUNCIL
In view of the troubled times ahead we have to support both incumbents, Doug DeHaan and Marie Gilmore for re-election. DeHaan is a born and raised Islander who has a lifetime of public service under his belt, and he trends to the reasonable in decisionmaking. He also is independent of the Perata Machine, something we cannot say for Ms. Gilmore.

Gilmore, despite this connection to a rather unsavory political machine, has demonstrated a good grasp of what is important for the Island City to operate. She has come out against Props 7 and 8, and is in favor of most of what we support as well. A grad of Stanfoo and then of Boalt Hall, she clearly has a smart head on her shoulders.

OTHER DISTRICT AND CITY SEATS

We have no special preference although we have moderate inclinations toward Dennis Hayashi for Superior Court Judge, who lost a squeaker for another court position last time against Sandra Bean. He appears capable and experienced. For AC Transit Director we nod towards challenger Joyce Roy, as incumbent Peeples still has not admitted the multi-million dollar deal for imported Belgian buses with Van Hools was a terrible mistake.

EBMUD District Director is a position that should be swapped out after this years fairly nonsensical water conservation measures that rewarded water gluttons and punished folks who had always conserved. Susi Ostlund, we wish you all the best as the reservoirs are 60% of capacity right now.

PROPOSITIONS AND MEASURES
CITY OF ALAMEDA

VOTE YES ON ALL

Its rare that we find ourselves in agreement with Mayor Beverly (she even tried to run us down with her horse and buggy during the July 4th parade!), but here we are forced to admit that the City is in a serious financial pickle and nobody but nobody is going to come out of this without some burns.

MEASURE P
YES
This one famously increases the property transfer tax to $12 per $1000 of value, based, we assume, on sale price. This is a burn, of course, and not a small one, but we have some real troubles. The intent is not for buying new stuff or improving infrastructure -- the tax is meant simply to keep the City running at all. Thats how bad things have gotten.

Maybe its time people think of houses as unlike cars and coats. You don't just pick up a house and drop it in a few weeks as people have been doing for a while. If you have the ability to spring for half a million dollars worth of real estate, you better be living with an income far far above Joe the Plumber and our Island-Life staff around here.

Or drive the price of the house down. There is no other way.

MEASURES Q - X
VOTE YES
All of these update the language of the City Charter such that the Charter comes into the present century. From the Nineteenth.

DISTRICT MEASURES
V V - TRANSPORTATION BONDS

VOTE YES
Increases parcel tax by $4 to preserve affordable public transit. Thats it, free of garnish.

W W -- EASTBAY REGIONAL PARK DISTRICT
VOTE YES
Authorizes $500 million in bonds to maintain and preserve local parklands, trails and rec facilities. Given that Der Governator is about to yank the plug on all funding for parks, this one seems a good idea as we have some really beautiful creeks and parks here that add tremendously to the quality of life here..

STATE
PROP 1A -
HIGH SPEED RAIL BOND
VOTE YES
This measure requests $9.95 billion for a high speed line to connect the major metropolitan areas in SoCal, Sacto Valley, and the Bay Area. Even opponents have admitted that everywhere this has been implemented, it has been a success since 1965. Their main objection is that the Golden State does not have the population density found in those places, like Japan, to support such an ongoing concern, benefits numbers appear to be on the high side and, to be honest, nearly $10 billion dollars is quite a lot of money.

However when asked where they would rather the money be spent, they state as top priority, bridges and highways.

Well, isnt that the kind of thinking the rail service is trying to terminate? No you don't pour dollars into an end-stage technology like the automobile and nobody but a fool imagines the population density of California to remain just floating about where it is.

No less a conservative than Quentin Kopp has come out firmly in support of this, so we also have to follow Ole' Cueball.

PROP 2 - STANDARDS FOR CONFINING FARM ANIMALS
VOTE YES
If you want to put an end to the next outbreak of the next Mad Cow Disease, you better start voting for things like this, which presents itself as a humanitarian measure from Be Kind to our Dumb Friends Folks.

Bull Pucky.

In reality, our livestock farms are hideous metro areas entirely unregulated the way real municipalities are, fraught with all of the problems of the inner landscape. Violence, crime, disease, pollution, toxic waste disposal are among all of these that happen and Bovine encephalopathy is on result of these condtions that would turn each and every one of you into vegetarians should you spend just five minutes in one of these places. We need to get a grip on the way our food is handled and this is one way to begin.

PROP 3 - CHILDRENS' HOSPITAL BOND
VOTE YES
This authorizes about $980 million to bolster a previously pass bond measure that is running low on its draw to support Bay Area hospitals that serve primarily children. There are no real arguments against it other than the usual from the Jarvis people who have changed the name of their organization.

PROP 4 - WAITING PERIOD FOR ABORTION REQUIRING PARENTAL NOTIFICATION FOR MINORS.
VOTE NO
This is a tough one, as almost 30 states have something like this on the books, however in looking through the material we see that it is an indirect attack upon a single entity: Planned Parenthood, and much of the pro Prop 4 stuff features horror stories that come from other parts of the country. In fact, in the Golden State we already have measure in place to guarantee the health of minors, while those other states simply do not have a porous state border with another country.

As it turns out, one of their "horror stories" concerns a woman who was married with kids. Technically a minor, but not exactly one that parental notification would have helped in the slightest.

We think this is just another Right Wingnut job from the Radical Pulpit trying to "score" in our oh so libertine state. Works for Oklahoma. Does not work for California.

PROP 5 - NON-VIOLENT DRUG OFFENCES. SENTENCING, PAROLE AND REHAB PROGRAMS.
VOTE YES

This is one unusual item that appears well considered, well written and well-thought out. It should as programs like this have been bullied about for decades until most of the kinks outta be knocked out by now. It also dovetails nicely with Der Governators assertion that he would start early releasing prisoners from the Golden State's packed prisons so as to save money.

At least Prop 5 controls a portion of what is planned in some way, and that alone is a good thing. In addition, it generally treats drug offences as social ills that require treatment as opposed to crimes with reduced penalties for pot usage and expanded drug treatment programs. It does NOT coddle dealers, who are genuinely criminals that deserve to be punished, as claimed by opponents.

In fact the opponents quoted a figure that actually supports this measure in stating "45,000 convicts would be released on the streets. . . ".

No, those 45,000 people would be guided into programs and watched carefully while they learn to be productive members of society. DON'T pass this program and your worst fears will come true anyway; 45,000 convicted felons will be released on the street with NO supervision because of budget cutbacks.

We think the choice is clear. Help Der Arnold help ourselves.

PROP 6 - POLICE AND LAW ENFORCEMENT FUNDING
VOTE ----- I DUNNO

This prop has such a mixture of good and bad we hardly know what to think. It seems the brainchild of a conservative thinktank in its relentless attachment to a punitive point of view. The measure is all over the lot after its reservation of a fixed number of dollars to be allocated from the General Fund, which is a higher dollar allotment than is provided now. In this way, the proponents claim, "no new taxes", while its hard to imagine how to apportion more money in a fixed way without raising revenue somehow.

The good part concerns attention paid to gang activity and to punishing folks "tampering" with witnesses. That's good as is an implied support of "neighborhood programs" for preventing crime.

The bad part concerns a little line item about building yet more prisons and making release on parole more difficult. Of prisons we already have enough and which certainly do not solve the problems.

PROP 7 - RENEWABLE ENERGY
VOTE NO
This is one of those "gotcha!" props which seems to come from a very PC idea of supporting renewable energy development and clean environment. Unfortunately, it seems this one got hijacked by Big Business by specifically excluding small energy suppliers from sharing in the benefits. Come on boys, play nice.

PROP 8 - ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME-SEX COUPLES TO MARRY - CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
VOTE NO NO NO NO

In fact the reasons to vote no come from the biggest argument and fear that supporters present. They claim to be afraid that their churches will be forced to condone same-sex marriage at some undefined point by the meddling government.

So they want the meddling government to get into every bedroom and define what people can do according to Church standards and that is going to fix it? In other words, you get married in a church or not at all?

And whose church is that? Suppose First Episcopalian on Central decides that they want to perform same-sex marriages, but the Southern Baptists do not. Which church wins?

Well, lets skip the outrageous fear mongering and lies and deception proponents have inflicted upon us. This one is another proto-fascist screwball of hatred from the Far Right Wingnut Group.

As for marriage being the foundation of the State, it might be. So why criminalize a large portion of folks who otherwise would be hearty pillars of said State? Prop 8 makes no sense on many levels, even before you arrive at issues of equality.

PROP 9 - CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, VICTIM'S RIGHTS AND PAROLE
NO

This was a difficult one in that the anti argument was shrill, foolish, not well reasoned and not well written, making it hard to get at the facts.

It didn't help that the proposition itself is so badly written it almost certainly will be challenged in court, for key elements conflict with a federal decision "Valdina vs. Schwarzenegger".

We also have some insiders scoop here in knowing that the parole board hearings for "lifers" are likely going to be seriously revised in the next couple of years due to successful challenges on procedural grounds. Seems the board members were routinely denying parole based, not on current inmate states of rehabilitation, but upon the facts of the original crime and sentence.

Which is against law as to intent and purpose of parole.

So having a victim come in and participate will be tossed, and might in fact act as legal impetus to springing the felon even earlier -- due to procedural violation and violation of due process.

We think this Proposition does more harm than good.

PROP 10 - ALTERNATIVE FUEL AND RENEWABLE ENERGY BONDS
YYYES. SORT OF.

Unfortunately, if we are ever to move forward with freeing ourselves from oil, a lot of mildly odorous deals like this might be necessary. And this one kinda stinks. Basically, this authorizes bonds to grant cash rewards to folks converting vehicles from polluting diesel to natural gas, for buying alternative fuel vehicles, and, well thats enough for now.

Its clearly meant to benefit a few large companies who will convert their truck fleets to more cost-effective natural gas which stands to be delivered from a single supplier, who stands to make quite a lot of money.

Well, so a few fat cats scrape off some cream. Can you imagine them converting their fleets for alruistic reasons?

At least there will be lest crap in the air. In the form of hydrocarbons, we mean.

PROP 11 - FORMATION OF A REDISTRICTING COMMITTEE
VOTE NO

Lets see here. The GOP which is wildly a minority here and struggles every election to shoehorn a handful of folks into the substantially Democratic legislature gets an equal number of committee members to completely reshape the political map of the Golden State.

Can you say egregious self-interest applies here? I knew you could.

PROP 12 - VETERANS BOND ACT
VOTE YES
Bolsters existing Cal-Vet programs that provide low interest loans to vets so they can buy housing. Not too much to argue against here.

SUMMARY

PRESIDENT - Barack Obama

US REPRESENTATIVE - Pete Stark

STATE SENATE - Loni Hancock

STATE ASSEMBLY - Sandre R. Swanson

CITY COUNCIL - Doug DeHaan & Marie Gilmore

ISLAND CITY MEASURES P - X
YES ON ALL

DISTRICT MEASURES VV & WW
YES ON ALL

STATE PROPOSITIONS
1A - HIGH SPEED RAIL BOND
YES
2 - STANDARDS FOR CONFINING FARM ANIMALS
YES
3 - CHILDRENS' HOSPITAL BOND
YES
4 - WAITING PERIOD FOR ABORTION REQUIRING PARENTAL NOTIFICATION
NO
5 - NON-VIOLENT DRUG OFFENCES. SENTENCING, PAROLE AND REHAB
YES
6 - POLICE AND LAW ENFORCEMENT FUNDING
NO
7 - RENEWABLE ENERGY
NO
8 - ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME-SEX COUPLES TO MARRY
NO
9 - CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, VICTIM'S RIGHTS AND PAROLE
NO
10- ALTERNATIVE FUEL AND RENEWABLE ENERGY BONDS
YES

Ugh. We read election crap so you don't have to.

SPOOKY GIRLFRIEND

Halloween fell on an enviable Friday this year, but a real dockwalloper came swooping in to pound the Bay Area and truncate festivities later in the evening and all day Saturday. This did not prevent our locals from setting up their usual imaginative decorations.

Spiders remained popular this year.

Also popular were spirits rising from the grave. This one, however, seems to be arising from a birdbath.


The house owner on Grand street informed us that last year this house hosted 1,600 trick or treaters. His pictures as well as a few of the more elaborate displays got destroyed during a computer glitch here.

Most of the really interesting displays cannot be done justice in daytime. This happy couple featured flashing lights and lots of audio effects.

This display developed over several days with a major piece inserted every day for a week. It features two ghostly pirates fighting in front of chests of rum, an entire story posted on pseudo parchment on the house wall and the sunken pirate ship, with faces of ghosts leering from the portholes and a chest of jewels guarded by a big spider. Kudos for detail on this one.


SEASON OF THE WITCH

It's been a quiet week here on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. As the tailfeathers of Helen's garden flamingo began to spin faster and faster the great wind came up and blew away the dawdling Indian Summer with blasts of cold rain. This did not stop Papoon and Babar from continuing with their increasingly contentious campaign for President Bum of the Yacht Club. Polls show the two running about even with Pahrump and the rhetoric is running fierce and hot around here.

Babar has put aside offers of help from Eugene Shrubb, much to the Incumbent's chagrin. Seems the long investure of Newark by an army of sterno bums from Sacto has grown unpopular. Shrubb's economic policies, which featured a "whiskey rebate" program that gave a free pint to all locals, including children, has drawn a lot of fire as well. That "leave no child behind" didn't work so well.

Whispers of the cursed "voodoo economics" are circulating, making connection with the man poisonous. Shrubb has lost his prime spot at the dumpster behind Chez Panisse, and as for getting a table at Zabars, fugeddaboudit.

Its all come down to the last few hours now, just a few more hours is all they got. After the election on November 4th, the winners will all be roistering in hot tubs with scads of designing women drunk on free champagne and line item blandishments. But there will be no glory in the losers circle, where the bill collectors will all descend like ravening wolves tearing at any scrap of meat left hanging. For a young man, its rough trade time and time to pull back behind sandbags well arsenaled with fifty-cal machineguns, to marshall forces to sally out again a later day.

But if you are an older man with a few years on you, a bad ticker and old war wounds, the pitiless will swarm in a bee-cloud of harpies shrieking atonement and blood offering, stinging every soft place and carving out pieces with their terrible flensing knives. Its especially harsh if you come from a place that sees winning as proof of something as much as losing is detestable and scorned. Then, the only thing left will be cowled Mephistopheles arriving with his hooks to drag him back to the furnace below while the once powerful man howls for the horses of the night to run yet a bit slower.

And why not call for Time to cease -- after all, his kind always claimed to make their own reality.

But you can only make "reality" if you have something supernatural on your side. And now that supernatural is calling for the bill to be paid in full in a few hours. Aghast, he watches as the Loa comes to ride his erstwhile running-mate in a chariot of firey serpents. The Night of the Succubus is at hand.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar, things have not reached that level of demonic fervor yet. Its doubtful that anything so dramatic will ever happen in the place run by Padraic and Dawn with its IRA donation jar at one end of the bar and its jar of nameless pickled pork sitting at the other in a cloud of what can only be anerobic bacteria and brine.

Quentin is holding forth on the latest edition of his biography in front of Jose and Pahrump, but there is little space this time around to detail that. Eugene Gallipagus is sitting at the bar, still half in costume from the party at the Native Sons of the Golden West. Eugene went as a pocket gopher and his tail is looped around the barstool. Turned out that a gopher costume didn't add well to his attempts to secure female companionship that night. Any number of pirates, vampires, lace cavaliers and stock traders managed to get lucky, but nada for the gophers.

Lionel and Javier had got the idea of impressing Maeve and Jacqueline, respectively as a surefire Batman/Robin team. They had this plan worked out that featured Batman swooping down from the ceiling at midnight to dramatically unfurl his cape in the middle of the dance floor. To execute this stunt, he and Javier got up harnesses, pulleys and ropes attached with quick release carabiners so as to let the ropes fly up into the rafters where they spent all night Thursday setting up their apparatus with the help of a tech from Pixar. He even set it up so that the both of them could drop on friction glides without needing someone to control the descent. Stuff like this is easily available all over the Bay Area, which has any number of studios, including Lucas Films, just chock full of technical goodies. Rare is the party without at least one smoke machine and they got four of them set to go off simultaneously during the grand entrance.
They even thought about throwing party favors and confetti as they descended. It was all well choreographed.

So the time came for the their Big Moment except that, in the intervening time, on Friday during the day, the guy paid to provide the entertainment hung up a huge disco ball right there in the center of their flight path, which they didn't see until already up there in the rafters. Well all right, they could accomodate that. Lionel, Batman, would drop first and shove the ball aside on going past so that Javier, Batboy, would just glide right on through.

Except that is not what happened. The friction pulleys were designed to apply more resistance the closer to the floor the actor got, but initially they let poor Lionel fire past that ball at terminal velocity so that his gentle push became a mighty wack, which shoved the ball way way out in a swinging arc that managed to wrap itself around the line and, after yo-yoing this flapping Batman a couple times, completely halted Lionel with a jerk about ten feet above the floor, pulling his shoulders out of their sockets in the harness and causing him to immediately pass out with a groan as all four smoke cannons went off right on time.

Meanwhile Batboy plummetted down and instead of missing the ball as it swung back, rammed his left leg right through it, causing something up above to break and all the lights went out and the power to the music died.

It was the leg he had broken during the Island-Life flyover that was stuck inside the ball and so he was in great pain as he hung upside down there high overhead. But when he got himself loose, he was afraid to let go of the ball and drop.

In the silence, little patters of the party favors happened all over the hall as they loosed themselves from the bags torn open during all of this ruckus -- they were free colored condoms from the Grab Bag Bowl at Good Vibrations, which at the time had seemed like a good idea, mixed with plastic toy bats and spiders and gummi worms.

Some of the guests used cell phones to light their way through the smoky gloom, but there were a few shrieks from some of the women -- and some of the men too -- when the dim light showed these things in their hair. Everyone got real quiet, thinking that this was a terrorist attack. The one they all had been waiting for since the 2004 Orange Alert during the last Presidential Election. Nobody had ever come forth to say that the Alert had changed color, so they all assumed, well, still on high alert we guess. They must be coming any day.

From a dark and amorphous form hanging about ten feet in the air came a low moaning. It was Lionel coming to.

That's when somebody, nobody knows who, knocked over the punchbowl and about fifteen gallons of Bloody Mary mix went onto the floor and several guests. There was a thump and a cry of pain and outrage in the darkness; Javier had finally let go of the ball and dropped on top of Eugene sending the balled up gopher skidding across the slick floor.

In the headlights of Officer O'Madhauen's cruiser -- someone had called 911 about a terrorist attack -- he saw garish figures staggering out of the smoke-billowing doorway, some will aweful wounds and many dripping with what appeared to be blood. His Crown Vic was soon surrounded by bloody phantasms, vampires and ghouls all clawing at him and begging for something like help.

He tried to back out but was stopped by what appeared to be an immense bloody gopher rolling on the grass. So he rolled up his windows and called in for backup and Coast Guard helicopters.

As the woods around the Hall filled up with grim SWAT team guys wearing black masks and carrying tear-gas and MAC-10 submachineguns and the spotlights from the helicopters shone down, the long wail of the throughpassing train came ululating across the water from Jack London Waterfront.

Here in the Bay Area, and especially on the Island, we always do up Halloween like nothing else. So much so, sometimes it takes a year just to recover.

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

 

OCTOBER 26, 2006

WE'RE NEVER GONNA SURVIVE UNLESS WE GET A LITTLE CRAZY

This week's headline photo comes courtesy of fellow Islander Mike Rettie, who got this pic from someone who clearly had a great response to fascist idiots trying to suppress dissent.

There was a viral video going around the internet which showed a dumpy middle-aged woman getting out of her SUV to swipe a pro-Obama sign from someone's yard after watching carefully for passing cars to clear the area. Well, there is a reason we find the Right Wing despicable. Because they are and they prove it daily in all the things they do.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ARTHUR

October 20th is the birthday of Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (10/20/1854 - 11/10/1891), French poet of the "decadent movement" who produced his best work before age twenty, ceased production at age 21 and remains to this day an enduring and pervasive influence on contemporary literature, music and art, including locally and notably the San Francisco Beat Generation.

He travelled extensively across three continents, had an affair with the symbolist poet Verlaine which ended with Verlaine shooting his younger lover in the wrist, and generally lived life about as full as one can until his premature death from cancer a month shy of his 37th birthday.

Even for such a short career, his poetry can be divided between a time of standard meter and line and the more influential period of free verse in which all "rules" of poetry are shattered in favor of dense and vivid paragraphs of writing that approaches prose which nevertheless explodes vividly with unrestrained energy.

His life and work became emblematic for all who would choose the path without borders, totally balls to the wall, uncompromising, and entirely without limits.

For what all this has to do with Island-Life and the Bay Area, skip on down below.

THIS IS WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE WHEN DOVES CRY

Monday night our Island-Life Event Coordinator managed to score prized tickets for the sold-out show of Patti Smith at the Warfield. Patti looked at her calendar, and, even though she is not on tour, called up her manager on stopover from Australian dates to book a date in Babylon for Rimbaud's birthday, and a subsequent date in Paris on the following evening.

If all you can recall about Patti Smith is a 1980's hit made famous by Bruce Springsteen called "Because the Night" you are missing quite a lot. And if you think a Patti Smith concert is just another rock concert, well guess again.

Onetime poet and sculptor in Greenwich Village, she made early association with the likes of Bob Dylan, who counts her as a major influence to this day, and with Robert Mapplethorpe, who became photography's enfant terrible and a major influence upon portrait art before his early death due to AIDS.

How she found herself performing punk rock music is perhaps the subject of a dense biography, but her albums exploded on the scene like minor volcanoes, from Radio Ethiopia to 1975's "Horses".

As reviewer Jim Harrington has mentioned, its difficult to write about a Patti Smith concert, which never has a moment of traditional rock experience. "For those who have yet to witness their first Patti Smith show, it’s really difficult to sum up the experience. It’s one of those cases where the famed quote, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” truly seems appropriate."

Who else can get the entire audience to sing "Happy Birthday" to a French poet who died in 1890?

In no particular order the Patti Smith Group did the following numbers:

Frederick
Because the night
Dancing barefoot
Southern cross - with director of biopic movie "Dream of Life", Steven Sebring,
Aint it strange
Redondo Beach
Birdland - indescribable, elevating poetry
Free money
Are you experienced? -- Jimi Hendrix cover
Helpless - in memory of husband Fred Sonic Smith, performed with son, Jackson Smith
Horses - changed lyrics
Smells Like Teen Spirit.- Nirvana song, with Patti interpolating memories of seeing him on a hill
Gloria
Encore:
People have the power
Rock 'n Roll N -----

The concert lasted a brief 2+ hours and became more and more intense as the evening went on.

As usual with Patti, she interacted directly with the audience, with individuals and as a group. Although hitting 62 this year (birthdate is December 30) her voice remains so powerful that the mike would capture her vocals even when she turned her back. At one point she paused in mid song to chide someone in the "pit" to leave someone alone. "Hey! Stop that! He aint bothering you. Leave him alone!"

Although capable of being about as savage as they come, Patti reminded us of her humanity and her humble origins in relating an event that took place when she worked in a New Jersey factory at age 16. The floor boss came up to her and ordered her to go to the bathroom, because "they're waiting for you."

"I walked in and there were three women with no teeth there and one of them took my book away from me. It was Illuminations." Patti said.

Illuminations is the title of one of Arthur Rimbaud's influential works. The other is Season in Hell.

Those of us who have worked warehouses and factory shifts can identify with what came next. Because the woman found French language in the book, they became outraged and pushed young Patti's head into the toilet after destroying the book.

Most remarkable was Patti Smith's generous response there at the Warfield that night, for she said, "Those were good,decent and hardworking people. A bit uneducated, but decent nevertheless. They didn't like that there was this language that was not "American" to be around them. What we want is for those days and that way of thinking never to come again . . .".

This was greated by thunderous cheers. That really is the thing which tips the balance from being just a very good rock artist into the next levl, and makes us fall in love with the girl again and again. Of the original Band, only Lenny Kaye is left. Richard Sohl, Tom Verlaine, her husband Fred Smith, all gone. But Patti, sweet Patti remains defiant and not the slightest bit reduced or compromised. With Patti Smith there are no half-measures. You must love her passionately or put her aside.

Because of the times now and the times we are all about to face -- of which Patti reminded us at one point -- the concert conveyed powerful resonance -- "We are about to face some hard times, some really hard, hard times and we must get together and rebuild this entire country brick by brick . . .". the entire effect was powerful, emotive, overwhelming.

This is just to say, like any good poem, the concert lifted the top of the head off.

To Jim Harrington's question, "Did it feel like a particularly moving night of music?" we answer a resounding YES!

We left before Rock 'n Rock N -----, which is a song that requires at least an essay if not a book for a response.

But then, maybe all of her works demand a response, for differing reasons, that large. Which just might be the highest accolade to a performing artist we can devise.

WHAT SARAH SAID

We attended an event that appears quite on the other end of the spectrum, at first glance. A closer look reveals some of the same committment to change and doing well in the world, as opposed to adding to the damage via indifference as we felt in Patti Smith, who notably chose a Neal Young song to remember her husband.

This weekend saw the 22nd Annual Bridge School Benefit take place out at the Shoreline. For the Saturday portion of the two day event, we took in opener Neal, Cat Power, Band of Horses, Death Cab for Cutie and Wilco, leaving before the traditional jam at the end.

Well, thats the consequence of working ER doubles and swing shifts.

The Bridge School has been providing programs for children who have communication and/or physical impairments since 1987 and has grown into an international school with guest teachers coming from all continents to learn new techniques to bring back to their home countries.

Neal and Pegi Young (current director) have two children enrolled.

Neal kept his opener short and sweet, doing Sugar Mountain and I am a Child from his early catalog.

Band of Horses led off as unscheduled replacements for ZZ Top, with the lead singer saying, "this is the first time we have performed acoustic. How are we doing?"

The deep south-based band demonstrated real al cappella virtuosity in sychnronized vocals that evoke shades of CSNY. BoH has been earning some underground buzz for a while as the latest up 'n coming so it was nice to see the boys come out for what is probably their first high-profile gig.

A cleaned-up Cat Power, also out of the South by way of Georgia, came out and rolled through several bluesy torch songs until her high point with a definitive rocking blues "It aint Me" that featured Neal joining in on guitar and vocals. The song lifted itself up to another level as an almost gospel fervor infected the performers.

Cat Power, nee Charlyn Marie Marshall, is known for jazz-inflected minimalist performances, which up to 2008 were known for quirky and incomplete presentations, which Marshall has stated were a consequence of drugs and alcohol. She has said that she originally performed largely as an opportunity for her and her friends to drink and take drugs, but now appears to have put the poisons aside in favor of tight and well orchestrated performance and the benefits of going clean were obvious Saturday. Although she can play the guitar and piano, she limited herself to vocals for the Bridge School. We would expect that if she can keep it clean, she will be someone to watch for a while.

Death Cab for Cutie performed largely from there new CD, although they did do the hits "I will Follow You into the Dark" and "Soul Meets Body", both of which worked well in the acoustic setting of the Benefit.

Reports have it that their "Sarah said" went over very well during Sunday's second set, which sort of ties in to our coverage of the Mexican Dias de los Muertos by way of its repeated end refrain, "Love is watching someone you love die. Who will watch over you when you die?".

Jeff Tweedy was as usual at top form fronting Wilco as we regretfully made our way out.

ROCK STARS GO BOOM LIKE THAT

The infamous Nimitz is back in action after this weeks nearly disastrous accident in which a big rig 18-wheeler hauling 8,600 gallons of gasoline overturned and burst into a fireball, blocking all lanes for 16 hours and requiring an emergency repaving of 50 yards of roadway. The current quickset job is temporary, so expect some hiatus when they get back to redoing the road surface after the inferno turned roadbed, signs and guardrails into molten solder.

The accident was reported at about 6:15 a.m., after a black Acura collided with a gasoline tank truck on I-880 at 16th Avenue, according to the California Highway Patrol. The KAG West Trucking vehicle, which had left the Shell refinery in Martinez at 5:10 a.m., was headed for its first stop off the 23rd Avenue exit in Oakland, according to CHP Capt. Don Morrel.

The truck jackknifed, struck the median and exploded in a ball of flame.

Oakland firefighters used water and foam to extinguish the blaze, which sent flames shooting more than 50 feet into the air, restricting less than 10 gallons from going into the Bay.

The CHP said the Acura was in the fast lane when it attempted to change lanes. The car pulled back, lost control and ended up going across all four lanes of traffic, then being struck by the big rig, which was in the slow lane. The Acura then careened back across all four lanes of traffic and struck the center divide.

Amazingly no one was killed during the pre-dawn pre-rushhour mixup, which sent a billowing cloud of jet-black smoke into the sky.

This is the second major truck accident in four months to close the Nimitz during rush hour. In that accident between a big rig and a Waste Management truck, the Waste Management driver died.

SEASONS DONT FEAR THE REAPER

Went down to the Fruitvale District for the largest Dias de los Muertos celebration in the United states. Some six to eight blocks of International Boulevard are blocked off each year as well as two to three blocks north and south for the massive festival that features alters ofrecetas, offrendas, beaucoups marigolds, exotic Aztec dancers, music, colorful vendors and many, many skeletons of all sizes and shapes.

Día de los Muertos is on November 2nd, with celebrations beginning on November 1, Día de Muertos --The Day of the Dead also All Saints Day, and continuing on November 2, All Souls Day. It is a joyous occasion when the memory of ancestors and the continuity of life is celebrated. It is believed that at this time the souls of the departed return to visit the living.

It is not a time of mourning since "the path back to the living world must not be made slippery by tears". Its roots are in ancient Mexico but it is celebrated in many North, Central, and South American countries. It is a mixture of indigenous and Catholic traditions and includes gathering at cemeteries for the cleaning and decoration of the grave sites and socializing. The manner of celebration varies regionally with folkloric traditions being particularly strong in Oaxaca where there is a substantial indigenous population.

El Día de Los Muertos originated in Mexico, before the Spanish conquest. The exact date is unknown but it has been speculated that the idea originated with the Olmecs, possibly as long as 3000 years ago. This concept was passed to other cultures such as the Toltecs, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec and Aztecs. Zapotec and Mixtec influence are strong in Oaxaca.

The Aztec celebration was held during the Aztec month of Miccailhuitontli, presided over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl Lady of the Dead, and dedicated to children and the dead. Following the Spanish conquest of Mexico during the 16th century, there was a strong effort to convert the native population to Catholicism. There was a good deal of reluctance on the part of the indigenous people which resulted in a blending of old customs with the new religion. All Saints' Day and All Hallows Eve (Halloween) roughly coincided with the preexisting Día de Los Muertos resulting in the present day event which draws from both.

Although the skeleton is a strong symbol for both Halloween and los Días de Los Muertos, the meaning is very different. For Días de Los Muertos the skeleton represents the dead playfully mimicking the living and is not a macabre symbol at all.

Preparation begins weeks in advance when statues, candies, breads and other items to please the departed are sold in markets. A sweet bread, pan de muerto, with decorations representing bones of the deceased is very popular as are sugar skulls.

All sorts of art objects and toys which symbolically represent death in some way are created and marketed. This gives the economy a boost in much the same way as our Christmas season does.

Alters ofrecetas are set up in the home with offerings of sweets and the favorite foods and beverages of the deceased. These offerings may later be given away or consumed by the living after their essence has been enjoyed by the dead. Marigolds are the traditional decorative flower and copal is the traditional incense made from the resin of the copal tree.

The Fruitvale District is notable in that a community spirit adds another level of participation to this ancient holiday. Each cross and marigold bloom in this ofreceta bears the name of someone murdered in Oakland this year.

Marigolds are another significant symbol for the Day of the Dead festivity, and are known as the "flower of the dead." Their scent is believed to "attract the souls and draw them back."

WE'RE ALL WAITING ON A TRAIN

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The days have been unusually hot, temps ranging into the eighties, while the nights have brought on the usual cool breezes.

It has come time for the long lazy loopy fall of brown leaves from the oaks that line Santa Clara. Its the time of spiderwebs and false goblins that go boo! and the time when Mother Earth turns her face away from the sun to cool this place for a time. It is time for the annual crossing, just as Odysseus once did long ago, the crossing over that line of fire.

In the dim light of the Island-life offices, we all drew straws. Jose, Javier, the copyboy, the Music Events Editor, and, of course Denby.

Once again Denby drew the short straw, and he protested.

Now, now Denby. This is Tradition. Go now. The Editor said.

And he slapped the man on his back and sent him out the door as at least one voice muttered, "Glad its not me this time."

It is Tradition. Every year about this time Denby draws the short straw and is given The Dream. The Dream goes like this:

From the offices he walked along the path that borders the Strand and came to a stone wall. He could not remember a stone wall being there, about two and a half feet high and extending for infinity in both directions, but this one seemed to have been there for eons, with scraggly weeds crowding up against lichened stones. There was no gate or path through but something called us from the dim otherside and so, hesitating a moment to leave the relatively well-lit path, he slogged through the sand before the wall and stepped over into a dark mist and a voice seemed to echo in the darkness, "Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate!" and the words flamed inside the skull as if poured in molten steel.

Well thats a funk.

On the other side the ground sloped down as usual to the water for about thirty yards, but he could not see the far lights of Babylon's port facilities or the Coluseum. In fact, the water had the appearance of extending out beyond to Infinity. But all up and down the strand bonfires had been lit, as is customary among our people in this part of the world, and towards one of these he stumbled among drift and seawrack.

A small child wearing a nightdress ran past and disappeared as quickly as she had come, a Daughter of the Dust.

At the bonfire's edge a bright voice greeted us, "Denby! What are you doing here now? Is it your time at last?"

A spritely gal with a blonde poll appeared and reached out. But her hand went right through our arm, leaving a clammy, cold sensation.

"Oh!" She said. "You are not one of us quite yet! Well, come on and visit for a while."

The girl flit back to the firelight around which a number of forms sat or stood.

"Penny, its you," He said. "We miss you. . . ".

"Oh Denby, you were always so . . . lugubrious. Lighten up and don't be so dead!" came the response. And her laughter was a sparkle of diamonds in that dark night.

Sitting around that fire, we recognized many faces. And many more all up and down that beach.

Strange words in another language reverberated inside the skull: "si lunga tratta / di gente, ch'io non avrei mai creduto / che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta" echoing and echoing down long hallways of mirrors into eternity. None of this seemed to make any sense at all.

There beside the firelight, reclining upon an ottoman and dressed in a silk gown lay a familiar form capped with luxurious chestnut curls. A number of gentlemen stood and sat about her, some with cornicopia and platters laden with grapes, oranges and mangos and a cat lay at her feet. She jumped up and greeted him with delight.

"Lynn! Lynn you are here!"

"And there YOU are! Big as life!" Here a peal of girlish laughter erupted from her. "You should come join us for The Revels. We all dress up in medieval costume, just like in the old days of the Society of Creative Anachronisms. Might loosen you up a bit."

"Well, maybe later on," he said. "How have you been?"

"Oh I am fine! Its everyone else I am worried about. I am fully done and cared for already. Its you that has the problems. Really Denby, you just turned half a century now, I hear. Tell me this? What do you want to be when you grow up? I mean, if you could be anything at all."

This perplexed him a bit, but then Lynn had always perplexed him just such a way.

One of the little girls scampering through almost ran into him then, and stood there suddenly looking at him with big dark eyes which seemed to hold entire spinning galaxies before she ran off.

"Oh you think about it," she said. "Oh will you look at that! Just look! Aren't you something!" She was referring to the cat, which had crept under the ottoman to hide behind the overhanging fringe and bat at a horseshoe crab.

This caused Lynn to erupt into peals of laughter which she interrupted briefly to look over her shoulder at him and wink, saying, "Bye bye!" And she vanished.

A familiar voice called out from the ring of fire. It was Carol, a younger and slimmer woman than we remembered, with a head of golden curls we had only seen in a photograph. "Hello Denby. Still writing I see."

He told her she was looking well, and a girlish fit of laughter erupted. "At the very least we get to look our best here. Just because Mayakovsky does not mention eyelashes and lipstick doesn't mean an old girl can't fix her self up for the Revolution."

"You haven't changed a bit. You know that was quite a service with Jack holding forth like in the old days of the Beats. Must have packed every lefty poet in town in there . . .".

"Oh really. I didn't go. It didn't seem it would add much and I never was one to fish for compliments."

He asked here if she had any prescience for "The Revolution," and she responded that no one in this place had any more foresight than before. "You just need to pick your battles carefully and be smart about it," she said, simply. "I really don't think there will be a Revolution in America; the big Middle Class is all too comfortable with yielding up important things for the sake of an easy-chair, as you have seen the past few years. There still will always be The Struggle in various forms, and I see you taking part from time to time. Now I am out of all that and have enough to do meeting new and old friends. Say hello to David when you see him -- but don't tell him you saw me. The boy is sensitive."

A bulky form rose up from next to her and we were astonished to face once again someone we thought we would never meet again. This time, he greeted this ghost first. "David, you are here." This David, not Carole's David, had been the foremost among that rowdy group of uncontrolled bohemian artists called the "Babarians" after their meeting place Cafe Babar in the City.

David was, as usual, sardonic and terse in his response. Did you expect me somewhere else? Here he had found alternative companions and a few more besides. Tonight, he visited among the lesser known. As it turned out, he was gratified and surprised there were as few differences between him and Denby than first imagined.

"I always had thought in the beginning we were extraordinary, we Cafe Babarians, but when I met you doing the same scut work as I did to get by, I learned the differences are not so great and that was a painful lesson. As for you," he turned to look far out across the water. "You must suffer a great deal more to become as hard as we were. Unfortunately, there is yet hope for you." The form of David stepped back into the darkness and that of Michael appeared, floating at least six inches above the earth as he sat zazen.

"Michael, I am still trying to find the center of my ethnic identity . . .".

"No!" he responded more emphatically from his devout position, his fingers jabbing with insistent energy like spears, "I wanted you to find the center of yourself independent of history -- whether you are Jew or Sufi it does not matter! You are a soul spinning ecstatically through the universe and without a center you just become dizzy and fall down." Then he added, somewhat sardonically, "And I notice you tend to fall down frequently. Know yourself, then you can wear the beautiful Mask and write about it. Excuse me as I must now return to my conversation with Ghandi."

Another voice called to us. "Well, Denby, you were right when you told me to stop following everybody and to make my own stand. But I made my stand in a place not my own and stood up in the firefight, and so wound up here. And these people are not my people tonight. Most nights I sit with Patton and Eisenhower and Sherman. And many from The Other Side."

That voice belonged to Johnny, wearing the torn uniform of an Army officer. In the closing days of 1972 he shipped off to 'Nam, lying about his age, along with about thirty others, a futile Children's Crusade.

"Johnny, why did you do it? Why did you fudge the records and go in unofficial? When they found out, they struck your name from The Black Wall. You got declared noncombatant because you were underage. . .".

"That's not what it ever was about, Denby. About a million guys from the NVA never wound up on that Wall and never will and its my sentence to meet each one of them and spend unnumbered hours with them here. I have my own concerns now and my own resolutions. This here is my last stand and there is no other."

A couple jogging by paused in the moonlight beside the bonfire, a Black man and a white woman. "Well," said the man, "How surprised I am to find a Ghost down here." Eric stood there in a lean track-suit -- black, of course, with white stripes -- his beard neatly clipped, his 'Fro a reminder of some other decade. Beside him stood blonde-haired Julie, wearing a suite of dazzling white.

"Julie, Eric, you found each other. Eric, I though you were shot down in DC, and Julie, there was that window . . .".

"Oh, all that is old history," said Eric. "You should live for the now and pay more attention to what's around you. White men is the Devil, as Fanon said. No surprise when planes smack into buildings because of it. You give my Brother Tom a call when you get back; he could use some help right about now. As for me, this fine lady keeps me company these days."

"Let the memories push you forward, not hold you back. One headlight," said Julie.

"Gotta run. Take care of yourself, Denby." And the two were gone, running down the strand.

A figure appeared with sticks rapping out a rhythm on drift logs. He had curly hair and a slim figure.

"I don't know you, " we said. And the figure paused his drumming. "My name is Michael. We never met. I ... crossed over ... in Thailand. You know my sister. And we have been living together, you and me, for some fourteen years now."

They faced one another, the ghost and the drummer. Ever since we first learned of Michael his habits and resume have filled our days for he was the brother of the Adored and so closest to everything that we hold dear. Not a day goes by when she does not say, "Michael did that." or "Michael said this about that." If ever there were one who remained in effect after the crossing, Michael was the man.

She had raised her brother in a solitary home after mother had died before her thirteenth birthday and father had gone nuts among the nuns in some distant House for the Mentally Indigent. The long loop of the years had roped in their consecutive lives into a kind of family existence with Xmas'es and Fourths and Thanksgivings spent among the rag tag of punk society that is for such that manage to survive under severe conditions while she fought her way through nursing school and he through rock bands and finally aviation in the doomed world of Reaganomics. He had a lot of questions to ask this Michael.

"You cannot stay her now. You must go back now for your term." Michael said. "In the meantime, take care of my sister -- and anyone's sister for that matter. Study clouds and wind patterns. Look at the sky as often as you can. Go now."

Brief flashes in the darkness. Little girls wearing nightdresses running barefoot between the groups, playing tag with bright eyes. Wind brought sea spray across the tidal mud flats.

"Who are these", he asked.

"They are the not yet and never was, said Penny, with a trace of rueful wistfulness not characteristic of her. "Of us and of others with you."

It took a moment to register. And then she said to come with her now. Time was finished and soon the change of the hours would come.

Penny took him back to the wall, which he would not have found otherwise, as sight seemed to have become blurred by some saltwater carried on the air.

"Oh, you'll be back before long," Penny said. "Try to enjoy your stay where you are at for now. Fling yourself into Life while you still have it; at this point I don't regret a thing except waiting far too long to take up skydiving." She paused at the wall and looked with big eyes, a half-smile on her face. "And practice your singing. You really need lots of practice." A wet something touched his cheek and she was gone.

And after he climbed over that low wall, everything back there receded into a mist and there was only the stretch of water out to Babylon and the lights of Bayview and Hunters Point and the ring of the Coluseum. One by one the distant bonfires winked out until there was only the long and lonely empty length of beach with the lights of the apartment houses behind him.

He walked back to the Offices where only the Editor sat there behind his desk, his eyeglasses perched on his nose and his remaining hair flying about in an aurole about his head.

Any idea who the next President is going to be? he asked Denby.

They didn't tell me, Denby said. No idea.

The Editor sighed. Rather bad this time, wasn't it?

Denby said nothing. The Editor reached back behind him and brought out a bottle of Glenfiddich with two glasses. "Probably doesnt matter. Who gets to be President or who knows about it. The way things are going, we all are going to need more than a stiff drink to get through and a stiff one is all we got. Ice?"

As they sat there with their glasses and the watches of the night turned over to reluctantly start the next day, right on schedule, the long wail of the throughpassing train as it ploughed through the Jack London Waterfront ululated across the moonlight diamond-sparkled waves of the estuary, across the chopped waves of the Bay, across the humped hills of Babylon and through the high singing wires of the Bay Bridge, and the quiet plots of Colma where the dew formed out of the fog, falling softly through the universe upon all, upon all of the living and the dead.

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

 

 

OCTOBER 19, 2008

SHAKE THEM BONES

This week's headline photo comes from a neighbor's front yard and clearly makes a statement here about our peculiarly Bay Area Holiday, Los Dias de Los Muertos.

In some places, the mistaken belief persists that Halloween is just a one day treat for kids. Here, parties, celebrations and all kinds of traditions take place for nearly a month, with the last day of October becoming a defacto Holiday in which every workplace, from the stodgiest bank to the jolliest restaurant becomes staffed with witches, zombies, fairies, cats and vampires. So enamored of the holiday are some proprietors that they typically close their businesses just to have staff put up rubber bats, artificial rats and loads of gigantic spiders.

The Oakland Museum puts on a special exhibit of Dias de Los Muertos altars, which will extend this year way up to December 8. Ten blocks of International Boulevard in the Fruitvale district of Oaktown close down entirely to host hundreds of altars and dozens of performers, including the famous "Aztec Dancers". This year the weekend will be October 25-26th. The actual Mexican Day of the Dead is not until into November.

PSA

Monday, October 20, is the last day to register to vote in this upcoming November 4th Presidential Election. Of course you can register to vote at any time, but Monday is the last day to be eligible to vote in this upcoming historic election. And this time nobody can say it does not matter due to business as usual.

In addition, early voting is now open in Alameda County and many other counties in the Golden State. To vote right away head on over to 1221 Oak Street and the basement of the County Administrative Building. Public parking is in the tower garage one block away and in the open air lot behind the McDonalds.

WE WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN

The latest flap over at Silly Hall, after the Measure H debacle that was supposed to fund the schools got all its funding tied up in lawsuit over the poorly constructed legislation is over another attempt to pull the City's finances from the brink of bankruptcy by applying an increased fee on property exchanges. Currently the fee is about $5.40 per 1000 dollars of assessed value, but Prop P seeks to raise this amount to $12 per 1000 dollars, and unlike the exceptions that doomed Measure H, do it across the board to all sales. Mayor Beverly has all but gotten down on her knees to beg people to approve this one against some pretty stiff objections even as the City closes a fire station due to the financial crisis.

While nobody likes fees and taxes, there is simply no way to raise revenue without causing hurt to somebody. The strongest objection comes from somebody who commented that the Prop made more sense when first devised before the current housing crisis, however we think here that the Proposition just might be the ticket to deliberately slow down the rapid "flipping" of houses that caused much of our troubles to begin with. By all means, lower the values now to reasonable assessments; in that case, the added fee will hurt less and everyone ends up smiling.

DANCING BAREFOOT

The ladies definitely own the stages for the next few weeks, with Patti Smith taking over the Warfield Monday Night for one of her typically burn down the house performances. Patti Smith, one time consort of Robert Mapplethorpe, poet and songwriter, was proto-punk back in the day before it got cute with shopping mall crazy hair and designer jeans with safetypin accessories. Just about any alternative punk musician of any consequence points the finger back to her as the Source. She comes on snarling like a she-demon crossbred with a lynx and we absolutely adore her to pieces.

Over at Zellerbach hall, another punky type, Laurie Anderson, brings her heady political work Homeland to stage October 24-25th. She's come a long way from sleeping on the couches of friends and playing her electric violin through distortion and is now regarded as the definitive Performance Artist in whom the title is an accolade instead of a joke. Always insightful, often humorous, frequently intellectual, sometimes silly, sometimes in deadly earnest, full of wry twists on technology, Anderson is one not to miss.

Finally Pegi Young produces her annual Bridge School Benefit at the Shoreline, with the gracious assistance of her Canadian-born husband, Neal Young next weekend. The annual benefit never fails to bring the absolute best and hottest musicians of the moment together to raise money for the school that looks to help kids with developmental defects get a leg up.
Old Neal, a fellow who squeaked by as a child through a serious bought with Polio that stuck him with lifelong epilepsy and a couple physical problems is no stranger to kids like these and he has two of his own enrolled in the Bridge School.

As a bit of trivia, one of his sons turned out to be a lover of HO scale model trains made by Lionel Trains. The toymaker was set to go bankrupt and cease production when Neal stepped in and spent a good fortune to secure the company and keep it alive. Yes, Neal Young owns Lionel Trains. And, man, you should see that kid's layout.

MY DADDY WAS A BANK ROBBER

It certainly got active last week with Officer O'Madhauen having his hands full with yet another takeover bank robbery.

Two men who robbed Bank of America on Marina Village Parkway Tuesday afternoon fled into Oakland via the Posey Tube, police say.

One man simulated having a handgun and passed a note to a teller, demanding cash around 12:30pm

The suspects fled in a silver, four-door Pontiac or Buick, witnesses said. But as no traffic infractions occurred during the escape, the perpetrators got clean away.

No one was injured during the robbery at Bank of America on Marina Village Parkway.

Police say that they have leads based on the surveillance video camera that recorded the robbery.

The bank holdup follows a robbery Sunday night in the West End in 1800 block of Poggi Street, in which a suspect shot a man in the leg before stealing his cell phone.

The 32-year-old victim was sitting in the passenger seat of a tan 2004 Toyota Camry, talking on the phone, when two robbers approached about 7:30 p.m.

When one suspect attempted to grab the phone, the victim resisted and was shot, police said.

The man suffered a broken femur in his right leg and was treated at Highland Hospital Oakland.

The suspects also stole cash as well as the cell phone from the 35-year-old driver of the car.

The victims, along with a woman, 28, and a 1-year-old boy, were returning home after taking part in Fleet Week when they were robbed.

The last takeover robbery was August 23 when the Citibank on Santa Clara was hit.

In other crime news, we had pretty much three vandalism reports a day last week, only one battery, a smattering of DUI, two nabs for methamphetamine possession, two ID thefts and one arrest for such a thing, six grand thefts (including theft of a rowboat), nine petty thefts, four burglaries, one assault with deadly weapon on Park Street, one (possibly two) strong arm robberies, one case of battery, four vehicles got stolen, one threatening phone call, and two dog bites. Seems things are settling down around here.

Under the heading of Weird and Unexplained but Suspicious Circumstances we have one fellow requesting medical assistance, but unable to explain why his place was spattered with "a copious amount of blood." There is more to that one, we feel.

GROWING UP: QUENTIN'S STORY PART II

The previous week we presented the start of Quentin's description of local childhood play in the form of stone throwing.

One would think that the shelter of family and relatives provided some succor while growing up among a herd of savage animals. But the closest relations lived out in Moraga and Dublin, which were rural farming communities at the time. People from the City turned their noses up at folks from Moraga, even though City dwellers and East Bay denizens all pretty much lived under the tattered influence of what had once been the Eisenhower umbrella.

On a visit to his uncle time came around to think about supper when Mr. Martin reached into the case under the grandfather clock which had been brought around the Horn a century previously and extracted from there a pretty modern and well-oiled 32-20 rifle. He then walked through the house, loading as he did so until he walked out the back door and paused at the edge of a field, a perfectly rustic and normal field for California circa 1962.

It had been planted with beans, chard and other vegetables that seemed to indicate by quality that growing well in this soil took some gumption and was by no means easy.

After a moment there came a loud Kaboom! and Mr. Martin came back, dragging with the help of his daughter, Malphasia, a four-point buck, whose tongue lolled out of a foamy bloody mouth and whose eyes gazed back at Quentin with a glassy stare.

"Don't just stand there," said Mr. Martin. "Get yourself a knife. Here's dinner."

For a brief terrible moment, Quentin imagined that he was to fetch his plate, a napkin and a fork right away, but no, he was to help with gutting and preparation of about 80 pounds of venison.

This description is better left to tougher minds.

In one other memorable instance, Quentin was out running with the cousins when his foot went into a hole while the substantial portion of the rest of his body continued forward helter skelter until there was a sharp snap and a moment of reddened blankness.

When he came too, the other had run off and he could not stand for more than a moment and that on one leg. He called out, he prayed, he cursed, but the cousins had run off for it was come to dinner time and among that horde, he who tarried ate but little.

So he hauled himself by degrees on knee, on elbows, on his belly, inch by red-wavy nausea-welling inch until he got to the long cement drive where he was looked upon by the relations.

"Yer late," accused Delilah. "We didn't save nothing for you."

"He knows he's late. That's why he's putting on an act," Uncle Adolphus said.

I think my leg is broken, Quentin said.

He was called a malingerer and a crybaby and just trying to put one over. Kids today are so damn spoiled. Its the Socialism.

So he wore out his jeans and the elbows of his shirt getting up the drive until one uncle, incensed, promised to take him right to the doctor for a dose of castor oil and proof of the boy's mischief, after which, there would be additional punishments.

Difficulties of getting into the car only served to stoke the uncle's rage.

"Yep," said the doc. "Ankle busted clean through. That foot is swoll up so bad it won't wear a shoe for the next three months. But how did his elbows and knees get like that . . ."?

Nobody ever did apologize and that same uncle later tried to sign up Quentin for the Marines during the Vietnam War without telling anybody.

So much for family values.

Then there were the summer and winter holiday visits to the farm near Petaluma. Mr. Abrams ran a livestock, horsebreeding, chicken farming, do whatever with animals kind of business there. He never made much money, it seemed, until he got into raising llamas. No one ever could figure out how this form of livestock made more money than any of the others, but running a farm at any and all times requires a lot of physical labor, labor which called Quentin to abandon childhood games -- which was no great loss as any local playmates seemed to manifest murderous tendencies. Other than slopping through a lot of cowpies and similar mess, the stints were not so bad except for the absolute necessity to be bolt upright and out of bed promptly at four am every day. Oversleeping was not allowed and Quentin made that mistake only once.

Mr. Abrams resolution to oversleeping was characteristically terse and to the point. He got a bucket of ice water -- it happened to be winter that time -- and dumped it on the boy there as he lay.

That got him up all right.

Such were the experiences of growing up in Fremont. Next week, Quentin moves with the family to The Haight in San Francisco and goes to high school.

ON AN ISLAND

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. What is called Indian Summer interrupted our forward march into the next Season, but despite the 80 degree days, there remained a chill in the shadows and all the dahlias by the Old Fence developed mold and decay, right on cue as squadrons of Canadian geese arrowed overhead. Tomatoes are still ripening on the vines and someone at Marlene and Andre's place on Otis put up a bright UFW flag in the middle of the jasmine there, which flaps gloriously in red and black when the evening breezes come around. Si se puede!

As of this weekend, the fogs rolled back in again to a symphony of foghorns and the evenings have returned to chilly enough for sweaters weather.

The drought continues, as EBMUD reminds all of us, so water rationing remains in place.

The preliminary reports coming back from the Front indicate that preparations for Saving Pvt Opus may have begun too late to rescue the noble bird from his fate. It seems a Ms. Hatchet serving as Security and Front Desk Operator at the Bloom County Animal Shelter misdirected our team, who asked to be admitted to the cell of a certain incarcerated, talking, somewhat Liberal, penguin with affinities to the political cartoon world.

This is whom they encountered.

Back to square one with Ms. Hatchet.

Let us not go into the debacle that ensued by the parallel effort to locate and rescue Bill the Cat, which involved some nasty business with an unsavory character known only as "Garfield".

Our official Dandelion Patch Preparer is left to sit back on his haunches while all his good work goes to waste. Still, on a bad day, or any day at all, its a fine thing to go whoompf! on your back in a decent dandelion patch. One with sincerity, as Mr. Schultz might add, were the august man alive today.

Over at Marlene and Andre's squat, all the folks gathered around for the famous Marlene Spaghetti Dinner, rendered famous in that food was available enough for all that came, for enough was an adverb seldom encountered during the past years of the Bush Interregnum.

This spaghetti was no normal spaghetti, for it included the last of the year's tomato crop, cuts of garden oregano, thyme, basil and wild onions, tattered remnants of peppers, plus the addition of "found garlic" and sauces collected from the back of the fridge.

It was a kind of blowout, for almost everybody felt that the time of the Pernicious Republican was due to end and the time of Common Sense would ensue.

Over twelve people now live in the two bedroom apartment rented under Marlene and Andre's name, a function of the landlord gouging and reasonable adaptation to such greed. No fool can afford the rents demanded under supposed "market rates", so everyone has sublet a portion of their space, some by virtue of time. You sleep here in the bunk 8 to 8 and I sleep there 9 to 6.
The enviable 24 hour spots are located in undesirable zones like under the coffee table and in the walkway. Location, location, location, is everything, as the Realtors constantly din our brains.

All over, retirement portfolios have dissolved under the bright light of reality and the scam thrust upon all of us. You, middle-class citizen, you who voted for the consummate idiot, The Confabulator Ronald Raygun, will learn to live like Occasional Quentin But that's okay. We all have lived like that for years and years. We know how. Now you must learn.

And so, the fogs roll in while Jake Blues spins the music. Distant fog horns announce the presence of ships far out in the Bay and the hours roll over into the new day. From far off comes, almost as a memento mori, the long ululation of the through-passing train as it winds its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront.

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

OCTOBER 12, 2008

FIRST WE TAKE PARIS, THEN WE TAKE BERLIN

This week's headline photo comes from the haut couture catwalks of Paris, where even the fashionistas have endorsed Obama, at least as apparel theme. It's what all the chic are going to be wearing this fall.

Really like the addition of the Ultimate Fighter gloves as accessories. Our European desk reports that it is optimistically looking forward to some form of obvious intelligence re-inhabiting the White House.

As for Germany, we do note that Chancellor Merkel has remained out of public view ever since being physically assaulted during a conference by President Appointee George Bush and that widespread disgust with Conservatism in general resulted in the unprecedented upset of the CDU in Bavaria, where the moderately liberal party captured a significant chamber seat there for the first time since 1952.

In Austria, the leader of the far right wing party, Joerg Heider, recently died in an automobile accident, suggesting that even He is getting fed up with Right Wing shenanigans worldwide.

SUFFER THE CHILDREN

Long time readers know that we are paying subscribers to the Windows Secrets Newsletter, formerly the Langalist, which has a program set up by Fred Langa to benefit underprivileged children around the world. The news letter, with some 500,000 paying readers, has powerful assets to render aid to humanitarian causes, including benefiting survivors of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The latest beneficiary of this program is a young fellow from Zimbabwe. In the words of the newsletter:

"Each month, we send a full year of sponsorship to a different child. Your contributions in October are helping us to sponsor Thabo Mpofu, a 5-year-old boy in Zimbabwe, a landlocked country in southern Africa. Plan USA channels development aid from donors to Thabo and his community. We also sponsor kids through Save the Children and other respected agencies.

If you've been reading the LangaList for a while, you know that one of its themes is "giving back," not only to each other and to the computing community at large, but to those less fortunate. After all, those of us with computers and Internet access are vastly better off than most of the world's population. In this vein, a portion of any LangaList Plus! profits will be donated to registered/legitimate charities helping the underprivileged around the world."

We like to include these items from time to time to shine the light a bit brighter in this dim corner of the universe and keep the original socially conscious spirit of the early computing days alive so that our grandparent's fears of the cold technocratic society do not become a reality.

Besides, its a good thing to celebrate a bit of happy snarkiness in a world that seems to get darker day by day.

As an addendum, we note that Fred Langa has left retirement unexpectedly to return to the newsletter he founded.

Reason: unexpected divorce and subsequent financial burdens.

WHATS THE BUZZ? TELL ME WHATS A HAPPENING

Island-Life welcomes another voice added to the celebration of life on our tiny homeland here. The Buzz, a newsletter put out by the Harbor Bay Club fitness gym has decided to go community-wide and offer an online presence at www.harborbayclub.com.

The club, located on the tonier side of things on the other side of the controversial bicycle bridge features tennis courts and lots and lots of awfully white White People, but nevertheless, they have something to say.

There "Housing Report" managed to be really off-timing, sounding cheerful and optimistic only days before the current stock market brouhaha. Still, most local real estate organs were all whistling a bit in the wind while the Realtors were trying to preserve the bubble by reserving properties off the real market. And pegging asking prices to nonnegotiable levels.

This resulted in housing remaining 25% inflated over value while the bottom dropped all around. Nice tactic, and a beaut had it worked a bit longer. But then a bunch of investment banks tanked along with Fanny and Freddie, leaving a population of people who understand quite well that pegging yourself to a hefty mortgage obligation when thousands of jobs will vaporize in the next 24 months is shear imbecility.

Since the prices had dropped only 2% (according to The Buzz), the resulting median of half a million dollars for a moderately middle class house stands at a point way, way above any reasonable risk and we are looking now at a very fast deflation of that hard bubble -- if the Realtors are smart. For the faster it drops now, the quicker it will come back later. If they continue to hold the prices artificially high, two things will happen.

The prices will drag the general market and people will flock to the "good buys" in the heavily foreclosed areas. Renters will flee decaying urban centers as landlords attempt to recoup losses by gouging.

The second item will occur in the form of widespread reassessments of property by financially stressed local governments seeking for ways to recover revenue taken by the State's recent budget decisions. We already see local governments trying to recapture funds by levying minor taxes that attempt to get around Prop 13 limits. When voters eventually reject these measures, the governments will shrug and, claiming "hands tied", they will get that money anyway by reassessing all property at the inflated levels desired by the Realtors.

Since a fair number of properties have had some kind of "improvements" added since 1977, the reassessments can get around the Prop 13 limits.

Any way you look at it, the forecast here is pain and more of it.

HOUSE IN CALIFORNIA

In a recent discussion with a local Ultra Conservative from a neighboring town, the man stated proudly that there was no retail tax there. When asked how the city funded services, the man responded as if only an idiot did not understand that bonds paid for everything.

When asked how the bond interest and principal was paid off, the man responded as if only and idiot did not understand that property taxes covered the bonds, of course.

Obviously, any idiot can see that special case expenses required one-time attachments to the property taxes. No retail and no personal taxes allowed.

Of course Piedmont is not a place that exactly encourages retail business of any stripe, so the retail tax issue sort of spins, like much of this logic, like the famous euroboric snake that ate its own tail.

Its actually quite beautiful, this system. Keep your City small in area, exclude businesses, rely on the County to cover things like fire and so on, and just add taxes to willing property owners happy to make the cost of owning there so high that the place remains fairly exclusive to a certain income bracket. Keep out renters and you are done.

The trouble with this system is that it depends on a tenuous relationship between optional property tax attachments and mandatory bond payments. If at any time the voters refuse another property tax increase, the bill for the bonds comes due with catastrophic results. If surrounding cities or the County demands reimbursement for services, the entire arrangement will collapse. Piedmont can only continue to do what it does if there is zero inhabitant growth and its surface area remains about two square miles. It certainly is no prime example on how to run a large metropolitan area.

There is a great analysis of the effects of Prop 13 and how we arrived at the still disputed City Proposition H in a series of three articles in the Alameda Sun by Denis Evanosky. Because of shellgame shenanigans with funds out of the 13 billion surplus in the State budget at the time and mishandling of subsequent ameliorative propositions that meant to handle funding for the once impressive California school system, the State wound up 7 billion in the hole and trying to compensate for such an immense deficit by throwing the burden of service expenses back on the local governments.

Which finally brings us to our Island problem and Propositions H and P. Prop H has been halted cold by the courts and lawsuits. It sought to secure needed school funding via a square footage levy on property ownership, but the rules for application of this "one-time" tax were so arcane and convoluted and -- note this Piedmonters -- especially harsh on businesses, that a court challenge froze up all the funding which had already been budgeted as a done deal by the District.

The battle over Prop H and the funding has turned many longtime Islanders against each other with heated invective and diatribes far in excess of anything encountered during the infamous "bicycle bridge" debate.

So now we have Proposition P for this November, which seeks to apply another property tax to fund essential services "like" fire, police, etc. This tax is in the form of a charge per assessed value on transferred property. Most of the arguments against it are deceptive in that the real reason for disliking the thing has nothing to do with the arguments stated, so it probably will pass. The real reasons for disliking this relate to the original spirit of the Jarvis Initiatives that swept the country and were directed both at reducing the size of government and at easing the burdens of property owners who were, in this state, being hammered by enormous and frequently unfair tax burdens at the time.

And, as Evanosky stated quite well in his insightful series, the failure to carry the ball after Prop 13 passed. Had the budget surplus returned to the local governments to be well spent there, the current crisis would have been smaller. Unavoidable, but smaller. But radical Conservatives redirected the surplus to a one-time rebate to all the voters, which frittered the amount down to about $300 per resident. That is less than half a months rent here, and for some families, barely a week's worth of groceries. Penny ante small change. Just as the recent federal "Stimulus Rebate" was received recently. Chump change and no stimulus.

Looking all around the Golden State we see the same pattern. Proposition after Proposition looking to tack on special taxes to property owners to cover lost revenue. Details may vary, but the trend is the same all over. Where it will end is anybody's guess, but two things are for sure: Death and Taxes.

PERNICIOUS THREE DOTULISM UNABLE TO BE STAMPED OUT

In another Base development issue sure to raise hackles and delay development there, the Navy has refused to pay for toxic cleanup there, including several highly radioactive zones. The City, not being in the position technologically and financially, able to remediate such conditions, just might sue the Navy with Frank Matarrese at the helm. The Navy's position is just, So you think the daycare center's Day-Glo still glows after dark? Look on the good side. At least you won't have to spend money on after hours lighting . . .

As the City's talks with the local fireman's union collapsed over health benefits (universal health care anyone?) the talk shifted to letting the County have responsibility over this service. More than a coincidence . . . ?

Four guys busted into a home and held the inhabitants hostage during a home invasion robbery last Friday in a crime that broke records here. There was another home invasion robbery in April but the last one we could find was in June of 2005. Heck, isn't one enough . . .

Lots of the usual burglary, vandalism (generally graffiti), and a raft of DUI, but we do note one battery assault with a deadly weapon involving a crowbar on Buena Vista and an assault on Stardust Avenue with a baseball bat, which we take to be not a deadly weapon . . . .

I'M DRIVING IN MY CAR / I TURN ON THE RADIO

Percy Worthington-Boughsplatt and his consort attended Saturday's annual car show here on Park Street, which was blocked off much as it always should be, for the fifteenth annual event. As usual, Percy wore his matching beige plus-fours, spats, trousers, waistcoat, fob, sporting cap and mustache to appropriately accompany the color scheme of his immaculately restored two-tone 1939 Mandeville-Brot Coupe with full running boards, sparkling chrome grill, plush leather upholstery and ivory shifter knob made from genuine African elephant tusk.

His consort wore for the occasion a vintage pillbox hat, diamond necklace, white gloves, and shoes from Rabat in the City. Oh, and a feather boa. But, as a member of the Berkeley Explicit Players, nothing else.

The men were amused. The mothers were scandalized.

Every year, the Old Guys Club gets a bunch of clunkers to run out to the show and there Model T Fords share space with Deloreans and Edsels. Always there is one single Harley Davidson sitting there leaking oil all over the place while the Elvis impersonator gyrates near the main stage.

A fine time was had by all over there on Park Street.

GHOST OF TOM JOAD

It's been a quiet week on the Island, my hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. A mighty wind set in here and completely blew through the weekend, causing all sorts of ruckus during the waxing moon and making things feel a lot more like Fall had happened. Squadrons of the Canadian geese are passing overhead, indicating changes to come yet still. With all of the recent hullaballoo on Wall Street the Old Same Place has gotten rather busy as folks near about to retire or there already commiserate over their losses. A few Old Fashioneds and the future's dim prospect loses much of its edge, and after a few Old Fashioneds, even English majors shuffle off the mixed metaphors. That is what good mixed bourbon is for.

Suzie can muddle a Manhattan with the best of them and during times like these, the best are in high demand.

Quentin is down there talking to mates from Andre and Marlene's house on Otis Street. He is having none of those foo-foo drinks, but boilermakers, covered on a tab by Jose and Pahrump. Quentin has not been able to afford paying for his own drinks for about twenty-five years.

Quentin is trying to explain why he is the way he is to Jose and Pahrump. Jose wants to know why it never occured to Quentin to go and inform the Household of immanent danger during the Unfortunate Affair of the Inflammable Roach in which the House porch sofa was destroyed utterly and very nearly all inhabitants killed.

Quentin stemmed from a military family. Born in some strange place to which he had no attachment, he shifted through his formative years until arriving at the abode in Fremont, nigh unto the hills there, which was not considered at the time a prime address.

Because of his origins he was always considered the "the kid from somewhere else". The first day that sunny summer so long ago he stood at the edge of the field where an informal ball game was getting up players when a kid with a walleye came up to him. No, the kid didn't have a fish; turned out later his left eye was made of glass and his name was Simon. Simon informed him it was time to get the hell out of there.

"What?" said Quentin.

You'll see, said Simon, who bolted down the hill just about as fast as his little legs could carry him.

Quentin appeared largely ignored during the usual team selection process until, at one point they all turned to face him.

Someone commented that he, Quentin, had moved into the Old Wickers house.

Wickers snickers, someone said.

Someone else commented that Quentin's family went to the Holy Roller Hall on Sunday. Quentin asked quite reasonably, as it seemed to him, that if baseball was to be played he was game to join. If they would let him.

Several kids bent down to pick up something. The largest kid, or the one who seemed the largest to Quentin stepped forward. You think you are something, huh. It was not a question, but a statement. At this point, it began to occur to Quentin that things were not going well.

For what turned out to be the last time in his life, Quentin turned to Scripture in his hour of need. "Well, the Bible says . . ." That's when the first rock hit him in the chest. It turned out to be a fairly small pebble, round and thrown without velocity by an eight-year old but it did give Quentin the picture sharp enough. He spun on his heel and fled down the hill after Simon under a hail of stones.

Such was the introduction of Quentin to the neighborhood and to its kingpin, James Patootie, who later on in life would rise to the level of petty Napoleon in the area only to get caught robbing the 7/11, which earned him a term in the oddly named institution, San Quentin, where he would remember in his cell torturing a boyhood associate years ago, but that is another story.

As for Quentin, he never ever did play a game of neighborhood baseball except for one memorable game enforced by the nuns at his school the year before he entered that American tradition of uselessness and abuse called High School. In that game Quentin put several years of anguish and torment behind his swing to bash the little ball high and away over the trees where it was not found for another twenty minutes in the shrubbery and he took off running like mad around the bases until he arrived panting back at the dugout with his enforced team mates looking at him like he were some kind of space alien.

Some one found the ball and lobbed it to the pitcher who casually walked over to Quentin to touch him on the shoulder with his mitted glove and a silly grin.

"Yer Out!" shouted the Umpire.

Turned out Quentin had run during his sprint directly to the pitcher's mound, then to second, then to third and finally to homeplate without attending to the administrative detail of touching first base at any time during his mad dash.

So much for ball games.

The rest of Quentin's life proceeded much like this in kind. When he finished this part of his story, though, he sat back and smiled in the bar that was crowded with people trying to cast aside the doldrums caused by the recent Market implosion and destruction of their savings.

"Why are you smiling," asked Javier.

"Freddie Mac and Lehman Brothers and Fannie Mae and all the rest that's happened and is going to happen. Now all of them are going to start living the way I have been for the past thirty-five years."

From way back in the crowd came a solitary, dismal, "Oh."

That was the perfect moment for the midnight train throughpassing the Jack London Waterfront to punctuate this tale with its usual eerie ululation coming across the wind-chopped waves of the Bay.

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

 

 

OCTOBER 5, 2008

MONSTER MASH

This week's headline photo comes from Pagano's Ace Hardware, where the idea of a shop front window is perhaps a little bit different than usual, for with each change of season comes a corresponding thematic change. Here we see the Old Man fallen into a bit of trouble featuring some non-elective surgery.

ALL THEIR LIVES THEY GROW UP RADIO LISTENING!

KQED just finished their periodic pledge drive but that doesn't mean you cant send a check or use that credit card on line to join as a member. Now is a good time, for the parent corp., NPR is undergoing great changes in updating its offerings for the New Age. Picked up Garrisson Keillor's Pontoon, a Book of Lake Wobegon for a song from their website, for example.

National Public Radio, already strong online with free downloads from many of its shows, is boosting its digital ambitions with Monday's introduction of social-networking features akin to Facebook.

NPR also plans to overhaul its Web site and expand the tools for sharing its programs elsewhere over the next few months. And it is working to increase the flexibility of its popular "podcasts," audio downloads that have tripled in usage over the past two years.

These digital initiatives are aimed at capturing and retaining audiences - particularly younger people who aren't habitual radio listeners but who represent the future for fundraising at NPR's member stations.

Yet NPR faces a challenge in finding common ground with the stations, which rely on traditional, local radio offerings to draw contributions.

The national organization, acknowledging that its early Internet initiatives at times collided with its member stations, insists many of the new offerings have been developed with the stations' needs and concerns in mind.

"We definitely see ourselves at a pivotal point," said Dana Davis Rehm, NPR's senior vice president for strategy and partnerships."

The changes have resulted in some friction between the national organization and member stations who initially felt threatened by the possibility that would-be listeners can now get content from the web in competition.

"Certainly years ago there was much more of an attitude of us-them," said Bob Lyons, director of new media for WGBH in Boston. "That's largely dissipated. There have been changes at NPR, changes at the stations and changes in the world all around."

Lyons said the new social-networking tools, even though they initially will be available only at NPR.org, will help local listeners connect with one another and with local stations.

The new tools let listeners create personal profiles and declare other listeners or NPR staffers as friends. They also can add a photo of themselves and list their favorite books, movies and NPR programs and - soon - their local station.

NPR also plans to expand its library of Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, which are software tools to let the general public and local stations incorporate NPR content into their own applications.

One use of the APIs plots the subjects of NPR stories on a world map. Another lets people listen to stories on Apple Inc.'s iPhone.

Upcoming ones promise to help stations blend local and national content online.

 

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Closer to home we note that something messy and stinky really hit the fan after Suncal's budget revelation last week and every media outlet is offering commentary on this issue of Suncal quietly requesting the City to chip in $700 million for the Point development, with some folks indicating it hardly seems wise to develop a navy base for housing when so many other uses could be done with all that space, uses which do not require residential sewer and water hookups to start. Wasn't the Silly Council crying poor mouth about lack of business tax income just a moment ago? Why would anyone contemplate shoveling a Big Box Store into cramped Southshore Mall when an entire airstrip worth of space sits vacant except for weeds is anybody's mad guess.

Silly Council will look at Suncal's proposal for 4,300 new homes at the Point on Thursday, at its 3pm meeting. The plan eventually will arrive on a ballot for voters to decide as the provisions violated the letter and spirit of Proposition A, limiting growth of exactly this kind.

Speaking of revenue loss, Good Chevrolet on Park Street announced Tuesday that it will close its doors after 58 years.

Fifty-three people will lose their jobs as a result of the closure.

While the loss of the downtown dealership comes at a time when the nation is reeling from its worst economic crisis in decades, employees insisted the decision to close was not financial.

"We did very good just last month," Daubeneck said. "If a person has a steady job, good credit and makes decent money, they can still buy a car. That has not changed."

The loss of Good Chevrolet in Alameda — which offers new vehicles — came on the same day that Colma GMC and Los Gatos Chevrolet announced they also were closing.

City and business leaders in Alameda had already envisioned Good Chevrolet eventually shutting its doors in their plan for revitalizing Park Street north of Lincoln Avenue. The plan is expected to go before the City Council within the next few weeks.

THREE DOTULISM SPREADS TO OTHER MEDIA OUTLETS

We note that three dotulism has infected the slowly improving East Bay Express which now has a regular feature entitled "Three Dot Roundup " ....

Visitors from Jiangyin, PRC visited Thursday for a Sister City celebration on the occasion of China's National Holiday. This visit was meant to solidify Sister City relationships established via diplomatic means sometime previously. Sister City status is meant to cultivate cultural and economic connections between two related cities. Jiangyin has a port, like us, but also hosts some 1.2 million people, whereas the Island is home to about 78,000 folks, including bums, itinerants and dogs. It does not appear that we really have that much to offer to Jiangyin in the way of trade, as none of us here really makes anything other than antigovernment tee-shirts, but the Comintern has ordered Sister City relationships be established, and we badly wanted one with somebody, so there you go. The ceremonies culminated in a visit to Aroma Restaurant on Blanding. So at least the Mayor Beverly got a good meal out of the deal . . .

IPD is laughing themselves silly at the theft of one of its motorcycles from a storage locker. Turns out the non-running machine was a parts bike and not even of a valuable vintage. For the value of the carcass, the thief would have been better off working the same number of hours it took to steal the bike at a the local Burger King . . .

Vandalism reported on the 1800 block of St. Charles and the next day battery reported in the same block. Another case of battery on the 1200 block of Santa Clara on another day. Those folks getting a bit rough over there or what . . .

Crimestoppers notes 23 vandalism reports, five grand thefts, five ID thefts, four burglaries, one missingperson, six cars stolen, five battery cases (including one on a police officer), one domestic battery arrest, three methamphetamine arrests, two DUI, two dog bites and one annoying dog barking. We also had one case of a woman calling police in terror because her husband was hiding in the basement. For pete's sake, just take out the garbage and all's forgiven, guy . . .

MUSIC DO I HEAR?

Various Island-Lifers trundled over to Babylon for the 8th Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Friday evening was notable for the odd couple of Robert Plant paired with Alison Krauss before the skies let loose later that night with a real dockwalloper. The lineup featured surprise drop-in MC Hammer, who apparently blew the doors off with his set.

This is the eighth year of the massive free festival which is funded entirely by billionaire Warren Hellman. According to the SF Comical, "Hellman ... announced on the KFOG Morning Show, broadcasting live from the festival site Friday morning, that he has talked it over with his children (and heirs) and has endowed the festival with enough money to continue at least 15 years after his death ("after I croak" were his exact words).

There is certainly nothing to compare with his clambake anywhere else in the music world. After eight years, word of this festival has spread. Musicians from all over the world love to play the wacky event. Elvis Costello, who appears today, and his longtime associate Nick Lowe were chatting about the festival backstage Saturday at the Rooster Stage in leafy Marx Meadow just before Lowe's set.

Local fans have become regulars, settling on their favored places, keeping parking secrets close to the vest, and practicing all kinds of rituals and routines. A large number of people arrive before the morning fog burns off to lay down blankets, claiming prized real estate long before the crowds come. People compare past performances by the Hardly Strictly cast, which tends to feature many returning acts, like sports fans talking about previous seasons."

Hellman is no wallflower appreciator of music, as he is an accomplished banjo player himself. He and his band, The Wronglers performed Saturday on the tiny Porch Stage, although they were not listed on the formal program. The Dry Branch Fire Squad dragged him on stage for a guest appearance with instrument early Saturday.

Saturday, our roving reporter, Helen, took in Odetta and Steve Earle under roiling but otherwise dry skies. Estimated crowd was a smallish -- for HSBF -- some 40,000.

The Wikipedia reports this about Odetta.

"Odetta (born December 31, 1930) is an African-American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a human rights activist, often referred to as "The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement." Her musical repertoire consists largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and '60s, she was a formative influence on dozens of artists, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Janis Joplin."

She apparently captivated the crowd with her classically trained voice (opera) and her extraordinary stage presence. Steve Earle & The Bluegrass Dukes ended the day with a great rendition of the 10-year old Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band collaboration "The Mountain" as well as bluegrass versions of Earle originals “An American Boy” and the show closer “Cottonhead Road.”

For Sunday, those lucky souls able to squeeze past the football stadium crowd and the Bridge to Bridge run joined something on the order of an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 music lovers.

Because of the compression this time we could only visit two of the stages. Helen did manage to see Googol Bordello, kings of "gypsy punk" and Iris Dement, the gal with the voice that seems to come from a Nashville of some two centuries ago.

Other reporters snagged Hazel Dickens, one of the few surviving crowd that remembers young upstart Johnny Cash overturning the Grand Ole Opry apple cart style. Dickens unfortunately is noticeably losing her voice. Ralph Stanley, a middling old timer of his own, remained in fine form, joined by the Clinch Mountain Boys, a collection of youngsters from the "iPod generation", as he called it, just now rediscovering genuine bluegrass.

Earl Scruggs, last survivor of the original Flatt and Scruggs band, was savvy enough to gather an eight piece band around him, and those fellows kept things lively.

Arrived in time to snag the multitalented Alison Brown do amazing things with her banjo. Alison does not do bluegrass so much as an unusual form of jazz, pushing her banjo instrument in directions never before traveled while still retaining a folksy attitude. Here she accompanies her "Road manager" who is singing "There's no Business like Show Business".

She and her band closed out with a rousing Celtic medley that had scads of folks rushing to the media booth to purchase her latest CD.

Over at the Rooster Stage we managed to secure a spot among the redwoods just up from the fence as the folks poured in, first to hear Greg Brown, who delivered a calm but impressive set from his chair, singing with a voice that reached down into the bass register. In fact, when Brown retunes he guitar to open "Spanish tuning", he simply keeps on singing in the same register where other folks find a need to choke up the neck with a capo just to compensate for the E dropped to D. He opened up with a wailing blues that really worked well with his baritone.

Brown does not write songs so much as compose poems that he sets to music. Often this high road can lead to awful pretension in some people, and jarringly precious lines or overly obscure references, but there is little of that in what he does well as he tends to keep fairly down-to-earth in his lyrics and his patter is full of warm humor. Just before his song about the whippoorwill songbird he commented, "That sound can be really romantic when heard from far away in the misty distance, but when you hear it up close you just think, 'that bird is crazy.' My grandpa would throw a boot at it . . .".

He also is pretty aware that the grandest poetry never has changed a bit of things in the world. His song "The Poet Game" drew applause when he sang

"I watched my country turn into a coast-to-coast strip mall
and I cried out in a song:
if we could do all that in thirty years,
then please tell me you all -
why does good change take so long?"

But then he ends with

"Sirens wail above the fields - another soul gone down
- another Sun about to rise.
I've lost track of my mistakes,
like birds they fly around and darken half of my skies.
To all of those I've hurt - I pray you'll forgive me.
I to you will freely do the same.
so many things I didn't see, with my eyes turned inside,
playing the poet game.

I walk out at night to take a leak underneath the stars -
oh yeah that's the life for me.
There's Orion and the Pleiades and I guess that must be Mars -
all as clear as we long to be.
I've sung what I was given -
some was bad and some was good.
I never did know from where it came
and if I had it all to do again
I am not sure I would play the poet game."

At the end of his set, he simply thanked the audience for being there and laid down his guitar next to the chair and walked off. The MC commented "I think we can all agree Greg Brown is a national treasure."

Treasure that he is, the stage area filled up with people clear around the bend to the road, while the slopes to either side started taking on people by the drips, then by the hundreds, then by the thousands until there was no more space to be had and they still kept on arriving until the crowd overflowed the paths on either side of the trees and the areas behind the stage.

All to hear and see Iron and Wine, which is the brainchild of Jim Beam, who launched into a heart-ripping rendition of "Trapeze Swinger" with its aching repetition of "please, remember me".

Beam was profiled in Paste Magazine after acquiring an underground buzz and seems to have collected an enormous fan base of which he only became aware that Sunday. When he saw the physical size of the crowd, which continued to grow through his set despite his flubbing a couple of songs he had written himself, he turned about and looked in a circle with amazement at all the people. "Man you guys sure know how to party. I sure wish my town had a rich man to throw a party like this."

The extent he was unaware of his popularity came out when he said, "Well now I am going to play a new song. Well, I guess all my songs are new to you anyway."

Beam does tend to alter his songs spontaneously as he performs, which can make it difficult to remember your own lyrics. His "Boy with a Coin" easily stretched out three times longer than the original and included another song's worth of verses before the main verses even began, which seems to indicate that he regards songwriting as a process of continuous development.

His "Naked As We Came", however, is so tightly written and perfect that he pretty much kept to the radio version. The sentiment expressed should be familiar to those fans of Death Cab for Cutie.

"Naked As We Came"

She says "wake up, it's no use pretending"
I'll keep stealing, breathing her.
Birds are leaving over autumn's ending
One of us will die inside these arms
Eyes wide open, naked as we came
One will spread our ashes 'round the yard

She says "If I leave before you, darling
Don't you waste me in the ground"
I lay smiling like our sleeping children
One of us will die inside these arms
Eyes wide open, naked as we came
One will spread our ashes round the yard

Mortality is never far from Beam's lyrics, always hovering there in the background as a reminder of itself and as a presence that must be dealt with and included in all things. Although deeply spiritual, he finds little solace in Religion.

Papa died smiling
Wide as the ring of a bell
Gone all star white
Small as a wish in a well
And Sodom, South Georgia
Woke like a tree full of bees
Buried in Christmas
Bows and a blanket of weeds

Papa died Sunday and I understood
All dead white boys say, "God is good"
White tongues hang out, "God is good"
(from Sodom, South Georgia)

We think Iron and Wine is one to watch, especially as Beam starts to work with other performers.

Along the way to hook up with friends we passed by Pegi Young crunching solid rock from the Arrow stage, but the crowd was too thick to a get a view.

From the packed Rooster stage we wandered back to the Banjo Stage, there to catch classical bluegrass Ricky Scaggs tear it up before Emmylou Harris returned for her eighth festival closeout show. Warren Hellman was present and clearly was having the time of his life up there with Scaggs and his Kentucky Thunder.

Warren Hellman stepped up to MC for the closer, Emmylou Harris, and thank all the people involved, including Security. "Where else in the world can you see even the Security folks busting up in dance right there in front, I tell you!"

Harris launched into her beautiful "Here I am" looking as if she had not aged a bit since her 1970 debut album. Certainly her voice remains powerful and affecting, and the crowd that came to adore here stretched the length of the Speedway Meadow and swelled out to both sides into the woods and the road.

Click on the image to get a panned video of this amazing crowd.

 

With Harris's piercingly sweet and beautiful voice filling the woods and the fog rolling in over a very music happy crowd we wandered out, passing several locals taking advantage to setup there own mini stages, including this enterprising fellow who, perhaps, hasn't heard the last word on "The Poetry Game."

Or maybe he has. How much for a villanelle, dude?


WILL YOU PLEASE REMEMBER ME


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Friday night a real dockwalloper blew in and soaked all the surviving tomatoes real good and knocked down the tallest marigolds. With the garden in all disarray the squirrels are going nuts laying up stores and digging in anything that might have some dirt in it. Pesky rodents.

Hear that a storm dropped a couple feet of snow in the high Sierra, meaning backpacking is over for the duration.

Tommy and Toby have gone out to put the Lavender Surprise to bed for the winter. Pedro Almeida simply stocked up on slickers and wellies for a professional fisherman knows no downtime around here. Each morning he trundles out the door before dawn regardless of skies and, with his labrador, Tugboat, tailwagging beside him he goes down to the marina to set out once again on El Borracho Perdido.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar, Marsha sits talking in the largely empty place this Sunday with Suzi. They are helping one another commiserate over the sad state of personal romance in their lives today while Occasional Quentin is trying to explain to Jose and Pahrump at one of the tables just why he is the way he is.

Seems Quentin, after recovering from his burns and growing back his eyebrows after the unfortunate Incident of the Flammable Roach at the House in which very nearly he and everyone else almost passed en masse to the Hereafter, managed to get his hand stuck in a glass cookie jar, which situation had required at least four housemates plus Bonkers the house sheepdog plus Suan's greasy "Joy Creme" (as she called it) to get him unstuck after some two hours of effort.

The jar contained, after all that ruction, not a real chocolate chip cookie but an imitation display item, which had been pretty much along the lines of Quentin's basic fortune for the past thirty-five years.

It is said that a schlemiel is one who, given a bowl of soup, invariably trips and spills the contents while walking across the room. Why does the schlemiel, knowing he is a bungler, always choose to walk across the room with a bowl of soup? Not a question that can be answered.

There is a counterpart to this character: a schlimazel is the one on whom the soup always lands.

There is another way of putting this relationship: A schlimazel's toast always falls butter-side down. A schlemiel always butters his toast on both sides.

In Occasional Quentin, we have the rare case of both instances contained within the regrettable body of a single person. Given a bowl of soup, he will invariably spill it on himself. Given a slice of toast, he will first cut himself with the butter knife, then bleed all over the toast and the butter.

It was all due to Quentin's upbringing, or lack thereof, in Fremont. This tale is a long one and we will save the beginning of that for next week.

As for Pahrump his candidacy for the President of the Yacht Club had bogged down after Babar's startling revelation of Sara-Louise Nailgun as his running mate. Pahrump's running mate was Eugene Gallipagus who didn't care and so refused to campaign. Besides, Eugene didn't look nearly as good as Ms. Nailgun in a bathing suit.

And so it was, the room of unfortunate souls, losers real and imagining, all gathered there in the Old Same Place Bar when the long wail of the throughpassing train came ululating across the water from Jack London Waterfront. Bonkers set up a companion howl, perfunctory and as usual as was his duty and his wont. He then lay down heavily and went to sleep under the table.

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

 

Coldest night of the winter working up my farewell
in the middle of everything under no particular spell
i am dreaming of the mountains where the children learn the stars
clouds roll in from Nebraska dark chords on a big guitar
my restlessness is long gone i would stand here like an old jack pine
but I'm looking for Rexroth's daughter the friend of a friend of mine

i can't believe your hands and mouth did all that to me
are so daily naked for all the world to see
that thunderstorm in Michigan i never will forget
we shook right with the thunder & with the pounding rain got wet
where did you turn when you turned from me with your arms across your chest
i am looking for Rexroth's daughter i saw her in the great northwest

would she have said it was the wrong time if I had found her then
i don't want too much a field across the road and a few good friends
she used to come & see me but she was always there & gone
even the very longest love does not last too long
she'd stand there in my doorway smoothing out her dress
& say "this life is a thump-ripe melon--so sweet and such a mess"

i wanted to get to know you but you said you were shy
i would have followed you anywhere but hello rolled into goodbye
i just stood there watching as you walked along the fence
beware of them that look at you as an experience
you're back out on the highway with your poems of city heat
& I'm looking for Rexroth's daughter here on my own side street

the murderer who lived next door seemed like such a normal guy--
if you try to follow what they shove at us you run out of tears to cry
i heard a man speak quietly i listened for a while
he spoke from his heart to my woe & then he bowed & smiled
what is real but compassion as we move from birth to death
i am looking for Rexroth's daughter & I'm running out of breath

spring will come back i know it will & it will do its best
so useful so endangered like a lion or a breast
i think about my children when i look at any child's face
& pray that we will find a way to get with all this amazing grace
it's so cold out there tonight so stormy i can hardly see
& i'm looking for Rexroth's daughter & i guess i always will be

Lyrics by Greg Brown


SEPTEMBER 28, 2008

I AM WALKING WITH A GHOST

This week's headline photo comes courtesy of Chad, a devoted reader of the the New York Times, an organ that "prints all the news that fits".


BIG TIME

Some kinda expansion fit has gripped the Silly Council lately with a vengeance. Jolted by realization that Frank Matarrese sure was not kidding when he threatened the "bill is coming due" a few years ago, the entire council has abandoned caution and reason to the winds in favor of relentless pursuit of retail tax revenue via a "bigger is better" approach. After the Southshore Mall expanded from 500,000 square feet to 657,500 in 2002, the Council now is seriously considering granting developer/owner Harsch Realty permission to swell the struggling mall to 706,650 feet after the reasons for Mervyn's departure became clear -- the retailer shortly after declared bankruptcy.

Rumor has it local neighbors are all in a snit about the proposed expansion.

With the delayed install of hoity-toity Snob Hill Foods, the ludicrous swelling of the Safeway to something ponderous and unshoppable and expensive, the rather foolish enlargement of the old Paramount into a Cinema Multiplex in a place which never let a singlemovie house -- save one -- survive with any profit for 26 years, the Council appears to be foundering with increasingly embarassing evidence.

Another developer wants to shove more living units in there at Ballena Isle, shovel people into the old Cannery building, and isolate a lot of poor folks in block housing out at the point. Anybody do that commute through the Tube on any weekday morning as it stands now? Oh, sure, lets just add some 3,000 more cars to that.

On the other hand in a time when building any more stuff when so much more stuff stands stark and empty (witness the estuary developments just over the water) has all the hallmarks of certifiable lunacy, some people here still want to pretend that nothing really important has happened in the past few months.

WAY TO GO OHIO

Continuing this theme of relentless gargantuanism coupled with shenanigans, greed, and foolishness, we have the story of SunCal, and the development of the Point, which, given the current frame of mind and limited possibilities looks to be a long delayed project destined to be delayed yet a bit longer for all good intentions and positive results.

In other words, it appears the Point will not be developed any time soon, and that is a good thing.

To begin with SunCal's proposed project budget includes an astounding $679 million for "master infrastructure" costs. Sit down now reader, if you be standing.

This amount is to be paid by the City, in other words, YOU.

That is right. The budget states that this cost is to be defrayed, not by SunCal, but by "tax increment financing." Oh, and you thought a few dollars to keep the hospital running was a rise? That LAFCO charge was penny ante small change to one half of a billion dollars. Bear in mind that the Point was a Navy Base, not a residential area. Residences want sewer, want electric, want water, want all sorts of amenities no developer in their right mind will want to pay for installation. And this installation will cost beaucoups bucks.

This little shocker is just the cherry on the top of a swelling series of problems summarized by a name all should find familiar by now: Lehman Brothers.

SunCal was primarily financed by the now disgraced investment firm, and even though this particular project was not funded by LB, or so we were all told inititially, the current financial breakdown so affected SunCal in other areas, SC was forced to partner with another firm to make our little project happen at all.

Frank Matarrese had rejected SunCal for its association with Lehman Brothers way back when, but other Council Members believed SunCal's statement that its involvement would be "independent."

In any case, three developers had already walked out on the Point development as the real estate situation in California worsened. Some analysts note that California was officially in Recession as of the turn of 2007, so it was not as if we all did not have some warning. So the Council accepted SunCal's proposals with a bit of desperation. Clinton's Peace Dividend had been long since spent and the Point decommissioned years ago, with weeds growing between the cracks of the old airfield.

Yet SunCal has presented a significant string of failures recently. San Clemente's Marblehead coastal development is mired in familiar slow progress and no progress issues, managing to pull a lawsuit from the Orange County city for failures to deliver on promises.

Meanwhile, in Bakersfield, the Bethel Island project has shuttered up all activity, leaving the handful of homes there to deal with dust storms blowing from the acres of scoured but undeveloped land.

At home, the same SunCal grabbed up the Oak Knoll project with 960 units planned on the site of the former Navy Hospital, but even that project has hit the Slowdown button, with Oaktown tapping its foot impatiently.

SunCal remains the largest privately held developer in the West with over 50 projects in various states of completion, but Lehman was its biggest backer, so it is no surprise that things have ground in many projects to a standstill. Adding to SC's troubles, it had just dropped a cool $250 million into land purchases in, of all places, the Inland Empire, a place that looks now about as likely to develop as a snail dropped into the middle of the Mohave desert.

Now we come round again to our own projects and SunCal tells us that the investment bank D.E. Shaw has been brought in as a partner for the Point, outraging Councilmember Doug DeHaan, who says this sort of thing was precisely what he had expected would not happen.

Just give us a little more time, and we will get it all right, says SunCal. Still, there is the matter of "master infrastructure" costs to deal with. Another bond issue? Another property levy?

Not to worry. Richard McKinney will be heading the new D.E. Shaw - SunCal partnership. His credentials? Former head of the securitized products division at Lehman Brothers. Sure inspires all of us here with confidence.

The worm turns. Stay tuned for developments.

MUSIC DO I HEAR?

If you were a fairly capable musician, well-liked in the Industry and by fans, and your husband happened to be an internationally renowned rockstar with a few friends of his own, and you had a yen to support a worthy cause that also happened to support your own children, well, you might toss a party to beat the band, assemble a few of those friends to help out and gather a few dollars together at the door.

If you were named Pegi and your husband was Neal Young, the party would not be just any sort of livingroom rent-party, but the Bridge School Benefit and those friends would be the best and the brightest in the world. This year the benefit at the Shoreline will be the weekend of 10/25 and feature Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco, a sober Cat Power, Jack Johnson, Wilco and others. The benefit, now a two day event, always presents artists at their best and is worth checking out. Pegi has a new CD out, so it is likely that she will be joining in the jam.

Warren has announced the lineup for the 8th Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. Word has it that the Roaming Artist will be Emmy Lou Harris, visiting all stages throughout the festival. In the past, it was the unofficial custom of a particular notable artist to drop in throughout the three-day festival to punch up any particular act.

The entirely free event is the special child of Warren Hellman, an industrialist who also just happens to like good music enough to fully fund the three days of the worlds best musicians on four or more stages in Golden Gate Park. The result is quite an exciting and eclectic mix of excellent music with a focus upon homegrown styles. Steve Earle returns for several appearances.

From the small print, we note that Kitty Margolis will team up with Rita Rudner for an afternoon of jazz and comedy. This one-time-only concert features two highly entertaining, critically acclaimed artists -- comedienne extraordinaire at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, a state of the art theater that seats over 1,750 people.

Rita Rudner’s humorous comedy routines about life, men, and relationships have earned her national acclaim, legions of faithful fans, and multiple honors – including an American Comedy Award. The stand-up comedienne, who inspired HBO’s Born to Be Mild and Rita Rudner: Married Without Children, is the author of the best-seller Naked Beneath My Clothes: Tales of a Revealing Nature. Rudner also wrote, produced, and starred in the award-winning comedy Peter’s Friends.

Jazz singer Kitty Margolis, hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “an exhilarating and imaginative Jazz vocalist of the highest order,” opens the show. Margolis consistently wins over crowds with her raw energy, soaring voice, and off-the-cuff humor. Dubbed “a frolicsome and exceedingly musical singer with a fortunate affinity for the standard songbook.” by the New York Times Margolis has played top festival and concert venues on four continents and her CDs have all been in the Top 10 of the nation's jazz charts.

Same weekend as HSBF, is the Castro Street Fair. The Castro Street Fair is a San Francisco LGBT street festival and fair usually held on the first Sunday in October in the Castro neighborhood, the main gay neighborhood and social center in the city. The fair features multiples stages with live entrtainment, DJs, food vendors, community-group stalls as well as a curated artisan alley with dozens of Northern California artists. Due to community pressure the fair restructured the organization and partnered with local charities to collect gate donations and partner with groups at the beverage and beer booths to raise money for those charities.

WE ARE ALL JUST WAITING ON A TRAIN

Oakland Museum - October 12, 2005–December 4, 2005
CaliVera: Days of the Dead Altars Remixed

The Oakland Museum of California presents its 12th annual celebration of Días de los Muertos (Days of the Dead). In this year’s presentation—CaliVera: Days of the Dead Altars Remixed—guest curator Jaime Cortez and the artists explore how this ancient Mexican and Central American spiritual tradition honoring the dead has inspired artistic expressions unique to California’s spirit.

“Days of the Dead is a mystical and sensuous immigrant to the Golden State,” Cortez said. “The celebration has given thousands of Californians a more accepting and even playful attitude toward death. In exchange, it has been transformed by the quirky, inventive, and cosmopolitan spirit of our state. This year’s exhibition, CaliVera, reflects how this ancient spiritual practice has been infused with new life in California.”

The museum will host its festive Days of the Dead Community Celebration Sunday, October 23, from noon to 4 p.m. in the gardens. This free public party features crafts and demonstrations, music, dance, a ceremonia (ceremony), costumed revelers, and a mercado (market).

At the heart of the Days of the Dead tradition are ofrendas, literally anything placed on an altar or given as an offering to honor the dead. This year’s artists present a wide range of ofrenda installations. Isis Rodriguez’s altar pays respect to the animation industry, suggesting a more playful attitude to death. Military veteran Ehren Tool’s installation is a poignant tribute to Californian soldiers killed in Iraq—handmade stoneware cups decorated with military insignia, each shattered from a gunshot by the artist.

Días de los Muertos is a time to remember deceased loved ones and honor their memory with altars in the home and communally at the cemetery. Though ceremonies vary from region to region, many offer ancestors flowers, food, drink, sugar skulls, candles, incense, and mementos.

The practice of celebrating Days of the Dead in the U.S. began in the privacy of immigrant family homes. The practice grew tremendously during the Chicano pride movement of the early 1970s. Over the years it has become identified with the regional traditions of the states of Oaxaca and Michoacan, where commemorations include elaborate home altars, all-night candlelit vigils at the cemetery, and, in Oaxaca, beautiful sand paintings. The tradition of Días de los Muertos extends beyond Mexico and Central America into the American West and Southwest.

Sunday, October 26, the Fruitvale district will be closed off for the annual Días de los Muertos with performances and elaborate ofrendas. This event is free of charge for admission and participants are not normally charged a fee.

CHILD WITH A COIN

It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The Offices here have been all astir over a Rescue mission cobbled together to go find a certain Animal Shelter in a certain Outlands Bloom County so as to spring our beloved penguin and fetch him on home where he may end out his days sitting in a daisy patch of our own homegrown daisies, well poppies actually, and there enjoying bags of Corn Munchies while enjoying endless rereuns of Diane Sawyer announcing the weather.

For this effort we have pulled the best of our Messenger Hamsters, our most devoted carrier pigeons, and our most enterprising wheelchair operatives. Other groups, such as the Entebbe Force, employed well-trained martial artists, sharpshooters, bomb experts and Seal Team hardened operatives, but we will attempt the project of Saving Private Opus with a unique team like no other.

We will use fuzzy hamsters, dissolute pigeons drunk on gin blossoms, middle-aged invalids dressed in flip-flops, bathrobes and armed with shaving creme and Hasselblads. Our equipage shall feature the best and State of the Art microwaves with blenders capable of shaving ice for margaritas at the rate of four per minute. We will prepare for our attempt by drinking large quantities of gin and tonic and whiskey sours. None of us has lifted weights nor jogged a block in years. We disdain helicopters for the use of Volvos with odometers that broke long past 300,000 miles. Such a team we are assembling to save Opus from his dark fate.

Not since Joe Frank's Ascent of K2 has such a noble and epic attempt occured.

We plan to drive up in several Winnebagos, debark with martinis and Black Russians at midnight in the Midwest and make the assault after naps on the horizon. The Volvos will make the first approach at dawn, or after coffee and donuts.

Our plan is simple. Seize the penquin and bring him back to the Island. There, we will negotiate with the Creator for his release.

Stay tuned for developments.

Meanwhile the fogs of Fall are rolling in across the many-storied Bay, blotting out the chain of jewels strung between the Marin Headlands and the Presidio, gradually wiping the stars and the strings of pearls along the water down past Coyote Point until all is dark and mist and the sounds of foghorns hooting or braying, each as is their wont in this night of deep dreams.

The Sunday Night Jam winds up and Jake Blues takes over on the radio, sitting with his feet up on the desk beside a bottle of scotch and a wet glass, his fedora pulled down low over his eyes.

And there it comes. From far across the water, from the dark cranes of the Port of Oaktown and the tattersall streets of busted clapboard and shattered cement and broken bottles and the new empty developments through which the iron rails still keep their dominion, from the Jack London Waterfront, from the long winding worm with its firey head glowing through the murk, from there comes wailing across the water the sound of the midnight throughpassing train.

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

 

 

SEPTEMBER 21, 2008

RED RAIN IS FALLING DOWN

This week's headline photo comes from John Montgomery of Ventura, California and is of the Lamarck Col glacier with tarn in July of 1977. Note the way it bellies out and hangs over the tarn. The traces of rock and sand you see in the middle are actually detritus slides resting on top of the snow surface which is more than fifteen feet thick.

Bearing in mind 1977 was a "dry" year and the glacier had receded somewhat that summer, compare this photo to the more recent one of 2008.

Now that Hurricane Ike has passed, how do you like your Global Warming now, Mr. Bush?


HEY HEY THE BLUES IS ALL RIGHT

My Morning Jacket opened up a gorgeous weekend at the Greek. Counting Crows returned to the Bay Area, again with Augustana fronting, and word has it the guys are rocking anew. This week the second Treasure Island festival took place on the artificial landmass between Oaktown and Babylon. Okkervil River started things off Saturday, while the talented Raconteurs, which is Jack White of the White Stripes performing with a drummer who can play the instrument, headlined Sunday.

Lineup is announced for the SF Blues Fest, with Bay Area native and surviving Bluesbreaker and Butterfield Band member, Elvin Bishop presented up front. Bishop is returning to the stage in force with studio recordings and revived energy after a time of quietude and, at sixty-five the man sure rocks. He also remains a rare down-to-earth gem and solidly human workman's guy among a world of glittery prima donnas. A personal friend of BB King, who guests on Bishop's latest recording, his jars of homemade preserves were confiscated by airport security at Las Vegas, where King keeps a part-time home.

DIY folks please note this fellow mixed and burned his own CD at home, featuring BB King, James Cotton, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Kim Wilson, Tommy Castro and Angela Strehli.

Hot Tuna opens up on Saturday before a stellar lineup. Jorma, who learned his licks at the feet of Rev. Gary Davis quite some time ago knows a thing or two about the blues.

The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is rolling into the Golden Gate fields in a couple weeks. Better stake out your blanket now before the preferred stage of choice.

In small print, we note that Ry Cooder is performing with Nick Lowe at the Great American Music Hall in a benefit for Richard DeLone Housing Project Oct 2 and 3. Please note this is a benefit and tickets are $100 a pop.

Sweetheart Patti Smith is coming! She'll be rocking the Warfield on October 20. She'll be running fresh on a high from her recent foray into film that debuted in New York and around the world a few months ago. She has been called "one of the most influential poet/musicians since Bob Dylan," with significant justification. Often controversial, always mercurial, friequently challenging, and never dull, this is one woman who can show that Palin bitch a thing or two about being a real upfront maverick with genuine guts and conviction. An election is coming up and Patti is sure to be on for the occasion. This one is a definite Do Not Miss.

DEATH DON'T HAVE NO MERCY IN THIS LAND

He was a genial and smart 23-year old, just beginning to establish himself in the film industry here in the Bay Area. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a quirkish pairing of a degree in Economics and Film. He owned a Guild guitar and enjoyed playing for himself and for friends. Sociable, witty, well-liked, he was riding his bicycle home in the Richmond District of Babylon at 1:40am when some yahoo in a car decided to pick a fight with him and then shoot him down, speeding away like a coward.

Jim McKay knocked on doors, pleading for help, but no one in that polite neighborhood opened up to a man bleeding to death and so he died on the street leaving behind two loving parents, a beautiful sister, and hundreds of friends, as well as the high school sweetheart to whose apartment he was heading. Only two blocks and he would have been home.

SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN "THREE DOTULISM" REPORTED

Owner of Pagano's Hardware, Dave Giovannelli, was incensed at the recent push to allow Orchard Supply Hardware to open a megastore on the Island, however the Silly Council went ahead with smoothing the path for the giant to establish themselves at the South Shore Shopping Center. The opening of an OSH outlet will almost certainly doom Paganos to closure, as even Dave admits, "We just cannot compete pricewise with those guys." It also means the struggling strip of shops on Lincoln in the Pagano's block will head for certain decline . . .

The Council is discussing the makeover of the 1903 Carnegie building, formerly the main library, into a suit of City offices. The changes include joining the building located behind the main structure but the current tenants the Health Care Agency have not been given any options for the move. When oh when will the actual paying tenants in a place have some say in what happens to their future . . .

Like your kid? Want to keep him? Please note the modest note in small print in the weekly Police Blotter: "Child abduction reported on the 1600 block of St. Charles Street." It appears to be a "custody issue" involved . . .

Hypodermic needles were found in the trunk of a police vehicle parked at HQ on Oak Street. Oh yeah? Does this mean no more keg parties using the Crown Vics at the Coluseum . . .

IF SOUND WAVES WERE SAND WAVES

It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Summer returned in force, although we have reports from Strange deJim who just returned from a visit to the the High Country of Colorado that the aspens have turned there and the first dusting of snow is expected immanently.

They are all done harvesting pole beans in Marin, but we are still yanking fistfulls of the little guys down here in the East Bay. Guido The Gardener claims to have trained one vine to grow over thirty feet long by attaching it to the closeline. Okay, Guido, whatever. Tomatos are all going great guns in a final orgy of seasonal production and the infamous zucchini is threatening to produce podpeople once again.

Squadrons of the Canadian geese are now zooming through, taking advantage of the local sanctuaries to stock up for their annual voyage to Buenos Ares. Yes, the seasons appear about due for a change.

We are all moving anxiously toward winter and fervently anticipated rains and snow to ease the drought.

The racoons have all been scatting under Strange de Jim's deck and he's hopping mad about it. By scatting we don't mean singing the jazz in free form style either. Every time the little bears trundle over the fence, Chinita comes tearing into the house through the catdoor with a wild look of panic that says, "Lock up the women and children! The Rievers are here again!"

So Jim's been hiding behind the bird-of-paradise palms with a wrist rocket and a pile of rusty bolts, just waiting for those little poopers to come party down there. Susan comes down around midnight to deliver a cup of blackberry tea to the patient warrior and tell him shes going to bed.

After sipping his tea and watching the crescent moon for a while, he gives up, figuring that this night would be poopless for once and goes into his man-cave workshop filled with old fossils, power tools, homemade artworks, and other implements of destruction.

Sure enough, he's not in there more than ten minutes when a loud crash brings him out to look over the fence to see the racoons feasting on the contents of Darlene's upended garbage bin. Darlene has a onetime fishpond back there and the little fellows are happily washing their hands and corncobs in the water and looking for any fish that might have escaped their predations.

There are no goldfish left, as the bears ate them all last summer.

Incensed, Jim hurls a rusty old scythe at the largest critter. He misses of course, but the implement wangs off of the birdbath, which topples and falls with a crash as the tool comes flying back at Jim, who ducks behind the fence, where the thing embedds itself solidly.

The crash, however, brings out Mike, Darlene's husband, armed with a weapon known in circles familiar with these as a "maritime riot gun". Mike is a Coast Guard Commander and is not to be trifled with.

Mike sees the toppled birdbath and the racoon family, who are all sitting there looking at him with a look of understandable concern and notices a large metal hook has embedded in the side of the fence and that somebody seems to be hiding on the other side.

To shoot or not to shoot, that is the question. Deciding that toppled trashcans were not worth the ruckus plus murder, and being a well-trained office besides, he sets down the gun and goes to shoo away the animals from the little banquet there and make a few things right again.

Sleepy Darlene calls out from the doorway, what is it and Mike says over his shoulder, damned racoons again. Darlene, however notices somebody on the other side of the fence crouching down and picks up the gun and fires, harmlessly as she thinks, at the fence, but the gun makes such a boom that all the houselights come on for blocks in all directions and Jim howls on the other side in terror, "It's me! Its Me!"

Papa raccoon, sitting up on his haunches with a half-eaten corn cob in his mits, looks at everyone like they are crazy before leading his merry crew off to raid someone elses more amenable garbage or garden.

The shotgun pellets rattle the fence well enough but a few go over the fence to ding off of the massive wind chimes hanging from Jim's porch and knock the hummingbird feeder from its hook. The feeder falls and hits the shovel which tips up and flings sand and gravel over the fence in the other direction at Jose, who first came out to inquire about the crash made by the birdbath. Jose falls backward and trips on the power motor, which starts up and just misses Jose's terrified face before ambling down the drive to the street.

There the thing hits a pile of political waybills stacked there for morning distribution on the corner and sort of sits there mulching political promises for a while until it dies and is discovered by Officer O'Madhauen, who arrests Jose for driving an unregistered vehicle in the dead of night while barefoot and without a license.

The tattered waybills, meanwhile fly up into the air and, caught by the night breeze, drift out over the estuary, where an Iranian submarine, investigating activities at Port, as well as the evening's ruckus, extends its robotic arm to fetch down the material, before running silent, running deep, out through the Bay and the Golden Gate to the Pacific Ocean without being detected.

For some weeks afterward, the Iranians discussed the issues of local Island politics, finally determining that the Cinema Multiplex was an instrument of Satan and so doomed to fail. The Conservative Candidate, Babar, had a penchant for marrying a succession of Beauty Queens, which seemed at first typical of the Decadent West, and not exactly in keeping with "family values," but ultimately in keeping with fundamental Islamic Sharia, as it did appear that Babar uttered each time the important words, "Wife, I divorce thee." And so they did approve of the Vice Presidential candidate ultimately. A powerful sheik should always keep at least a couple wives on hand.

Back in the neighborhood, however, it was a while before anybody got any sleep.

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

SEPTEMBER 14, 2008

STEPPIN' OUT FOR OBAMA

This week's headline photo comes from Gail Brown who supplied pix from Saturday's event "Steppin' for Obama."

Don't let nobody say we don't got style here in the East Bay. See below for the report and more pix.

JAMMIN'

Island-Life took the recuperating Gustav in tow to employ his refurbished equipment in covering the seventh annual Webster Street Jam on the Island.

Folks wondering what happened to the former festival title "Peanut Butter Jam" need look no further than the stone-cold void in the chest of Corporate Merger America. The festival was created to memorialize the founding of Skippy Peanut Butter right there on Webster in 1932, and the subsequent factory that fed schoolkids their basic lunch sandwich protein until 1974. Skippy got purchased by a conglomerate that diluted the name and yanked sponsorship of the fest, which used to include free jars of the stuff to all attendees.

As a side note of interest, wildly unrelated, but a potentially useful bit of trivia nonetheless, we report that the invention of that American culinary icon, the popsicle, occurred right here.

In the winter of 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson mixed up a drink of flavored soda powder in water, then left the drink on the porch and forgot about it overnight with the wooden stirring stick still in the cup. In the morning, he found that subfreezing temps had turned his drink into a frozen treat on a stick.

Seeing gold in them there "Eppsicles", Epperson started selling them to his classmates, eventually working himself into a lemonade stand at the Neptune Beach resort in 1923, where the considerately older entrepreneur renamed the thing after the name his kids gave it: "Pop's Sicle."

At that humble lemonade stand, he went on to invent, this time by intention, the twin popsicle, the fudgsicle, the creamsicle and the dreamsicle.

The Great Depression and subsequent changing family excursion habits killed Neptune Beach, but the popsicle lives on.

The Webster Street jam remains the darling of the West Island Business Association, which maintains a sort of friendly rivalry with its cousin of Park Street. Renovated after years of slide after the Navy Base closure, place looks positively spiffy with all the tattoo parlors and dingy bars that edged the military reserve gone, and the historic Croll's Building all cleaned up with shiny polished stained glass.

Even the derelicts drinking beer from a paper sack at the bus stop are friendlier now.

A commemorative plaque at the corner with Lincoln marks the approximate spot where the initial terminus of the Transcontinental Railway once stood at a wharf jutting from the former shoreline there. The terminus was placed there to enable completion celebrations to take place after the "golden spike" had been driven at Promontory Point in Utah. The assigned terminus building in Oakland had not yet been completed.

In any case, any excuse for a party is a good one. And the music tends to be a major draw to these things, besides the keepsake glasses of Rosenblum wine. We toddled on over to check out our smooth jazz faves, Girltalk, who followed the rambunctious Messhuggah Beach Party, a rekelekh-clad group that has invented the genre of kletzmer-surf rock.

We shall forgive this playing music on a Saturday, considering this a modification of the tradition of nigunim, or joyous humming in praise.

In any case, Girltalk is the brainchild of Valerie Bach, jazz guitarist, cavaquino instrumentalist, and sometime vocalist, and has had, like many long-lived bands, numerous member changes over the years. Lately, Laura Boytz has added her strong cello skills to Leslie Thorne's upright bass with Katja Cooper occasionally offering percussion. Ms. Cooper was absent on Saturday.

The addition of cello to the lineup provides an opportunity to diversify the largely Latin flavor of the band, which now describes its genre as "world jazz", including Chilean and Cuban protest songs along with "Angelitos Negros" (Little Black Angels), "Chitlins' Con Carne", a bluesy "Come on Home" (Horace Silver), and a rather tasty version of Sting's "St. Agnes and the Burning Train," along with its list of chorros. Their rendition of "Sueño con Serpientes" by the wildly unappreciated poet musician Silvio Rodriguez never fails to stop passersby in their tracks, with its delicate guitar arpeggios and somber cello glides building to a final note of hope in the darkness as Valerie sings, "Y planteo con un verso una verdad" (I plant there a poem of truth).

During their performance a gorgeous, and accomplished, couple toyed with tangos, and each other, to the delight of the crowd.

Girltalk returned to the stage to join Sambagode, which performs Brazilian "peasant folk". Unfortunately, the sound folks really dropped the ball for this group, entirely ruining several of their first songs by over-miking the bass channel which boomed over the inadequately amped vocals. Once the sound dragons were brought under control, the group presented interesting stuff that is not often heard outside the favelas, with the vocals remaining the highlight over minimalist percussion.

The popular Unauthorized Rolling Stones caused their usual mayhem on stage to close out the day.

COPSHAWLHOLME FAIRE ON SOLANO AVENUE

Girltalk returned to the Bay Area for the famous Solano Stroll and performed well amid the chaos and the welter.

The one day Festival is easily the largest, most variegated and popular street festival in the Bay Area, bar none. The entire length of Solano Avenue is blocked off from the San Pablo outlet to its leafy origins in the hills and remains after 34 years packed solidly, with no vacancies, with ten-foot booths lining both sides of the road, broken only by the narrow stages of hundreds of musicians and entertainers. Anything you want, you can get on the Stroll, from food originating from all around the world, tchotchkes, knick knacks, clothing for the prude and for the cautious, and even an entire ten-foot long Tiki Bar with straw canopy ($1300).

Amid all this ruckus and skateboarders and bicycles and stilt-walkers a band has got to really snag the folks, and every time Girltalk started up, a semicircle of listeners stopped to enjoy the sunshine and good vibes and buy a couple homemade CD's.

At the end of the day, a fine time was had by all.


PORTO FINO

Recent deliberations and attempts to attain Sister City Status with Bloom County met with an unfortunate and unexpected hiatus after messengers seeking the Mayor returned with surprising news and disturbing rumors that portend mortal finality of the utmost kind.

For one thing, the Mayor and the Council could not be located by anyone. The Halls whistled with wind through the empty cubicles and vacant desks. The dandelion patch appeared unkempt with litter and detritus. Billy and the Boingers could not be heard and silent were the drums of LeatherTongue in the stolid and stale air. Strange portendings.

In addition, it was bruited about in the bars and local gathering spots that the Time of Opus was at Hand. The messengers went in search but could find no sign of the Penguin of Note, that beloved honker was not to be found and squeezed. In a church apse, intimations of mortality.

A wailing came upon the wind and the circle of Time was kept. Bats flew from a belfry and the Dark Knight moaned.

Our messengers fled in terror. A serious epistle to Mr. Breathed is in the works. Alas, that it may be too late to save our dear and demented penguin!

RAMPANT THREE DOTULISM RETURNS

Actionalameda.org, a local blogger here, notes that Yelp, the informal ratings site for all things leisurely and pertaining to entertaining, contains quite a bucket of diss from all kinds of folks complaining about the renovated movie-house on Park Street; yes, the building structure is a beauty, but the sound quality, customer service, and projection standards (i.e. picture focus) of the actual movies shown seems to rate four rotten tomatoes . . .

The visiting Kommissars from Lich, Germany, checking out the latest in small town police procedures here in the USA was privy to our own small-town coroner's work as well when a human leg got retrieved from the estuary last week. No claimants to ownership have stepped, er hopped, forward as yet . . .

Der Kommissar had a busy week, as did the coroner, when an entire body was found hard by the Ferry Terminal on Main Street, dead of an allegedly self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Body was discovered by morning ferry commuters. Hope the rest of the day at work went better . . .

Three suspects in the latest series of takeover robberies got themselves arrested in Oaktown September 4. The three have been implicated in three takeover robberies at restaurants and a bar and are being investigated in connection with as many as a dozen other holdups in Oakland and other cities, police said. Shouldn't have pistol-whipped the employee at the Full Moon Seafood House; that's going too far . . .

Here on the Island, we have managed about three burglaries a day and, you should have expected this and should expect some more, theft of gasoline on Park Street. Time to upgrade that locking gas cap . . .

Homeland Security took advantage of the Dog Days of Summer by holding a comprehensive disaster and terrorist alert this weekend, featuring a hostage taking in Oaktown and terrorist bombing at the Caldecott Tunnel. More men with guns and explosions. In case you did not notice anything unusual in Oaktown . . .

Developers are pushing ahead to build sixty more "dwelling units" on Balena Isle, including 10 assigned "affordable units." Imagine the rest shall be designated "outlandishly expensive." And equally as hideous . . .

Three dotulism reigns! Herb Caen lives! Well, maybe not . . .

CH...CH...CH...CHANGES!

Change was the word Saturday night in the East Bay, which held forth as host to several large events in support of Obama's candidacy for President. Over at MLK Shoreline a two day event gathered committed folks to training sessions for the upcoming Fifty Days War for the next Presidency. Heard How to Combat Lies and Misinformation was a hot topic over there.

At night, smooth style slid into the Island Bayside Pavilion here on the Island for a "Steppin' for Obama" event, organized by Mickey Wright. Hundreds of fancy dancers flew in from all over the country to show their stuff under the big glitterball, with the emphasis on "Chicago Style Step", which is a sort of retro Late Forties high style "swing" with zoot suit, natty jacket, patent leather, derby hat and panache sliding with aplomb and twirls to the glitter dress and strappy stilettos across the shiny floors.

The main point of this style is to look and feel good and there certainly was a crowd doing just that at the Bayside Pavilion, despite the poor promotion and lack of buzz. Certainly step is a form that makes the dancer smile, and that is a good thing. It is also a democratic style in that smooth moves are emphasized over acrobatics and complicated footwork. For a while, the gods of hope and style glided among us poor mortals.

Even the DJ was dressed sharp.


MUSIC DO I HEAR? HA HA KEEP TIME!

Its the start of a promising Fall season in all areas. The Berkeley Rep has some Mary Zimmerman and some Delindo and some McDonagh to look forward to before the footlights.

The Shotgun Players, always cutting edge, are putting on "Ubu for President", an Americanized and updated version of Jarry's "Ubu Roi", the play that incensed critics and alarmed audiences when its leading character stepped on stage to utter the forbidden "Merdre!" (sic). Ubu inflicted upon the world the image of a Chief Executive who was stupid, boorish, cruel, greedy, and thoroughly amoral -- not that should remind you of anyone now living. The free show is being held in the SP traditional venue of Hinckle Park.

Extracting from the welter of the Pink Pages, we note that Chris Isaac returns to the City that Knows How to Evict Him October 10. That's right. High rents forced an eviction of his band from rehearsal space. Must be why he has been scarce lately.

The 36th SF Blues Festival occupies the Meadow again 9/27-9/28, with ever higher prices and an ever enlarging "Gold Circle". But for all that, Johnny Winter, Hot Tuna, Elvin Bishop and Elmore James will tickle your ears.

In small print, Randy Newman is attending the SF Jazz fest at Davies Symphony Hall on the 17th of October, followed by Dave Brubeck. For funkmeisters, Maceo Parker brings his sax on the 26th to the Herbst Pavilion.

Guitarists take note: Dynamite Guitars has returned for a long, long series extending well into next year, but with Leo Kottke appearing solo on January 31 at the Herbst.

My Morning Jacket is occupying the Greek on the 19th for what may be one of the last temperature-bearable shows for the Season. But you knew that already.

There is an interesting lineup for the tribute to Woody Guthrie at the Shoreline with odd but interesting assignments of Cat Power, Son Volt, Mike Ness (Social Distortion) joining spoken word artist Henry Rollins behind the sometime tiresome celebrity Sheryl Crow, who maybe might becoming more Democratic, and therefore more interesting, after her fling with that druggy bicyclist Republican.

Go to hear Son Volt and Mike Ness. See if Sheryl Crow is becoming Real. Its all worth it. It all happens 9/20 and tickets are reasonably priced for once.

Counting Crows return to the Pavilion with Augustana again as warm-up and Maroon 5 on the 17th. Heard Adam is off meds now, and looking sharp.

Tuesday is not too late to catch Michelle Shocked at a benefit for the Haight Ashbury Clinics, to be done at the Independent. Not a bad gig for early in the week and one likely to wake you up after her Sister Rosetta Thorpe cover, as MS tends to be mercurial, unpredictable and well worth paying attention to at all times.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is slated for October 3-5 and the usual suspects from last year will appear, plus a few more.

Then we are into October, which is entirely a different scene.


TAKE ME TAKE ME TO THE RIOT

For those of us who hearken unto Radiohead's "Creep" with a sense of identification, there are allowed the remains of the day. For us, desire for change is as intense as a housefire.

It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.

The summer has yielded suddenly to the high morning fogs, which late risers miss and so assume that the warm sun means that summer remains with sun-warmed stones and all of its false promise. Until evening rolls around and the chill breezes remind one of time passing.

The tomato plants are all giving up their red balloons and the pole beans are all hanging down heavy with last fruit. The last sunflower expanded suddenly beside the Old Fence and the squirrel is eyeing the head with some envy and desire.

Every morning Javier goes out with the hose and tries to blast the squirrel off of the fence with a jet of water and the squirrel easily avoids that treatment with a mouthful of something stuffed in there and an expression of outrage. What on earth do you want to do that for man?

Its because that squirrel keeps digging around the roots of the summer savory and the chives, is what the problem happens to be.

Meanwhile the raccoons have utterly devastated the last of the corn crop, running off with a great deal of glee with Mrs. Almeida running after and waving her broom as a weapon amid a clatter of overturned trash cans, leaving everything a mess.

Its a full moon hanging in the cloud-wracked sky, Antares glittering on her flank.

Papoon and Babar are both sitting up late, planning strategies for this year's Election for Yacht Club President and Bay Area Bum Reagent. Both selected their running mates during their respective Conventions, with Papoon choosing Joe Bidet, the Port-O-San salesman, and Babar, Louise Nailgun, the Trailer Park Association Secretary.

After Babar's speech, claiming "maverick" status among his party, plus the distinction of over thirty years of public service, during which he had stayed the course, accomplished his mission, and preserved the Conservative traditions of constancy and immobility, he made the announcement of his choice.

"Karl, the envelope please . . .".

When Nailgun was selected from the lineup of contestants at the Conservative Convention in Occupied Newark, Babar praised her poise, her stacked Mrs. Melmac hairdo, her rendition of "Oklahoma!", and her unflinching ability to repeat precisely what was told to her, all of which are qualities highly prized in Conservative Women.

The other candidates shed tears in the line there, swaying on high heels and tucking away planned acceptance speeches into their bathingsuits as Dick "Shotgun" Chicanery stepped forward with the tiara, accompanied by Candy Kane Rice, bearing the floral arrangement and sash.

But when Ms. Nailgun shoved forward, elbowing several other contestants while muttering, allegedly, "Get aside loser bitch!" Susan Faludhi left the hall in disgust.

The whole affair ended in a sordid melee of shoving, tearing, hairpulling and screeching, with broken heels and trampled corsages littering the stage after a series of wardrobe malfunctions among the bathingsuits. The unexpected displays, shown on local cable, had the benefit of providing great "bounce" to the Party after the Convention.

Papoon's selection, by contrast, although enthusiastically received, bore none of the drama and contention shown at the Conservative Convention. He and Bidet stood on a platform that endorsed liberating all public restrooms from onerous coin charges and otherwise demonstrated urbane style and serious gravitas.

"Free Pee for all!" Announced Bidet.

Which drew a nearly instantaneous charge of "unfair" and "entitlements" from the always savage and predictable Ann Coulter.

"Furthermore, throw the Bums out!" Said Bidet, while Papoon held to his compelling campaign slogan, "Not insane!"

The Convention ended on an upbeat note with cheering thousands.

Now that basic Primary business is behind us, we have fifty days or so of commercials, dinnertime phone calls, and lots and lots of mud slinging until the election. All the folks down at the Old Same Place Bar are laying bets on the various outcomes. Der Governator is up for Recall here, which should come as no surprise, given his past peccadilloes of groping and unnecessarily wasteful Special Elections, which made sense only to Special Kids.

So as secret deals get made in the smoky backrooms, cigars chomped and expensive scotch slung back like water in conversations that determine the fates of kings and mortals there in the little brown snug of the Old Same Place Bar, the long wail of the throughpassing train in Jack London Waterfront came ululating across the water flecked by the silver-dripping moon.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week. And don't forget to register to vote.

Sueño con Serpientes (I Dream of Serpents)

“There are men who fight a day
And they are good.
There are others who fight a year
And they are better.
There are some who fight many years
And they are very good.
But there are those who fight all their life:
Those are the indispensable ones.”
– Bertolt Brecht

I dream of serpents, sea serpents,
Of a certain sea, ay, I dream of serpents.
Long, transparent, and in their bellies they carry
What they can snatch from love.

I kill it, but a bigger one appears.
Oh, with an immense belly of fire.

I don't fit in its mouth, it tries to swallow me
But it is blocked with clover of my thought.
I believe that it is crazy; I give it a dove
to devour and so poison it with honesty.

In the end I am consumed, and as I pass
through its gullet, I think about what will come.
But when I drop to its inner maw the snake is destroyed
And I arise with a poem, inseminating truth.

--Silvio Rodriguez , transl. Denby Montana

 

SEPTEMBER 7, 2008

FOR THE ROSES

This week's photo comes courtesy of Beth and her hand-tended roses, rescued from rust and blight to achieve this momentary glory before the onslaught of inevitable and long delayed Fall.

THIS ISLAND-LIFE

The camping section has been updated with photos from the recent sabbatical and some route revisions for Lamarck Col. This time we have included a video pan from a section of the trail leading up to the Col.

Harlan's old place continues to collect piles of junk in front in an unsightly mess that is far worse than anything the madman allowed to happen during his tenure there on the corner of Lafayette and Lincoln, sure sign that somebody made a bad mistake.

The old Carnegie Library is on the slate for rehab as City offices together with the building behind it, which is better than being torn down, but not exactly the best decision. With few modifications it would have made an excellent meeting place and concert hall.

ITS A MAD MAD WORLD

This weekend marked the end of the Summer Season for outdoor concerts, with Michael Franti doing a freebie in Golden Gate Park at the Power to the Peaceful Festival before heading up to the hills for a festival up there with Spearhead. He and Spearhead have a decidedly more reggae-style CD just out.

The Oakland Art and Soul Festival occured without mishap as the Indigo Girls ruled over a peaceful multi-culti gathering under the grand old oak at Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Dave Matthews just finished a three night run at the venerable Greek to universal acclaim.

Congratulations and happy birthday to Dr. Gluck of the Sausal Creek Outpatient Facility. Dr. Gluck, looking for all the world a trim forty or so, blew out three candles for two decades a piece on each at the party held in Napa at the exclusive Laurel Knoll Estate among an enthusiastic crowd of admirers and to the sounds of a delightful R&B soul band.

Everett and Jones supplied plenty of BBQ eats to the largely medical primary car and psychiatric crowd.

Those of you looking for prime real estate, please note that the historic Estate on the knoll surrounded by laurel trees is for sale, with pool, jacuzzis, nine bedrooms and view to die for. Each room is to be had for a modest $2,000 per night, which should help alleviate a portion of the property tax burden. If you happen to have a cool three mill or so in hand, just drop in a line.

The good doctor's 60'th was partially funded by Dr. Gluck's employer, who remains unnamed here to protect his anonymity.

Sausal Creek supplies medical and psychiatric assistance to residents of Alameda County in need ot critical care and outpatient referral.

I NEVER WAS GOOD-LOOKING, BUT I AM TOO OLD TO CARE NOW

It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The extended heatwave has dropped ever so slowly from the triple digits to the evening temps of mid fifties, hearkening unto the passing of the season called Summer to that other world. A number of reliable reports have leaves turning on the oaks along Santa Clara and there is no denying the cry of the Canadian geese now thronging through, occasionally getting lost in backyards to honking distress and otherwise signalling things to come.

Schmidt has been sitting in his chaise lounge with the blanket over his broken legs looking intently at the dark bodies of the geese with their arrow-like volleys across the sky at sunset, uttering unintelligible number combinations.

"Eff four point eight mit ASA four hundredt und schpeed der shutter 1/250th, Ja!"

And so forth. A man denied his trade is a sad thing indeed. Schmidt broke his camera climbing with the crew during the Sabbatical.

He has had to cancel his participation in the Part II ascent of Mount Goddard, and it looks like the whole affair is going to collapse into a shambles of recriminations, disorganization and bitter in-fighting until next year.

Its all a pathetic mess and typical of how things are run around here at Island-Life. But that is just the way it goes here.

Meanwhile we sent Tipitina over to the Island Ladies Auxiliary to the Native Sons of the Golden West to find out the scoop on the recent announcement of Palin to the GOP ticket and the effect upon the former supporters of Ms. Clinton for Prez.

The results re: former Clinton supporters came rather quick.

"The woman has all the cache of a trailer-park mom with loud-mouthed brassiness and little understanding to support her taped-up breasts.", said one lady leaving the library with a stack of Susan Fahludi. "She's the sort of woman who shoves the other parents during sporting events involving her kids," said another. "She has no more than a chromosome in common with Clinton," said another. "She's a ball-cutter," said another, flatly. "No way am I voting for that tweaker-brain."

Okay now. Lets be nice.

Down at the Club, Babar sipped his Manhattan studiously. It was his opinion, as the Island Conservative Candidate, that being a maverick did not factor in well with the whole idea of being a Conservative. In fact, a true Conservative studiously avoided any such appellation, so the whole issue of Palin or not went by the wayside.

Really, Babar supported McCain precisely because the fellow had spent thirty years in Congress doing as little damage as possible, and Babar sees this as a positive.

"NOW he wants to rock the boat! O lord," said Babar. Not what we want in a Conservative. He supported Palin to the extent that she did as little as possible, which is the main thrust of what Conservatives wanted for the government in general. In any case, somebody like Alexander Haig is sure to step in during the n'th hour, announcing with conviction, "I'm in charge!"

He felt reassured that McCain would sideline this Palin immediately upon election and so ordered a third Manhattan to help console his anxieties.

Papoon, the Liberal Candidate, was rather more worried. It was his concern that armies of turncoat hamsters would invade all the Counting rooms in the western states and somehow overturn the Will of the People by meddling with the Registry computers.

Again.

Ever since Chinese tweakers had messed with the Diebold machines in Florida, Papoon has felt this sense of persecution and anxiety. It does no good to remind him that election chicanery has occured since time immemorial. Just because the GOP has been singularly effective of late, is no excuse to complain.

The main problem is that without an Austrian spider to run things behind the scenes, the lamentable GOP has been allowed its imbecile theoriticians to actually implement clearly unworkable policies such that a total artificial mess had been made of government . Which should have been allowed to develop its own unworkable systems organically.

Clearly this presents a problem to anyone who wants to implement a plan to let the system fall apart on its own rather than by actively self-destructing.

The best government is the one that governs least because of confusion. Nobody wants "efficient" government which is cruel and inflexible as well as harmful. You want a bloated monstrosity that is so big it cannot do any harm to the people, and which somehow allows good things to happen once in a while by accident.

That's Papoon's point of view.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar, those survivors of the Annual Sabbatical were watering up, all Tweakers, Tweeterheads, Snufflers, Spooks, Climbers and Hikers all together. The place was crowded with people trying to wash down the trail dust and the Tweeterheads kept trying to talk about stock options even though their unreal words abraded their throats like diamond-cut abrasives.

It was all kind of funny because they had all run into one another suddenly backcountry at 11,000 feet, trying to get away from each other, and now there they were again, staring one another in the face in The Old Same Place, with Suzie trying to keep fights from breaking out.

The students had all returned to school and the tourists had all returned to their hometowns, so the folks restricted themselves to minor eye-gouging and groin-smashing and it was a fairly calm night in the Old Same Place without the usual nose-smashing and palm-impalements that did occur during minor disagreements on the Island, Land of Fine Living by the Water.

At least we don't have nearly the number of gang murders they enjoy not one hundred yards away across the estuary.

Hear that the gangs have started round-robin takeovers of the banks here again, having run through all of them along Otis for the second time. Everyone down at the Pampered Pup is laying wagers as to which of the branches there is going to be next, figuring that the gangs understand you do not repeat the same order twice. All of the banks along Otis have been taken over by gunmen at least twice and there appears to be good money in it., so its likely to continue as long as the robbers remember to park legally and escape under the legally posted limit of 25 mph.

If they made a part of Park Street a pedestrian thoroughfare, there remains the short bridge over to Harbor Bay, which remains a really pleasant route for a getaway with the trees and the water beside and all.

Anyway, in the Old Same Place Mr. Sanchez stopped in after collecting the reprints of the invitations to the wedding reception for the affair between himself and Ms. Morales. He stopped in barely a minute for a quick Cosmo, before darting out again, there on Lincoln nearly to be run down by a fleet of limos run by the Bay Area Realtors Emergency Defence Force Under Control (BAREDFUC), which is a group that considers its own interests above all others, according to its charter.

The lead limo skirted deftly around Mr. Sanchez, while the follower bumped abruptly and unceremoniously against the elder man's shins.

For the record, the licenseplate on the offending vehicle bore the message, BUMSESPIELE.

The driver of the limo emerged and shrieked imprecations in Swedish at Mr. Sanchez, who threw his arms in the air, sending clouds of invitations sailing into the night lit by a crescent moon that was accompanied by the reddish glimmer of the dying star Antares.

Antares, as Mr. Sanchez would later explain to the students of Ms. Morales, with whom he was particularly in love, is a red giant, and therefore a star doomed to failure as its core shrinks and its halo expands in reddish flickers out to our own luminosity.

Nevertheless, as Berndt Hansson screamed invectives at the bruised Mr. Sanchez, the invitations floated high into the air and settled in flocks among Canadian Geese on the estuary, where the wandering collection arm of a passing Iranian submarine happened to gather a few into its net. These invitations were collected down into the submarine, which ran silent, ran deep out through the Golden Gate to the ocean, where these mysterious notes were decoded and analyzed.

A marriage that is not arranged and which has something to do with "love"? Clearly an Infidel affair masking a counter-revolutionary action planned by the Devil America. A copy invitation was sent to the Iranian equivalent of the Mata Hari/007 and plans were made to attend. Scimitars concealed of course.

As the world paused at the end of a very heated August on the eve of a long-awaited Fall, Suzie polished the bartop. Warren Hayes played over the stereo.

IF IT GETS TO YOU AND YOU CANT GO ON
ALL YOU HAVE TO DO
IS RING A BELL
AND STEP RIGHT UP STEP RIGHT UP
LIKE A BALLERINA

Suzie had tried that ballerina thing, but her arches fell and her weight rose and it never quite happened. She became a woman and the show must go on. Raise the family and see the kid taken away by the sleek land-salesman and all love won lost in the circle-spin of the court lottery. Now she polished the bar of the Old Same Place night after night while the Tweakers and the Tweeterheads argued among themselves.

Mr. Sanchez returned to the bar, mopping his forehead with his handkerchief, his suit rumpled and his pantleg dripping blood where the limo had braised his leg.

All were distraught at the actions of the fraudulent Swede and Bear promised to hand-deliver copies within a 100 mile radius and more of the lost invitations. Before Mr. Sanchez could think, out rushed Bear, and for the next several weeks, decent homeowners and middle-class folk from California to the Mississippi River were surprised by the appearance of bearded outlaws roaring up on gleaming choppers to deliver wedding invitations to all, just like the postman.

Mr. Sanchez cautioned the Reception Committee the following day to expect "unusual attendees."

Suzie cleaned up after the last guests had left the bar and saw to it that a taxi took Mr. Sanchez safely back home. From far across the estuary came the ululation of the through-passing train in Jack London Waterfront, the train that runs every night at midnight, passing trains which have no names and graveyards full of old black men, and still the rails haven't heard the news: this train got the disappearing railroad blues.

In consolation, she turned her attention to her textbook on the gentle Bonobo. Only 12 credits until she earned her degree.

The long chill of the advancing Fall swept through the bar on the tail of a trail of browned leaves as the last patron left and the incandescent lights seemed to flicker. The howl of eternity calling for eternal sleep wailed through the dark.

Even as a certain wedding seemed certain to overturn this train of events for once and for all. Or the reverse being true, that all was destined for that train home.

When it all comes down to confusion and disarray, its people like Suzie and Dr. Gluck we count on to bail us out. There is really nobody else at the breach of contract.

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.

 

 

 

AUGUST 31, 2008

EXCELLENT BIRDS

This weeks photo comes courtesy of Carole, a fellow Islander, who took this snap just outside her window on the third floor of the notorious St. Charles Telecom Complex.

A local birder here identified this fellow as a Peregrine Falcon, one of the fastest raptors on two wings.

The St. Charles Complex, a former apartment-house, hosts in addition to a small inpatient Psychiatric Facility for Grandiose Managers, one of the largest wireless installations in the East Bay. Neither wild ranting nor high intensity EMF/RFI waves seem to phase this fellow.

THE MOUNTAINS WIN AGAIN

All the staff have returned from the annual Mountain Sabbatical and its great to be back here in the little brown cube with the sound of teletypes and all the world's news flying by.

In what seems to be fast becoming an Island-Life theme, Schmidt the Cameraman, fell into a crevice at 13,000 feet, breaking his leg and putting the kibosh on most photos of the sabbatical.

Not to worry about Schmidt, as we kept his spirits high by lowering regular supplies of Apfelkorn schnapps in Nalgene bottles until he could be rescued. Pedro and Javier carried the man on a bier across the PCT into McGee Canyon where he got stashed nice and safe among the dwarf pines with a stack of tortillas, some cheese, a length of sausage, and a barrel of Ratzeputz, which is a sort of reddish concoction out of the Luneberg Heath country that is not less than 80% alcohol.

It was a pleasant place of rock and lake and Schmidt remained true to himself in getting thoroughly schlockered among the cawking mockingbirds in the dwarf pines.

While the rest of the staff went off climbing mountains, Schmidt remained behind to chuck pinecones from his hidden position at passing tweeter-head stockbrokers who, in their imbecility, imagined that hail and thunder had descended amid their discussions of tap stocks and options among the edelweiss, and so they vacated quickly the high country, giving Schmidt and all sensible folk great satisfaction until it came time to remove Schmidt himself.

The mockingbirds mourned his passing, for Schmidt's German sea chanties and pinecone tossing gave them much merriment and they were all sad to see him go.


UP ON THE SIERRA MOUNTAINS, THERE I'LL TAKE MY STAND

Coming back to Siphilis-ation one longs to hie right on back up there to where the packed masonry of stars lights the way to the pee-place at 12,800 feet camp. "Rifle on my shoulder, six shooter in my hand / Lord Lord, been all around this world. "

One high spot was catching the tail-end of the DNC convention in New York where Hillary apparently gave a smashers speech that went a long way to unifying the country after long bitterness. Go 'Bama.

On the return we note that the Outside Lands Festival went off with an even mix of thumbs up/ thumbs down. As predicted, the sky-high ticket prices resulted in thinner crowds that became very noticeable by the end of each day, resulting in some unfair low attendance for top-ranked acts coming on as the chill tendrils of fog eased frozen concert-goers to the exits in droves. In addition, some organizational snafus resulted in folks wandering for hours in vain to find entrances. Power cut out entirely for a couple main stagers, prompting following acts to regulate and alter their shows to monitor the generator status.

During the heat of the day, however, we found no complaints coming in, from Jack Johnson, to Michael Franti and Beck.

Could be growing pains for a new and very young festival or maybe the time for mega-monolith festivals has passed.

Closer to home and on a more human scale, the Oakland Art and Soul Festival continues Monday in front of Silly Hall and the big oak at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Tickets up to $10 this year. The Indigo Girls performed today.

If you drop into Fort Mason for the Slow Food Festival, say hello to Rachel Saunders, owner of Blue Chair Fruit, for Blue Chair is headquartered here on the Island. Also representing the Island will be St. George Spirits, maker of unique flavored cordials and one of the first distillers to provide absinthe after the lifting of the ban on commercial sales.

On the Island, we note another lawsuit added to one in progress against the hotly disputed Measure H that squeaked by on recount by a scarce one hundred votes and which applies a parcel tax to benefit the troubled school district. Opponents are charging intimidation tactics were employed to get the measure passed and that the measure unfairly hits commercial space as well as private dwellings and violates the State constitution.

The John Beery Yacht Dealership has added his lawsuit to that of George Borakis. The result may be that all funding collected will be withheld by the courts until final agreements are made.

In an interesting move, a plan converting the north section of Park Street into a "pedestrian friendly" zone has been put before the Council, which will hold meetings on the subject as follows:

Historical Advisory Board, 7pm, Thursday.
Planning Board, 7 pm , Monday, Sept. 8.
Transportation Commission, 7:30pm, Sept. 24.

The plan was made possible by the exodus of the auto dealerships in that district proximate to the drawbridge. This may be a chance for realistic and reasonable change to take place, as Park Street is fast becoming impassible to normal traffic at any hour of the day or night.

THE ANGELS LAY THEIR CLOUDS ACROSS THE SKY

Coming out of Inyo County, we provide the following tidbits that affect you: Barbara Boxer is set to modify the Eastern Sierra Wild Heritage Act with over 40 modifications requested by local communities. These include elimination of John Muir sections 1 and 2, to allow pack stations to operate day rides there, 7,000 acres are to be dropped from SB 3069 in the Sherwin Lakes and McGee Mountain areas, and additional opening up of drainages in the White Mountains area to allow ranchers and farmers to access depleting water sources in the area.

The Congressional hearing on the proposed changes is scheduled for September 11, with a vote to follow the day after.

For a full list of maps, changes and amendments, go to http://www.mckeon.house.gov.

THESE MIST-COVERED MOUNTAINS / ARE HOME TO US NOW

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. We are all settling in here after the Mountain Sabbatical quite nicely. Schmidt is over there by the lightboard, trying to make sense with a jeweler's screwdriver over the shambles of what used to be a Canon EO5. Javier is out back training the messenger hamsters in their refurbished mission to find a mayor somewhere who will accept the Island as a Sister City.

The tickertape clicks and news and rumors flash across the transome. Disturbing reports in Georgia of war. Disturbing reports of
disturbing reports of wayward penguins in far off Bloom County and possible ides of change, of certain administrative adjustments, of bureaucratic reorganization. Quick, let us send heralds and reporters there to find what may be amiss. Fainting spells and vague malaise and intimations of mortality. Put Wordsworth on it right away. Yessir.

Don't just say "Yes sir," do it!

"Yes Sir!"

Ah, to run a busy newsdesk in times like these. Cursed we are to live in interesting times. So off to the Old Same Place we go for refreshment that eases the soul.

In the brown little snug, Suzie sets down a frothing mug of ESB. All across the Island, summer wanes in the night after the annual Heat Wave that broke Records. Cool is the breeze that wafts through the tattered demalions of sunflowers that survived the Great Squirrel Onslaught. All along the Old Fence, the dahlias continue to bloom, with no sign of corrupting mold and whitespot. The marigolds exult in their still overweaning pride and the tomatos swell with last exhuberance before the Fall.

Officer O'Madhauen sits in his cruiser down by the Old Cannery, soon to be converted into live-work lofts, they say, but for now remaining dark and chainlinked amid a welter of weeds. He sips his styrofoam coffee and watches for light runners and speeders, the night before Labor Day, when he will take the day off to BBQ down by the Strand with the Abodanzas and all their brood scampering hear and there among the sandy hillocks.

Mr. Howitzer sits up in bed with his hot chocolate and his copy of Disraeli, a compendium he seems never destined to finish for now, as always, he drifts off, lets the book fall as the cup grows colder on the nightstand and the timer shuts out the light just before midnight as usual, plunging the place into darkness, leaving only the outside streetlights to gleam upon the stone lions at his gate.

In the Almeida household, Mrs. Almeida snuggles up against Pedro, with Tugboat, the big labrador snoring at their feet, for tomorrow would be a holiday and Pedro would remain delightfully in bed with no pre-dawn rousing to the boats for another long fisherman's workday on the ketch El Borracho Perdido, now swaying at anchor.

For those who truely labor, Labor Day is one hell of a respite.

In the squat on Otis, Marlene and Andre's, all the kids have retired to their bunks and the livingroom now a tangle of Piedro, Jesus, Tipitina, Marsha, Xavier and Markus the dog. Markus wuffs briefly and is answered from the other room that houses Pedro, Occasional Quentin, Rolf, Suan, Alexis, Crackers, Mancini, Sarah, Pahrump, Bonkers, and Wickiwup. It is Wickiwup that wuffs back, others having much to do with dreams and imaginings of how to pay the rent in such times as these. Then, all wuffs, aside, the place grew silent but for snores.

It beeing still warmish, Snuffles Johnson, the bum, dug a hollow in the sand and settled himself down with the broken end of a nearly intact cigarette butt.

Lionel finished up cleaning the Pampered Pup after a busy day serving up hot dogs of all kinds and straddled his bicycle to ride on home past the memorial to "All my Dumb Friends".

In short, it was an average holiday evening on the Island. Suzie, once again cut loose and on her own after another failed romance, opened up her anthropology book behind the bar, lit by the back lights, but a man slumped in a heap on the stool there interrupted her thoughts.

"D'ya think there will be some real changes now? I mean with Obama and this McCain sort of maverick he calls himself, do you think there will be some reall change? We could use real change; its been bad for so long. . . ".

The guy had gone through some four Black Russians before switching to straight brew and a shot.

Suzie looked up, decided to shut the man off, said "I dunno. We shall see." Then turned again to her book.

The man mumbled something and appeared to fall asleep in his chair.

Suzie's book: "The bonobo demonstrate curious meeting rituals when encountering one another in the high mountain jungles, described by Dr. Weisguy as "mutual Selbsbefriedegung," which many anthropologists consider to be a contradiction without comparison in the literature . . . ".

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 pondering life's persistent questions. . .".

From far across the water came the eerie ululation of the midnight train, passing through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront. To Suzie, it was a sound that pierced the heart, either by sounding the dismal toll of opportunities lost and more to be lost yet still through mortality, or, by exhalting the secret imaginative and romantic caverns of possibility that remain to eddy in the dripping caverns of the soul. And so, she felt herself again, after not feeling quite herself for some time. Change was on the wind. And this time, things would be different.

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

AUGUST 10, 2008

SUMMERTIME

This week's headline photo is from Javier's garden where a glory of sunflowers has erupted by the Old Fence with vigorous simplicity and exuberant yellowness.


GOT THE KEYS TO THE HIGHWAY

There will be no regular update next week or following due to the annual Mountain Sabbatical. Island-Life will resume following Labor Day with a special Post Labor Day Update.

PLEASE DON'T TALK ABOUT MURDER (WHILE I AM EATING)

Once an exclusive preserve where the rare killing got talked about for years afterwards, the Island has lately suffered a round of very violent incidents involving guns, knives and clubs, keeping the normally sleepy emergency room here busy on weekend nights. The compression of fast Development and Change and general Bad Times were bound to lead to blood on the sidewalk again after Iko's murder last year.

Sure enough, we are up to 2 per year now and the year is yet young. First, Dionisio Molina ran down a man on the Strand with his Jeep Cherokee one fine morning in July. Now we have Troy Lancaster, 19, who was fatally shot Monday at the troubled Esperanza complex in the West End.

Lancaster was found shot in the head at about 2:50 a.m. Monday in the courtyard of the public housing complex on the 100 block of Brush Street after police responded to reports of gunshots fired in the area.

He was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he was put on life support. He died at 4:20 p.m. Monday.

The weapon was described by police as "a small caliber handgun, probably a .22".

IPD arrested Michael James Edgar, also 19, in connection with the slaying of Lancaster. Edgar was described as being "on parole", but the nature of his offense(s) has not been released.

Insiders at Island-Life who knew the families say that the killing may have been over a romantic interest conflict. Others have said that drugs were involved, although Lancaster was described as a clean-cut "good" kid who got good grades and stayed out of trouble. His 2007 graduation portrait is reproduced below.

Both Lancaster and Edgar graduated from Alameda High School the same year. Troy had just started working a new job at a local market.

MUSIC DO I HEAR? HA, HA, KEEP TIME!

Hear ye! Hear ye! The local Freight and Salvage has gotten a Secret Angel who promises a dollar for dollar matching contribution to the tune of one million dollars for its relocation to new digs inside the Berkeley Arts District.

Folks at the Freight are frantically trying to raise the cash and if any pennies go to replacing those hard cafeteria chairs we are all for it.

The Freight & Salvage Coffee House is an all-ages, nonsmoking, alcohol-free performance venue located in Berkeley, California. The Freight has been providing topnotch traditional music since June of 1968, starting first in a used furniture store which had held that name on San Pablo Avenue in Oaktown.

The founder, Nancy Owens, found it was cost effective to retain the business sign, telephone number, and yellow page listing. The popularity of the nonprofit venue grew until the operation moved in 1984 to its present location on Addison Street, expanding from an 87 to 220 seat capacity.

At that time, the venue formalized itself as a nonprofit with a Board of Directors devoted to showcasing traditional music from the US and around the globe.

Tax-deductible donations can be made at http://www.thefreight.org/

Thanks to Rosalee for the tipoff.

PLANET RANCH

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. All the gladiolas that gladdened our hearts are now firing off their last salvos of color at the muzzles of their smoky stems and the bush bean shrubs have leaves turning reddish brown. Despite the recent ruckus downtown, summer continues its age-old rhythms to the sound of a neighbor's acoustic guitar plunking away through the windows under a brand new crescent moon.

The Native Sons of the Golden West held their annual fund raiser at the clubhouse over there at the Marina and collected several thousand dollars to benefit the Cleft Palate Foundation, and it was a notable fund raiser in that nothing went wrong -- no skunks or raccoons arrived to disturb the proceedings and nobody shot off any firearms or destroyed any property and all agreed it had been a fine pancake breakfast held for a worthy cause and the Native Sons of the Golden West were to be congratulated for all their good work, for although we may poke fun at ourselves from time to time, the urge within us here on the Island to really do good, and do as little evil as possible, remains a driving force among the best of us.

As for the rest, well, let them creep away in tears and shame.

So somewhere a child with a birth defect got an operation he otherwise would not have gotten and was made right again, thanks to the Sons of the Golden West. And they performed their Secret Ritual by gathering in a circle and interlocking their pinkies, and first rotating clockwise then anti-clockwise while reciting the Secret Oath of Brotherhood, they concluded with a unanimous and very delicate fart.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar Javier sat at the bar and explained to Suzie, the bartender, why his eyebrows had all burned off his face. And how he had broken his leg during the Island-Life Flyover Podcast.

It had been his birthday last month, you see, and things had not gone well over at Andre and Marlene's place during the after-party sort-of-celebration. He tried to explain about signaling UFOs with his lighter, but gave up. As for his leg, well, that had been an earlier accident regarding the Island-Life Flying Contraption, followed by the angry hamsters in the locker room. There, he faltered. Some things you just could not explain.

Uh huh, said Suzie. And she went over to take care of Jim and Sue at the end of the bar. Jim had his hammer with him, and that meant he had been making art all day and was really thirsty for a sarsaparilla. Sue flung one of her handmade felt scarves about her neck and ordered a limonicello to match the color of her neckwear.

They were artists -- Jim made sculptures out of seawrack and ponderous pieces of iron from heavy earth-moving machinery. Sue's scarves began conservatively in the $300 range and no Society Matron was seen without one. Normally, they didn't cause trouble, but they could be testy if shunted by somebody. You really did not want to cross Jim when he was out and about with his hammer.

Native California artists are not like artists in other places where people still dance the Dance of the Dying Swan routine. California artists are a gritty bunch who stir their brandy with nails and you better not cross one of them. Only a fool crosses a maniac who "expresses himself" with a flaming chainsaw applied to wharf pilings anyway. The dancers here kick each other in the balls routinely, just to keep in practice and the poets are mean jerks who carry switchblades and dark poisons and who all know Krav Malaka, the most brutal full-contact martial art on earth normally practiced only by depraved animals with no teeth and misshapen skulls.

The musicians pistol-whip the doormen here and shoot their rivals in the recording studio. You gotta be rough trade to sing a song in this town.

California artists are all fully at home in all the worst dens of iniquity and know full well the savage atavistic Dance of the Seven Veils and all the writers carry serrated knives under their sordid coats of shame.

That's how it was in the Old Same Place Bar that night, and Suzie was a bit concerned that she would have to carry out any sort of body, either limp with drink, or limp from blood loss due to small arms fire. But Suzie was a professional through and through and she could handle the worst of them. Even the Post-modernists with all their intertextual snarling and yapping.

As it turned out, nothing more upset that a debate on Brecht and Grutowsky took place and the place cleared out fairly early. For let it be known that throughout the land a single fact about artists remains true everywhere -- they have no money and so depart long before last call.

This left the bereft Javier, who had forsaken drinking with Occasional Quentin and Pedro for the more civilized environment of the Old Same Place with its brown snug, its linoleum tables and its polished bar with all its accustomed decorations.

Say, where did those gold knickers come from, asked Javier, who noted the new adornment under the stuffed ram's head and the Sons of the Golden West Plaque.

St. Paddy's day. Nevermind, I am over all of that. And you should be too with all your birthdays.

And so it was that the two of them stood outside on the street after Lights Out, looking up at the great somersault of Orion through the Milky Way and the long wail of the throughpassing train in the Jack London Waterfront came ululating across the water.

A gentle cool breeze blew and a streak passed suddenly through the night of a million stars.

Suzie held up her lighter and signaled to the far off spaceship there and inside a dim capsule far above the earth one of the aliens turned to the other one and commented, "I see they are doing that thing again, Mahgogg."

"What is that, Aghogg?"

"They are signaling; they are looking for hearts."

"Very interesting." And they sped away to where no man has gone before, searching for something else -- a Higher Intelligence.

On the Island, a single lighter, flickering in the boundless sea of darkness, the boundless ocean of laughing stars. Laughing at this endless searching. This searching without end.

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

 

 

 

AUGUST 3, 2008

NOTHING BUT FLOWERS

In a quick survey, we could find hardly any rock and roll songs that featured or even mentioned flowers. Hotel California does not count; there is no such thing as "Coleetis." Except that requiring an endoscopy.

Probably the only singer/songwriters who could get away with it might be Joni Mitchell or Ani DiFranco. Oh yeah, and Tori Amos, who decorates her piano with mushrooms and can get away with singing about anything.

That leaves David Byrne Marching through the Wilderness with its repeated flower references, including the very un-hard rock "daisy".

In any case, this week's headline photo comes from Beth's garden and features a scented marigold hovering before a wall clad with Hardenbergia.

THE DAY OF THE LORDS REDEUX

The Island has taken some flack for kicking out nearly 1000 low income folks last Thanksgiving without having more than a scarce handful of affordable housing units on the entire island. In fact, the City got sued for violating State legal requirements to provide something, anything, for low income people and for acting like flinty misers hugging their thin dimes.

Various projects have been presented, but have run into a fair amount of Nimbyism. As Peter Hegarty reported in the Journal, "The idea of building 36 low-income apartments on the former Island High School site has been trounced by neighbors, who told the Planning Board on Monday that it would make nearby parking all-but-impossible and that it would cause enrollment to skyrocket at Edison Elementary School.

But with the issue not on the agenda, the board took no action.

What especially concerned neighbors was that the board already has approved an application from Warmington Homes that would allow the developer to reduce the number of low income units at its Grand Marina site while boosting the number proposed for the former campus.

Located at Everett Street and Eagle Avenue (East End), the 36,000-square foot property is owned by the Alameda Unified School District, which closed Island High School nearly two years ago and shifted its students to the city's West End.

Both the city and the (school) district have had a longtime goal of creating affordable housing that would be earmarked for district employees, and the campus off Park Street often has been floated as an ideal location.

The city, meanwhile, requires at least 25 percent of homes built in redevelopment areas be affordable."

Much of the folderol seemed aimed at doing an end run around an attempted end run in turn on the part of the developer, who is also building units at Grand Marina, where some space has been allotted to affordable housing. The developer wants to load up the bulk of the low income sites at one location, instead of spreading the wealth -- or lack of it -- around the City, allowing them to use the choice Grand Marina location for largely hoity toity "market rate" premium units built for folks with Locust Valley accents. So the developer shunted some of the assigned affordable units over to the old school location, where they can be free to build cheaply all around and not waste built-in fiber optic cable Internet wiring on people with grubby hands in the mix.

Poor people sitting on benches in view of the yachts? Heavens! Think how that will spoil the photographs!

So the NIMBY's hard by the old school site drew up a protest based on parking and density impact on the local Edison Elementary School. To some extent, they do have a point there, but it fails to address the real issues. Not surprisingly, the Planning Board ignored them entirely.

The numbers, in terms of actual human beings to be living in either place, are fairly trivial. They are talking about pulling 10 units from the Marina and putting 35 into the school location, which is pure nonsense in terms of answering any part of the 25% rule. They just finished that upscale development across from Marina Village some three years ago and pulled in about 3,000 latte sippers and BMW owners, so the idea that the City Council is serious about affordable housing is laughable.

PLEASE DON'T TALK ABOUT MURDER (WHILE I AM EATING)

Last week got rather hot for altercations here. About a block from the Island-Life offices, a man attacked another man with a broomstick, laying open the other fellow's head with a gash that needed eight sutures to close.

The attack happened Saturday morning shortly after 4 a.m. at Pacific Avenue and St. Charles Street.

Both the suspect, 20, and the victim, 23, had been drinking and investigators described them as friends. Both men are also Island residents.

That night an Oakland man pulled a bowie knife from a knapsack and and stabbed another man multiple times in the Pop Inn bar on Park Street.

The victim tried with only partial success to defend himself with a pool cue against Steven Paananen, 27, who remains in custody facing an attempted murder charge. The 37 year old victim was taken to the Island Hospital with a punctured lung and other injuries.

The bar security camera recorded the entire episode.

Must be something in the air this August. Could be the reek wafting from the Culture of Corruption puts people on edge.

Finally, midweek, several Island-Lifers observed a drug deal going down on the corner of St. Charles and Lincoln Street. An off-duty cop also noticed the activity, but as the officer was not on the clock and no traffic infractions were observed, the perpetrators got clean away on bicycles.

Thugs in other cities drive flash lowriders and pickup trucks. Our lowlifes drive bicycles legally fitted with headlights and rear flashers, proving that something unique marks our own criminal element.

PSA - LUCKY'S SUPERMARKET JOBS FOR TEENS

Got word from the Inside that Lucky's is once again hiring teens on a probation leading to vested status for the summer. Kids from local high schools will be trained, specially supervised, and will earn full benefits after a minimum wage probationary period. Parents looking at finding ways to pay for that dental "grill" may want to look hard at this one. Each high school has a quota but only Encinal High has already met their limit.

Just pop into the Lucky's at Marina Square Village and ask any cashier about the program.

GIRLS IN THEIR SUMMER DRESSES

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Things are settling down here after the massive re-pipe job during which the citizens of the People's Republic of St. Charles clutched one another amid the frenetic jackhammering, the clouds of wallboard dust, the fume of solder and the total disruption of lives like lemurs with big dark eyes staring out at the world gone crazy.

But Jose has been gathering long pole-beans by the Old Fence, the dahlias are exploding like fireworks and the gladiolas are erupting like mad jumping Evangelicals throwing up their arms to the heavens.

With the arrival of the National Guard and a brief bust of rain, the wildfire danger has been reduced from white-knuckled terror to moderately horrific. The fire out near Yosemite Portal still burns but the Los Padres ones basically burned to the sea, leaving vast swathes of charred timberland. The five monks at Tassajara sat out the fire, so to speak, and saved the place in a story that is pure Hollywood material. The account of the day when twenty-foot high walls of flame roared up from all sides at once at thirty miles per hour to encircle the little band for about six hours is up on the Tassajara website and it makes for one hell of a read.

With that note of joy it seems we all can get on with the proper business of Summertime. Playing that Janis Joplin song over and over. Fishing for flounder in the delta. Eating pole-beans and watching all the girls in their summer dresses.

Rachel appeared one day in the garden accompanied by a friend whose movie starlet looks caused the newly blooming sunflowers to turn in her direction and illumine a sheen reflecting off of the leaves of the tomato plants. Both of them had dipped into the tequila and they were schlockered to the nines. And so they went for a walk, giggling like little girls, blithe and unaware while limping Javier and caustic Beth clucked disapproval beside the recycle bins. There they go, giggling girls in their summer dresses.

As Nietzche said, "We admire beauty because beauty calmly disdains to destroy us."

Philosophy aside, Summer has arrived and its time for drunken wanderings in the parks and getting into small-time trouble with all the narcissus laughing in the breeze, shot with lavender, white and green. Go ahead and scandalize the neighbors. Be a pest. Its glorious and bears its own rewards.

Night falls on the Island. The continuous breeze shifts, returning cool air to the land, much as it has for the past five thousand years. People still out and about put on parkas and jackets after a day of shirtsleeves and shorts as the air grows chill. Orion begins his somersault across the star-studded heavens. Jake announces the House of Blues Radio Hour and there It comes, wavering across the water, like some Memento Mori: the long ululating wail of the midnight train throughpassing Jack London Waterfront, right on time as it always has for the past decade and more.

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

 

JUNE 27, 2008

ANOTHER ROADSIDE TRAGEDY

This week's headline photo came over the wire via a technical newsletter. The original photo was published on a biker Blog in the US, but we would assume, because of the lane positioning, this came from the UK.

That or somebody really wants to hammer home the Wrong Way message.

MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER - GOOD-BYE

For weeks no sign has appeared on the house on Lafayette where for more than fifteen years Harlan posted his inscrutable butcher-paper messages on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. On a driveby we noticed folks carrying out loads of stuff from the house and the grounds now appear well on the way to being purged of the man who entertained us Islanders for so long.

Tracking through the Internet, we got this information from http://theislandofalameda.blogspot.com:

"The ever-shifting mass of cryptic, painted signs that have long graced the walls and fence of the home on the corner of Lincoln and Lafayette avenues are a familiar sight to Alamedans (and were famous enough to inspire this review on Yelp). But they may be a thing of the past. The man behind the signs, Harlan Smith Ogle, was evicted from the home in April, court papers show. He was evicted by a family member who is trying, under pressure from the city, to get the property cleaned up. “The premises is essentially a garbage dump” that will cost an estimated $30,000 to clean up, according to court papers regarding the late owner’s estate. The Island has noticed in recent days that the house looks like it is being prepared for a paint job. The signs, which railed against the government and often appeared to be in a variety of languages, are all gone now, save one: WE THE PEOPLE NOTICE EXECUTOR H S OGLE."

That sign is gone as of July 26th, leaving only a framed and glass-covered posting of what appears to be the last will and testament from Harlan's mother, Juanita Ogle, who passed away earlier this year.

His eviction has been greeted with a mixture of emotions, from neighbors happy to see the deteriorating property with its piles of junk get cleaned up to regret that an interesting and whimsical local character has been "disappeared" by an implacable bureaucracy.

Apparently Harlan did not actually inhabit the house itself, but lived in the shed beside it.

His signs were written in any number of languages, including Russian, Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic. In a note from Egypt, a correspondent confirmed that the Arabic was genuine, albeit "misspelled". He did seem to have at least a rudimentary understanding of Semitic characters and a rather comprehensive knowledge of American history.

He also expressed any number of paranoid delusions and mild psychotic cycling behaviors. He claimed that he wanted the National Naval Observatory to come and "investigate" his signs.

In the final analysis, Harlan was mentally ill and marginally functional, with the property there providing whatever shelter and fixed center to ground his life and his imaginings. Instead of existing in an institution he entertained his neighbors at a rather cheap cost and his eviction is a failure of services for people living on the fringes. No one seems to know where he has gone, and it appears doubtful that his siblings have provided anything humane for his benefit.

The last time we talked, he was distraught over the death of his mother, who apparently suffered from dementia such that she needed to be kept in restraints in a hospital. Photos of the woman display the sort of lesions common with folks on blood-thinning meds, which renders the skin paper-thin.

He claimed to be of Qualla Cherokee descent and ran unsuccessfully for President of the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina. The Qualla "land trust" is peopled by Cherokee who escaped the "Trail of Tears" forced march to Oklahoma. The area possesses its own democratic form of government, its own national language, its own police force, and its own school system. The principal chief and vice chief are elected for four year terms with tribal council members being elected every two years.

In related news we have it from insiders that Man Mountain, the guy who has sat at the parking garage entrance at Jack London Square for several years got some treatment at an outpatient facility and seems to be doing better, or at least cleaner, after a shower. So somebody did some outreach and took care of the fellow.


RED RED WINE

The 24th annual Island Art and Wine Festival held forth for two days on Park Street from Encinal to Buena Vista in an fest that presented more booths of greater and lesser interest, but less interesting music on fewer stages. Rosenblum Cellars and other local wines were conspicuously absent from the beverage tents. Notwithstanding those nits, the celebration was well-attended on a sunny Saturday and an overcast Sunday.

And at our Island fests, there is always a dab of the unusual, making it all worthwhile.

Highlights musically were the energetic and sartorial swing band Stompy Jones and our favorite jazz locals, Ben Luis and Lee Waterman with Jazz Caliente. Also the various booth musicians always add something extra. Here a fellow plays an unearthly sounding 14th Century "Nykleharp". An additional 7 strings beneath the fretboard provide depth by vibrating sympathetically to certain chords.

But wussup with all the "tribute bands"? Somebody needs to drop by Gilman Street or the Stork Club sometime. You want Blues? None either day. Go to the Fifth Amendment to hear something new. We really do not need to hear Julia and Blackbird yet again. And again. And again.

All of this vicious effort by Developers to turn the Island into a block of Fine Living Beside the Bay only results in turning the Feast of the Island into endless plates of cottage cheese. Cottage Cheese with mugging and methamphetamine factories.

Anyway it was grand to run into longtime neighbors on the Park with the skate-rat teens gathered in shirtless knots, all scheming how to obtain some illicit cash from the casual strollers.

One enterprising fellow offered to trade his pants for ours. Right away.

Nice to know some things never change.

 

IF I HAD A BOAT I'D SAIL OUT ON THE OCEAN WITH MY PONY

The Island earns some distinction in welcoming the largest and fastest ship in Coast Guard history to neighboring Coast Guard Island. The Berthold bears serial 001, making it the first of its kind in the cutter class. The ship will officially enter service Aug. 4. for law enforcement, search-and-rescue missions, and working military operations with the Navy.

Old salts from all over the world will be attending the invitation-only commissioning ceremony on the 4th.


HE'S A PINBALL WIZARD GOT A SUPPLE WRIST

The Island has only one or two curiosities from the halcyon days of Neptune Beach, but one that is distinctly Island has to be the rolling Pacific Pinball Museum.

Pinball is one of those things that either fascinates you no end, or you just don't get it. Sort of like Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Incredibly Strange Wrestling, Pinball has collected aficionados and devoted fans all over.

As a function of this ardor we have a PR from the mellifluously named Lisa Bulwinkl who announces the 2nd annual Pacific Pinball Exposition to be held at the Marin County Civic Center Exhibition Hall in San Rafael.

Don't worry about ticket availability: the show is October 3-5, 2008.

All right, all kidding aside, here's the scoop.

Hundreds of pinball machines and amusement devices from past to present will be made available to the public from private collectors. There will be an emphasis on vintage machines, an incredible collection of rare games, and a large variety of modern pinball machines all ready to play without using coins. This family-friendly expo will highlight the historical and cultural significance of pinball on American culture.

The Pacific Pinball Exhibition will feature exhibits on the History of Pinball, the Science and Physics of Pinball, and a special section on the Art of Pinball. On display will be the world's only transparent pinball machine, and one of the first in the major Art Pinball Machine series, William Wiley's "Punball, Only One Earth," which made more than a half a million dollars at its unveiling earlier this year.

For details visit www.pacificpinball.org.

DAY OF THE LORDS

The citizens of the People's Republic of St. Charles are just now settling back in after their lives were disrupted quite suddenly by a massive re-pipe effort inflicted by the Hanford-Fraud Property Management Firm with scarce notice. A few apartments had not experienced hot water for about a year, and appeals met with deaf ears, until one gal called the City for an inspection.

Seems all 18 units failed with a mark of "substandard", earning a nice $400 per day fine until the issue was fixed.

So, instead of responding promptly to tenant complaints, and fixing 3 apartments, the landlord wound up paying for 18 apartments with plumbers being trucked in from 800 miles away to stay in hotels for a week as every single hot and cold water pipe in the three story building got replaced.

Clearly this sort of thing takes planning. Clearly this sort of thing takes arrangements. Clearly this sort of thing needs supervision. In a fit of passive aggressive anger, the Management Company refused to notify tenants that this massive construction effort would take place until 24 hours before entry, with some people not discovering their walls would be torn out with claw hammers and sawsalls until fully three days AFTER work had begun.

Not only that, the sole representative of this magnificent institution, the live-in manager, left the premises, dropping the keys into the hands of a tenant on Monday in the early AM, saying, "You're in charge."

So the tenant was left running up and down three stories, supervising an army of 18 workmen tearing out walls, ripping out pipes, inserting new pipes and soldering in a toxic fume with housecats howling and scrambling for all security under beds because that nice little 24 notice arrived on Saturday afternoon with no time to place housepets in kennels.

And because the live-in manager earns no salary there, the tenant got no remuneration for 60 hours of work and time off from his usual job.

At the end of it all, the plumbers left and most of the holes had been patched and dust settled on all like the sad dawn of Mallarme's Herodiade. The timorous eyes of frightened ladies peered over plastic draped wallboards to see if all was safe to come out again.

Unfortunately, no one thought to pay anyone to paint over the rough patches, so the task was left to the tenants.

Paint your own walls, damn ye.

We could go on with additional outrages, but we end by simply recommending one avoid any and all properties mismanaged by such a clutch of fools, knaves and pirates as Hanford-Fraud.

SIGNALING UFO'S WITH MY LIGHTER

It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Summertime has arrived with its vagary of weather that so puts off people from LA and East Coasters. One day its 80 degrees and oppressive, the next the sky remains leaden, overcast and definitely cool. All the dahlias are exploding by the Old Fence and the gladiolas are erupting like gladiators in red, maroon and orange spikes.

Pedro, Javier and Occasional Quentin have recovered from their wine and fire escapade of a few weeks ago. Pedro got bandaged up by Suzie, the bartender at the Old Same Place and Padriac stood the warrior a free beer. Javier returned to limp about his garden on his mended leg, broken during the New Year's Flyover Podcast where Strange de Jim loaned his hammer to great effect. He found some aloe and sat in the shade all gooped up over his burns, a year older and even more uncomfortable while Rachel performed an Isadora Duncan thing in front of the wildly applauding dahlias.

Occasional Quentin simply got drunk again on cheap red wine.

As for the ruined porch, Andre and Marlene got some scrap lumber from the back and simply laid it over the hole in the porch with its charred edges. Tipitina and Rolf let the air out of Mr. Howitzer's RV in back while Bonkers and Wickiwup barked merrily, and then called him to tell him vandals had done this thing, so Mr. Howitzer, incensed at the outrage, never noticed the blackened porch roof or the missing sofa or the hole or the fact that his house nearly burned down. So Mr. Howitzer stomped back to his own abode with the stone lions in front and the overwrought iron fence to call for a tow. He then tried to get his attorney, Harry Snappers, to rewrite the lease to include a clause requiring tenants to "defend Owner's property with Vigilance in extremis te Mortuum (defend unto death), but Harry wouldn't do it. Besides, Mr. Howitzer's Latin came from a dictionary and was not very good.

Markus treed the towing company man up in his cab, barking and snapping while all the neighbors stared and shook their heads. Eventually, Suan took Markus for a walk to the Official Dogwalkers Park where he terrorized all the poodles in the fenced-in area while Suan and Sarah shared nips from a brandy flask on a bench there at Crab Cove.

It was a fine sunny afternoon for all.

Some people think "What a pretty little Island, with its quaint 1950's charm", but the folks at Marlene and Andre's squat know better.

As the night fell and creeped forward with its customary sonata of firecrackers, gunshots, sirens and unintelligible screaming from two blocks away, Andre switched off the humming amps and put away his guitar after his band had once again destroyed another Joy Division song. Piedro, Jesus, Marsha, Xavier and Pahrump lay stacked in their bunks. Markus thumped his tail happily and laid his head on his paws under Pedro's cot in the closet. He, Markus, had terrorized a towtruck man, been taken on a bounding walk of happiness and sniffing, and had bitten several poodles nearly in half at the dog park with great excitement among the humans; it had been a good day.

So, with Jake signing off the late night House of Blues radio hour, the radio now going silent with a snick as Marlene turned the dial, the eerie sound of the through-passing train at Jack London Waterfront drifted across the estuary and otherwise, all was still.

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

 

 

 

 

JULY 20 2008

TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS

This week's headline foto comes from the former Langalist, now Windows Secrets Newsletter for technical professionals in the computer field. Meet Gabriela.

Fred Langa, a truely extraordinary human being, realized that those of us privileged to own and operate computers own a disproportionate part of the world's wealth and so have an obligation to share what we have with the less fortunate.

In the words of the Newsletter:

"Each month, we send a full year of sponsorship to a different child. Your contributions in July are helping us to sponsor Gabriela, a 4-year-old girl who lives in Mexico. Aid to Gabriela and her village is provided by Children International, which has been helping impoverished childern and their families since 1936 and now reaches more than 300,000 youngsters around the globe. We also sponsor kids through Save the Children and other respected agencies."

One small step for kind Geeks, one giant leap for Mankind.

ITS ALL TOO MUCH

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Grey overcast skies, dense with morning high fog and rife with afternoon firesmoke have been our heavens this past week. The National Guard and firemen from far New Zealand have flown in to fight the fires that have devoured the sweet woods of California for this past month.

Down by Shoreline the Squat at Andre and Marlenes has been cleaning up after their near escape from fire-death.

All over California folks are turning up the drive, unlocking the door and setting down their bags with sighs of either relief or dispair with the sharp tang of burned wood in the nostrils, each according to his or her luck and fortune. Either the house survived or it did not. And among the survivors the hugs and tears.

Because the Island-Life offices were suddenly and at short notice overwhelmed by a massive plumbing effort in the building which required all equipment and personnel, including the Sandwich Lady, to be wrapped in plastic this weeks entry shall be truncated.

Next week we promise to be back in the saddle again.

Until then, have a great week.

O, and kill your landlord, kill your landlord. That's just the way it is on the Island.

JULY 13, 2008

OH MSSR SOLEIL!

This week's headline photo comes from the Tassajara Monastery in the Los Padres National Forest and is a shot at midday of the sun fighting through the murky air.

July 5th, a general evacuation order went into place for the world-renowned Monastery, which raises operating revenue by running a Zen retreat for paying guests. As guests began to leave under black skies ashes rained down onto the grounds.

Up to July 7th, 22 monks and volunteers worked clearing brush, setting sprinkler systems, and wrapping most of the buildings in fire-retardant foil. That day, the evacuation orders became mandatory and all 22 headed out, with five people electing to turn back when informed that "once out, stay out."

The five who remained were Abbot Steve Stucky, Director David Zimmerman, Mako Voelkel, Graham Ross and Colin Gipson.

Incident Command withdrew personnel from the area and stated they would not send anyone up the road which was by then cut off such that no one can get in or out and the fire was 1 mile from the grounds. IC had requested dental records from the five for postmortem identification. The Captain believed "it is almost certain the fire will visit there."

According to a local witness in Jamestown, the Tassajara Road was swept on the ninth from the previous day's big run boiling out of one of the Church Creek side canyons (on the saddle at the old Black Butte dozer trail, and also spotting deep into Calaboose Cyn). It burned up and over Black Black Butte into Rocky Creek with an enormous dark column visible from Salinas and probably well beyond, moving at about thirty miles per hour. IC pulled their command post back entirely from Tassajara Road.

Wildfire entered the grounds of Tassajara Zen Center in the afternoon at 2:15 p.m.

The USFS Branch Director said July 10 that helitack took a look at Tassajara in the afternoon, fire skirted the buildings and noted all were intact, and there were people milling about.

Apparently, the five were able to work through the firestorm, putting out hotspots as the fire raged past them, moving too quickly to let the structures ignite, or, as some had feared, bake the buildings and inhabitants in a foil-wrapped oven.

The monk fire crew kept watch through the night for embers falling from the hills above.

July 11, contact was established with the monks there, as the area had been rendered fire-safe despite a small meadow fire below the barn. All fuel had been burned up and the Monastery stood as an island of green among miles upon miles of charred former woodlands. At least two outbuildings not wrapped in foil were lost. But all five escaped unharmed.

More details can be obtained at http://www.sfzc.org/tassajara/. As the organization is a non-profit, tax-deductible contributions are welcome.

In other areas, the introduction of National Guard troops redeployed from Iraq appears to be having some success in fighting the over 300 wildfires that remain of the over 1,700 started by freak thunderstorms.

THERE IS NO SEX IN VIOLENCE

It's all right honey; I'll wash the dishes AND take out the garbage. Just don't kill anybody.

A driver who struck and killed a pedestrian Saturday told police that he intentionally ran over the 78-year-old man because he was angry over family problems, investigators say.

Dionisio Roxas Molina, 36, also said that he deliberately tried to hit a woman with his SUV just moments before he struck George Marceline in the 2000 block of Shore Line Drive at 5:30 a.m., police said.

Molina is expected to face murder and attempted murder charges when he is arraigned today in Alameda County Superior Court.

Along with allegedly running down and killing Marceline, Molina is accused of punching a female detective in the face while he was being interviewed Wednesday at the Alameda police station, as well as assaulting another detective.

Alameda police Lt. Art Fuentes declined to provide details about the family problems that Molina claimed made him upset.

Molina was driving a green 1997 Jeep Cherokee on Saturday morning when he hopped a curb and continued traveling on the pedestrian walkway, hitting light poles and stop signs before he tried to run over the woman, police said.

Police officers dispatched to the neighborhood found the body of Marceline — who had been taking his regular morning walk — lying in the 2000 block of Shore Line Drive.

Molina's SUV was parked across from the nearby AMF Bowling Center and facing the direction from which it had been traveling.

Molina was still in the driver's seat, police said.

Molina did not appear drunk and initially claimed that he had no memory of what happened, Alameda police traffic Sgt. Ted Horlbeck said, although he apparently manifested confusion and disorientation such that he was sent to a facility for observation and testing. He initially stated he had no recollection of the incident.

As a result, investigators first thought Molina may have had an undiagnosed medical or mental issue that could have contributed to the accident and so brought him to Alameda Hospital, where Molina remained under observation until Wednesday.

Marceline was a retired employee of the Del Monte food company. His survivors include an adult son.

OLIVER! OLIVER!

Wussup with these kids today?

A 10-year-old boy was among four Oakland youths who carried out a string of residential burglaries during June stealing laptops, iPods and other electronic equipment, investigators say.

The youths would travel into the Island on bicycles during daylight hours and target properties where no one was home, making off with items that were easily carried in backpacks.

The group includes two brothers, who are ages 10 and 15, and their 12-year-old sister.

The third boy is 15 years old and their friend.

Names of minors are withheld from reporters.

When police searched their homes following their July 4 arrest, they found up to 50 items that allegedly were stolen in at least six Alameda burglaries.

"Items were everywhere," Alameda police detective Sgt. Jill Ottaviano said today. "We found stuff under beds, in dresser drawers. It was incredible."

Among the victims was a NASA employee, whose laptop for work was stolen.

The youths were caught after they broke into a home in the 3200 block of Buena Vista Avenue, where they used a crescent wrench to remove a window screen and then forced open a locked window, Ottaviano said.

Along with the Buena Vista Avenue case, Island investigators are linking the juveniles to break-ins on Adams Street, Broadway, Washington Court, and Versailles and Lincoln avenues. The burglaries occurred between about the middle of June and July 4.

The bicycles the youths used probably also were stolen, police said.

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED

Temps reached 110 degrees in Concord this past July 8 and the fire crews cursed their luck in countless blazing ravines, but at the Sleeptrain Pavilion, an icon of American culture drove up the temperature to muy caliente for a sold out adoring crowd come to witness the first visit in twenty years. Unlike the previous show across the Bay on Sunday, Stevie Wonder opened out in top form, well on time, and presented an invigorating and well appreciated show with zest, with humor and with style.

Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan. A premature birth is blamed on his blindness. His family later moved to Detroit, where he established himself as a child prodigy, learning piano at 7 and mastering it completely by 9. He also taught himself to play the harmonica and the drums, and had mastered both by age ten. By age 11, he had picked up bass. Shortly after that, Motown founder Berry Gordy signed him on.

His first records, collections of jazz instrumentals under a jokey pseudonym, failed to garner attention, although copies are extremely valuable collectors items today.

Under his new showname he racked up a series of major hits, including My Cherie Amour (1969) and Signed, Sealed, Delivered (1970). From then on, there was no stopping the man who went on to record more than thirty top ten hits, win 26 Grammy Awards (a record for a solo artist), plus one for lifetime achievement, won an Academy Award for Best Song and been inducted into both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Halls of Fame.

There is not a single popular musician or vocalist in America living today who does not pay some kind of tribute to his genius.

So what have you been doing in your spare time?

Around 1987 Mr. Wonder ceased touring as extensively after his magnum opus Songs in the Key of Life (1976), which makes his return to the Bay Area a very welcome return. A brief series of concerts in 1999 were panned by critics and fans due to overlong opening act warmups and generally lackluster performances.

Tuesday night, however, the master was in top form, with thousands of people under the pavilion and packed onto the lawn cheering, singing along and dancing.

Setlist resembled previous shows in Chicago and Sunday night here, with a cameo by his now adult and very lovely daughter preceding "Isn't she Lovely".

1. As If You Read My Mind
2. Master Blaster
3. Did I Hear You Say You Love Me
4. All I Do
5. Knocks Me Off My Feet
6. Higher Ground
7. Spain
8. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing
9. Visions
10. Livin’ for the City
11. Golden Lady
12. Creeping
13. Keep Fooling Yourself, Baby Girl
14. Stevie’s daughter, Aisha Morris sings I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life
15. Isn’t She Lovely / Ribbon in the Sky
16. Overjoyed
17. My Cheri Amour
18. Signed, Sealed, Delivered
19. Sir Duke
20. I Wish
21. Do I Do
22. I Just Called to Say I Love You
23. For Once in My Life
24. Uptight

25. Superstition

The band, typically top-notch jazz musicians, consisted of, besides Stevie's own double rack of keyboards plus piano, another two people on synth, two full drumsets plus a percussionist, two lead and rhythm guitars, dual horn section and fat man on five-string bass.
The sound was full and complex, never muddy, few stage buzzes and entirely professional. Vocals sounded energetic and cut clearly through the instrumentation. Kudos to the female drummer set as centerpiece.

Stevie himself remained ultra-smooth, collected, enthused and full of his human warmth and self-deprecating style that makes the man stand out among a galaxy of pretenders.

According to some critics his current material, or at least the opening stuff from more recent albums, lacks some of the pizzazz from his earlier Motown stuff, but we look forward to the two projects he announced now in the works, a memorial to his mother and Eyes of Wonder, songs about living with blindness, one of which he performed Tuesday (Creeping).

JUST ENOUGH FOR THE CITY

It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Because of the murky skies, air quality index warnings, and the general state of conflagration in California, our messengers have had the devil of a time getting through to the Mayor of Lake Woebegon. In fact all of our messenger pigeons and carrier hamsters have been grounded and they have been grumbling in the back room there, playing cards and drinking far too much sarsparilla soda. And harder things, we suspect, for when the lockers got their fumigation, several empty bottles of Old Crow rolled out.

There began accusations and recriminations and it all ended in a terrible sordid mess with pigeon feathers flying everywhere. Javier wound up with a wound that looked suspiciously like a hamster bite on his ankle.

All we wanted to do was acquire Sister City status and grow old with grace and avuncular wisdom, dispensing elegant words of sage advice while inviting the worlds most talented folks to come do their thing. To go to work wearing bright red tennis shoes. To have beautiful Scandanavian women swoon at the sound of ones voice, perform little showtunes before adoring crowds and keep company with the likes of dashing Fred Neuman, Master of Sounds. To create a wonderful world filled with Wally's boat, the Norwegian bachelor farmers, Pastor Inquist, the Krepsbachs and the entire Tollerud family inhabiting a sort of Yoknapatawpha County with Lutherans that would reach out across the grain-waved miles of Heartland to the dim and distant farmhouses of California.

Instead of all that and really making something of ourselves, something of which a mother could be proud, we just got old. THAT part we did all right.

Someone in the staff had a birthday inflicted upon him with cake and all the usual stuff. He even got a few presents. It was Javier. Since the surprise was actually part of a regular staff meeting, the most beautiful woman in the room simply left after her part of the agenda was through. So Javier, who is hypoglycemic, was left with melting ice cream and a plate of suger-rich German chocolate cake and pain in his ankles and nothing to look forward to that night.

Javier had gotten a bottle of Jack Daniels at the party, so Jose suggested they go out to the beach and drink it. Which they did. And it was very fine, digging your toes into the sand, the ocean a carpet of diamonds spreading out to the horizon where Babylon slung its own ropes of jewels over the sable hills. Jose had a roach and after a while it was great signaling passing UFO's with the lighter, as if one could inhabit a rock song by acting out all the motions and get all the emotions energetically secondhand.

That's when Occasional Quentin rambled along with a five gallon jug. The jug being heavy, and the road long and to what end no one knows, the three partook liberally of this new potion so as to lighten the man's burden.

And because he had been bereft of company, now he had some, and Quentin exhorted this act of companionship, for we do it all for Company, as the wise old Beckett once wrote.

For the world is hard and cold and cruel and full of idiots, but the sky at that moment was a backlit canopy, a black blanket with holes punched in it and they were living in a rock and roll song.

They wandered up to the porch of the Shambles Squat more or less ruled over by Marlene and Andre for a sofa reposed there upon the rotten boards that Mr. Howitzer had refused to repair for some years such that the sofa, an erstwhile bus seat -- had sunk nearly vertical to the floor level there. And there it was that Jose attempted to light the now long extinct roach without success until Quentin demanded of him this lighter and this roach. He managed but a brief inhale before the roach descended between the floorboards to the weeds and detritus below, there to glow like a patient mind or a cancer for a time and they returned to their wine of which there remained plenty and the hour nigh to witching.

Thus it was that the trio found themselves as the horses of the night advances. "Lente currite noctis equi! The stars move still; time runs; the clock will strike; the devil will come . . ."

Suddenly, in the quiet watches of the night, Jose leapt up with smoking pants. The bus seat was on fire!

Frantically, they beat at the flames coming up from below with an old blanket, a burlap bag and hatfulls of sand carried by Quentin from the edge where Mr. Howitzer had let the ground cover revert to wild. The fire began to eat at the floorboards now with a casual industry, like a moderatly hungry man demolishing a steak to the door's threshold.

Quentin informed them that the back door was blocked by Mr. Howitzer's now somewhat redundant RV due to the current gas crisis. It was parked illegally, but this was California and Mr. Howitzer was the landlord.

If the fire took hold there, none of the fifteen people inside could escape. The lower windows all had exterior security bars bolted to them.

The three threw themselves at the fire with a will as the hours ticked by, hauling bag of sand after sand -- said RV had been parked on top of the garden hose deliberately so as to prevent watering the Recession Garden and potentially high water bills.

O Mr. Howitzer was a frugal man!

And right at that moment his house on Otis was on fire with only three misfits in rags fighting the effort. A blast of smoke laden with plastic ash hit Javier in the face from the coals of the former sofa, making his eyes burn and his throat contract, but he kept on at it with atavistic frenzy.

Smoke rose to the upper patio roof and leaked around the edges before ashes fell back onto them. If they didn't get this under control, the upper story would go any moment.

Javier ran down to the water, jumped in with the blanket, then ran back up the slope and to the astonishment of the other two lept into the middle of the blaze stamping his boots. Getting the idea, both Quentin and Jose ran down to the water to come back again and stamp about in the hissing smokes of the now dying fire. Their weight broke the structure of the fire away from the rotten timbers.

As they worked the long minutes into the long hours, the smoke entered each stich of clothing, into their pours and their ears and their lungs. The smoke became them and they became it and there was nothing but the twisting spiril of work and labor and fire and nothing ever existed, nothing ever had existed before this and nothing would matter but this gritty particle air that had become themselves.

As the sun edged over the blood-red horizon the three continued pouring sand onto the now subsiding embers.

Thus it was that Javier watched the sun rise with a throat like sandpaper, filthy as hell itself, covered with the nastiest of burns in every degree, his eyebrows entirely gone, sprawled in the hole that once had maintained the house sofa, now a tangle of wire springs and still warm metal frame.

His companions were not much better off.

So it was that a bleary Andre stepped out of the door and paused at the edge of a hole with his coffee cup in hand. He looked up at the darkened patio roof, which was not how he remembered it from the day before, and he looked down into the hole where Javier lay in battered exhaustion -- instead of the sofa he clearly remember had reposed there before -- and at the blackened bodies of Quentin and Jose who lay like fallen angels in some distorted version of Milton's Paradise Lost.

He, Andre, poured the remainder of his coffee cup down into the hole and listening for a sizzle, heard none, shook his head and, closing the door, returned inside with a deep sigh.

"Another day older and deeper in debt," croaked Jose with cracked lips.

Javier looking at the beautiful sun, could only agree half-way; his throat felt like sandpaper. Some days its a victory just to be alive.

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


 

JULY 6, 2008

THIS IS OUR COUNTRY

Its July and time to pull out all those John Mellencamp CD's. The Boss may still be the Boss, but the boy from Seymour, Indiana remains defiantly un-conflicted, unpretentious, devoid of nuances, and thoroughly Heartland America. You can say what you want about Mellancamp, but nobody can call the man a fake.

He also was the first performing artist to speak out against the Iraq Occupation and the first -- and perhaps as of this date the only -- artist to perform for soldiers disabled in combat (Walter Reed Hospital).

This week's headline photo is an unusual shot of the Golden Gate Bridge shot from West to East, taken from the top of Wolfback Ridge in Sausalito as the fog rolled in. Thanks to Joanne for this one.

AMERICAN TUNE

These days with all that has happened with our National flirtation with Fascism coming to an end, there is a great absorbtion with things of genuine Americana after so much of our culture has been hijacked by folks mouthing the words of patriotism and all whatnot for political gain, leaving the heart sick for truth of any kind.

The thing to remember is that there remains something great and beautiful about this grand experiment called "America" and this experiment is resilient enough to survive any number of sordid passages.

Here on the Island, we host the annual Mayor's Parade each July 4th, which is the Biggest Little Parade in America. How can anyone resist such hyperbole as that?

The Motorcycle detachment of the IPD typically introduces the City goverment in symbolic fashion by driving around in circles.

Then follows Her Honor, the Mayor Beverly.

Here we see Councilperson Frank enjoying himself for a change.

Note Councilperson's matching outfit and car.

Councilperson Doug seems to be working over the budget here. Yes. We do know its hopeless.

Alice is our hometown baby on the County Board of Supervisors. Important to note that all cars used here by the politicos were enviro-friendly electric or alternative fuel vehicals, including this sporty number. Alice, you are just soooo cool!

Here's an ebulliant gal from O'Connell Volvo, latterly shifted over from Swedish behomeths to electric plugins.

The Island is proud to host its own host Poet Laureate, Mary Rudge. Here she is in Dionysiac regalia. Salve Vates!

The local gymnastics school had a float. Don't you wish you could do this again?

Peter, the proprietor of McGraths, shouted at us, "Sure hope this stuff comes off in the morning!" O Peter!

Never saw such a pretty worm in a can of garbage as this. In keeping with this year's them of Environmental Conservation.

From the local tiki-lounge bar. These guys actually did a pretty rocking version of Have Nagila. Meshugga means "crazy" in Yiddish. The small print reads, "Songs of the chosen surfers."

The Island DogWalkers try to leave a green "paw print" on the earth.

Proof we don't make this stuff up. Look at all them puppy burgers ready to be slapped on the barbie next November!

 

Code Pink got a warm reception.

 

The County Sheriffs.

Electoral candidate.

No parade complete without cheerleaders.

For those who gave more than enough.

The always popular and talented Great Hercules. Patrick, the rider, may have some credit due as well. . . .

Back in fine form, an Island tradition.


The Pennyfarthing made several appearances among the many alternative fuel vehicles in this parade.

Members of the Dionysian Club presented the most well-reasoned parade display.

Our photog took over 200 pictures this year of the parade. Sorry if you did not appear here, but then, there is always next year. Happy Fourth!

FREEDOM'S ROAD

Freedom's Road does not include the pedestrian walkway above the curb, not when you are driving a jeep, but that did not deter Dionisio Molina, who drove along the path that edges Shoreline Drive along the Strand until he hit and killed a 78 year old man at 5:30am on Saturday morning, continuing on after hitting his victim to strike several stop signs and light poles before being arrested.

Molina is being held on suspicion of felony hit and run and vehicular manslaughter.

ROCKING IN THE USA

With sadness and a few tears we bid farewell to Mike Powers, helm of the Sunday Night Jam at KFOG which has provided the backdrop soundtrack to our efforts here in the IL offices ever since 2002 when Mike started his notable gig. Mike heads to SOCAL for a full time opportunity there in LA that surely will enhance his professional portfolio. He has been a sharp jab in the ribs for the normally staid KFOG and we are very sorry to see him go, but wish him all the best.

SANDY THE FIREWORKS ARE HAILING OVER LITTLE EDEN TONIGHT

Better late than never for the State Department, but then we all knew our government is rather slow on the uptake at all times. Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa and winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993, was formally removed from the official "Terrorist Watch List" this past week.

Mr. Mandela is 90 years of age as of July 19.

Mandela and other members of the African National Congress have been on the list because of their fight against South Africa's apartheid regime, which gave way to majority rule in 1994.

Apartheid was the nation's system of legalized racial segregation that was enforced by the National Party government between 1948 and 1994.

The bill gives the State Department and the Homeland Security Department the authority to waive restrictions against ANC members.

"He had no place on our government's terror watch list, and I'm pleased to see this bill finally become law," said Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

South Africa's apartheid government had designated the ANC a terrorist organization during the group's decades-long struggle against whites-only rule. Its members have been barred from receiving U.S. visas without special permission, and the bill Bush signed will lift that requirement, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with F. W. de Klerk, the South African president and National Party leader who worked with Mandela to end apartheid. Mandela replaced him as president in 1994 and served until 1999.

He spent 27 years in prison on charges that included sabotage committed while he spearheaded the struggle against apart-hate. He was released in 1990.

ONE NIGHT IN AMERICA

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The roiling smoky skies continue as the fires rage in other parts of Alta California. National Guard troops have been called in by Der Governator, but those guys need a couple weeks of training before being sent to the front lines of the fireline. The town of Big Sur has been evacuated and nearly 100 miles of coastal Route 1 closed for the duration.

In the Sierra, large portions of the PCT have been closed due to fire. There is talk of closing the National Parks entirely.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area is looking at the Mother of All Heat Waves about to slam into here some two months earlier than usual, with triple digits forcast for Thursday.

All the concern didn't put a stop to the usual July 4th Celebrations around here, including the Annual Mayor's Parade, loads of BBQ, and scads of families buzzing with children down by the Strand on a terrifically sunny weekend.

The Island-Life T-shirt table got put up again, which always leads to interesting conversations down there. Fellow stopped by and bought a shirt after a long talk with Javier.

This is his story. And it begins sometime shortly after the Bush Administration seized control of the White House via electoral shenanigans.

His son, a bit of a trouble-maker and n'er do well, really got in the thick of things after being charged with felony hit and run. Seems the guy sort of knocked a street sign out of the asphalt one night, much as teenagers are wont to do, and a neighbor called him in as he stood there looking at the downed sign, wondering what to do about this problem.

With this trouble laid on top of others, poor economy, bad education, lousy job prospects, dad figured it was time to shape up the boy and send him off to the Army where the fellow just might learn some discipline, but more importantly a trade of some value before clocking out his three year enlistment.

Boy drops into the Recruiters, takes test, does wonderfully well, and off to boot camp he goes.

Thats when a group of murderous yahoos hijacked four airplanes and rammed two of them into the World Trade Center, with a third managing to scuff up the Pentagon in a serious way despite all the Shiny Pebbles and missle Umbrellas.

Several other murderous yahoos of a different stripe responded to this event by invading a couple Middle-eastern countries, one of which has been proven to have been entirely innocent of any shenanigans, albeit the leader there was something of a murderous yahoo himself, and the upshot was that over three thousand more Americans died in combat as well as nearly a half million Iraqis who only wanted to defend their country against false charges and occupation.

So the man is standing there looking down at all the anti-Bush stuff on the table, shaking his head and saying, "My boy is now in his third tour of duty in Iraq. He is a Ranger."

Rangers, for those of you out of the loop, are the elite Green Berets who traditionally do LRP stuff behind enemy lines, the most dangerous and violent of activities.

It was a hot, oppressive day in 1776 when a group of guys got together to draft a document that would turn out to be truely revolutionary.

They were not supermen, not giants, not gods, but only a collection of middle class tradesmen and farmers and printers, at best a bit more well-read than the average, for all of them knew something of Locke, Hume, Hegel, and a few other rationalists from whose ideas they liberally borrowed. After all, they were the ideas of the age, including the novel idea that all men are born equal and endowed with rights that are inalienable.

No one really knew how this experiment in novel government would turn out or what it would evolve into. Some of them, a bit less imaginative than Thomas Jefferson perhaps, retained an Old World patrician view, figuring that some sort of aristocracy would surely keep things together. Others, like Jefferson, Ben Franklin, George Washington were much more pragmatic. It is what it is; let it grow.

By the time they met together that hot, sultry day in July, they knew that there was no going back. Either revolt or face the scaffold.

Hamilton, such a fence-sitter that it would not be surprising to find that he was a flaming bi-sexual, endorsed elitism, invented the modern banking system, and repudiated monarchies in general.

Patrick Henry filled everyone with the ardent flame of language and impelled everyone forward by force of will and words. "I care not what others may choose, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

What a gangly crew it was! And what an unruly, broiling country their efforts in saving their own skins created.

Its a country that is not without its faults, but like the People's Republic of St. Charles, where Island-Life keeps its offices, the People remain beautiful even if Management remains the shits.

The man wound up buying a shirt from the table and Javier wished him all the best, and for his son a speedy and safe return. It was commonly agreed you do not bring Democracy to anyone at the point of a gun; the people have to want it. Notwithstanding a few nasty episodes, this military remains enviably the most disciplined and honorable of any other in history. Not just in the world for now, but in all of recorded history. Not a bad record.

A series of weddings took place this weekend and more about that anon.

Right now, Mike Powers is signing off for the last time and the House of Blues is being introduced by Jake. The night is dark and low and the impending heat is already pressing the air. From across the water comes the long ululation of the train passing through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront as it has done each night for many years.

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

JUNE 29, 2008

WHERE DID YOU SLEEP LAST NIGHT/ IN THE PINES IN THE PINES

This week's headline comes from the fractious grove of trees disputed by an increasingly heavy-handed UC Administration and a group of dedicated tree-sitters.

For the record we came across this bizarre creation of UC by accident while en route to Death Cab for Cutie at the Greek. Strolling along the sidewalk we were shunted suddenly by barriers and policemen armed with guns and full-length riot batons -- the nasty long lead-filled ones. For some quarter of a mile concertgoers were treated to a double-row of barricades blocking the entire northbound section of Piedmont Avenue. Uphill from the barricades, where police stood in pairs every one hundred feet, a fifteen-foot chainlink fence stood topped with razor wire. In the grove itself industrial equipment with "cherry-pickers" used to grab the careless sitter on the occasion stood among the nearly one hundred year old trees.

At night, blazing spotlights illuminated the "nests" of the various protesters.

The effect of the spectacle evoked the old East-West border between the two Germanys before the fall of the Wall. The same 'no-man's land", the same razor wire, the same spotlights, the same guards.

Welcome to America in the New World Order.

MISTER .357

Times sure have changed on the Island where the occasional dogbite and spraypainted van occupied Officer O'Madhauen.

According to police a teenager pointed a loaded and cocked .9 millimeter handgun at another boy's chest and said, "Well, now I'm going to kill you," during a street robbery Monday night.

A 17-year-old suspect was taken into custody a short time later and investigators said they are now checking whether the teen may be linked to other robberies, including cases in Oakland and other cities.

The teenager was booked at juvenile hall and faces robbery, possession of stolen property and other charges.

The suspect approached the two victims about 10:35 p.m. as they sat at a bus stop at Santa Clara Avenue and Willow Street, Alameda police detective Sgt. Kevin McNiff said today.

The victims, age 17, recognized the suspect, but are not friends.

The teenager said, "What you got?" and "You think I'm playing?" before pulling the stainless steel .9 millimeter Ruger handgun from his pocket, according to police.

Realizing he was about to be robbed, one boy dropped his iPod into nearby bushes, which prompted the teen to cock the gun, point it at his chest, and threaten to kill him, McNiff said.

The teenager fled with the iPod, along with a cell phone and cash from the victims, police said.

Investigators used a 2007 high school yearbook to identify the teen and arrested him at his Island residence a short time later.

Officers found a weapon matching the one used during the robbery, as well as the iPod and other items, in a box that was hidden behind a dresser in the teen's bedroom.

The products of our Public School system: hiding a gun and stolen property behind a dresser? This kid needs serious lessons in how to be a criminal.

In other news the second high-ranking Island Unified School District official in a month has issued their own walking papers. Luz Cazares is stepping down from Chief Financial Officer to join the Pleasanton USD. Luz was employed for three years as the person responsible for oversight over financial matters here and was the person who alerted the Island to the 120 million dollar shortfall to be caused by the Governator's budget.

LAKE OF FIRE

Its no secret here that California is literally under fire. The recent heat wave ended under a chill coverlet of smoke that stretched to the limits of the horizon here from the over one thousand wild fires now raging largely out of control from Sacto down to Bakersfield. An unusual dry thunderstorm sent thousands of strikes down into tinder-dry country suffering from drought forcing Der Governator to declare a State of Emergency, call in the National Guard and request assistance directly from the President of the United States. This morning the Bushie declared a federal State of Emergency here.

Down in Santa Cruz, a couple fires appeared to be more or less under control, while in the Los Padres Forest, two major fires -- the Basin fire and the Indian Complex fire destroyed 16 homes and 15 outbuildings as well as 87,000 acres of woodland.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued Severe Air Quality conditions, urging people to remain indoors and people with respiratory problems to take extraordinary precautions.

The heavy smoke has even effected operations at SFO. Wednesday the airport was on ground delay for 17 hours, from 8 a.m. through 1 a.m. Thursday.

”Delays were in the hour range throughout the majority of the day, but then later last night they did increase into the two hour range,” said SFO duty manager Linda Perry.

Visibility was so bad that landings were cut from 60 per hour down to 30.

In total, as of Sunday afternoon, over 550 square miles of California have burned and over 50 buildings have been destroyed.

On a personal note, our Marin Desk for Island-Life was forced to abandon vacation plans while staying in the famous Tassajara Zen retreat in the Los Padres Forest. Folks there began clearing brush and vegetation touching buildings when fire officials arrived to announce a general evacuation of all residents there, including the monks who maintain the facility. Ashes began falling on the roofs and the grounds as folks scrambled to their cars with knapsacks and sleeping bags.

Folks reported the sky turning dark, the sun blotting out, and, on departure, looking back to see a solid wall of black underscored by a nasty orange glow stretching across the horizon.

The Marin Desk personnel are all buying up leak-hoses to lay on their roofs at home, for this summer promises to be a hot one all over and acres of Marin are clad with dense broom and untended shrubbery.

In other bad news, that snafu on the infamous Nimitz which stalled traffic from 9:15am to 7pm was caused when a Victor Mercado, driving a Waste Management transfer truck, slid out of control while heading south, possibly while trying to avoid a car. The big rig crossed over the median into the northbound lanes and slammed into two trucks - a flatbed pickup and a truck carrying several empty coffins, causing a fireball that consumed the cab, killing the two other drivers besides Victor.

The rig was clearly visible, still straddling four lanes of I-880 at 3:00 PM, according to Island-Life staffers. All lanes were blocked from 9:30 to after noon and it was not until 7 PM that all lanes were freed up. No pix as all we had was a cheepie fone-camera from Verizon.

Verizon is the cell-phone company that prefers to spy on its customers rather than offer reasonable rates or decent equipment.

CALL ME, CALL ME ANYTIME

Even Debbie Harry will have to use a handsfree headset after Monday when the long-awaited no-talk while driving law goes into effect. For some time any fool with eyes to see could observe folks yakking on cell phones while blithely blitzing red lights, crossing the double yellow, changing lanes without warning, and smacking into other people and pedestrians. Officer O'Madhaun has ordered an extra ticket book for you numbskulls who have not figured out just how over 40,000 people die violently each year at the wheel.

A local law office has even offered to hand out cellphone headsets for free to anyone who asks after July 3rd. Just contact Berg Injury Law on the Island.

SUNBEAMS ARE NOT MADE LIKE ME

Its been a quiet week on the Island our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The usual gleams of summer sunshine have been overshadowed by a dark pall, as if Middle Earth were subject again to a cold mirk flowing from Barad Dur in Mordor, work of the Evil One. Suffering is widespread upon the land and the torches of the orcs are rampaging through the once sweet forests.

Gardeners digging out the last of the season's sweetpeas and harvesting the beans look up at the high roil of murky sky and bend back to work We Californians have been through much and you'll not get rid of us any time too soon. Hard times? We are used to that. The speeding planet burns? Used to that. Its all so common our lives disappear.

On top of everything, Father Guimon, of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint, had a most serious quandary.

Forests may burn and the planet may warm and the GOP may plot to steal elections, but True Love sat mounted on a barbed steed and True Love would have its way in the Summertime amid the profusion of dahlias and trumpet flowers shouting out all contradiction to negativity.

Father Guimon was fond of uttering a favorite sermon on the differences between the different kinds of love, for there was Platonic and there was Brotherly and there was Universal and there was, naturally, Divine, and -- darn it all -- that troublesome Eros thing.

That Eros thing was something of which the chaste and devout priest knew very little, and the little he knew, the better as he thought. Often he would query the Father Duran of the Church of Many Holy Names, whom he imagined to be really a far better exemplar of so many things and more worthy of helming the Basilica on behalf of the absentee Bishop Trottle than himself, but to himself was given the charge, this poor vessel.

Father Duran seemed a far more earthy fellow, more in touch with worldly matters, and Father Guimon often wondered about him. Yet nevertheless, Father Guimon had a knotty problem set before him.

The quandary Father Guimon found himself in concerned the latest round of mixed marriages -- always a dicey situation with the Bishop and the Administration -- for this round featured several couples of same sex and -- to Father Guimon's best knowledge, such things were, um, verboten under any circumstances.

He really liked Tommy and Toby and really wished all the best for their happiness and he knew quite well that god hates the sin not the sinner but this thing of a mixed ceremony with a Rabbi, a Zen priest from Chinatown, Pastor Nyquist, and one Catholic priest had him quite up a tree intellectually.

There were only two people getting married at any one time, for one thing. Cannot any of the principals narrow it down to one or two Major Religions? Then there was the matter of the same sex thing.

Father Guimon, of the Old School that felt Vatican II went too far with liberalization, would have entrusted all to Father Duran, who had a far more lenient bent to him, but this thing about the same sex unions . . . . The Bishop would have a fit!

The snag lay in that Pastor Nyquist had already captured the majority of Rev. Rectumrod's flock and on an Island with some twenty churches of so many denominations, capturing any percentage could be a serious threat to the status quo. Already the two other couples stood ready to follow Tommy and Toby wherever they went.

These days, the Basilica stood largely empty even on Feast Days and he was constrained to direct the flock from the one other Catholic church over to the Bishopric on a few desperate days. If the folks got the shunt on this deal, even the straight part of the group, a decent hetero couple, may well be lost to -- god forbid, the Lutherans, or even the Methodists.

Father Guimon was lothe to surrender a single soul, let alone a couple to the Lutherans and blast that friendship between Father Duran and the Pastor. It caused such a muddle and Father Guimon heartily disliked muddles. It could all be blamed on too much Thomas Aquinas with his Eastern mysticism folderol.

The voice of Agnes, the cleaning woman, broke into his thoughts.

"Father Guimon, what ever is the matter? You have twisted your surplice into a mess of knots!"

Meanwhile one subject of his thoughts, Toby, was piloting a bicycle with Susan down Park Avenue at that very moment, looking for Vignettes Giftshop with a set of red ribbons streaming out behind his Officially Endorsed Bicycle Helmet. The Island was such, and Officer O'Madhauen was such, that anyone caught on a bicycle without helmet, headlight and flashing cherry taillight was prompty pulled over and issued a stern lecture as well as an hefty ticket by the Officer, for the lack of safety equipment indicated the presence of a newbie or a Mainlander and traffic tickets were just the thing to get to know your neighbors here.

Short or tall, fat or thin, dark or light, its what we all have in common here: traffic tickets from Officer O'Madhauen.

In any case, whom should they come across near the Islander Hotel, our local abode for parolees, sex offenders and those lucky to scour together the cash for a night indoors as deviation from the usual, but Snuffles Johnson being pelted with buckeyes by the Abodanza kids. Who varied the missle attack with an occasional hearty kick to the ribs. Although physically larger, the tramp had not the material in him to put up a solid defence for his wits were small and the odds stood some five to one. Toby and Susan got off their bikes and Susan hurled several effectively aimed buckeyes back at the little gang.

"Cut it out!" Toby shouted. Fun over, the gang dispersed.

Snuffles lay on the bench where he had been sleeping, wrapped in a gray raincoat of undetermined vintage and heritage. He clutched his head and trembled and gave out little cries like some wounded animal.

"Eee! Eee! Eee!"

Toby and Susan sat beside the poor man and tried to console him and eventually he sat up and said two intelligible sentences, by which they took it to mean he was all right.

"My side hurts. Do you have any food?"

While Toby stayed with Snuffles, Susan went to the Pampered Pup around the corner.

Eventually, some composure returned to Snuffles who asked the usual question always asked of anyone here in the Bay Area. "Where are you from?"

Samhara, Minnesotta, said Toby. She's from Lebanon, New York.

Snuffles thought those must be fine places to be from. Himself, he had been born in The City, travelled all around the world, seen many wonders, including the pyramids of Egypt, the stones of Troy, the Holy City of Jerusalem, the Walled City inside Bejing, and the immense gate of Kiev.

Or maybe that had been the Arc de Triomph; he couldn't remember exactly. But the best place was right here. Except when the kids got mean, as they tended to get more and more these days.

As if to confirm this judgement, the sun broke through the smoky roil that had obscured the sun for days now and a shaft of golden light warmed the little park there.

Snuffles thought the two were a fine couple and asked if they were married.

"Next week," said Susan, who had returned with hotdogs for all of them.

"But not to each other," said Toby.

This seemed to confuse Snuffles a bit, but he let that one go.

Toby and Susan guided Snuffles to the Islander and together paid for a room for the old man who thanked them profusely.

The two good Samaritans split up with Susan going to the Lesbian celebration at Dolores Park with Lynette and Toby off to enjoy the Pride Parade with Tommy.

In the evening the sun went down on a relatively peaceful Bay Area and Snuffles dreamed in his hotel room on a nice warm bed of running barefoot through the grass in Thessaly among the gentle goats.

In his rectory, Father Guimon sat up suddenly with a brilliant idea. Why not a "joint wedding?" There were plenty of folks getting married next week. They could just line them up and the priests of the Holy Roman Church need only stand in front of the couples approved by the Church and if anyone else happened to be standing there, Jew or Hindu, Methodist or Buddhist, Gay or Straight, Martian or Lutheran, well let them just be, in the eyes of the Church "witnesses".

If Pastor Nyquist wanted to married these people, let him.

The good Father bounded out of bed and scampered to the phone. He had calls to make and arrangements. And after all, the man really was not such a hard heart as all of what may be implied. And Father Duran was all amazed as he held the phone to his ear, standing there barefoot on the stone floor of his quarters as he listened to Father Guimon's plans. He plopped into a chair, still holding the telephone as Father Guimon chattered.

Its a dark night in a City that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the rectory of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint sits one man still pondering Life's Persistent Questions.

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

 

 

JUNE 22, 2008

THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE

This weeks headline photo is of the first gladiola erupted out by the Old Fence during the heatwave.

We have been driving by Harlan's place, but the wall has featured no new signage for at least a week. Hope the crazy old fellow is okay.

LIKE THE WEATHER

This week saw an unusual heat wave body slam the Bay Area with temps climbing well into the nineties on the first day of summer around Oaktown and into the triple digits inland. All the stray cats lay strung out in the poppy field, too pooped to purr. By Sunday, cooling ocean breezes brought some relief locally and helped calm some of the wildfires raging down along the Santa Cruz mountains.

THEY SAID IT COULD NOT HAPPEN HERE

Floating tarballs caused a resurgence of anxiety focussed on the Costco Busan, but our own oil spill may have been caused by a momentary plug breaking loose, sending a quantity of residential runoff into the Bay, prompting closure of the Strand for a week. Investigators are still investigating the cause for the spill which was contained with booms and the hard work of the Island Public Works Department.

CRIMESTOPPERS NOTEBOOK

The thugs who beat and kicked a man in the 1500 block of Santa Clara a week ago may have also been involved in another attack upon a thirty-year old man that same day. The 1500 block is one block from the Island-Life Offices.

In other news, we saw a rash of five dog-bite cases, but a decrease in vandalism. Somebody stole all the brass stoppers from the skate park and the City Council threatened sidewalk skateboarders and bicycle scofflaws with dire consequences.

WHEN SOUL MEETS BODY

Island-Life ended a concert drought of sorts to take in the sold-out show of Death Cab for Cutie at the Greek Theatre. Oakland's own Rogue Wave performed warm-up honors.

Rogue Wave has developed steadily since their 2004 "Out of the Shadows", an album of infectious sweet pop musings and pastoral acoustic folksiness. They followed up with the similar "Descended Like Vultures" in 2005. After these two first strong showings on Sub Pop, they returned with a very mature "Asleep at Heaven's Gate" on Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records.

Saturday night, the homies did very well, preserving enough edge to keep the crowd up on its feet. It may be that a number of personal tragedies among members of the band helped squelch the earlier trend to bubble-gum, and the performance displayed some of the grit that Oaktown is known for.

“Harmonium” was a tight, affecting tune that kicked off into a cool, sparkly instrumental jam opening up into full orchestration with lyrics. Picking up in perfect sequence, building in intensity with piano leading and then anchoring the melody, guitar and a gentle drum beat leads to lyrics that profess things like: “All your dreams thrown in the trash / You were born into war / You were taught not to ask / For every single possibility.”

Another highlight was the personal song “Christians in Black”, inspired by a suicide. “Shuttled between LA and Oakland / Miles and miles between and above them / Born and raised to be an alcoholic / Were you too old or young to stop it / Christians in Black.”

A really nice moment occurred when all four band members played percussion in a group around the main drummer.

The band closed with a rousing "Kick the Heart Out", in which Vocalist Zach Rogue got the rapidly swelling audience to shout along with the refrain. Not too shabby for guys who started out playing the Bottom of the Hill for a percentage of the five dollar cover.

General consensus among the various folks queried in the crowd that the band rocked far better than the usual warm up gig.

By the time Death Cab appeared to the sound of a vigorous roar from the packed 10,000 seat auditorium, it was clear yet another success story had come to the venerable Greek, but with humility, and self-deprecating humor.

According to the Wickipedia, Death Cab for Cutie is an American Indie rock band formed in Bellingham, Washington in 1997. It began as a solo project of Ben Gibbard, now the band's vocalist and guitarist. Gibbard took the band name from the title of the song written by Neil Innes and Vivian Stanshall and performed by their group the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in the Beatles' 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour.

It may be a sad sign of the state of music in America today, or it may just be that the band member's earnest desire to keep it real beyond imagining enforces poverty, but the truth is that Saturday night a band of amateurs sold out the Greek Theatre with folks begging for tickets right up to show time.

That's right, all band members of Death Cab hold down day jobs to support themselves. Although the band has a contract with Atlantic Records, none of the members are professionals -- in the strictly defined sense of the word. Jason works in a record store. Guitarist (and multi-instrumentalist) Chris Walla in a recording studio. Ben and bassist Nick Harmer as warehouse monkeys for a Seattle nonprofit organization called the Committee for Children, which sells nonviolent curriculums and empathy training to elementary and junior high schools.

Gibbard has commented with irony on the situation in which he studied head-cracking subjects as a Chemistry Major in college, while his roommate, Harmer, spent his time goofing off and going to parties.

Both of them wound up working in warehouses in a story you probably should not tell impressionable youngsters.

Failures in life and failures in love, as well as personal tragedy all have fed the group's "Emo rock" style, although with a bit more maturity that usual. Saturday night, the band appeared to have overcome issues with adapting to large venues that some critics slammed them for a couple of years ago. They definitely earned their place on center stage at the venerable Greek with an Indie style that draws from Foo Fighters methodology of starting with four bars of a rhythm motif, keyboard comping on that for another eight, and then launching into full orchestrated lyric to culminate in crescendo. They have been compared to Thrill to Spill, etc., which just makes Ben shrug his shoulders. They just do what they do. Better than being compared to Third Eye Blind.

In style and lyrics the band is self-consciously urban and cynical. The coverart for their latest CD, "Narrow Stairs", was broadcast as backdrop to the performance. The painting is a dense Kandinsky-like collage of colored building blocks evoking the packed Universal Metropolis. The words of "Crooked Teeth" highlight this intense urbanity.

". . . at night the sun in retreat,
Made the skyline look like crooked teeth,
In the mouth of a man who was devouring, us both."

Its a music that emphatically rejects any "get back to the Garden" idea, if only to avoid yet another anticipated disappointment.

Oh these kids today.

If Saturday night was any sign, this tour should enable the crew to submit their resignations to the warehouse so as to work full time at what they do best and pursue the various solo and production side projects they have done and can expand upon with great success. The new material is punchy and rousing. Their "I Will Possess You" shared some ominous obessional darkness with Sting's "Burn for You" and Elvis Costello's "Spooky Girlfriend", with an insistent buildup to a sort of Dionysiac orgy of instrumentation and vocals. Heavy stuff indeed for "Emo".

They are not yet quite the gargantuan Foo Fighters, but a sold-out Greek is not to be dismissed. We look forward to whatever the next step might be for this maturing band.

THE BLACKEST OF ROOMS

It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. As the moon wanes from the extraordinary glory she held Wednesday night, the cool breezes return to soothe the scorched Bay Area. It's June, the kids are out of school and it seems everybody is getting married.

Except for the saxophone player who lives in the old shack out behind the field of poppies. He lives there alone and you can hear him play across the field on soft summer nights.

Ms. Morales, who IS getting married, and who soon will no longer be referred to as Ms. Morales, but Mrs. Ramirez by the fourth grade at Longfellow, has been fussing over a thousand details. With all the budget cutbacks and the push for Proposition H to secure funding, and the usual hullabaloo at the end of the term, she has had hardly a moment to think.

Her Great-aunt Elizabeth is up in the master bedroom. Her Lesser Uncle Rudolph is on the couch. Nieces and Nephews and cousins at the Courtyard Motel. Richard's people across town at the Marriott. Fey fighting with Mariah. Mona trying to center everything with the Abodanza kids whirling about like pie plates in a hurricane. Richard getting dyspepsia with the stress.

Its in times like these, one regards famous elopements, like Jessie and Fremont with some envy.

But now, the soft cool air wafts over her on the verandah there on Santa Clara Avenue and after a hectic day the breeze stirs the bougainvillea. She will miss this old house when she moves. But not that much. For the long years have not been long happy ones. Much trouble and letters from Luzon speaking of death and loss afar while here she had scant consolation for her own troubles except Mother Mary's "offer it up."

Light a candle and there with the smoke goes up the hope and hopelessness, witnessed forty-five years.

But then that day when Richard stepped in with the student papers all blown across the road and everything ruined because of the rude driver cursing at her until the motorcycle man went over and punched the bad man in the nose.

Which caused yet more complications. Is this any way to begin a lifelong attachment?

Yet Richard had been such a gentleman that day, a day she would never forget. Before that day, she had always imagined her solitary walk on the Last Day up an interminable flight of marble stairs towards a blinding Radiance. A long trudge under a heavy gaze until the final, well, here I am at last. What now?

And now it seemed the long years of quiet retirement to her quiet bed after some hours of grading her student papers, leaving such careful comments to guide as well as she could those souls wandering through the wasteland of English Literature, with a glass of milk beside the bed and a book and her glasses, all this would come to an end, be somehow different.

How would it be? Would he have a book, too? Or would he sit there doing accounting of books beside a green lampshade.

Who would feed the cats? So many things unknown!

Except that now, now on the Last Day, she will skip up those stairs a little girl again. Well now, what next?

Lets leave this Ms. Morales musing upon the rented verandah on the shady street of Santa Clara on the Island, our moonlit Island, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Lets leave this woman to muse on moonshadows and a future that seems to have for the first time in her life some semblance of hope.

All around the Bay Area in this prenuptial season similar folks share the same hopes and dreams.

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

"I Will Follow You Into The Dark"

Love of mine some day you will die
But I'll be close behind
I'll follow you into the dark

No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight
Waiting for the hint of a spark
If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the NOs on their vacancy signs

If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark

In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
And I held my tongue as she told me
"Son, fear is the heart of love"
So I never went back

If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the NOs on their vacancy signs

If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark

You and me have seen everything to see
From Bangkok to Calgary
And the soles of your shoes are all worn down.
The time for sleep is now
It's nothing to cry about
Cause we'll hold each other soon
In the blackest of rooms . . .

If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the NOs on their vacancy signs

If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark
Then I'll follow you into the dark

Death Cab for Cutie

 

 

JUNE 15, 2008

SONG FROM AN AMERICAN MOVIE

This week the headline photo comes from Javier & Beth's garden where, because of an unusually early heat wave, the dahlias have started blooming a full two months early. Thats news.

The heat settled back into the more usual high fog and chill temps that so daunted Mark Twain a century or so before, but the sweet peas are all done and the rambunctious dahlias are crowding out the fledgling bush beans.

BRIDGE

The Crimestoppers notebook has been packed with lots more violent interpersonal events than usual over the past couple of weeks. A 27 year-old was shot in a drive-by shooting on Park Street around 1:30 am during "suspicious circumstances". The victim claimed to be walking to a restaurant at that hour, but otherwise remained very uncooperative to police. The "friend" who brought him to the hospital fled after dropping him off at Emergency.

A teen was mugged in the 500 block of Santa Clara on the far side of Webster. Three guys knocked down the victim and stole his wallet. In a busy week, the 7/11 on Buena Vista, one block off of Park Street, was held up at knifepoint. The robber looted the register and took the cashier's wallet.

Proving once again that something special marks our Island Criminals, one fellow responded to booking at City Jail by biting the guard on the shoulder after his arrest at 4:00 am in the company of a stolen car. He got sent to Santa Rita, where they know how to handle biters and their like.

Capping a fun period of mayhem of dog bites, vandalism and general after-school hijinks, a brawl took place on Regent Street when several guys insulted another man's girlfriend at 2:00 am. The gentleman lost a tooth during the melee.

HEAVY CLOUD, NO RAIN

Effects of the Governator's recent proclaimation of official drought conditions in the Golden State began their slow worming into the public consciousness. Fire Departments here started urging property owners to clear away dead and dried vegetation from structures and a little four-alarm in the grasses of the Oakland Hills caused more than a few pulses to jump. Fire Season has arrived in California. And it promises to be a long, hot one.

Businesses are being asked to cut back consumption of some 2-5%, with staggered cutbacks of 8% for multifamily apartment houses, and up to 10-12% for private dwellings. Fines for practicing "water wastage" can be in the thousands of dollars, so there will be no more "watering the sidewalks" kind of behaviour for a while.

Trip reports from the High Sierra are filtering in. The latest came from a group that slogged through a canyon in Yosemite June 3rd, noting that snow is general to 9,000 feet, but slumping fast with quick melt, hanging around longer in the narrower canyons to 8,000 feet. Yosemite was refreshingly empty around the Tuolome Meadows area. Expect big bugs into July. Construction on the main road spells long lines and delays well into August.

Preliminary reports indicate that the High Country will be packed this year with folks sticker-shocked by airline fees and the Recession into taking more inexpensive vacations. Lots of newbies clumping around in places they really should not be, given level of experience. More bear encounters. More airlifts. More trail trash.

MY FATHER'S EYES

The Comical Pink Pages did us all a service by doing a piece on inexpensive music to be had at the local county fairs. Score one against the increasingly obscene ticket prices for megafestivals like the Outlands thing and the now wildly over-hyped Bonaroo. Even the once reasonable Santa Cruz Blues Festival dropped off the radar as tickets rose into three figures while local hotel costs also climbed into the stratosphere and the venues all have far too many people packed in to far too small spaces such that nobody has a decent view of the stage any more, making events like the Voodoo Festival into Violent Incidents about to happen.

It does not matter how many good bands there are; its just not a deal when you lay out several thousand dollars in accomodations, dining, tickets and incidentals, not forgetting the $25 tee-shirt and the $15 whirlygig memento. How many bands can you really enjoy over twelve hours under the beating sun anyway?

The Marin County festival looks to have the best lineup (July 2-July 6) with Joan Jett, Steel Pulse, the Preservation Jazz Band, Tommy Castro, War, Marin's homeboy Elvin Bishop and Los Lobos to choose from.

Solano County (July 9-13) features BB King on the 9th. When you got the King, you really only need the one.

Rumor mill has the Neville Brothers showing up on the waterfront for the Sausalito Art festival August 31. That ought to be something worth paying attention to.

Otherwise it looks singularly dead around here this summer, save for Thievery Corporation and Death Cab dropping in late summer to the Greek.

A BOY NAMED SUE

Monday the statewide moratorium on sam-sex marriages gets tossed into the trash and thousands of loving couples plan on converging on county clerk offices all up and down the Golden State. Not in Right-wing Kern or Butte Counties, however, where local officials haved cancelled ALL wedding services in a fit of sour grapes.

Officials there cite "budgetary constraints", which is an odd one, as the certificate fees generally wind up being big revenue sources for most county budgets. Butte, which has one of the most fabulous statehouses in the country paired with local income average that makes Mississippi look wealthy never really did have a solid set of balanced values anyway.

Gay marriage advocates said the decisions to halt all marriages in the rural counties limits options for couples, both gay and straight, who do not want or are denied a religious ceremony.

Some county clerks said the budget argument seems a stretch, though they acknowledged that both Butte and Kern counties might not have enough staff to deal with a large influx of couples.

Steve Weir, president of the California Association of Clerks and Elected Officials, noted that the state allows counties to set their own fees for marriage ceremonies so they can recover the costs associated with performing the duty.

"It's a nice service that we provide to the public, and it's not costing me anything. In this day and age with the budget situation, how can you go wrong providing a public service that helps with your overhead? It's a no-brainer," Weir said. "Other folks might say you can go to another county, but that's not the point. I'm not going to say you can register to vote in Alameda County because we're not in the same political party."

Others said they doubt that the clerk's office in any rural, conservative county would be overwhelmed with gay couples come next week.

Kern County Supervisor Don Maben asked county officials this week to explore other options for folks who want to tie the knot, including possibly bringing in officials from another county to perform the ceremonies. The Kern County Board of Supervisors will not take up the matter again until July, he said.

Maben said he is "getting a lot of flak" for raising concerns about Barnett's decision but, that to him, it's not a gay-rights issue -- it is simply a marriage issue. At least 25 opposite-sex couples that had weddings scheduled at the clerk's office are also being forced to make other plans, he said.

In the meantime, couples wishing to get married in Butte or Kern counties could have limited options. Many churches refuse to perform gay marriages.

Weir said while clerks are not legally bound to perform marriage ceremonies, they are public servants.

"We take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the state of California," he said. "It's a public ministerial process we perform for the public, and to a degree we have a monopoly on it -- you can't go across the street to a private clerk's office."

SCHOOL'S OUT FOR SUMMER. SCHOOL'S OUT FOR-EVER

More than a week after voters went to the polls, a parcel tax to benefit local schools narrowly squeaked to victory Wednesday after election officials tallied absentee and provisional ballots.

It capped days of anxious waiting by Measure H supporters, who say money generated from the tax will help save music, sports and other school programs.

Homeowners will pay $120 annually under the measure. It needed a two-thirds majority to pass and initial results showed that it was short by 115 votes.

The board placed the tax on the June 3 ballot to help offset a projected $4.5 million shortfall within the Alameda Unified School District due to the state budget deficit.

Along with taxing homeowners, the measure calls for business and industrial property owners to pay from $120 to $9,500 annually. The tax would be on top of the $189 property owners now pay.

Both taxes will sunset in 2012.

Measure H opponents said district officials should find other ways to raise money, such as cutting salaries and benefits for teachers.

According to the results released Wednesday, the ballot measure secured 11,397 yes votes, or 66.87 percent. No votes totaled 5,646, or 33.13 percent.

The narrow victory leaves the results open to a recount challenge, however, there does not appear to be serious momentum for such action before June 27 when the Registrar will certify the results.

LANDSLIDE

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The high fogs of summer are rolling in to chill the bandstands and the grasses and the barriers of the graduation ceremonies that took place over the past couple of weeks. All the recently ex-matriculated have now entered the recession-workplace market.

Lately the Editor has taken to standing on the hood of his beat-up Geo, staring out eastward to the Oaktown Hills and Javier has started to get really worried about him. Javier comes out with a cup of coffee and a footstool and uses the foot stool to hand up the cup of coffee to the Editor as he continues to stare at the hills, meditatively sipping his coffee, occasionally stirring himself to bark out an order or two.

When the Editor gets this way, it gets really nervy around the offices and people start snapping at one another for no reason, getting into turf battles over the xerox machine and the postal cubbyholes and all the aquarium fish get really spooked as if they fear they will all get flushed down the toilet like Nemo in the Disney cartoon.

We know what it is and he knows what it is, but we all continue to go about our business as if it is perfectly normal for your boss to climb on top of an automobile and stand there for hours, conducting business from the hood of a car.

The Editor needs to have his Annual Summer Sabbatical and soon, or he and all of us at Island-Life will go crazy. Even crazier than we already happen to be.

Lisa, a normally sweet individual from Marketing and from San Leandro, finds a hammer on a copywriter's desk and asks if this is the Famous Hammer that fixed the Sound Obliviator during the Infamous Flyover. Lisa, a sort of cashmere and bobby socks kind of gal who wears in all seriousness Hello Kitty underpants, mentions that this would be a really great offensive weapon for crushing somebody's skull. Perhaps that of Brad in the Accounting Department. Not that he would notice. He is so dense.

Its office politics and events like this that give one pause during the course of one's day. Its not like the rude SUV driver who never has learned the function of the turn signal or its application. No. The casual mention of capital murder in the course of the day begins to pall and the office becomes an edgy place where everyone begins looking at each other from the corners of their eyes, secretly worried they will all become the next victims of the Sausage King or something similar.

You remember the Sausage King. He was the guy who ran that food factory down in San Leandro until he went nuts one day and started shooting up the health inspectors inside the warehouse.

Last year the Editor had to cancel the Sabbatical and the effects of that rash decision have multiplied with terrible and mathematical efficiency from the day he lifted a copyboy by the neck and began to strangle him for the misplacement of an accent grave in the middle of a quotation by Samuel Beckett.

That was not a good day around here. No, it was not.

But we are not here to talk about office politics. We are here to talk about how Tipitina, Suan and Sarah all took their fathers out for brunch at Mama's Cafe on Sunday. If ever a brunch was destined to end up in a blues bar, this was it. But when the arrangements first got made, it had seemed like a really good idea.

Suan's father, a distinguished Ivy League professor who entirely disapproves of Suan's every life decision and manner of being -- and never spares moment to remind her of such -- sat with his glasses on the edge of his nose peering at the menu while Sarah's father, who arrived at nine am already drunk, slouched beside him. Tipitina's dad, Adolpho, refused to speak English to anyone at the table, including his daughter, even though he could speak and understand it perfectly well. Instead, he spoke his own version of Louisiana Creole.

Bonkers and Wickiwup banged their tails on the ground outside while tied to a magazine kiosk.

As it happened, Mr. Washington got into a discussion with Mr. Barrows on the merits and foibles of Richard Brautigan, while Sarah, who knew some basic French and Spanish tried to converse with Adolpho.

"You are not a whore like that other one." said Adolpho courteously, indicating the innocent Suan. "We may be Cajun but we have the pride of the Bayou."

Glomming on the word "cajun", Sarah responded, "I don't know much about Cajun music -- we do roots blues. Name of the band is 'In Memory of Sister Rosetta Tharp."

"Ah, Rosetta Tharp is good name for your mother." said Adolpho, who also did not understand more than a word of what she had just said.
"She must be proud of you. If she is still alive that is. Or even if she isn't, still proud."

Tipitina was asking Suan how the tip thing got handled in a practical manner since the nature of Suan's work precluded pockets.

"Well, sometimes there is the French Maid outfit with the apron as the last thing to go," Suan offered, never really having been queried on this line before. She worked as a stripper for the Crazy Horse and so was the major rent-payer over at the house on Otis Street where twelve people shared a two bedroom place. "And there is the feather headdress." she added.

Her father did not know what she did for a living, but disapproved of her lifestyle on general principles, much as stern fathers often do, working largely upon suspicion and general conservative attitudes. She clearly had not married and had not become a stockbroker for Mason Tillman in the City. If she had become a stockbroker in the City, all the questions and suspicions that nagged him between lectures would be put aside. And so his fatherhood was one of boundless regret.

He hailed from that generation which maintained that in a world run by stupid People, the best way to handle oneself was with firm rectitude and stiff belief in one's own solid character, back ramrod straight, for if you get lucky, you have luck and yourself to thank, and if the mob comes and beats you and knocks you down, at least you have yourself and your honor and this set of values had born him well through a lifetime witnessing too much adversity and suffering in others. Anyone could rise above it all, just as he had done, for he had done well, working his way through college, acquiring Professorship, buying a house in a good neighborhood, getting married and having at least this one child.

As for Claude Barrows, his regrets directed themselves largely at himself. An odd-job man, he had turned his hand to music to make a few dollars, using that trade pretty much as he had done cabinet-finishing, housepainting, ditchdigging and carpentry, with a desultory and half-finished attitude of "why bother", since it will probably all wind up a wrecked mess turned out wrong and nobody appreciates good work anyway. The world had set itself against Claude from the very beginning, or so he felt. Against himself and against all the people like him. There was no use in trying, as the System had it all rigged up for the Fortunate Ones. Might as well just sit there on the stoop with a Colt 45 in that old paperbag. Get by making this or that sort of thing in a half-assed way. Every once in a while he gets up the gumption and really sets to it with a will, but then something always happens in the end. Wife runs off with the bass player or the earnings lost in the first roll of dice on the corner. The one thing he had made, well, helped make, was Sarah whom he taught the guitar when she was just six years old. How she looked then with her little brown arms barely getting around the body of that old Martin dreadnaught.

Suddenly, in the middle of conversation about poetry, Claude burst into tears and all conversation stopped as people looked at him.

Claude looked at his daughter and said, "You are the only beautiful thing I ever made."

"Dad, you are drunk again." Sarah said.

Mr. Washington commented that it appeared brunch was over and he called for the check. How on earth had Suan collected such a group of friends or ever heard of this place. He strongly suspected Mama's of being a hotbed of Lesbianism, a lifestyle about which he had yet to form a firm opinion.

If he had known with certainty that Suan's current lover was the fetching and intelligent Jamaica Jones, it is quite possible he would throw a fit. Nevermind her employment status.

But as she stood up he noted the grace in her body and checknoted to himself the way she resembled her mother.

Out on the sidewalk they all shook hands, hugged, did what each person's character called forth and each pair went its seperate ways. Suan and her dad took the Mercedes out to MLK Park along the water and there she got the Old Man to take off his shoes and so got him to remember how they had gone fishing in those waters long before folks got worried about eating anything out of the Bay.

They ended up walking hand in hand, him thinking, well, she is what she is and no matter about lifestyle for she is of flesh and blood of her mother. Can't deny that. After all she did not turn out so badly.

Meanwhile Sarah had a few drinks together at the Top Hat Lounge, a place with lots of red vinyl upholster and lighting set considerately dim so as to help smooth out the features of whomever one had encountered there for mating purposes. He talked about missing her mom, as bad as she was, and about early days when jazz was bopping all over the place in Oaktown. After the bar, she put her father to bed and sang softly to him "Where is my good man?" by Memphis Minnie.

As he drifted off on the sound of his daughter's voice, he thought to himself, now what dad is so lucky as to be able to sit down and have a few drinks with his daughter. What a voice she has . . . .

As for Tipitina and Adolpho, they returned to the Island and after a brief visit to the playground at Washington Park, where she submitted to being pushed in the playset swing, they did their own beachside walk there along the Strand not far from the house on Otis. He wanted to know if Tipitina had found a nice Creole boy yet.

Dad, you me and Roger been together five years now.

He come from good family?

Skipping to the chase, she said he was from Minnesotta.

Good Catholic?

He's Lutheran, dad.

He sighed. At least he is not from Wisconsin.

She did not know how this could be an improvement, but she let it go.

Adolpho had come with his father and mother years ago from the bayous during World War II, along with so many others out of the Southlands, who came to help build the immense warships that helped defeat the Axis Powers. Most of them stayed, at least the ones who did not experience the terrible Port Chicago disaster, but Adolpho had returned to kin in Metarie to knock about there and New Orleans, working odd jobs and trying to build up a Cajun sense of himself, even though those few years by the Bay had changed him and put a mark upon him so that everybody there knew him for something different.

So it was he eventually returned to the Bay to take care of his ailing mother after his own father died of some kind of toxic consequence from the alphabet soup of chemicals involved with building things like ships. She died and he just stayed and married Marybelle Jennifer and pretty soon with a house full of kids, the years passed and there was no returning to Metarie.

All of the kids turned out fine, including this one. But still, the Bayou water was in his veins, undeniably so. As he sat there on the strand he started singing a little French blues to himself and his daughter put her arm around his shoulders.

Fathers and daughters. There is no summary long enough to encompass a life and all that is in it, she thought to herself. I know this man and yet I will never understand him.

And so the sun set with flaming roostertails of crimson and gold as the fog billowed in through the Golden Gate far across the water. And far across the water came the eerie ululation of the night train passing through Jack London Waterfront.

That's the way it is on the Island. Thank your dad one time and gave a great week.

LANDSLIDE

(sotto voce: This is for you, daddy)
I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Till the landslide brung it down (Oh,)

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin' ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Mm hmm hmm hmm

Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I've
Built my life around you
But time makes you bolder, even children get older
And I'm getting older too

Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I've
Built my life around you
But time makes you bolder, even children get older
And I'm getting older too
Oh, I'm getting older too

Ah-ah, take my love, take it down
Ah-ah, Climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well, a landslide'll bring it down
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills

Well, a landslide'll bring it down, oh-ohh
The landslide'll bring it down.
(stevie nicks)

 

JUNE 8, 2008

MOTHERLESS CHILD

This week's headline photo is of Stray Jack, who showed up at the back of the Island Life offices about five years ago. He would raid the open dumpster behind the St Charles Mental Enclosure Facility until the maintenance man, one Joe Bailey trapped him and sent him off to the SPCA, who fixed Stray Jack real good, gave him shots, and released him in the Oakland Hills.

Skip forward a few months and Joe Bailey dies of a heart attack while chatting on the phone with friends. The dumpsters got replaced by enclosed heavy plastic bins, which are easier for the robotic arms of the garbage company to lift and empty. But they are very racoon and cat proof.

Some time into that summer, Stray Jack reappeared, looking to raid his favorite dumpster for dinner.

Now the Island is called an Island for a reason and no one has any reasonable idea of just how Stray Jack managed to travel across several miles of Oaktown urban landscape, swim the estuary and find his way back again to what surely could only be another order of garbage.

So Kind Julee begins feeding Jack, paints his name on dinner bowls and generally bucks up the guy. Julee gets into a spat with her boyfriend of some ten years and departs, so the boyfriend starts feeding Jack every night, stocking the hall closets with food from Petco.

The boyfriend tires of the shenanigans of the psychotic management at St. Charles -- nevermind the inmates as neighbors -- and gets a new girlfriend, so he leaves to go live with her.

Now the staff at Island-Life have taken this Stray Jack under Special Protection of the Press and he gets two or three decent squares a day, which is better than the majority of our reporters.

Rex, from the Music Department, brings him fresh Friskies each morning. In the afternoon, Beth from Human Resources throws out the remains of what Rex has brought, complaining that Jack surely does not like that "loaf" stuff, and gives him lamb with rice.

Beth has also built Jack a little "house" with weatherproofing and bedding behind the sunflowers.

In the evening, Javier comes out and throws out all the previous and feeds Jack Beef Kibbles and changes the water dish.

For Jack, life is good.

Just do not try to pet him, or he will take your fingers off with a swipe.


HEAVY CLOUD NO RAIN

What we all feared to be true has come true with a veangance as Wednesday Der Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a drought in the state after two years of drier-than-normal weather and court-ordered irrigation restrictions.

California’s last drought lasted from 1987 until 1994, costing the state as much as $1 billion in farming losses and increased electricity usage. The state accounts for about 13 percent of agricultural sales in the United States. About 43 percent of water taken from lakes and reservoirs is used for farming, according to California’s Farm Bureau.

Melting snow, which fills drinking-water reservoirs and irrigation systems for 36 million people, is at 67 percent of normal for this time of year, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

March and April were the driest months in the Sierra Nevada Mountains since 1921, the first year records were kept. Runoff into streams and reservoirs is only 55 to 65 percent of normal, the water agency said.

Water destined for Southern California also is being limited because of an August federal court ruling that water being sent from Northern California must be cut back to protect the endangered Delta smelt, a 2- inch-long fish killed by the water pumps.

Sixteen years ago, life got pretty harsh around here, as land developments got the kibosh when water hookups got denied en masse and people not used to being told "NO!" had to live with the realities.

The Governator is trying to use the emergency to push forward $11.9 billion in bonds for dams, reservoirs, river restoration projects, contamination prevention and conservation programs.

Since Der Governator, a Republican, has resisted any sort of tax increases for any purpose, at any level, bonds are the only remaining revenue sources for accomplishing needed infrastructure updates.

IslandLife is planning an exploratory visit to the High Sierra to look at snowpack levels first hand sometime this month. Stay tuned for developments.

IF THE HOUSE IS A ROCKING DON'T BOTHER KNOCKING

Reminding folks tired of "Severe Weather" in the middle of the country perhaps California is not exactly ideal for escaping the Wrath of Mother Nature, a 3.9 tremblor struck near Fairfield on Tuesday around 7:30 pm, while another shocker rocked folks near 3:00 am the following day with the epicenter about 8 miles east of Oaktown center.

ARS LONGA VITA BREVIS

This busy weekend the annual ProArts Open Studios held sway with 450 artist listings in the first genuinely warm weekend of the year. Open Studios competed with the long awaited grand opening of the Jewish Museum in Babylon, BFD at the Shoreline, the end of the B-Ball series with the Lakers against the Celtics in a classic West vs. East match and general summer indolence.

Dropped in to Kringdesign out on 12th Street where new development is springing up on landfill west of the bed of the old Cypress Structure. Out there acre upon acre is being laid out and terraformed in concrete for brand new housing condos and office complexes, which sure has the neighbors of humble West Oakland a bit nervous.

Kringdesign is the brainchild of Bryan Kring, who owns an old fashioned letterpress vintage 1929 as well as a standard roller-type etching press, which he keeps largely as museum pieces, using outsourced printers to make his quirky designs into calendars, books and wall art, all trending to the very reasonable priced range.

There is no telling who may show up at Open Studios, from genuine artists to Sociopathic Kleptomaniacs.

Kring's ProArts catalog entry features a man in a diving suit sprinkling stolen handouts from a paperbag to undersea creatures.

ALL I EVER WANTED

We at Island-Life congratulate Mr. Obama at being the presumptive nominee for the Democratic candidate to the Presidency, extend warm wishes and thanks to Ms. Clinton for finally puting an end to her well fought campaign and hope that the party can now unite sufficiently to bring about real and substantive change in the country after its painful foray into near fascist territory, with the primary objective to ending the foolishly begun and poorly executed foreign occupations and adventures now costing so much in terms of lives and money.

All for the pride of the wannabe titans.

BETTER DAYS

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.

With the warm spell we have coming on, all the plants are bursting upwards, but many are to be sadly denied full flowering as the drought restrictions slowly come into effect and voluntary cutbacks give way to genuine rationing measures.

With the poor plumbing conditions in the building that houses the Island Life offices, we have had copyboys and admin assistants scampering all over with buckets to catch the drips from leaky pipes, which then get employed to watering the office ferns and the calla lilies.

Hanford-Fraud, a once noble property management firm with some eighty years of experience in the Bay Area, seems to have fallen upon hard times during the current mortgage crisis, and so they have taken to scrimping and saving in the face of needed repairs for its managed buildings. In fact, their behavior resembles that that which pursues the odious term "slumlord".

Perhaps the owners are very near to default, is the problem, although most of their buildings appear to be fully paid with no mortgage payments in the cost structure, and extremely low tax assessments based on ancient valuations.

Sinclair Lewis, who wrote the script for "There Will Be Blood", also wrote a book simply titled, "Greed."

Stet.

It's a quiet night and the distant wail of the cop cars drifts in through the windows after a long hot day. Somewhere someone is suffering a personal tragedy, but here right now, the machines of the Island Life offices hum under the flourescent lights and the cubicles all are individually busy with whatever tasks take place here and there, each showing up like wells of light in the immense darkness. The local meth factory lets a waft of foul odor drift across the way and then all is well again.

Our rents are the consequence of "Location, location, location."

Tomorrow someone will go out and investigate that particular siren and discover if it resulted in something particularly newsworthy, no matter how important it happens to be right now to whomever.

The Marketing Department is all packed with baggage and all sorts of detritus for the next foray when another detachment heads out on the ever elusive quest to obtain Sister City status with Lake Woebegon. With all the Severe Weather over there, tornados and all kinds of whatnot, they are in no hurry.

Suspect we may have blown any such opportunity on any number of fronts recently, but let the marketing folks have their fun for a day.

The Mayor of Bloom County was unobtainable due to severe health problems, so that whole project got nipped in the bud at the outset. We really would have liked to have had a Penguin Ombudsman, but such was not to be. Opus has a full calendar.

The new Jewish Museum opened up over in Babylon along the Yerba Buena complex South of Market and we hear the place is raves altough downsized from its original design. Took ten years of political infighting and family scraps to get it done, but hey, it wouldn't really be Jewish without a little opera and squabble. If it doesn't feature passion, then don't bother.

Meanwhile all the ProArts artists are tucking away their porfolios and locking up after a busy weekend. Another day in the life, winding down at the kitchen table. Plates of quick-fix spagetti and cheap wine. Desultory conversation. Little Oscar nodding off in his high chair. Distant foghorns across the dark and shimmer-tipped waves beneath the Bay moon. And here it comes, right on schedule: the long ululating wail of the train passing through the silent and shuttered Jack London Waterfront, outbound from the Port and headed to parts unknown as Midnight ticks over to another day yet to be born.

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

JUNE 1, 2008

THEN CAME THE LAST DAYS OF MAY

This week's headline photo needs no words as we bit adieu to May with roses and with poppies.

DARK SIDE OF TOWN

Proving that the Island is no exception to certain kinds of hot-tempered foolishness, gunfire erupted at the Chef's Wok restaurant on Webster during an event being held there in its upper floor ballroom. Police arrived to find the crowd of about 200 young people dispersing, save for several men engaged in fistfights on the street.

Fortunately only two people were treated for superficial gunshot wounds on walk-in basis at the Hospital.

In a seperate incident a man who had engaged a prostitute got nervous about her behavior and so secured a pistol while she was briefly out of the room at his residence. Unfortunately these ladies know more about things like pistols than the average joe, and so the weapon was discovered.

During the struggle to get back his firearm, the man pulled the trigger and the slug went through the floor into the carpet of the apartment below him.

The Commissioner is trying to find out if the man can be charged with Dangerous Foolishness.

No comment from the man's downstairs neighbor.

Officer O'Madhauen had his hands full last week as women got themselves knocked around during three road rage incidents.

In the first, a woman grabbed another woman and threw her down in the 7/11 parking lot off Park Street after an apparent contretemps on exiting the Tube onto Webster, about a mile away. The woman has no idea what she did wrong.

In the second incident, same day, a man grabbed and shoved a woman after a traffic incident in the parking lot at South Shore Mall. It was unclear what angered the man, who began honking at her as she drove to work after lunch. When she parked, the man assaulted her.

Tuesday, two woman got into a dustup over a parking space in the 500 block of Buena Vista. Fists and hair flew, but neither pressed charges.

Finally, Police arrested the boys who stole a computer from Wood Middle School after they tried to invade a home in the 1300 block of St. Charles, not far from the Island Life offices. The kids admitted to stealing master keys for the school campus on Grand Street.

O all these are the products of our once proud public school system.

It's just not the Island of Fine Living by the Bay, is it, Mr. Property Man.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Heinolds celebrated 125 years of serving the best and the worst of the docks over there in Jack London Waterfront.

Jack London immortalized the joint by way of numerous references to his favorite dockside wateringhole and to a lengthy tribute in his autobiographical work John Barleycorn.

Opened in 1883 by Johnny Heinold as J.M. Heinold's Saloon, this Historic Landmark looked much then as she does today. She was built on her present location in 1880 from the timbers of an old whaling ship over the water in a dock area at the foot of Webster Street. The building was initially used as a bunk house by the men working the nearby oyster beds. Then in 1883, Johnny's $100 purchase, with the aid of a ship's carpenter, was transformed into a saloon where seafaring and waterfront men could feel at ease.

During the 1920's, the ferry that ran between The Island and Oakland stopped next to Heinold's. The Island was a dry city at the time, making the bar a commuter's First and Last Chance for a refreshment. As the years wore on, many servicemen left for overseas from the Port of Oakland, and the First and Last tradition stuck, so the name of the saloon was officially changed to Heinold's First and Last Chance.

As a schoolboy, Jack London studied at the same tables still in use today. Later, he would return to his favorite table and write notes for The Sea Wolf and Call of the Wild. At age 17, he confided to John Heinold his ambition to go to the University of California and become a writer. Heinold lent London the money for tuition, although he never got beyond his first year.

Oakland mayor John L. Davies brought President William Howard Taft in for refreshments. Robert Louis Stevenson spent time here while waiting for his ship to be outfitted for his final cruise to Samoa. Other notables to sit at this bar include Joaquin Miller, Charles E. Markham, Earle Gardner, Erskine Caldwell and Ambrose Bierce.

When the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck, the pilings underneath the saloon settled in the mud and subsequent efforts to shore up the floor proved unsuccessful, leaving a definite tilt that should remind folks when the limit has been reached. Visitors can still note the time of the quake from the clock on the wall that stopped during the first shock.

At the moment, scaffolding surrounding the building is meant to shield the national landmark from the effects of a nearby "Developer's Fantasy".

Which reminds us of a salient fact worth noting. If the massive 8th to Oak development project takes off with 30-story high-rises in the mix, virtually all of it will sit on shifting landfill forward of where the old bar sits, also on landfill.

The ground does shake, you know.

WE ARE NOT MEN -- WE ARE DEVO

In other news, some folks got themselves all tarted up and scads of real estate developers got themselves all tarted up for the Megaplex opening. The ladies wore "power dresses" and the male developers all wore sharkskin suits -- natch.

A number of these types have been patrolling the Island, trying to create the illusion of upscale in this largely beef and potatoes kind of town. They have been running afoul of the real people who live here and dont want an endive and arugula kind of crowd upping the prices of milk and cheese. A few of the developers have wound up wet and mad mysteriously in the lagoon.

Over in Babylon, the City that Used to Know How, the usual savage Passion Play in Black and White took place with small ballyhoo as the tix ranged from an obscene $2500 to the only absurd and ridiculous $200 to benefit the Symphony, which maybe should look to selling Tollhouse cookies instead. The women flailed like egrets in their feathers. The men waddled like penguins in their tuxes. A fine time was had by all.

The event is usually touted as the scene where the hoi polloi mingle in the street with the Hoity Toity, but the $2500 tix had their own seating and their own tent, which seems to preclude any danger of the fine fingernails and milky skin risking greasy contact.

Island-Life wants to know: did the $200 ticket come with food and drink, or was that extra?

O its all Fine Living and Fine Dining and we are heartily sick of it with all its fiddling ridiculous $12.00 Gourmet Burger mentality while the vast majority of the people are burning in a terrible fire.

DON'T YOU EVER GET ELECTED

This week Californians head to the polls to approve assembly senators and Congressional Representatives, as well as try to shunt a handful of special interest initiatives, the most damaging of which is Prop. 98, which seeks to cloak a savage attack on renter's rights and protections with a bogus restriction on state use of eminent domain.

For our own district, we endorse Pete Stark, who has proved to be a capable and attentive administrator with both feet placed solidly on the earth and with a sincere desire to listen to the constituency as manifested by his numerous "town hall" meetings. Pete had brought civility and common sense to his sphere and we think those are values anyone can fall behind.

For State Senate, District 9, we are sitting on the fence, but ultimately choose Wilma Chan over Loni Hancock, largely because Wilma is a native Islander. The whole thing about problems with Hancock's husband or whatever is a non-issue, as we think she has demonstrated equal expertise and leadership with Wilma over time. We do think that Hancock has not campaigned nearly as hard as Chan, which is a puzzle. We have seen Chan grow from scut worker in the County Admin building on Oak Street to a capable Public Servant at a very high level, so we also have a personal sense involvement here.

The big City measure up for vote here is Prop. H, which attempts to secure funding for the schools in this time of severe cutbacks.

Here, again, we sit on the fence. On the one hand, there is no question the schools are being brutalized in Der Governator's budget, with every district throughout the Golden State looking at draconian measures to keep the chalk and the blackboards operational, however there is the issue of this trend to perform end runs around the spirit of Prop 13, which was devised to provide relief to property owners during the Howard Jarvis taxpayer's revolt.

We do think Jarvis was a penny-pinching skinflint, and much of Prop. 13 was over the top in its slashing of taxes based on assessed values.

In fact, the Jarvis initiative was so severe, it ultimately failed to work at all, resulting in a kind of periodic incremental tax for any particular need being tossed onto an increasingly high stack of fees and taxes that ultimately reduce the Jarvis gains for the individual to less than nothing. A tax for the Schools. A tax for the street lighting. A tax for the the Lafco Hospital District. Another tax for paving roads. Another tax to cover the cost of interest on bonds.

It goes on and on and we find the total cost of property ownership failing to drop while the budget has gotten worse, for it took some time after the initial tax revolt for the coffers to fill again with all these special purpose taxes.

Now the schools are looking for a local bailout to cover the State's failure to provide. This makes us really want to stand back and redirect the ire of people here towards an anti-tax Republican Governor who refuses to secure the necessary means to conduct the business of government in practice of a clearly unworkable philosophy.

Small and impotent government has been tried and it clearly fails in the pinch. Look at the effects of Katrina, for one. When government has been reduced until nothing exists but the Army, then nothing works right and everything works disastrously when something like a hurricane happens, for the resources to help the people simply are not present.

Local initiatives are not going to turn around the sad decay of a once world-renowned educational system. We say, lets take this back to Der Governator and make the guy work for his paycheck and fix this thing right.

EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC SWEET MUSIC

The Harmony Festival shows up on the radar for June 6-8 as a refreshingly reasonably priced event, featuring George Clinton, Mickey Hart with Steve Kimock, Paula Cole and Angelique Kidjo at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Day tix are $30 and weekend passes are $99 in advance.

The obscenely priced Outlands Festival has many very good acts, and promoters finally yielded to pressure in allowing day passes to go out, instead of holding to an insane exclusive $300 all days pass. How many bands can you listen to in 72 hours anyway? How many do most folks attend to even for the all day events? Its all a crazy trend.

At Yoshis, we note that Ahmad Jamal will have on the 6th a CD party that bridges the bay between Yoshi's East and Yoshi's West.

REM did the Greek this weekend, and preliminary reports have it that Peter Buck has gotten his groove back. We have rather liked the fellow ever since he reportedly told one interviewer, "I don't trust anybody who isn't angry these days."

Live 105's BFD takes place at the Shoreline this weekend with Cypress Hill and Pennywise and Flogging Molly. Should be loud. Should be fun.

High accomodation costs have nixed the Russian River Jazz festival and the Santa Cruz Blues Festival, as well as the gouging for those "Gold Circle" seats.

 

NIGHT SWIMMING


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After last week's surprise of rain and nearly ten inches of snow in the high Sierra, things have settled down to the usual morning high fogs and evening chills. But the day now has enough bright sunshine to make excursions worthwhile.

This week voters take to the polls during one of our well-exercised initiative cum Primary brough-hahas. May the best candidate win and may foolishness take an unusual backseat this time. Not much to hope for, as seldom does the reasonable prevail these days.

Optimistically, the recent reasonable court decision. free of hysteria, hatred, or speciousness, in recognizing that you can have marriage in a church and you can have marriage in the statehouse, and you can have both, but the statehouse is not a church and you cannot let the church tell the statehouse to blindly emulate, especially when restrictions against state-supplied privileges are concerned.

Believe the man said, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's."

Tommy and Toby and Lynette and Susan have been running about, giddy as kids. Tommy and Toby especially, for they had sailed their boat, The Lavendar Surprise, over to Babylon when Mayor Gavin over there pushed the whole thing forward a while ago. Their marriage lasted officially some three weeks before the rightwingnuts commenced hollaring, so they didnt get to go on honeymoon in Hawaii or Boston.

We know. Hawaii or Boston -- its a tough choice.

So they moped about the confetti and the ruffled streamers on deck and drank far too many mojitos to assuage the despair with Lynette and Susan. That couple had decided to take a pass the first time out of a deep well of cynicism.

"You know what will happen. With all the wedding registries and things like that we'll all get put on a list." said Susan. The last time our people got put on a list they sent them off to Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. That's why grandma has no relatives."

Lynette concurred, for she too came of the 12 tribes and had suffered extremity as well for being simply who she is.

Dear sweet Lynette, looking out over the water and the tossing ship masts of the marina while Susan gazed at her. Who is Lynette, but a sweet woman who manages to find the good in everybody, even the crazy people down at the Fremont Psychologic Facility. She didn't just find the good in people -- she loved them all, especially for their faults, it seemed sometimes, rather than in spite of them.

Susan remembered going down there one time to pick her up when the truck died, and they had to let her in with a punch code after she stood for a silent moment in front of a dispassionate surveillance camera. There, inside, really inside the crazyplace, the holy of holy of craziness a guy shambled up to her, a lean and gaunt looking man with a smile on his lips.

"Fuck you." He said. And she stepped back startled and prepared to employ her self defence techniques until Lynette came up and told her that this was Jeff and that he was essentially harmless.

"Jeff, go sit down," Lynette told him.

"Where?"

"Over there." She pointed to a brown upholstered thing donated from Goodwill.

"Okay!" he said cheerfully and added, "Fuck you!" before walking over to the chair where he stood beside it.

"What is with that guy?" Susan asked as they went out.

"He was lobotomized way back when they did that to just about everybody for anything." Lynette explained.

"Oy, what for?"

"Because he has this verbal thing and can't stop saying that phrase to everybody all the time."

"It didn't work." observed Susan.

"Of course not. But now he really, really enjoys it. Wouldn't you do the same if you wore his shoes?"

They could hear him bellow at the top of his lungs even through the closed door. "Fuck yuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!"

Oh Lynette, always caring for the lost and the forlorn and the damaged, even when she, herself was so fragile, sitting there in the deckchair, her curls touseled by the wind.

There would be no going to Boston for either one of them, although Lynette had lived many years there. Got her credentials at MIT in fact, as she was no slouch in the brains department either. But one night, as she came out of a bar -- in what is considered quite a good neighborhood in fact -- three guys came at her quite suddenly with bats. As she raised her arm to protect her head, one of the bats came down and shattered her forearm, and as she fell, with the thugs flailing away at her body, she distinctly remembered thinking, "So that is what it sounds like when bones break."

The men kept at her with their clubs as she lay in the snowbank there, hitting her head, her body, her arms, her legs, really working at it with the sort of persistent hatred that starts its own fire so fierce even animal compassion flares up into nothingness.

They left her to die, shattered and bleeding in the snow, which mercifully offered its own sort of compassion of numbness until someone else coming out of the bar shrieked and called an ambulance.

Unlike more than a few, she survived. And there she sat, looking out as the sun ignited the horizon beyond the marina where the palms grew tall into flaming roostertails of gold and vermilion and white cloud, thinking whatever thoughts. Susan put her arms around her.

"Have some more shrimp! I made a ton of it," Lynette said to Tommy, who was trying to show Toby how to tie a bow-hitch. " And you, my boy, need to line your stomach."

"I thought that stuff was all, y'know, un-kosher," Toby said, pointing at the trays of shrimp, oysters, sausages and ham tapas."

"Of course it is," said Lynette. "I love it!"

"I love you," Susan said.

"I love you too, sweetie." Lynette said, and then, with a twinkle in her eye, "Whaddya say we get married in a couple weeks?"

Well, that's just the way it is on the Island in the Spring. Have a great week.


 

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