Island Life: Jan. - June 2011

First Half of the Year

Vol. 13 Weekly News, Reviews, Music and Satire Sunday 2011

dasboot.gifWelcome to the first half of year 2011. The year's content is split into two parts to allow easier page loading for slower browsers. Each year tends to approach the equivalent of 380 typewritten pages.

To go to the present time, click on this hyperlink: NOW!



JUNE 26, 2011


This week's headline comes from the mellifluously appelled Lisa Bullwinkel, who runs an East Bay based event coordination service and is of the winner in last week's rescheduled Chocolate and Chalk Festival up in Berzerkeley.

Ryan Sommer drew this to take first place and $250 in the Chalk Art Contest at the Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival in the Gourmet Ghetto on North Shattuck Avenue last week.

Despite moving the festival forward one week due to a very rainy early June, the crowds came out in droves. They ate tons of delicious chocolate specialties that were available in the restaurants just for that day and drew more than 200 pieces of chalk art on the sidewalks.

Sponsored by the North Shattuck Association and produced by Another Bullwinkel Show, the event is now in it’s 15th year. Photos of all of the winners may be viewed at

The event is always an early summer success that puts a spin on the usual wine/art festival format.


Locals here managed to postpone the closure of the Island's beloved animal shelter, which had been slated for closure for the usual budgetary reasons. The Human Society managed to convince the City to sign an informal agreement to fund the shelter by means of donations for the time being. The shelter will remain open while folks scramble to create an alternative non-profit agency to run the facility now managed by the Island Police.

We welcome Officer Noonan as the newest city appointment to the long vacant Police Chief position. Noonan takes on the job during an unenviable time which sees the department facing a 5% budget cut, which translates to the loss of 9 officer positions. Besides the cuts and the prospective closure of the animal shelter, the force is facing serious national heat due to the flap over the botched response to the Zack suicide at Crown Beach. Noonan remains opptimistic about facing the upcoming challenges, indicating that due to prospective retirements and existing vacancies, existing officers may be allowed to keep their jobs by freezing replacement hiring.

A 9 and a 12 year old were arrested for slaughtering 11 chickens that had been housed in a community garden coop here. The boys apparently carried a beef against one particular Islander associated with the coop, and so broke into the area to bludgeon the birds with a shovel in the early hours of July 13. These kids are not all right . . .

Perhaps unsurprisingly the local weeklies have featured headline stories about the courage and effectiveness demonstrated by a couple service agencies here -- towit, the Coast Guard and the Fire Department. The somewhat snarky headline announcing a story about the rescue of a father with 2 children from a boat that sank in the Bay read "RESCUE DONE RIGHT". The rescue took place about 500 yards off from Ballena Bay and was aided by volunteer kayakers.

Citizen voluneers also aided in preventing the spread of a serious house fire on Briggs Avenue. No injuries were reported in the fire which spread to surrounding trees before neighbors used water hoses to douse the flames outside the house.

And perhaps realizing now is not the time to press their luck on labor contracts here, the firefighter's union made substantial concessions in negociations with the City, collaborating with Mayor Marie to help reduce the mulimillion dollar projected deficit in City finances. A line item in the contract features acquisition of a "small dingy" to be used for land-sea rescues.


A couple notable events took place across the water in the town of high rents, high aspirations, and serious under-employment. The International Air Guitar Championships took place, but because of the nature of the beast, nobody heard anything about it.

Also happening this weekend was the annual colorful pean to . . . well, the increasing list of folks adding their Label cap to what is now the LGBTQIA minority, and then some, weekend and colorful parade that draws minority members along with everyone else come to gawk at what often are vastly entertaining hijinks and costumes, not to mention make-up-tips to die for. It may be contrarian, but we learned that our gay friends here on the Island stayed home to skip the traffic gridlock for the parade which often swells the streets by another quarter million each year.


Its been sunny, but cooler than normal here on the Island set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. All the schools are done with graduations, the kibosh has been put on the rains for a while, and this week Old Gaia, sitting on her bright-light porch of the world, turned her face finally to allow the full strength of her Sun to caress the deep crevices of her cheeks, the furrows of her brow of mountains and the limpid lakes that are her eyes. The Solstice had revolved to the time that is now.

Everyone celebrated the absolutely gorgeous weather in their own way. Tommy and Toby took their boat, The Lavendar Surprise over to the City Marina for the Pride Parade. Javier located the jammed, burned pistol with which Valerie had shot him on his birthday and buried it in the backyard. Denby went to visit Jose in Highland's ICU.

. . . people got shot with appalling frequency

Jose had gotten severely burned when Javier's birthday cannon had exploded during the melee. Things never seemed to go well during Javier's birthday parties; houses burned down and people got shot with appalling frequency. It was well that his birthday came only once a year. Occasional Quentin had secreted himself into hiding, sleeping out on the "Dumb Friends" bench at Franklin Park.

Denby asked Jose how he was feeling and Jose groaned a long groan of misery.

You should avoid Virgos, Denby advised him.

"No, Javier should avoid Virgos and I should avoid that pinche Javier." He groaned again.

So when do they finish with the skin grafts? Denby asked, to change the subject.

The latest burn therapy involved layering blankets of pigskin on the victim until the underlying layers healed. Jose was essentially wrapped in fatback.

"I am going to avoid all birthdays," Jose said.

"I am going to avoid all birthdays," Jose said.

Come to think of it, when's yours? Denby asked well meaningly.

Denby fled from that place in a hail of metal pans, plastic trays, and partially eaten jello cups flung at his head.

He hitched a ride on the back of Pahrump's scooter over to Marin to help a friend celebrate a birthday, albeit in more sedate fashion than practiced on the Island where even the calmest party featured little girls beating papermache donkeys hanging from trees with a stick until the victim's insides rupture all over the place. Something about America just encourages violence in the best of us.

They put him and Pahrump to work shucking about 148 bar-b-que oysters, grilling salmon and a large bird that looked suspiciously like an oversized pigeon. One entire wall of the house featured a ceiling-high wall-to-wall birdcage just chock full of fluttering, twittering canaries. Denby did not want to think about from where the bird had come, but he had to ask what it was since it was his job to cook it.

The guy, a music industry mogul, told him it was a Brazilian Paraclete Squab.

"A parakeet?" Pahrump said, incredulous.

No, a Paraclete. It aint extinct or anything like that, so don't worry.

"O!" Pahrump said, as if this explained everything.

Since it was a potluck, each guest had brought something special to contribute. In most normal potlucks, people bring lumpy jello, fried chicken, potato salad, homemade chili and hot dish, but this was a Marin Potluck. The grill featured all kinds of animals and fish of which Denby had only heard about in National Geographic Specials, including the infamous red-eyed garam which had been masala-ed overnight in special pans until the antenna had nearly fallen off. Even the deviled eggs had strange orange flowers stuck in them.

A famous author with a Southern accent strolled around, dripping bon bots and being Famous.

The Country was named Jennifer and the Province was way, way down south. . .

A lovely girl came up to Denby and offered him a bit of puffer fish from a bowl. The white bowl of pale fish glowed in front of her black dress which clung to her torso so tightly that the imagination began to conduct a sort of National Geographic expedition of its own around the hills and valleys of that landscape. The country was named Jennifer and the Province was way, way down south. It had been a long time since Denby had stood this close to a hot grill and he felt the hot sun of the pristine sky make him sweat like he was on a safari.

What's this fish?

"It's puffer. It contains one of the most virulent toxins known to science. The Amazonian aborigines tip their poison arrows with it. You nibble a little piece and it makes your lips go numb."

No thanks. I'm allergic to . . . fish. All fish. The Expedition began to withdraw.

She put down the bowl and took up one of the molluscs to schluck it down. "These remind me of prairie oysters," she said.

The Safari had now scattered leaving their tents behind and the Expedition had piled into jeeps racing back to Civilization.

"I'm from Sault St. Marie," Jennifer said. "You live in Marin?"

Where shrieks split through the shattered windows . . .

"We live across the water," Pahrump said. "Where shrieks split through the shattered windows and broken slats of houses so askew you don't want to investigate and gunshots hopscotch between the police sirens and chain link fences."

Jennifer backed away with her fingers crossed in front of her. "East Bay! East Bay!" Abruptly she turned and ran away.

The splendid summer's day glided over the stones and trees of Marin into the shadows of evening. Denby brought out the guitar and Pahrump his bongos and the two of them performed for the invited guests.

While Pahrump sat there resting during a break a guy with a craggy face that looked like it had been through a thousand fistfights came up to him. "Name's Doyle. You guys know much about the prostate?"

Us guys?

"You do have a prostate don't ya?" Doyle asked.

"You do have a prostate don't ya?" Doyle asked. "I thought everybody had one. I mean all the different peoples."

So Doyle wanted to know all about Native American remedies for prostate troubles and the two of them connected on the matter of having something in common and they had a fine discussion sitting there on the couch talking all about the prostate, how wonderful it was to have one, the fun stuff you could do with it, what it was there for and all kinds of really groovy prostate-related things, as well as its unruly nature, while the Famous Author sat across from them discussing Proust with Jennifer.

"I'll bet she doesn't have a prostate," said Pahrump.

"I sincerely doubt it," Doyle said. "But I'll bet she has put her hands on one or two in her time. Don't you just hate it when the doc puts on that latex glove and looks at you?"

He's a nice guy, Pahrump thought to himself. However, this is the last time I do a gig for Seniors.

The birthday girl was a lean and lanky woman with iron-gray hair named Marybeth who looked to be about 36.

When Pahrump found out her age, he rudely blurted out, "Girl, you do a lot of botox or something?"

Marybeth laughed. "No, just yoga."

She had merry, dancing eyes, but her husband had framed replicas of antique guns hanging on the walls, and Pahrump suspected that a few contemporary pieces lay about someplace so he paid attention to the music.

"I'd still schtupp her in a minute," somebody said.

Music. Focus on the music! Pahrump went back to the bongos.

They did some Townes Van Zandt and some Chris Smither and some Shindell. Denby finished up with a Mike Doughty song called "27 Jennifers." Pahrump rolled his eyes. Oh well.

As they motored across the Richmond bridge the amber lights of the bridge flashed by like comets or memories. The squat tanks of the Chevron refinery and the Two Brothers Lighthouse greeted them before they slung past the immense north-western quadrant of the Port with its tall spot-lit gantries and the massive ocean freighters resting at the ends of the long mule-piers.

"Home! Home!" Pahrump and Denby shouted.

And they fired down the long defile into Albany, bordered by the salt marshes on the right and the wierd apartments on the left until they slingshotted into the Maze on the little scooter striving mightily to carry two men, a big guitar case and a set of bongos through this exquisite summer night for which they had both been paid the princely sum of fifty bucks each. Then they were up and over the elevated freeway and then down past the construction of the retrofit just before the tube made famous in the Matrix movies. Then home, really home, at last.

What? Back so soon and you didn't get laid?" Tipitina said when they stomped into the cottage.

"No money, no Honey. And nevermind the prostate neither."

"Old Indian saying," Pahrump said. "No money, no Honey. And nevermind the prostate neither."

"Nevermind the what . . . ?!"

Meanwhile, down in a glade at Crab Cove, the Wiccans were holding their Solstice Ceremony. The actual Solstice had passed midweek and a bunch of Lutherans had come down with lawn chairs and picnic baskets to see if anyone would cavort on that evening. As most Wiccans hold day jobs, the weekend seemed far more logical to hold a ceremony and so Tony drove over from KPFA where she worked as a technician and helped set up a little place there.

Most church goers would not enjoy having a group of tourists wearing dirndls and lederhosen coming into their place with cameras and concession stands and Wiccans are pretty much no different, really from other folks in their concerns about the Sacred and the Profane.

There is a place for making jokes about roasted Paraclete and Papal Poop and the Lutheran Pastor getting into bed with a dying man and then there is the real matter of brass tacks, of facing something pretty Big, of facing mortality and that even scarier concept, possible immortality.

You just might not be immortal after all. It might all depend . . .

Nothing is a given, Tony reminds herself. You just might not be immortal after all. It might all depend on what you do in this life. Even though some people act like it does not matter. All you can do is live your life as you should and hope for the best, really.

So Tony helped set up the circle there with low seats and one special one for Pat, who had problems with her limbs and after evening had fallen and all of them were gathered there, they sang the old songs with the strands of luminescent jewels draped on the hills across the water and Hunters Point looking beautiful for the only time of day or night that wracked place ever does.

As they sang the old songs, older far than any of those employed by the relatively modern Christian liturgies a wonder happened unto them. A massive hairy creature wandered into the center of the circle as they chanted.

Naturally, they all stopped.

It was Eunice, Wootie Kanootie's female moose. She had escaped the herd from where they had been corraled at the base of the Park Street Bridge because she had wearied of the constant amorous attentions of all the male elk there. So she had broken free to earn herself a little holiday. The herd had been awaiting the arrival of two cowboys named Dusty and Lefty who were supposed to herd them back up to Winnipeg, but the boys had been busy on other gigs in the Midwest and had taken their own sweet time getting there.

Nevertheless, such a magnificent creature seemed a blessing to them there and so they fed her apples and things from the cornicopia they had there as a symbol of Mother Earth's generosity and they draped the neck of the moose with orchids and so that is how Wootie found his lost moose who was not lost at all but found.

For she who was lost is now found.

Which is pretty much the story of all liturgy really. For she who was lost is now found. Eunice didn't mind. She was tuckered out so she just went to sleep there, surrounded by luminaria and witches.

Right then from far across the Port of Oaktown, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the sacred waves of the estuary and the summer wildflowers blooming over the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

JUNE 19, 2011


This week's headline photos come from The Point and from Texas and feature two epic fails. The first is of a roadside modification of our own Howard Camping's billboard campaign as it was realized in Texas. It kinda speaks for itself.

The second image is of the failed attempt to remount the fighter jet on its pedestal after the object had been repaired subsequent to being knocked down by a big storm here. The crane assigned to do the job proved to be lighter than the cargo, resulting in a minor mishap when the crane toppled over onto the jet. Oops!


The little town of Pittsburg, CA is one of several communities that grew from delta outposts into towns during World War II. As the war effort kicked into high gear hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of men travelled here from the Deep South with their families to find work in the massive shipyards and airplane factories that extended all along the delta region for miles.

One of the workers there in Port Richmond was a Rosie the Riveter (there were about seven Rosies used by the OMB for the war propaganda posters). One of those shipyard facilities was Port Chicago, which no longer exists because it was entirely destroyed by a major catastrophe caused, it is thought, by careless management of arms loading.

Because the housing projects built along the delta were created to house non-com family members and a substantially Black population, those communities of Hercules, Martinez, Richmond, and Pittsburg remain substantially less wealthy than the wildly developed towns further south along the 680 corridor where folks used to pot deer for supper out the backdoor and raise chickens in the backyard.

Pittsburg remains a community of low-slung single level ranch-style houses fronting sandy yards and unimproved streets mostly lacking sidewalks and curbs but shaded with big trees which do not appear to have been pruned in half a century. This is the Other California, the California that doesn't know movie stars or high finance or Dot Com. Most of the streets sport those mobile basketball hoops. The cars parked in the dirt driveways are modest American or Japanese models. Other than the local high school, not much has changed here physically since the 1950's.

It was there in the 1940's that a family arrived from Waterproof, LA, bringing with them a young boy named John Henry, already big for his age. His former classmates remember greeting their new colleague in grade school by looking up at him -- already a strapping six footer before getting into junior high.

In high school the young man excelled in virtually every sport. He broke county records in the discus toss by ten and twenty yards at a time. He batted over .300 in baseball. He scored 29 points per game in basketball in a time when entire winning games featured no more than 36 points. But in football, the young furious man found his niche.

Make no mistake: this young man was definitely furious and angry and inclined to a meaness that was fully intended to hurt you. For he grew up in a time before hard shell helmets, before chin-bars, and before civil rights enforced a little respect as well as civility. In his world you got somewhere by fighting tougher than the opponent and by using your forearm to crush somebody's face. Bad enough for needing reconstructive surgery.

When we got to know him, even well into his eighties he would speak with glee about really "smacking that sucker coming down the yardline" and "getting in an elbow just right". Although he had broken a thousand color barriers by means of his career efforts a prickly remainder of bad times and bad experiences remained inside of him. There were some things the man could not forget or forgive.

Island-Life was privileged to attend a memorial service on Saturday for John Henry Johnson, Hall of Fame member and former 49'er as well as one of the last survivors of the famous "Million Dollar Backfield". The service was held in the gymnasium of the Pittsburg High school where he began his athletic career before he went on to Arizona State and then to the draft for pro football.

The room was crowded with ghosts and history and luminaries. Members of the Steelers were there as well as 49'ers, members of the State legislature, local civic leaders, and the lead sports columnist for the Herald, who announced that John Henry was elected in an informal poll within the staff among the top 100 athletes of all time, and ultimately, the best American Athlete of all time.

John played professionally from 1954 to 1965 for a variety of teams. He was initially drafted in 1953, but spent his nrst year playing professional football in Canada for the Calgary Stampeders.

In 1954 he was acquired by the San Francisco 49ers and became a member of what has know
become known as the"Million Dollar Backfield.”ln 1957 he was traded to the Detroit Lions where he lead their championship team in rushing yards. In 1960 he became a memberof thePittsburgh Steelers. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in 1962 and became known at the league’s hardest running rusher. Then in 1964 he became the first running back to run for over 1,000 yards (1,048) who was over the age of 35. He completed his career playing for the Houston Oilers. At the conclusion of his 12-year career, he rushed for a total of 6,803 yards, making him 4th leading rusher of all time at his retirement.

The best comment was made by Bob Sinclair (ex-49'ers) who said, "How many of us here will enjoy such a memorial as this? Will you be known for anything other than just having lived?" Turning to the young representatives of the high school football team, he said, "Live your life to the fullest. Be everything you can be. Make a difference with your life."

Barbara Davis and Terri Blinks provided beautiful uplifting music for the occasion. Dr. M.R. Thompson, Pastor Emeritus provided Eulogy and Benediction.

His first wife Barbara Flood-Johnson, his son Michael Henry Johnson, grandson Melvin Brown Jr. and his second wife Leona Johnson preceded John Henry in death. He leaves to cherish his memory his children Kathy Moppin, her husband Roger Moppin Sr., Camlyn Johnson, twins Terri Johnson and Toni Johnson and John Henry Johnson Jr.; grandchildren Denise, Barbara, Rogerlr., Marcel, Allen, Cicely, Buford, James, Tonisha, Michael, Edward, Patrick, James; nephew John L. Brown and wife Barbara, their son Bryan, his wife Cheryl, and daughter Janelle; niece Patricia Bagsby and a host of their great—nieces, great—nephews, and great—grandchildren. ln addition to family, his close friend Wiley McClain of Denver, Co; Thurston "Ducky" Lane, and Donna Shelton of Pittsburgh, Pa.


Howard Camping, the Islander whose wacky doomsday prophecies propelled this place into international limelight has had a stroke. Close folks say that he will never again have the gift of gab he used to have, which is for the world around here a pleasant boon. Most of the local talk has been to the point that the big Armageddon is in fact his own for the octogenarian brimstone preacher who said the world would end on May 21. The new date is sometime in October. Whatever.


Good news for folks East of here and for locals as well. Weatherman has cloud-free skies forcast for the duration with steadily increasing temps into the 80's for next week and for weeks beyond. No more snow and no more rain for the midwest.

On the flip side we got a trip report over the wire relating snow and extensive snow conditions at 11,000 feet in the Sierra. The hiker reported skiing through the Evolution basin and over Echo and Lamarck Cols, taking shelter in an ice cave during a blizzard. So if some of you are thinking to backpack over the cols this year, we have some advice for you. Don't. Unless you are packing snowshoes and full crampons.


Ambled on out for the second day of the Annual Northern California Pirate Festival in Vallejo. The festival is the largest assembly of pirates in the world, as stated by the Guiness Book of World Records. When organizers first planned the event they allowed for some 5,000 attendees. Some 30,000 folks showed up instead with more coming every year thereafter. The Fest remains free for the time being, which makes it well worth strolling around for a while just to look at the fantastic apparel of attendees.

Then there are activities such as swordfighting classes (epee and foil), pirate vittles and beer, kids games (kids can be pirates too!), the occasional cannon battle between shore batteries and pirate sloops, cutlass fights, pirate music and lots of merry debauchery.

Sunday proved to be more family friendly than Saturday and as the temps streadily climbed into the high eighties, the general rowdiness settled into a wilted series of Arrrrrgs! A little more tent shade would have been nice.

A saucy wench . . .

She looks worried. Look behind her to see what just happened to another kid . . .

Pirate in training . . . .

The fearsome William Teach walks again, and here is a pack of Salty Sea dogs . . .

Pirates old and young(er) . . .

More saucy wenches . . .

A pirate confab of old friends . . .

Now how do I tune this 12-string again . . . ?

Ready the shore batteries, me mateys . . . !

More saucy wenches comparing fashion tips. O they are most saucy, those wenches . . . !

Preparing the 2-pounder for a fight . . .

Damn that was loud! Arrrrrrrg . . . !

Another saucy wench. You cannot tell from here, but the feathers of her hat extend a full two feet behind her. . .

A Scots pirate from Mingulay. This man's weaponry is genuine full tang made by master swordsmiths.

A pirate on shoreleave needs a big tankard . . .

Ahoy, I spy . . . more saucy wenches . . . !

Put on a getup in 80 degree heat and you will want to kill somebody too . . .

Hint: if you intend to fight a deadly duel, do not wear flip-flop sandals . . .

The period accurate single-shot pistol has a blade for use should your ball miss . . .

This fellow may be wanting some nourishment to put some meat on his bones . . .

This saucy wench carries a real "morningstar" flail. Saucy and dangerous . . .

A fine pirate from the notorious ship Goldman-Sachs . . .

No pirate gathering complete without a fiddle from Hell . . .

Once a pirate always a pirate, even after Death . . .

Saucy wench and pirate boytoy . . .

Five pound says the ugly one kills the other . . . .

O, but they both are hideous . . . !

And we big adieu past the Watch . . .


Letters to the Editor now have a section devoted entirely to the botched rescue attempts at Crown Beach. More letters supporting the First Responders now appearing. What you get when you cut government back to nothing . . .

2 kids got arrested for killing about 12 chickens living in a community garden coop with a shovel. Seems the kids had a beef with somebody here and thought to take it out by slaughtering a number of hens. These kids today. . .


The weekend dawned cloud-free with infinite promise of perfection and the scent of BBq wafted across the Island under skies painted an intense bright blue.

Besides Father's Day, the weekend also featured Juneteenth celebrations in a lot of places. Juneteenth commemorates the days when news of the Emancipation Proclaimation finally reached the furthest corners of America, then undergoing the national agony known as the Civil War.

It was a delightful weekend to be out and about, especially for the recent high school graduates, however both Javier and Jose remained together in hospital recovering from their wounds sustained during Javier's birthday celebration.

The two were out at the Strand, getting thoroughly drunk on box wine with Quentin and Pahrump when Javier got in mind to haul out his replica blackpowder cannon from the online store Bud-K. They were down on the flat packed sand part of the beach with the tide gone out, far enough from the house so that there would be no mishap as had happened a couple years ago when the house had nearly burned down on Javier's fiftieth.

They packed the thing up with black powder and Quentin tossed in a few rocks for good measure so that when the cannon went off with the help of Pahrump's bic lighter igniting an lighterfluid-filled tiki torch they kept stuck in the sand a jet of flame shot out a good three feet from the muzzle and several seagulls dropped out of the sky as Bonkers and Wickiwup scampered like hell back to the house in terror.

"Arrrrg," said Quentin.

"Are you trying to be a pirate?" Jose said as he stoked the cannon for another jolly volley.

"No," Quentin responded. "Here comes Valerie. And she looks pissed."

In truth Javier's goth girlfriend came storming down the beach howling imprecations at Javier. Nothing is more fearsome than an angry raven-haired woman sporting nasty tattoos and enough metal hardware pierced in her face to rebuild the Terminator.

When she got there, howling imprecations which could cause an old sailor to turn pale, she began punching Javier who tried to fend her off while the guys stood around and Jose tried to protect the precious cannon. After kicking the man a few times Valerie pulled out a small pistol and began firing at Javier. This made most of the men start running for their lives.

The first few shots popped the lighterfluid can which sent a spray all over the cowering Jose by the cannon. Javier got winged in the meat of his left calf, the one leg which had not until this point been broken or pierced by an angry amore.

The thing jammed but Valerie kept squeezing the trigger while Javier lay there groaning on the ground until the jammed bullet did what those things do in such cases -- it exploded in her hand, sending sparks and tiny shrapnel everywhere. The sparks ignited Jose who in turn ignited the bag of black powder beside the cannon and witnesses report they saw a small fireball erupt on the beach, followed by a loud "KABOOM!"

Valerie angrily threw down the now useless pistol and stalked off as the column of fire became a small mushroom cloud that shaded the sands below for a while before dissipating in the shorebreeze..

Later, in the Highland Trauma Unit, Jose asked Javier what had made this one so angry this time.

"She didn't like the way I cooked her eggs this morning," Javier said. "Which led to un poco conflicto. Una pequeña pelea de amantes."

"O! A little lovers' quarrel. Afortunadamente no serio." Then he added as an afterthought, "Feliz cumpleanos. Please do not invite me next time."

Sunday is Father's Day, and as per tradition the girls in the Marlene-Andre Household all hooked up with their various dads. Because of the Great Recession there was no joint breakfast at Mama's Royal Cafe this year, so each found her own way to honor dear old Da and in the Old Same Place Bar Padraic cleaned and polished the glass over the photograph of Firmanaugh O'Reilly, The old Fir, as Padraic called him.

The Old Fir had saved all his Punts in a sack under the bed working as an odd jobs man in County Wicklow, driving his battered bicycle up and down the hills from one painting job to landscaping job to wall-repair to tending horses for the gentry all the way from Dun Laoghair to Baile ath Cliath and Belfield. Finally enough had been saved up to send Padraic to America, to far off San Francisco. Then, in the third year of Padraic's leaving, the Old Fir had died when there had not been enough money for peat to stoke the stove in the cottage there where he had lived since his ma had passed on earlier, his only legacy being in the form of a tick at the Golden Ball on the road to Eniskerry.

Padraic paid off the tick from America and so had never returned, as there was no need to do so now, joining the vast diaspora of some 30 million Irish wandering the globe. So they all had a toast to the Old Fir, for he had been a mighty man in his day and the world shall not see his like again.

"D'ya miss him?" Suzie asked.

"His manner of waking me up after the alarm was to toss a kettle of cold water on me head. He never learned to cook worth beans, not even stirabout, for he either burned or undercooked it every time whatever it was." Padraic said. "His cooking was as bad as the English for all of that. Let's have a toast to the Old Fir."

And so with misty eyes they all had a glass in memory of the Old Man himself, for he was as gnarly as a blackthorn stick, as crusty as shepard's pie, as tough as a wall of stones, hard as a roofslate, mossy as a foggy glen, mean as a fox, shrewd as vole and blessed with an heart of gold withal for he paid for his boy to escape that horrid place and come to America.

Right then from far across the Port of Oaktown, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the reminiscing waves of the estuary and the paternal wildflowers blooming over the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

JUNE 12, 2011


This weeks photo comes from Kenn (sic) Cooperman who is allowed to spell his first name with two "N"s because he is a genius. This unusual shot was taken in Yosemite -- a few months ago in the dead of winter on a nice crisp day in the teens. It is of the Yosemite falls from the door of the Yosemite Lodge, which operates yearlong and was shot with the now unobtainable IR feature on his digital camera.

Kenn used a red filter, then converted the shot to B/W. Yosemite in winter has been a long guarded secret among nature lovers who revile the crowds of summertime. The trees in front are dogwoods. The rock is Sierra rock. Rock is good; you can quote us on that.


Monday is the release date for Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who was convicted last July of involuntary manslaughter for shooting and killing Grant on the Fruitvale BART station platform New Year’s Day 2009.

The Superior Court released a document that explained the release. It said when Mehserle was sentenced on November 5, 2010 he had already served 146 days. Since that date, he has served 219 additional days. The court said with conduct credits of 366, Mehserle will have served the total time of his imposed sentence.

Grant's uncle Cepheus Johnson said it will be a sad day for his family.

Mehserle was arrested only after a great deal of protest in Oakland. He was placed on trial in June of last year, where several discrepancies took place in his favor, calling into question the legitimacy of trial. Further, this was the first time that Mehserle showed any remorse of the murder; he had never so much as contacted Grant’s family to apologize. The shooting was captured on several cellphone cameras, and even as of last week new footage has come to light showing Mehserle standing up, clearly pulling his gun and shooting Grant in the back after a count of two, nearly kneecapping his colleague who had his knee pressed on Grant's neck at the time.

Grant was face down and totally immobilized when the bullet passed through his body and ricocheted off of the concrete platform to reenter his body. Most of the protests upon his conviction were fortunately light as cooler heads prepared in advance to deal with community outrage. Then councilwoman Jean Quan stood between protesters and police to defuse the situation. Quan was later elected as Oakland's first Asian woman mayor.

Protests Sunday were watched carefully by OPD.


The furor over the botched first responder response last Memorial Day continues to flicker in media across the country and among the locals here. A recent City Council meeting was packed with shouting citizens furious with outrage.

Mayor Marie called this week for an independent investigation.

While the Letters to the Editor sections of the Sun and the Journal have been chock full of rants accusing the OPD and IFD of cowardice as well as ineptitude, somewhat balanced by letters that defend the same agencies.

The new wrinkles here concern the release of the radio calls between dispatchers and the 1st responder units, summarized in reference as "the 911 calls" and a memo that disproves the claim that there was no money in the budget for sea-land rescue. The transcripts are downloadable and even listenable at Dave Statter's excellent site, which reports on EMS news around the nation.

Some people have commented that the transcripts indicate that the PD failed to note the urgency of the situation. In defense of the police here, we have to say that abstracting radio calls over a single event will never provide an accurate tone of how responders feel at the time. We have listened to many hours of different calls and it is clear that all professional staff are trained to employ radio signals with the minimum of emotion as the range of response may vary widely across quite a broad continuum of necessity from rescuing a tree-bound cat to assisting a fallen fellow officer.

To give you an idea of just how cool dispatchers need to be, in Part 2 of the Island Life Walkabout you can clearly hear a real West Covina police dispatcher's voice catch as she requests units to respond to something that may be important near the end of the episode (, but the unit responds instead to an observed moving violation.

What the recordings do reveal is a thirty minute period in which everybody seems to have expected someone else to do something in a classic case of "diffused responsibility," and the moment of paralysis appears to occur the moment the USCG commander arrives to take charge of the unofficial CP on the beach.

The other new bit of information is that a memo has surfaced which indicates that the money for the land-sea rescue effort was there all along, untouched, according to the Contra Costa Times. The article goes on to say:

"Interim Alameda Fire Chief Mike D'Orazi said after the May suicide that budget cuts forced the department to abandon water rescue training. He said that led to a 2009 policy forbidding firefighters from engaging in water rescues.

A March 19, 2009, memo obtained by the Contra Costa Times shows that the funds were approved for the department. It was written by the fire division's chief, Dale Vogelsang."

The memo goes on to say ""We have been approved funding to recertify instructors and train new swimmers," Division Chief Dale Vogelsang wrote in memo. "However, until this training is completed, per OSHA requirements, no members may be used as rescue swimmers...We anticipate training to commence within the next 30 to 45 days,"

That training never took place. Funnily enough the Kansas City Times has the scoop.

Finally, locals incensed at the inaction and bureaucratic snuffling about in response took to the water this morning to prove a point.

About a dozen people reenacted the drowning of Raymond Zack at the same spot where he died. Organizers of the event say the Alameda fire and police departments could have done more to save the 53-year-old.

Alameda firefighters did not attempt to save Zack because they are not certified for such rescues. The woman who called 9-1-1 watched Sunday's event form the shore and said she felt guilty for not doing more.

"I think, 'Why didn't I do something, because obviously it would not have been that difficult," Sharon Burnetti told ABC7. Ms. Burnetti was the citizen flagged down by Zack's mother to make the initial call at 11:30am to 911. Another woman pulled Zack's lifeless body from the water an hour later.

The swimmers say the condition were so mild a rescue would have been easy.

The swimmers chose Sunday morning because of similar tide conditions. Afterwards, they held a moment of silence for Zack.


If that yahoo Greenspan or Ben "Boodle" Bernanke say the Great Recession is over, they better not come around here and certainly better not get caught in any dark alleys. Two East Bay companies are laying off a combined 108 employees due to hard times. In Fremont, printing company R.R. Donnelly will chop 56 jobs when it closes its distribution and manufacturing center there. On the Island, Total Immersion, a maker of virtual reality software simulations, will eliminate 52 jobs when it shuts its digital studio here.

The contrasts in what the two companies produce are a reminder that the economic slump continues to threaten a wide array of industries in the East Bay, where the job market appears to be much weaker than the Bay Area overall.

Over the 12 months that ended in April, the East Bay lost 6,400 payroll jobs, the state's Employment Development Department reported. The Bay Area gained 4,900 jobs over the same one-year period.

The two companies had differing reasons for closing their local operations.

R.R. Donnelly appears to have suffered from slumping sales for its Fremont operation, according to information the company provided to the Alameda County Workforce Development Board.

The jobs that Donnelly will jettison at its Fremont operation include forklift operators, shipping and receiving clerks, hoist operators, buyers, inventory control clerks and quality control employees, according to state government documents.

Total Immersion Software, in contrast to Donnelly & Sons, has been growing and sales are rising. The company decided to transfer its work from Alameda to Texas primarily to operate more efficiently, said Pete Bonanni, chief executive officer with Total Immersion. A major factor is that the lease for the Island office came to an end, and many property managers are preferring to allow space to remain vacant rather than negotiate more reasonable terms with tenants. The hope is that preserving high asking prices for leases will float the existing tenanted properties higher as paying tenants fund the empties until the economy recovers.


Okay you all voted for this. Now it becomes real. And the reality is that already a lot of people don't like it.

Fremont citizens nearly took up torches and pitchforks to Sacto on news that the first redistricting plan will split the city of Fremont in half.

While the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is scheduled to release its official draft district maps Friday, preliminary drawings released late last week showed Fremont as the only city in Alameda County split into two congressional districts.

The northern half of the city, along with Newark, Union City, Hayward and San Leandro, would remain in the district currently represented by Pete Stark, D-Fremont. The reconfigured district would stretch across eastern Alameda County, including the Tri-Valley area, all the way to Interstate 205.

The southern half of Fremont would be grouped with Milpitas and much of eastern San Jose in a predominantly Santa Clara County district, currently represented by Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.

Fremont is the largest city in the district represented by Stark, who also represents the Island. The entire area is heavily Democratic with some 90% registered.

The concern is that Fremont clout in Sacto will be diffused by the division.

The redistricting commission was created by recent ballot measures to take away from politicians the power of drawing Assembly, Senate, Board of Equalization and Congress districts.

The commission is scheduled to release a second set of draft district maps on July 1.

It must certify the new districts by Aug. 15.


Seems we got our usual sunny summer weather back with only gradually warming trends forecast for the duration. This ought to be good news for folks East of here. Already we are hearing reports that some of the Mississippi diversion gates are being closed north of New Orleans and the town of Joplin will get a chance to at least dry out a bit.

Further east, the news reminded all of us that we are glad we don't live on the East coast where a vicious heat wave has been making the normally dour Easterners even more cantankerous with triple digit temps.


Gradually the roiling clouds plodded stolidly to the eastern horizon, leaving angelic sweepers behind to clean up after the trumpeting elephants in the sky had marched over the mountains. The weekend bloomed like a golden poppy and everybody took to their gardens to see what could happen with the rest of the season. Lisa Bulwinkel has rescheduled her Chocolate and Chalk festival up in Berzerkeley (see Calendar) and it looks like all the big music festivals from the High Sierra romp in Strawberry to the Kate Wolf, BFD and Treasure Island will happen without dread of wet.

Over in the Island Offices things got stormy when Denby revealed that he had finally learned how to play "Walking Blues" properly. The Editor was incensed.

"Why the HELL did you not do that for the Walkabout episodes instead of that horrible noise!" The Editor then began furiously eating galley sheets from the AP newswire -- always a bad sign in an newsroom -- and Denby scampered out of there for the Editor was wroth.

Denby had been under the impression things were getting better. Paul had gotten a loop machine for the Monkey Spankers -- he always had possessed more cash flow due to his job in the City as a Derivatives Explainer for Mclaffing, Pivot, and Scammem. His job had been to write up long epistles describing esoteric financial instruments as if they were perfectly simple things guaranteed to make money by magic so as to help persuade people with money to hand pots of it into the care of men and women with all the emotional maturity of teenagers. Capitalism at its purest form. With this loop machine they no longer needed to hire a drummer, who generally fell asleep in the cheese dip at each gig anyway.

Everything was going to be so much better now they had this machine and Denby was going like mad on the Gibson along with the track, or so he thought, until Paul commented, "Denby, that is not a parrot-head calypso but a 12 bar blues. Stop that now."

All over California the post-graduation parties flung themselves into motion. Almost all of the public schools had done with their ceremonies here in May, with a few stragglers, along with the private parochial schools ensuring misery for the students into June. The so-called "good schools" like to draw out this entirely unnecessary agony of high school for a few more hours out of some kind of sadistic impulse or medieval urge, perhaps. No body knows why exactly, unless it relates to some bureaucratic arrangement of numbers regarding hours per school year. Nobody is fooled. It really is all about trying to impress the suffering kids with the idea they are "different" and "special" and "gifted."


Everybody knows teens loath those terms worse than Nathaniel Hawthorne's scarlet letter. Being special is a curse. Special is Vinnie who drools all during class and has to be taken by hand to go to the bathroom. Nobody wants to be like that. Which just goes to show you, the people who organize things are fools and the people who have to carry out this organization are bound to regretful servitude.

This is what the kids to look forward to have as models. No wonder so many wind up the way they do -- horror of horrors! -- just like their parents.

The East End kids have parties organized by their parents, which feature Uncle Bob flying in from New York, dropping in actually as part of a business trip to SF, and really boring adults talking about themselves -- who had died, who was dying, gall bladders, ankle supports and so on. The recent grad is simply an addon provided as an excuse to kvetch over ambrosia and coffee. He was always an addon throughout his entire career. He was born because that was the right thing to do at the time. At family gatherings he was lost among the category of "The Children." At weddings and funerals he filled the pew as Obligatory Urchin; that side of the family. Music is supplied via party tapes, and in the more adventurous households, a karaoke machine.

At the first opportunity the grad escapes to the garage to sniff glue with Maryjane and friends, which may explain why we have the society of stockbrokers that we have now, for to that routinized pattern the boy is destined.

In the West End, the kids arrange their own parties with kegs and live music performed by friends on makeshift stages made of loading pallets. Sometimes the parents are invited, but most often not, for parents are realized at that point to be largely extraneous. These kids worked their way through the tedium of high school by putting in hours at the poodle salon, the animal shelter, the pizza parlor, the coffeehouse, and the drugstore, so they have the means to make it happen.

Instead of glue, Maryellen snorts coke with Brad on the picnic table.

We do have our traditions on the Island. And no amount of gentrification will change that. You can sell all your fine houses for all kinds of ridiculous sums, and most certainly you will find a few fools foolish enough to buy them enough to lose their shirts in the end, but nothing will change our traditions.

At Encinal, as the newly freed grads milled about and leapt into one another's arms with glee at the imagined prospective freedom Mrs. Sanchez (nee Ms. Morales) came across Karen, who still had one more year to go. She had shown up to say sad farewell to graduating Arne. Arne already had a job lined up at Norman Racing Motors up in Berkeley. Soon, the relentless round of hours and days would claim his time.

Ms. Morales knew Karen and that her time had been especially harsh with the implosion of her family and her struggles in the past few years. If Woody Allen had divided the world into the the Horrible and the Miserable, with most of us living among the miserable, Karen's life definitely had been thrown into the cauldron of the other. Reflexively, Ms. Morales looked for new scars on the girl's arms.

"Only one more year for you and then you are out," Ms. Morales said. Karen still thought of her as Ms. Morales, her gradeschool teacher, instead of her new name.

Karen remembered her old schoolteacher as one who had been kind to her. "I can't wait to get out of here. When I get out of here I am going away and never ever coming back to this awful little town." She said.

"Well," said Ms. Morales. "I guess I can understand that. Where do you plan to go?"

"Long Beach." Said the girl. "Down to LA where nobody knows me."

"LA. That is a very big place." Ms. Morales said.

"Yes. I want out of here. Away from all this . . . this small town smallness . . . this wretched limitation of everything and . . . and all the stupid concerns about the Point and the Base and you can't even hold a rave out there because they are afraid of things getting out of hand. All the . . . the monkeys running wild! Ha ha ha! They are so afraid and its so stupid. I hate it here and I will never come back!"

"Welll, I do think it is important for young people to see the world. Go out and see it for what it is and put their hands on it. So I wish you well, Karen," said Ms. Morales.

"I just want to be allowed to be myself," Karen said unhappily. "I need to get away forever."

That is when Ms. Morales stepped up on tippy toes and kissed Karen on the forehead. "You know I come from Mindanao in the Philippines. At my age I thought life was all over and I would never have any lover or husband and I had become resigned to my fate to die as an old maid. But then came Mr. Sanchez and he saved me from myself and a long lonely life. Sometimes things happen that are good. Wherever you go, even if you never return, please remember that there are those here who love you still."

That night in the Old Same Place Bar the Editor sat down heavily in his seat. Padraic came over. "Well look at the devil himself, cute as something dragged in by the cat. What'll ya have tonight?"

"An Old Fashioned, of course," snapped the Editor before returning the cigar to his mouth.

"Right-o! Right-o! Give the man an Old Fashioned," Padraic said to Suzie.

""Muddled, if you please," said the Editor.

Old Schmidt was there waving around his stein and buying drinks. He bought a drink even for the Editor.

"Wussup?" asked the Editor.

"Hannover ist Viertel im Europaeische Pokal!" said Old Schmidt, as if that explained everything.

"I have not a god damned idea what you just said," the Editor commented.

"Hannover is deep in Euro Cup with football," explained Old Schmidt

Hanover is in German soccer pretty much what the Chicago Cubs is in relation to the World Series except the Cubs have always had more chances and better talent. Rooting for Hanover has traditionally been akin to cheering for the Edison Otters against Notre Dame. Noble but rather foolish.

This year, due largely to purges of criminal elements from world soccer, Hanover had inexplicably battled its way to the top of the fiercest bundesliga competitions in Europe where they do take soccer very very seriously. Hanover had been so bad for so long they had crept up entirely without warning.

"Where's your main main Jose?" Suzie said, just making conversation.

"He's had a birthday," the Editor said. "Things always go ill during those things."

"O really," Suzie said.

"Yes. This time he exploded."


Right then there was no more time to explain for, from far across the way, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the celebratory waves of the estuary and the Spring wildflowers blooming over the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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


JUNE 5, 2011


There just are not enough pop or folk songs that feature flowers. Hey, Luka Bloom, are you listening? He would be the one to do it. Him and the Indigo Girls. Man, that would be quite a collaboration, come to think about it.

This week's headline photo comes all the way from that Other Island, Hawaii, where local boy Dave Elias has been hanging out, making music and being the barefoot, carefree sort of musician lad that he is. Dave Elias was known to perform down San Gregorio way for a while, and sometimes he still pops in now and then. This one is of a pond lotus which he sent along with notice you can download songs and CDs via CDbaby or his website at He's won a bunch of awards and shit, but we won't bore you with that. Take a listen and judge for yourself.

And always support live music, for live music stimulates the brain, cheers up a rainy day, enlivens the mood, brightens the outlook, cures all manner of diseases -- including but not exclusive to, chilblains, heartburn, dandruff, dysentery, clap, hangnails, anomie, social diseases, antisocial diseases, most forms of neurosis, reactionary tendencies, rampant uptightness, stick in the ass, mugwhumpery, ebola, walking pneumonia, and PeterTucker arthritis -- as well as resolves economic dysfunction, improves the constitution, firms the blood, rightens the moral turpitude, abolishes quackery, gives you those abs of iron and buns of steel you always wanted, and eases nervous jumping up and down to the delight of the great majority, bringing smiles all around.

And let us remind you, in addition, the modern day composer refuses to die.


First, that thing which is most important to all of us -- the weather.

Rainfall records fell recently, not unlike the orcs of Sauron before the mighty sword of Aragorn. . . Um, well, records got broken going way back, eradicating those set in the early nineties after the Reagan Drought. Some records, such as that for San Francisco which saw 1.07 inches of precipitation from midnight to 6 p.m. That more than doubled the old June 4 record set in 1939, when FDR was president.

Oakland had nearly 15 times its record June 4 rainfall on Saturday: 1.45 inches.

Island-Lifer Mike reports that his rain guage shows 25.2 inches for the season and 1.1 inches this month. That is easily double what we usually get for the entire year.

This late storm, characteristic of a regular 20-year cycle, put the kibosh on a large number of events that were scheduled to open the Summer Season here. From Friday's Temescal Art Hop to the Pleasanton Scottish Games, to Berkeley's Chocolate and Chalk Festival, and even the Island's own Sandcastle Competition, big events drew under tents or called off all festivities entirely. Two inches of snow fell in the Sierra middle-highlands, which means it will be a while before the minor passes open this year.

On the upside, the week looks like we are moving into a gradually clearing trend with some of the temps rising slowly to the high seventies, which ought to cheer those folks from SoCal. Locals are saying that we should experience the usual dry weather from here on out, but we would caution people wandering into the High Sierra to expect snow and violent streams in places which have not seen such in well over two decades. Don't count on hopping from rock to rock over that stream where you did that last year. The water WILL be cold and it WILL be fast. Fishing is likely to be iffy in those murky, sediment-stirred streams, but the bugs will be plenty enough to fatten the trout practically to October. Wear netting and DEET.

Those headed for Echo Col will need instep crampons and ice ax again, while we are hearing that Lamarck Col has its sandy valley filled with snow fields again, so crampons will help with that long slog there.

In a couple weeks we will check back with the DWEEB report and the Sierra Avalanche Group, which is likely to have an earful for all of us.


Might as well get around to the more unpleasant news right away. It was supposed to be a slow news week for an Island City that prides itself on not much happening, but it sure did not happen that way as we got catapulted -- once again -- into the national limelight when Raymond Zack walked out onto the shallow underwater sandbar offshore and stood up to his neck in fifty-degree water while nearly one hundred people collected on shore at Crown Memorial Beach (usually called "The Strand" here) and the Coast Guard boat stood off a little ways after trying to send a small boat that failed to make the shallow draft of the bar.

For over an hour police and fire department members watched through binoculars as the man slowly succumbed to hypothermia. Finally, two women prepared to go get the man when it was clear there would be no official response. When one woman finally dove in to retrieve the man, who now floated upside down in the Bay, the other walked away in disgust at the official inaction.

A helicopter was sent, apparently either too late or without proper procedures to do anything, as the helicopter added nothing other than noise to the efforts.

On shore, among the spectators, was Zack's 83 year-old mother, watching as her son died.

Now, quite a lot of ferment and heated words have boiled up over this, where any number of additional outrages have come to light as a result of everyone asking the same question: "Why did not anyone do anything about this?".

The official response has been as follows, summarized: This was an attempted suicide. Suicide attempts are not standard rescues. We do not have trained personnel and policies in place to handle suicide attempt water rescues. Therefore, all personnel did the right thing.

Here are the following wrinkles in the official response from the PD and FD and the Coast Guard, which apparently did not possess a watercraft -- such as a rowboat -- of draft small enough to approach the victim.

Apparently the City also does not possess a rowboat, an astounding absence for a City that is defined by aquatic boundaries.

The Fire Department claimed that they did possess staff and programs designed to handle water rescues, but this program was cut in 2009, and in the intervening two years seems to have lost the expertise in all of the available staff for such a rescue. So at present, our FD does not have the ability to rescue people, suicide or otherwise, from the water. As a result of budget cutbacks, the program to rescue lives was cut, and as a consequence of that, the policy to refuse rescue was instituted. Gotta love that passive case in government documents.

The Police Department never has had a program and -- to be honest -- it would be asking a lot for personnel to trash all of the equipment they must wear as well as risk their lives doing something for which they are not trained. Especially when Fire Department members, who are trained paramedics, are present. Its not like service revolvers and ammunition are cheap affairs or things you can hand to a bystander with the comment, "Here, hang onto this for a bit", while the officer goes swimming. And finishing out the shift would be problematic as well. "Uh, Sarge, I gotta change my shoes now; they're full of wet sand."

As it so happens, purely by coincidence, the latest budget recommendation has six positions being cut from the Police and the Fire Departments. Could just be a coincidence, of course.

At the end of the day, there is one additional wrinkle. No one can fault the civilians from holding back so long -- after all, the official response had indeed shown up. What is interesting is that nobody from any of the Big Three First Responders did anything WHEN NORMALLY THEY DID SO. We have an example in our building of a Coast Guard man who jumped fully clothed into San Francisco Bay to rescue several idiots who decided to take kayaks out in eight-foot swells.

There is another story here that is not being told about how and why this man died. It was reported that he had been depressed for a while. Sure, a lot of us have been depressed. Some of us have been hospitalized and some of us have had therapy and some of us have tried some measures to end things. But this guy walked out 100 yards into frigid water and stood there for an hour in front of one hundred people! There is a measure of determination there that is not usually present in first attempt suicides as well as a peculiar awareness that water of that temperature would cause death by hypothermia; death by degrees in other words. He definitely knew what he was doing, and that takes a certain intelligence, self-awareness, as well as determination. Stand there long enough and the water saps the heat out of your body and you die; end of story.

So now the Nation knows that here in California exists a city surrounded by water which has no resources to rescue drowning people. Period. The latest flurry of infomails had the City contacting the Cities of Oakland and Berkeley to render aid from their trained, staffed, and equipped agencies, but that this request was rescinded only four minutes later.

What? Well, the request was issued after the man had already died.

The blogs and the local papers have been deluged with local outrage about this event and how everything was mishandled from beginning to end.

As a side note, the man who created the original water rescue service, named as Vanderheiden, was fired under questionable circumstances after a dispute with the local union boss. Vanderheiden in fact successfully sued the City for wrongful termination.

We think there is a story here. We expect it will see daylight in some form eventually. Every day, the bucket goes to the well.


The recent economic reports brought in a Schadenfreude of detail. To this point, 45 banks have been closed this year by the FDIC. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. seized Atlantic Bank and Trust, based in Charleston, S.C., with $208.2 million in assets and $191.6 million in deposits. First Citizens Bank and Trust Co., based in Columbia, S.C., agreed to assume the assets and deposits of the failed bank.The pace of closures has slowed, however, and some banks have worked their way through the bad debt. By this time last year, regulators had closed 81 banks.

In 2010 regulators seized 157 banks, the most in a year since the savings-and-loan crisis two decades ago.

The FDIC has said that 2010 likely would mark the peak for bank failures.

There were 140 bank failures in 2009, costing the insurance fund about $36 billion. The failures last year cost around $21 billion, a lower price tag because the banks that failed in 2010 were smaller on average. Twenty-five banks failed in 2008, the year the financial crisis struck with force; only three were closed in 2007.

The number of banks on the FDIC's confidential "problem" list edged up to 888 in the January-March quarter from 884 as of Dec. 31. The 888 troubled banks is the highest number since 1993, during the savings-and-loan crisis.

In related news, concerning housing and housing prices as well as foreclosures, the news is not so good. According to the most recent Spring reports, usually the most optimistic regarding housing sales, the word is that those areas which had escaped the housing downturn are now experiencing a reflexive contraction in sales and in prices.

Severe price declines have spread to Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis and Cleveland, which had mostly withstood the bust in housing since 2006. The damage has now gone well beyond cities hit hardest by unemployment and foreclosures, such as Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Home prices in big metro areas have sunk to their lowest since 2002, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city monthly index showed Tuesday. Since the bubble burst in 2006, prices have fallen more than they did during the Great Depression.

The index, which covers metro areas that include about 70 percent of U.S. households, is updated every quarter and provides a three-month average. The March data is the latest available.

Foreclosures have forced prices down so much that some middle-class neighborhoods have turned into lower-income areas within months.

Prices are expected to keep falling until the glut of foreclosures for sale is reduced, companies start hiring in greater force, banks ease lending rules and more people think it makes sense again to buy a house. In some markets, that could take years.

The latest report points to a "double dip in home prices across much of the nation," said David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor's.

Prices fell from February to March in 18 of the metro areas tracked by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index. And prices in a dozen markets have reached their lowest points since the housing bubble burst in late 2006.

The overall index fell for the eighth straight month and has dropped 3.6 percent in the past year. Prices had risen last summer, fueled by a temporary federal homebuying tax credit. But they've tumbled 7 percent since then. After adjusting for inflation, the home-price index has sunk to the level of 1999.

We could go on about some of the dismal numbers, but why bother. The end result is that things are worser, not better, and that paying any sort of money as anticipated upon a boom turning the corner is foolish right about now. The industry wonks are talking about a "triple dip" instead of a "double dip" in terms of pricing.

"Folks are having so much difficulty in getting financing for a home," said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo. "And foreclosures will likely bring about a third dip. It may be early next year before prices hit bottom."

That won't change soon. Roughly 92 percent of homeowners say it's a bad time to sell their home, according to the latest Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment.

In the seven years before its peak in July 2006, the home-price index surged 155 percent. Since then, it's fallen 33 percent.

During the Great Depression, prices fell 31 percent. It took 19 years for the housing market to regain its losses after the Depression ended.

Recent offerings of over $800,000 per lot appear to be overly optimistic at best, and wildly foolish for buyers who never in their lifetimes will realize profit on sales at that level given the economic realities.


Sometimes ladies driving pickup trucks go boom as well. We got into the news again when a lady drove her truck into McGee's bar just across from the Park Street bridge. McGee's bar! Is nothing sacred any more?

Police said the 63 year old female Island resident lost control of her vehicle on Park Street, apparently after briefly losing consciousness due to medication. Accident remains under investigation.


We remember him as a big hulking man, big as a pro NFL running back, which as it turned out, he was. He was John Henry Johnson, Hall of Famer and member of the San Francisco 49ers' "Million Dollar Backfield." He died Friday in Tracy, California after a long illness.

Johnson, 6 feet 2 and 210 pounds, played for the 49ers from 1954 to '56 and teamed with fellow Hall of Fame members fullback Joe Perry, halfback Hugh McElhenny and quarterback Y.A. Tittle. Perry died in April.

Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.

"As a member of the 'Million Dollar Backfield,' he holds a cherished place in both 49ers and NFL history," 49ers owner John York said in a statement. "His contributions to the game of football will be forever celebrated."

Drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1953, Johnson played one season in the Canadian Football League before joining San Francisco.

Johnson also played for the Detroit Lions from 1957-59, the Steelers from 1960-65 and American Football League's Houston Oilers in 1966. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in two of his seasons with Pittsburgh (1962 and '64) and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times.

Johnson was born Nov. 24, 1929, in Waterproof, La. He was a high school star in football, basketball and track in Pittsburg and played at St. Mary's College in Moraga, and at Arizona State.

His athletic contributions were certainly prodigious, but we recognize him for his significant family accomplishments and wish his survivors all the best in this difficult time. One of our staff was instrumental in assisting with medical care to prolong the man's life after a misdiagnosis at Kaiser.

Funeral services will be held June 18th.


Danielle Fox lets us know that those of you wanting a little clue -- in fact, detailed explanations -- as to what the devil contemporary artists have in mind when they daub paint on canvas, hang up torn parachute fabric, ride bicycles around in circles, encase nasty rubbish in lucite boxes, and reference Beuys as well as deconstruction will get all of that and more June 11 at the next Oakland Art Murmur.

Here's the deal:

Danielle Fox of SLATE Contemporary will be guiding a group of visitors on a private tour of Oakland Art Murmur Galleries in the uptown district on the afternoon of Saturday June 11, 1-4:30pm. Six curators will meet us to present introductions to their galleries, programs, and current exhibitions.

This is a prime opportunity to experience Oakland's gallery scene without the First Friday crowds.
Group meets at SLATE at 4770 Telegraph Ave @48th at 1PM for sandwiches and an introduction to the gallery scene, and reconvenes (via your own car transportation) on 25th St in the Uptown district at 1:45. From that point the tour will be all on foot, and refreshments will be served along the way.

$25 tax deductable donation to Oakland Art Murmur required to participate. Bring a check or donate online at the artmurmur site linked to the image below. Also see the Island-Life Calendar in the sidebar.

Space is limited. To reserve a spot, email


A dockwalloper set in here Friday, chasing all the seagulls over the grocery parkinglot in advance of the big storm which pounded the evening on Friday and sizzled all the docks with savage machine-gun spatters. East Bay Open Studios continued bravely through the downpours and intermittent sun, for artists are humble people used to adversity of all kinds. So it rains. We have suffered much worse. Come see these wondrous dolls inside the safe and warm Goose Cottage!

Joe Bonanno has been wringing his hands at the weather and the dreadful failure of his summer hot peppers. Usually Joe manages to yank peppers ranked on the Scoville ranking somewhere high and left of habanero, but this year it looks like a total wash.

Generally its quite dry around this time, except for this thing that happens every twenty years or so. Naturally the young folk are all pent up and irritated by the perceived interruption. This past two weeks the graduations released their neophytes into the world inside cooped-up gymnasiums and auditoriums with all the distanced removal of PA and speakers, so for many it was a bureaucratic maneuver removed from the ceremonial release that they felt was due as rain splattered the old baseball diamond and the bleachers.

People get to expect an immediate continuity of patterns in weather, and tend to forget that these things have a big wheel of repetition in the grand scheme, and that what seems usual for now is really a momentary sequence embedded in something larger that will shift eventually to something else before coming back again. Well, its really saying that if the corn don't grow this year, for whatever reason, next year it will grow taller. That's all that is about.

In the Market Spot Abram swept the wood floor of the store out front, peering out at the cloud-wracked sky through the permanent discount signs.

He looked out the window at the soggy trees and the wet street. When will this Pineapple Express ever end?

When it rained like this, people hardly came into the store, preferring to hop in their cars and scurry into the mall.

The strange boy who lived down the street came to the door. "Hey, what kind of hat is that?"

Abram looked at him. Oh no.

Abram looked at him. Oh no.

"What kinda hat is that?"

It's a baseball cap.

"It's not a Stetson. I got a real Stetson. Cost me three hundred dollars. I'm a cowboy."

Sure thing. O heck, the guy came in. Hope no customers drop by.

I'm a cowboy.

"I'm a cowboy. I got three ranches. Got one in Arizona and one in . . . uh . . . one in Modesto. I got three ranches 'cause I am a cowboy. I got cowboy boots and spurs and chaps and everything. I am a cowboy."

"You got cowboy boots?"


"You got a Stetson?


"What kinda hat is that on the wall over there?"

That's a woman's sunhat from Vietnam. Abram moved out the door to the awning and the kid followed him. His Stetson was bound up securely with rubberbands.

"I guess that's a good hat for the rain. I got a Stetson." He took it off and looked at it. "It's got felt. It'll keep the rain off I guess." He put the hat back on.

I'd keep it from getting wet if I were you.

"I'm a cowboy. I live down the street. But I own houses in . . . twenty states. I got a house in Illinois. And another house in the Philippines. I am Filipino, cause my father is Filipino. I am going to buy a house in every state. My uncle wants to sell the ranch in Arizona, but I told him no, he can't do that. I am a cowboy." He paused to take a breath.

You must work for the government, Abram said, unable to help himself.

"No, why do you say that? I am Filipino cause my father is Filipino. I been to the Philippines."

You speak Tagalog?

"Sure I do. I speak fluent Tagalog. And Spanish. Some Spanish. A little Spanish. Cause that's where we came from. Spain." The boy then began to relate the history of the Philippines. from the Spanish settlements to the wars of independence, except it was a little unclear who he meant by "we" and "them" and who was fighting who. Which, Abram thought, is just as well as most wars are kind of like that. We and Them is largely momentary point of view.

There never was a good war.

Abram looked at the orange hat that glowed in the back of the shop. There never was a good war. Some wars need to be fought -- not nearly most of them -- but there never was a good war.

"Magsaysay was a good man," the boy was saying. "But they killed him even though everybody loved him. You know any Filipinos?"

Yes, Abram said, thinking of Fey and the guy who ran the market down the way. They are good people.

"Okay I gotta go. See some friends. They live this way. Good-bye now."

Bye bye.

"Okay I am going. You want to be my friend?"

Abram thought about it and the consequences. Sure. Better than being enemies, he said. That was true enough.

The rain had stopped and the boy went off down the street, first in the wrong direction, then back. "My friends live down this way!"

Abram looked at the sky. If it were not so overcast, the stars would be bright tonight. In Arizona, they have real cowboys and the stars burn across the heavens like the scarf of a liturgical dancer embedded with diamonds flung high in an arc of joy above the mountains. Abram went back into the store.

Liturgical dance? What on earth?!

Liturgical dance? What on earth?! What strangeness comes to the idle mind on a slow, rainy Sunday! Abram turned on the radio to listen to NPR.

In the Old Same Place Bar, Gaelic coffees, hot toddies and shots of Cupacabra Devil tequila were the orders of the evening as all the Islanders tried to fend off the weather by kindling little fires inside themselves. Suzie wore a red faux turtleneck and sported a slash of incarnadine dye in her hair, as red had become lately the "it thing" for bartenders trying to add color to the pallid atmosphere.

Denby was in there nursing a Fat Tire. Lately the lunatic asylum of St. Charles had started to get on his nerves with all the hebephrenics going off together like they were practicing for a choral concert. If the weather had been any better he would have been in his right mind, but he also had been thinking regretfully of his bachelor status. As romantic as it might seem, renting a single room in a mental institution was turning out to be rather tedious.

A woman came in with a big black labrador on a leash. Everyone leaned away as the dog shook the rainwater loose from its coat. The bar was packed at the rail, so she bent down and asked the Man from Minot if she could sit at the table there. The Man from Minot pulled back to give her and the dog some space and she sat down. She had merry blue eyes and platinum-blonde hair under a plastic raincap.

As Suzie took her order, Denby brought out the Tacoma. Time to go to work. He felt around first, trying to remember everything.

"What's that chord," Eugene asked.

This is a sort of E7. Sort of . And this is a sort of E6+7. Subdominant, I think.

"Say what?"

Its notes.


"I really like crazy people," she said.

The woman and the Man from Minot were now deep in conversation. "I work as a crisis nurse at Sausal Creek," said the woman. "People don't understand mental illness, but I really like crazy people."

Let it rain, let it pour
Let it rain just a whole lot more
Cause I got them deep river bluuuuuues!

"What's your dog's name?"


"As in Iggy Pop?"

"Yes," she said and smiled. "He's got a lust for life."

From far across the way, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the chuckling waves of the estuary and the Spring wildflowers blooming like madness across the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

MAY 29, 2011


This week's photo comes courtesy of Paul in San Anselmo, where he and his wife have turned a steep hillside into a wonderful garden by means of hard work and several hundred pounds of horse manure. It's a sweetpea bloom.

Spring definitely has sprung around here, despite the glowering skies.


Most of you have relied on the annual mailed prompt to renew your vehicle registration, however we discovered by accident that recent changes have put the kibosh on all of that. Starting July 1, Vehicle registration notices will be issued on the day of expiration.

Whoops! Say that again?!

Yep, the DMV will mail out notices on the day of expiration, meaning that if you do not act proactively, you will be certainly cited when your tags expire. Here is the official wording from the CAL DMV website.

Changes to Registration Renewals Due July 1, 2011 and Later
For vehicle registration renewal fees due July 1, 2011 and later:

* State law requires DMV to implement changes in the billing and renewal process for registration fees due on or after July 1, 2011.
* Registration renewal notices will be mailed out close to or on the expiration date. (Previously notices were mailed 60-days ahead of the expiration date).
* NOTE: Fees are still due for registration notices due prior to July 1, 2011.
* No money will be collected until renewal notices are issued. (Previously renewal fees could be collected up to 75 days ahead of the expiration date and were required to be collected within 30 days of expiration when part of another transaction such as a transfer of vehicle ownership)
* All customers will be given a 30-day grace period after they receive their registration notice. Penalties for delinquent payment will not be imposed until 30 days after the registration expiration date. (Previously penalties were due the day after the registration expiration date)

What this means is that the DMV really wants folks to handle all affairs via the Internet with a credit card with regard to registrations. Itself a kind of annual tax that has no real purpose other than revenue enhancement.


In what looks like an initial sign of positive cooperation between Silly Hall and the newly appointed City Manager, Michael D'Orazi was appointed interim fire chief for the Island. The previous chief left his position under a cloud of accusations after he was photographed using City gas pumps to fuel his private vehicles. The fire department has pursued a stormy relationship with the City vis a vis union issues, and the incoming chief has a reputation of working well with all sides in disputes. Hope for the best . . .

The Island won a victory recently in its list of major lawsuits when a Federal judge ruled that a claims made by two investors in the Island's former telecommunications system were without merit. The Island, which owns its own power utility, briefly dabbled in providing cable service to customers in an enterprise that failed badly. No one ever analyzed the profitability of such an undertaking and the entire effort went south when it was discovered the business had no chance of ever making money. In the end, all of it was sold to Comcast for about 17 million dollars at a loss.

Island resident, Howard Camping, emerged from hiding to explain the failure of his Rapture on a "miscalculation" and that the new date for Armageddon will be October 21. What was not explained was just why anyone who is already damned should give a fig for this factoid and how this should affect folks who do not and have never read his version of the Bible, namely Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Moslems, those born in the Republic of Tonga, and most of the rest of the world.

In recent reports we learned that a robber, dubbed "The Grandma Bandit", died Friday in a shoot-out in Atlanta. The big news was that the suspect turned out to be a man.

The "Grandma Bandit" gained notoriety because of her age and signature robbing style -- approaching cashiers at Atlanta-area CVS and Rite-Aid pharmacies and demanding cash after producing a revolver from her purse.

She was a distinctive-looking woman with swollen cheeks who wore oversize, dark sunglasses and a baseball cap, according to surveillance video and witness accounts.

The most interesting factoid about all of this brough-haha has nothing to do with gender confusion but comes out in the final AP line which runs, "The arrest warrant for Taylor said she had netted about $400 from the three holdups."

The suspect was sighted in a Wendys fast food restaurant, after which local police gave chase, ending in shots fired.

Um, somebody stop me here, but this person, man or woman or whatever, died because of taking an average of $120 per crime? Something is seriously f---d up here, man. And the real story is there.


We had thought this section would have been put to bed until October at least. Not so. We have the Pineapple Express continuing its cyclical changes with yet another carload of precip headed for the embattled Mississippi. Got a dockwalloper plus a wharf-sizzler just this morning on the heels of another a day ago. Seems Mother Nature is a bit pissed right now, maybe about all the threats of drilling needlessly in the Arctic. In the Golden State we have reports of swollen rivers and high snowpack and all sorts of good news for those who dislike drought.


The days have opened at dawn with unruly clouds packed with portent. Some of the days whipped by, propelled by insouciant winds. Others lashed the rooftops with punishing rains. This sort of weather comes around every twenty years, but its been an unsettled Spring, that's for sure.

Bernard Glibb of the NSA came around to deliver a talk in the hall of the Native Sons of the Golden West. He wore a gray suit with a red tie and he was immaculate and his teeth were perfect. He dropped in from a black, soundless helicopter with a road show that included two beautiful women wearing ultra-short miniskirts, who strode back and forth on stiletto heels, putting up recruitment posters that said "Join the Intelligence Community! Meet the Pope! See and Control the World!"

They got up there and sang a do-wop number while Glibb operated a karaoke machine while videos of the Blue Angels doing amazing stuff with airplanes rolled across the big screen in back.


When they finished that number, Glibb delivered his speech while Occasional Quentin sat up in front with his right forefinger resting contentedly inside his left nostril up to the second joint, patiently waiting until he could get at the free buffet of chicken wings.

Glibb was full of all sorts of defending the Motherland, duty, sacrefice, and the importance of Intelligence to a military sadly lacking in that capacity, in an effort to enlist idiots to come to Washington DC, but the guys all knew what it was all about and they, as per tradition, dosed the man with the traditional LSD/datura cocktail until the fellow ran screaming from that hall, chased by vivid, iridescent hummingbirds who tickled his ears.

After that, things were quiet for a spell as folks tended to their gardens, struggling in the sandy soil but persisting under the pressure of Spring. Spring does not care about Love or any craptalk like that. Spring cares about itself and the pressure of procreation, Desire, and Nature. Spring is honest like that. The Goddess does not equivocate or lie.

California is fortunate in that we have more than a few goddesses hanging around. Just go out and ask a Goddess what's up. More than likely the Goddess would say, "If it were up to me all those Fallen would be dancing around the Maypole, naked with ribbons in their hair. I do not give a fig for all your martial warlike stuff!"

It's best not to mess with a Goddess.

Well, the Goddess can be particular. It's best not to mess with a Goddess.

Sunday bloomed with cloudless skies and this new persistent, unearthly and strange wind that seems to have moved into the neighborhood for a long spell. Offshore from the Strand, hundreds of parasails scudded back and forth in a colorful palette while rose bushes exploded everywhere in every yard.

Memorial Day is to some an important day, but for most Americans, its a day with annoying surprises that involve bank closures and lack of postal service. Those who take the day off, usually BBQ, if the day is fair where they live, and watch the Game if the day is not.

Some years ago, Johnny P. and his platoon came under fire near the place known as Ap Ba. During the firefight, for whatever reason -- imaginary bravery, irritation, fake heroism, or sheer stupidity, Johnny stood up and was nearly instantaneously cut in half by AK-47 rounds. By "cut in half" we mean literally that one half of his body went one way and the lower half of torso and legs went the other.

No one ever learned why he had stood up during the firefight, but in the end his pieces were collected and shipped back home. His brother had been arrested for armed robbery, so he remained safe from the draft for the time being, however his father stood dry-eyed there as they lowered the sealed casket into the ground. Cares of the family man.

Unfortunately, Johnny's name never went onto the famous Black Wall. The Army learned that he had lied about his age during enlistment. His father, who had been a Colonel, had fudged the documents and sweet-talked the enlistment officer. Johnny was underage by one year.

None of this was of the slightest consolation
to his poor mother.

All of the Armed Services take this sort of thing pretty seriously, as the value of a serviceman performing on behalf of his country cannot be suffered in any way to be diminished. As a result, even though his wounds were "to the front", Johnny was listed officially as "Noncombatant casualty." None of this was of the slightest consolation to his poor mother.

Years later Denby inquired around AP BA about this engagement, which ultimately had no effect one way or the other on the outcome of the entire war. He talked with a former local NVA commander who said, "We did not know why the Americans wanted to take AP BA -- it seemed of no strategic importance whatsoever. Nevertheless, because we noticed troops massing in the area, the Americans must have thought it important, so we devoted resources to defend it without knowing exactly why."

... the extraordinary power of Nature...

In the snug of the Old Same Place Bar, Denby nurses a Fat Tire Ale, remembering the deep green sedge, the slapping water of the river and motoring out on a small boat past rusted construction wrack and bamboo junks and sordid tugs into the windings of an emerald dream where the water fringed with green scum faded to shades of khaki beneath overhanging branches. Flowers bloomed with an olive tinge and even the butterflies flicked with green wings from leaf to shimmering leaf. Spring comes even to the most blasted landscapes. After years-long agony, the extraordinary power of Nature filled in the bomb craters and the tunnels. Along the berms that bordered rice paddies, women walked with bright orange hats, carrying buckets swinging from poles balanced on their shoulders. In the streets of the Old Town, hawkers sold lemongrass rolls wrapped in translucent sheets.

Amir came into the bar and sat beside Denby and the two of them watched the late night news up on the bar telly. Troubles and more troubles back home. Denby bought Amir a Shirley Temple -- the guy did not drink alcohol of any kind. But in the Old Same Place Bar there was company, and a television with the news and he did not want to wake everyone up back at the house.

"All the young men." Amir said, shaking his head. "All the young men, and the old men with their beards, the the women and all the suffering. All of it."

One day my friend,
peace shall come to you and yours.

One day my friend, peace shall come to you and yours. On that day, ivy will cling to the old monuments and people will no longer think of either jihad or exporting democracy. All the glittering bayonets will change into flocks of hummingbirds and grim-visaged war will smooth his wrinkled front. Instead of mounting barbed steeds to fright the souls of fearful adversaries, instead of speaking the spoken vomit of corrupted language, we will dance and make pleasing music on a green hillside as a beautiful golden haired girl, invoking the Goddess of Love, pours the wine.

From far across the way, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the greenish waves of the estuary and the hummingbird-visited Spring wildflowers of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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


MAY 22, 2011


So you are sad that all your friends got to go to some cotton-candy heaven with diaphanous angels waving harps and chubby putee sweeping dust bunnies from the corners while you, you wretched, soiled bastard, must needs stay back here in Reality and deal with the sorry Economy the Deficit and Pee Tardy lunatics. No Rapture for you, guy; somebody's got to pay the bills, water the plants and feed the cat.

On the upside, you missed a golden opportunity to commit just about every golden delicious sin in the world on your last go-around. You had at least 73 hours to bathe in debauchery, for if we are all damned anyway, why not go out and murder that irritating relative, rob a bank, and roger a nun over a table while you are at it. Heck, since we are all out the door, no need to even use a condom!

So herewith we supply this week's headline photo of the Flames of Hell burning in celebration at one of the many Bay Area Rapture Parties.

This was photographed appropriately at the amazingly tasteless and uselessly kitsch tiki bar called "Forbidden Island", a bar which has no earthly purpose other than providing a venue for extracting dollars from those seeking a greased rail towards pleasure and from those who seeking anesthesia from those who have failed. The drinks are potent, even when the drinkers are not, so those who remain are sure to numb out. Those who fail always wind up in the majority, so tiki bars always do well. As do apocalyptic prophets, who know well there will always be another apocalypse.


The Island has the distinction of being the home of Harold Camping, the televangalist (from Colorado) who caused a ruckus with his pronunciamento of the end of the world on May 21 at six pm. Over eighty million dollars of donations later, hundreds of billboards and nearly one hundred radio stations, Mr. Camping remains sight-unseen around here the day after not much changed. The doors of his offices down on Hegenberger in Oaktown remained closed as was his house here and related churches.

This is not the first time the 89-year old Camping has issued an End of the World statement, which caused ruckus all over, the last being in 1994. After that apocalypse fizzled, Camping claimed that it had all been a math error. Rest assured it will not be the last, for a number of self-appointed prophets are already at work on the Aztec calendar, claiming that the stars forecast dire events in 2012. Camping has led a Sunday service for many years at the Veterans Memorial Building on Central Avenue. This past Sunday was his last service, according to an employee of the institute located on Hegenberger.

Perhaps it might be good to live one's life as if each day was the last.

In other news, the former attorney for Oaktown has shifted over the estuary to take on the City Manager position here, which now the search for a replacement City Attorney for our own needs continues with the usual rumors flying about. It would not be a proper small town without rumors, now would it.

Glommed onto the recently released API LEA report that lists the state rankings of all the schools throughout the Golden State and crunched the numbers only to discover that the Island is pretty average compared to the rest. Yep, we aint superior and we aint worst off. Oaktown managed to have a wildly skewed pattern of several excellent schools balanced out by a passel of real losers, but the Island came out fairly in the flavor of cream cheese all around. Maybe comforting to some, disconcerting to others. Hey, we read tedious academic statistical reports so you don't have to.

Now on to housing numbers. Sorry to say April looks down, as does May, especially in comparison to what many considered an optimistic March. All figures from the MDA Dataquick report.

In April, a total of 6,789 new and existing single-family houses and condominiums closed escrow in the nine-county Bay Area, or a 3.7 percent drop from March and a 3.1 percent decline from a year ago. April's median sales price of $360,000 was unchanged from March, but down 2.7 percent from a year ago.

In Alameda County, a total of 1,345 homes changed hands last month, a 2 percent gain from a year ago, while the median sales price of $338,000 was down 3.4 percent. In Contra Costa County, a total of 1,399 homes changed hands, a 14.4 percent drop from a year ago, while the median sales price of $258,500 was down 5.3 percent.

Solano County saw a total of 568 homes change hands in April, a 3.9 percent drop from a year ago, while the median sales price of $185,000 was down 8.4 percent.

In Santa Clara County, a total of 1,645 homes closed escrow, a 0.7 percent drop from a year ago, while the median price of $470,000 was 3.9 percent lower.

In San Mateo County, 584 homes closed escrow, a 5 percent gain from a year ago, while the median sales price of $550,000 was down 5.2 percent.

Unofficially, we note that on the one hand it is yet early in the normally strong Spring sales season, and on the other that local homeowners are dropping expectations in value about 100K to a median of 550,000 around here, with no hope of improvement before 2013. One bedroom rental units exceeding 1k appear in most cases to be exceeding value and market.


Some of you might not appreciate or know that May 22nd marks a significant 50th anniversary in the history of this nation's bloody and painful crawl towards equality. Beginning May 22 through the 26th, the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders will be celebrated in Mississippi and in other locations. Look to the Calendar for events taking place in Jackson, Miss. and in Charlotte, NC.

We also have a note from Caltrans that an original Freedom Rider visited Richmond’s Kennedy High School as part of this 50th anniversary commemoration of the “Freedom Riders,” when young civil rights activists rode buses across the then segregated southern states. They risked their lives to desegregate restaurants and waiting rooms at bus depots, testing the validity of America’s civil rights laws. Many of the riders were imprisoned in violation of federal law, and others were savagely beaten by mobs. Elizabeth Hirshfeld, a “Freedom Rider” who also served as a driver for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, spoke about those times and the use of public buses in the fight for civil rights on Thursday.


The weather has been unruly this past week on the Island, our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The seagulls flocked inland to lead a dockwalloper to start the week, followed by argumentative skies and gradually drying winds. Expect this means no wind blows good news to the embattled banks of the Mississippi as yet another round of storms dumps a load of rain on their troubles while tornados continue to tear up the Midwest.

Its all Bush's fault of course.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar Padraic has been in stitches over the recent visit of QEII to the Old Sod. Not since George V had visited some 100 years ago, had anyone of the Royals stepped foot on Irish soil. In fact, the Queen was the first to do so on the free soil of the Republic.

"She said, 'Uachtarán agus a chairde' "

"She said 'comhbhrón domhain'," Padraic sobbed. "She said, 'Uachtarán agus a chairde' to start. Not one of them has ever done so!"

Indeed all the world was agog over this historic event. That a British monarch would visit the Republic and then employ the gaelige was something. That she would express any sort of sympathy at all was a great beginning and perhaps an end to hard times.

Sometimes the end of days is a good thing. Sometimes Spring brings great wonders in its astounding births. The Chinese say every catastrophe brings renewal, brings opportunity for something better to take its place. Spring is the time of extraordinary effulgence.

Spring is the time of extraordinary effulgence.

They had a number of special drinks for sale at the OSPB, most of which generally involved sterno or carefully lit Demerara 151 proof rum, so the whole place had these little flames going off like it was the rooms of Hell or something. Suzie had been got up with plastic horns on her head and a cute outfit of orange and black with boots. Dawn thought it all very tacky, but it had been Padraic's idea. Everything orange was associated with Satan and hell in his mind anyway.

So there it was. The time passed and nobody got raptured, except for the lucky couples who left together and who probably experienced some kind of rapture that is more in character of the annual renewal of Spring than any religious thing. Almost certainly Religion had absolutely nothing to do with it. Religion tends to get in the way of such things, as it trends to do in most reasonable activities.

Outside a man wearing a black coat and white shirt stumbled down the street before laying down on the battered sod of someone's front lawn. It was Reverend Rectumrod, the Baptist minister of the First Baptist Storefront Hellfire Church and good friend of Mr. Camping, the man who had promulgated this whole End of Days thing.

it was incontrovertible that he, Reverend Rectumrod, had NOT been raptured

The Reverend had gotten himself drunk off of whiskey from BevMo in Oaktown. He had sincerely believed in the End of Days, and was not entirely convinced it was all baloney still. But it was incontrovertible that he, Reverend Rectumrod had NOT been raptured to heaven as had been his due.

Since he had not been Raptured, and Rapture had come and gone, that meant he was damned, damned, damned. So he went and got himself damned drunk. Lord save and bless BevMo, for they succor the lost and the lonely, an holy charge, when the Word falls somewhat short of goal.

It did not help that Camping was nowhere to be found, which had to mean that his friend had been raptured and he, Rectumrod, had not.

The preacher looked up at the eternal, laughing stars and cried out, "My god my god, why hast thou forsaken me!"

Someone somewhere shouted, "Shut up and be quiet! We are trying to sleep here!"

The preacher was left bereft and forlorn as the pogonip crept in and his eyes closed.

A little kindness couldn't hurt.

Reverend Nyquist happened to be driving by and noticing the man there stepped out of his car, took him in and brought him back to the parsonage, for this is the sort of things Christians are supposed to do. The Reverend was put to sleep in the chair beside the fireplace and there he slept the sleep of babes the whole night through while Nyquist worked on a sermon that referenced the "good Samaritan". Seemed that it was about time for something like that, he thought. A little kindness couldn't hurt. Might bring about some good, in fact. Goodness is really what it was all about.

The night settled in with a comfortable wheeze of wind and the shadows flickered across the distressed wood lining the snug of the Old Same Place Bar while Suzie bent her pretty horned head towards her anthropology textbook to read about the extraordinary Bonobo and their jungle rites. Mating rituals, spirit quests, and the idea that deep in the night sorcery was burrowing from thousands of senders to thousands of unsuspecting recipients circled around her.

From far across the way, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the magical waves of the estuary and the mysterious Spring wildflowers of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

MAY 15, 2011


This week we had a sudden flurry of hummingbirds to chose from. There is something rare and ephemeral and beautiful about the creatures that can captivate the heart of even an old, cynical soldier.

This one comes courtesy of Chad's window on the world. We have a special place here at Island-Life for hummingbirds (Julu, in Ohlone) and anything alate thing that is gentle and free and worthy simply in being beautiful.

Nothing says Spring has arrived quite like the reappearance of Julu from distant Rio de Janeiro, or so it is said. Where better a place to pass the cold, dead time of snow?


The Bay Area is remarkable for the breadth and depth of talent that resides here, and the Island is no exception for hosting its own coterie of musical genius. We've got Frederika Von Stade and we've got Bobby Sharp and we've got Jim Franz (newly inducted Music Hall of Fame) and we've got Mark Peters.

Say what? Well, if you have not heard of Mark Peters before, you soon will, as the Seattle native recently made his debut at the Beanery here on Friday evening, performing old vocal standards from the Rat Pack era.

Mr. Peters possesses a well-trained, smooth baritone well-suited to the material, which includes 1950's showtunes and pop-forties stuff that feels well in keeping with the flavor of our Island where neon signs and art deco tiles still adorn our brief downtown. After all, not two blocks from the Island-Life Offices there resides in all seriousness a Tiki-bar decorated with vinyl records and pictures of Elvis Presley strumming a ukulele, so a bit of class is rather welcome.

Mr. Peters has another year or so to go on his stint with the Coast Guard, but we are hoping that the weather and a certain Island-girl manages to keep him around for a longer spell.


The annual beer and costume street party known as Bay to Breakers took place this weekend over in Babylon under glowering skies and chilly, windy conditions. It was the 100th running of the Bay to Breakers, which starts downtown at Howard and Beale streets and ends on the Great Highway at Ocean Beach. A field of 55,000 registered runners and walkers competed on a cold and windy morning, some running barefoot, some running entirely naked save for shoes, some wearing ape costumes and more than a few dressed as Elvis Presley.

For the record, Ridouane Harroufi ran the 7.46-mile race, from the city’s Embarcadero to the sea, in 34 minutes 26 seconds. Mr. Harroufi also owns the distinction of having run the Breakers race some three times previously. Direba Merga, of Ethiopia and last year's winner, came in 3 seconds behind.

Kenyan runner Lineth Chepkurui, 23, won the women’s race for the third year in a row.

The elite runners ran under dry skies. Until the end, the wind hit the runner’s backs, Harroufi said. The Moroccan said his strategy on the notoriously difficult Hayes Street Hill, a steep slope at the about the 2.5-mile marker, helped propel him to victory this year.

He said he drafted behind two Ethiopian runners up most of the hill, then blew past them in the final 30 meters. By being the first to crest Hayes Street Hill, he netted a $5,000 prize in addition to the $32,000 he earned for crossing the finish line first.

Few news reports listed winner times, save for the long since discredited SF Examiner Newspaper, which actually did the best job of summarizing results. Typically, the second-seed "runners" arrive at the ocean one to two hours after the winners have long since gone home.

Far more attention was paid to the fact that this year a no alcohol rule would be strictly enforced by both organizers and local police. In the past, floats had been allowed to "run" in parade format; the floats had typically dispensed beer and hard liquor during the "race". As a result of the new zero tolerance rules, only 25 arrests were made, although many commented this year the race felt more mild than in years past.


Got a lot of bits and pieces this week, most of which are due to the increasingly tight situation occurring everywhere due to the worsening economy.

From the Alma Mater, we hear that the venerable SFSU is now "restructuring" its academic programs in the City. According to the Press Release, "President Corrigan and Provost Sue Rosser have announced that the University will move forward with a plan to reorganize its academic colleges, reducing the number from eight to six. Effective July 1, 2011, the reorganization is one of several cost-cutting efforts intended to bring the 2011-12 campus budget into balance as SF State braces for significantly deeper reductions in state funding."

From our financial analyst we got some disturbing news about the robust Apple corporation. It was reported recently, "Apple's P/E Ratio Falls to Lowest Level Since Financial Crisis Despite 92% Earnings Growth". We will not bore you folks with tedious details, but need only reparse a few summary statements from the article, which noted that Wall Street is still not paying serious attention to things that companies actually DO when it comes to valuation. So Apple now outsells Microsoft, looks to have 82 billion dollars in banked income this year and has demonstrated net growth of 302%, due largely to its more highly valued competitors repeatedly shooting themselves in the tootsies, but hey. Its just Apple, right? Can't be worth the investment. So we smarties in Wall Street will just agree to downgrade its profile. Just because it suits our needs.

Christ, that guy Michael Moore is starting to look like a financial wizard. Especially compared to guys who cannot for the life of them provide a simple definition for a "derivative".

And some idiots want to hand over the Nation's retirement system to these yokels. Gimmee a break!

Island-Life -- we read tedious financial reports so you don't have to.


From dear Terrence at the Berkeley Rep we got the scoop on the new Season, which looks to be more of a nod to Old and Established Money this time around, but still with a lot of the refreshing zing that has propelled the Rep to truly world class theatre in recent years.

The 2011-12 Main Season features three world premieres, a classic Molière comedy, a repeat of the popular Rita Moreno, and the Tony Award-winning "Red".

In September, the five-play Main Season begins with a stunning series of world premieres. First it’s Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup, a captivating show created specifically for this outstanding actress; next Kent Nicholson directs How to Write a New Book for the Bible, Bill Cain’s poignant new play about caregiving, followed by Ghost Light, a haunting fable about San Francisco written by Artistic Director Tony Taccone and staged by Jonathan Moscone. Then Steven Epp returns to unleash another Molière masterpiece with A Doctor in Spite of Himself, and Associate Artistic Director Les Waters tackles John Logan’s Tony Award-winning Red. Two additional shows that complement this compelling collection of work will be announced later for Berkeley Rep’s Limited Season.

Ongoing, we note a new collaboration between the excitingly talented Sarah Ruhl and director Les Waters after their triumphant Eurydice and the Vibrator Play enthused audiences here. Now this talented team turns its attention to a fresh translation of a masterpiece: Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Ruhl enlivens this classic with the same elegant understanding of intimacy that infused those earlier collaborations, while Waters and a cast of 14 deliver another sumptuous production. This West Coast premiere runs through May 22. Three Sisters is a co-production between Berkeley Rep, where Waters serves as associate artistic director, and Yale Repertory Theatre.

Local music faves Houston Jones continue on a roll. Latest press release had Henry Salvia dishing about their new CD and an East Coast tour. They did Rancho Nicasio this Sunday and will do Devil Mountain Coffeehouse in Walnut Creek next Friday before heading out to the Industrial Northeast. The lads will return to San Gregorio June 18th to be followed by stints at the Marin Art Festival in San Rafael and not one but two days at the prestigious Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville here.

The Kate Wolf Memorial festival is notable around here for silver-haired tie-dyes who still keep the faith while managing to earn some money and typically features some top-notch performers. This year the festival will host Taj Mahal, Ruthie Foster, David Bromberg, Angel Band, Poor Man's Whiskey, Hot Buttered Rum and a few others. Tix for shows and campsite run about $170 for the three days. Folks say that the camp deal is well worth it if you got the cash, as performances continue around campfires well past sundown. Event Information: 707-829-7067

His Purpleness, Prince, has announced three additional shows here in our NorCal, which must bow to acknowledge the significance of such attention. Prince will perform at the HP Pavilion in San Jose Thursday, May 19 & Sat, May 21. Tix are on sale now; get them while you are Hot.

The wonderfully appelled Lisa Bullwinkl has announced dates for upcoming events in Berkeley, the first being the popular Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival slated for June 4. The sidewalks along North Shattuck Ave. in the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley are the target of artists young and old, professional and greenhorn during the 15th annual CHOCOLATE & CHALK ART FESTIVAL on Saturday, June 4.

With no fees to artists, areas of sidewalk will be assigned to participants to create their own fanciful chalk drawings. A CHALK ART CONTEST for the best drawing will be judged after 4 p.m. Winners will be notified the following day. Same-day registration takes place 10AM-5PM in event booths located along North Shattuck Ave. Artist's chalk is available for a fee.

Penultimately, we note the efforts of Jack London Waterfront to bring some nightlife down there by the Marina. Miss Pearl's Jam House is kicking off a Comedy Off Broadway series every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday along with a wine-tasting series. Along with the free movie nights that have been showing down there along the waterfront, free live music will happen Thursday nights starting at 5:30 through June at the foot of Broadway.

Finally, we note KBLX will be bringing a little soul to lower Broadway will a "Whose got Soul" talent search contest. KBLX has been calling out to all Bay Area Soul and R&B enthusiasts asking them "Who's Got Soul?" This talent search will conclude at the finale hosted at Jack London Square as the finalists battle it out for the coveted spot of opening act at the KBLX Stone Soul Concert. For more information, visit Okay all you homeboys and girls out there, this is your chance to show Babylon and everyone else that this is The Warmer Side of the Bay.


Frank Bette announced a Call for Art with a deadline of May 29th, all media respected and invited for the exhibition titled "Rhymes with Orange". Themes: The color orange, poetry, words, comparisons, expressions, literary, harmony, ode, flame, red-yellow, autumn leaves, fruit, warm, sensation, pigment, secondary. There will be a gala opening June 3rd. For more details and submission forms, go to

The lovely and talented Danielle Fox lets us know SLATE contemporary gallery of Oakland is delighted to announce it's participation in this spring's San Francisco Fine Art Fair at Fort Mason, May 19th – 22nd. "There will be no fewer than three art fairs in San Francisco that weekend," Fox explains. "We are hoping that San Francisco can establish itself as a national art market like New York, LA, and Miami, which attract hundreds of thousands of serious art buyers to their fairs each year."

Unlike traditional arts and crafts fairs where artists represent their own work, these fairs host galleries from around the world, who come to present works by their top artists. "If you are one of those people who always thinks you should get out to see galleries, but never find the time to do it, now is the time" says Fox. "In one weekend you can see world-class galleries, with over of 60 of them at Fort Mason alone." The Fort Mason Fair will also feature special sections devoted to photography and contemporary Asian Art.

There will be seminars on collecting, and a preview party on Thursday, May 19th to benefit the San Francisco Art Institute. Fox's SLATE contemporary gallery will be presenting work by four Bay Area artists: Carol Inez Charney, Joanne Fox, Patricia Thomas, and Victor Cohen Stuart.

Yes, we know the calendar is way behind, but this week we hope to rectify that problem.


The City will hold a workshop Wednesday on Point development infrastructure costs. If you cannot attend in person, you can do so via the Web. To register for the Webinar, log on to



Its been a cool and cloudy week here on the Island. Saturday began blustery and seagulls began a raucous confabulation over the Safeway parking lot, which informed all of us Old Timers that Something Big was happening out there beyond the Farallones. Sure enough a dockwalloper pounded in here late Saturday night, leaving us with a grey and dripping dawn shaking streaked tresses as clouds stacked up like granite slabs on Sunday with promise of yet more to come.

you can try to put down Nature with a pitchfork

Nevertheless, Spring has arrived. Spring is not a reticent season, no matter what the weather. Spring does not tuck its heels up under a church pew like some meek and obedient schoolgirl with her eyes cast down under dark bangs. No sirree. Spring leaps out there flailing its limbs, flapping its skirts upward lasciviously to shock all the prudes into silence. Spring is randy, wild and tossing its mane at a full gallop and god damn all the generals with their foolish medals and the stern church fathers with their bluehair house rules. After the heat wave brought out all the squirrels they have all scampered back up there to their high nests with their mates and those darned trees have not stopped shaking ever since -- we know what they are doing up there.

As the man said, you can try to put down Nature with a pitchfork but it always comes roaring back.

As it is Spring, Wootie Kanootie found a need to keep his herd of elk corraled for fear of disaster. Every year several hundred Canadians, along with a fair number of idiotic American tourists, die from moose misapprehension. In Spring the moose get randy, and nothing is more dangerous than a randy bull moose. Their eyesight is not good but if they mistake you for another moose encroaching on their turf, it will only take few pokes from that rack there to do you in thoroughly. How it is possible to mistake a fat insurance adjuster from Lincoln Nebraska for a bull moose, heaven only knows, but frustration can make any animal peckish.

even dancing of any kind was banned

But this is California where, even if it is not really true anything and everything goes, enough goes to make it more interesting than Winnepeg and Minot, North Dakota combined. For all their vices and virtues. Its the Island which has more in common with Sioux Falls or Minneapolis, but without the pizazz of either location, that determinedly wishes for blandness in perverse contrariness to the rest of the Bay Area. O people have tried to do things like put in a Santaria shop and hold a hip hop festival here, but the Santaria shop folded for lack of magic and the festival never could secure the permits. During a low point, even dancing of any kind was banned on the Island, but that had been considered too radical, so they dropped the idea. Everywhere else around here you have naked people trying to sell you headbands guaranteed to channel your chakras and love monkeys dancing to disco beats and all sorts of carrying on and nervous jumping up and down.

Various Island-Lifers have been handling this Spring Spirit with all of its attendant dangers each in their own way. Denby has been hiding out in his rented room attached to the St. Charles Lunatic Asylum, practicing "Deep River Blues" over and over again. There is no safer place as something about the howling hebephrenics and drooling chronics really puts the total kibosh to Cupid's best efforts. The screaming used to get on his nerves but now he has come to regard many of the chronics with something like affection. Even Raymond, who seeks every opportunity to inject his conversation with the F-bomb. Often he will stand there in his donated London Fog raincoat, shouting "Eff You!" with great zest for hours at a time. Quite a while ago, when such treatment was doled out like asperin for every concieveable ailment, he was given a lobotomy so as to still his apparent Tourette's Syndrome.

It didn't work.

A couple beauties wearing bobby socks and cashmere came out from the parking lot down below, headed for Pagano's Hardware store.

"Eff you!" Raymond shouted through the bars, adding a few more choice epithets relating to female canines.

The girls scampered quickly away and Denby smiled. It was just Raymond's way of showing affection and admiration in the only way he knew. Had he been born a bit later, they would have given his hair a mohawk and dyed it purple. As Martin Luther said, "There is eros and there is amor and there is caritas. . . ".

O let it rain let it pour
let it rain a whole lot more
cause I got them deep river blues . . .

Down below, a solitary elk galloped by. One of Wootie's charges had gotten loose. The elk ran past the Senior Center fence and paused at the intersection with Santa Clara before bolting across. A little while later a roly-poly man wearing a beaverskin hat and carrying a moose net trundled on by.

When I cry, don't weep for me
The fish all go out on a spree
When I get them deep river bluuuuuuues . . .

Javier had not emerged from his pleasure cave with the tattooed and pierced Goth girl he had found, but he did find time to chat with the anxious Jose on the phone. Jose had been given the assignment to cover an art fair event over in Babylon and was stressing about the personal exposure during this dangerous time of year. Javier was of such a makeup he would happily hump an oak tree if it wore a blond wig and swayed the right way, but Jose was made of more timorous stuff. He had fallen head over heels for the Lovely Leona of San Leandro -- who just happened to be best buds with one of the more influential art curators in the Bay Area. It just so happened that the Lovely Leona happened to be dreadfully married. With children at that.

Javier found this condition to be more of a piquant challenge than an obstacle, for he was just that way. "Hey, she has kids! Means she knows how to do it, amigo!"

Show me una virgen. ¡La haré de otra manera!

Jose was of other mind. "Javier you are a . . . ". And here he used a Spanish phrase of such vularity that was so inappropriate for Public Radio we dare not repeat it here. Normally, the mild Jose was of milder stuff. "I do have some principles, which I am honor-bound as a wab' from Sinaloa to demonstrate to all our gabacho amigos. And to balance out your own malo behavior for which la Virgen llora."

"Es Primavera, amigo. ¡Have some fun for once! Show me una virgen. ¡La haré de otra manera!"

"Vergüenza Javier! Shame on you!"

"Ha ha ha ha . . . ooo that tickles. Stop that! Ha ha ha ha . . .".

"Vergüenza! Who are you talking to there?"

"O hohoho hohoho! O, don't stop that, it feels good . . ."!

"O for Pete's sake. . .". Jose said.

"I gotta go now, amigo . . .".

"Just when you get out of there this time better hang on to your huevos colgantes. Remember the last time . . .".


In the dim cube of his offices, the Editor sat before his computer screen. He had gone back to listening to that Man in the Red Shoes with some guilty pleasure. He knew that he himself couldn't carry a note, could never remember the punchline to jokes, was an unimaginative storyteller, abused the English grammar mercilessly, was largely talentless, and possessed a face some said was "made for radio."

That last one is generally not regarded as a complement.

Furthermore it seemed pretty unlikely that he would ever managed to finagle Sister City Status with that famous town up there in Northern Minnesota. He got up and went to the cabinet where the old tacklebox resided along with the Ultralight. For some men, Spring means the rising of the sap and the stimulation of certain perfumes heady on the air, the rumble of racoons and the bumble of bees. For others of serious mein, it means fishing.

Some get married. Others go fishing. 'Twas ever thus.

Some get married. Others go fishing. Twas ever thus. Fishing is god's way of granting peace and tranquility to the bachelor. After all, the Editor thought to himself. All you need is a jerk at both ends of the line.

It was approaching the hour of midnight when Wootie finally caught up with Eugenia, his runaway moose. He found her sitting in the center of a circle of a bunch of women holding candles at Crab Cove. It was Toni's Wiccan coven, which had been holding a Spring Goddess fertility rite down there as usual this time of year. Well, it is California after all, and we do have some allowances here. Perhaps they have Wiccans in St. Paul, but if so we have not heard of any.

In any case, there they were all calling on the Goddess for a sign amid these parlous times of Great Recession and rampant Tea Party shenanigans when Eugenia strolled in there among them. So they hung a wreath about her neck and gave her some apples and she seemed content enough when Wootie got there, and so he paused for there under the glimmering wrack of storm-rent clouds letting through splinters of moonlight the circle of women glowed in their pale white gowns with their candles and the animal stood there all garlanded under the mysterious California heavens. For it had come to Spring when miracles abound.

From far across the way, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary and the miraculous wildflowers of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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



MAY 8, 2011


Nothing says "It's May!" quite like a profusion of roses. This week we got a shot of the iron gate in front of the Julia Morgan house on St. Charles across the street from Mastic Senior Center.

This house typically presents an extraordinary display of large-headed blooms each year.


We were going to push this item down to the international news section, but we are just tickled pink, absolutely tickled.

Long time readers may know that early in 2001 a nefarious terrierist highjacked City Hall with the intention of crashing the landmark building into Jack London Square. His evil designs were thwarted but he and his band, El Qibble, went on the run, which led to Eugene Shrubb commandeering an army of bums to invade Newark, ostensibly in search of Weapons of Mass Doo-Doo.

This resulted in widespread chaos, liquor barn raids, desolation and tragic loss as well as much nervous jumping up and down as people learned to their dismay that no one cares about Newark, including the people who live there.

Clearly this Osama bin Lassie needed to be caught and punished. As a public service we printed a photo of the terrierist as well as a list of suggested rewards, and offered to administer a grand mud wrassle match between Osama and George "Pretzle Throat" Bush, who prepared for the match by riding his bicycle many times between handout sessions where he gave pots of money to his father's friends.

Now, we learn to great joy the dastardly doggie has been found and exterminated by the Navy Spiel Team, a special forces team composed of well-endowed female sailors who also comprise the Navy vollyball team.

So here you go, the last iteration of Osama bin Lassie. Look into those savage, fierce eyes of cold command ye tyrants and despair!


This weekend the first of area street festivals kicked off here while various Cinco de Mayo celebrations went on in Babylon across the water and Oaktown's Fruitvale district.

We might not have exotic Aztec dancers but we do have the Kiwanis and the Elks at the annual Spring Fling.

The fest hosted only one single stage for music, which was a disappointment, but the quality remained high for both days.

The Metropolitans finished up Sunday with a bracing set of Earth, Wind and Fire and danceable soul, always a welcome spirit to liven up a potentially pallid downtown here.

In truth, a casual walkthrough revealed a more representative range of faces and languages reflective of the people who live here than usually turn out for these things.

There was the Petting zoo, the bicycle parking area, face-painting, loads of tchotchkes booths and at least two lunatic xian fundamentalists cheerfully handing out literature and condemning people to hell in good humor under the sunny skies.


At the end of the day, a fine time was had by all.


The hot spell gave way to cloudy skies with the gulls flying inland, indicating storm at sea, but the showers forcast for the weekend never arrived. Instead we had a week of pleasantly cool temps hovering in the mid fifties at night. The weekend kicked of with some unearthly winds that whipped through here and left the tents and awnings on Park Street billowing for the two days, however not much happened other than that.

We are looking at a gradually warming trend, with the necessary modifications caused by an El Nina condition Out There. The conditions created during the December period are called El Nino, on behalf of that feller who got nailed later on in life, but this atmospheric setup is called El Nina, perhaps by meteorologists who just like yank our chains. Or so it seems at times. Puckish lot, those meteorologists.

So we have nothing good for you folks east of here, sorry to say. Montana can see about two feet of snow in a late season storm in a day or so. We are sure they can handle that, but this translates to severe weather in the Midwest. Not a good thing right now, given the state of the Mississippi River. We imagine the American Southeast is not going to enjoy this much either after those tornadoes.

You did know that the scientists have been trying to tell us for some time that the term "Global Warming" is an incorrect form of legalese, don't you? Global climate change is more accurate.


Russo takes City Manager Post. The Sun headline says it all. Russo leaves Oaktown, where he clashed with the incoming Mayor Quan from the start. He comes to a position in a city government which favors the City Manager over the Mayor, which ought to please the fellow. He also comes with some sharp legal chops as well as other abilities, which are desperately needed right now.

Got a heads up a few weeks ago that Frank Bette was facing financial trouble due to the hard times hitting everywhere here, and we finally got a public acknowledgement of that when we heard the Executive Director had been laid off in October, continuing to work as an unpaid volunteer. Rather good of Debra Owen to do that as a service. The books show the center remains in the black, however at the cost of cancelling its Plein Air paintout.

The Island has seen quite a bloodletting of arts efforts recently due to the Great Recession, including the closure of the Civic Light Opera and Autobody Fine Arts. Now we are hearing ProArts didn't incorporate our own groups in the catalog for its annual East Bay Open Studios, though last minute efforts by individuals may result in an insert in the program.

Paul's Newstand looks smarter and more polished these days after Jack Lubeck and Richard Davis painted up the old lady with help from Island Museum director Robbie Dileo. The stand was built in 1939 after a local boy named Joe Roschitsch died of heat prostration. "Newsboy Joe", an emigre from Austria, had been selling papers on the corner since the late 1800's. 1939 was a banner year for news for obvious reasons, so funds were got together to house a wheelchair-bound Paul Manning, who occupied the shack until his death in 1939. Family kept up the stand until the 1980's, when Larry Trippy took it over and sold papers from there until he died last year. It was nearly demolished in 2006 by the neighboring business.

The tradition persists of leaving papers out with a donation cup relying on the honesty of citizens when no one is sitting in the shack itself. As far as we can tell no one has ever stolen money from the jar, or taken a paper without paying, in all the years of the kiosk's existence.

Both underwater tubes will be closing during the late evening hours (10pm - 4am) for maintenance to the 1920's vintage structures.

The Fruitvale bridge, built in 1894, and significantly rebuilt in 1970-1972 by the Army Corps of Engineers, will be closing periodically for repairs to its worm-eaten piling supports from October to March of -- get this -- 2012. OOO, that hurts.

Because of the foolish choice to employ metal grid surfaces on other bridges -- never a good idea over bodies of water prone to condensation like fog -- the Fruitvale bridge is the only safe avenue of egress and entrance for many kinds of vehicles, including motorcycles.


Wussup with the SF Bleakly lately? Ever since they lost their unfair competition lawsuit with the SF Curmudgeon their editorial slant has been nastly, snarly and rabidly anti-SF to the degree we wonder if a bunch of cowboys wearing boots encrusted with West Texas dung have taken over the editorial offices there. They sure do not seem to like, appreciate, or even tolerate anything vaguely San Francisco, which begs the question, why the f---k are these folks in town anywho? They don't like the politics, they don't like the mayor, they don't like even our flaky festivals and they sure do not like anything smelling remotely of liberal intent. Well, we could write exposes about things going on in Dallas and Houston too, but c'mon. We live here in California, which is a very different Republic, guys.

Regarding the whole idiotic dispute about guns on campus at BHS, we have this to say: your freedom to carry stops at the door. No guns on campus. Period. You do not have the right to carry a pistol to algebra and if you don't like it, f---k you, dumb s--t; you think you seriously are going to resolve differences in the cafeteria with a gun battle? Go to hell. As someone who has personally faced down a .45 handgun in the highschool hallways, we have strong opinions and we do not effing apologise for it. No guns in the schools.

Continuing our ranting theme, how many of you noticed KFOG has gone as stupid and bland as Velveeta Sunday nights. Something like a decent acoustic sunset gives way to several hours of some moron babbling hyperpole over stuff that is worthy of contention for the Eurovision Song Contest.

This is not a complement. The Eurovision Song Contest is a dreckfestival that reputable bands flee like roaches when the light turns on in the kitchen.

Where did they get such a fatuous imbecile with an accent to blather on so about the innocuous? This is the replacement for Mike Powers? OMG! The stuff he picks all sounds the same and hardly represents the talented unheard thousands of indie songs that Paste magazine seems to have no trouble finding at all. If he just played the monthly Cd from Paste, the guy would have no trouble at all, so long as he put a kibosh on the bombast he ladles out.

KFOG, what is wrong with you?


Today we wish a happy birthday to Grace Keillor, age 96 by report, although she sure seems to look not a day over 78.

Hey, its radio, where anything is possible.

Grace, we hope you a happy day and many more besides. Your chief credit is your son, who although he unfortunately chose to be an English major, shows some promise. We heard through the grapevine that Larsen's Garage in downtown Minneapolis may offer him a real job, which is always something important to an English major, so there is some hope yet. In the meantime he has garnered a fair amount of affection from various folks by means of his radio hobbies, and we think that this affection is well earned. So even if he never became a doctor or anything of significance, we would tell you that you really didn't do too bad with the boy, as he has turned out rather well. Being well-loved in America is an attribute we find much undervalued, so congratulations!

As a suggestion, don't eat the icing on the cake, as it is not good for you.


Its been unsettled on the Island this week, with Blakean skies, muscular with gods and chirascuro portents. Strange winds have led to unsettled nights of uneasy dreams. Far away black helicopters dropped down a sort of solution to a sort of problem maniac that had been bothering many, but at the end of the day we are left even more unsettled as to how this all came to be.

If it comes to torture getting information to where this old sod happened to land, then it would have been better to let him rot there quietly as every courier letter was intercepted, decoded and neutralized. For what does it mean that no one of integrity anywhere will any longer voluntarily provide the information because the cause is right and just? Supposedly the head of a vast organization and not one member, not one associate, not one connected in the remotest way was willing to change heart and do the right thing. This says more about us than about them. For what have we made of ourselves that we are become so unworthy?

Nevertheless, the Island is a small place in the scheme of things. Today was Mother's Day. Some might say that this sort of things ranks a bit above politics of any kind.

And since this was Mother's Day the Island convulsed through its usual traditions. Some say we are just full of that Tradition, but nevermind.

The girls living in Marlene and Andre's Household all took out their mothers to Mama's Royal Cafe in Oaktown. Suan, whose mother has gone AWOL chipped in as did Marsha and Tipitina. The gang wound up heading back to the Island where they all got drunk on tequila shots at the Lucky 13, which has become a favorite hangout for those with still some bucks to spend.

Bear and Susan took Bear's mother out to brunch at Skates by the Bay and Mrs. Bear got tipsy on orange juice mixed with champagne so Susan had to drive her back to her home in the Palo Alto trailor park using the pickup. They bundled the woman into the flatbed and she sang Woodie Guthrie songs all the way down.

She had been sent to Napa with a diagnosis of schizophrenia with Manic Bipolar syndrome some time ago. . .

Denby drove up for the dreaded meeting with his mother at Napa State, where she was more lucid than usual. She had been sent to Napa with a diagnosis of schizophrenia with Manic Bipolar syndrome some time ago and was not often on the same page with other folks around her because of the medication. She had found as a friend a woman there whose daughter had become a Buddhist monk and she thought that maybe something could be worked out.

"She sounds like a nice girl." Ms. Montana said. "Look her up. Easy to find."

"Sure mom." Denby said.

"Namaste. Ubi dooby doo. Renkee, um, something. Sang hee oh ahh or whatever. Its easy. You will get it. Her father was a doctor. They are good people."

"Sure mom."

Meanwhile Adam was talking with the monk named Sally. Adam had been shunted to the Island Buddhist temple after falling among the household after he had been shoved out of a moving car a few months ago. Marlene had enrolled the boy in Wood Middle School but had felt the undisciplined household was not healthy for the kid during the long idle summer, so she had sent him over to the temple there on Santa Clara.

Sally asked about Adam's mother, who, it turned out, had died doing smack shortly after his birth on the 'Ave. His father had never been known to him and probably not to his mother and it had been the stepfather who had shoved him out of the car door on Otis Drive that night.

As for Sally's mother, well, she was incarcerated at Napa State and she did not want to talk about that.

"Do you want to go on a little trip? See something different?" Sally said.

"Long as I don't hafta get up outta bed when its still dark," Adam said.

"Well I can' promise that." Sally said. "But it definitely will be different."

Sure enough, before the sun rose a number of the monks piled into a rented bus that drove over the bridge and headed south. The bus followed highway for a number of miles before heading up into hills clad with green pines while the monks sang songs and clapped their hands. This was a real joyride, at least as far as monks went.

Adam had only a little trouble with waking before dawn at the monestary and with manually cleaning the floors before breakfast and with the odd rituals he now found oddly comforting at mealtime. Sally said his life had begun hard and so hard was the way until it became easy from there on out. He had been born of fire and therefore nothing would come easy. That was simply the way it was.

After a while the landscape began to change. The green gave way to charred stumps and blasted earth. When they turned up a road it looked like the entire world had been laid waste by an atomic bomb. Everything in sight for miles was burnt, withered, dessicated. All the trees had been blasted clean of leaves, leaving black tree bones jabbing at the bone white sky. What kind of place were they going to? It looked like some kind of hell.

Adam grabbed hold of Sally's hand. He was afraid. "Don't worry," she said. "I will be nearby."

In the midst of this forsaken wilderness of stones and ash they arrived at the gates of a place with buildings and a few green plants and some water. A creek ran by with some remaining sedge growing along the edges.

"She is a firemonk. She will explain."

A bald woman stood there waiting. "This is Mako." Sally said. "She is a firemonk. She will explain." And with that his protector walked off and disappeared.

"Hello," Mako said with a friendly voice. "You are Adam. I have heard about you."

"Yeah, well I aint no fool so don't mess with me." Adam said.

Mako pursed her lips. "I expect so. Come along with me."

They walked up a path past a place where a huge satellite dish had crashed down. Everywhere he looked he saw the signs of destruction and some terrible disaster.

Up the slope of shattered shale rock and burnt carbon limbs the monk called Mako paused. "Look here." She said. All along the slope of dry shale Adam saw small green shoots sprouting in the desolation.

"The terrible fire went though here and killed almost everything yet life renews." Mako said.

"Man, this fire must've killed everything here!" Adam said. "No way anything could have survived that!"

"No," Mako said. "Richard, Graham, Steven, and me survived this storm. This is something you must learn."

"No effing way!" Adam said.

"The firestorm came at us thirty feet high and forty miles per hour. There was no opportunity to run. "

"I stood right down there," Mako said, pointing at a place below where the satellite dish had collapsed. "The firestorm came at us thirty feet high and forty miles per hour. There was no opportunity to run. The federal fire command had pulled back from the turnoff down the road there and none of the monks could come up the way for the road was overrun by fire. We four were alone when the big waves of fire came at us from all four sides. Even a pile of hoses got singed.

All that night we fought to save the only thing that had given us some sense of center, some sense of mother in the nature of its place. The gazebo went up fast and part of the woodshed, and the fire chewed up even part of the front gate, but we managed to save most of it. This place had given us life during its time and we were prepared to die without attachments to defend her and so we stayed and met the fire as a challenge, not as an adversary."

"So what happened? How did you survive?"

"They told us they had expected to see only lifeless bodies."

"We had prepared the buildings with what we called "Dharma Rain." It was pipes laid along the rooftrees so water would drip down. And we ran like mad back and forth to quench the flames with our hoses and shovels even as things broke apart in our hands and dissolved in the heat as the fire came into the compound. We were lucky, for our last plan was to get into the creek as the fire roared overhead. There we surely would have been boiled alive like crabs, were that to have happened. No one could get to us and there was no way to get out. Nobody knew what had happened here until the helicopter flew over in the morning. They told us they had expected to see only lifeless bodies."

The two of them stood on that place above the fire disaster and looked at the burnt valley. "Adam, you need to find the place in you where life still thrives. I cannot be your mother or anything like it. Nor Sally. Everything is impermanent and only attentiveness will serve you."

And Adam went away from that place deep in thought.

Over the next few days Adam helped lay in water pipes and plant new greenery around the buildings which had been a mainstay of income for the monastic group. His body was too small to carry tools and use them effectively but he was able to bring things here and there by means of the wheelbarrow. Eventually, the time came to leave that place in the hills and return to the Island.

"You must enter the fire, but not be consumed by it."

Another thing Mako had said to him stuck with him.

"You must enter the fire, but not be consumed by it."

Late at night back on the Island, Adam lay awake in his bunk listening to the wind in the trees outside which sound mingled with the sound of the fountain in the courtyard. It could have been the sound of a distant violent fire. Or peaceful Dharma rain.

From far across the way, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the all-merciful waves of the estuary and the compassionate wildflowers of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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


MAY 1, 2011


Today is May Day, of course, and so here we provide a photo from Chad's storehouse of botanicals. What better symbol for the triumph of Spring and the onset of May than this rose.



As mentioned today is famous around the world for being one dedicated to the common laboring man.

In an attempt to preserve this spirit, our Editor made a business call and engaged in work-related research today on behalf of a man with a most curious name: Milton Friedman. The original fellow, or say rather the more famous version who was also Ronnie Raygun's economics advisor, passed away in 2006.

All across the country and in all the great cities of the world thousands gathered in rallies in support of labor rights. Many of the US-based rallies concerned themselves overtly with immigration policies that are resulting in mass deportations from California all the way to New York City, however the underlying tenor was the same here as elsewhere as per the AP wire by Verena Dobnik:

". . .seething anger over the rising cost of living and growing disparities between rich and poor — exacerbated by the global economic squeeze."

"At least the minimum: fair wages, fair jobs"
from a rally sign in Berlin, May 1, 2011

There is currently no set minimum wage in Germany, and labor is pushing hard for a minimum wage to become law.

Thousands of workers also marched in Spain, Austria, Moscow and in France, where things got fractious in Paris where many supporters turned out in support of Le Pen's conservative anti-immigrant policies. They also marched in South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

As would be expected, they turned out in force in Cuba, where a mood of anxiety prevails as Fidel Castro's son prepares to roll back many of the Socialist programs there. Ironically, many of those programs would be regarded by our own Neo-Cons as welfare entitlements.

In many US states the rallies became the incipient omen of a groundswell of dissatisfaction with the overreaching of conservative governors and reactionary legislation.

"In the labor movement we have a saying, 'Don't Mourn — Organize!'" Ben Speight, director of Teamsters Local 728, Atlanta, Ga.

Island-Life: we read the local news in six languages around the globe so you don't have to.


In our review of the local weeklies, we never fail to omit Gustavo Arellano's column"Ask a Mexican". After all, we are sure nobody wants to look like a gabacho sucios when somebody says they are going to la casa de correos. Tambien, its very important always to know where to find los neccessitas of course, for one's one comfort at least.

Besides, ever since our in-house staffer Jose got us to read North from Mexico, we have felt some serious dolors about those zoot suit riots as well as other injusticias.

With interest we read that the LA Time reporter who broke open the corruption scandal concerning the SoCal city of Bell where the entire council plus a few more municipal officials were sent to prison for stuff that made Tammany Hall look like schoolyard antics, began life in the US as an illegal.

Yep, Ruben Vives was born in Guatemala and brought here at age seven, which resulted in the man clawing his way through the bureaucratic labyrinth to become a citizen, and a very productive contributor to American society at that.

"What a glorious toma guey to those who say Latinos bring the corruption of their homelands to the United States . . .".
Gustavo Arellano



We have notice of two positions filled. One actually, with the other pretty much a done deal. Most folks probably know by now that Oakland City Attorney John Russo has accepted an offer to become the next city manager of the Island, where the City Council will consider his proposed contract Tuesday during a closed session.

We know, open government and transparency and stuff, but this is an HR thing, so its all proper. All signs are that the Council will approve this one as a no-brainer.

In the other important position of Food Bank executive director, we have 11 year resident Hank Leeper, a retired Coast Guard officer with extensive management and operations experience, both in the military and private industry.

Leeper fills a position left vacant by the former executive director, Paul Russell, who left the food bank after six years to serve a nonprofit organization on the Peninsula.

Leeper joins the food bank, which currently operates with only one other paid staff member but over 100 volunteers, at the height of the Great Recession, which has savaged the local economy and swelled the numbers of Food Bank clients to over 5,000 Islanders.

A recent visit to the warehouse at the Point revealed a list of more than 200 people picking up food for themselves and as many families with children. The nonprofit agency operates six days a week all year round and has been in operation since 1977, serving Islanders in need.

Maybe they though the heat was on, or maybe the idea of a significantly warmer hereafter tugged on somebody's conscience, but all of the deceased Mr. Hockabout got returned by someone to the Church from which he was stolen during his own memorial service.

One minute you're ready to start a memorial service, and the next minute the rector's saying, 'Where is he?'
Sean Hockabout, son, of Elkins Park, Pa.

On March 5th a thief walked into the Christ Episcopal Church on Santa Clara Avenue and walked out with the backpack containing the two sets of cremated remains while clergy members discussed the funeral with the family members.

Four days later, an Oakland man said he found one set of remains on 29th Avenue in Oakland. Those remains were returned to the family. Last Friday, the second box was found under some ivy near the front entrance to the church. Significant media exposure was given to the unusual crime which probably helped in the recovery.

Police say the thief probably thought the backpack contained something valuable like a laptop, and did not check inside until well away from the scene. In any case. Mr. Hockabout is back and will likely be remembered for some time, not only by friends and family.

Speaking of crimes, one of our staffers witnessed an event at the CVS in Mariner Square this week. While standing at the checkout, our man witnessed the cashier turn around and bolt to the back after someone said something to the clerk. The clerk stood talking to a man standing behind the gate of the photo and key area, which is enclosed by a waist-high fence and counters. Suddenly the man there grabbed the clerk and began wrestling with him, provoking people to call for the manager who showed up to call Security.

The man behind the gate -- we can now safely call him a shoplifter -- broke free scattering stolen cigarette boxes and other items on the floor from a plastic garbage bag he had been holding and stood for a while just shy of the exit protesting his innocence and that he had never touched "that bag". Meaning the bag he had been holding full of stolen merchandise. Eventually, he walked out.

The guy was a very cool, very calculated scumbag and he knew exactly what he was doing; exactly the kind of person you do not want to mess with.

The man was Black male, approximately 25-28 in age, medium dark complexion, clean shaven with short, well-cared for hair, naturalled, oval face and wearing a diamond stud earring. He wore a black mid-length, parka-style coat with the letters AKA on the sleeve. He wore light blue baggy jeans and white athletic shoes.

In talking with the Manager we learned that getting physical in situations like this is the wrong thing to do, as he had willingly dropped the merchandise, so was no longer guilty of theft. In fact his loitering before exiting the store almost certainly was calculated to prod someone to block his exit, at which time he would claim assault which would result in subsequent lawsuit and/or criminal charges, against both the merchant and the person getting involved, if that person happens to be you. The guy was a very cool, very calculated scumbag and he knew exactly what he was doing; exactly the kind of person you do not want to mess with.


It's been cool on the Island, a coolness that culminated in quite a window-rattler of a dry wind that shook things up proper during the early hours of Saturday morning. Sunday opened out with bright sun and a promise of a heat wave coming this way. This ought to be good news to folks East of the Sierra where they are handling flood-swollen rivers and straining levees. Old timers are saying it may turn out to be a wet summer, so just enjoy the respite for now.

Spring has busted out all over, and not even the voracious slugs and snails can stop Her Highness now. Peas started late and the pole beans are pallid, lowly creatures for now. We shall see what the week shall bring.

Father Danyluk has had a bad week which ended worse. First this woman showed up with a child -- it was Marlene towing Adam and trying to get the boy into what she imagined was a private boarding school at the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint. Marlene had come to realize that living in a tumultuous household featuring a stripper, several itinerant musicians, a homeless bum who slept on the porch, and any number of perverted misfits probably was not a positive influence. He had to tell her that the place was not really a boarding school or a seminary and there were no bunks for boys.

Adam chipped in with a comment that he had heard all the priests liked little boys and Fr. Danyluk then had to explain with a sigh that this was not like other places and they were all well behaved here. He also explained that the school was not free and what kind of tuition was it that they could afford.

Well, Marlene had not thought about that. She had imagined the place was run sort of like a religious agency for poor folks like herself, and then Father Danyluk had to explain that he could provide religious instruction well enough and turn the boy into a proper Jesuit by means of Sunday classes, but as for the school part, well that was not free. That was not how it worked here.

So Marlene went away from there to the Buddhist temple and worked out something there with Cindy, a very nice Buddhist nun, even though she had no hair.

Ordinarily the Easter time was a good one for Father Danyluk, for Easter time is one of the few times Catholics get to demonstrate and enjoy some pleasure in life, but of course not too much. All in moderation. It was not good to get too attached to worldly things you know.

Then there was Pedro Almeida who he was sure was listening to the Pastor with the Red Shoes on the Radio again. He had been far too happy lately, even to the extent of humming bluegrass tunes. Mrs. Almeida had told him that her husband was expecting a CD he had gotten titled "Mouthsounds: How to Imitate an Atomic Toilet and the Sound of a Pterodactyl Devouring an Hot Air Balloon Carrying a Load of Chickens in a Thunderstorm."

These sounds did not seem proper for a good Catholic to be thinking about.

These sounds did not seem proper for a good Catholic to be thinking about.

Then, to cap it off, who should show up but Jesus Contreras complaining about this dream he had last weekend. He had dreamed that the apostles had mistaken him for the original Jesus and they were all having a party during his crucifixion. Jesus had never come into the church before this, which had prompted Father Danyluk to quip, "I never thought I'd live to experience the day I see Jesus come into my church with trepidation."

Finally, he had gotten into serious hot water with the archbishop. Yes, Bishop Mitty was in a wax, even though none of the affair had been his idea.

Mario, his old schoolmate from Poly High, had called him up with an earnest plea for an audience with the Bishop on a matter of grave importance to the Basilica. It was not until later he had found out that Mario had gone first to Pastor Nyquist, and the idea that Mario had approached the Lutherans first really rankled.

Basically, Mario had gotten hold of what he felt was a very valuable ikon, a serious holy relic, and he had tried to sell the thing to the Pastor, who had to tell him, first of all, Lutherans were pretty much all about doing away with all that stuff which basically just got in the way. He advised him to avoid the Methodists as well. Ikons and things like that were right up the Catholic alley.

So it was Easter week and the Bishop happened to be in a rare good mood so he had agreed to meet with the man and view this holy relic.

So the three of them and Sister Beatrice met in the Confusorium of the Basilica and Mario pulls out this box that was all ornate shining silver -- very baroque-looking -- and encrusted with any amount of fake jewels. No wonder Nyquist had turned this thing down; it was positively ugly.

"You say this is an holy relic," said the Bishop.

"You say this is an holy relic," said the Bishop.

"You betcha", Mario said. "Pope Paul hisself."

Bishop Mitty and Father Danyluk looked at one another.

"You know, Mario, that Pope Paul is being canonized this very week. This is serious."

Mario clapped his hands. "Exactly! I got in on this relic on the ground floor. While he was still just a dude!"

"A dude." The bishop said flatly.

"Oh yeah! A pretty holy dude, I gotta admit, but not like a saint or a demigod or nothin' like that. Reason I am sellin so cheap. Cause ya know I am," here Mario put his hand over his heart and looked to the ceiling. "I am deeply, deeply, uh, sanctified and all."

"How can you have a relic of Pope Paul?" Father Danyluk asked. "He was entombed in front of millions of people!"

"Ahhhhhh!" Mario said and clapped his hands again. "Cause I found Sister Grimace."

"Sister Grimace?" said both the priest and the bishop.

"Yeah!" said Mario, and here he opened the little box with a flourish. "Sister Grimace, Officiale Custode della Toletta di Vatican Più Santa!"

The priest and the bishop peered into the red velvet-lined box wherein resided a greyish, desiccated mass.

Sister Beatrice gasped.

. . . a sample of the actual . . . Papal Poop!

"The Keeper of the Vatican Watercloset has given me a sample of the actual final Papal Poop!" Mario shouted happily. "It was on my last visit to my mother's old village, Villaggio Polloalimenta, I stopped by in Roma."

Mitty slammed the box closed and shoved it at Mario. "THE TWO OF YOU GET OUT OF HERE! IMMEDIATELY!" With that, the archbishop stormed out, his robes flapping angrily behind him.

"What's wrong!" Mario said, sounding quite hurt. "Dontcha want the relic?"

"Mario, you have been an idiot for as long as I have known you." Father Danyluk said. "Take your poop with you. I am going back to the rectory."

"Hey, you're a priest! You aint supposed to talk to me like that! You're supposed to be meek and mild and stuff!"

"Eff off, Mario!" Father Danyluk said coarsely.

"Father Danyluk!" Sister Beatrice said. "Do not curse in the Basilica!"

It would be a long time before Danyluk would live this one down with the archbishop. When Father Danyluk got back the first thing he did was break open the oak armoire and pour himself a stiff one over ice. He was not what they call a "whiskey priest" but the day had been especially trying.

So there he was when Sister Cicatrice came around the corner and saw him with a bottle of scotch in one hand and a glass in the other.

"Oh dear, dear, dear," the Sister said. "Its gotten as bad as all that. I shall call the Bishop now to have a word with you, if I may."

"I think," Father Danyluk said with patience that surprised even himself. "That would be a really bad idea right now. . . ".

It's Spring and the roses were rioting all over, pretty much the way roses do, tossing their heads and showily calling attention to themselves the way some women will flamboyantly toss their skirts as if daring you to see something exciting and really mysterious and fun.

The wild turkeys near Franklin Park have been striding about, going to the ATM, rummaging in the grass and crossing the street back and forth. The squirrels are out and about, digging for landmines and placing explosives that likely will annihilate the cat if he is not careful. All the terriers and sausage dogs have emerged to take their humans for walks, keeping the species about two or three steps behind them as is customary.

Spring is not a time for seriousness.

Spring is not a time for seriousness. No one has ever completed a colossal project in early May -- such earnestness is better put off until June.

In the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie pours shots of Chamucos tequila, which is a reposado of course. But you knew that already. The bartender at the Lucky 13 named Rosemarie turned Padraic onto the stuff and so the OSPB has ordered cases of the stuff from Mexico. It goes down well and makes you glow like a little teacandle inside, and gets you a little lively, much like Spring itself. When Denby gets a snootful, he forgets that his life is a miserable train-wreck headed for the gorge of disaster and that he lives in a Lunatic Asylum. He begins to believe that Life is actually interesting. And that the woman with red hair sitting over there is also quite interesting. As well as that elvish-looking gal over on the other side; she has a nice voice. Both of them do. Everybody was sooooooooo innnnnnnteresting . . . .

The handmade blown-glass bottle of the Chamucos features a label sporting a rather pleasant and happy demon. When Spring arrives, a little deviltry is good for you. Just a little wickedness.

Suzie watches the hookups, the matches, the clinking glasses and the paired departures impelled by the Chamucos all night until the big Western sky has melded from its molten copper to deep blues floating with the cold slag of clouds until it all drains out to the pitch black kettle of night and fog. She settles in behind the bar on her stool and the dim light of the backbar to open her textbook while the remaining regulars finish up their drinks with low murmurs among themselves and the radio quietly plays an Audioslave song..

Be yourself is all that you can do . . .

Suzie leafs to the section she has been reading for a while. "The Bonobo appear to have found that perfect mix of joy and community among themselves. Each community member seeks to make each member they happen to meet by chance in the forest as happy as possible. Family and place of birth matter nothing. It matters only that one has found another Bonobo and the joy each finds in each in that moment. The Bonobo are unusual in that they have no permanent anxieties, no hang-ups. Because they live in the here and now, there is for the Bonobo, no Heaven, no Hell. So it is, the Bonobo are the happiest of all the communities we have studied thus far. . .".

A quiet snore eminated from where Denby snoozed with his head in his arms. Dawn went over and snuffed out the candle. "I'll call a cab," she said to Padraic.

From far across the way, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the chuckling waves of the estuary and the joyous wildflowers of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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


APRIL 24, 2011


This week's headline photo comes from the corner of the block where Island-Life staffer Denby rents a spare room in the St. Charles Lunatic Asylum behind Pagano's Hardware. Nothing says Spring quite like a jig by Richard Shindell and wildly blooming poppies backdropped by lasciviously flowering lavendar.

After the long bone-white agony of the dead time and every loss suffered before and since, green spikes fire up from the earth like the dragon's teeth sown by a Greek demi-god and life returns. So what if the shelf is bare save for the black widowband and the landlord and the lean solicitor nag for their unreasonable fees; the days grow longer and there is the momentary gift of a box of rain.

Spring, by Richard Shindell
from Somewhere Near Paterson

The day will begin like any other
Another sunrise in the east
It will reach across and touch you like a lover
It will tease you from a dream

And opening your eyes you will surrender
To the light that fills the room
And the hope that you have carried since September
You will offer up to June

(Chor.) Maybe will be certain
You can take it as a vow
Winter's just the curtain
Spring will take the bow

Looking out your window you will wonder
At the blooming in your yard
And evry opening flower will be a mirror
Of the quickening in your heart


The day will begin like any other
Another sunrise in the east
It will reach across and touch you like a lover
It will tease you from a dream
You wont remember


As the Island Gerbil and the Island Pun both indicated in front page headlines, our popularly litigation-targeted City now enjoys a lawsuit from our former Fire Chief, Dave Kepler, who demonstrated his erstwhile civic pride by suing for a cool $2 million, claiming wrongful termination as a result of his use of City gas pumps. Well, okay mistakes can happen and maybe it was a bit too much of an official claiming official privilege and maybe the response was a bit harsh and ill-timed -- the guy was canned a week before vesture of benefits -- but, dude, really. Suing your former employer aint gonna help you get a new job.

This leaves the former city manager and city attorney with their own law suits, one of which might be tabled due to a technical consideration regarding the Council accepting a proffered letter of resignation from Teresa Highsmith. Obviously, if you resign, you cannot sue for wrongful termination.

Which leaves the adorable puppy SunCal there with its several lawsuits, probably with the folks there realizing there is no way in hell they will ever get another development contract of any significance. Not with their track record, no sirree. One of these days a bunch of Bear Flagger types are going to march down to the SunCal offices and torch the place like they did in The Thing, and so put a final end to that monster. Afterwards everyone will have a party.

Crying poormouth, PiGGiE and AMP both have increased their utility charges a notch for all of us here. PiGGiE is pissed because they got thwarted with plans to screw up the badly battered Mokolume River with another damn dam, while its cherished Hetch Hetchy is likely to be demolished -- something which should have happened before the project ever got started. They are just chunking the expected hissy fit. As for the Island-based AMP, electricity costs will rise for everybody throughout the Golden State and they are just keeping pace with the costs of upgrading the existing infrastructure. Expect a 3.85% increase in your bill July 1.

Our response to Ron Cowan's recent proposal to swap 12 acres for the Chuck Corica Golf Course -- how about just making BOTH sites golf courses, huh? Why pack 100 more homes in here where we already got enough of them damn fool bipeds running around, many of them with far more money than sense. With two courses, we could stand to become world players in the PGA circuit. Toss in a fake castle with swans in a moat and we would have Scotland beat hands down. Our weather is hella better for sure. Just tear down that old Islander Motel and turn it into a resort spa with a few rooms held for homeless residential units and such and run shuttles out to the clubhouse. There's gold in them little balls being wacked around. Think about it.


The statistics will not let us go. First murder of the year on the Island took place at the West End Summer Apartments Wednesday. Police are still investigating, so there are few items to report other than an Oakland resident, male, was found shot to death in the complex located in the 500 block of Buena Vista Avenue. A local resident stated that this was usually a "safe neighborhood".


Signs of life are appearing on the horizon. Daniel Castro (no relation to Dave Castro) rocked the Hard Rock Cafe on Santa Clara here.

Wavy Gravy celebrates his 75 birthday in usual style with a benefit for the Seva Foundation here at the Craneway Pavilion under the toxic clouds of gritty Richmond. The usual suspects, Mickey Hart and Bob Weir will noodle through a few Grateful Dead things along with a long list of luminaries. Buried in the lineup whom did we notice but Pete Sears, he of the Jefferson Airplane.

The High Street Saloon may have put the kibosh on comedy, but life continues apace there with various local acts as well as open mike on Thursdays. Check out HIGHSTREETSTATIONCAFE.COM for details.

Lavay Smith came over to the Warmer Side of the Bay to teach a few swing lessons at Ashkenaz. Interesting to note we are now pulling sophisticated folks like that now from the Big Silly over there. Maybe the $$$$ has gotten too !!!! for life to proceed comfortably, if at all over there and now folks are noticing . . . .

KT Tunstall is doing her solo tour gig at the GAMH on May 8, indicating that all is not lost in Babylon.

LIVE 105 will hold its annual BFD at the Shoreline on June 5, with Linkin Park and Snoop dogg holding forth with the Strokes.

The Fillmore looks surpisingly bland through the Spring, with June 23rd being the sole highlight we care to mention in the form of Jorma Kaukonen and Dave Bromberg, followed by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band along with an interesting collection of guest performers from all over the map. Soulive and Lettuce cover the 14th of June for you younger folks there.

Nothing at the Regency is worth dealing with the gabbing Marina douchbags in the crowd. No way we are going to spend cold cash only to hear some boring schlub gabble about his girlfriend's tit portfolio over the music we came to hear there.

The Warfield has Susan Tedeschi pairing with the Derek Trucks band. That one should begin to shower sparks the longer the relationship continues, as Tedeschi hooked up with the son of an Allman Brothers member a couple of years ago to concoct some pretty incendiary pyrotechnics. Ah Mary.

If you are City-based, the Independent has been looking up with its steady roll of figures who used to be the mainstay of Mike Power's alternative music show before Powers headed to the big Lala land down south to make better buck$. Don't see many losers there in the Spring lineup and the prices are about ten bucks more reasonable per gig than the leading venues.


All week the skies have alternated between heavy cloud and outright rain showers, prompting the old timers here to comment "Goin' ta be a wet summer this time."

The outlook has a brief shower on Monday followed by some bright days of sunshine, which ought to cheer folks east of hear. From here on out we would expect Canadian highs to dominate the Midwest and the East. Rumors of an unseasonable hurricane for the Southeast appear to be quelled for now.

The Sierra looks well packed with high-moisture content snowpack, so we are good to go for a while and should see some passes blocked well into late June. Truckee is hovering right about freezing at night, but climbing into the fifties during the day, so we would expect the ski season to be largely over.


Saturday dawned with some difficulty under heavy high fog and Sunday opened up with opening skies of sluicing rain. Marlene and Andre celebrated Pesach at the Household on Otis in the usual haphazard manner. A table got laid out, actually it was the coffee table in the main room, with the usual condiments of horseradish and walnut mush and salad from the dollar store. Marlene had saved up her pennies and gotten a donation from Suan to get a lamb shank from the Encinal Market, so they had the meat and the bone at once. All the parsley was doing well, so they had the dipping greens from the ironmongery garden out back. Occasional Quentin, as the obvious childish one, got to ask all the questions.

Given that the household was normally chaotic, so went the Seder once again this year as per Tradition. Islandlife Tradition.

Instead of asking the proper questions from the Haggadah, Quentin came up with his own. "Why did god let Hitler kill all the Jews?" Quentin asked, and naturally it was all at the wrong moment. Martini came in then and drank up the glass of wine left out for the Prophet on the edge of the table, which caused Andre much grief and severely put out Marlene who put her head in her hands.

"Is anybody going to eat that egg?" Tipitina said. She had given up on her own Catholic upbringing to attend this dinner and all of it was confusing to her.

"Where's the damn cracker I saw around here earlier?" said Marsha. "I wanna get into that sweet stuff there with the walnuts and raisins."

"That's the afikomen," said Marlene. "You gotta go find it now. Its hidden. What are you doing with the effing prophet's wine you dimshit!" This last part was screamed at the hapless Martini.

"Because there is no god and he hated the Jews," shouted Andre at Quentin. "Now read the questions we gave you on the list!"

"How can I find any damn thing in this effing s***hole of a place! Its an effing s***storm here!" Marsha said. She was a woman with a tongue on her, so to speak.

"Gimmee some more of that wine," Snuffles said, for the bum had also been invited in as the token foreigner, or maybe the prophet, although there was a lot of doubt about that last part.

The new kid, Adam, also was there. "Yo dude. Don't bogart that bottle man!"

"Why are we doing all this crap," Quentin asked. "Why is this night different from any other." Adam was younger in physical age but all agreed that Quentin was much more childlike, so to him were given the questions.

"There you go," said Andre approvingly. "You finally got it right. We basically doing this to commemorate our delivery from slavery."

"I dunno about that. We be free? I think we be pretty effed up." Adam said.

"Dude," said Arthur, who had returned from far off Minnesotta and his failed attempt to hook up with a gospel singer there. "You don't know nothing about slavery. Lemmee tell you about my man Malcolm X . . .".

"Adam, I am watching you on the alcohol, buddy! You gotta go to school Monday!" Andre said. "I mean it!"

"Yuck! This stuff is bitter!" Adam had a mouthful of green silage from the circular plate in the center and he spat the mess into a napkin.

Adam got shut off from the wine and after that things went a bit smoother. And Marsha told her story of escaping across the wide country from the servitude of Jersey, her beating and her shame and her battle with the booze and so it was learned that each of us had been slaves in some form, either in Egypt or some other place and had crossed the vast ocean on dry feet and soaked straw and clay bricks with the hot salt of tears and sweat. All knew exile and wandering and the pain thereof.

The matzo bread was found by Adam under Andre's shirt and so the proscribed was allowed now and with each glass of wine the far off hills began to skip like rams and old stories were told and so, although it was not a perfect Tradition, it was a Tradition of that household, this year in fear and shame, next year in virtue and justice.

While Jose had gone off to get properly drunk during the weekend, so as to escape all the religious fol-de-rol, and Javier was still out jousting with his latest flame, undoubtably getting permanently injured in the process, Jesus Contreras took advantage of Javier's absence to snag the man's sleeping quarters in the closet after downing a pint of vodka mixed with datura left over from when they had dealt with Cmdr. Terse, Ex-marine, and practicing A-hole. The datura had driven Terse a bit crazy, but Jesus had felt good enough about it, for he was a decent, moral and non-authoritarian fellow who was also well soused with cheap vodka.

So Jesus went to bed in Javier's cubicle and had a dream which felt quite real.

He dreamed he had been mistaken for the original Jesus and was being dragged off to be crucified.

This was not a pleasant dream, BTW.

There he was at Golgotha and all the disciples were all there, laughing and passing around a bottle and he was stretched out on the wood there. Somebody placed a nail and he saw a hammer raised and he freaked out while Peter was laughing his ass off as if it were some kind of joke.

Down came the hammer and he felt . . .nothing. They did the same thing at his other hand and his feet and then raised up this cross from which he hung with his knees pointing out to the side, quite unlike the pictures and icons he had seen from early on.

"Hey! Wussup guys!" Jesus complained. "Whatchew nailing me up here for?"

"YOu drunken dickhead," Peter said. "YOu be tied up there with hemp. It's all a fake."

"O for crissake," said Jesus. "What's this all for?"

"Shut up and look like you be dying," Paul said. "We need a rally martyr for the rebels against the Romans. Keep still and look hangdog now."

Time passed and guys crucified for real started dying to either side of him. This started to look pretty bad.

"Lord, forgive me for I am a wicked thief who set up a bogus hedge fund and stole the retirement funds of many a widow," the man next to him said. "I know you can forgive me."

"Eff you and go to hell." Jesus said. "You god-damned bastard".

More time passed and he started to feel uncomfortable up there as the light faded from the day. "Guys, how long is this going to take? I am getting hungry and thirsty here," Jesus said.

"Dammit," Peter said. "Would you shut the eff up or you will spoil everything!"

One of the centurions, looking bored as hell, lifted his lance and jabbed Jesus in the side in a sort of offhand way. Shut the eff up. You bother me.

"Ooo," said Timothy. "That's gotta hurt!"

"See," said Peter. "You be quiet, now."

Eventually the light faded entirely and the entire company on the hill packed up their excursion lunches and all the tour guides gathered up their charges to go.

"Hey!" said Jesus. What about me? You cannot leave me up here on the Sabbath and all that!"

Paul looked at him with pity. "You idiot, the whole idea of crucifragem by the Romans is to leave the poor sods up there permanently until their rotten bones fell from the cross as a horrifying warning to everybody else. They didn't give eff all about the effing Sabbath."

"You gonna just LEAVE ME HERE!" Jesus said in a panic voice.

"O for pete's sake," Peter said. "We'l be back later so you can be properly resurrected and stuff for the marketing angle. Just hang tight."

Sure enough, the guys came back a few hours later with some women, including the foxy Mary Magdalen, and so Jesus had a raging boner as they all carried him to the tomb.

"Hey," said Jesus. "I'm not dead yet!"

"Shut the eff up," Judas said. "You gotta be a rally icon for the insurrection."

"Judas, I thought you were my friend,"Jesus said.

"I am your friend," Judas said. "Those effers wanted to crucify you for real with a lot of thorns and whips and s***. You gotta thank me, man. Now shut up and be buried properly for a while until you can resurrect proper for the Media!"

That's when they rolled the stone across the opening leaving Jesus there in the dark and the increasing cold. It got terrible cold in the tomb and he began to shiver. What it they do not come back for me, Jesus thought to himself. He began to despair about all that had happened to him. All he had done for the apostles and the people and now here he was abandoned in a tomb, an intended marketing tool for political ends. A glimmering appeared around the heavy stone of the tomb and even though it had gotten quite cold, still his friends had not come to rescue him.

That's when Jesus woke up in Javier's closet from his dream. In his tangled nightmares and tossing and turning he had jabbed himself in the side with one of Marsha's knitting needles and all the bedclothes had tumbled down to the side while a cold wind now whipped through the open side window chilling the entire apartment. He stumbled out of there and through the tumbled heap of sleepers in the main room to the fresh clean air that rushed along the shore.

That's where Toni, the Wiccan witch, found him as the dawn began to glimmer on the edges of the distant hills.

"I had a terrible dream," Jesus said. "I always got the bad end of the stick."

"It's okay," the witch said. "We all get reborn in the end. It's all good. Is that blood on your shirt? Are you hurt?"

From far across the way, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the sanctified waves of the estuary and the easter lilies of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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


APRIL 17, 2011


This week's headline photo comes via a circuitous route from Marin to the Island. This fellow is not in a preserve, a park, or a zoo. He and his fellows roam freely around the Reagan Memorial Waste Disposal and Recycling plant outside of San Rafael.

No kidding.

We may make free with the name of the dump, for to disparage honest garbage with the name of the Great Confabulator hurts us grievously, but near the entrance where haulers trucking in tons of debris each hour strut the proudest peacocks in the world, calling out their weird ethereal screams. Part of the recycling plant is the locally famous "Flying Tin Can" farm, complete with pigs, peacocks, goats and chickens. Apparently, much of the green refuse is recycled by means of the animals kept there. The scampering pigs seemed happy enough.

Its California, where pigs recycle our dinner garbage and everyone swims to work.


Since Island-Life now enjoys, or endures, its thirteenth year publishing 52 issues a year for the past 13 years, we thought it apropos to drop in on the lucky13's anniversary of the same number.

The usual suspects were found in midweek attendance. Many of those graybeards recalled the old Buckhorn Tavern.

Some old acquaintances were renewed and new ones forged on the bonny occasion of the lucky13's birthday. Needless to say, much of the Island-Life staff offices emptied out so as to attend.



Got this report regarding the recent visit by Polly Jean Harvey here at the Warfield. "saw pj harvey last night in SF...unfortunately somewhat disappointing as she did the entire new cd (which i don't like) and the sound (tech wise) wasn't too good."

Well, wussup with the new CD, girl?

Big news recently was that a sinkhole right downtown in the middle of Park Street held up traffic at the Webb Street intersection. As the effects of the recent weather drain off, we have noticed sinkholes and burbling drains all over. Hey, its an Island.

69th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid was commemorated here aboard the USS Hornet, which is docked here at the Point as a museum. Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle was born and raised here on the Island, and it was from here that the carriers departed to execute the daring daylight bombing raid that was meant to show that Japan was not protected by distance from retribution for Pearl Harbor.

The fallout regarding the recent announcement of financial troubles continues as folks take sides in the usual charming small-town manner.

A recent tour of the Northern Counties indicated that our troubles are shared equally now by most of the Golden State now. Even the well-matriculated hills of Marin no longer are except from business shutdowns and tightening pursestrings. Yep, hard times are now visiting even Mill Valley.


Its been both a moody and a glorious this week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Monday the dawn light slowly exploded in streaks of gold and vermilion through radioactive clouds of blue from the East, which is the direction from which normally all of us expect only ill. Yet the day brightened into legions of hope and sunshine. Other days pressed down with portentous chiaroscuro smudges, as if another Great War was being waged at terrible cost somewhere in the Nation or the World.

Denby went up to the North Counties to put his muscles and sinew to the task of fire abatement on the scree-clad slopes and water-fed scrub there for the weekend, so the usual entertainment got put aside in favor of sweaty work and hacking under hot sun.

Sometimes love must take a backseat in deference to labor.

It is Spring and all the broom and brush was blooming amid wild lilacs and exuberant irises erupting shamefully and without care amid the tangled wildness of the hills. It was a bit shameful to go about chopping down the vigorous efforts of Nature amid the blue blossoms, but such must be or all will fail in terrible fire later on, leaving only the shiny poison oak, which never seems to go away.

After the harsh rough of bay laurel left the sinuses everyone repaired to the bar, after cleansing showers, to talk and make the usual gossip. And all the gossip and talk that there was concerned itself about love, for now was come the Season of Venus and the time of Eros.

In the lucky13 the story was told by the Carpenter of Wendy and Eusebio. Now Eusebio showed up at MacPac one day to work the depths of the basement there of that ancient hardware supplier for building contractors. MacPac was located under the confluence of the freeway interchange south of Market in the City, so even its front door was already underground by way of access to light and air. The contractors would enter and speak to salespeople who finalized the purchase of high end hardware for Victorian buildings. The Contractors then descended to the basement where it was Eusebio's job to fetch from the caverns there of shelves and storehouse the desired hardware. Across the street from that place yawned the exit portals of the City Jail, yea that door known as Seventh Street.

Now Eusebio's hands shook with a spastic motion, and his eyes rolled in his head and he showed many mannerisms that caused others some grief, and moreover his speech was halt and disconcerting, but in the basement of MacPac he had found his place among humanity, far from the judgmental eye of the socialite and the self-approved and self-entitled. There he provided service and earned an honest wage and was paid and so did well for himself where before he had been scorned and cast out and sent among the swine and the filth. He brought his homemade tuna sandwich to work and ate his lunch on the stoop facing the place which released the evening hookers from the jail and then went down to finish his work and in such wise was he content with what he had. Such was Euebio for many long years.

Then, so as it happened, was come to Macpac an helpmeet for business was at that time well. Wendy was she who had earned a degree in mathematics from Yea Olde Standford, once yclept "a good school", but sore was she to find that no one wanted a woman of female design who knew the sine and the cosine and the equation and furthermore the significance of difference less than .05%. Nor was the calculus of space enjoined. That a woman of beauty should possess mind and heart, was much overlooked, if not disdained. And so for a long time Wendy wandered bereft of consolation or respect for her womanhood and her mind, but in the dark shadows of MacPac the mysterious calculus of the heart began to work its statistical inevitable destiny.

And lo! Wendy met Eusebio, who knew much of range and indeterminacy, and the quadratic equations which define the labyrinths of Borges and the two were ultimately conjoined by way of administrative ordinance in civic marriage and there began a great story that swelled under the dim wattage of MacPac's basement. And unto them was granted the great gift of fertility, as three children issued thence from that union as proof that Love doth indeed conquer all. And they ate their lunch together thereafter under the freeway and compared the lingerie and the shoes of the hookers let out from jail together with great wisdom.

So unto you, I say, unto you be not discouraged that thou hast lost all thine teeth or be cursed with a large wen, a great nose, a homely appearance, dull wit, or be in any other way comfortless upon the earth for the spirit moves upon the waters and surely thou shalt find love in some form, either in cabbage or melon or human form and so be comforted.

Thus spake the Carpenter as he ended his tale for the moment, although there was yet more to tell.

Denby remained absent from these discussions, and likely would for some time until this bogus love business was done with, for he had contracted a serious case of poison oak while hacking about the shrubbery of Marin, and as most folks know, a bad contagious rash really puts the kibosh on affection. That and the memory of Diana showering him with flaming peat in the cottage in Kilternan before wacking him with an iron skillet, just to demonstrate that Irish gals can be passionate about things as well as anyone.

So Denby holed up in the snug of the St. Charles Lunatic Asylum where he rented a room in partial exchange for caretaking.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar a gay sort of gal named Danya had shown up full of piss and vinegar, much like Daniel in the lion's den, and looking for a fight. She kept punching people with great zest, while pretending to be dancing to the music -- she was some sort of martial artist or something -- but it was Padraic's idea the gal was all sublimation and showtime. Usually it was Drunken Ned who showed up trying to lock horns with everybody smaller than he was in every bar from McGrath's on down past the Forbidden Tiki Lounge, but this time the troublemaker happened to be Danya, a feisty and pugnacious woman wearing a leather jacket and attitude.

Dawn was more curt. "She wants a good schtupping, but she's too short to climb the pole. Seems an American East Coast sort of thing."

In any case, Spring brings out the peacocks and all sorts of animals. Some of them want a fight. Can't help it for that is the nature of Spring. The lilacs will erupt and there is nothing to be done about it.

On a jaunty Saturday, Jose went out on the first excursion of the season with Toby and Tommy on board their sloop, the Lavender Surprise.

Toby was concerned that Jose be all right there amid the close confines of the boat. "Are you sure you are okay with us here like this?" He knew that Jose was straight as an arrow and the purple pennant flapped from the mizzen with mad gaiety.

"Actually, considering Xavier being impaled by his last amor, Denby being set on fire with hot coals, the Editor hiding out in his office in fear of fierce Joanne, and all the collateral damage that happens this time of year, right now I feel quite safe." And so Jose snoozed on the decks, while Toby and Tommy made folderol below.

From far across the way, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the April waves of the estuary and the passionately pollinating lilacs and irises of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

APRIL 10, 2011


This week we have a shot of the same tree branches knipsed by Chad a month ago, sans birds. What a difference a Season makes!


It was not a slow news week here on the Island or elsewhere. While one despot hunkers in his bunker trying to bamboozle his way back to power in the Ivory Coast and some very determined, very efficient, very experienced, and very well armed folks have gotten fed up with the run around, another despot is digging his heels in Libya, extending that nation's agony for what seems indefinitely.

The Arch-Reactionaries in DC, bolstered by the Pee Tardy Lunatic Fringe, nearly brought the US Government to its knees. The bogus crisis was only averted when it became obvious, then gleefully highlighted, that Big Government also includes the Big Military, which also would not get paid for the duration. In wartime, mind you.

Oh yeah, stuff is going on in Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Egypt.

On the upside, Spring has Schprung and because the Government did not shut down plans are underway for that celebration of momentary beauty in the normally oppressive and ugly as concrete turd swamp of Washington D.C. called the Cherry Blossom Festival. Most of the time the place looks absolutely hideous with wretched weather, but apparently a part of it gets pretty for a while. We got cherry blossoms up the wazoo sprouting all over the Mariner Square parking lot like weeds so you don't have to go far to enjoy 'em.

Yep. Spring is in, with the high pogonip clinging to the hills here and all the squirrels going insane.

Around here it definitely was not a slow news week either. Richard Manuel, of San Mateo, crashed his plane on the edge of Harbor Bay Island near the landfill hump that is locally referenced as "Mount Trashmore" last Sunday afternoon. Officials are still looking into what caused the 1947 Navion 5-seater to nose-dive, killing its experienced 73 year old pilot.

Thursday morning provided quite the shocker for commuters who noticed what looked like a body hanging from the Fruitvale Bridge. Turned out, it was a body indeed, as a bridge mechanic discovered at 7:00 AM. The coroner has ruled the death a suicide, committed apparently when the man looped a rope about his neck and deliberately jumped off. Generally suicides here do not get any press at all, because of concerns for family members and for preventing "copycat" actions. As the grim number of 1000th jumper approached for the Golden Gate Bridge, for example, officials and press collaborated to stop the published count. To date, well over 1,300 people have ended their lives from the span -- always jumping from the side facing the City, even though the ocean side does not even have a barrier.

Don't diss our Island, not to Mayor Marie you don't. Her Honor responded tartly and vigorously to the blaring newspaper headline and claims of immanent bankruptcy online and in the more local newspaper, the Alameda Sun, stating these claims are irresponsible, unhelpful, and untrue. As one commentator remarked, the two responsible parties for the rumor, Kevin Kennedy and Kevin Kearney (the City Auditor and City Treasurer), sounded an aweful lot like the Tea Partiers had begun their Wisconsin-style invasion here.

To be fair and balanced (in other words, entirely unlike Fox News-Entertainment), both parties have responded that their published comments from a March 29 City Council meeting were taken by the newspaper out of context and that they never claimed that the City was on the verge of anything, but only that strong measures need to be taken to avoid bankruptcy and that they had been speaking not directly to the Press but to members of City Council. They also have publicly said they stand in support of the elected officials with regard to whatever remediative course of action regarding the fiscal crisis those officials should take.

We also would like to point out that the Alameda Journal, which carried the provocative headline, is based out-of-town like the SF Bleakly, a rag which has decayed so badly in out-of-town hands that we cannot in all seriousness reference its real name any longer. The Alameda Sun continues to reflect the local attitudes and styles of the Island.

Interested folks can read both the Mayor's response and the counter-response in the article section at

In a more relaxed, yet still disputacious session, the Council reviewed four proposals to limit second-hand smoke from cigarettes recently. The proposals would affect public areas and also multi-family dwelling units, where concieveably somebody in a neighboring apartment will be able to bring complaint against someone living on a different floor. Hoo boy, we can see the fur flying if that one passes!

The local Fire Department responded to the dreaded message "Fire at sea" this week. Well, not exactly at sea, but tied up to the dock. It was a 35 footer houseboat at Fortman Marina. Fire was doused in about 15 minutes without spreading to other structures. Wharf fires can be quite serious and intense due to the difficulty of getting at the fire itself and the tangle of pier construction, machinery, loaded fuel tanks and other flammable debris.

Finally, Ron Cowan, wealthy real estate developer, has proposed something the Mayor and Council call "interesting", and which may perform an end run around the hesitations of the current manager of the Corica and Mif golf courses to implement needed improvements. Cowan wants to swap 12 acres he's got for the golf course land, with the promise to perform all improvements himself so long as he gets to build fancy homes on the former golfing sites. And, BTW, write off some $12 million dollars of debt incurred through infrastructure improvements on his last real estate project at Harbor Bay. Okaaaaay . . . .

Why live on an Island if its not absolutely interesting every minute of the day? Fourteen years ago we thought we would probably run out of things to talk about each week.


If you don't have Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" on your shelf you cannot call yourself informed about American history. Zinn's book was never meant to be a comprehensive history, but one that filled in the blanks which other histories left out, intentionally or unintentionally. It does contain some eye-opening facts as well as lively prose.

Much of our publicly-held history is oversimplified and porous with untruths because history is seen as so unimportant that its teaching is restricted to children so young they cannot be told the entire truth, to say nothing of textbook writers wanting to shield themselves from regional sensitivities. And of course, there have always been people who delight in controlling the narrative so as to secure power. So these people render facts that are dry and mundane while hyper-inflating self-serving myths.

Our own dear Bancroft, he of the UCB Bancroft Library is a good example. His massive undertaken cannot be taken at all for real truth, as he was a man on a mission to tell a certain story, the facts of which he felt he already knew. So he instructed he "testamonio" takers of oral histories to only collect the facts that matched his personal opinions, starting with asking only the questions submitted by him and ignoring any statements made outside of the provided schema. Some of those takers were outright thieves and con artists who had no problem omitting, rewriting and freely inventing whatever they pleased, which narrative was further bowdlerized by Bancroft to satisfy himself. In other words, Bancroft's monumental opus is the biggest collection of pure fiction presenting itself as fact the world has ever seen.

Howard Zinn has passed on, however we do have the Howard Zinn Memorial lecture series, held at Boston University which is delivered by notable intellects of our time for those of us who prefer to mix our wine with a good helping of truth. The third in the series was delivered by Bill Moyers and here it is, minus a brief discussion by Moyers about Zinn's book. The lecture is a hair under two hours.



Its been a moody week on the Island. Each day opens with Blakean skies scrubbed with chiascuro clouds and etched with mythic gods. The days are cool, sporadically sunny in the afternoons that fade to the shrouds over the Oaktown hills where the lights march up to an obscurity that is occasionally rent to show the brilliant ornament of Jupiter.

Each morning the Witch who has been hired by KQED comes in before sunrise to cue everything up, chant a few spells and make sure all the electronic gremlins have been locked into their cages of hexes and pentagrams. Her official job title is Radio Technician but both she and the Chief engineer knew better. Radio takes a lot of magic to keep working, and the Bay Area is an excellent supplier of witches. So there she sits in the control room with all the machines and lights and wires making things happen while people are still swimming up from their dreams toward the shimmering surface. In her thoughts she is helping each one break the surface and pop out of bed from the waves of frothing bedsheets.

Its an age of screamers and people doing jackass things for the camera. It doesn't take much talent to occupy people's attention; just show them Spectacle. Some people still make things called "movies" that are still good, but there are not many of those. And the best of them know that you need the landscape of language to make things real, otherwise nobody will believe the pictures. Its the radio magic. And if you have a witch on staff, anything is possible.

Long before Toni has arrived at the station, Pedro has arrived at the fishing grounds with his fishing vessel, El Borracho Perdido, and his faithful labrador, Tugboat. After setting the lines and verifying all the instruments, he spins the dial to listen to Morning Edition. Another radio, dedicated for the purpose has already given the tide and weather report.

The sun glimmers on the horizon soon enough and Pahrump fires up the scooter to take Martini to work at the factory before its fully up. Thanks to the marvel of the MP3, Martini is quickly plugged in and cutting away at the immense alloy steel bars.

Tipitina shows up at the office on Friday and uses headphones to listen to Ira Flato talk to a scientist about the persistence of radio waves. She learns that the ghosts of Bob and Ray, the Green Hornet, the Shadow (no one knows, but the Shadow knows!), the Wonder Dog, and others still haunt the radio waves. Scientists tell us that the waves emitted from transmitters fifty years ago and more are still going outwards from our earth, leaving the solar system and bouncing between the planets, maybe to return again one day. Just like magic, even though they have always been there.

Gosh, no kiddin', Ira says.

It's radio, where anything is possible, the scientist says.

At lunch, Tipitina discusses the show with a fellow law clerk where they work at Burble, Grumble and Quip.
"I always thought his name was the same as that Roman philosopher," the colleague says.

When it comes to Sunday, everyone at Marlene and Andre's stays in and gets up late and in methodical order to take advantage of the single bathroom. Snuffles the bum takes off his shirt and pours a bucket of water from the garden hose over his torso. Shower now done, he mumbles a hunk of day-old bread with the remains of his teeth on the porch. Eventually somebody clicks on the radio and shifts the dial from LIVE 105 to Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers.

Suan is in a mood. Its Spring and the Love for Sale business always picks up, no matter how bad the economy. She usually makes the best money of all of them at the House, for she works the brass pole at the Crazy Horse Saloon in the City. Except now after what happened recently with the earthquake all the Japanese businessmen have vanished. To make things worse, her shift had rotated now over to the daytime. Now that the Season of Love had arrived the Object of Love was really pissed for lack of tips.

Andre comes out and starts playing "Dark was the Night" on his guitar. Jose asks for a happy love song.

"Sorry homie. Don't know any happy songs," Andre said.

Javier had not been seen around the place since he had hooked up with that wild gal Valerie and they all were expecting a call from Highland Trauma ER any day now. Things usually ended up with Javier like that because he was just that kind of guy. And he liked to pick just that kind of woman each time, one's with violent tempers coupled with short fuses. Nobody understood exactly why this was so. The last one had run him through with a spear, for crissakes. Jose seemed to think that this was because Javier came from Sinaloa. Nobody understood that idea either.

At the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie tended to the mating rituals of others. She had seen it all, or at least thought she had. Now Aisling was gone back to Ireland, for whatever purpose was anybody's guess, so she was alone again. Now she was watching them come in an hook up or fail to hook up with a distanced attitude. Bartender. Pour drink Collect money. Make change. Take tip. Next!

Denby was at the bar reviewing some music sheets. Guys like Denby do not hook up. They spend their entire lives wearing dustcoats beneath some window somewhere until all the flowers wilt and its no use any more.

"What's that?" a beautiful woman asked. Her hair was scarlet red and so was her dress, which was so tight that if she wore anything underneath it, there wasn't much of that except imagination.

I never talk to strangers, Denby said.

"I'm not that strange," the woman said. "Not when you get to know me."

It starts in a kind of E-flat and its all in 9ths except for this F7 here, he said.

"Are you a musician? I see you have a guitar there."

No. I'm not. I make malderor. What's your name?

"Sarah," said the woman, a bit confused.

Sarah, I have seen you before. You, he said, indicating a man sitting there. What's your name?

"Sam", said the guy.

Sarah, meet Sam. Sam meet Sarah. Scootch over a bit while I get this thing out. That's right, just scrunch up a bit together. Perfect.

Denby opened his guitar case and brought out the Tacoma D-9, which is a sort of parlor guitar made for intimate gatherings. He struggled a little bit with the "Never talk to strangers", which is supposed to be a duet, and then moved into "Tomorrow is a Long Time". After a while he paused to retune. Sam and Sarah were now in deep discussion, looking into one another's eyes.

It was Spring. Anything can happen.

He finished a couple more instrumentals before packing up to go. As he turned to go he tipped his fedora to Suzie and said, it's a dark night in a City that knows how to keep its secrets, Schweet-Heart, but deep in the Old Same Place Bar I am not asking any questions, because I am the guy who provides the answers. Then he left with his guitar while Sarah and Sam were already starting to spoon right there on the bar seats.

Journeyman. Play music. Hook 'em up. Take door cut. Go. Next gig.

Right then the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the romantic waves of the estuary and the passionate wildflowers of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

APRIL 2, 2010


This jolly shot of a freighter on the Bay backdropped by the Golden Gate was taken by in-house web designer Chad. The port where this fellow will unload under the container cranes that inspired Steven Spielberg for some of the robotic things in Star Wars is one of the largest in the world. The estuary is barely large enough to accommodate these things.


It looks that big dockwalloper went right on as we predicted to smack the East something silly with more winter. The East Coast should see a reprieve, but not so for friends in the Midwest where "severe weather" with hail and tornadoes is forecast. Minnesota and Wisconsin will get another dose of snow mixed with rain. Temps however should be hovering around freezing, so we wouldn't advise anybody to take any long walks out on the lakes there and if you don't have your fish-house reeled in by now, it is certain to make fine bass habitat on the lake floor pronto.

Got a system hanging offshore, which means coolish temps with moderate clouds and at least one sunny day leading up to a slight chance of rain come the weekend around here.

Got another month or so in which the crab and oysters will be good, but things get mushy after that and the season realistically ends May/June although Drake's Estero will still have them by the bucketload into July. The smarter folks BBQ them in the shell.

As for eating such an animal raw, we fondly recollect Truman Capote's reminiscence: "I detest raw oysters and still remember the first time I had one; it was like swallowing a nightmare."


Adults and any students 14 or older are welcome to attend these FREE classes, but pre-registration is required. Please visit: to register on-line. Both classes will be taught by certified League of American Bicyclists League Cycling Instructors.

The courses will be offered in the social hall at the First Congregational Church of Alameda, 1912 Central Avenue (at Chestnut Street) in Alameda. Bike parking is available at the church and bikes can be brought inside.

SATURDAY, April 30

1:00 - 4:30 p.m.: FREE bicycle safety class offered by Bikealameda with East Bay Bicycle Coalition. Learn how to ride safely in traffic, avoid accidents, and fix a flat. No bike required, open to students ages 14-adult. FREE, but pre-registration required: Certified instructors, bike parking available. First Congregational Church of Alameda, 1912 Central Avenue (at Chestnut), in basement social hall. (Info: (,


1:00 - 4:30 p.m.: FREE bicycle safety class offered by Bikealameda with East Bay Bicycle Coalition. Learn how to ride safely in traffic, avoid accidents, and fix a flat. No bike required, open to students ages 14-adult. FREE, but pre-registration required: Certified instructors, bike parking available.First Congregational Church of Alameda, 1912 Central Avenue (at Chestnut), in basement social hall. (Info: (,

If you have any questions about the attachments or cannot open them, please contact me. For more information on the classes please contact Joyce Mercado (, 510-521-5713).


Well, it's happened to Vallejo down the way along the Bay and its happened to a couple other places outside of California, and it certainly is likely to happen to a few more before the Great Recession lets up.

It is not letting up, you did know that didn't you?

In any case the latest bold headline of the Journal blared "BANKRUPTCY LOOMS". The City's financial troubles are no secret, and towns all over are struggling to plug shortfalls in creative and often viciously misguided ways. We are hearing now of some small towns applying fees to out-of-towners if they should require services such as police or medical, or even if they are only tangentially connected with someone else who does.

These ought to steam the Constitutions of them Pee Tardy folks. Talk about Taxation without Representation, man!

Some of the solutions here involve closing the library and the parks, slashing employee pensions, raising the business license fee, increasing sales tax, and applying "entertainment fees" onto things like theatre tickets. We are hearing similar stories from the other Bay Area local governments.

Hoo boy, is America that broke and desperate now? Where did all the money go? O, right -- into the coffers of the top 1% who now hold 95% of all of America's wealth. Remember the thugs captained by Geitner and his predecessor who slipped billions of dollars of bailout money to such charmingly humanitarian outfits such as Goldman Sachs, AIG, and Lehman Brothers?

The S&L financial debacle -- remember that one?

And all the while the Bush crew crowing that they saved America. Jerks. Absolute vile, despicable, malevolent jerks.

As for the Island City, the outgoing Oaktown Attorney over there, Russo, has been making all the right noises towards getting the nod for City Manager here. Basically he is saying the CM needs to work closely with the Mayor and the Council and pretty much do what they tell him to do. We hear he really wants out and away from the new Oaktown Mayor. That's all fine and probably will work out to the City's advantage as the shattered remnants of City Hall could use a united front to deal with what is coming up here. There is not even a peep about restoring the pricey positions of Fire Chief and Police Chief and, of course, there is the matter of the missing City Attorney which needs to be redressed fairly soon as the former City Attorney has joined in a lawsuit with the former City Manager against the City and we still have SunCal endearing itself to all of us with yet more loss of income lawsuits as well.

The Island City has no real social services -- the sort of things that the Pee Tardy folks claim cause budget insolvency -- so finding things to cut is going to be pretty difficult. All of us are going to have to look at living without in a number of ways. The long-held trope of just bullying through things without accepting the slightest personal reduction will come forcefully to a halt, just as it seems the relentless gentrification that was on the verge of destroying the Island a la the Victorian down by the Bridge that got razed has slowed to a crawl.

People are saying, "Now's a great time to buy a house -- if you got the money." Unfortunately, the same conditions that make it a good time to buy a house mean nobody has the money except speculators. And a few idiots. The other day we saw a huge ad for mortgage financing on "variable rate terms. May go up later." My god! What on earth are people thinking?! Yeah sure, do exactly the same stupid thing that got us all into this mess all over again.

(This item reprinted from June 5, 2004 and is a response to recent news articles handling the botched assassination attempt on the Great Confabulator)

People held BBQ's and champagne parties all over California to celebrate one of the most hated and reviled of politicians in the state's history: Ronald Reagan. Reagan was 93 when he died June 5, 2004, at his Bel-Air home after a twenty-year-long battle with Alzheimer's disease which affected his capacities throughout most of his second term in office when he became incapable of memorizing any part of any speech no matter how short, a problem resolved by prompters holding up large placards with slogans he repeated verbatim. He could not remember the names of his closest aids and once claimed that James Bond was a "great patriotic American."

James Bond is a fictional British spy created by English novelist Ian Fleming.

His closest advocates recalled him as an amiable buffoon who used his training as an actor well, but most of California remembers how as Governor he implemented savagely cruel and illogical policies which so damaged the State that its economy took many years to recover although many of the effects, such as the large numbers of mentally ill on the streets -- he turned them out in droves from the institutions -- persist. He was soundly defeated by a Democrat in a huge landslide when he attempted to run for a second term, and the State overwhelmingly voted against him when he ran twice for President, knowing his incapacity for governance and his tendency to gloss over facts and misrepresent issues.

As President, he continued to punish the Golden State by yanking needed funds for infrastructure improvements and even shunting science project funds from Livermore as he laughed and told jokes about people less fortunate than his well-heeled backers who adored his insensitivity to the poor and indigent. Pat Volcker was Chair of the Fed at the time, and he worked with Reagan to slam the progress of the American economy to a virtual halt via a series of austerity measures an enormous budget cut backs, all the while granting large tax favors to the wealthy and to corporations. Under Reagan the infamous "School for the Americas" in Florida pumped out thousands of bloodthirsty thugs who raped, murdered and mutilated their way across half a dozen countries in the name of "anti-communism". One group, the Nicuraguan Contras, who were especially keen on disemboweling their opponents, was funded through a program run by Army officer Oliver North in which cocaine was shipped into the United States to pay for guns and to buy off the Iranian government for favors. Reagan called the Contras the "equivalents of our Founding Fathers," although several independent human rights groups indicated the Contras were no more than bloodthirsty terrorists.

It is true that Reagan so hated communists, although there is no evidence he had ever encountered one outside of formal diplomatic circles later in life, that he collaborated with the infamous McCarthy witch hunt hearings and informed on several people, destroying their careers. His single-minded obsession destroyed his marriage with Jane Mansfield and estranged him from his children who all became die-hard liberals. He diverted billions upon billions of dollars into the fantastical space-age "star wars" program endorsed by the equally as rabid Edward Teller, but Teller admitted after Reagan's death, "Oh yes, it never would have worked." Teller, a Hungarian scientist expatriate, simply wanted an issue to rally the sentiment of anti-communism, and he did not care who paid for the unneeded fanciful weaponry.

He kept a jar of jelly beans on his desk in the Oval Office, and when someone reminded him that "jelly beans" were a reference to the napalm bombs dropped on Vietnam, causing millions of gruesome casualties, he just laughed and said, "Oh yeah, I know! That's why I keep 'em there!" Apparently a person was not a human being if they were somehow Communist. Or happened to be standing next to one. This jar became a signature card for his reputed eternal good humor.

He was fond of belittling and disparaging the less fortunate, always in a good-humored way according to his own lights, and once caused the now clearly unneeded fallout shelter supplies to be released to the poverty food supply programs he planned on cutting to nothing. In a locally famous move, he had truckloads of brick cheese from these storehouses delivered to San Francisco, a city he detested, where it was distributed from un-airconditioned warehouses to people who sometimes kept the stuff on the shelf for months if not years. Apparently something about the cheese did not require refrigeration, it did not ever seem to age or experience decay, and it was unknown if any part of it contained any remaining portion of milk.

During the height of the Plague Years caused by the HIV virus, his stubborn refusal to hear the word "gay" condemned millions to agonizing deaths while the rest of the medical world outside the US quickly outstripped the nation in terms of scientific medical knowledge. If it involved gay people, then those people, in his opinion, could not be people.

Ironically, among the many political trades on the side of irrationality, Reagan opposed the kind of stem cell research that, had it been allowed to proceed, would have led to amelioration and perhaps resolution of the disease that eventually killed him. His wife has since his death promoted research using stem cells.

As an addendum, it is often said that Reagan was placed in an aboveground mausoleum because every time they tried to put him in the ground, the sweet California earth would reject his rotten carcass with a violent earthquake.


The suddenly affable weather has lightened up just about everybody's mood around here. Even the fog has been holding off so as to leave a breezy door open for that gauzy-dressed gal April to come flouncing in with her bouquets and armloads of jasmine perfume.

Yes, Spring is the most dangerous season. Maybe it is different in other places, but here, wise men remain indoors and order pizza for dinner, hunker down by the TV to watch endless reruns of Monster Truck Destruction and Terminator I, II, III and IV. Its safer cuddled there in the dark lit only by the blackout curtain blocked TV set glow.

Bees dive-bombing the clover, hummingbirds bayoneting the jasmine, which is throwing out punches this way and that and sending wafts of chemical weapons of mass disruption. Army ants on the march and squirrels conducting reconnaissance forays add to the mayhem, while raccoons begin nightly raids. The daisy bush bursts with yellow ack-ack blooms while the poppies are erupting with tiny explosions across the fields. Squadrons of swallows and Canadian geese streak overhead and then, worst of all, there are the girls in their summer dresses.

Meanwhile, somewhere overhead, flying in stealth mode -- that naked, blindfolded, fat boy keeps firing off at random his erring arrows of wanton mishap, those IEDs (Improvised Erotic Designs), wreaking chaos in a wide swath more terrifying that Sherman's March to the Sea. Squadrons of women and girls bursting into majorityhood stroll on patrol, wearing their uniforms: thin summer dresses, haltertops, daisy-dukes, and god knows what else underneath. If anything. Its all left to the imagination.

Observe Johnnie, happy and carefree as a lark, striding with ruddy cheeks and full confidence. But after him comes Jane, armed with those sharpshooter eyes, that flippy short skirt, and strappy high heels.

Now Johnnie is down! His face wan and his appetite poor, his breath coming out in ragged gasps as Jane cradles his head among the wildly blooming daisies. Right in the heart, poor lad. A goner for sure.

Yes, Spring is the most dangerous Season.

Its no wonder that the Editor has re-upped his Netflix subscription and Denby has downloaded the entire Dylan catalog in tabulature, both planning to remain indoors for the duration. Unfortunately, Island-Lifer Chad is in love again and Javier has been seen with Samantha, a raven-haired woman who strides a head taller than the boy in four-inch stiletto boots that rise up nearly to the hem of her short leather skirt, her spike-studded wrist-bands gleaming in the sun and her various piercings jangling as she walks. O, this shall not end well. This shall not end well at all.

Jose, Pahrump and Xavier managed to coax Denby out to help clean up the clubhouse/parlor for the Native Sons of the Golden West. The group, for some unknown reason, organizes itself into things called "parlors", but the Island parlor has the benefit of its converted speakeasy at the marina to hold events. The Spring Fling will be a fundraiser for children with birth defects, so the group is not entirely without merit despite occasional accusations of jingoistic xenophobia.

While the guys rousted the remaining raccoons and other wildlife and mopped the floors, the Man from Minot worked on fixing the roof around the hastily done patch where Wally's pistol had put a hole some two years ago.

Three gals wearing dockers, shorts, haltertops and pageboy haircuts peered in to view the activity and Jose clutched his chest. He suddenly imagined that he was in love.

"Are you sisters?" Xavier asked, for they looked fairly identical.

"Sort of, the slightly taller one said. We are nuns."

Jose dropped abruptly to the floor on his seat.

"Is that man all right?" one of the girls said.

"No," said Pahrump. "He thought he was in love."

"O!" said the taller one.

"If you are nuns, where's yer habits?" Xavier asked.

"We all have habits," one said laughing. She had green eyes. "A few good ones and several rather bad ones."

The other one they could see now had brown eyes. "We are buddhist. From the temple on Santa Clara."

"O!" Jose said, and got up again.

"Sangha-e!" Each of them said and left to go down to the wharf where a boat waited for them.

Jose wistfully watched their rearends as they departed. "If wishes were dishes," he said. "I'd be the world's biggest cook."

A phalanx of lean, muscular athletes, members of the Women's Dragon Boat Club scampered past and on down to the docks.

Xavier handed him a broom. "You might as well wish for a million dollars to fall out of the sky and the strength of Popeye for all the good it will do you. They aint gonna have nothing to do with the likes of us."

Jose sighed and got to work.

"Old Indian saying," Pahrump said. "No money, no Honey."

At that moment they heard a thud and looked to see that a package had fallen from the rafters to the floor.

"What was that?" The Man from Minot called out.

A little while later, all of them sat around an open canvas sack. The light had faded into evening and a chill had come over the Island with the distant lights of Babylon twinkling across the Bay. Inside the sack had been a .45 caliber pistol and more than $50,000 in twenties and fifties.

"What are we going to do?" Denby asked.

"In the real world, some gangster looking like Xavier Bardem would show up and kill all of us," Jose said.

"Real world?" Pahrump said. "I am not so sure there is such a thing."

Right then the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the puzzled waves of the estuary and the logical positivist wildflowers of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

MARCH 27, 2011


This week's photo comes from Beatrice in Marin who submitted this one as an ID contest challenge on Facebook.

It is a shot of the Bay Bridge through the spray-streaked windows of the trans-bay ferry.


This past week brought a big dockwalloper in to pound the Bay Area every day for the entire week. We are looking at rising temps and slowly clearing skies for the next week, which ought to cheer up folks east of here although we expect they will be seeing snow and hail across the Midwest to further East until about Friday before it clears.

For the record, local amateur meteorologist Mike reports 21.61 inches precipitation for this season so far.


Most of the news this week concerned three-dot type items. Both weeklies featured feel-good puff pieces about how some businesses were doing well during the recession, although news we lost another bakery on Park Street in the 26-year veteran Golden Pin. The owner, Rahim Seyedin came to the US from Iran in 1978 and set up his shop when people thought the word "espresso" meant an Italian guesture of enthusiasm.

No special news, but the City Council is still looking for a City Manager. Qualifications including ability to work miracles and must possess sharp elbows. . . .

Don't drive to the Island. Not when parking ticket fees went from a sharp $40 to a whopping $70. Not unless you plan on using the city parking garage. The entire intent is to bolster declining city coffers. . .

Reviews of the Crimestoppers Notebook indicated a sharp rise in "domestic violence" episodes here. Seems the weather has been forcing unhappy couples to deal with each other more physically than usual. People, a calming walk in the rain might be a good idea and sound alternative to prison. Please, chill . . .

If you really want to help out the State and the City revenues, then get caught on a DUI. IPD snagged three benefactors at checkpoints over the past week. These people will be chipping in hundreds to thousands of dollars to the local economy by way of fines, court fees, mandatory classes and attorny fees over a period of the several years it takes for these things to clear. . .

Another budget solution we have: tax all vehicles weighing over 1.5 tons which do not already pay road taxes, as most responsible truckers do now. We would see a cash influx to the state, reduction in emissions, less road surface wear-tear, and far less bad driving as these SUV behomeths got removed in haste from the roads. It's a win-win situation. . .

Did we really see that item? The Sun reported that the City Council is reducing the number of committees in-house, starting with the establishment of a Committee on Committees to supervise this process. We cannot make this stuff up, for no one would believe us . . .

According to a line item in the Express, Island-based Peets Coffee is considering a sellout to none other than archfiend Starbucks. O, the horror! The horror! Report remains unconfirmed. . .


The Spring Season is on the verge of launching with concerts and events. The Oakland Marathon took place for the 2nd time this weekend after a long hiatus of several years. Still have no reports on how that went with the rain continuing to this Sunday afternoon.

The West Coast Blues Hall of Fame hosted an awards show in the Grand Ballroom at the Airport Hilton on Hegenberger. Check out for details.

Three international guitar luminaries held forth at home here at the renovated Paramount this past Friday. Oliver Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe), Afel Bocoum (Mali) and Habib Koite (Mali) graced the stage in a pure acoustic concert in a series that will likely remain in the region for a while before moving on. Each of these guys has worked with notable headliners such as Bonnie Raitt and Ali Farka Toure. Check out for more info.

Terence lets us know that the Berkeley Rep has finalized its upcoming Season as follows:

"In September, the five-play Main Season begins with a stunning series of world premieres. First it’s Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup, a captivating show created specifically for this outstanding actress; next Kent Nicholson directs How to Write a New Book for the Bible, Bill Cain’s poignant new play about caregiving, followed by Ghost Light, a haunting fable about San Francisco written by Artistic Director Tony Taccone and staged by Jonathan Moscone. Then Steven Epp returns to unleash another Molière masterpiece with A Doctor in Spite of Himself, and Associate Artistic Director Les Waters tackles John Logan’s Tony Award-winning Red. Two additional shows that complement this compelling collection of work will be announced later for Berkeley Rep’s Limited Season."

Melissa Gans lets us know that the Comedy College, which had a brief run here at the High Street Cafe, continues a collaboration between SF and San Jose with the following monthly events:


· When: First Wednesday at 8pm
· What: Stand-up comedy showcase – “Laugh Lounge"
· Who: Tom Anderson, Big Wave of Comedy Tour, hosts this showcase featuring some of the funniest people in town!
· Where: San Jose Improv, 62 South Second Street, San Jose, CA 95113
· Public info:
· Contact: Melissa Gans,
· Admission: $10

Get over the hump during the week with lots of laughs in this stand-up showcase on the first Wednesday monthly at the infamous San Jose Improv featuring some of the funniest people in the Bay Area! Line-ups change every month. Support local comedy!

· When: Mondays and Tuesdays at 7pm
· What: Stand-up comedy – “SFCC Underground”
· Who: Hosts and line-ups change every week. Show is produced by the San Francisco Comedy College.
· Where: The Purple Onion, 140 Columbus Avenue near Kearny, San Francisco, CA 94133
· Public info:
· Contact: Melissa Gans,
· Admission: $6

All tickets available in advance on!

The Spring Season is customarily a warm-up for the bigger Summer events starting in June. On the distant horizon, we note Further at the Shoreline, Jorma Kaukonen and Death Cab for Cutie at the Fillmore on seperate dates plus more. Stay tuned in, even if you drop out.


The dockwalloper that set in here through the week failed to knock down the freesias, but definitely polished off the fledgling tulips who never had a chance. It really brought out the jasmine, but it also brought out all the spineless vermin and Jose was out there cursing during the rare breaks in the rain as he dropped countless slugs and snails into salt water buckets only to see another horde come marching across from the vacant lot next door. Jose swears he could hear the sound of tiny bugles as they advanced.

The other day, Father Danyluk was called to the bedside of Old Peter who lay dying at the Water's Edge Retirement Home. Old Peter was understandably concerned. Nobody from the Firm to which he had devoted some 45 years of his life had come to visit him or even send a card. Old Peter was fearful that now, after a life of some 88 years, he had never amounted to much, had never built up a fortune to hand to his grandchildren, and never done any great things, never mastered Spanish or finished learning how to play the piano. That old piano sat there in the parlor for years until it got time to move out after Martha had passed on and the movers came and with incredible balletic grace these two men had pirouetted this massive grand Steinway up into the truck and it was gone. Just like that. Just Like him, never having played an entire song from start to finish for anybody.

Except for that one song he did for Martha so many years ago when they were courting.

What was that song?

O, he couldn't remember that. But it must have worked for she had married him. Over the next 48 years they had raised four kids, two boys and two girls and they had turned out all right. As for the score to that song, Martha had kept it in the piano seat but he had never looked at it again and then the movers had come and now it was gone. Gone like a lot of the memories.

What happened to that piano? O, he gave that to Edison High School. For the music program.

Father Danyluk spoke to him then, this man who knew he was about to die, and this is what he said.

Dust you are. To dust you shall return. By the sweat of honest work you earned your bread until this day, this time. Now that is all over.

We like to remember here on this Island in the land where you cannot count on the earth to remain firm under your feet that what is important, what really lasts beyond monuments and concrete structures, and banks is compassion. That is what will last long after each one of us has walked down to that beach to take that last one-way ferry trip to the Other Side. None of your bank accounts and none of your big deals memorialized in lucite matter in the slightest. What matters is the love we leave behind when we are gone. There is faith and there is hope and there is charity and finally there is love, and the greatest of these, I am given to tell you, is love.

I can say no more than that and so I commend you and your soul. Yes, I commend you! To go to that place which is best for you have earned it. All your transgressions, real and imagined, are forgiven.

With that the priest opened the door and had all the grandkids come in along with all the surviving friends from old times and those he had come to know since arriving at the Water's Edge.

“Here, my good man,” said Danyluk, “Is the future. Stop worrying about it.” Father Danyluk was famous for being unorthodox.

Old Joe had brought a DVD viewer with him. "Hey old friend, I got some great copies of "Behind the Green Door" and "Bodacious Tatas" guaranteed to perk you right up!"

"Now is not a good time," Father Danyluk gently chided him as all the little nephews thronged around.

The Man from Minot has been walking around the Sons of the Golden West meeting hall, which the SGW calls a "parlor" by tradition, but which used to be a biker gang hangout down there by the marina. He and David have been checking for any leaks from repairs made to the roof and walls after the disastrous Affair of the Easter Peeps. In most areas of the country Easter is generally regarded as a peaceful time, for it generally coincides nicely with Passover in a way Xmas and Channukah do not. In our neck of the woods, the presence of raccoons and firearms along with Western Machismo sometimes results in violent events of which the alleged Savior probably would not approve.

WWJ Say? "Don't do that!" And probably with irritation.

In any case the two of them eyed the beaded persperation under the rooftree with suspicion. What the devil put that hole up there?" asked the Man from Minot.

"Wally's 50 cal pistol," David answered.

"And the floor over there?"

"The same."

"And I imagine the wall in the kitchen as well and the former aquarium stand too," the man from Minot said.


"Must have been hell of a shootout with drink and nudie girls there and all."

"Actually it was all over Easter peeps," David said.

"What is that?" asked the Man from Minot, who was a Unitarian willing to accept any sort of idea as long as it was reasonable.

"You probably do not want to know," David said. "Its religious and potentially explosive. There were no nudie girls."


In the Old Same Place Bar Padraic knew a thing or two about religious extremism and violence, but his attention was fixed upon a man who stood about three feet high in his socks sitting now at his own bar with a large fish beside him on the stool there.

"I'll have a Jamison's for me and an Arthur Power for my friend here, the Wee Man said. "Both on the rocks."

"Right," said Padraic. "One for you and one for your friend. Um, might he want a twist or something?"

"Nonsense," the Wee Man said. "He is dead. Dead as a dead fish can be. Don't be a ninny. I'll drink them both."

"O! Right!" Padraic said.

The Wee Man finished first the one and then the other and then he smacked his lips and all who sat and stood there waited for what would happen next, for the Wee Man commanded attention like no one else of which anyone had ever heard or seen.

"Um," began Suzie a bit anxiously. "If you are going to do anything, like, down below, could you make them lined with cotton? Them metal threads really . . . Oh!"

The Wee Man clapped his hands and as he did so, several of the bar patrons and bar help yelped.

"O!" said Dawn.

"Hey!" Padraic said.

The Wee Man placed a solid gold Punt on the bartop and set out to go without his fish laying there on the barstool. He clambered on down to the floor, put on his cap and took up his walking stick and headed on out.

"What about your fish friend here?" Padraic asked.

"O him! Go ahead and eat him. He's good for ya! Best salmon in the world!" With a twinkle he was gone. At least for another year.

At the end of the day, they found the fish there laid out in a silver salver on a bed of crisp lettuce with a fine lemon sauce withal and all who tasted that fish found it famous for its smoked flavor. Padraic found that his sensible boxers had been transformed into a gold lame g-string, which he hung up there with the others from the previous episode.

The lovely Suzie kept smoothing down her green mini-skirt as if afraid a stiff wind might blow up; she had taken hers off and bunched them in her pocket. When Aisling appeared her face went bright red.

"Had no idea, them elvish types were such perverts," said Padraic.

"O, but they are, they are!" said Dawn. "Give me a kiss now for I am all hot and bothered. Come see what he did to me own knickers you naughty Commando you . . . !"

Things got a little steamy there in the Old Same Place Bar and the place closed early with hardly a clean-up as couples bolted for the door, hardly waiting to get one another's clothes off and go at it like crazed weasels in apartments and upstairs bedrooms all over the island. There must have been something in that salmon besides.

O, but the famous Spring of 2011 was fast anon.

Right then the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the laughing waves of the estuary and the erotic wildflowers wildly pollinating the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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



MARCH 20, 2011


Apparently miffed that not everyone can live on something like Jesse Colin Young's homestead, somebody put this sign up on a telephone pole outside Silly Hall a couple weeks ago.

The editorial comment does add dimension to this thing.


A real dockwalloper pounded in here as the weekend began for solid days of solid rain and high winds. The skies pulled back close to sunset to reveal torn clouds and streaks of vivid turquoise, providing a respite on the first day of Spring. The vaunted "big moon" remained hidden on Saturday, however.

The report is for a mildly rainy Monday followed by more wet stuff from the middle to the end of the week. Less virulent than this past one, but wet enough. Folks east of here almost certainly will be seeing some thunder and lightning as well as hail and probably some snow in the colder regions in a few days.


As folks know the tsunami spawned by last week's Japanese earthquake arrived in the Bay during low tide, and the natural breakwater design of the Bay's mouth contributed to that low tide to make it largely a nonevent here. Interestingly, the warning was issued in the early morning hours and expired before most folks had finished their morning coffee. Given that it is known the time frame for arrival here was about 12 hours, we wonder to whom the warning was given and in what manner. It's safe to say that most people had no idea something was coming.

Santa Cruz harbor was totally wrecked by the thing, putting the kibosh on the entire fishing fleet there while severely damaging about 60 commercial fishing vessels, so its not like there was no danger at all. And you do know now that one is supposed to listen to AM 1280 for news in case of disaster, right?

Well, now you do.


Recent events in Japan surrounding one particular atomic energy plant reminded us and others about previous power plant disasters, the worst being Chernobyl.

On the Friday evening of April 25, 1986, the reactor crew at Chernobyl-4, prepared to run a test the next day to see how long the turbines would keep spinning and producing power if the electrical power supply went off line. This was a dangerous test, but it had been done before. As a part of the preparation, they disabled some critical control systems - including the automatic shutdown safety mechanisms.

Shortly after 1:00 AM on April 26, the flow of coolant water dropped and the power began to increase.

At 1:23 AM, the operator moved to shut down the reactor in its low power mode and a domino effect of previous errors caused an sharp power surge, triggering a tremendous steam explosion which blew the 1000 ton cap on the nuclear containment vessel clear of the building, spewing hot graphite chunks into the air. The cap and pieces of the graphite rod cladding landed near the building.

Some of the 211 control rods melted and then a second explosion threw out fragments of the burning radioactive fuel core and allowed air to rush in - igniting several tons of graphite insulating blocks as well as the building structure itself.

Once graphite starts to burn, its almost impossible to extinguish. The first firemen responders to the accident became sick within minutes of arriving and quickly lost the ability to function in any capacity. All of them died within days. Robotic repair devices all spun around uselessly as the intense radiation destroyed their electronic circuits. It took 9 days and 5000 tons of sand, boron, dolomite, clay and lead dropped from helicopters to put it out. The radiation was so intense that many of those pilots died either instantaneously as they flew into the radioactive cloud or a few days later.

It was this graphite fire that released most of the radiation into the atmosphere and troubling spikes in atmospheric radiation were measured as far as thousands of miles away.

In 2007 Island-Life was contacted by a resident of Belarus, named Elena Filatova who had put up a website that documented her unorthodox periodic visits into the Exclusion Zone around the destroyed power plant. The zone is now guarded by a combination of Russian and Belorussian soldiers -- all 330,000+ former residents of the zone had been evacuated prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union and only people with special permissions were allowed to enter. Some 3-4,000 individuals chose to return to their homes, largely in rustic villages; no one knows if they are alive or dead except for Elena.

Because Elena's father is a physicist, she not only could obtain papers to enter, she also could obtain information about how to enter somewhat safely as dangerous pockets of radiation remain throughout the region. One important factoid was that asphalt does not store radiation -- it lets it pass through. So as long as one remains in the median of a paved road, one is relatively save from exposure. Step a meter away from the road and the errant pedestrian will die within hours from radiation poisoning.

Estimates of the total number of deaths attributable to the accident vary enormously, from possibly 4,000 to close to a million. Elena speculates about 600,000 people died over the next couple of years, including all firemen responders, all plant workers, the security guards manning the entrance gate, soldiers sent to pickup the hot debris with shovels, wheelbarrows and their hands who were protected only with paper gas masks, and most of the inhabitants of nearby towns.

Elena's website is located at and remains one of the best personal descriptions of the disaster, its origins, the official responses to it, and the legacy of the disaster as it persists in the surrounding neighborhood.

There are other websites, even more heartbreaking, which deal with the horrific birth defects caused in the surrounding areas by radiation-induced mutations over the past 25 years. The images are ugly and we leave it to the curious and the prurient to look these up on their own.

The other disaster, the scope of which may never be fully known, took place here in the United States at Three Mile Island.

The Three Mile Island accident was a partial core meltdown in Unit 2 (a pressurized water reactor manufactured by Babcock & Wilcox) of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania near Harrisburg, United States in 1979.

The power plant was owned and operated by General Public Utilities and Metropolitan Edison (Met Ed). It was the most significant accident in the history of the USA commercial nuclear power generating industry, resulting in the release of up to 481 PBq (13 million curies) of radioactive gases, and less than 740 GBq (20 curies) of the particularly dangerous iodine-131.

The accident began at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, with failures in the non-nuclear secondary system, followed by a stuck-open pilot-operated relief valve in the primary system, which allowed large amounts of nuclear reactor coolant to escape. The mechanical failures were compounded by the initial failure of plant operators to recognize the situation as a loss-of-coolant accident due to inadequate training and human interpretation of ambiguous control room indicator lights on the power plant's computer monitors. The scope and complexity of the accident became clear over the course of five days, as employees of Met Ed, Pennsylvania state officials, and members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) tried to understand the problem, communicate the situation to the press and local community, decide whether the accident required an emergency evacuation. The NRC's authorization of the release of 40,000 gallons of radioactive waste water directly in the Susquehanna River led to a loss of credibility with the press and community.

In the end, the reactor was brought under control, although full details of the accident were not discovered until much later, following extensive investigations by both a presidential commission and the NRC. The Kemeny Commission Report concluded that "there will either be no case of cancer or the number of cases will be so small that it will never be possible to detect them. The same conclusion applies to the other possible health effects". These findings have been disputed, but due to corporate and state veils of secrecy, the truth may never be fully known. Both the damaged reactor and its working companion have been shut down and plans are in the works to decommission both of them. Total cost of response and remediation is estimated at a staggering one billion dollars.


These, of course, are not the only loss-of-life or meltdown accidents to have occurred. A list of accidents is detailed at and begins with an incident in September of 1944, when the two Manhattan Project chemists were killed by an explosion of radioactive uranium hexafluoride gas at the Naval Research Laboratory in Philadelphia, PA. Problems with manual control of certain procedures led to the explosive deaths of other scientists the following year. Increased safety measures led to an hiatus of problems for about ten years until 1956 when nine people were killed in explosions at the Sylvania Electric Products' Metallurgy Atomic Research Center in Bayside, Queens, New York. From that year going forward, civilians died in atomic energy accidents every year until 1964.

Civilian incidents have gradually declined in frequency along a mild curve since then.

These incidents must be added to the numerous military accidents which happened throughout the 1950's, generally involving bomber crashes, but also involving Navy vessels and the bombs themselves. The most famous is the explosion of the USS Thresher which killed at 129 crew members just east of Boston. There have also been incidents involving radioactive waste.

These incidents led to a slowdown of new atomic plants around the world, including the US. California has two plants, both along the coast, and discussions about shutting down these in a land prone to earthquakes has been passionately intense, to put it mildly.


The rain came and the rain went and so went St. Patrick's day this year, much like the Chinese Year of the Hare celebrations. The famous parade in Babylon across the water there took place in a torrential downpour, but other celebrations have happened, great and small all around the Bay, including an Hawaiian hula dance performance in honor of the Hare that happened here on the Island. We have, besides "dragon boats" a hula dance studio located on Lincoln street a few doors down from Pagano's Hardware. They do an informal music jam with ukes and slack key guitar during the week.

With all the rain, people have been changing their usual routines to remain under cover. When the lunch whistle blew, instead of going out to hang with the Nammie vets under the dripping eaves, after getting his burrito from the truck, Martini wended his way to the dark side of the factory where perhaps out of a kind of nostalgia for the old technology, perhaps out of a wistful value for craftsmanship, or perhaps because of Union stipulations, the Veriflo Corp maintained a fleet of hand lathes manned by a squad of machinists whose numbers dwindled year by year.

The factory made high-pressure valves cut from blocks of a special alloy. Nowadays, the blocks of metal were drilled by immense robotic drills driven by CAD programs and maintained by computer educated machinists. In this part of the factory, however, lean silver-haired men raised and lowered the drill bits by hand, able to drill within a micron of tolerance, just like the big ball-end mills. However, the big mills could do 18 blocks in the time it took guys like Old Al to finish just one. Men like Al were used now to fabricate the prototypes, not the production pieces.

Old Al sat there with his box lunch beside his machine, pretty much like the old days.

"How goes it sawboy?" said Al.

Martini's job was to cut the thirty foot rods of alloy into manageable ingots with a metal saw. He motioned to one of the lathes which now was draped with canvas. "Rodney?"

"Rodney's gone." Al said.


The two men ate their lunches in silence for a while.

Al said he didn't think he would be around much longer either. Production had been cut back and Management was looking for more things to cut. The valves made by the factory were used to power the robotics that made cars and computer chips. Each alloy valve cost well over a thousand dollars, with some of the titanium ones costing upwards of a million. They each had to withstand pressures over 900 PSI. Other factories around the world were cannibalizing their existing machines as they also cut production.

Everything was uncertain for everybody.

They had some time left so the two of them went to the big delivery doorway to look at the rain falling on the industrial vigor of Richmond. In the distance, the Chevron refinery towers loomed like Tolkein castles in the mist.

Al asked him if he, Martini, still lived "on that Island." Martini said he did.

The old machinist remembered how he had seen Johnny Weissmuller dive from a platform way back when the Island had hosted the largest seaside attraction strip on the West coast. Bigger than Babylon's Ocean Beach with its Laughing Sal robot. That was Neptune Beach.

Martini wasn't unhappy about them retiring Laughing Sal. "That old lady scared the bejeezus out of me. I was convinced she was Evil." He was convinced that it was her, that robot in a case dealing out cards -- or something like her -- which had burned the Cliff House two or three times.

This made Al laugh. He had a better understanding of machines than Martini.

The whistle blew and they each went back to work.

At the end of the shift, Pahrump arrived on his scooter to drive Martini back to the Island in the rain.

Both of them were soaked when they got back, and because Pahrump used the bathroom, Martini stripped, dried himself and dressed in warm, dry duds in front of Tipitina and Jose in the Main Room, where they sat listening to KQED. Lack of money meant little privacy and few luxuries for the fifteen men and women who shared space in the one bedroom cottage owned by Mr. Howitzer.

Jose commented that the show wasn't nearly as pretty as Suan, referring to their housemate who worked at the Crazy Horse.

"Suan gets paid for it," Martini said.

Tipitina snorted as she looked up from her Crossword. She worked as a part-time AA for a law firm in the City. It was a position pretty much a half step below what Suan did on her brass pole. At least at her other job as a cashier at Long's she occasionally got some respect.

The child named Adam, who had come to join them a few weeks ago after being thrown from a car one dark night came out. Most of his bruises and cuts had faded away. Kids are resilient like that.

Martini asked him if there was anything to eat.

"Beans in the pot." Adam said. "And day-old. Marlene is out."

Stale bread and beans were good enough with the right condiments. Martini went into the kitchen. The sound of the radio drifted through the doorway.

These are the good times
Rain patters on the leaves
We always practice kindness, kindly if you please
Life is flowing,
Flowing like catsup on your beans!
Catsup! Catsup! Catsup!

Martini remembered to fix up a plate and carry it out to Snuffles Johnson, who slept in the hole in the porch whenever it rained. The hole had been caused when Jose and Pahrump had nearly burned the place down by accident on Jose's fiftieth birthday. One of them had let a smoldering roach fall between the floorboards while polishing off a gallon jug of wine. That birthday had been an unfortunate one. So now whenever Mr. Howitzer dropped by, which was not often, they dragged an old sofa to cover the hole.

Martini sat on the sofa while Snuffles mumbled his beans with toothless lips in the hole and the rain fell from the ragged skies and the world went by stages into the darkness of night.

Father Danyluk stared out at the night at the same moment. "How was the corned beef, Father?" Sister Beatrice stood beside him. It was good, the priest said. The two of them looked out at the rain, which was tapering off.

"A bad night for those without a roof," the nun said. "And we grateful for what we have."

"Actually," said the priest. "I am thinking about fish."

"You mean, like the parable of the loaves and the fishes?" asked Beatrice.

"No," Father Danyluk said. "Just about the fish in the Cove. Herring and mackerel and sea bass."


Beatrice often thought the good Father swam in waters too deep for the likes of her. Then again, she often wondered if the man was just simple.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar the gang was mopping up after another St. Patrick's weekend. Things had gotten raucous, as usual. "That boy Gallipagus wants a lick or two of my stick, he does." Padraic said, referring to Eugene who had gotten so drunk he had fallen over into the potted ferns brought in by Dawn.

The string band which called itself Ard Feis and which Padraic had brought in also had all gotten very drunk and had started to behave badly. The bassist kept trying to reach up under Suzie's green miniskirt until she had to sock him in the eye so that now the boy was at home nursing a big shiner. Then Aisling and the fiddler had gotten into a fight over similar issues, which traveled out into the street. Aisling could not fight to save himself. Nor can most fiddlers, who generally hang tight with drummers for the purpose. They can always say, "Sean, deal with that man," but that night there was no drummer. The two of them wound up rolling around in the muck, tearing and scratching at one another before getting up to go at one another, flailing wildly until they each fell down again to repeat the sequence. They were all pretty much the worse for wear.

"Lord save me, but I am glad St. Patrick's comes but once a year," Dawn said.

"It's the wannabe's what does it," Padraic said. "You'll notice the folks from Wicklow sat there nice as you please. I think those musicians were all Germans and they'll not get a cent out of me for all that trouble."

"At least," Suzie said. "The wee man did not show up." She looked up to where the gold knickers and the hats he had caused to appear hung behind the bar.


They all remembered the night the wee man had shown up. What a night that had been!

"Him with his infernal trickery and all the embarrassment of it." Padraic said.

"I found him amusing," Dawn said.

"Glad to hear it," a voice said.

"Will you look at that. Cute as a pint-sized pot of peas, but its him!" Padraic exclaimed.

Indeed, the door had opened and there stood the Wee Man. He held a large fish, almost as big as himself in his arms. It looked like a steelhead.

And as he placed the fish on a barstool and then clambered up on another beside it , from far across the other side of the Island, the long wail of the the throughpassing train ululated across the greenish-tinged waves of the estuary and the shamrocks thronging the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its mysterious journey to parts unknown.

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

MARCH 13, 2011


Laurie Anderson may have meant that line tongue in cheek, however Google Maps users got a startling eyeful when they scanned over the Island last week to see what looked like a disaster out at the decommissioned airstrip at the old Alameda Naval Air Station.

The crashed jet you're seeing in the Google Map is not a commercial airliner: at least, not an active one. The jet was destroyed for use in an episode of Trauma in 2009, according to Google Maps Mania. The Point has been the sight of several movie sets, including a scene in the Matrix: Reloaded which featured a chase filmed on a temporary freeway section.


They are still counting ballots over there at 1221 Oak Street, but its all over but for the sour grapes regarding Measure A, which passed at last count (Friday, 3/11/11). Out of 21,830 ballots cast (51% of 41,609 registered voters) 14,685 (68.01%) voted in favor of the property tax that will replace the previous two measures in support of the schools to just 6,907 (31.99%). This qualifies the Measure by the necessary 2/3rds majority.

The Measure was stridently argued for a number of weeks right after the very contentious midterm elections, but we are hoping that people will now get behind the present administration in City Hall and at least give the obvious power block there a chance to do something to remedy the present bad economic sitation.

We did not like everything that went down over the past three months either, but there is no point now in fussing over issues that have been essentially resolved.

If Livermore Labs chooses to establish a lab at the Point, that with the military Columbarium will be good additions there, and may point the way to gradual, typically-Alamedan development instead of the insane rapid land-grab and relentless gentrification that otherwise could have happened. In fact, a number of outsiders pointed to some positive benefits here should the Economic Development funds be cut, as the Island can then comfortably preserve badly needed open space which can possibly turned to other uses in a deliberative manner later without the pressure of high-roller developers.

Then there is that acquisition of Southshore Mall by a party which plunked close to $2 million into our General Fund by way of the property transfer tax.

In other words, its not all bad.


And he must be moving on. Yep, Friday was Food Bank Director Paul Russell's last day after six years of feeding the hungry. Last year, the Bank served provided services to nearly six thousand people, with Russell working nearly seven days a week, usually appearing to oversee things at the distribution sites in person. The Oakland resident and father of two children will take a new post in the Palo Alto-based nonprofit, Hand-in-Hand Parenting, a parent education resource. The food bank's board of directors is seeking candidates for the executive director position. A job description is available at

Board President Neil Rubenstein said they're looking for candidates who, like Russell and the current staff and volunteers, "really buy into the mission."

We have known Paul for a couple years and have always found him to be calm, personable, capable and a tremendous asset to the community. Wherever he goes next we know he will do well.


Hot Tuna dropped by the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium to help out with a fundraiser there on Friday and also prep audiences for a new CD from the old hands Jack, Jorma, Barry and new drummer Skooter. Special guests Charlie Musselwhite and Jim Lauderdale came along for the ride, each adding their own unique qualities.

Kaukonen was a founding member of the Jefferson Airplane before moving on to form Hot Tuna with fellow homie Jack Cassady. A student of Reverend Gary Davis, Jorma developed his own signature fingerpicking style while also helping to forge the distinctive "San Francisco Sound" of the Sixties. He has added several songs to the permanent canon of American Music, and his Embryonic Journey is generally included in any documentary of the turbulent Sixties period.

Charlie Musselwhite hardly needs an introduction either. The Mississippi-born Cherokee-blood bluesman is not quite as old as the hills (born January 31, 1944 in Kosciusko, MS) but he has been performing for quite a while. He left home as a teen for Memphis, where he supported himself by digging ditches, laying concrete and running moonshine in a 1950 Lincoln.

Like many, he gravitated to Chicago where he worked as a driver for an exterminator while practicing his music and sitting in with older, well-established musicians, such as Big Joe Williams and getting known and liked by many of the others, including John Lee Hooker.

It was not until he recorded with Paul Butterfield and then formed his own band to cut an LP that he achieved significant wide renown, however. His decision to move to San Francisco proved a wise one, for amid the incense and middle-class flower-power revolution he was seen as the gritty, genuine article, a real Bluesman. From that period onward, his popularity soared through over twenty albums.

His interest in latin music took him to Mexico, Cuba and South America, which led to some interesting blues branch-off efforts, one of which had to be recorded in Norway because of the political difficulties between Cuba and the United States.

His life-long friendship with John Lee Hooker continued right up to the passing of the legend and in 1981 John Lee served as Charlie's best man at his wedding to Henrietta.

After kicking a life-long problem with alcohol he was nearly killed in a 1999 automobile accident in Mexico while on vacation when an 18 wheel semi sideswiped his car. Fortunately he fully recovered to tour with BB King in Europe and capture about six W.C. Handy awards.

As for Jim Lauderdale, the 53 year-old Nashville-based singer/songwriter has been performing since 1986. He tends to host shows, such as the Americana Music Awards and "Tennessee Shines," a monthly concert at the Bijou Theater in Knoxville, Tennessee. He also hosts "The Jim Lauderdale Show" Wednesdays at 2 PM (Central Time) on WSM Radio AM 650, and also Lauderdale is also a frequent host and performer on "Music City Roots: Live from the Loveless Cafe", a weekly Americana music show broadcast live on WSM from the Loveless Barn on Highway 100 in Nashville.

In his free time, if the man ever has any, he works with Robert Hunter, the famous lyricist for The Grateful Dead and puts out albums. His 2009 release "Could We Get Any Closer?" was nominated for a Grammy at the 52nd Grammy Awards in Jan. of 2010.

Generally with an experienced line-up like that its hard to miss and the crowd there, consisting largely of silver-haired men and women who recall the chants and the patchouli of days past was not disappointed.

The concert was split into an acoustic set and a longer full-electric set, with Jorma performing pretty much as bandmaster, stepping forward for some old Hot Tuna chestnuts and then stepping back to allow Lauderdale plug numbers from his newly released Patchwork River CD.

Jorma kicked things off with just him and Jack on stage with Blue Country Heart's "What are they doing in heaven tonight", in memory of his parents. Things felt a little cool, as to give the guys some credit, the snazzy blue Marin Auditorium has hardly the ambience of say, the bare wood of a venue like the Shantytown Saloon or Preservation Hall, which would have suited the spare country feel better. It also sounded like the older crowd was not as up on Nashville sounds Jorma had been exploring in things like Blue Country Heart and Stars in My Crown. A musician has to keep moving forward like a shark, however, or die and we tend to appreciate people turning to new channels for different sounds.

The set was understated and the material chosen tended to reflect the experience of artists setting out for a long evening which was to be one of many in tour not slated to wind up until November.

Barry Mitterhof did a lively and jazzy mandolin number called "The Vicksburg Stomp".

The room really came alive, as it always does, when Charlie Musselwhite came on stage for a couple numbers, including a very moving, exquisitely beautiful quiet blues he dedicated "To Henrietta".

He and Jack finished off with the Uncle Sam Blues.

The room also woke up after intermission when the boys plugged in and Barry started doing amazing things with his electric mandolins not thought heretofor humanly possible, turning the normally sedate instrument into a fire-breathing monster with killer lead licks while Jorma and Jack brought back the San Francisco sound for all the former hippies out there. It is not often you see this, but when they launched into a blistering attack on the first number you could see Jack Cassady grinning from ear to ear.

Its that sort of thing which turns a long evening into a truely enjoyable and memorable one, for if the performer enjoys him or herself, the people will as well. Musselwhite proved he can rock with the best of them, punching through long melodic lines that wound like snakes around the sinewy playing of Kaukonen in the best call and response manner of the blues. Charlie's voice also proved to be surprisingly powerful and capable. Some of his electric guitar work can be heard on his more recent albums and he fortunately did one tasteful and spare number that evening.

"I feel another blues comin' on!", Musselwhite said, and guestured with his arms as if to add, "Okay, now -- we are really going to work!" Clearly he was enjoying himself as well.

Jorma's deeper register voice had a little problem making itself heard above the combined ensemble of drummer, bassist, himself, Charlie, and Jim Lauderdale on amped acoustic dreadnaught. He certainly made up for it with some inspired instrumental work. Interestingly, he continued to use the same finger picks for electric that he uses for acoustic playing.

The ensemble finished off with customary bow for each performer to inject a solo, including Skooter on drums and Jack on bass. We don't know if Jack knows or listens to Victor Wooten, but there certainly was a nice melodic quality to Jack Cassady's work that resembles the lead work that Wooten does in jazz.

In general, the second set shone the brightest and evoked the most passionate responses from the audience, all of whom undoubtably left the hall feeling like it was an excellent evening of good music delivered by boys who know there business well.

(3/15 Corrected errors)

The seagulls came swinging in on what they must feel by now is a regular commute a day ago and sure enough, we had a sizzler come in Sunday evening as a prelude to things to come. Not much wind around here but we note some big stuff marching up to the Northwest with winds up to 60mph. Not sorry that missed here.

In a few days that front will sort of turn around and march back down again after some warming and cloudy days for a very wet weekend starting on the 18th. We are likely to have some showers leading up to a dockwalloper as the weekend winds up and that immense pinwheel of a system out there in the Pacific keeps slinging its arms like Pete Townsend.

For folks East of here, they probably will get a slight break, with the Midwest seeing some Spring-like weather and the swollen Passaic dropping some unless Canada has something more to say.

We are all getting heartily sick of this eternal Pineapple Express. With most of the houses having only iffy and afterthought heating systems, everybody's woodshed is drawing down to kindling and chips now. The houses are built in such a way that even folks from Montana are saying, "Damn, its cold around here!"

Nevertheless, the daffydowndillies have popped out under the leaden skies, with the freesias beginning to bust out and the jasmine blooming by the Old Fence, indicating something good is happening.

Wouldn't walk out on the frozen lake anymore up There. That Chevy parked on the ice is likely to bust through any day now.

Over at the Old Same Place, the folks who still have jobs, including the house contractors, the fitters, the Port longshoremen, the plumbers, some teachers and nurses and hospital techs among them, and all the rest have been clustering like bees seeking heat from Padraic's Celtic Coffee.

He calls that concoction made of whiskey, coffee, brown sugar, whipped creme and at least one Mysterious Ingredient smelling suspiciously like Bailey's a "Celtic Coffee" because he insists no Irishman ever would have invented such a monstrosity that abused the Water of Life so.

When someone knowledgeable comes in to order an Arthur Power or a Jamison's, Padraic will say, "Right! I'll make it a double!"

Naturally he and the bar had to listen to the recent PHC broadcast with its Irish Green Theme twice if not more.

"What are we coming on now?" said Dawn. "With the poor Genius man beggin' please do not kill our town! What is all that about, pray tell me?"

It was, of course all about the Reactionaries who were seizing power right and left, from the battled halls of Wisconsin to the Capitol itself. Now they are all talking about killing the National Public Radio, the last voice of Reason and Democracy in the country. So was the Man from Minot of opinion as he spoke his mind there. And many were there who had helped teach Der Governator a rude lesson not three years ago to mind his betters and heed the voice of Labor. Angry mutterings collected in the dark shadows of that room.

And what were we to have with no NPR but only Some Things Considered, This American Life - With some Exclusions, and Junk Science Friday, said Dawn. Its a shame. Will we then have only the ostentatious Peacock, the sneaky FOX, the cowardly Rat have voice while our little bird that sings have none? Why is this?

And at this, the Editor came into the bar for a quick one before putting the latest issue to bed. Padraic asked him how the grand Sister City plan was going. That is to say, the well-known plan to establish this status with a famous town up in Minnesota.

The Editor hemmed a bit at this and placed his order. O that harebrained scheme, well that's been put to bed.

There was an acre of frozen silence in that room then, across which a crow could have called an ensemble to sing "The Halls of the Mountain King."

That did not happen, of course. Dirt ruts in the crusty furrows of winter corn fields have more motion than that room at that moment. Tough men with hands hardened by working daily for years with winches and concrete drills looked at him with cold eyes.

Suzie quietly placed a glass of Fat Tire ale before the Editor before scampering back.

"D'ya mean ta tell me you are putting aside a life's work because of . . . what?" Said Padraic.

In vain did the Editor expostulate about lawyers and difficulties and temperaments of the famous and their own insignificance in the face of all of it.

In answer, Padraic slammed down his mighty blacktorn stick upon the bartop, interrupting the Editor's excuses. "I tell ye we who defeated the Vikings at Baile Ath Cleath, at the Ford of the Hurdles, and sent them back running with their tails between their legs will not hear of this absolute ninny-nancy poodle equivocation not seen since Shem first shot the Russian General for his great insult to the Old Sod!" Intense was the fire in the man's eyes which called forth the terrible Finn Mc'Cool, and terrible is the wrath of Cuchulain in wintertime.

The Editor remained calm. "Render unto Luther what is Lutheran and unto the Great Goddess what is Californian," he wisely said. And all who sat there were amazed and confused.

"Should we not stand shoulder to shoulder with our Northern Brothers?" said Dawn. "And with NPR?"

"I do," said the Editor. "In our own way. Our towns are similar but not the same. Perhaps more alike than Shendong and the town called "Alameda", but that is not our concern. All small towns are more or less the same, for America is very large and it may be true that from coast to coast we all long with the same dreams, the same desires, have the same dashed disappointments in life, fall in love, marry, have children, grow old and eventually pass away to a little churchyard not far from the elementary school where each of us first learned ABC's from teachers just like Ms. Morales, whom I think some of you know. This much we have in common and because of that if there is anything I can do to contribute with my little rattling alms-box of skills I will do so. Stand at the barracades of Homestead and hurl the stones of 1916 in another Railway Strike, which it seems we are fated to re-enact once again, I will do so. The ghosts of Samuel Gompers and Joe Hill visit me every night, for you do know that it was here that the national struggle took shape. A struggle that for too long, perhaps, got shoved aside as an inconvenient deduction from a too comfortable paycheck earned not by you but by people who died for the rights we all enjoy."

At this, those tough men of the docks and the warehouses sat back and meditated on this history, a slice of all they knew. It was here, right here, that the fury was born which transformed the Country from a nation of industrial serfs into a land of freemen. That had been a land where the worker was so made a cog he slept beside the machine he served. Now the times had led to the time of the Reactionaries whose one path led inevitably to either totalitarianism or a repeat of all the violence that had come before.

The Editor paid his bill and left.

Dawn spoke to a young girl with raven dark hair sitting by herself, pale and thin at the end of the bar. "If it isn't Moira O'Callahan herself. Sing us a song, love and cheer us all up a bit, would ya now."

In answer the girl stood up and folding her hands below her waist sang in a high sweet voice so beautiful several tough guys fell in love with her all at once and began to weep.

Ag uirchill a' chreagain sea chodail mise
'Reir faoi bhron
Is le heiri na maid'ne thainig sinnir fa mo
Dhein le poig
Bhi grisoghrus garth' aici 'gus loinhir ina
Ciabh mar or
'S ba e iochshlainte 'n domhain a bheith
'G amharc ar a' rioghan oig
A fhiafhir charthanaigh, na caitear thusa 'nealta
Ach eirigh go tapaidh agus aistrigh liom siar sa rod
Go tir dheas na meala nach bhfuair galla inti reim go foill
'S gheobhair aoibhneas ar hallaf 'mo
Mhealladhsa le siamsa ceoil
A rioghan is deise 'n tu helen fa'r
Treagh sloigh
No do na naoi mna deasa, pharnassus thu
Bhi deanta gclo?
Ce'n tir ins a' chruinne 'n ar hoileadh
Tu, a realt gan cheo
Le'r mian leat mo shamhrhailsa bheith
'Cogarnaigh leat siar sa rod?

"That's lovely," said Eugene Gallipagus, the poodle hunter. "What's it mean?"

"I think its about a dead man goin' for a walk," Suzie said.


"You could say that," said Moira. "And he meets a woman who can cure all the ills of the world, and so she offers the young man hope."

"Speaking of dead men, look who's here, cute as a drowned rat stuck in a sewer pipe," Padraic said as the door let in a dripping boy. It was Aisling, who hesitated there. Last time he met, Padraic had tried to strangle him to death for being absent so long. Padraic had never really forgiven Aisling for getting himself arrested and put in the notorious Maze prison on account of being mistaken for an IRA terrorist. It had all been a terrible accident.

"Come in, love," Dawn said. "Don't be standing there letting out the warm air and letting in all the ghosts of the. You can take your break now," she added to Suzie, who knew the girl was great with the boy.

Suzie and Aisling went out and shared a cigarette under the eaves.

"Ah, young love," mooned Dawn.

"Aggggh!" said Padraic.

Things were silent and still at Marlene and Andre's Household. The entire household was gathered around a blue flickering tube from the battery-powered TV that Martini had rescued from the trash. Toshi, a friend of Martini's had family in Japan and she had been watching the tube and monitoring her phone constantly for hours now.

A great earthquake had struck Japan, registering 8.9 on the Richter scale and the subsequent tsunami had wiped out Japanese villages as well as towns in Hawaii. That morning a panic had swept along the California coastline.

Toshi, a neighbor girl was with them, for she was of need for company on this dark night of wind and weather. Her cousin, Kobyashi, was with them as well.

"Any word yet?" Marlene asked Toshi. She had relatives in Japan who lived in a small mountain village. All the lines were still down. An uncle lived not far from the atomic power plant. She kept her cellphone beside her every minute.

"No," she said and kept her eyes on the TV, which sometimes showed images of places she knew. Once she thought she saw a former schoolteacher run across the broken street in front of a fire.

Marlene made bread soup for everybody as the evening wore on, and handed the guests bowls of the simple, hearty stew.

There they were, the little community, sharing what they had. We who know disaster well.

As they ate their faces glowed in the blue light of the tube, and they all waited for news.

From far across the other side of the Island, the long wail of the the throughpassing train ululated across the patient, rain-dappled waves of the estuary and the society of wildflowers thronging the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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


MARCH 6, 2011


This week's headline photo comes from the presskit for the Doof Festival, courtesy of the mellifluously appelled Lisa Bullwinkl who works as an Event Planner/Coordinator/Promoter for all things East Bay.

When Lisa gets involved you can be assured the event will be wild, wacky, interesting and not your usual tchotchkes, tents and tedium street fair. The Doof-a-Palooza will come on May 22nd to Jack London Square for a day of food-oriented hijinks you should should not replicate in the school cafeteria. See the Calendar for details.

It's another Bullwinkl Production, of course.


Got a shout-out from Nik Colyer, current resident of Grass Valley. When last we heard from Nik he was fixing to demo a surefire antigravity machine. An occasional jewelry maker and sculptor, Nik is the serious author of the three-book series titled "Channeling Biker Bob".

We sent him a note mentioning that the series featured unexplored comic potential, but the guy is irrepressible. He is now out with another novel, this one featuring two burglars and a flamenco dancer. Okaaaaay . . . .

Here is a link to an excerpt.


Also got a note from local boy Dave Elias, who used to jam down at the San Gregorio General Store on Sundays before taking a sabbatical to Hawaii. He has returned but still has links to the Big Island, and here is one to a YouTube thing he did recently honoring "Grandmother Hapu'u".

Seems appropriate for Women's Day.

Got a brief report from Marinite Jennifer about the recent W.S. Merwin reading up there at the Commonweal Gallery. The elder statesman of poetry resides in Hawaii where he communes with trees and adds incrementally to his 30+ books yet substantially to the planet every moment he breaths on that other plane on which he dwells. Over 200 people came to listen to the man speak in a rare public appearance out at Point Reyes. Videos of him reading can be obtained through


All day the stars watch from long ago

my mother said I am going now

when you are alone you will be all right

whether or not you know you will know

look at the old house in the dawn rain

all the flowers are forms of water

the sun reminds them through a white cloud

touches the patchwork spread on the hill

the washed colors of the afterlife

that lived there long before you were born

see how they wake without a question

even though the whole world is burning


This Tuesday Islanders will march to the polls to decide on Measure A, the school funding property tax. As the various arguments settle out it seems pretty clear that the pro-tax folks fall into two camps while the anti-Measure A folks fall into two very different ideological camps as well.

On the Pro-Measure side we see a raft of folks looking to support the schools regardless of costs, while we have a more flinty-eyed group that appears to consist largely of realtors and property developers still seeking to mine the increasingly ephemeral bonanza of still-inflated property values.

We tend to sympathize with the first group, who really have the interests of their own families at heart.

On the anti-Measure A side, we note a group of property owners who bought some time ago with the intention of -- shock! -- actually inhabiting their property for an extended period. Many of these are living on reduced means due to the Great Recession and other factors, such as fixed incomes. These folks see another property tax as particularly onerous during this time of pinched reserves. These types are far more sympathetic than the crowd of "starve the government to anarchy" types who would protest any tax for any purpose simply on the basis of reactionary ideological grounds. These people have only the thinnest of reasons for objecting to the Measure, although they are by far the most numerous. Its unfortunate that the lunatic idea that the United States would be better off with a system like Somalia, where there definitely is no tax and no government, appears to be on the rise in this country, fueled by demagogues and pundits masquerading as "fair and balanced" news programs.

Most of the arguments about "efficiency" vs. "support the schools" and "accountability" vs. "class size" and the whole testing score comparison thing tend to be sophistic and largely beside the point. We are in the middle of a savagely cruel "Recession", "downturn", "austerity period" -- Whatever you want to call it. We don't have provision for this set of circumstances at any level of government you can name. Raising the parking fees and issuing more traffic citations simply will never fill the budget hole. Not for the schools, nor for any other issue. The recent proposal to boost the parking fine so as to balance the budget is a canard and Rob Ratto knows it.

The people elected the Unified School Board. The Board has said they need more money to make things work. Things have gotten far too tight to make the ridiculous argument for "efficiency" in government. People, you do not want an "efficient" government. An efficient government that is lean and mean is a totalitarian fascist dictatorship and there is no other living or dead example. If you don't like how the Board runs things, then elect another Board. But don't slam people for doing their jobs honestly and conscientiously.

If people want schools they must pay for them. If you want fire and police services, you must pay for them. You don't want to cut government to nothing, for in such an anarchy you cannot expect that everyone will think and act exactly like YOU. It really is as simple as that.

If people really want to seriously resolve the local government crises now slamming every municipal and county government from Yreka to Brawley in the Imperial Valley they need to orchestrate a carry-over of encumbered debt from year to year -- necessarily involving significant federal involvement -- to avoid situations like Vallejo while still maintaining critical social services which right now are the only slim hedge against nationwide disaster scenarios matching and exceeding 1929.

As for this bogus term "entitlements", time to drop it. This is getting old and tiresome and in the way of getting things done.

Whatever. If you haven't mailed it in, get on over there to your precinct and cast a vote this Tuesday. Think of it as a party and the more the merrier. And more convincing the outcome. Because its a Democratic Republic.


A dockwalloper marched in to the Bay Area, preceded by refugee seagulls fleeing the last few rattling boxcars of the 2011 Pineapple Express, which last looked on the radar like a stream of white ribbon under a big pinwheel orbiting the Bering Straits. Looks like gloomy skies are in the offing for the next week around here with snow in the mountains above 7,000 feet and a gradually warming trend in the middle of the country after a brief spate of flurries. A slow warming trend should let folks shunt down their heaters on the Island, but hovering sixty is about as good as it will get for now. Expect some high winds on the bridges on Monday.

As the Great Recession grinds on we continue to hear of companies doing mass layoffs here. Lately, the Island-based State Street Bank dumped about 100+ employees as they shifted operations to Sacto. Webcor, however, recently announced a move to Harbor Bay Island, with an unknown number of jobs to occupy an entire floor at 1751 Harbor Bay Parkway.

Mancini has got a part-time job working as a sawboy up at the Veriflo valve factory in Richmond. A sawboy is basically a journeyman machinist whose job is to cut fifty-foot alloy ingots into chunks that can be worked into unibody valves. Each day the truck pulls up and unloads by means of a crane these long rods of five-inch thick steel alloy, each weighing thousands of pounds, which Mancini cuts with a manual saw into nearly cubical shapes. The dies then got dropped into plastic trays to be sent down the assembly line for drilling.

The air is thick with the yellow/orange cutting oil used by the big ball-end Makita drills and Mancini has to shower down every day after work to get rid of the thick stuff in his hair.

Every day, Mancini rides up to the factory on the back of Pahrump's belching, coughing, knocking old Beezer before the sun comes up, and every afternoon Pahrump fetches him back along the San Pablo slot past the hookers and the body shops. Upon arrival Mancini then gives him a dollar for the gas and the trouble. And every Friday, Pahrump uses his weekly wages thus collected, minus gas, to buy a gallon jug of wine which he and Mancini and Occasional Quentin would polish off on the porch, weather permitting.

Xavier got a job working down in South City at the I Magnin distribution warehouse. This one began about 4 p.m. so Pahrump had plenty of time to gas up and haul him over for the minimum wage gig before dropping off Marsha at the Overnight Messenger dispatch office where she and a guy named Carlos maintained the radios for truckers and delivery nomads through the wee hours. Carlos came to work armed with a 9mm Beretta, which he would periodically pop off outside the door towards the swamp that lead down to the Bay. After catching some shuteye, Pahrump went through the cycle of pickup and deliver all over again, occasionally shifting to Sharon's beatup and very disreputable Tercel which had lacked its fifth gear for as long as anyone could remember when the Beezer was proving to be more than usually intractable.

Sharon worked as a crisis nurse at the Sausal Creek Psychiatric Clinic and usually was far too engaged to be concerned about her car.

"I AM GOING TO KILL EVERYBODY IN THIS ROOM, INCLUDING MYSELF! AND STARTING WITH YOU!" Sharon's last patient screamed. The man started taking off all of his clothes.

"Um, should I 5150 this guy?" Yolanda asked.

"No you don't" Sharon said, ignoring Yolanda. "You know you really don't want to hurt me. Just think how boring things would be."

Things got better with the man after that.

The bundle rolled from the car at the feet of Andre as he walked along the Strand, trying to forget the Troubles of Life.

A ragged figure emerged from the bundle. A young boy. The car's tires squealed as it tore off at the bend of Shoreline towards Oaktown.

"You okay?" Andre asked.

The boy paused, then said, "Nothing broken, nothing thrown. This time."

It looked like he had a few scrapes, nonetheless. "You going anywhere?" Andre said, a certain fatalism creeping into his voice.

"No place particular," The boy said.

"You might as well come along with me." Andre said.

"O, I know. You wanna DO me," the boy said. "That case, I want somethin' ta eat, first. I want something ta eat before anything."

"No I don't want to do you. Just want you to meet my girlfriend. Come on now."

"O that's kinky. But I want somethin TA eat first. I wan' a burger and some fries an' . . .".

"Don't worry. She'll feed you I guarantee."

"Okay now. You look funny with them rings and tattoos and stuff. You seem all right. What's up with the girlfriend?"

"Well . . . we are all kind of alike. And I expect you'll meet her approval. You need to meet her approval you know."


"Y'see she can't have no kids on account of what her daddy done to her. But you look all right. I guess you will do."

When they got to the Household on Otis, Marlene set to fussing right away. She set on a kettle to boil and got some pads left over from when Jose broke his leg the last time, and sneaked some painkiller from Javier's stash. The boy dove into the bowl of bread soup Marlene set in front of him like he was starving, which he probably was.

"How come you got tossed from the car," Andre finally asked.

"Didn't wanna go to the piss boxes with the old men no more," the boy said, while Marlene dabbed at a nasty gash above his eyebrow. An' I didn't like being beat up all the time like Sylvester my brother."

Marlene looked at Andre.

"Um where is your brother now?"

The kid looked wary. "Not sure I know nothing."

"We'll take care of him later," Marlene said.

Suan came home then, breezing through the door and shaking raindrops from her cape. "Who's this?"

The kid pushed the bowl away. "There's plenty left there. I didn't take all of it!"

"Well I see, there is plenty there. But I ate something at work already." Suan said.

"You not going to hit me are you?" The child said.

Suan looked at him. "No honey, I am way too tired even if I was of such a mind. You needn't worry about that."

As the weekend evening went on, household members drifted in from out of the rain-dappled streets. Andre held a House Meeting. "Folks I know its crowded right about now, and things are really tight, but seems we may have a new addition here and the rules being what they are, everybody has to agree."

Everyone looked over to where Suan had fallen asleep with the kid wrapped in her arms on the sofa. The vote was unanimous in favor of acceptance.

That's how Adam came to join Marlene and Andre's household.

They all knew that no family is complete without a child and they all knew that they were sorely incomplete as Islanders without one and lo! A manchild had been dropped in their collective laps. Consumatum Est.

Later that night Andre sat with Marlene at the table beside the guttering candles and the remains of the bread soup repast.

This isn't going to be like raising chickens, you know, Marlene said.

I know. This is most definitely not Turlock or Lake Wobegon. Love them or not, these are the people in my life. This is our world. And if I have any say in the matter, in this world peace, truth, justice and beauty will be the norms.

Right then the long wail of the the throughpassing train ululated across the compassionate waves of the estuary and the tender wildflowers of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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


FEBRUARY 27, 2011


Nothing gets you past a cold day at the end of a seemingly eternal winter better than a stack of hot waffles. And who should know better about cold days in winter than a Scandanavian.

This week's photo comes of the sign over a local landmark eatery which has been at its location on the Island since 1927 with its classic neon sign, proving at least a couple Norwegians settled here in addition to Minnesota.

We also have, in all seriousness, a diner called "Joe's", which is wildly popular on the weekends.

A quick check reveals that Ole's has not only a facebook page but also now does the Twitter thing.

Photo courtesy of Chad Chadwick.


We are getting close to the punchline of this extended series of 20 segments featuring characters who have appeared in the "monologue" portion of Island-Life over the past twelve years.

Segment 17 has the Narrator meeting up with a series of folks on the street walking to the NYE party at Doyle's place. A magician's rabbit attempts to resolve several serious social issues and an herd of moose get into Mrs. Almeida's garden to cause there a ruckus, much to the Narrator's irritation.

The YouTube post lists the various music credits if anyone cares about that.



It almost feels like City Hall is taking a deep breath, set to exhale after 8PM on March 8th when the polls close on yet another single issue election. Folks will vote on the school funding initiative, which due to Prop 13-spirited requirements, requires 2/3rds majority to pass.

As a side note on a topic about which we shall examine more exhaustively in a later issue, these 2/3rds majority rules and similar restrictions tend to mimic a concern the Founding Fathers had for something called "the tyranny of the majority", which is to say the Founding Fathers understood that simple majority rule does not always work. In fact they were very afraid of mob rule in this new experiment of modern Democracy. Hence their careful arrangement of what is called "the balance of powers." We will go into that at length later.

The business of government must continue, however, and candidates for the vacant position of City Manager now have been winnowed to about three. Speculation is useless at this point, so just sit back and see who will be allowed to sit in a rather unenviable warm spot for the duration. We do not see an improvement in the financial outlook occuring for at least several months. If not years.

Rumors that the NUMMI plant may reopen may have been delt a shove-back by the recent massive recall by Toyota. Still, that was the model plant for the US, which should have instructed GM management to pursue a wiser course (which they did not), so we cross our fingers and hope. It does appear that GM has shifted from making cars they want to sell to making cars people want to buy, which some marketing wonks see only as a fine distinction instead of business common sense . . . .

The effort to slash funding for mental health and health services met a defeat in Sacto recently, when the Reactionaries were beat back by Dems heartened by news of change in the wind against the so-called Tea Party movement. Also, it appears wiser heads prevailed in consideration that they want fewer Sausage King and Tulsa-type massacres occuring on their watch. Crazy people -- take care of them or they will take care of you.

On the upside, the recent sale of Southshore Mall pumps some $2 million into cash-strapped City coffers. Now if only a portion of this could be diverted to that "deferred maintenance" we have been hearing about.


The scheduled Island-Life review of international news took a sudden back-seat upon the eruption of events in Egypt and other North African countries. Quite obviously, all the attention was on Cairo and Tunisia, Libya, and Bahrain. Even Al Jazzera (yep, we got contacts there now as well) echoed the same concerns. During the anti-press riots in Cairo, even the Al Jazzera offices got torched; well how does it feel to be a rolling stone, guys. Pretty much all of it can be summarized from El Pais to the Frankfurter Allgemein as, "somebody done stuck a stick in the water and we got mud as long as it lasts."

Essentially, the different news orgs indicated that what comes out of all of this instability will vary from country to country with no clear pattern among them, except that the US seems to be for the first time entirely absent from all of this. Sorry Bush Doctrine, you got nothing to say here, in other words.

Bahrain will likely remain as it is, while Saudi Arabia will likely see moderate revisions in their monarchy, leading to a much later eventual demise of that structure long after everything else has been resolved.

The writing is on the wall for that poor bastard Gadhaffi. There is really no good end resolve for this guy, given the course he has taken. Its okay to pity the murderous f***r now, because the end is always the same for these guys who refuse to acknowledge what is happening. A lot of people will die needlessly because of his decisions, and that will only fuel the fury unleashed upon his hapless self. He could have retired to France like Idi Amin, but instead he will die horribly in some dirt-floored anonymous basement.

Egypt has been an enigma for some 8,000 years and will likely remain so.

Yes, your gas prices will go up and they will not go down, no matter what happens. We are talking $6 bucks a gallon, and talk of $4 a gallon is silly. Better unload that anti-social SUV now. Last we heard, used Hummers were going for about $2,000 . . .

But what Europe really is concerned about is football. No, not that brutish head-banging NFL stuff, but serious football, called soccer by you neanderthals.

Latest news from Der Vaterland has humble Hannover placing in the Top Four of the Bundesliga, which is a kind of National Conference equivalent. Winner there advances to the World Cup.

Hannover? Hannover is Germany's Chicago Cubs equivalent, except that they have never, never, never ever been within a sneeze of a national championship. It's as if a Minor Leagues team upset the Red Socks, New York and the Giants all at once. As recently as this evening Hannover was ranked over the awesome power of Munich-Gladbach. Blue and Gold forever!


A rough wind blew in across the Bay Area, bringing chill temps and a dockwalloper that smacked us with cold rain and frost this week. Cars with high profiles were warned off of bridges and the ferry service to Babylon was cancelled for at least one day due to high winds. The weekend struggled forward with bright skies but icy mornings as folks chopped at unaccustomed crystals on their windshields.

As far south as San Diego 55 degree temps with cloudy skies were reported while we all endured temps hovering near freezing in an unusually cold period.

Sorry to say the Pineapple Express has at least one more storm heading our way, due about Wednesday, which means that places East of here will experience yet more misery a week now hence. Folks up in the ski regions around Tahoe are loving this sort of attention, so its not all bad.

This morning all the cars out on the road glistened with skeins of ice, indicating the early dawn hours got pretty nippy. Rumors of snow proved to be unfounded at the end of the day, however.

Its been pretty cold for Susan at the Earhardt Garage in Berkeley and so Lynette has been sending her out the door each day with mittens and gloves. All the gals at the woman-owned business there putter about under the lifts and hoods with parkas and bearskin hats while listening to Ani DiFranco off the CD player. Lynette worked variable shifts at the Psychiatric Center in Fremont, although due to budget cutbacks, her hours had been reduced below 40 per week.

Tommy and Toby have kept their sloop, the Lavender Surprise moored up at the Marina, stopping by periodically after each storm to check on things there. Tommy had lost his job at the law firm in the City and so had turned to temping for Bolt. Things were tough all around.

The four of them went over to the Oaktown Museum for the Free Saturday there and talked about what the President's recent decisions about marriage meant for all of them.

Tommy said he was not sure he would survive another wedding like the one which had been disrupted at the Chapel of the Santified Elvis by a pitched battle between angry poodles and the hunters one memorable Thanksgiving.

Susan mentioned that the Teaparty people probably would be causing enough trouble to put everything off indefinitely anyway.

"Teabaggers!" said Tommy. Toby started giggling. So did Tommy.

"For Pete's sake," Lynette said. "You guys . . . ".

At Marlene and Andre's household, the long winter and the weather had enforced crowded conditions which had begun to abrade everyone's sensibilities.

"EFF YOU!" screamed Marlene.

"BITCH!" screamed Tipitina, who also had turned to temping. Her current assignment was for a supercilious jerkoff in the City who constantly reminded people that He, for one, had made the Right Decisions. She couldn't scream at the jerkoff, but then there was Marlene and Quentin. "STUPID IDIOT!"

"You better watch out," warned Quentin. "A stupid idiot got himself elected President of the United States! Twice!"

Andre then drowned out everyone by setting his guitar amp to nine and playing a song by Metallica.

"AARRRAAAAAHHHHH!", screamed Suan who just woke up. Javier groaned from his closet bed where his leg, still encased in a cast from the disastrous V-Day impalement throbbed.

Yes, the winter had been long, and another storm was coming in by midweek.

Jose and Tipitina took a walk down to the beach where the temporarily clear skies sparkled merrily with stars while the lights of Babylon across the water gleamed like the fairyland of Oz. Tipitina asked Jose if Javier had ever mentioned why his girlfriend had run him through the leg with a javelin.

Jose shrugged. Love is mysterious. Javier probably had said the wrong thing. Like he didn't want to get married or something. He paused. And maybe she had bad aim.

Well I guess that action ought to make up his mind, mentioned Tipitina.

They said hello to Denby, who also was out for a walk. Denby rented a room in the Lunatic Asylum next door to Pagano's Hardware and sometimes the giggling and the howling got on his nerves. Lately he had been walking down to the Cove where Strange de Jim had spent the last few minutes of his life. It was peaceful there.

The three friends looked out across the water.

"Will things ever get any better?" Denby wondered aloud, his breath forming clouds in the cold air.

From Orion's belt a streak gleamed briefly in an arc and then went out.

"Look!" Tipitina said. "Les etoiles riant!"

"Yep," Jose said. "Long after all of us are gone, there will still be the stars. And they will laugh with or without us."

Right then the long wail of the the throughpassing train ululated across the frigid waves of the estuary and the frosty wildflowers of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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




FEBRUARY 20, 2011


This picture comes from Chad's Winter Gallery and was taken shortly after they had landed in the tree. Gives a good feel for the rather longish winter that has been wearing on people around here lately.

See weather report below.


A real dockwalloper blasted into the Bay Area this week, drenching things with hail alternating with downpours and blowing cars off the road with high winds, something sure to cheer up folks East of here in a few days. Sunday dawned bright and clear after a week of lower than normal temps, and we are looking at a few days of sunshine, minus a cloudy Monday, so that ought to help out in places like Illinois and Minnesota.

However the Pineapple Express is not done with us yet, as we see another storm forming out there in the Pacific and expected to arrive Friday with more showers as well as a continuation of cooler temps. Tomorrow night is expected to get quite frigid for this area, making all the SoCal transplants long for home even more.

Extended forecast shows rain tapering to showers right up to March 1 with slow warming trends to 55 degrees. In other words, may not be time to unhook that motorcycle battery from the trickle charger just yet.


Episode #16 of the Island Walkabout is up on YouTube. This one involves an episode to Percy and Madeline as they prepare to go to the NYE gala at Doyle's place. Percy prepares by shining up his immaculate two-toned 1929 Mandelbrot coupé, while Madeline's preparations shock the audience by her . . . Well, you will just have to see.




If things were not bad enough the Island made front page news -- again -- this time with the EB Express which did one of its special feature reports on our humble little burg. The topic was all about the questionable manner in which Anne Marie Gallant was ousted from her position as City Manager, an event we had long predicted would happen at some time anyway. The report by Paul Gackle also mentioned the rather thin air at the top with a number of vacant core leadership positions.

The absent Fire Chief, Police Chief, City Attorney, economic development director along with the MIA City Manager whose job is essentially to run the city by means of a city charter that places the position above Mayor in decision making does put us in a bad spot.

We tend to think the ouster of Doug DeHaan and Frank Matarrese has little to do with any "power play" other than the endorsement of the Democratic Club went to Gilmore, Bonta and Tam as a unit, leaving them in the cold. It is true SunCal practiced a form of chicanery, which just seems to have been, in hindsight, further demonstration of their incompetence and bile rather than any effective action to return as players here. When we last checked a day ago, SunCal still had offices with corporate name on the building occupants' marquee inside 300 Frank Ogawa Plaza, but that means little for the Island.

It seems, given the likely large events to unfold, that with the State economic development funds cut back or removed entirely, for a developer to build dwelling units along the estuary would be economic suicide. They would have to make their own sewer and power connections, as the city does not have the money to do it. We are hearing more "mixed use" space and "office/retail structures" in the plans coming up, which would be more cost effective than housing in the middle of a supply glut.

Here we need to pull the bottom out of the magic hat of current realty statistics, which have to be the most elaborate charade of smoke and mirrors with a cape ever devised. Yes, building units ramped up slightly regionally and nationwide, but where "units" used to mean "houses", now they mean apartments. In other words, they are building more or fewer structures, but the structures they do build feature apartment units, not single-family dwellings.

As for the Point, it seems the best case scenario is to allow the Navy columbarium and veteran's medical facility to go forward as best usage of the land on the south end. Another entity is proposing a largish office/retail/industrial park on the north end. All of which makes a lot more sense than having one megadeveloper do whatever it wants with the majority of that space there in a process that would oust tax and lease-paying existing tenants who currently chip in some $11 million dollars right now without the city having to do anything.

On the upside to this situation, if property values continue to slide -- they are, so admit it -- and this continues to occur because Measure A fails to pass, every other municipality experiencing exactly the same problem will also experience exactly the same results across the board. So you don't want to move to Alameda because the schools are not funded so you move your kids to . . . say . . . Oakland. Yeah sure. Do they make kevlar vests in kid size? Well then, how about San Francisco? Raise a family by choice in San Francisco these days?! I think not! Every single person we know who was born and raised there has departed over the course of thirty-five years, angrily shaking the dust of the City from their heels. We know a City cop over there personally and even HE hates his job.

Under the toxic clouds of Richmond? Think again. Emeryville? We know somebody who works for the City of Emeryville in their equivalent of city hall and from those stories we get, nope, nope, nope! They are closer to bankruptcy than we are and the one elementary school they have is on the corner of San Pablo and 47th. Oh, and its also the high school, K-12.

Vallejo? They already are bankrupt. The loving biker gangs of Martinez have some decent folks among them. Just because a guy has been to prison a few times does not make him a bad neighbor. Necessarily. We generally like the people of Martinez actually. But then Island-life does own a vintage Harley. Well the streets of Newark, which never have possessed a mayor, or a city council for that matter. And looking at Newark, you can tell. The place looks like an armpit rejected by New Jersey.

When you talk about moving to some place like Dublin or Marin, well "screw you", we say. Those people are strange with uncouth customs. As for the GGB, you may have been around long enough to have heard a muttered, "They never should have built that damn bridge." Save for the unlikely intervention of Pilot Rock, even the drunken pilot of the Costco Busan would have sailed right on through. Save for that damn bridge jumping in his path.

People, when you go to the ballot box vote whatever, but vote for informed reasons, not because of what amounts to blather on both sides of the issue.

On other fronts, the redevelopment funds issue is unlikely to affect the Catellus project at Alameda Landing, which will feature a badly needed Target store designed to keep dollars here on the Island.

Unfortunately, the Great Recession claims another casualty by way of Borders Books, which will close its excellent store at Southshore Mall. Another one bites the dust.


There's about three or four hot things happening nationwide, all of them interrelated.

By now everybody should know what is going on in the Midwest right now. About 70,000 people are camped out at the state capitol in Wisconsin in protest against the attack on collective bargaining rights and unions in general. It should be no surprise for people to learn that unions and collective bargaining have long been prime targets for destruction on the Ultra-Right agenda. Similar events are taking place in Illinois and Ohio right now as the Reactionaries who are hell-bent on returning the U.S. to the Middle Ages encounter stiff popular resistance from people who finally realized that voting for a straw boss who has been mouthing a few Palin-type platitudes also brings in an entire package about which those people have not really thought much. When its about faraway immigrants and invisible welfare mothers that is one thing, but when it comes down to your own family and taking the bread off the table, well that's when a few states are going to experience what we already went through with Der Governator who never fully recovered from his political debacle.

One good thing may come of this -- people nationwide may start looking harder at what these mouthy Reactionaries are really saying and what it really means for them. We call them by their rightful name because these folks ceased being Conservatives long ago.

Of course this agenda is being played out on a larger scale in Washington DC right now as those same Reactionaries attempt to push through draconian budget ideas which have as much reality behind them as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. It seems these people want to cut everything except things they like personally, such as lucrative military contracts and bridges to nowhere. Cutting taxes is patently foolish, for as every tax preparer worth his or her salt will tell you, "you cannot make money from taxes. It will always be either pay a lot or pay a lot more."

At this point the deficit is so large, the Great Recession so severe, that even if a thousand dollars were dropped today into the pockets of every single family in America where someone still has a job and every single one of them went out to spend it, the resulting blip in any one of the key economic matrices would amount to scarcely half a percentage point lasting less than a week. Even if the tax reduction theory were a valid concept generically, it would simply not be enough to turn around the steep snowball avalanche which is happening right now.

Finally we come to our pet issue here, which is related to one of the cuts urged by the inflexible Reactionaries who don't seem to remember a key condition stipulated by their precious Federalist Papers (written without debate and without majority delegate involvement) involves that prickly thing called "compromise".

Long time Island-Lifers know that we riff off of and occasionally parody -- all in light jest -- NPR programming. Some of us listen to NPR programs regularly, for NPR has been providing the real fair and balanced news coverage lacking in the vast majority of the alleged news media, which is really a collection of OpEd Opinion desks sitting squarely on one side or the other, all eager to misrepresent, distort and inflame the few facts they bother to relate.

If not for NPR none of us would have heard Paul Wolfowitz express his side of the Iraq war and how it began, for no way any of us would have bothered with the nonsensical excuse of media outlet like FOX at any time. Then there are the entertainment programs, such as Prairie Home Companion, City Arts and Lectures, and short story readings on Saturday nights, not to mention the rather brilliant reporting of This American Life with Ira Glass.

Its clear why Reactionaries want to stamp out any media voices not beholden to their agendas. With MSNBC totally disorganized and CNN hidebound by internal rules by which no one else abides, FOX would be totally free to blat its well funded "messages" as ultimate Truth in a vacuum. As Ira Glass said during a recent interview, nobody reads the papers any more for news. Nobody pays attention to news at all. Everybody listens to and watches commentary and then people say they only want to hear news that they agree with. That is the problem, but maybe that is the way America is today.

This too is commentary. Because we want to pitch an argument. Our argument is neither for or against any particular party. We argue for support of PBS and NPR as pretty important institutions which should be supported without reservation for in an healthy democracy, well-formed debate is critical to conducting the business of self-government.

That's it for our punditry this week. And hopefully for a long time.


A big dockwalloper set in Monday with enough virulence to knock the feathers off of the seagulls, and then kept up the pounding nearly every day until Sunday. Folks heading to work at the factories in Richmond had to get out ice scrapers to clear their windshields, while a fair number just stayed home in bed.

Monday, of course, was the big V-Day. And the weather made a perfect excuse for many to stay not only indoors but under the covers. It did help if someone were there already to provide some body heat. All over girls appeared in the late morning wearing thick robes and holding coffee mugs behind steam-clouded windows before disappearing back into the shadows of their houses for the rest of the day, while bouquets appeared on doorsteps everywhere.

Despite the weather, Lionel opened up the Pampered Pup with a whistle and a jaunty step.

Seems his date with Jacqueline went well Monday night. The two of them had dinner at Cera Una Volta on Park Street and then caught a movie at the newly renovated Paramount Cineplex. We don't have many romantic restaurants on the Island, for here the taste runs to places like the wholesome Juanita's, the sturdy Island Grill, the very democratic Casa Azul, the even more democratic Chinese buffett on Webster, the family-run Everett and Jones BBQ and the heartland corndogs of Der Wienerschnitzel, all places where the mechanics, the print-shop workers, the fishermen, the day laborers, the leaf blowers, the low level clerks, the teachers, and the house restorers feel comfortable enough to put their elbows on the table.

Don't be surprised we have only one wine and cheese shop on the Island.

In any case, things went well for Lionel, for once and his friend Arthur was dying to hear all about it at the close of the business day.

"Yo brother, you finally bringing out your deep warrior self, man . . ."

"O please," said Lionel. "Sounds like you been hanging too much with them Robert Bly types."

"I'm talking about roots, man, roots. So how'd it go? I heard our main man Thomas got to homeplate last night. And that foxy Yvonne came to work with her hair all out like a wild animal pulled on it!"

"Arthur, don't you think you need to get on with your own life instead of messing with other people's? You remember old Will said 'The best part of myself is my reputation'. He said that, old William. Y'know what I am sayin'?"

"Yeah I remember that. But he also said, 'The very flies do lust in my sight . . .'."

"I think you are badly misappropriating there, Arthur."

"Well all right about that. I'll admit that old king was nuts. But there's also this:

'As an unperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put beside his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength's abundance weakens his own heart;
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love's rite,
And in mine own love's strength seem to decay,
O'ercharged with burthen of mine own love's might.
O! let my looks be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
Who plead for love, and look for recompense,
More than that tongue that more hath more express'd.
O! learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit.'

"Well," responded Lionel. You remember the lines well, but 'Speak the speech trippingly upon the tongue . . . Do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently . . . O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings.' So when are you going to get a girl for yourself Arthur? There is also,

'THEN let not winter’s ragged hand deface
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distill’d:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty’s treasure, ere it be self-kill’d.
That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That’s for thyself to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times thyself were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigur’d thee;
Then what could death do, if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
Be not self-will’d, for thou art much too fair
To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir'.

So there!"

It may seem odd to hear such fellows as these, the owner of a hotdog shop on Park Street and a garage mechanic talk in such a way, but let it be known that Lionel and Arthur came from a generation who's parents were not allowed the luxuries of things like decent public schools, and in some places were not allowed schooling or books or learning in any formal manner whatsoever. Whole generations steeped themselves in the great books of the philosophers and the poets by flickering candlelight and the soft voices of their mothers in broken wood tin-roof shacks, becoming far more learned than their alleged masters, for to seek Truth and meaning under the lash and the chain becomes far more critical to the man in that position than he who finds both The Republic and Nicomachean Ethics only to be onerous chores interfering with pleasure and business both.

Those who would decry the worth of public schooling today apparently have never learnt their history proper. The greatest enemy to tyranny is education -- and They know it.

"O I get some now and then. Don't you worry about me," Arthur said. "In fact I been keeping my eye on one particular foxy lady right now."

"O really now." Lionel said. "And who might that be? And does she even know anything about you?"

"Wellllll . . . there is this Jeralyn . . .".

"Jeralyn the Gospel singer!" Lionel was shocked. "That woman is steeped in the Lord! You rascal, you talk about 'gettin' some now and then' and you haven't been inside a church of any denomination for well over the twenty years I have known you! What's got into you?"

"Uh, I heard her singing on the radio and I, . . .uh . . . it reminded me of . . .".

"Talk about aiming high! I think this is the Stairway to Heaven up the Tower of Babel. It reminded you of what? Being a child I guess, 'cause you sure acting like one."

"I am going to get spiritual and pure," said Arthur. "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment . . .".

"o for pete's sake. You tear down that poster in your crib of Miss February yet?"

"O I will get to that . . .".

"Hah! And throw away your little black book of names and numbers?"

"O that's on computer now . . .", Arthur said.

"Marriage of true minds. There can't be one 'cause you got nothing between your ears! Damn fool waterhead . . . ".

"I think I am going to be going now," Arthur said as he eased out the door.

"Stop by the Old Same Place and have a double on me, Mr. Spiritual! 'Cause that is exactly where I know you are heading instead of Pastor Bauer's".

"Bye Lionel!"

The Island does have a collection of people who do reflect the vast improbable mixture of the People that is America, with all their strengths and their foiables, their loves and dislikes, their smartness and their foolishness. If you are going to love America, and California in particular, you have to love the People, who surely can be contrary sometimes.

So the day drifted into night a little later than yesterday, and a little more later than the day before. The solstice had passed and old Gaia was ever so slowly turning her head towards her warm Son, Mssr. Soleil.

In the Old Same Place Bar Suzie placed a glass in front of a woozy Arthur and asked if she needed to call a cab.

"Y'know, that Lionel gets real tetchy when he gets into that love business." Arthur said.

"I've heard some people do," Suzie said before turning to the evening close-up.

Right then the long wail of the the throughpassing train ululated across the romantic moonlit waves of the estuary and the star-lit wildflowers of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

FEBRUARY 13, 2011


This week's headline photo comes from Tammy Ferris of Sacramento, California, who took this shot at dusk from the window while visiting her brother here on the Island. They may kill cedar waxwings mysteriously by the thousands in other parts of the country, but around here we know to provide safe harbor.

The tree is outside an old house on the corner of Alameda Avenue and Chestnut Street


Segments 13-15 of the Island Life Walkabout are now up on the YouTube channel. These return to the more lighthearted genre we have done. The Walkabout drops in on the newlywed Sanchez's before visiting with the crew of the Iranian spy submarine that occasionally passes through the estuary. While the captain puzzles over a mysterious message from Teheran we slip away to visit with Island-life staffer Denby Montana, who is keeping himself busy on New Year's Eve by practicing his music -- with admittedly dubious success. The Editor comments how difficult it is to obtain good special FX staff and qualified musicians willing to work for free.

Walkabout Segments 13-15



Mayor Elect Marie has been getting down to the dirty business of the City finances in parlous times, noting that the Reserve Fund's seemingly flush condition is due to massive deferred maintenance amounting to over $75 million dollars. This caused the City Auditor to comment that he is "not optimistic" about the city's financial future, due largely to pending pension and benefit issues.

A couple deferred issues concern both the firefighters and the police union who both are getting concerned about lengthy delays in completing contract negociations. That's shorthand for somebody dropped the ball in the last administration.

The proposal by the new Governor Brown to slash Redevelopment Funds hits hard at the Island, especially for those areas along the estuary side. Park and Webster Streets are largely done projects, all which facelifting was substantially covered by these RF monies. There's still a lot to be done on the Webster side, including fixing up the tunnel portal, but that will take a backseat for a while, along with any chance of polishing up the "boatworks" area with its decrepit cannery and the industrial waterfront extending to the newly refurbished Bridgeside if those funds disappear.

Management of the parking revenue stream, sometimes facetiously referred to as theParking Citation system, has been transferred as you read this to a business in Irvine. Parking revenue taxes, levied as citations, must now be mailed to

City of Alameda,
Parking Enforcement Center,
P.O. Box 57010, Irvine, CA 92619-7010

Parking citations may also be paid online at tickets/alameda.html. Free Internet access is available at the Alameda Free Library, 1550 Oak St.

Any questions about paying ticket citations or instructions on how to contest one must be done by a toll-free number (866) 353-0453, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by mailing written questions or concerns to the address noted above.

Finally, we noted that somebody has taken the perfectly reasonable approach to restore the shopping mall name to its rightful "Southshore Mall". We, too, thought "Town Centre" a bit foo-foo as well.


The Mastic Senior Center, which has been serving the community since July of 1980, held a ribbon cutting ceremony on a bright, sunny Thursday to mark the completion of the Lobby Renovation Project. The project upgraded not only the interior but exterior landscaping and the ornate gateway to the facility.

As the facility acts as a significant locale for meetings, events, and special programs for Seniors and for the community at large, the occasion was well attended by members of City Hall, including the Mayor, Councilperson Tam, and the Acting City Manager Lisa Goldman.

After Lena Tam had just successfully fought a brutal hardball politics battle, she certainly had a right to be all smiles.

Approximately one hundred folks from the surrounding neighborhood showed up to witness the ribbon cutting ceremony, which ran into a minor snag when the ceremonial shears failed to slice the thick ribbon at first. Here, Senior Services Manager Jackie Krause delivers the welcoming comments.

The meeting rooms have been used by a number of civic organizations, including the Registry of Voters as a polling place, the League of Women Voters as a forum venue, and others. Programs have included low cost feature films, budget lunches, live music, yoga, Spanish language classes, and more among the potporri of offerings.

Nancy Gormley is head of the Advisory Board that funded the project by means of donations, Saturday Bingo proceeds and thrift shop sales.



AC Transit is developing a comprehensive fare policy and looking for public input on elements ranging from goals and principles, to pass pricing and transfer rules, to the timing and level of fare increases. The overall aim is to have fares that are more logical and equitable, and fare changes that are more rational and predictable. District staff has spent the last half-year on internal deliberations, with periodic presentations to the Board of Directors. We are now reaching out to our passengers, community leaders, and the general public for feedback on our work so far. In early March, staff will present a formal proposal, which the Board may choose to take to public hearing in April, and then implement in late summer or early fall.

Full details on the fare policy development are available in the “Have Something to Say About Fares? We Bet You Do!” article on the ACT Web page. Three of the most significant aspects open for discussion are:

· Should the District establish and maintain a fare structure with consistent relationships among the various fare types (adult, youth, senior/disabled) and fare media (cash, passes)? (At present, pass prices are not a consistent multiple of the cash price for each fare type.)

· Should the District gradually raise the prices of youth 31-day and senior/disabled monthly passes to reach a consistent multiple of the cash price? (At present, adult passes are priced at 40 times the cash price, while youth and senior/disabled passes are priced at 15 and 20 times the cash price, respectively.)

· Should the District adopt a multi-year schedule of specific fare increases to provide cost and revenue predictability? (At present, fare increases are proposed, considered, and adopted individually at various intervals.)

The public can weigh in on the discussion via online form, e-mail, voicemail, fax, or letter (see details in Web article). They’re also holding a public meeting to engage riders and other members of the community in discussions with staff:

Thursday, February 17
5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
AC Transit General Offices
1600 Franklin Street, Oakland


The financial hardships forced us to stop getting season tix to the Rep, but Terence still lets us know what's up over there, and sounds like things are staying hot in front of the footlights created by that old Swede, Strindberg.


Creator of Fires in the Mirror and Twilight: Los Angeles comes back with her new hit show

It’s been 15 years since she’s performed on a Bay Area stage – now Anna Deavere Smith is returning. The beloved artist will bring her latest solo show to Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the same theatre that presented sold-out runs of her previous hits: Fires in the Mirror and Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. Conceived, written, and performed by Anna Deavere Smith and staged by esteemed director Leonard Foglia, Let Me Down Easy is an electrifying one-woman show that explores the depths of human strength. Berkeley Rep presents Let Me Down Easy as part of Arena Stage’s national tour of Second Stage Theatre’s production. The show starts previews in the state-of the-art Roda Theatre on May 28, opens June 1, and runs through June 26.

“Anna Deavere Smith is one of the great purveyors of modern culture,” says Tony Taccone, artistic director of Berkeley Rep. “I see her as a civic shaman, someone who channels the currency of opinion about huge social issues – in this case healthcare – and inspires us to think and feel in new ways. We are thrilled to welcome her back to our stage.”

“The Let Me Down Easy journey began when I was invited to be a visiting professor at the Yale School of Medicine,” Smith remarks. “My first thought was, ‘Really, me, a clown, to create something in such a serious elite environment?’ I walked away from the experience with an increased compassion for doctor and patient alike. The stories stayed in my heart and became the basis of this play.”

Let Me Down Easy examines the body and the body politic, as only Anna Deavere Smith can. Called “the most exciting individual in American theater” by Newsweek, Smith conducted 320 interviews on three continents to create this show – and now she paints indelible portraits of more than 20 unforgettable individuals. Using her unique performance style, she introduces you to a rodeo rider, a prize fighter, and an altruistic doctor – as well as legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong, supermodel Lauren Hutton, and former Texas Governor Ann Richards. Together, their voices tell a stunning story about the vulnerability of the human body, the resilience of the spirit, and the price of care.


Its got to be that time of year again when our somewhat puritanical society starts referring to animal behavior. Recently we were startled by a reference during our favorite radio broadcast to "fingers like wild badgers" tearing at an unfortunate woman's blouse, an unseemly image that hardly does justice to either apparel or the noble badger.

We thought we would set things right, as some of us are looking to re-invite the wild badger back to the Golden State, from where he has been absent for many a year and where he rightfully belongs. Nevermind some old timers complain the badger had the habit of breaking into cabins to tear up the place worse than a rock band in a hotel room before pissing over everything. Some critters never get a break from nasty rumor.

So here is a badger, apparently angry at the false rumors flying about.

Obviously, that is a poor mug shot, so here are two peaceful badgers minding their own business.

Now badgers are not the only critters to get a bad rap about this time, as innuendoes fly about like, well, like mad wombats.

Googling "mad wombat" (gotta love the English language!) brings up some interesting results. Here we have a wombat who appears rather jovial and not mad at all.

You never know how Google will interpret what you thought was a fairly straightforward term. Here is the 2nd most popular image for "mad wombat".

Now, Eva Longoria is most certainly a fine mammal, but it took reading the byline to understand just how this ebulliant woman would come up under the search term. Apparently she is known to friends (and probably a few enemies) as "The Mad Wombat Eva". Whatever. This pic certainly looks to be a good representation of the Golden State spirit, so stentanorum est.

Since Ms. Longoria is not really of the wombat genus, we provide here an image of a baby wombat that vies for cuteness. Little feller does not appear to be mad at all.

Nothing swells the vernacular around this time more than the legendary pair of "crazed weasels". Back to Google for that one and we once again pull in some gems for this much maligned creature.

Apparently there is even a club with a most disrespectful logo

Continuing our search, we go to the King of cuddly animal representation, hoping for vindication of our friend, only to find that even the gentle Walt Disney has it in for the crazed weasel.

Dear, dear dear. This will not do. We were shocked. Simply shocked. So we invited several known weasel associates to submit portraits. The winner here appears to be ready to don his top hat for job interview or a night at the opera.

So there you have it. If any of you young folks happen to be going at it like crazed weasels this weekend or removing one's duds like wild badgers, we certainly hope you do so with some manner of decorum. At least put an Edith Piaf LP or "The Song of the Lonely Goatherd" on your turntable for the evening.

LP? Turntable? Have we just dated ourselves?


Some stiff wind swept away the incipient warm weather, knocking over tables and tearing branches from trees earlier this week on the Island, our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.

High wind advisories remained throughout Monday for all the bridges where high-profile vehicles were warned to stay off due to the gale force conditions.

This let to startlingly clear skies for a while, along with some chilly temps (for California) at night.

Some folks wondered what had gotten into Pedro Almeida recently. Truth has it that the man working all alone out there on his boat started to imagine that his radio was talking to him. Not the two-way transmitter used for communications, but the transistor radio to which he would listen while motoring to and from the fishing grounds. He had become fond of listening to the voice of a televangelist who ran a syndicated variety show out of the middle of the country.

The man possessed such a folksy, warm, comforting tone, combined with such reasonable delivery that made mockery of all vanity and foolishness, Pedro found himself enraptured by the voice over the course of some twenty years listening to the weekly broadcast to the point that Pedro began to feel personally addressed.

Since there was not a living soul on the boat save for himself and Tugboat his dog, he fell in to naturally talking back to the radio as if it could hear him. "O I know what you are going to say next. You are going to say, 'Well that's a fine thing!"

And the voice from the radio said, ". . .and that's a fine thing, indeed!"


"Heh, heh, I bet you knew I was going to say just that . . .".

It helped that he, like many Islanders, was going through some particularly tough times financially. His old boat was in need of a serious overhaul; things were leaking, fittings coming loose, paint was worn, rust was showing, motors kept failing. And then the herring decided to vacate the Bay. The radio voice made a perfect friend, for it never complained, always delighted, offered sound advice, never borrowed power tools, and seldom asked for money. Just once in a while. And since he was a friend, Pedro gave him a little bit and bought his books and his CD sermons and put up the LED crucifix he got from the radio website in the wheelhouse where the thing shone bright enough to read charts by, so it kinda worked out as a deal.

One day, he came around the corner after having just lost a net of fish due to some foul-up when he heard the preacher say, "And you! Yes you! I am talking to you now. When was the last time you called your mother? I say get down on your knees. Right now. Go ahead, right now! Repent I say!"

And Pedro got right down there in the running bilge, saying, "Yes! Yes!"

Denby was not so sympathetic when he heard about this. "Dude! You gotta lighten up, man! When times are tough, people who sell Fear rake in the big bucks. You gotta know that."

Fay, from the Filipino Center, and her friend Mona had the idea that the main problem was that Pedro needed to get his hiney over to see Father Danyluk and lay off whatever strange sect to which he had been listening.

"I trust him," said Pedro defensively. "He's a Democrat."

"O for Pete's sake."

So that is how the whole thing got started with Pedro and the radio.

As most folks know, the dreaded V-Day thing has rolled around again. Denby holed up through the weekend with supplies of bean burgers while the Editor barricaded himself in his office with Festus and Javier and a case of single malt scotch. Festus was sent to peer through the blinds for any sight of the notorious manhunter Leggy Joanne.

It was still early, early by the clocks of the nightowl, when the phone rang. Festus answered by rapping the speakerphone button.

"This is Highland Hospital . . .".

The Editor grabbed up the receiver and listened gravely for a minute before setting the handpiece into its cradle.

"Javier, get your hat. We've got to go collect Jose from the ER."

So the two of them went off to Highland. "Must be serious if they took him to the Trauma Center," Javier commented. "Instead of the Island Hospital."

The Editor just nodded.

When they got there, Jose was out front leaning on a metal pole, his left leg encased in a cast.

"Hola amigo," Javier said. "Cómo está usted?"

"Ah . . . estoy bien," Jose said, looking pretty damn pale.

The Editor was more blunt.

"Okay, what was her name this time?"

"Angelica," said Jose sheepishly.

"Angelica? Ella es una morena impulsiva!" Javier said.

"Sí,ahora sé," agreed Jose.

"What did she do?" the Editor asked.

"Uh, she impaled me with a spear."

That's when they all noticed the pole that Jose was using for a crutch was a javelin.

"O for pete's sake, come along," said the Editor. At that moment the ER crew came out to wish Javier bon voyage, something not every patient in one of the business trauma units in the country enjoys.

"Bye bye Jose!" A pretty doctor waved along with several nurses. "See you again next time!"

"Why on earth do you always get involved with women like that?"

Jose hesitated a moment and then looked at Javier. "Como las mujeres apasionadas son las más interesantes."

The Editor looked at Javier with a raised eyebrow. "Translation please."

"I think he means he likes them . . . excitable."

The Editor drove Jose back to Marlene and Andre's Household where Jose slept in the closet with the javelin sticking out the passenger window from the back seat. "People do many things for Love, but Love is precisely the wrong reason to do most of anything."

"Ah," said Jose. "Senor Editor you have never been in Love."

The Editor paused. "You may be right about that."

Jose and Javier exchanged knowing looks.

"Ah señor, I have someone you should meet . . .", began Javier.

"Ooooo, no, no no . . ."!

"Is nothing serious. Maybe coffee or . . .".


Right then the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the romantic moonlit waves of the estuary and the starry grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week. And do try to stay out of trouble.


FEBRUARY 6, 2010


We've heard via rumor and hamster-vine that things are a bit frosty up North and folks getting testy with the long Winter. But the Solstice was some weeks ago, meaning each day gets longer and a little warmer as Old Gaia turns her face back toward the source of life and heat. And if California is always the bellwether for things to come, then let this week's headline photo provide just a little bit of Trost to those frigid Nordic types up there.

This fellow suddenly popped open just yesterday, so take heart ye in the frozen hinterland. Some changes and better times are coming your way.


It hasn't escaped everyone here at Island-Life that a Certain Day is coming up -- how could it escape notice with the daily onslaught of more arrows and bleeding hearts than in all of that gory movie "The 300", squadrons of smarmy songs all seeming to claim the dubious honor of having won the EuroVision Pop contest and lurid displays featuring naked babies armed with weaponry framed in eye-damaging shades of pink and red.

It's not even a proper Holiday with the day off. O crumbs.

Yes, for the jaundiced and the lonely and the impoverished (often a combined descriptor), V-Day is another difficult time coming just after the Xmas tree has been hacked to compost and post-Holiday Blues recovery has completed itself.

So for you we provide the winning video from our little contest to help you over the hump. Or lack thereof. Title here is "Love Hurts."


Some good news comes this way in the form of the Coast Guard's recent decision to enforce 24 hour manning of the drawbridges and cancel a plan that would have reduced bridge tender hours.

If the plan had been adopted, the Park Street, High Street and Fruitvale bridges would only have been staffed by tenders from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and could only be raised in off-hours with four hours' notice.

Alameda County public works staffers had put the plan forward in an effort to save money in these parlous times. Staffing the bridges 24 hours a day, seven days a week costs the county about $2.6 million a year, and they said they believed limiting the hours would save them about $600,000.

It took the disastrous fire of the Tiki bar at the base of the Park Street bridge to make people realize that emergency crews would be unable to access affected areas if problems occur during the wee hours -- precisely when they usually do.

One thing this area takes VERY seriously is fire, and the consequence of that arson-related event, which completely destroyed the waterfront restaurant-bar.


Houses are not moving right now in the Bay Area (somebody tell Keb' Mo'), and when they do, they nearly always go at some kind of loss, even here on the Island. One kind of property IS moving well and at significant profits for previous owners -- shopping centers. The recent sale of Southshore Mall to a German firm hit national news by way of the scope of the sale. Now we are hearing of other big sales. In early January, investors bought Southshore for $181 million. In November, Loja Group purchased the shopping center that makes up downtown Pleasant Hill for $70 million to $75 million. Pinole Vista Shopping Center in Pinole sold for $20.8 million in January. All of these centers have at least one grocery store as an anchor. Most recently, The Shops at Waterford retail center in Dublin purchased a year ago sold the Safeway-anchored center to a group of Southern California investors in January for a price estimated to be in the $50 million to $54 million range. The announcement was made only this past week.

It appears that investors are responding to the shaky housing market by flocking to somewhat stable, income-earning properties possessing the key feature of grocery stores where people need to return at least once a week.


Johnny Ramone would probably be amused by the antipathy and sheer nastiness over the Measure A dispute going on right now. One side claims "32 - 1 Aint Fair", while another screams "Support the Schools at Any Cost", and both sides ignore rational discussion about dollars and cents and where precisely it should all go. In the latest skirmish, acrimony prevented any discussion at all when one side threatened to picket an event to be hosted by the League of Women Voters at the public library. As a result the LWV canceled the forum entirely.

O for goodness sake and goodness sake people, please calm down and respect one another. Didn't any of you learn anything in kindergarten?

Voters have until March 1 to request a vote by mail ballot either by going online to or drop in to the ROV at 1225 Fallon Street, Room G-1 in Oakland. That room is in the basement of the admin building accessible via the parking structure elevator. You can call the ROV at 272-6973.


Nobody has every written a pop song about golf. Think about that. Not even mini-golf! Few and far between are the sitcoms and movies about golf, although there is a rather funny bit in that old-guys movie with Steve Martin.

Anyrate, people still play that game, and this is an island where an entire election was decided on preservation of the course here. People take golf very seriously on this Island. Now there is a great flap going on over the Chick Corica Course which is to be maintained by KemperSports in a long term lease agreement still under discussion. The Kemper rep showed up at a recent meeting to lay out details of a plan which apparently stunned folks by its vastly limited scope which reduced the anticipated 36 maintained holes to 27. Without a clubhouse.

Holes are one thing, but everybody knows a hard day on the links must be followed up by a mandatory sit with a few stiff one's in a comfortable clubhouse -- which does have other uses by the way -- and so the folks there responded to a befuddled Kemper rep who thought that all of this had been understood from the get go.


Our technical hamsters completed work on Segments 8 -12 of the Walkabout and have posted the results to YouTube on the Island-Life Channel.

Segments 8 and 10 visit the Marina briefly, while Segment 9 checks in on Tommy and Toby on board the Lavender Surprise, and #11 drops in on Strange de Jim's Widow on Santa Clara. That is Denby assaulting an old Grateful Dead song. Segment 12 gets pretty somber. The music is "Smells Like Teen Spirit" while dropping in on what the young folks are doing on the Island, and we pay some attention to one teen named Karen in particular. This one has some disturbing material drawn from experiences at Sausal Creek Crisis Center and various Bay Area hospitals, so be ready for that. We will lighten up going forward from here.

Segments 9 - 10
Segments 10-12


The sun opened up the heavens this week here on the Island, our hometown set in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. All the moisture left by the dockwalloper of two weeks ago dried up and all the folks headed right out to take care of business all at once, running into each other on the roads in minor fenderbenders and vehicle contretemps.

With the change in weather and the approaching wretchedness of V-Day, Island-Lifers all scrambled to handle upcoming upheavals as best as each could. Since Winter is the time for it, this past week brought a great deal of soul-searching and . . . very special last good-byes.

Pedro Almeida went looking and found Father Richard Danyluk fishing out by Crab Cove on the jetty there.

Father, Pedro began, its been, uh ... six or seven weeks since my last confession and, uh, please forgive me for . . .

O nuts with that, Pedro, said Danyluk. I'm fishing here. Just tell me what's on your mind. Father Danyluk was not one to stand on ritual.

Pedro told the good Father that he had become concerned about things Pastor Rotschue had been saying -- that was one thing -- and then there was this other thing bothering him . . .

Well if you are asking me to comment on what a Lutheran Pastor says during his weekly sermons, I am afraid you have come to the wrong place, and I would mention that perhaps you should be spending your time with either me or Archbishop Mitty on Sundays. What's this other thing?

Pedro said that he had perhaps been using unfortunate language.

O? As in taking the Lord's name in vain? he said as he reeled in his merry bobber.

O no, no, no not that, well . . . maybe a little bit once in a while, but I mean I have been talking about people I don't know very well . . .

Ah yes. The tongue is perhaps the most pernicious of the Devil's weapons. Downfall of many women and the damnation of many a man. The Father threw out his line. About whom have you been, um, gabbing?

Wellll, the people there up in Minnesota . . . ".

Pedro, you know Pastor Nyquist is a friend of mine. And I rather like Pastor Bauer."

Yes Father.

You know when we get together each New Years, you know what we talk about? Fishing. That's what we talk about. And . . . he coughed. Good wine. And Tuscany. And Nigeria. You know we both spent some time there, although different parishes of course. I am not sure if they have parishes but anyway, Pedro, I believe that Pastor Bauer and Pastor Nyquist and probably your Pastor Rotschue on the radio can take care well enough of their own. This is California. Time for you to come home and gossip about your own. And perhaps Unitarians. For them I would make an exception.

Yes Father. I am so sorry. I only wanted to help . . .

Yes yes. Leave to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to god the things that are god's and the Lutherans to Lutherans. Go now in peace. Are there no fish in this cove?

What shall be my penance, Father?

O skip that Hail Mary crap. Next time you have a brace of perch or sea bass bring them to Sister Beatrice. Would you do that?

Pedro agreed and went on his way.

Denby was having a time of it back at the House and Marlene was trying to console him. He had just gotten his rejection letter from the Bluegrass New Grass Talent Contest. They had sent back his demo CD with a note and five dollars. This is what the note read:

Dear Mr. Montana. It is difficult to know where to begin about your performance. Ordinarily we try to offer constructive criticism to aspiring musicians so that they can return to the woodshed, so to speak, and emerge better, but in your case we could find very little on which to build. Your vocals compare unfavorably to a frog farting on a foggy day, according to our Ms. Shackelton, and your guitar-playing lacks the qualities of tempo, harmony, rhythm, melody -- and the right notes -- which most find important for music. This according to Mr. Strenghaus, who is the foremost authority on the subject. Your entire demo caused the sensitive Ms. Watkins to turn pale. You should be embarrassed of assaulting the sensibilities of such a delicate young girl. Shame!

We attempted to gather up a kitty so that you can perhaps get some lessons on just about any subject, for in all of them you want improvement, but five dollars was about all we could muster. Please do not spend it all on booze.

Cordially, Ole Norsemann

Denby was brought quite low by this right at the time he needed to be stocking up on 88 cent Michelina's frozen meals and similar provisions so as to make it through V-Day. He had been hoping to win the contest or at least win the runner's up prize, a fishing trip to fabulous Bemiji where he had hoped to meet the fabulous Sara Watkins, but that certainly looked to be out the porthole and flushed down the head now.

Denby, said Marlene. You are not a bluegrass player, you are an effed up punk like the rest of us here. And Watkins is half your age. Give it up. Come on home to Social D, Offspring, Iggy and the Monkey Spankers. That's all you are ever going to be. Get real.

Denby grabbed his guitar and angrily began playing a Nine Inch Nails song.

Eff! You are pretty bad, said Marlene. Maybe you should stick to Black Sabbath . . .

Meanwhile the Editor was going through his own farewells to certain obsessions he had held for some time. Festus, the messenger hamster, had returned from the Frozen Great White North after great travail to issue his report.

"No go, Chief. The main man upstairs says you gotta drop this thing or he is gonna sick a pack of rabid huskies on us. Ain't no way you ever gonna get Sister City Status with this one. They are just too Big and we are just too small."

The Editor was disconsolate. Fifteen years of trials and effort had come to this -- a rodent's naysay report. There would be no great dreams, no merging of minds, no melding of ideas, no creative fusion such as of which he had dreamed.

He had imagined that common membership in the Professional Organization of English Majors had counted for something, but apparently not.

Dude, Festus said. He is wildly successful doing what he does; he does not need or want you. He is rich and lives in a house on a hill. He called you a vampire back in October, remember! Time to just give it up, boss!

The Editor sighed.

Boss, California is a different place entirely from Up There. We all used to be an Island -- remember your history. The prairie aint no California. We got the mountains and we got the ocean, boss! We are the place people go to get away from there! Right now its minus twenty degrees (believe me I felt it!); here all the flowers are blooming. The wisteria is going hysterical. The hardenbergia is holding forth. Daffydillies are dallying! Are you not GLAD you do not live in Minnesota!?

The Editor sighed again. You are right Festus. Time to give up this mad scheme. I had thought we would enjoy a dialogue, but obviously I was very wrong. The Golden State is beset all around by its enemies and the Great Recession and we must rely upon ourselves. What tho' the battle be lost. All is not lost. Shall we get down on bended knee before that proud tyrant before whose throne something something lately shook . . .

O for pete's sake, said Festus. I had to get an English Major for a boss.

Get out of here Festus.

I'm gonna get me a pizza and a beer. You want anything.

Go, Festus.

The Editor put on a Joni Mitchell CD and bent down to work on the big Farewell to LWB issue, his remaining white hairs flying about his head in an aureole.

Long ago, a writer friend -- one of those kinds of writers who wins awards and stuff like that -- had told him, "You must do more than simply like your characters. You must love them." Pause. "Sometimes that is more terrible."

It was true. Once they were born they went out into the world and lived lives of their own and like any parent, you got fond of them beyond reason. They interacted with other people and you got jealous. It was always like that. Probably best to leave other people's children alone, given what he would do if anybody dared touch one of his.

"And now I am returning these things to myself / which you and I suppressed . . .".

At this time, a sorrowful Pedro sat in the wheelhouse of his boat, El Borracho Perdido, a few hours before he was due to set out on his daily run, and turned the dial of the radio from 88.5 slowly through the range to 104.5. Goodbye Pastor Rotschue. Be well with your flock or whatever you call your radio listeners. I am free now to go my own way. Maybe I will check in on you once in a while, but things are changed. Tomorrow will be a brisk new day.

Right then the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the quietly departing waves of the estuary and the waving grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

JANUARY 30, 2011


This week's photo comes from Chad's collection of seasonal pics. No explanation necessary.


The Island has brushed with fame from time to time, and many are the stories about the glitterati who have waded in the waters along the Strand. Fitness guru, Jack LaLanne is rumored to have lived here for a while, although we have no documents proving that. He was born in San Francisco in 1914 and attended Berkeley High. He built his first fitness club in Oakland, also the first of its kind in the nation, and performed many of his spectacular fitness feats in and around the Bay. There are photos of him doing high dives from the tower that used to be part of Neptune Beach, so we can claim at least that much.

The barges in the estuary which so offend the aesthetic sensibilities of people who feel they purchased fine uncluttered views with their beachfront property are legally moored, not abandoned, and they are performing necessary maritime work which is a normal function of an operation seaway/port area.

Boats which are truly abandoned are removed as they are discovered and resources for safe and nontoxic disposal come available. Hey, you want to cut government to nothing, this is the sort of thing that goes.

With the end of the mid-term elections there has been little, if any, reduction in acrimony. The latest thing to plant bees in some people's panties has been the Measure A property tax on which voters will decide in March. The Measure requires a clear 2/3rds majority to pass because of all the Jarvis/Prop13 limits. Folks have taken to calling each other names and stealing lawn signs. Clearly we need better schools, for all the adults are acting like children.


The latest iteration of NPR's fund drive is underway around here. Contrary to the opinion of some, National Public Radio is not substantially funded by the government, but by its listeners who contribute either individual sums or memberships to keep this independent voice going. The forum provides a badly needed neutral space for all kinds of issues to be raised, and is vastly more fair and balanced than any other media outlet. Were it not for NPR, we never would have heard Paul Wolfowitz admit to Terry Gross "We never expected things (in Iraq) to go so badly." And of course there is our favorite around here, Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. Keillor has been called "a national treasure" with some justification. His program has been running now for 35 years and the older the guy gets, he just keeps on getting better, unlike some of us here.

Folks who want to keep it local can donate directly to KQED (88.5 FM) or KALW (91.7 FM). The link to KQED is HERE. Or you can go to NPR and enter your zip code to find an affiliate close to you if you are not a Bay Area local.

While we sometimes riff off of and satirize NPR programs from time to time, we do so with admiration for the truly talented men and women who provide the news, commentary and entertainment of world class quality. And all at a bargain price.


Its been a sunshiny, but cool, week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The weekend concluded with a real morning dockwalloper that sluiced out things pretty good before moving on across the Valley. Parts of the Bay and the Valley saw some thick tule fog, indicating that the change in seasons is about to happen around here.

It may take a little longer for places like Bear Lake, MN and Minot to warm up, but great changes are on the way even for the icebound areas of the country.

Fog or rain makes no difference to the fishermen out beyond the Golden Gate still trying to snag the last of the season's crab and shrimp and cold water fish. Mr. Almeida has been out every day this past week plus Saturday, same as usual hours before the dawn on his boat, El Borracho Perdido, with his faithful Labrador, Tugboat. While he is out there working he has been listening, again as usual, to his favorite radio programs. Saturdays he always comes back late, idling in slow while the voice from the radio sermon consoles him or not as the case may be. Last week Pastor Rotschue had a guest host his show, and while the guest, a woman Lutheran pastor from Nickel Creek, WY, sounded chipper and talented in her own way, Pedro missed the rich tonalities of the more experienced man's voice.

In truth, there was no replacing the man. He had his niche there, telling stories, singing hymns, introducing guest musicians and there was no one who could quite do what the man did and that was a fact. Latterly, the Pastor had been talking about getting old and moving on to other things, but Pedro didn't want that to happen. There in that old boathouse the warm, comforting voice had been with him for many a long hour, many a long year, through all kinds of troubles. And lately with the financial difficulties, it seemed that the sun would never shine again through his backdoor.

After setting the lines, Pedro sat down in the wheelhouse with a pen and paper and commenced to write a letter to the Pastor. He himself had been feeling his age coming on -- just the other day he had felt some difficulty cranking the forward windlass. The Doc had put him on these pills for his heart, which made him have to pee all the time. Dear friends were passing away, and it seemed every few months another note arrived which began, "Dear Pedro, you better sit down when you read this, for I must now tell you some really bad news about . . .".

The time was coming for when he, too, must face the Adversary and leave everything behind; everything he loved so much: his boat, his dog, his tidy bungalow, his wife Maria. And this life. With all the nervous politicians jumping up and down and the country doing to hell in a handbasket. Beyond the blank glass of the wheelhouse, the hours before the dawn swelled with the sound of a lone foghorn out there beyond the billowing prairie of waves.

He thought perhaps he should begin his letter with a joke or two. Lighten things up a bit. He was not so good at telling jokes, but he thought he might try.

Why do bagpipers walk in a circle? To try to get away from the noise.

What do you call a pile of bagpipes at the bottom of the ocean? A very good start.

What do you call a pile of burning oboes? Kindling for the bagpipes . . . .

Pedro re-read what he had written. He was concerned that maybe capping on bagpipes was not a good idea. Perhaps the man actually liked the sound of bagpipes. As for oboes, Pedro was not sure what they sounded like, but he felt sure it was something mournful. What kind of music were Lutherans supposed to like? He was not sure about that one either. He did know the man seemed to know a lot about music, so Pedro thought he might try to sound erudite.

How do you put the sparkle in a soprano's eye? Shine a light in her ear.

O for Pete's sake, he couldn't tell a decent joke for the life of him! He was just a fisherman and that was that.

He put the pen and paper aside and went out to check the nets. And take another pee. Damn pills! Pretty soon he got busy and forgot all about the letter and he stopped thinking about the dismal future ahead, or the possibility that there just might be no future at all.

Very much later, as he motored back to the marina, he passed by a party boat out from Jack London Square loaded with families and their kids. One of the kids, a boy about seven or eight and wearing a bright orange life jacket waved at him in the middle of his own special adventure on the seas.

"Ahoy!" called out the kid.

Pedro smiled and waved.

"Ahoy!" the kid called out again. "Ahoy! Ahoy!" Pretty soon about six youngsters were all calling out to him, jumping up and down and waving their arms.

Pedro reached over and tooted his caution horn a couple times, which sent the kids into paroxysms of absolute glee. A girl with braids did cartwheels on the deck until her mother made her stop.

It was then he remembered something the Pastor used to say on his radio program. "Nothing you do for children is ever wasted." Right then, Pedro felt better about things. There might be one with him or without him, but there would always be a future, no matter how bad things got. As long as there were kids like that, there would be a future.

As he tied up at the dock and hopped off with Tugboat, he noticed a cardboard carton someone had left on top of one of the pilings there. He opened it up with a small suspicion and found that he was correct. It was a carton of leftovers from the banquet for the Norwegian bachelor farmers that had been held at the Native Sons of the Golden West meeting hall several months ago. Juanita had packed the hotdish recipe with jalapeno peppers, which had not sat well with the guests. There had been quite a lot of leftovers.

He closed up the carton and left it for someone else to find and whistled the Mandalay Pirate song as he strolled down the dock. "Heave ya ho boys! Let 'er go boys! We're in for nasty wea ..... therrrr . . . ".

His wife knew that Pedro had been feeling out of sorts so later that night for dinner Mrs. Almeida made Bacalhau, which is a kind of native comfort food for the Portuguese. It is a simple dish consisting of simple, unpretentious ingredients. Potatoes. Onions. Olives. Salted Codfish. It is a reminder to people of their origins, of poverty, and of humility's necessity. No one orders bacalhau from a restaurant with fine linens. It must be eaten at home and be prepared by roughened hands that use love to convert these simple things into Life.

The main ingredient is salt cod and the dish is such a mainstay that a national crisis occurred when the cod fishing industry totally collapsed. There was rioting in the streets and flaming barricades. People became afraid that the days of the dictator Salazar would return with a vengeance as total anarchy ensued. When the little country went looking for a salt cod source everyone was delighted to find that one Scandanavian country had tons of it -- enough to last for centuries, as those people seldom ate the stuff any more. This is how everyday throughout the Iberian peninsula and to Portuguese restaurants around the world, trucks pull up and drop off these wooden crates from the country of Norway, each bearing the printed name of the contents: Lutefisk. Proud Norway had saved Portugal from disaster.

Right then the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the quietly laughing waves of the estuary and the grinning Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

JANUARY 23, 2010


One hundred years before Tom Petty, Eugene Ely took off from the USS Pennsylvania in the Bay not far from the Island. Here is a pick of his famous effort, the first ever from a US Navy ship in 1911 on January 18.

Ely was so terrified of landing in the Bay, he wrapped two bicycle tires around his waist. They were not needed as he took off and then landed successfully on the 120 foot long makeshift landing strip assembled for the purpose.


Somebody finally made a real estate sale here, and it was quite a humdinger. Several months of negociations completed themselves in the sale of the Southshore Mall (now called Towne Centre) to a German firm that specialiZes in large public properties. Harsch Investment Properties announced the sale of the 600,000 square-foot mall for $181 million dollars to Jamestown, which also owns New York's Times Square. As someone commented on blog, the 1.5% property transfer tax means a pretty decent windfall for the City right now when we really can use it.

Maybe they'll change the sign for the Mall back to the name we all know it by as a guesture of reason and good faith.

The Police Department is looking for additional victims of the doctor who used to work out of AAI Health Clinic on Central. Dr, Ernest Simms allegedly sexually molested a patient there. Anyone with information should call the APD at 337-8340.

Our marvelous League of Women Voters is sponsoring a forum on the controversial Measure A. The measure proposes a parcel tax to fund local schools. The forum will take place 7pm, Thursday, February 3 at the main library on Oak Street. For more info go to

Friends of Dave Landon flew down from Portland to check out the bluesman's opening gig for the newly installed Miss Pearl's at 1 Jack London Square, but found themselves turned away at the door Saturday night when the hostess informed a group of blues lovers that the joint had not gotten its entertainment license yet from the City of Oakland. Miss Pearls was a tony locale across the water in Babylon there from 1989 onwards before moving here to the warmer side of the Bay. Guess Oaktown aint the city that knows how just yet.


Mike Ness is bringing the Social D boys to the Warfield on the heals of a new CD release. A listening party was held here at the Uptown recently and word is the stuff is hot. Social Distortion will rock your socks February 3-4.

Yoshi's has a brace of good performers coming to the East venue after Ladysmith Black Mambazo held forth righteously and Grammy-nominated Ledisi enchanted folks for three nights there. Bobby Hutcherson is celebrating his 70th with his quartet from the 27th through the 28th.

The Fox continues to attract reeely big shews, as Trey Anastasio brings his band around on the 5th of March after they have swept up all the spent spleef from the ragamuffins festival on 2/26.


Work continues on the sequel to the annual Holiday CD with the 20-segment Audio Walkabout. Because the thing is so big, we are packing segments into 2-4 unit chunks and sending them up to the Island-Life Youtube channel. Segments 1-5 and 6-7 are up now for your listening pleasure with soundtracks provided by Paul and the Monkey Spankers doing acoustic guitars, and Andre's No Future in Real Estate doing little numbers like Black Sabbath's "War Pigs."

We didn't know you could do things like that with an f-hole archtop -- and on second thought, he probably shouldn't. You will need Windows Media Player or something similar to view and hear these.





Its been a bright and sunny week on the Island, cool for those of you hailing from SoCal, but rather toasty to those of us from places where you ought not to press your tongue against the City Hall flagpole.

Actually, the idea of doing that in any kind of weather sounds yucky.

Midweek we had a major dry dockwalloper in the form of powerful winds that swept all the loose stuff from the trees and knocked the backyard furniture against the Old Fence. The Old Man bent and swayed back there, but that Old Sequoia has been there for well over 150 years and has seen a lot worse. This windstorm followed a day and a night of dense tule fog so thick you could carve slices out of it and lay it on your toast with your tunafish. Such things generally signify that things are about to change for the duration and all of Nature starts holding its breath for that green explosion soon to come.

The rough weather follows a 4.1 afternoon shaker that reminded all of us that we are put on this earth only for the duration and so its best not to get too attached to things.

The bright sunshine does mean that folks East of here should see a respite of sorts from the snow and such, save for what comes down from Canada. There's something brewing out west of Hawaii, but that will take a while to get here, if ever it does.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar the Editor parked himself on a stool for a long "set" as they say, looking pretty glum. The Great Recession is still ravaging the land with no end in sight and now the folks losing their jobs are the ones who sat there in what they imagined were pretty secure situations. Island-Lifer Agnes, she of, just got laid off by a boss with more imagination than sense. Agnes had been the IT specialist, HR Department, Chief Accountant, Office Manager, Supplies Clerk and coffee maker for a guy who has a problem figuring out his golf score. He fired her to save money, but when fools that stupid try to run things on their own, things get ugly fast. Just look at what happened to GM.

This was not the reason the Editor was in a foul mood. His reason was far more personal -- he also had just lost his job.

No, not his editorship of a non-profit rag-tag collection of losers. No, he had lost his real day job by which he had earned his modest income and paid the rent therefrom.

This brings to a total of six out of seven managerial staff who are out of work now. Not counting proofreaders, copyboys, the entire foreign news section and Denby, the feature writer/editor. As for Chad, he was living on Disability.

It had come time for the State of the Onion Speech by the President, right in the middle of his term and in the middle of very trying times. It also had come time for the Editor's Annual Pep Speech, and for the first time in quite a long time, the Editor deeply sympathized with the Chief Executive. O Lord, give us strength for mine enemies are at hand.

In a little while, the Editor had need to face ranks of people working diligently without hope of recognition, without pay, and without any great encouragement except what he may offer, even while their own lives became ever more destitute by way of this lunatic economy.

And now, because of this situation, he would not be able to afford a trip up to Bemiji, MN to ice fish with potential friends and trade jokes and yarns and thoroughly enjoy all that the Great White North in winter had to offer. Bracing gales of minus forty below and breaded walleye. Frostbitten toes and sour neighbors with all the delights thereto. Never, never, never, never, never . . .How many nevers did that old king babble on the heath anyway? Nevermore.

Nevermind. It was all done. His life was utterly ruined. He was a total failure. Not enough saved upon which even to retire in comfort. How could he face anyone at the high school reunion for Poly High? Impossible. He had another shot with a glass of Fat Tire ale.

"You still have your Island-Life agency," reminded Suzie, trying to help.

The Editor tossed back his shot and ordered another right away. What good was this profit-less enterprise to which no one paid heed, no one attended? Worthless. All of his life, worthless. He would never hob nob with the famously talented, nor embrace fabulously beautiful Scandanavian women and really cute bluegrass singers, nor be embraced by the adoring millions. He would never get to wear red tennis shoes to work. Not ever. The agency consisted of a gaggle of ADA dependents, wheezing on oxygen tanks, clanking their wheelchairs and getting querilous with one another at the Office Colostomy Bag Replacement Center. Who else would work for such an outfit as he ran?

O god. We are all miserable wretches.

In a fog he stumbled out the door and paused there taking in gulps of cold air, well, coolish air, for California. The temperature was about 46 degrees. Above zero.

The long and level straight of Lincoln Street extended for miles in either direction under the quietly buzzing streetlamps. Out there, in what some call The Real World, people were losing jobs and their houses and homes right now. There was a grim reality to this situation to which the smirking idiot who used to run things never copped. No, you do not make your own reality; reality makes you and the moment you step on a landmine or meet an IED or lose your home you abruptly learn the difference. People were genuinely suffering out there, and he, as The Editor, still had a job to do. Make them laugh, make them cry, do what you can to ease their tortured moment in the World. That is your job above any other. As old Jacob Marley once shouted at his incredulous former business partner, "Business?! Mankind was my business!"

And it seemed or felt as if the echos of that ghost reverberated down the long streetlight way of the old railway line which once ran its tracks along the path now followed by Lincoln Street. Mankind is our business.

Right then the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the patiently suffering waves of the estuary and the stoic Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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


JANUARY 16, 2011


This week's headline photo might not be the Home of Blues, but it sure is the Home of Truth -- because it says so right there in front.

This is the original site of the Unity Church, founded here in 1904 by ministers from New England who were exporting the ideas of the New Metaphysics and suffrage to the West as well as the novel idea that all religions contain some truth to them. The property leases meeting space and runs a bookstore to make ends meet. We found the ministers there to be delightful folks worth talking to. You want Truth? Set right up; we got it here on the Island.


Right about now the first debates over the Property Tax have taken place with the expected results. The Island Sun is publishing pro and con letters each week as well for the election to take place in March.

Tempers are still running high after the last election and the recent tragic shootings in Arizona, so y'all settle down easy now.

The shooter Jared Loughner might just be an isolated nutcase that is more a product of our society's failure to set up appropriate channels for the mentally ill than political vindictiveness, but the truth is that the events mirror so well the violently strident nature of current political contention -- which long ago during the first year of the Bush Appointeeship abandoned even the pretense of "discourse" -- that any call for a return to reason and moderate temper is a good idea. Politically-motivated or not this time around, given what non-elected pundits, talking heads and inflammatory voices ensconced within news organizations have been doing, this sort of thing was bound to happen any day.

The bad conditions, call it Great Recession or whatever, just might last for a good long while, so people better learn to deal.


All signs point to the local realtors finally getting set to let the steam out of the bubble here on the Island in a long delayed move. Prices had been kept artifically high here by means of a number of maneauvers as realtors expected things to turn around much faster than they have along with helpful assists from various gentrification projects. Unfortunately, this created a rather thin-skinned secondary bubble in the housing market, which meant that the Island was about to see a rash of forclosures occur about the time a glut in housing from people bailing on the high prices and poor job prospects was due to hit the market. A recent gander at home sales showed sales trending more toward the regional medians in the high 500's, with steady losses for homes purchased since 2003.

On the upside, if you bought prior to the 90's when the Navy was still here and the Island not an attractive place to settle, you stand to more than recoup your inital costs, plus any costs for remodeling upgrades.

A recent discussion with a notable financial analyst had this to say about buying a home right now: "Do not think of your house as an investment (as some people once did). Your land property should NEVER be the largest item in your portfolio. If you buy, buy with the intention of sticking in there for quite a long time and for reasons other than investment gains. . .".

In the interests of disclosure, we note that the analyst did admit buying a house recently, however in a part of the country where the base price was in the $20's. Clearly, not anywhere in California.


In more disturbing news we note that certain reps at Kane Realty have made it a habit of denying the return of security deposits to renters on move out regardless of apartment conditions. One complainant we noted never actually occupied his apartment during the two years of lease as he travelled extensively and slept with his relationships when in town. His stove, fridge and bathroom had never been used for any purpose, however Marie Kane still withheld a portion of his security deposit "for damages." Another former tenant was forced by Marie Kane to buy her own refridgerator and then leave it behind. This six-year tenant had the entire $1000 retained by Kane "because of the messy refridgerator and wall damage." Turns out the plumber engaged by Kane left a hole in the wall, caused other damage to floor tile, stole a shower fixture owned by the tenant, went and lost the apartment keys made by the tenant and never returned to finish these and other repairs.

In another apartment rented by Kane, we noted the wall plate removed from a wall electrical socket. Someone had cut a basic electrical extension cord, wired the ends into the socket well, then stapled the cord to the wall down to the molding and along the wall to another room. Other wall sockets also had their base plates removed -- this is how the apartment looked on move-in.

Every day the bucket goes to the well.


Good news for folks east of here and for California in general. The week has seen uniform days of moderate fog yielding to bright sunshine and some high wispy stuff. We don't see a recurrance of the rain storms for a few days, which means that the middle of the country should also see some easing from the snow which has at least touched all 49 continental states. It may be a while for folks in Montana looking at -29 degrees to note any improvement, but hey, a little less worse might be better.

O, and if nobody told you, do not stick your tongue onto the town's flagpole when it gets like that. You make become national news.


We found we had so much material this past Holiday Season that we could not pack it all into one CD. So, we are going to post as a serial installment the Island Walkabout sequence, which measures in total over an hour of sound packed with narrative, music and several hundred sound effects. And all without the help of Tom Keith (although we really could have used him for the moose calls and the atomic toilet).

So here you go, the first two bits chopped into 2.5 minute segments for ease of downloading/streaming/iPod whatever. Click on 'em and they should play. Otherwise save to desktop and play at home with any MP3 player.


There are over 20 segments, with some of them extending to six minutes or more, so we will be parsing those out to you over the course of the next year.

At some point we will push it up to the Island-Life Youtube account where a few things already reside.


As most folks know, this Monday is a national holiday, (courtesy of efforts by Representative Conyers). Some events are slated for the weekend, including a musical tribute headlined by Goapele. We'll talk a bit more about the man and his legacy next week. Suffice it to say that each and every American owes a significant debt of gratitude to this man who courageously, peacefully and unself-consciously caused a seismic groundshift in the terrible social conditions which basically had established an America for millions of Americans that was no different from the harshest fascist dicatorships in the world.

Freedom was essentially meaningless when nearly one half of the US population was not at liberty to speak, to own property, to walk the streets without fear, to earn an honest wage, moved freely from one place to another, to be safe from warrentless searches, free from unwarranted arrest, free from physical attack, free from rape, and free from general servitude and necessary obesiance.

We now can be proud to say to the World that America's First Family in the White House is a Black family.



It's been a sunny week on the the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Things are drying out slowly, with the morning fogs hanging around to past ten or so along the coast. All the oaks along Santa Clara seem pretty convinced about the season, and the squirrels have not been scampering along the Old Fence as usual. They might even be doing something so radical as hibernating. And there has been not a peep out of those pesky racoons for a while ever since the Animal Control people showed up. We're sure they are all holed up under somebody's house playing poker and drinking hard liquor while waiting for the heat to go down.

Heard that a couple of wild turkeys had taken up down around Taylor and they have been chasing the dogs. What on earth; do those turkeys think they live in Minnesota where such behavior is condoned just about everywhere except St. Paul?

Speaking of which, some of us listened to this week's PHC show on KQED, our local NPR affiliate. Have to say it was not bad. Also, could tell -- even over the radio -- that Sarah Watkins is a lot better looking than that guy in the red shoes.

Padraic turned the dial to 88.5 in the Old Same Place Bar and they all gave the guest host a good listening there in that bar while folks drank their Fat Tires and noshed on his Celtic Buffalo Wings.

"What makes these wings Celtic?" asked Eugene.

"You see that parsley there beside?" said Padraic. "That's the bit o' green remindin' of the old sod."

"But these wings are orange. . .", began Eugene.

At that blasphemy, Padraic brought out his blackthorn stick and smote the bartop with a great crash which caused the earthquake monitors in Berkeley to throb. "Enough of that talk!" shouted Padraic. "Put a dollar in the jar or I'll break yer legs again!"

Bashfully, Eugene dropped a dollar in the collection jar for Sinn Fein and the IRA, the contents of which Padraic dutifully collected each month, deposited into an account and then sent of a check for the amount -- no matter how paltry -- so that Sinn Fein and the IRA could continue to plague the English and the UDF with polemics and the occasional firebomb and random acts of torture and maiming.

It was done in all good humor, though. And up until recently, quite unlike what is done here.

After the show was over, Padraic put the station back on to music. A discussion started up between the Man from Minot and Eugene. The man from Minot was called that because few around here had ever met anyone from North Dakota, and fewer still had met anyone from Minot, which many, including Padraic, thought to be a queer and strange place. Indeed the Man from Minot played into this by telling the most outlandish stories about the coldest place in America which was just about as flat as it was cold. The nearest town to Minot was Winnepeg, Canada -- according to the man -- and that town made the Island look like Sin City by way of the residents resolutely resisting any eventful occurances.

Eugene had one up on the Man from Minot for he could remember when the Island City Council had briefly outlawed dancing of any kind, for fear it would encourage floozies to incite the sailors in any sort of speakeasies.

The Man from Minot had to agree that this was novel language to his thinking, and probably un-Californian.

Eugene could not remember if anyone from New York City or Chicago had been on the City Council at the time, and so the talk turned to events of note which had happened on the Island, including a spectacular jet fighter crash which had wiped out a city block -- including Mrs. Tontini with her dog -- and the time Joe DiMaggio knocked a ball out of the lot where the Senior Center is now. This brought the Man from Minot to recall the time he lost his partner when a house fell on him. This is not something which happens everyday, not even to witches in OZ.

Everyone leaned in close to hear about this one.

Unfortunately, the prelude to this story sidetracked everybody in a most aggravating manner.

"Me and my partner -- his name was Spencer and he was as bald as a cueball from radiation treatments they had given him as a kid for his thyroid . . ." .

"They don't do that any more." Lionel said. "Can you imagine they used to zap kids for their thyroid?"

"Now I am trying to get on with this story," began the Minot man. "Its not important."

"Well why on earth did you mention it then? The business about his hair and his thyroid. Aint the thyroid in the throat? Reason they call it 'thyroid'.

"Its just local color about the man. I could tell you about his ex-wife Xiu Xong who once ran at me with a hedgetrimmer, but nevermind . . . ".

"That's assault and battery with a deadly weapon," Eugene said. "Them hedgetrimmers are nasty business."

"No," someone else said. "That's Battery pure and simple. Assault is if she threatens you with it like verbally and so on. Law is clear on that. Did she say anything meaningful to you as she came at you?"

"You don't know feck all about the law," Padraic said. "Shut your gob."

"As I was saying," the Minot man began once again. "We had to lift this house on Central because of a law about . . .".

"I will not shut up," the outraged man said to Padraic. "Its a free country!"

"The damn County made us lift this house," the Minot Man pursued. "On account of this regulation for shearwall. . ."

"You don't have to lift the whole damn house to install shearwall," Eugene said in protest.

"I am trying to tell a story," the Minot Man continued. "It was because of the termites we found . . . ".

"And that's another thing about the Government," Eugene went on. "You used to be able to just throw down some of that copper green stuff and be done with it. Now you got to go and lift the whole damn house clear of . . .".

"What's this down here?" The Man from Minot had found a carton under the table with his foot. He reached down and brought up a small cardboard box like the kind used by Chinese takeout. A faint aroma of old cheese wafted out when he opened it. "Looks like somebody's leftover hotdish!"

"You are probably one of them folks wants to do away with all the government that is," Padraic said to Eugene. "And undoubtably you are against the Measure A parcel tax."

"Yep!" Eugene confirmed. "Starve them bureaucrats until there aint nothing left but police and fire. Any other ideas are Socialist or lack common sense or both."

"And I suppose letting all that copper green stuff flow into the groundwater is a bright idea in your opinion," Lionel said.

The discussion degenerated right about then into a verbal free-for-all with Eugene calling anyone who disagreed with him a Socialist, and Padraic trying to tell Eugene that a society without a government is pretty much the stock definition for Anarchy, but without the punk haircuts.

The Man from Minot eventually found himself outside the bar with Tipitina holding the box of leftovers from the Norwegian banquet that had been held months ago. They could hear crashing, thuds, loud voices and the breaking of glass. Things were getting ugly.

"So what happened to your partner," Tipitina asked.

"I had an aunt who used to make a hotdish like this," the man said thoughtfully. "Oh Spencer? He died."

"Because the house fell on him?"

"He had no health coverage. Couldn't afford it. End of story."


Right then the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the contentious waves of the estuary and the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

JANUARY 9, 2011


We don't know if Island-Life photographer Chad likes Annie Lennox, but if the song fits, well, sing it. This week's headline photo comes from Chad's large storehouse of images and sort of reflects the, um . . ., weather as its been latterly. Looks like the Midwest gets a break for a few days, but there's another Pineapple Express boxcar rumbling down the tracks scheduled to arrive Tuesday in the form of another two-day dockwalloper.


The Island-Life Holiday CD is out and available from the usual shady characters in questionable locales for next to nothing. This year we had so much original material that we have more than an hour of music and scripts for another CD which is now in the editing room for production. In fact, we had so much original stuff we managed to sneak in only two "pro" samples: BB King from his Xmas CD and Frederika von Stade's rendition of "My Alameda" as she sang it this past year at the War Memorial Opera House. Both available independently online at YouTube.

As usual the CD is available "kostenlos" as we really couldn't ask for money after wrecking poor Euterpe's sensitive ears by way of slaughtering harmony, rhythm, melody and the Circle of Fifths in such an indecorous manner. Even Professor Schickele was aghast.

A particular triumph was obtaining Bob Pritikin's performance on the handsaw of "I Sawed Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" with the San Francisco Philharmonic Symphony. We wanted to credit the Director, but for some reason he did not wish to be mentioned and managed to conceal his identity by blacklining the notes with a magic marker and wearing an Halloween Nixon mask during performance.

We got Bob, a former friend, to perform my means of the usual unsupported blandishments, flattery, and alcohol. Normally, he is quite the urbane, well-behaved, successful businessman who spends his time entertaining guests at his Mansions Hotel with magic tricks. The hotel has been rated by Michelins with five stars.

That absinthe available from St. George's here on the Island is pretty darn good stuff, BTW.


No, we are not singing "Sha Boopie" (and after listening to the I-L Holiday CD, you won't want us to sing anything at all ever again). No, the new year's baby is barely out of diapers before our Silly Council managed to really foul things up along with the new Mayor Marie by breaking two laws right away in holding a secret closed doors meeting and firing the controversial Anne Marie Gallant from her position as City Manager and putting the City Attorney Teresa Highsmith on "administrative leave".

The action against Highsmith was pure formality, although somewhat questionable in view of certain limitations presented by the 1953 Brown Act, which guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies. (Assemblymember Ralph M. Brown who authored the original law is no relation to the current Governor). The reason why it was pure formality stems from the fact that Highsmith had already abruptly departed service here without bothering to notify anyone that she had engaged to do business for the city of Barstow -- some 400 miles away.

The problem with the action against Gallant -- a rather public political foe of the new Mayor -- is that the city charter specifically forbids the removal, suspension, or salary reduction of specific city employee positions within 90 days of installation of a new officer to City Council. Both the City Attorney and City Manager are listed as falling within the boundaries of this limitation.

Then to do it during a closed door meeting violates the Brown Act in addition. PDF copies of the act are freely available on the Internet.

While Gallant certainly should have suspected something would be done against her, given what is probably a rather prickly atmosphere over there after her failed coup against Tam immediately prior to the elections, however the manner and timing of the housecleaning has outraged many, who feel this was pure vendetta.

Yeah, well its pure politics. Get over it.

The problem now is that, save for the nuclear core of the Mayor and Council, there is no longer any effective City government here, as virtually all of the major administrative positions now stand open. The Fire Chief, David Kapler, had already been put on notice, which he answered with a full resignation in late 2010 after a brough-haha over him using city gas pumps for his private car. Unfortunately he had also been acting as Police Chief, so we are without one of those as well. The city no longer has a planning director or a finance director, and its economic development director, Leslie Little, just left for a job in Morgan Hill, leaving one of several vacant leadership positions in the city. The recent elections managed to plug at least one hole, as the head of the School District had also resigned earlier in the year.

Now we are hearing about additional resignations, presented in protest by city employees over the Highsmith-Gallant affair. Ironically, Gallant had managed to improve the City General Fund situation by laying off some 40 internal employees, among other things, and her present position of Administrative Leave means that both she and Highsmith will continue to draw down salaries until the end of their respective contracts, costing the City yet more money.

Its not really germane to ask why Gallant was given the heave-ho; it was pretty clear to everybody that she needed to be looking for a new apartment in another city after Tam got elected. The problem with all of this was the way in which it was done, with the recent meeting of the newly staffed Sunshine Task Force with the new Mayor providing a kind of bitch slap by way of her recommendations that public comment during public meetings be limited to 15 minutes per person and moved to an earlier time slot on the agenda.

Yes, well, if the really important stuff happens behind closed doors -- in direct contravention of the law -- it doesn' t really mean a whole hell of a lot, does it?


Les Claypool does not live here on the Island but he might be amused by some of the language around the debates for and against Measure A. To clear the air in advance of distortions and misleading the pro and anti forces will hold an open debate over the school parcel tax to be decided March 8. This is not the same Measure A, passed in 1973, which is cited by folks seeking to slow the destruction of Victorian and Edwardian structures on the Island.

The upcoming measure will institute a parcel tax intended to support the Unified School District and forestall closures planned in the event the tax does not get approved. Two similar measures have been either narrowly defeated in previous elections or challenged in court.

The debate will occur Wednesday, January 12 at the Hospital on Clinton Avenue from 7 to 9 PM.

And for those of you who love all things both Navy and crabby, the Navy League of the US will hold a crab feast at the old Officer's Club on West Red Line out at the Point. Cost is about $35 for access to the no-host bar and dinner in support of the League, which is a nonprofit that supports men and women in the sea services and their families. You can call 263-9399 for info, or email The website is WWW.NLUS.ORG.


Its been a chilly week on the Island, our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. People have been taking advantage of the break in the rains to get out and enjoy the cold, bright sunshine. Mittens and parkas and boots are the order of the day, although our temps hovering in the high 30's, well above freezing in most areas, hardly can hold a candle to places like Montana where a couple Island-Lifers spent the New Years period cuddling under blankets as the outdoor cold dropped to a -29.

When it gets that cold, all the humidity crystallizes and you would hardly know how bitter it happens to be unless you happen to be a Californian grabbing a gas pump at the station -- without gloves. Searing, is the operant noun modifier here, we are told.

Most Californians were never warned sternly to not lick the pump handle when it gets like that, so they just do not know. Don't even think about the iron porch railings. But then, most native Californians would find it odd to go around licking ironmongery by habit. Heavens, so besotted must be the place where children go around doing that in any kind of weather. Don't these deprived kids have fudgesickles where they live? Where are the parents for crissakes while this is going on?

The annual meeting of the National Organization for the Traffic Enfeebled and Directionally Confused took place, again with a single meeting spaced out over the course of two weeks, as none of the participants ever managed to all assemble in one location at any one time. As a result, the published syllabus is identical for all days -- sometimes even the instructors get lost and fail to make it -- and the Symposium Notes are actually a compendium of everything that happened over the course of two weeks, but reported as if it actually all happened on a single day in December.

Once again the hot topic this year was "The Stealth Turn: Its Nuances, Elegance, and Singular Assortment of Illegalities." For some reason, the participants really love to practice here on the Island, perhaps because Officer O'Madhauen looks so charming the more irate he becomes. There is nothing like a man in uniform, or so say the ladies. And certain gentlemen.

Long term Island-Lifers know the Stealth Turn as that peculiar traffic maneuver in which a driver either refuses to signal prior to changing direction, or signals to do so only to abruptly do the opposite thing, as in signaling to turn right in the right-hand turn lane before yanking the wheel to the left and cutting across the intersection.

Such actions require deftness, skill, quick reactions and brazen obtuseness to execute without murdering someone. Prizes are awarded for style and sheer bravado. A common leap across three lanes of freeway to take the exit from the fast lane earns only one point per lane, plus a point for traffic density, while a sudden change in mid intersection gets a happy Stealth Turner as much as five points. Especially if there are pedestrians involved.

Simply turning right without signaling gets you one point for sedans, and one half point for trucks. Any maneuver which costs a bodily organ results in automatic deduction of five points.

Competitors who earn 100 points in a year obtain the coveted Golden Steering Wheel Award at the annual meeting, if they are still ambulatory, and can manage to show up on the same day and time as the national president, who also has some issues finding his way around.

This year a special Discussion Topic entitled "Bemoaning the GPS" was held 4.5 times.

Over at Marlene and Andre's household, everyone had crowded in for the night as the cold and wet had driven those wont to sleep at the beach indoors. Even Snuffles Johnson, the bum, moved from his hole in the deck (where Javier's 50th birthday celebration had taken an incendiary turn) into the fireplace. It was all to the good, for as no one could afford to pay PiGGiE to heat the place, the place stayed nice and warm by the heat of fifteen bodies or so in the one bedroom cottage there leased from Mr. Howitzer.

Despite the realities of the Great Recession, Mr. Howitzer and similar landlords on the Island refused to lower the rents, so the poor people had to make shift as best as they could. With times as hard as they are, some of Mr. Howitzer's business associates had seen their comfortable profits dip a bit as folks moved to more reasonable lodgings and others refused to buy the properties at still-bubbled prices. As a consequence, folks like Marie Paine had taken to hiring substandard tradesmen to really trash the places so that she should blame the tenants for damages and so keep all the security deposits as well as the interest earned. Marie was also fond of telling her tenants when an appliance failed, "O, that apartment does not come with a fridge. You need to buy your own."

This was really a good one, for as everyone knows, it is next to impossible to take a full-sized fridge with you when you move out, so Ms. Paine could then get a free refrigerator or stove while additionally claiming damages for the condition of the appliances. It was a profitable racket. Probably illegal, but as Ms. Paine would say, "F---k 'em."

Meanwhile, at the household, it was bread soup again for dinner, as the season for veggies had passed. After everything was cleaned up and all the folks had enjoyed as much bread soup as they could slurp down, everyone settled down in their sleeping bags on the floor, the couch, under and on top of the coffee table, in the hallway, and in the fireplace which had long possessed a blocked flue ever since a family of raccoons had moved in there. The raccoons did not bother the household, for there was never anything to eat there and they dislike dealing with Bonkers, Johnny Cash and Wickiwup, the dogs, so they got left alone in their den.

"They say that the Great Recession is over and people are buying crap again," Mancini said.

"But there aint no jobs," Pahrump said. "Its easy street if you got one already. But there was over two hundert families at the Food Bank last week."

A baby raccoon peaked out from beneath the flue until Bonkers woofed at it.

"All that retail money is going to China," Jose said. "Instead of staying close to home, like Mexico."

"Jose, you need a girlfriend. You are always complaining." Said Tipitina.

"No money, no Honey." Pahrump said. "Old Indian saying."

"At least its nice to be warm and wearing something," said Suan.

And they all pondered these words from the woman who worked as a stripper for the Crazy Horse Saloon.

Right then the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the fridgid waves of the estuary and the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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



JANUARY 2, 2011


We'll start off the new year with things everybody likes: stars and bellies. Photo comes from Chad's trove of images.

They say 3 Wise Men followed a certain star. Now we see why.



Brand new for the calendar, we have Knox White shooting us a press release as follows:

Media Release: January 12 Debate will be Measure A's first

Supporters and opponents of Measure A, the March 8, school funding ballot measure, will present their points of view in what will be the first public debate of the tax measure. The meeting is open to the public and audience members will have an opportunity to ask their own questions whether they are members or not.

What: Measure A Debate, City of Alameda Democratic Club meeting

Who: Representatives of Alameda SOS and the Committee Against Measure A

When: Wednesday, January 12, 2011, 7pm – 9pm

Where: Alameda Hospital (2070 Clinton Avenue, Alameda)

All members of the public are welcome to attend and submit questions

In its 26th year, the City of Alameda Democratic Club is the 2010 Alameda County Democratic Club of the Year for its dedication to working on issues that are important to Alameda and Alamedans. Membership is open to all registered Democrats interested in working together for common social and political goals.

So as we recover from NYE, we will update the formal calendar pages.


Welcome back to the 13th full year, and 14th year of Island-Life on the Internet. Been busy working on the Holiday CD which is just about done. So we will provide a taste of what's on it with a couple MP3's down below. Thanks to Chad for technical assistance, Paul for guitar work, and Sharon for voices.


Each part is about 11 minutes, and is downloadable as MP3 format. The really bad music in Part I is only 45 seconds long -- be patient.





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