Island Life: Jan. - June 2012

First Half of the Year

Vol. 14 Weekly News, Reviews, Music and Satire Sunday 2012

dasboot.gifWelcome to the first half of year 2012. 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 24, 2012


We have loads of birdlife here on this Island which hosts a national bird refuge out at the Point and is cheek-by-beak next to one of the first wildlife aviary sanctuaries in the nation, so its no surprise we get our share of impressive specimens.

Here is a heron posing for the camera beside a local stream as our man passed by on a kayak this past weekend.


Readers may recall we reported that ACtransit was ramping up service over the Dumbarton Bridge from the East Bay to the Peninsula. Word has it that the Water Emergency Transit Authority is planning on building a facility out at the Point near the present dock for the USS Hornet. If carried through, the facilities will include a four-story building with a 5,775-square-foot footprint and some 20,000 square feet of berthing slips for up to 11 vessels. The purpose of the facility will be to to improve the ability of ferries to respond in emergencies and serve as a base for ferries, as well as operational control and emergency center. A second facility of similar sized is planned for construction in Vallejo.


Longtime readers know that we have a special affection for old-time radio and we always keep tuned to that dial for any news relating to the airwaves.

While catching the tale end of the NPR Canada Report we overheard a tearful announcer stating that this would be the last on-air broadcast of the CBC, which has broadcast Canadian issues in seven languages around the world for 67 years. Due to extensive cutbacks, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation would go to an all Internet format.

Well this IS an entity which, although much loved, has earned a number of irreverent nicknames, including "The Corpse" and the "Canadian Broadcorping Castration," which name, according to urban legend, was uttered on air by a disgruntled announcer.

It is certainly true that the draconian cutbacks in this age of rabid austerity mean extraordinary program reductions are in order -- as reported by the HuffPost. As of June 18, 2012, according to Friends of Canadian Broadcasting (, the total cut of free over-the-air TV service to large numbers of Canadians until licenses are reviewed remains at present a dreadful proposal by conservative MP's who have stated since January their intention of totally "defunding" public broadcasting, including radio and TV.

This story sounds a bit familiar and terribly close to home, does it not?


So anyway. This week the first day of summer passed in a dense, chilling fog, which hardly impressed anyone with the idea that all was light and joy. If this was to be the Endless Summer, we all wanted no part of it for it was dank and dripping and full of ague.

Tommy thought the weather gave him chilblains, and Toby said he thought those were a type of Renaissance chairleg design and did that mean Tommy felt he had legs of carved wood or something.

The air is full of misunderstandings when the weather gets this way.

all the stories in the Island-Life were terribly depressing

A sort-of reader named David wrote a letter to the Editor complaining that all the stories in the Island-Life were terribly depressing and that he would rather hear some happy stories with happy endings.

The Editor contacted this David and told him the story about little Adam being thrown from a car by his stepfather only to find community, but David found the premise depressing from the getgo. The Editor began the story about Rolf escaping the Eastern Bloc, but David found that story dreadful, with all its death and harsh passages, and nevermind its somewhat happy ending.

The Editor began the story about the Fire Monks, but realized that this story, also, suggested a terrible world existed which contains horrific destructive forces to which one must adapt, meet as challenge, or die.

Fire and suffering? Well that just does not do.

It seemed that what David wanted was a story that began happy, continued happy, and ended happy, with everything encapsulated within this happiness without threat of darkness.

This sort of story was not what the Editor knew anything about. So he went to talk to some of his friends, to ask of them if they knew of a happy ending story.

The Editor found his friend Father Danyluk of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint, fishing at Crab Cove. The Catholic priest said, "You suffer so as to offer this up and so achieve redemption. That is your happy ending after so much suffering. God does not let contented souls just waltz through the Pearly Gates. He considers the wretched of the earth as his best material."

The Father cast out his line.

Suffering gets you brownie points

"No pain no gain. You should be happy you suffer; suffering gets you brownie points." The rod in the hands of the priest bowed down as if in prayer and the bobber out on the cove plopped under the surface. Hey! I just got one! If I can land this fellow, I'll be as happy as a clam . . .".

All suffering comes from attachment

This seemed hardly satisfying, so The Editor went to his Buddhist monk friend, Roshi, who said, "Life is Mahayama - a vale of tears. All suffering comes from attachment. Let go and you will find happiness."

The Editor said he had been misunderstood. He was not looking for meaning in suffering or any of that. He just wanted a happy story.

"Ah!" said Roshi, who got up from zazen to tap the little iron bell with a small mallet, causing a gentle "ting!"

The monk sat down again and closed his eyes with a half-smile upon his lips. "The bell summons joy!"

As the Editor walked down the street he ran into Pastor Nyquist of the Immanuel Church, so he tried out his request on the Lutheran minister, who asked the Editor what he had done to answer his questions so far.

The Editor told him, added a few details of his own invention, embellished the ornateness of the bell and the deep green hues of the sedge floating down at the cove, and the minister started chuckling, clapped him on the back and told him to drop on by next Sunday, for he, the Editor had made him laugh in such a way that he had not felt so pleasant in many years. The minister then went on his way.

Finally the Editor came to the Old Same Place Bar, which is a place that houses many stories, and where it can be said that if you can wade through the teardrops, you will be welcome in the Home of the Blues.

He introduced himself by the name of Graham

There the Editor bellied up to the bar with its fetid jar of pickles on one end and its sparse donation jar for the IRA on the other, and began talking to the bartender, Suzie, the way the men at the bar will do, and Suzie, the bartender, listened with half an ear, the way bartenders will do until a fellow sauntered wearing a plaid vest with bright buttons and on each button was printed the image of the Union Jack. He sported a fedora with a quill stuck in the band and a visage that looked ravined and chiseled like the gully of some stony creekbed although his blue eyes were as merry as two marbles washed in clear water and when he introduced himself by the name of Graham, his voice carried a faint English lilt.

He put a coin into the IRA tip jar and nodded at Padraic hovering in the shadows.

The Editor asked Graham if he was a writer, by way of referencing the quill in his hat.

Graham responded, "Isn't everybody?"

When Graham heard all about the Editor's quest he sat and pondered. He seemed about to speak but then he had a drink and then pondered some more.

What he wants to hear is the story that reflects his own life

"Every story that is worth attending has an arc in shape. Usually this arc means the story begins or passes through misery before resolving into either happiness or unhappiness. Your friend David sounds like a happy fellow. Perhaps one who has achieved nirvana. What he wants to hear is the story that reflects his own life, which is a happy one filled with fortuitous circumstance.

This does not mean the fellow is shallow, undeserving, or ignorant in the slightest -- in fact, I suspect he is quite the contrary. In fact, he has found a way to guide you into searching for happiness when before it sounds like you had given up trying. He is offering you the possibility that the natural state of things is lightness and decency and beauty. And happiness.

So here is your story: a perfectly dashing, handsome, intelligent man met a lovely, extraordinary woman of spirit. They fell in love because they were meant for each other. They lived together during a tumultuous time of happenings and hope and, in time, their love bore fruit in the form of an ideal, golden boy named David. David's parents collected about them extraordinary people of talent and spirit and all who came into their circle were enchanted with the happiness that radiated among them. So there is your story, my dear Editor. Or at least most of it.

The Editor found this story incomplete and unsatisfactory. What good was this story, given that so few experienced this kind of thing? Why tell this story?

Well let us suppose that time passes and in the course of time the mother of this David passes away, and the day steadily marches forward to that day when the body's father also must pass away, for as we know all of life is a cycle of turn and return and all must pass. Suddenly one sees the black chasm ahead. Behind, there is only the pressure of memory driving you forward. Pity the man who has not prepared his bridge in advance.

you see it is up to you now to make this story have an happy ending

So you see it is up to you now to make this story have an happy ending. Or a happy continuation, as you prefer.

The Editor considered this, chewed his cigar, shifted from one side to the other, then spoke.

That is fine, but I can only tell my own story, not that of someone else. You have to talk about the things you know.

"Well then let me tell you a story about how me and my pal Jim were captured by pirates in the Caribbean."

Now this managed to catch the ears of everyone in the bar.

"Jim and me had set out from Chiuatuanajeho with bags of dope stuffed onto the backs of donkeys and we had many adventures on that road before reaching the coast, let me tell you. We had this idea of buying a boat and sailing to Cuba where I knew a friend who could put us up while we did some exchanges and unloaded the cargo on somebody who could transport it to the States in the baggage of mules who were pretending to escape Castro's communism for the democracy of Florida, but nevermind the details.

We get to the coast and get ourselves a boat from this scurvy-looking fellow with one eye who howled every ten minutes at his pet monkey he kept there chained to a post in his grass shack. We should have known something was up by the way he sniffed around our bags.

Upholstery we told him. Meant for hospital bedding in San Juan, but he didn't believe a word we told him. He just kept yelling at his monkey which kept trying to shag his pet goat there.

we get boarded by pirates who sliced up our ship's boy

We get out at sea and sure enough in the middle of a nasty squall that tossed us all around like loose marbles, we got boarded by pirates who sliced up our ship's boy with machetes and this made us really sad, for Pepe had been an excellent cook -- always an asset on any sea voyage. So the pirates kept us blindfolded down there in the bilge hold for a good while until the sea calmed down somewhat and they put in somewhere and it came time for us to walk the plank.

They brought us out on deck and it was time to walk out on this board they had nailed to the gunwales and step into oblivion so to speak. So the captain of that bunch, a nasty, snarly fellow with hairs coming out of his face where hair should not normally erupt amid a crusty distribution of boils, asks our last requests. So I asks for a cigarette and for them to take off the blindfold.

Take off the blindfold you mean? Walk out there into certain horrible death with no blindfold now?

Yes and my partner Jimmy with me, because we have been so close all these years we might as well die together. Right Jimmy?

Today was a good day to die

Well the pirates were mighty impressed with this so they took off our blindfolds and they tied us together and even gave us a bit of good whiskey and then and picked us up and put us on the plank and there on that plank I looked all around me at the amazing sea birds staying aloft with barely a tremor of wings.At the infinite blue of the horizon fringed with distant green fronds of exotic palms. At the churning water below, the water the ancient Greeks had called 'the wine-dark sea'. The salt-air that filled my chest was fresh, without any of the industrial poisons we dredge through our lungs. The sun shone bright with not a cloud in the sky. Today was a good day to die."


Everyone in the bar was all agog. And then what happened? What on earth ever did happen?

"The way this plank walking works, the victim goes to the end of the plank, refuses to jump and the pirates shoot him off until he falls into the water and drowns or bleeds to death. One or the other. You have to walk; there is not choice.

we both jumped off together in a fusillade of bullets

With no blindfold I can see how close the shore is, and bare half way across Jimmy boots the First Mate in the nuts and I kick my cigarette in the Captain's eye and we both jump off together in a fusillade of bullets, most of which missed us totally. We swim to shore and it took damn near a day working those ropes with clamshells, pissing and cussing at each other and Jimmy bleeding like a stuck pig from his gunshot wounds until we got ourselves untied on the beach under the tropical sun. O shutup, Jimmy, I said. At least you have a distraction from this miserable weather. At least you have a god damned hide like a porcupine and there I was all chafed from the ropes.

I remember the time we got up into the mountains to go fishing with a fifth of whiskey and you went ahead and blasted that bottle with your fourty-four. Never forgave you for that.

Saw, saw, saw. Damned hemp!

There we were, lifelong pals bitching and cursing all the while laying there under the hot sun on those pristine sands beside such a lovely stream. I don't think I ever will forget the taste of that fresh water when I finally got loose from me old pal. I just plunged my head in that stream and I assure you I nearly went to heaven right there and then and wouldn'nt have minded if I had.

I got a ride out of there in a dingy owned by a one-armed Puerto Rican baseball pitcher named Leroy. Greatest pitcher ever lived but couldn't bat worth beans. Hitched a ride on an oxcart through San Juan and got totally smashed with dancehall strippers in a cabana on Guantanamo Point. Wound up hitching rides in single-prop island-hoppers until I finally made it back to New York where I could recover my Travellers Cheques. End of story."

Well what about your friend Jimmy? What happened to him?

"Jimmy? O he died on the beach long before I could cut him loose. Had to leave him. That part was not so happy. Still, it does make a great story."

The Editor had to admit this was a fine story indeed.

"Well now you have two with which to work," Graham said. "Take your pick. And remember this: walk the plank with eyes wide open. "

...remember this: walk the plank with eyes wide open

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

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

JUNE 17, 2012


This weekend was the big graduation weekend for several of the big high schools in the area. It's hard to say just why this one around feels like there is a little more hope to be had. Or perhaps its that when times are so hard, we look to the little sincere hope we have left.


Right on schedule a super high tide rolled in to sweep away all of the remaining temporary sand sculptures that got put up a week ago. Along with that we earned some eighty degree temperatures around here, with some premonition of heat waves to come this summer.

Howard Schecter forcast the start of summer in the high sierra with a higher-than-normal range for this weekend and trip reporters are saying that the high passes are clearing early.

Not so good news for you sunworshippers: we have dense fog forcast from early AM to 11 AM through the week with moderate temps into the low seventies. Heaven for some, hell for SoCal folks. Hey. Welcome to Paradise.

Locally we had a couple shootings, as reported last week. Update indicates that the fellow shot at the Burger King parking lot on Webster got "winged" in the shoulder and the man is expected to fully recover. Physically perhaps, but emotionally, well, we are not so sure. Still no update on the jerks who did that.

Shots fired on Orion street in the late afternoon resulted from an argument at a large party which spilled into the street there. Seems someone at the party shot at a neighbor who sought to intervene. No one is talking.

Since no traffic ordinances were violated, the perps got clean away in both cases.

As a public service here is some info: APD asks anyone with information on either incident to call the APD anonymous tip line at 835-2267 or Sgt. Gee directly at 337-8320. Witnesses can remain anonymous if they wish.

You may have noticed: Ron Goode Toyota is being demolished. With the last week's wrecking crew efforts, the last vestige of automotive row on Park, a lingering reminder of the Great Recession, and the locus of many an Islander young man's four-wheeled dreams passes into memory. Goode Toyota sought to expand its operations, but was thwarted by the City. In reality, the business, like all of the car dealerships down near the bridge, had run up against the hard realities of the New Real. Goode attempted to reestablish near the Coliseum, but the writing on the wall said the conglomerate of dealerships going into bankruptcy doomed the enterprise.

The massive service area has already been knocked into rubble and the long empty showroom is largely gutted. Staff here bought cars from that location years ago, but a business needs more than memories to survive, especially in these cutback times. Friends who worked there have found other jobs now. For the rest, there is dust and silence.

The recent fire that brought mighty BART to its knees last week, essentially slicing off the entire East Bay from San Francisco has long been delt with. For two days, the major connecting hub at West Oakland was shut down due to a fire that destroyed a senior center complex around 2:15 am. The fire, at an under-construction senior center in a framing stage between Fifth and Seventh streets directly next to the West Oakland BART station, was reported at around 2:15 a.m., Battalion Chief Adrian Sheppard said.

The fire spread to include lampposts, cars, powers poles, took down electrical wires and spread to the elevated BART tracks, potentially damaging the tracks and necessitating shutting down power to the tracks.

ACtransit responded with an additional 118 buses on June 14, according to Cynthia Vincent, however traffic remained snarled on all major arteries for two days.

Staffers headed on up to the 6th Pirate Festival in Vallejo, taking place concurrently with the Juneteenth celebrations there.

It beeing conciously Father's Day, the place had a very much kid-friendly atmosphere with numerous staff running around to make sure things remained safe among the daft and the violent. Well, yes, the atmosphere was a little less anarchistic than in the past but still all very good fun.

We wil be posting pix at length on the associated facebook page to this site and a few more here later in the week.



So anyway summer finally steamed in to the Bay Area with skies as blue as a Dutchman's britches, just in time for a Father's Day weekend.

it was Father's Day all over

As it was Father's Day all over, Tipitina, Suan, and Sarah all took their fathers out for brunch at Mama's Cafe on Sunday per Household tradition. Marsha's father had died many years ago in Napa State Hospital after his bipolar disorder had gotten the best of him, so she just went to see a movie at the Paramount.

Marlene and Andre, who ran the Household on Otis with its menagerie of misfits, generally used this time while everyone was out to enjoy one another's company, but this time they took little Adam to enjoy the Pirate Festival in Vallejo.

Martini headed out ... to pay respects to ... his own dad at the Chapel of the Chimes

After the boys from the Household had cleaned up the hall which had housed the Native Son's of the Golden West Father's Day Affair, Martini headed out on the back of Pahrump's scooter to pay respects to the ashes of his own dad at the Chapel of the Chimes. Jose and Javier recuperated from their birthday party wounds by sharing a jug of wine with Xavier and Snuffles the Bum on the beach while Bonkers and Wickiwup romped in the high tide surf, getting thoroughly, shaking, side-to-side dog-wet in the way that dogs are wont to do.

While Martini did whatever guys named Martini do in a columbarium, Pahrump wandered around the Spanish Colonial-style buildings, which had originally been designed by Julie Morgan, and then revised by an associate of Frank Lloyd Wright. The place was sometimes the setting for concerts.

He watched through an archway as a solemn procession dressed in black passed through a courtyard centered with succulent plants. Well, what can you say at a time like this?

a hummingbird came down to hover to the side

As he stood there, a hummingbird came down to hover to the side about head high, blurring wings looking at him. He held out his hand and the bird lightly perched on his extended forefinger for just a moment before darting up and, pausing a moment in helicopter mode, regarded him for a few seconds before zipping away.

When he next looked through the archway he could see a woman, dressed entirely in black with a black veil looking at him with her mouth wide open.

A man came up to her and asked quietly, what is it? Are you all right?

Pahrump waved and hurried from there to find Martini. Sometimes its best to leave them guessing.

Denby showed up at the house after the field trip to Vallejo had come back. Adam was out back wacking sunflowers with his plastic pirate sword.

Marlene and Andre?

They are in the bedroom, bonking each other, Adam said. He wacked a calla lily.

Did I ever tell you about the time I got lost on the tundra

Did I ever tell you about the time I got lost on the tundra and came to live with the Apaches?

No, Adam said, eyeing the tempting hydrangea while hefting his sword.

My sister . . . thought she was a fish

Well that was long ago when I was a lot younger. Nearly your age in fact, or maybe just a little older. I used to get in all sorts of trouble, you know. Largely because my own family was all crazy. My sister was a champion swimmer -- she could swim the length of the Snake River and all upstream. Only problem is that she thought she was a fish.

No way.

he liked to beat me with a nine foot long bullwhip studded with nails.

Way, dude. She would get fish hide and sew up these dresses make of fish scale and wear em around the house. Reason she could never get no dates for the Saturday dance. Nobody wants to hold a cold fish on Saturday night, believe me. That is the truth, so help me Jehosaphat. As for mom, well she was always messing around, going fishing. Running off with the circus. She imagined she was a trapeze artist horsewoman -- only combo ever existed in the circus. It got so bad my dad would get up on the roof and refuse to come down. Which was fine by me 'cause he liked to beat me with a nine foot long bullwhip studded with nails.

Why'd he do that?

so the lions had to wear dentures and the dancing bear got lame

O I wouldn't keep my head in the lion's mouth long enough. And I kept hopping out of the cannon before my dad lit the fuse. That's right we had a circus with lions and bears and snakes. Except those sorry old lions were mangy and had no teeth. We couldn't afford decent animals, so the lions had to wear dentures and the dancing bear got lame. He just sat there blubbering like a fool because he thought he belonged in Alaska above the Arctic Circle. We had the only bear in Montana that suffered from bipolar depression.

Is that how you learned the guitar? With the circus?

No. I had to play the accordion for the dancing bear. Except he wouldn't dance, so it was all useless. They tried using me to collect at the door but I never could figure out the change and wound up giving back twenties as change for tens. So that idea did not work out so well. My dad had to find something useful for me to do, so he got the idea of shooting me out of the cannon. I didn't like that idea.

So when it came time to shoot me out of the cannon into the lake, I ran away in the dark and got lost out there. It came to winter time and the cold set in and I gotta tell you Montana in winter is one cold place.

Fortunately I found this old bear den and crawled in there and got myself warm hugging up against the geothermal rock in there. Even so it was not hardly warm enough to stay alive and I would have died for sure in there. Until I heard something coming into the cave there blocking the whole entrance.

It was a bear?

It was a bear all right.

What did you do?

I didn't do anything. I couldn't, 'cause he blocked the way. He went to sleep in his hibernation sleep and there I was stuck in that cave. At least it was warmer.

Well, how'd you get out of the cave?

That's a long story. And I will come back to that. The important thing is that when I got out of there I took up with an old miner who sold me to a band of travelling gypsies because I couldn't carry the panniers for the mule that died on him. Well, I did try, but I fell down and the panniers broke open spilling out all the gold dust he had collected, which put him in a terrible wax until he started beating me with the tail of that dead mule.

I criss-crossed the country, hitching rides with long haul truckers by telling stories

Well the gypsies needed some kind of talent, being gypsies of course, so since I can't do much of anything -- can't tote, can't figure, can't dance, can't tell a joke and can't hustle -- so like most hapless folks like that I learned to pretend like they do on stage. Since I never could remember any of my lines I made up my own. I made up the happiest Hamlet that ever existed; in my version nobody kills themself and everyone ends up happy except for the Uncle, of course. Then I made up this pretend radio show with an imaginary weather report and everything. I criss-crossed the country, hitching rides with long haul truckers by telling stories to keep them awake past the blue horrors of early dawn.

You make a lot of money doing that?

Well, not really. I am not sure anybody liked it. Truth is, everybody going out Saturday night I had no money to pay somebody else for entertainment, so that's why I learned the guitar and that is the truth, so help me Jehosaphat.

All the while Denby told his story folks started arriving back at the cottage in ones and twos. Pretty soon it was suppertime for Andre and he put down his sword, forgetting all about his martial anti-floral endeavors.

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

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

JUNE 10, 2012


Symbol of the Great Recession, this one sits in the neighborhoods off Pacific Avenue to say silently "once there was a market here."


About an hour ago Police reported a man shot around 4 p.m. Sunday as he sat in a car in a parking lot at Webster Street and Eagle Avenue.

The victim was taken to Highland where his non-life threatening wounds were treated.

No more details are available at this time, however Police did mention an unrelated shooting out at the Point. Apparently an argument escalated into a fight, and one person fired at least one round, fortunately not hitting anyone.


Dropped into American Oak, a revamped eatery that had known life as BarCeluna for a birthday celebration.

Owners Melanie Hartman and Charles Carlise took the place away from the formerly trendy tapas thing when they secured Gabe Cortez, formerly of 1400 Bar and Grill and Boulevard, as chef. They now serve solidly filling pub fare with a difference. You got your burger and your garlic fries, however the burger is a thick chunk of Wagyu beef on high quality buns from the Feel Good Bakery and the fries are dripped lovingly with aioli.

We had the rapini pizza, which is a Northern Italian thin crust version well draped with mozzarella, kalamata olives, sausage, and tender broccoli rabé. This thin crust pizza, cooked in an oak-fired oven, was far superior to some of the much ballyhooed editions which have emerged here. If you are going to do pizza as a quasi-gourmet dish, you do need to work to make something that Domino's does fairly capably rise significantly higher.

The burger was delicious. Next trip we want to try the cassoulet, about which a number of reviewers have raved.

You can avoid the avocado deviled eggs with their chips of some kind of jerky stuck in there in lieu of ham -- there is a good reason Sam I Am did not prefer green eggs and ham, and most others have agreed.

The place is known for its 101 brands of bourbon and an actual whiskey club called "Personal Liberty League".

They also have a range of what are considered fairly decent scotches, including Glenfiddich and Balvenie in the 15-28 year age range, but if you try any of that you just may lose the respect of your waitperson. Once you manage to sample all 101 bourbons off the shelf, you get a T-shirt and your very own inscribed whiskey glass.

Best of all, no dish at the modestly priced American Oak rises above $15. Good simple, well-prepared food served promptly and with no fuss. Now that is what we call a celebration of American values. The place is located at 2319 Santa Clara Avenue close in to the Park Street shopping district.


Our Social Coordinator had been chomping at the bits to try out this joint located in the Marketplace next to the defunct Auto Row where once zoot suit salesmen strolled casually among the gleaming automobiles. The Marketplace brings a bit of life back to the area there and we wish there were more of what they offer by way of the little coffeeshop, the excellent health food store, and the butcher market tended by a guy who sings opera on the side.

Unfortunately the pizzeria, with its ludicrously brief serving hours, failed to deliver. Our staffperson tried on two occasions to get a pie there and was treated each time as the proverbial second cousin in encounters that made her feel that the staff felt superior to customers, couldn't be bothered to make pizza past a certain hour and the absentee owner had no rule over his minions.

She arrived at 7:30 p.m. and was actually told "We won't make a pizza just for you!"

She tried to snag a slice, and was denied her request for a topping added to plain cheese.

The East End appears to have boosters in the form of friends of the family or paid shills, for a number of other Islanders have complained about staff who just do not get the idea of trying hard to make a new business grow. While it is possible the hours are limited (closing 8pm on Saturday?!) because of location in a market, the repeated nasty rudeness of staff is not something we want to encourage when others are trying so hard. We are not going to try there again.


Just to prove that we are not snobs about startups, and are willing to cut a poor guy some slack, we tried out the Island version of Loonies, which has family versions in Oaktown in the location of the old blues bar under the freeway, and in Berkeley. Ours is tucked back behind the pool tables of the sports bar across from where the Islander Roach Hotel used to stand.

We found the tri-tip sandwich needed something like character. And something like tri-tip, which is highly regarded around here as a delicacy when prepared properly. What we got was strips of some cubed steak smattered with cheddar cheese and a few onions on a sourdough roll. Not inspiring if you want to charge BBQ prices.

Nevertheless, the fellow serving behind the counter was friendly, the available sauces looked promising, and we plan on giving the joint another try for some of its 'Que.


We gave OTG another try, and we have to say this second time was far more positive than the first. Lines were more reasonable, the people affable, and the food excellent. We talked with one of the organizers of this fledgling independent company which now has 40,000 twitter followers for its several events taking place in San Francisco, Berkeley and now here.

We tried the ever-popular cupcake truck and the not-so popular "Twister Burrito" truck. The twister burrito is a fried tortilla cone stuffed with spicy meat and green rice with black beans and a picante pico de gallo. One of our staff, loving muy caliente, ordered hers with jalapenos, which arrived as a savory green sauce embedded with flecks of the hot pepper. We found it pleasantly flavorful. Our staff people had fish and street tacos, which were a bit pricey but still very good.

We took a stroll around and saw folks noshing on a variety of BBQ and Asian foods, the best of which appeared to be the Vietnamese sandwich, which looked 14 inches in length and well worth the $8 cost.

If you want to take advantage of Off the Grid we advise you the best thing to do is seek out the unusual rather than the most cost-effective, as the whole idea is to introduce new gourmet dishes to the novice while helping to foster a sense of community.

As the organizer told us, all trucks are locally based. No chains and no internationals are allowed into the club.


If you live on an island beside the Bay, it would be foolish not to take advantage of all that sand real estate to build your dreams. Your palace in the sun will last only until the next high tide, but then, that has been the rule for many a supposedly more solid brick and mortar edifice around here.

The Island does sand castle competitions in a big way, and this weekend saw the 46th iteration of the friendly contest. Sadly we could not make it out this year before high tide swept most of it away at 5pm, however word has it excellent weather and jovial bonhomie provided for some delightful works of temporary art.

Speaking of art, this was the second weekend for ProArts Open Studios here. This time around, artisans reported a mixed bag of success, with some artists seeing beaucoups of sales and others sitting idle drinking the lemon-flavored water and nibbling the rice crackers in solitary.

We bypassed Pat Payne's extraordinary bronze eagles to drop in on the ever delightful Wanda Fudge, who does art dolls these days in her historic Goose Cottage, built in 1880 and sitting right there on Minturn. Her specialty is Women of Consequence. That and whimsy. A visit to Goose Cottage is worth the trip in and of itself.

Down the road Susan Laing works wonders with hand-carded and hand dyed felt. Susan's big draw is her resurrection of ancient felting techniques. When you buy a Laing creation, you are buying an artifact which has over one thousand years of history put into its make. Ms. Laing goes to the sheep farms to purchase raw wool in bulk, which she laboriously cards, cleans, and then dyes with pigments made from natural materials.

It is a little Island, but we do try.


So anyway the weather finally busted loose into the eighties around here, and all the SoCal folks put away their overly dramatic furs and stopped complaining that they had moved to Alaska. Everywhere sun poured down like lemon honey and everyone who could boosted out of town.

This is the time of graduation, of course, and so as the sad Washington school shut up its doors after 103 years of trying to get little ones to start thinking about college before puberty upset one's thinking, other schools here gathered out on the fields for the ritual commencements and the long-winded speeches by People Vaguely Famous and the Valedictorian, who is destined for a bleak marriage to an insurance adjuster and whom nobody liked anyway.

All the Island High grads gathered out there on the playing field for the Fighting Manta Rays to hear former alum and ex-congressperson Marlon Fistbottom speak about the importance of sobriety and seriousness and preserving the martial spirit in these parlous times. Yes, Marlon had been, and remained save for term limits, a Hawk on matters of defense.

we are all for good and it is for goodness sake we kill them terriers with drones or whatever

"The reason we have the right and the god-given ability to kill them rag-heads is because we are all for good and it is for goodness sake we kill them terriers with drones or whatever else because the foundation of a solid Democracy like ours is strong military might and threatening power which can vaporize anybody we don't like so much.

What difference does it make when the bullets start flying I ask you?

Heck a war is on. Use an M-16 like I did in the Army or use a Drone. What difference does it make when the bullets start flying I ask you? A friend or a foe or anything in-between is just as dead as doornails. Its all a matter of having war, don't you see.

We went out there and defended them Muslims in Serbia, or Bosnia -- I forget it doesn't matter, we defended them -- and then they turn around and attack ... um I mean that nasty old El Qaida went ahead and attacked us. And there you are. See. It's all clear as day.

Today I saw a little girl with eyes as blue as robin eggs and she was having her momma buy her a Hello Kitty purse and my heart just melted. Yep, this old crotchet of a guy just melted. Here was this little innocent, totally American girlchild supporting the US economy on her own two feet, just like Brother George wanted us to do right after 9/11. It does a body proud it does.

That just goes to show you we are the good ones and that gives us the right and ability to nuke the opposition if we so please and kill everybody else. So be proud to be in America and in the greatest state in the union, the Golden State. We stand here naked before the sacrifices of all those who gave their all for freedom and that little something called democracy. Lets all sing the alma mater now, come on and join me now, for I now pronounce you all graduates ready to enter into productive lives here in the Golden State."

Right then, the entire west end of the bleachers which had been the perch for the largish Sororian Club stood up, dropped their gowns and stood there starkers wearing nothing but their caps with purple tassels and the gold year winking in the merry sun, grinning for all the world to see.

everything degenerated then into an atavistic melee

With a great cheer the entire assembly tossed their caps into the air -- although that particular action had been forbidden per tradition -- and everything degenerated then into an atavistic melee of parents and custodians and school staff trying to throw clothes on naked teenagers and at the end of the day the entire official senior party was canceled as a punishment, however the kids all went out to Shadow Cliffs to have a keg party and break into the county park waterslides illegally, where they made their good-byes prior to entering whatever life the adults had ruined for them previously.

Many relationships came to term under the trees at Shadow Cliffs that night. And more than a couple began with fertile consequences as well.

"I think learning poetry is more important than learning how to obey orders."

Someone collared Ms. Morales, the schoolteacher at Longfellow to ask her opinion about all of this misbehavior and her response -- do you want to know what the response of this experienced teacher happened to be? -- "I can only hope I gave them some more of Emily Dickenson than of obedience. I think learning poetry is more important than learning how to obey orders."

Javier and the entire Household went down to celebrate his fifty-fourth birthday. Jose, dreading the occasion, hid in the bathroom until Pahrump dragged him out.

Birthdays in the Bay Area are irritating things that often become shibboleths of misery as folks seeking any way possible to have a party wreak havoc upon some hapless soul with wretched bonhomie and heaped disappointments, serving as solid reminders every day is another wrinkle, another hour until your next medical appointment.

Nevertheless, is here big Tradition, and there is no escaping making yontif for some festivities that rival Purim by way of religious fervor and ridiculousness.

In any case they all got down there on the beach with a bonfire going and the jug wine getting passed around and the spleef going around as well as the merry stars twinkled after the Transit of Venus had occurred earlier.

the paper they had burst into flames, ruining the entire show

Martini and Tipitina had gone out with a pair of field binoculars with which to view the Transit by means of reflection off of a piece of paper, but Martini and Tipitina could not agree on the orientation of the field glasses, so they wound up holding them upside down and, in so doing, focused the sun's rays enough that the paper they had burst into flames, ruining the entire show. They ended up arguing and then attacking one another, scratching and biting and kicking and clawing each other's skin in painful ways, and the way things usually go here, they ended up in the dunes bonking in the sand and the sticks even though they did not really like one another and the mothers all sent their children away from that place in a hurry.

It all looked like things would end sort of uneventfully on Javier's birthday. Save down by Crab Cove Colonel Terse was putting together a sort of display he intended for July 4th with the help of Sgt. Rumsbum, who was not a real policeman but a security guard for Macy's and a traffic control cop for City College. Col. Terse had this idea of being towed along by a float car, held up with a parasail of the type we see often here offshore, and trailing an American flag with streamers and firecrackers.

Col. Terse was no dummy. He knew velocity was required, so he had the Angry Elf get into a speedboat just in the shallows to provide momentum.

At a signal from Terse, the Angry Elf set off along the shore pulling the Colonel Terse, USMC, ret. aloft followed by the flag. It looked glorious.

Unknown to Terse, the Angry Elf had commissioned some pyrotechnic effects, which unfortunately set Col. Terse's Captain America cape on fire. As well as his baggy pants, which Terse had to abandon while aloft. The flames ate away at the flag harness, which caused the twenty-foot symbol of America to plunge in sparks and embers to the earth while Terse floated up in heaven with no pants or cape.

This flag fell into the midst of the birthday gathering where the campfire added fuel to the incendiary emblem of American pride.

While a troop of Boy Scouts under the leadership of Jeff dealt with this terrible problem of a flag touching the earth, Javier's current girlfriend, Victoria, roared up on her Harley along with several of her poodle-skull biker gang. Do not ask how they got their name; some horrors are not to be related in the light of day.

"Happy birthday," Victoria said, launching a sharp booted kick at Javier's groin. The birthday boy went down in a pale tumble. In what seemed to Victoria a solid explaination for this treatment, she said, looking down on him, "I told you I want 'em over easy, not scrambled!"

Victoria grabbed Jose in a headlock, broke his nose with her studded leather fist, and finished him off with a kick

"Now now, Jose said," unwisely seeking to avert further violence. Victoria grabbed Jose in a headlock, broke his nose with her studded leather fist, and finished him off with a kick to his lower regions as well.

As she got aboard her chopper, Jose mentioned that is probably was the end of this particular relationship.

In answer, Victoria howled with glee. "You a-holes should be so lucky! I'll be back!" And with that the woman roared off, followed by her hairy retinue. "And you better fix breakfast right the next time or else!"

A group of soldiers on leave after third and fourth tours of duty happened along Shoreline to see what looked like a group of hippies rolling in the sand with a burning American flag.

Their response was not gentle to say the least.

As the stars timorously emerged in the sky to peer down on the carnage of yet another Javier birthday, smoke from singed clothing and burned flesh heavy on the earth among the tumble of bodies.

"Happy birthday," croaked Pahrump when he found the jug of wine miraculously unbroken.

"Umphonimppsousump!" said Jose.

"Umphonimppsousump!" said Jose, before going to the emergency room with the help of Tipitina, who seemed to be wanting an urgent pregnancy test all of a sudden.

"Eff you," groaned Javier.

From far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the newborn waves of the estuary and the celebratory bon anniversaire grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive hunted its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its embryonic journey to parts unknown.

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


JUNE 3, 2012


Here is a solitary fellow trying his luck off of a pier near the Aquatic Park. He may look lonesome, but he just might be exactly where he wants to be. This image captures the cool mood of the Bay Area lately.



Sun is coming, but not without a last hurrah of rain as a wharf sprinkler moves through the Bay Area to leave a brief wet kiss early in the week. We are looking at cool temps persisting through the weekend although we are promised some sunshine for those San Francisco Fog tomatoes we know all of you have laid in. Sacto and the Valley will be seeing the usual 80 plus degrees. You want warmth? Get out of town.


We got stuff that happened and stuff that is happening and stuff that is continuing.

This weekend the Reasonable Folks won a victory of sorts when the long awaited Off the Grid phenomenon was allowed to happen here. Off the Grid is an event in which food trucks congregate in one place for culinary delights. Local restaurants fought bitterly against such an event happening here, for fear that they would lose business, but the Great Recession has put such a pinch in people's spending habits, any event at all would be welcome. As it turned out, so many had urged so urgently for the event, that an overwhelming response turned the affair into one of long lines and fairly meaningless experience amid a mob while traffic backed up all around South Shore Mall.

There was some speculation that enemies of Off the Grid packed the place with shills to as to deliberately dilute the experience. Average wait time was about 45 minutes.

FIRST FRIDAYS combined with the first week of Pro Arts OPEN STUDIOS to make an art lover's heaven here in the East Bay. Vessel held artist talks along with its usual assemblage of provocative art installations on 25th in the Uptown. Word has it that the galleries were packed this time around.

Closer to home, the Measure C debate appears to be hot and bothered as pro and con debate the virtues and ills of applying a half cent sales tax to fund a number of services. We are too evenly divided here to recommend one side or the other, beyond saying we think both sides are being unreasonable.

It is lunacy to think about funding swimming pools and the Carnegie when things are so bad and it is absolutely crazy to dig in against any revenue increases when it is apparent to everybody with half a brain that you cannot make money magically appear by way of eternal cutbacks. Private industry will not, has not, and is not stepping in to complete any of the needed tasks, so people who glom onto imaginary Trickle On Theory are patently full of hoot. And maybe something smellier.

It tickles us pink that folks finally found a way to scavenge cash from the America's Cup races, a dear unicorn of potentiality which some folks have harbored (no pun intended) for quite a while. The America's Cup is a prestigious world-renowned series of yacht races conducted by People Who Have Too Much Money. It is, however, being conducted across the water in Babylon, not here in the East Bay.

Nevertheless, the logic goes something like this: We are an Island. We are in the Bay. The race is in the Bay. Therefore, we deserve to scarf some orts from the financial platter created for wealthy people.

No less prestigious group than the Swedish will base a club here on the island in one of the old aircraft hangers out on the empty Navy base. Sounds of jubilation and exaltation. Popping of champagne corks. The racing club is called the Artemis, a highly fem-positive name for sure, and we welcome the doughty Scandinavians with open arms. Just do not try to greet these folks at the docks with anything like lutefisk. Please.

Among all the graduation celebrations taking place there will be one particular fete that will be sadder than most for Washington Elementary School will close after 103 years of service to kids, due to the strapped finances of the District and the shrinking supply of tykes. The Unified District had threatened all sorts of measures, but the times being what they are, this entire school had to close. The chains will pass over the door handles June 12th.

The ferry service is starting a new line from Oakland Jack London Square and the West end terminus to Oyster Pt, in SSF. Fare will be $7.


So anyway, the full moon has emerged from its recent eclipse behavior full and round in the sky even as Venus conducts her impudent, her saucy, her once-in-a-lifetime traverse. She is doing it right now, striding across the broad face of her brother, and you can gander at any time while listening to Jack White and friends sing "Steady as She Goes".

Although the weather around here has gotten warmish in the daytime, the nights have remained stubbornly chill, postponing the long anticipated endless summer.

Seagulls started circling over the Safeway parkinglot near dusk, which does not bode well for fine sailing tomorrow.

Everything has endured a delayed takeoff this year

Jose has been belatedly laying in seeds with some promising results at the Homestead farm and the newcomers claim to have found a way to grow tomatoes in total shade and cool temps. Everything has endured a delayed takeoff this year, which means that this summer had better be a sudden scorcher or just skip it until next year.

The bougainvillea has been burgeoning with riots of scarlet, while the trumpet flowers have all drooped with heavy blooms. Spring is clearly madly intent on doing its thing.

Denby has returned to work, strumming with a cast on his broken arm, and the Editor has stumped back to his office cubicle with a cane and a foul disposition appropriate for a man of his caliber and taste in bad cigars.

All of us are wounded in some way in these times

All of us are wounded in some way in these times, so we all just find a way to plunge on forward and make the show go on. That is just the way things go in this world.

Denby got Suzie to smash a wine bottle (Clos du Bois, Chardonnay, 1994) and he embedded a shard in his cast to create the first ever right hand slide/string damper. People were impressed to say the least and his Latin-rhythm version of the Police Dog Blues knocked 'em flat.

He also got extra tips for being a cripple and, were it not for the sudden rainstorm, would have stood on the freeway onramp to Babylon with a sign and a cap like a lot of the other smart guys who figured that you could make a living standing there with a piece of cardboard that claimed any amount of nonsense.

folks couldn't make the extortion payments any more

There was a regular racket going on with the Great Recession clobbering even the local Mafia, who found that folks couldn't make the extortion payments any more, not even after setting a few examples to the torch, as Johnny Carne Asada had done to the Tiki Tom that used to sit just over the bridge there.

Johnny had come in there with two of his biggest goons, Click and Clack, the Truncheon Brothers, to put the squeeze on Tiki Tom himself.

"Johnny, times are tough. I got bills to pay and see this tab sheet? I got customers whose kids now owe me money on top of their grandpa! Have a heart Johnny!"

Tom was begging with tears in his eyes and his seven kids of questionable origin peering from around the corner of the bar.

Times are perilous, people get careless with fire

"Lemmee put it to ya straight, amigo," Johnny said. "I got mouths to feed. Like this here Tom and his brother Ray Marzapone. Hey. You no pay the insurance things can happen. Times are perilous, people get careless with fire. And my boys here are real real hungry."

Tom picked up a barstool, smashed it to smithereens with some delicacy, and began chewing on the leg left in his hand.

"You see?" Johnny said. "You can't be too careful these days. How you gonna pay to fix that chair now? Better keep up your payments amigo. Buenos dias and $20,000 by tomorrow or else."

"Twenty . . .!? Johnny this is a tiki bar! We don't have that kinda money!"

"I got bills too, my friend. And your debt is seriously earning serious interest on the capital."

"Principal you mean."

"Yeah right. Whatever. I'm hungry. Lets go pay a visit to that restaurant odder side of MLK. I tink da guy there wants a housewarmin' kinda."

"Yeah, housewarmin'," grunted Ray. "Can I do da compression test on da girl? Can I Johnny?"

"Sure you can Ray," Johnny promised. "And the SMOG treatment to the old man if you want."

The two goons hopped up and down with glee. They exuberantly tossed furniture through the windows and left.

Well, needless to say, the little BBQ joints and tiki bars and old time grills of Oaktown had seen such hard times lately that nobody could afford to pay Johnny and the rent as well, which seem to jack up overnight all over the place.

Within a month a dozen establishments all over Oaktown burned furiously to the ground, including Tiki Tom's which had stood at the door to the Island for half a century.

all this arson stuff wound up killing not only the goose, but the entire flock

Main problem here for Johnny Carne Asada, is that as petty Napoleons go, his wattage burned a tick lower than normal, and all this arson stuff wound up killing not only the goose, but the entire flock of golden egg laying geese for his enterprise.

He was reduced to putting the lean on panhandlers, especially the guys who stood at the freeway on and off ramps.

He had Joey and Tom go out and shakedown the onramp guys in a regular circuit while driving their signature Black Maria, collecting fifty percent gross from each mark.

He even tried putting some his gang to work as shills for National Public Radio, skimming a little off of the donations.

Mussolini instead of This American Life. It could happen to you

"Ya ever think about how ya gettin' this programming for free? Well nothing is free, pal, so ya better think about becoming a subscriber. Just think about what would happen if you turned that dial and heard nothin'. Yeah. You heard nothing ever again, deaf as a doorpost, get my drift? Happened to an acquaintance of mine. Skipped pledge week by turning to another station and woke up one day bleedin' from the head from an unexplained accident. Seems somebody had replaced the radio above his bed with a blacksmith's anvil. And coming from the radio? Mussolini instead of This American Life. It could happen to you. So pay up pal . . .".

Unfortunately it turned out there is very little money in National Public Radio. Most of the listeners are penurious.

It was not long before Johnny's eye of avarice turned towards the Island just across the estuary. Here on the Island of Fine Living beside the Bay, Johnny Carne Asada ran into someone with a heart as black with greed as his own, but far more successful at being evil -- Mr. Howitzer, II.

Therein lies a tale which shall be related anon.

Down on Park Street the Editor was pleased to see a new business moving into the old Boudin Bakery. It was a massage studio that called itself A Touch of Wonder and the new proprietor was supervising the installation of what looked like extraordinarily thick plate glass at the entrance.

The two workpersons were big husky gals who looked like they had just come off of the farm.

The Editor greeted them and welcomed them to the Island, leaning upon his cane, pausing to relight his stogie. Story here?

The two gals were sisters named Betty and Brunhilde and they were born in Bemidji, and both baked bread between massage appointments where they kneaded buns on a different basis before buying beads and bananas. Their boss's name was Borg.

"Basically sounds like you are bachelors," said the Editor.

"Ja sure," Betty said.

He asked about the plate glass.

"Bulletproof," Brunhilde said.

The Editor commented the district was quiet and generally killing was done only after filing the proper paperwork .

Apparently their studio in Minnesota had been shot up by a maniacal gumshoe who had gone off his nut taking bum diet pills.

Why the violence violating the violet vestry of their virginal viaticum, causing them to vacate with virtual haste via a concealed viaduct?

"Bad pills lead to bad brains," Betty said, "Don't cha know." The proprietor, Borg Rubbitsum, had never gotten over the trauma.

The man looked too skinny to be from Minnesota

The two sisters were blonde with cornflower eyes and sunny dispositions, and the Editor thought they would adapt well. As for Borg, he was not so sure. The man looked too skinny to be from Minnesota or be named Borg. He clearly was balding.

"He has a middle name does he not?" the Editor asked.

"Busby!" Brunhilde burst out.

"Thank you. Good day ladies. Welcome to the Island."

"Bye-Bye!" The pair were as chipper as chipmunks and about as adorable. The Editor limped on with his cane.

There in a chair sat the sleeve to a Martha and the Vandellas

The Editor got to the Offices in their own new location with all things still in the disarray of moving, machines perched precariously on shelves, coffee pot in the sink, toaster oven rattling upon a stack of Atlantic Monthlies and Tom Petty CD's. There in a chair sat the sleeve to a Martha and the Vandellas. Notebooks everywhere, PDA's scattered like gophers, typewriter ribbons unspooled from old Royals that some of the older reporters preserved with jealous stupidity, ignoring the fact that their copy had to be scanned into the modern computer next to them on the desk. There was a monthly war between the staff who preferred lead pencils against those who preferred the engineer's machine pencil and it seemed the two camps would have as much chance of reconciliation as the Jews and the Palestinians.

In his cubicle, which had been sort of reconstructed with shelves and books and the electronic foofraw necessary for getting a publication done each week, the Editor tossed his bulk into the chair, hearing its ominous creak of tired rosewood, lamenting the state of furniture in general around this dump and propping his injured leg up on a cushion.

when it comes to broken bones, you know the stakes have risen

My friend when it comes to broken bones, you know the stakes have risen to a level to which you must adapt or die. There is no other way out of here. Once you are in, you are in for good.

Denby came in and dropped off his assignment, his cast arm glowing in the dim florescent lights.

Going out again?

Gotta get back to the gig at the Old Same Place. Gotta provide the rhythm so folks can dance.

Well, nobody ever said the path less traveled was going to be easy. Those horses shaking their heads in a snowy wood always will find warmth and fodder and shelter and some people like to go out dancing.

Others like us, gotta work.

Denby went out leaving the place silent save for the running machines, the timers snicking off the lights overhead one by one, the sound of someone sweeping the floors upstairs, leaving only the desklamp beside the Editor. There, in the pool of light with his remaining white hair flying about his head in an aureole, the Editor bent over his desk while all around there was darkness after the Eclipse.

There is no Mussolini on the radio, I am not broken yet.

There is no Mussolini on the radio, I am not broken yet, and I have scads of tales to tell, my friends. This moment's defeat is just a reminder to get stronger and try harder.

That insistent internal voice coming back: try harder.

The Elections are on Tuesday. We have to try harder. There is no other way out of this.

As the light failed across the land, a blur hovered over the struggling hydrangea, which despite maltreatment in the past, had started to bloom again under patient care. There darted by fits a spring hummingbird, come as a messenger, light and ephemeral as Spring itself. Yet persistent year after year.

From far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the persistent waves of the estuary and the free grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive hunted its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown while puzzling Life's Eternal Questions.

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


MAY 27, 2012


This week's shot is of the front of the "new" Elks Club lodge, where BPOE has been replaced with a curious moniker.

In fact this sign advertises the Fundraiser for Alameda's Children's Charities, taking place Saturday, June 16, 2012 from 6:00 PM to 11:05 PM.

Rather odd one for the kids, who we presume are not invited and not allowed to see the racy movie with Nicole Kidman.

The building was completed in 1909 and dedicated the following year. The previous structure, built 1906, sits on the southeast corner of the property. Once the dominion of White privilege, Lodge 1015 has moved in recent years to one of genuine public service.


The Occupy Movement may be taking a quieter turn, but plenty of folks are still protesting in advance of what may be a tumultuous summer. The teachers marched Tuesday from Jackson Park to City Hall to voice concerns about troubled labor contract negotiations here.

The nonacademic union that represents maintenance and food workers and the Unified District came to agreement a day later on a 1 percent pay raise contingent on funding from the State.

Attendees to films showing at the renovated multiplex here may not know that the non-union enterprise has been picketed since completion of the disputatious project. Turns out, according to union literature, Islanders footed the entire bill for the project, which normally is funded by private investors. Owner Kyle Conner cuts costs by paying substandard wages.

IATSE Local 169 can be reached at 415-515-3387 for comment.

The ongoing fiscal crisis that is a product of the Great Recession may close the hard-earned city jail. The City wants to cut $1 million from the police department, which means that about eight positions would be lost, two of those yet unfilled. The City lost its jail a while back due to police misbehavior in the cells.


Here's the buzz on upcoming events. Sacto kicked of the season with a kickass blues festival this weekend.

The always high-quality Kate Wolf Music festival launches in beautiful Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville June 29 - July 1. KD Lang will headline along with Lucinda Williams, Justin Townes Earle, long tall Marcia Ball, Loudon Wainright III plus a bevy more of good talent up on stage and among the tents at the campground.

Berkeley hosts a World Music fest in People's Park June 2nd, at Amoeba, and along the Ave'. Maria Muldaur is expected for that one.

Dan Hicks brings his retro Hot Licks to Yoshi's June 6-7th for some serious swing.

Bonnie Raitt will occupy the Greek September 27th with Mavis Staples. Can you say Estrogen Power? Local boys Primus hold your attention June 8th at that venue.


Flags hung at half mast all over the island to remember one of our own recently fallen in Afghanistan. Thomas Fogarty, graduate of Alameda High, was killed May 6th by an IED while traveling through Ahmad-Kehyl. Three other soldiers were wounded in the attack.

Fogarty had served two tours in Iraq and had been in Afghanistan one month. He was with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division.

He is survived by his loving wife, Vanessa, and two sons: Kellen(5), and Caden (3).

The 3,000th coalition soldier just died due to Afghanistan combat May 20th. His name was Ryan Wilson (26). Wilson served with the US Navy at the rank of Petty Officer.


So anyway the promised sunshine failed to arrive for the weekend, leaving most of the town shivering under a high blanket of fog and unruly clouds that threatened ice and hail for this Memorial Day.

Downtown appeared eerie and empty with the early morning streets resembling a zombie movie by way of the muttering trolls staggering around the busstops in their unkempt beards and the library, where a mysterious figure has huddled for several days on the bench, hoodie pulled up over his head in a serious brood.

Demure Spring has been skipping through the back yards and rose gardens, causing quiet ruckus among the geraniums.

The usual line formed outside Ole's Pancake shop as the hours approached the After Sermon Period on Sunday.

Late afternoon the sun finally shoved those clouds aside and normal folks wandered around downtown pretty much as normal people do.

Almost as if there was no war going on.

The threatened thunderstorms and hail never happened, however word has it a fine load of snow got dumped at the higher elevations in the Sierra, which is very good news indeed.

The threatened thunderstorms and hail never happened, however word has it a fine load of snow got dumped at the higher elevations in the Sierra, which is very good news indeed.

All of this unsettled weather induces equally as unsettled moods, premonitions, hesitant intuitions, unruly dreams. When the wind whips around the chimney Dawn O'Reilly crosses herself and mutters spells against the coming of the Si.

One cannot be too careful when the daoine sídhe are about.

In Irish folklore, the Aos Si are the faery spirits who either dwell in beauty, or come from the World of the Dead. They are either lovely and chivalrous or hideous and spiteful. One cannot be too careful when the daoine sídhe are about. They could be of the Tuatha De Dannan, the folk of the Old Goddess. Or they could be something else more terrible. It is best to be circumspect.

Rolf returned from over the Bridge after a long night and fell into bed to have most disturbing dreams. He dreamed that the soldiers came for him with a letter from the President in the form of an invitation to dinner. Except this was no invitation he was allowed to decline.

The soldiers all said this was a great honor and that he must go with them right away. He was allowed to pack a small bag and they took him away in a Black Maria, a nightmare he often suffered since as a child escaping through the barbed wire with his family from the DDR.

"This is the Democratic Republic."

"Do not be afraid," the soldiers said. "This is the Democratic Republic."

When he got there, the dinner was held in a big mess hall with hundreds of others who had been taken from their homes, all with their little bags. Some still wearing the nightshirts and pajamas they had worn when taken away.

The President appeared in the form of a projection upon a big screen at the end of the hall. He made a big speech about everyone being so generous to be volunteers and giving up all they owned for the good of the State and the protection of all that was noble and good and democratic against the terrorists.

It was important everyone volunteer now, because it had gotten difficult getting more men to join the Army because of the hazards of war.

retirement money would be turned over to the factories to make tanks

After dinner everyone was marched to barracks where many of his companions wept over the lives they had given up. All of them were over fifty years of age -- clearly too old to be real soldiers -- but in this New Order, finally the old men would do all the fighting while the young men and women were reserved for producing more offspring and running the economy. This way, there would be no more drain upon the state's finances to pay for useless retirees. All would become productive citizens and there would be no more retirement at all. The old retirement money would be turned over to the factories to make tanks and drone attack planes and bombs. Making all this stuff would get the stagnant economy moving again.

As for their former possessions, all their savings and their bank accounts, all that had been seized to pay for the wars. They could not escape for all of them had been rendered penurious.

The basic training was hard for all of them. Many did not make it, but because there would be no more retirement, that was okay. Some committed suicide when forced to carry packs and march long distances and wrestle large, heavily muscled Marines.

An old man with white hair and a white beard cried out when the big Marine threw him down and pulled his hair, calling him a sissy.

"Der reist mein Bart! Der reist mein Bart!"

"Der reist mein Bart! Der reist mein Bart!" the old man cried out.

"You Volunteer! You work now for all the freedom you enjoyed when young, you worthless pig! You learn to be hard and kill the Arab Terrorist!" The man they all called the Vopo Sergeant said.

If anyone protested, the Vopo Sergeant had the person put on a board above a fetid cesspool with a pugilstick. He then sent malingerers, injured, cripples against him on this board and forced him to fight.

"You must become hard! We must preserve the martial spirit!" cried the Vopo Sergeant. "The turban-heads want to destroy us all!"

The food, of course, was execrable, all soggy knoedel and rotkohl, dumplings and cabbage.

Rolf longed to play music, to tend the little vegetable garden he and the others had developed back on the Island. But it was as if he had never escaped, and was back in the DDR with its gray demeanor, its compelled desires and lack thereof.

At night, they would strap him in a chair and apply the electrodes for "the conditioning." This involved showing pictures of innocent little girls. "Look at the little Missy," a voice said. "Don't you want her to have her little toy poodle bank? But bad men want to take away her freedom to invest! Bad men like this one!"

Image of terrorist, then . . . ZZZZAP!

They were to think of themselves as hard as wood now

It was all very hard and brutal, and all the Vopos were relentless bullies all the time, but the day finally came for Rolf and the survivors to graduate. They all stood upon the dusty parade-ground, all dressed in the clothes of petty bureaucrats.
The Vopo Sergeant made a big speech. So did the President by way of a big screen. They were to think of themselves as hard as wood now, each lending strength by being bound to the handle of a great ax, an ax that would chop up all the enemies of the State.

At the end of the speeches, many of those heavily conditioned were weeping. They all rose to sing the national anthem.

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight'
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air . . . .

Rolf started away in a dreadful sweat, his eyes staring wildly. He stumbled through the crowded room of the Household of Marlene and Andre to the door and stepped outside where Pahrump sat on the steps looking at the immense ocean beyond.

"Couldn't sleep either?" Pahrump said.

"Nightmares." Rolf answered. "From the old times."

"Me too," Pahrump said.

The two were silent for a while as the stars wheeled in transit overhead.

"When I got back from Vietnam," Pahrump said, "I used to scream a lot. Guess the old lady couldn't take it, so she left."

"What you do there?"

"Was a sapper, Canada. With the Engineers. We went in and defused the unexploded ordinance. Napalm. Bunkerbusters. Other stuff. So they could move in and secure the area. Came away with all my fingers." Pause. "Some not so lucky."

"Is bad when you have no choice."

"O, I guess I coulda skipped out on all that. Hid up in the hills on the Rez'."

"Why did you go then?"

Pause. Andre came out on the porch with his guitar. "Seems a whole lot of sleeplessness going on these days." Andre said. Tipitina came out as well with a blanket wrapped around her.

"O I could say it was just to see the world, not knowing what I was getting into," Pahrump said. "But really, if you want to know the truth, it was all to make sure this fellow here could set up a household just like this in California. And then go tell a cop to eff off without losing his life as a matter of course."

"I see. I guess."

"I know you came from other side of the Iron Curtain. You able to tell a cop to eff off where you came from?"

"I don't think so." Rolf laughed. So did Tipitina.

It's important to tell the cops to eff off once in a while. Keeps a democracy limber.

"It's important to tell the cops to eff off once in a while. Keeps a democracy limber. And the cops too. Keeps 'em limber."

"I think," Rolf said. "If a corporation is a person, then they should be drafted into the army as well."

"That's a thought," Pahrump said.

From far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the independent waves of the estuary and the free grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive hunted its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront beneath the purple mountain's majesty, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

MAY 20, 2012


This week the headline photo represents a symbol, both of Mother's Day (which happened last week) and of Spring, an ongoing presentation, produced and directed by god knows who, performed by a cast of millions, and sponsored by people who care. The season production is already garnering rave reviews.


Sunday the Bay area enjoyed cloud and fog-free skies for a rare partial solar eclipse.

Folks gathered along the strand with binoculars, telescopes and those cardboard pinhole "cameras" savants tell people to use.

Here is a primer for those who want to view the eclipse and photograph it safely. Do not use welder's helmets -- the normal tint is too light for this activity. Since this was a partial eclipse using specialized filters for your binocs or camera also is risky, as there will be no "diamond effect" to alert viewers when to look.

You may want to give yourself some time prior to the event for setup and fussing around until you get it right.

If you cover one lens of binoculars and hold the equipment -- or mount it -- so the binocs cast a shadow on plain white paper you will get an image passing through the big end through the eyepiece.

How do you "find" the sun if you are not looking through the eyepiece? Move the binocs or telescope so that the shadow they cast on the paper is as small and perfect as possible. The sun will appear as a round disk prior to the eclipse. Those are not dirt specks or lens imperfections you will see -- they are sunspots on the sun itself.

If you focus the binocs once you have your image, you may see red dots along the curve of the moon as it advances -- remember this is a planet with mountains and valleys, not a perfectly smooth sphere. The red dots are sunshine peeping between those landscapes.

You can reuse your skills June 5-6 this year when the next "transit of Venus" occurs. This is when the planet Venus passes between the earth and the sun, appearing as a small moving shadow. Because Venus is so much closer to the sun, and further from earth, it cannot produce a full eclipse.


They tried and they tried, but they just couldn't snag the brass ring in the final go-around. The City awarded the management and refurbishing of the disputed Chuck Corica Gold complex to Greenway instead of Kemper. The proposal from Ron Cowan to build homes on a portion of the site was rejected.

This brings to an end five years of disputes and citizen outrage over potential proposals for the course.

Greenway was given the nod, according to the Council, because the Greenway plan involved significant renovation to the existing course with the aim of attracting more golfers as well as improving profitability. Greenway has a proven track record of going for "green" maintenance in which use of water and chemical fertilizers is reduced over other methods.

The two main flaps going on involve Measure C, which is a 1/2 cent sales tax addition to fund emergency services and public pool building and renovation, and a plan to create a bike lane along Shoreline.

That anyone thought in the midst of the Great Recession it would be a good idea to raise taxes for swimming pools has a lot of folks up in arms, which is too bad as the emergency services definitely could use some help. Then again, our current sales tax is approaching 11%, which is a serious business killer for retail.

Generally speaking, save for the pools thing, Measure C makes sense for a city that faces serious budget shortfalls.

The new bike lane has some folks miffed, as they use their cars along what has become a main artery from one end of the Island to the other and has some others miffed over the loss of parking for an estimated 150-200 vehicles.

This is a very bicycle friendly Island, and all of use would do well to get on and ride instead of putting more money in the hands of terror-supporting nations at the pump. Then again, there is a bike/pedestrian path off the curb already, so is the problem really contention between walkers and bikers?

Everyone slow down. We want to hear from Patty St. John on the issue before we make up our minds. Neither nor the East Bay Bicycle Coalition mention this proposal on their websites. So who is stirring the pot here?


So anyway Spring is holding a stiff arm out to prevent Summer from waltzing in wearing those thin dresses and lace-up shoes by keeping the fridge on pleasantly cool. Unfortunately the cool weather seems to be prolonging the flu pandemic going on around here. Denby had to cancel several gigs due to the effects of this unusual virus, which appears to have a good 14 day incubation period before it sets in to strip the myelin sheath from nerves in the lungs. Lungs not wanting to go around naked produce coughs and fluids about which adolesents like to tell jokes.

The bug last a good week before the patient feels better, goes back to work, then has a relapse. This relapse can prove fatal in people over a certain age or with compromised immune systems.

While sneezing violently, Denby misstepped going down the stairs, tumbled, caught his foot between the stairs, and finally fell to the concrete, with a sound described vividly in certain cheap detective novels as "a sickening crack". How many times did Nick Danger and Philip Marlow feel that sap on the noggin? No one knows but the Shadow knows.

ride in his splendid made-in-Belgium bus

Denby lay there groaning as people stepped over him until he eventually crawled to the bus shelter, sat there groaning for 20 minutes, then got on with some difficulty to ride in his splendid made-in-Belgium bus, groaning, to his destination, entirely unable to really enjoy the continuously empty seats beside him, in front of him, and behind him. No one wanted to sit near the man with disheveled hair, blood on his face, rumpled smelly clothes and a glazed look in his eye.

When he got to his destination, he got off of the splendid made-in-Belgium bus and, there before the grand gates of the ER, fell down.

"You have insurance," a concerned face wearing a nurse's smock said to him, looking down.

"I am a musician," Denby said.

"Well that answers that question," said the nurse and he snapped his booklet shut. "Off to Highland you go."

"Highland?" Denby said.

"They have a trauma center, and you, my dear uninsured fellow, have a broken kneecap."

So Denby holed up in his burrow, with his leg up in a cast sniffling, coughing, wheezing and generally feeling down instead of going out. From his window in the Island's Little Ghetto, he distracted himself by shining his flashlight through the bathroom window to startle the wood rats climbing the orange tree outside. It is one thing to play the Blues, and quite another thing to have them.

Jose came down with the same thing as well, so he missed out on a fine weekend that would have included Murmurana in the Uptown, the Greek festival up there beside the Mormon Temple in Oaktown, the Chinese celebrating something Chinese in Chinatown, and the SF Art Faire.

Jose commiserated with Denby over the phone.

"Why you not take an ambulance right off, amigo?"

"My mother was Jewish and my father was a converted Catholic from a Lutheran family. I feel guilty about my guilt complex, like, who am I to deserve such worry."

"I will never understand you gabachos," Jose said.

The Editor did not have the opportunity to catch the flu. He much decided -- apparently against his will, if you can believe it -- to break bones differently from Denby.

While working at the Jack Sparrow Orphanage, he stepped out of an elevator before it had completely risen to the level. This is what happens when there is not enough money to properly maintain an Empire Elevator.

Empire maintains offices in Petaluma, about an hour's drive away (outside of commuter hours) and if anyone had bothered to call Empire, well they would have had a maintenance man out there in a jiffy. Make that old elevator, creaky and clanking as it was, right as rain.

But they did not.

the elevator took on the whimsical habits of an uncle going a little dotty

So, over time, the elevator took on the whimsical habits of an uncle going a little dotty, remembering the Great War, forgetting to stop in time, sometimes missing a floor entirely, often coming up just so far to pause tiredly as if nodding out, then jerk up suddenly again. The staff called the thing Old Sparky and the more experienced of them took the stairs in the old admin building, built in 1904.

We could tell you more about Empire Elevator and its wonderful people, who do try very hard, and we could tell you more about this particular elevator, but that is not what you want to hear.

You want to hear how the Editor, arms loaded with paper-stuffed folders, unable to see down to his feet because of the things he was carrying and -- it must be admitted -- the consequences of being overly fond of beer, scotch and Irish potatoes hanging over his belt to obscur the view and snagged his foot on the edge of the floor, to go down without any more parentheses or pause to hit the floor.

With a sound that has been described by cheap detective story novelists, etc.

To cut to the moment, this weekend saw the Editor staying indoors with his right arm in a cast and his Spring supply of Weight Watchers instant dinners along with a book he had just purchased from an NPR affiliate.

Javier tore himself away from his new girlfriend to get some work done, and Chad soldiered on with the HTML. The rest of the staff kept tabs by phone.

"Howya doin', Chief?" Jane from the Crime Desk innocently inquired.

"Great Caesar's ghost. How many times must I tell you Jane? Don't call me chief!"

Out at sea, Pedro fiddled with the dials on his radio, trying to get his favorite preacher on the air. Unfortunately the man was preparing to take his show on the road, so all he had were radio reruns. So while an old tape of a girl Pedro imagined must be tremendously beautiful sang a song about birds, the light strains of her voice drifting out across the waters, he stepped out to look at the stars. His father, a fisherman like himself, or vice versa, had taught him the old style of navigation.

The stars were not a confusion of spangles as they are to most people, but guideposts set up there with allowance to drift along a predictable course. Earlier in the day that was nearly done (lately he had bumped his start-out time earlier due to the pinch of the Great Recession, and the shrinking supply of catch so as to capture more working hours there had been a solar eclipse.

the next celestial event would be the traverse of Venus

Everyone was saying that had been remarkable and that the next celestial event would be the traverse of Venus. He wondered about what that would be like. Something so bright as Venus most times becomes a shadow as she passes before the face of the sun.

This is because Venus is too distant from us. Friday's Tribune lay in the cabin with headlines like






These days, Venus is too far from us and Love casts a small shadow.

Back in the Editor's cube with its humming machines and its small pool of light cast on the desk while all around him there was a darkness, he made ready to put this week's issue to bed.

He got a phone call from his boss, Katy, who wanted to know if he was coming to work in the morning. Thinking of the kids at the Orphanage, and the TAY kids, and those who had suffered the unspeakable, he said yes.

"You don't have you," she said. "We'll get on fine."

"Yes no one is indispensible . . . "

"I didn't mean it that way . . .".

"Katy here you are, working, calling employees near midnight on Sunday. I will see you tomorrow."

"Ok. Ciao."

He liked the feel of the new book in his hands

If only life were like it can be in fiction, where the bullies get beatup and the good guys win over evil all the time, the Editor thought as he pressed the final keystrokes and turned from the computer to pick up an old fashioned, analog, paper-based book. He liked the feel of the new book in his hands, with its perfect binding, its clay-baked cover sporting a sort of film noirish image. Best of all, the warm feel of the paper inside. The typeface was aldus, designed by Hermann Zapf in 1954. Been around a while.

The book was seductive, almost pulling him away from his yet unfinished Carson McCullers.

"Call me a cynic but . . .".

With a tug inside him, he that one down to finish off the end of the book he had been reading. But he first had to find the place where he had left off.

"In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together. . . ".

From far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the lonely waves of the estuary and the grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive hunted its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront beneath the transit of Venus, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

MAY 12, 2012


  Spring comes to other parts of the world and they get peonies and impatiens. We get things like this.


Got a lot of scattershot items this week. Spring has arrived and things just get that way.

Spring what it is, most of the events have been rambunctious, as when IPD took down a fellow outside the Lost Weekend bar off Park Street recently. Made him take his shirt off and set the dog Sgt. Trumpet on him, they did. Trumpet took a piece out of that man's rear and that quieted him down a bit. That'll teach you to treat with respect.

Islanders down by Otis near Grand may have gotten a nasty sense of deja vu when a couple squad cars, an ambulance, two firetrucks and a fire department CP wagon all clustered up there on the Strand along with a pickup truck towing a dingy. Not to worry.

It was all about a sailboarder who got himself into a situation when the mast on his rig broke off in the Bay. Chief Zombeck remained calm and on top of things -- his men had no intention of pulling in a "floater" on their watch -- and the fellow was returned to land and his girlfriend with little drama. A neighbor admiring the view from his balcony on Otis made the 911 call when he witnessed the mishap at sea.

Our onsite reporter got too bashful to interview the fellow when his girlfriend ran to meet him, so we don't have his name.

O Denby!

The latest flap in town is all about the hospital losing money and ex-councilperson Frank Matarrese's article describing the problems. The article provoked a number of angry editorial letters however, Frank basically stated just the facts, which got further attention in the Sun's front page article carrying the headline "Alameda Hospital is Bleeding."

The article begins by stating that the Hospital will see a $1.1 million loss for the fiscal year, but concludes with hopeful new programs that should restore at least some of the revenue stream.

The Island is a real island in all physical particulars, and a local medical center is essential for services in the event of The Big One, not to mention the basic day to day need to provide care for 77,000 inhabitants, so the issue is no joke.

It is interesting that one program meant to restore revenue involved taking over the Water's Edge nursing home, even though an early effort to cut costs involved dumping the geropsych unit as well as other senior care services. It seems the administration is belatedly realizing that the way to stay alive is to gather in all these satellite programs and offices to replace all the stuff they had cut out early on before the property tax levy that established the LAFCO.

There is encouraging talk about creating a Wound unit off campus, so maybe the place is finally getting on the right track after a few years of quixotic management. We hate to see the otherwise very well qualified primary care staff get dumped on for the sake of bad business decisions.

Had an abruptly rude experience visiting our Municipal Power website recently? Turns out the site was hacked in what is becoming the new trend in Black Hat activity on the internet. Gone are the "script kiddies" and irreverent smarty-pants geeks who loved to get into the UCSF system and corporate sites to play with logos like graffiti vandals. Big syndicate international crime is now involved with all those viruses and hacks that some of you claimed were just fantasies conjured by consultants seeking more lucrative contracts.

Most likely the hack, which sent visitors to AMP off to Viagra offers, was generated by a blind automated attack that trolls sites one by one looking for weak defenses. The bad links have been removed, but it will be a while before the world internet cache purges the shortcuts stored by DNS servers.

You may have noticed that Election Season is approaching. First among the endorsements that already are giving our embattled Post Office something to do, we find John Knox White, of the Alameda Point Collaborative presenting his mite of wisdom. Without prejudice we quote his press release:

Measure C – Alameda Public Safety and Infrastructure: Yes
Prop 28 – Term Limit adjustment: Yes
Prop 29 – Cigarette tax: No

Democratic primaries:
State Assembly: Rob Bonta
Superior Court Judge: Tara Flanagan
For Democrats, vote for Jim Oddie for the County Central Committee

As the man is part of APC, we also report the upcoming benefit:

The Alameda Point Collaborative is holding its annual fundraiser on May 20 from 3-6 at their award winning Ploughshares Nursery. The “NOT YOUR MOTHER’S GARDEN PARTY” is supported by St. George Spirits, Julie’s Coffee and Tea Garden among local businesses supporting the event!

The fundraiser’s proceeds will benefit Alameda Point Collaborative’s supportive housing to formerly homeless families and individuals. APC strives to build a strong, safe and healthy community including quality and affordable housing and comprehensive services with 200 units of housing and 500 residents. Tickets are $65 and available online for sale at Brown Paper Tickets.

APC came to our attention during the latter days of the SunCal episode. If you recall, SunCal's promise to provide "affordable housing" was another promise that turned out to be composed of "vaporware." APC does do good word helping former homeless families at their facilities located on the Point, so we offer our endorsement in return to support them in any way you can.


Last week was notable in violent crimes, featuring an armed robbery of the Domino's Pizza on Lincoln near Pagano's Hardware, the armed robbery of a citizen which cost him his cell phone, and a number of strong arm robberies as well as assaults.

People. Please calm down. If this keeps up someone is going to get seriously hurt.

Not reported but duly noted is a rash of car vandalism events featuring the smashing of the driver-side side mirror. O'Reilly's on Blanding reported over five visitors seeking replacement mirror material, or temporary mirror devices in a single day. This does not include folks going direct to the dealer for repairs.

If you got a fold-in mirror, do it. It's Spring, the kids are out of school and things happen.

Has anyone noticed the sudden proliferation of "questionable persons" downtown, accompanied by a rather silent and vacated Park street midweek despite the nice weather? Time for the nicer folks to get out and visit downtown. Talk to each other and exchange the news. Its our town -- lets work to keep Alameda flat.


Cloud-free skies and moderate weather brought out the locals to a barely advertised Park Street Spring Festival. With barely a mention in either of the two local papers, no flyers and no program, thousands still came on down to gawp at overpriced tchotchkes and excellent photographs of someone else's vacation in Africa.

Quite a number of people took the bait -- obviously these folks still have jobs -- and corn that costs 69 cents at Lucky's went for four bucks at a rapid rate.

Okay, we confess. We did buy the Methodist tri-tip sandwich. But only to reassure the Lutherans among us that the fare provided was dry as toast. Nothing a dollop of E&J sauce and a good hymnal cannot fix.

Its our Island equivalent to the County Fair, a National Tradition. We got the petting zoo with lambs and chickens. We got the corn. We got the corn dogs. We got the garlic fries like every town in Minnesotta. But we also got key lime calimari. This is California, of course.

There was music, of course, and we are pleased to report that this festival improved on others with two stages over one measily podium. Heard some hot blues from the Clapton cover band the Kevin Russell Band. They kicked out a nice and tasty, albeit short, version of Badge and had folks dancing in the street. Well, not for Badge, but you know.

There was all kinds of romping and wandering and wine-swilling and beer drinking and nervious jumping up and down. At the end of the day a fine time was had by all.


So anyway May blew in flouncing the white dress of fog as she always does and nevermind the global warming, that gal had arrived purely to enjoy a good time. Bright blue clear skies decided to show themselves after the high fog was done and now we are well into Spring, the Most Dangerous Season and here is May, one shoe off and laughing too loud with her dress up around her upper thighs.

May! Your stockings are all torn, you have lost a shoe, your hair is a mess, and your dress is hiked up way too far. You are drunk! Go home!

No! I am having fun!

Well, what are you going to do?

Although Spring has sprung, the nights remain cool such that the Household of Marlene and Andre remains packed and close to home for sleeping hours. Javier has been off gallivanting with his new girlfriend, which offers a bit of space, but things have been cramped as the Nation ventures into what many consider the seventh year (at the minimum) of the Great Recession.

Jobless Recovery? What is that? Who, then, is recovering? Those who have jobs see diminished paychecks. Those have none see none. Who is benefitting from this supposed "jobless recovery?"

Down at the Old Same Place Bar, the apparent survivors of the Conservative Primary shakeout have been gathering to compare notes, commiserate, and berate the Liberals as the cause of all their troubles.

That is the difference between Rightist and Leftist. The Leftist blames the System. The Rightist blames the Leftists.

Nick Vilespew has been spouting the usual sorts of anti-humanist venom he is known for, but now that the President has vaguely suggested in a sort of liberal way (he is, after all, a liberal from the liberal party) that gay marriage may not be such a bad thing after all, Nick has been unaccustomedly without words. He has always been without soul or thought, but never before without words.

Well that takes a lot of courage. To say that this person and that person have a good right to get married. Still it sets some folks aback, those folks who had taken seperate but equal as a given. Babar, as the presumptive Primary candidate nominee, has expressed reservations. He has expressed reservations about everything, largely because in a field of wannabees, Babar is a Real Conservative.

Babar would rather hew the line toward the economy, save that this wretched economy is largely the fault of his Conservative predecessor and his handlers are worried that the Public will suddenly develop something like long term memory capacities.

Meanwhile Papoon, on the other side of the fence politically, has not had an easy time of it, for he and his party have been blamed for all sorts of social ills, chief among which is the failure to fix the doomed economy by the next commercial back in 2008.

The night draws on, the fog rolls in, and the crew begins to clean up the detritus of the Native Son's Spring Fling. Others got to go out dancing and go home with whomever for whatever to make whathow for how do you do and here's looking at you. Some folks lives roll easy as a breeze. The others rollmop up the spilled beer. Sitting on the steps of the Hall, Parlor 33 1/2, Pahrump and Jose and Martini rolled a fatty and looked at the lights of the marina and the far distant remove of Babylon across the Bay. A police helicopter hovered over some section of downtown Oaktown, where some kind of protest against the usual outrage was going on. From this distance they could not hear the screams, the crump of explosives, the bullhorns, nor could they smell the tear gas. But they could see the chopper hovering. Welcome to America in the 21st Century. Welcome to the New World Order.

"We are the 99 percent," Martini said.

"Only the percent of the 99 percent who can see care about that," Jose said.

A small form darted down from somewhere and flicked among the blossoms of jasmine. "Julu," Pahrump said. "Julu comes to visit and goes."

As if on command, the hummingbird zipped off above the trees.

From far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the 99 percent waves of the estuary and the Spring 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.


MAY 6, 2012


Our headline photo this week continues the avian theme with a shot of this fellow feeding near a construction site.

The quick brief life of birds teaches us . . . well, that life is quick and brief, so one might as well be about it. Make the most of May, for time shall soon be a dyin'.


That Alaskan caboose rattled through here last week with what we think is the last of gully washers for a while. We saw temps into the 80's around here with more on the way. The fog belt hung offshore until sundown the way it normally does so what passes for normal around here has hopes of happening.


The times are harsh. The stock market crashed, millions out of work, those who were rich now become poor, the middle class has been destroyed, 1% of the country own and regulate everything, and everyone is looking to find a way to deal with the new normal and some kind of radical fundamentalists want to seize control of government to dicate our lives while crime bosses run all the shows. The talk is all about reproductive rights and womens rights, not a day goes by without some outrage about racial injustice while gays find it increasingly dangerous to walk down the street because of vicious gangs. So a few folk set up a place in a ghetto where they can walk free on the streets, be themselves and just live undisturbed. Sometimes it seems the best one can do is just flee the country entirely to go make a living in France.

Sound like today? No, we are describing the historical setting for "Blues for an Alabama Sky", a 1996 play that is experiencing some kind of revival around the country.

Island-Life snagged some discount tix via Goldstar and so we toddled over to Babylon to catch the latest iteration of Pearl Cleage's suddenly topical play about the first year of the Great Depression at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre.

As the Great Depression swung into gear, Prohibition made a mighty fine money-making machine for gangsters, the now matured sons and daughters of former slaves sought peace and stability in an America that was hitching up its trousers for some serious changes. Black Americans fled the Jim Crow South for places like Harlem, where a kind of flowering took place for intelligensia, artists and plain folks who just wanted to go to work and come home to their own homes undisturbed. This was an America where the finest musician ever produced on these shores up to that time, Duke Ellington, was refused to bring his mixed race band back to his own hometown of New Orleans.

Life in America was harsh for most "Negros". So much so that many talents left America for France, such as Josephine Baker and many jazz artists, for in places like France, their talents would be appreciated without so much of the color filter getting in the way of earning a living.

For those who remained in the land of their birth, places like Harlem flourished. Until Black Thursday and the Crash. Very quickly the dreams of Harlem hit the same realities everyone else was experiencing. The issues became less that of getting on than getting by with the least terrible cost.

So much for the background.

The play features the singer, Angel, suddenly searching for work and a place to live even as her main supporter, Guy, loses his job and starts doing scut work sewing costumes for minor productions. Guy dreams of supplying Josephine Baker with costumes in Paris, while Angel drifts into hooking on the side and an opportunistic relationship with a naive young man out of Alabama who is god-fearing, church-going, and substantially not in her league.

Meanwhile her neighbor, a social worker named Delia strives to establish a family clinic in the neighborhood as she falls in love with Sam, a doctor worn down by endless hours of work at the local hospital.

Periodically, a girl identified in notes as "Little Angel" tap dances across the set.

The Chronicle writer did not seem to like the figure of this girl appearing as she does not appear to interact with anyone other than the doctor, who professes that he has spent the day delivering babies.

We do not learn until later that this doctor also performs what was then illegal abortions.

Amid the widespread misery of the Great Depression this little girl appears in the form of some kind of hope for the future. Each time she appears, she encounters a closed door on the set and so dances away in frustration.

Some critics have mentioned structural problems with the writing and problems with blocky direction.

We found the play engaging, timely and a good work of theatre in that it provides emotion, catharsis, and drama. We find quibbles about dotting i's and crossing t's to be wildly irrelevant. The performance earned a standing ovation, despite lacking the premier star performance of Robert Gossett. What more does what want from theatre other than outstanding performance and engaging dramaturgy?

We all thought Shinelle Azoroh did a bang-up job as the somewhat fallen Angel trying to figure out the best way to survive under adverse circumstances. Her treatment of the St. Louis blues ranged from sultry, slow, sad blues to triumphant shouting by the end of her number. Not many director/actress combos can carry that one off so well.

Another honorable mention goes to Tobie Windham who manages to milk every ounce of emotion and flair from his character as the gay costume designer with a dream to pursue.

Kudos to Steven Anthony Jones, who filled in for the absent Robert Gosset, to play the doctor with Graham Greene complexity.

The set design up on a raised classical thrust stage, by Martin Flynn featured warm tones, comfortable interiors with period furnishings and the requisite Josephine Baker images. The staged locations were seperated by cutaway walls with doors that worked effectively.

Lighting by Allen Willner was subdued, unobtrusive.

Sound by David Molina featured period recordings of vocal artists like Bessie Smith and, of course, Josephine Baker.

The play continues for another week or so, ending with a spectacular strike set party/end of season blowout for a company that certainly has earned its right to sing the blues. There will be no blues feeling May 12, however, as that promises to be a real humdinger of a time along the lines of when the Appollo theatre and all of Harlem showed folks how to do the Lindy Hop. There will be dancing, dance instruction, music, and an open bar, all for $125 to include the performance plus after party.



So anyway, spring weather finally hit here after a long hiatus. Folks was all out on the Strand. With the savage Great Recession on, few folks stepped out on the town; the beach is there, the ocean asks for no fees and for now, sunshine has no surtax.

The Island downtown, all four blocks of it, has been thronged on the weekends by folks staying home for the Paradise Theatre, the ice cream shop, Ole's Waffles, and Juanita's taqueria.

Reports are coming in that Babylon has been ghostly on the weekends before the tourist season starts hauling them in for double-decker bus Haight tours (Look ma, there's a hippie!), Union Square shopping among the pigeons, sourdough bowls of canned chowder and frights along Fisherman's Wharf provided by The Bushman (AIIIIIIEEEEEAAAHRRRG! Oh my God, Harold! That man just jumped out of nowhere!)

With this sudden nice weather the roads to work have suddenly cleared up and Mitch McConnell of KQED has been saying things like, "Looks like the 580 overpass is not horrible today . . .".

Indeed we have come now to the month of May, the onset of BBQ aromas and the onslaught of The Most Dangerous Season.

If you are a long time reader of Island-Life, you know what we mean.

Even the fog has been holding off so as to leave a breezy door open for that gauzy-dressed gal May to come flouncing in with her bouquets of lilies and armloads of jasmine perfume.

Spring is the most dangerous season.

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 that keeps throwing out punches this way and that while 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 erupt with tiny explosions across the fields. Squadrons of swallows, duck sorties, 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 that armor. If anything. Its all agitprop 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, victorious daisies. Right in the heart, poor lad. A goner for sure.

Yes, Spring is the most dangerous Season.

When the fog rolls back and feminine panzer divisions cruise the Uptown district in search of some likely target holding his pinsel in his hand at the galleries, when the leggy Joanne strides forth into the night on six-inch stilleto heels and Danielle puts on that short black dress and a European accent spoken with a sultry je ne sais quoi wafting pheromones among the randy artisans, that is when Don Giovanni and Lola Lola stalk the Salons for luscious prey.

That is when The Editor stocks up on Redbox flicks (Netflix now passe), and a fridge filled with Mrs. Callender frozen dinners. For the artsbeat he sends his representative, the hapless Jose who safely has no more a clue about eros than Art.

"Don't you find Klimt so ... suggestive," a sensuous thing with flaming red hair." says to him.

"You mean Werner Klemperer in Hogan's Heroes?"

While the Editor pulls the shades to the office, hiding in there with the lights turned off for most of Spring, Denby sticks to familiar channels, scuttling along through life like one of those UCSF lab mice in a maze, always turning left at the same corner with a careful sniff.

These men will never know the tangy flavors of passion, or perhaps the flavor soured a bit too harsh long time ago, as suggested by Denby who ends the setlist at the Old Same Place Bar with the same song each night: Thats the Way Love Turned Out For Me.

Where some ride love's Merry Go Round in a film by Almodovar or Segal, others find themselves on a ride in a Hitchcock movie.

A deafening thunder announced the arrival of her and her escort

This past Sunday, Jose stood outside the Household place to see Javier get picked up by his new girlfriend, Victoria Sky. A deafening thunder announced the arrival of her and her escort, a bevy of fellows wearing German WWII helmets, maltese crosses and fur vests, arms hung high on ape-hanger bars rising from coughing, pounding, snarling motorcycles. Victoria wore a thin leather vest stretched tight over an impressive torso, a chain about her neck and a maze of tattoos over her arms and shoulders. Her chaps straddled a beige-colored bike with bulbous hairy saddlebags which joined to a veiny tubular frame that rose up to a flared fuel tank which depicted something the display of which typically gets men arrested with conditions never ever to approach within 400 yards of a school or playground.

Jose's mouth dropped open as Victoria leapt off this thing to embrace Javier - she wore only a tiny g-string under her chaps. And it was obvious.

"Whahooo! Let's roll!" Victoria shouted.

As they roared off, Pahrump came out and asked, "What was that?"

"Javier's new girlfriend."

"O I do not think this will end well. We gotta go over and get the Hall ready for the Fling."

Pahrump, Jose, Xavier, Martini, and Tipitina all trooped on over to the hall for the Native Son's of the Golden West Parlor 33 1/2. They had just aired out the place after the drenching rains. Along the way they met up with the Man from Caldwell. The Man from Caldwell had become good friends with the Man from Minot a couple years ago when it came out that the Man from Minot came from a place to which no one ever returns, and the Man from Caldwell came from a place to which no one ever could return.

This is California: everyone here, save for Pahrump, was from somewhere else.

Minot sits in the savagely harsh environment of North Dakota a few miles from the Canadian border and possesses the dubious distinction of being the coldest place in North America. When it is not busy bunkering down in temperatures that approach that of the dark side of the moon, it is wailing under a treeless lashing sun whipping the bejeezus out of featureless landscape that causes cattle to die of boredom. Originally settled as a landrush milestone in the 1800's, the town now exists largely to provide a waystation for people fleeing Winnipeg, which at least has trees and a river to liven things up.

The town does have a casino. Once the casino had a floorshow with strippers, but the last stripper, named Gypsy Azalea Lee, wearied of the tedium and so departed early one morning on a bus bound for Minneapolis.

Once a moose wandered by accident across the border into Minot

Once a moose wandered by accident across the border into Minot at night.

By day, the poor beast felt so lost and bereft with no guidepost to home that he just stood there with sad pleading eyes until the RCMP sent a car to fetch him back home.

When Canada, of all places, becomes more interesting than your hometown, you know you just got to get out.

Caldwell, by contrast, once was a bucolic midwest town with solid employment via a nearby mine, pleasant suburban homes, low crime-rate, lots of trees, and typical midwestern friendliness.

The nearby mine, however, began causing the buildings of the town to collapse into sinkholes. One day the bank just went - ploomp! - just like that. Then houses. Cars. Chicken coops. Gardens. Dogs. Children.

The federal government kicked everyone out. The entire town was evacuated and a fence put around it. For the people of Caldwell, there would be no going home forever.

The Man from Caldwell joined the setup crew. They were all preparing for the Annual Spring Fling at the Hall.

Tipitina asked Martini if he was planning on going to the benefit.

Martini shrugged a no.

"Old Indian saying," Pahrump said. "No money no Honey."

"Old Indian saying," Pahrump said. "No money no Honey."

In the Old Same Place Bar, Denby set up to play the last song of the evening after Last Call and those fortunate few who had found some kind of companion solace for a while had all left the place long ago. It was that time of night when the tables all were pooled up and sticky with spilled beer and the low light that was made everything feel sad and alone. Each glass waiting to be collected stood there half empty with broken promises of half-hearted happiness that never stood on firm ground in the first place. Each candle stood alone. The neon sign for Dos XX buzzed all alone in the window with one of the letters burned out in the sign; the Most Interesting Man in the World never comes in to places like this. Suzie sat by herself, alone, reading her anthro book.

no individual ever is left bereft

"The Bonobo have developed such a highly-developed society that no individual ever is left bereft of companionship. Among the Bonobo, ostracism does not exist, for that would be death to a Bonobo as well as a denial of everything for which the community stands . . . ".

Suzie closed her book and meditated upon this for a while while Denby played his guitar.

Far out at sea, Pedro motored out to the fishing lanes with only his faithful lab, Tugboat at his side. He did not feel lonely out their surrounded by miles of ocean. He had a dog. And he had a job. If you feel lonely, get a dog. Go for walks together. Smell the roses. Get over it; things could be worse. They probably will, in fact, for all of us die eventually, and usually it is not pleasant at all. Get a dog. Get over it.

The preacher he liked had a poet on the radio show and the poet was telling a story about two buddhist monks walking along a road. They came to a deep stream and a woman standing there wondering how she could cross this fast-moving deep stream.

The older monk picked up the woman and carried her across the stream, followed by the younger monk.

The monks left the woman there and continued on their way. After a number of hours, the younger monk burst out emotionally with protestations about carrying the woman across the stream.

How on earth could he, a monk devoted to aesceticism and denial, have picked up this woman? How could he do such a thing when he was to provide an example? He just could not understand it at all.

The older monk said, "I set that woman down many miles ago. Why are you still carrying her?"

Get a dog. Get over it. Things could be worse.

From far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the longing waves of the estuary and the Spring 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.

Brand new day, brave new man
It's a miracle what love can do
All the joys romance can bring
Come smiling down on a heart that's true
When love is real, you can't turn it around
It's like a river running down to the sea
This old world turns around for lovers like you
It's not the way love turned out for me

People in love build a house they can share
Takes a long time to get it just right
But a fire can start in the kitchen somewhere
And burn that little house down over night
That flame burning bright in your heart,
I believed that
You turned it on just for me
Another man held that fire,
burned our house to the ground
That's the way love turned out for me

People turn out for the big show
Pretty flowers turn out in the spring
And the light turns out in the kitchen
When somebody pulls on the string
But there's no light burning in my kitchen
And no doors open up with my key
And I ain't got no one to turn to
That's the way love turned out for me

(Quinton Claunch, Dave Hall & Ry Cooder)

APRIL 29, 2012


This week the headline photos are of the median strip at Mariner Square Village where a couple has been living for a number of years, but only during certain times of year. Maintaining a sort of seasonal residence, sort of speak. Just a fellow sunning himself, seemingly alone and alert there amid the iceplant.


But a little walkaround this wary fellow reveals a different situation. Looks like the little fellow has something at stake here, something worth watching over. Bet a few weeks will reveal consequences here.

Spring. A time when things happen.


The singular news this week is that there is none. Well, the usual sort of squabbles and altercations usually labeled in the Press as "Police activity" which generally involves four squad cars and a dog tackling an unruly patron at the Lost Weekend Lounge (Yelps lists "lava lamps, dance club and chili" as the attractions there).

The other minor flaps concern Measure C, with both sides being equally unrealistic, so it is a comfort that our citizens have a finger on the pulse of national politics. Someone got arrested for assaulting someone else with a deadly weapon (a chair) and at least one cat bite got reported. About four people got detained for "psychiatric evaluation", a loose term for three-day hold at John George and a number of folks got snared for being intoxicated in public.

No wonder former Hells Angels like to retire here; this Island is a hotbed of activity.

So here is our advice to you visitors and tourists: if you come to the Island, stay put when you get drunk, use your chair properly for sitting, don't act crazy, and keep your cat on a leash.

Jeeze, people. And just calm down. For the sake of Moses, calm down.

We know some of you have an affection for little Julu, who flits around here from time to time, quick and ephemeral and exciting as life itself.

While our photog was taking pix of the demolition taking place in Oaktown of building at the Jack Sparrow Orphanage, he caught sight of this little fellow.


Call it, Love Among the Ruins.


Got some gorgeous blue sky weather after the freight train of storms pulled down from Alaska, followed by some coolish weather along the coast. Looks like we got another Alaskan Special coming our way by mid-week, so keep those sump pumps in order.

Unquiring minds may note that in a place that barely graces 30 inches above sealevel basements become a serious liability. Just about everyone born and raised here with a basement knows all about that hole cut in the floor and the periodic run down there during rainy season to check the Apocalypse Now scenario.

One thing is certain -- if them global climate change fellers are correct, there will be a big run on Home Depot for pumps and shovels.


So anyway the weather has put off The Most Dangerous Season for a bit. The Editor and Jose and Pahrump have all been praying in their godless way for more rain and cold so as to postpone the inevitable. Over at Marlene and Andre's place, the weather has remained uncertain, forcing folks to huddle inside at night among the snores and the flatulence of poorman's diet.

The Angry Elf gang has taken a back powder after taking temporary control of the St. Charles Asylum. There it has been all celebratory partying and obscene roistering amid the Nazi takeover of the Reichstag. They have yet to turn their intentions to the little community on Walnut again.

As some have commented the deer are out and about, roaming in search of comfortable gardens upon which to graze later. Not much is growing now, but those deer seem to be looking about for domains to conquer later.

In Marin they know the well-protected deer as rats with antlers. People erect tall fences so as to keep them out, but there is little to defend against such ravenous beasts. Little Toby Tucker says, largely influenced by demented Disney movies, "Don't hurt Bambi!"

The more cynical among you will say, "You too, young fellow, will learn to appreciate osso buco."

Sharon from the somewhat somnolent Social Events Desk noted a baby Opossum scampering along the fence at the new offices. She thought with alarm that the creature was a rat, but no, it was a Spring 'Possum. Sharon, city born and bred, of course would expect a rat. Nevertheless, with the neighbors' nervous terrier going off like mad at the drop of a hat, no rodent would have peace of mind in the place. The baby opossum scampered away to wherever its business had a mind and found there safety. The neighborhood tomcat came looking for it, but went away unsatisfied.

Spring, a time of tooth and nail, Lex Talionis, of savage rendering and naked opossums at risk. Nevertheless, there remain the ducks of spring. Innocence abides. You don't have to grab that parking space, you don't have to keep your edge by devouring the competition, you don't have to always be grasping and grabbing; what do you really have to lose in the end? Your soul? Your family? Your house? Your car? Nonsense. Spring abides.

There is a fellow on the Island who has ripped out all of his front yard, once the envy of his neighbors, and bricked it all over with a little artificial fountain. In back he has cemented the ground and laid drains for the inevitable, which never seem to work well, leaving stagnant ponds for days after rains. Naturally, weeds spring up between the bricks in front, and vegetation starts cracking the cement where the water stands. At night you can hear the bullfrogs sing.

You can try to put down Spring with a pitchfork, but it always comes roaring back.

The Editor and Jose have started their Spring preparations. The Editor collects all those Weight Watcher instant dinners that cost 88 cents and stuffs his fridge full along with six-packs of Fat Tire ale. Bottles of Arthur Power go snug on the shelves along with a store of Redbox videos. He, like Jose and Denby, bunkers down during the more critical periods of Spring, that Most Dangerous Season.

Latterly, as the monsoon season here begins to leave with soggy regrets, the Editor has taken to walks up on the hill where the Jack Sparrow Orphanage perches beneath the well-matriculated oaks of Berkeley. The hills, being affluent, belong to Berkeley. The Orphanage, belonging to the indigent, belongs to Oaktown. Twas ever thus, still, its quite a view.

The Parole Officers came by today on their rounds and the wiry 14 year olds shifted their feet under the inquisition.

Do any of us have a right to happiness and after long seeking and much suffering have any of us earned something so dubious as an entitlement?

"Entitlements". Such a curious word. Like military death benefits and medical care for Congress adherents. Health care for injured police and firemen. Things like that are called "entitlements".

Wrong use? O, sorry about that. It is such an odd word, and words are inclined to go any place on their own like wayward rabbits.

The Editor looks out from the oval there to survey the East Bay spread out below, with the towers of distant Babylon looming above a grey fog across the water. Down below the kid who was subject to interrogation tosses a football with fellow injured children in the yard. Is there really a right to happiness or pursuit thereof? Or is the Grand Experiment all gone to seed as the Radical Right claims. There is no Democracy, they say. Because it is just a sordid Republic. Thats all the country amounts to: a sordid Republic.

In the Old Same Place Bar there is a clatter and a chatter therein, with frosty mugs of Fat Tire ale and Suzie brushing her hair back from her steamy face as the shift wears on. For Suzie, serving the gabbling yuppies in their mating rituals happiness remains at some remove like a painting of an idyllic landscape with meadows and ponds, waterfalls and mountains. Nice to look at, but impossible to be there right now.

Last call comes around and all the company there, Suzie and Dawn and Padraic plotz in their chairs. Feels like heaven sitting down. If you do not know that song, well, you just do not know and never will.

Padraic pours some water out of a pitcher for Dawn, who croons "O Lord I wish I was in heaven, sittin' down."

Some desires for happiness make little demands.

From far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the longing waves of the estuary and the tired 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.

APRIL 22, 2012


If you remember Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell singing the Onion Song, you probably remember Richard Nixon running for governor of California, big fins and chrome bumpers on American cars, ducktails and the British Invasion as well as when signs like this one decorated every Main Street in USA.

The sign may date from 1963, but the location here was variously a health food outlet and a cheese steak house among other things until the current owners decided to add to Park Street's retro ambiance with a bit of neon.

Terrell, incidentally, could not tour with Gaye due to brain cancer, so the myth persisted for some time that Valerie Simpson actually did the duet with Marvin. Terrell performed in studio from a wheelchair.


AMP hiked its rates for electrical power, perhaps not in honor of Earth Day. The rate amounts to a 3.25% increase to cover transmission cost increases and projected costs for adapting to renewable sources.

Just when things were getting a bit worse; ouch!

The Teacher's Union has been picketing the Unified offices over the recent hardball tactics during contract negotiations.

Folks may know that five sailors went missing during the recent Yacht race event out by the Farallones. The missing sailors are presumed dead after an exhaustive search recovered three survivors and one deceased from the capsized yacht Low Speed.

The yacht turned over in 20-foot swells, which is not severe by oceangoing standards, but rather harsh for the short-run racing yachts.

The Yacht Racing Association is based here on the Island, and has been conducting the annual event since 1907.

The embattled Island hospital is again taking a beating, as reports of fiscal troubles filter out. The hospital has absorbed a senior care facility in an effort to get back in the black after draconian program cuts failed to ameliorate declining revenues.

As former councilmember Frank Matarrese wrote in a recent Journal feature article, most Islanders are covered by Kaiser, and so seek care via facilities owned by that entity.

Frank may be right in that we need to think about some kind of reorganization of the place if we are to retain any sort of Island-based critical response facility.

The buildings are not safe and have been mandated for earthquake retrofitting; the financial elephant in the room for all budget talks is the multimillion dollar cost to accomplish this. No bake sale or surtax can possibly cover the needed work, so alternative structures need to be examined or we stand to lose local emergency care.


Please join curator Danielle Fox and other Oakland art enthusiasts for a celebration of Oakland's thriving art scene at MUA restaurant, Sunday May 6th 6-9PM Benefiting the Oakland Art Murmur Gallery Association

APPETIZERS & FULL BUFFET provided by Mua restaurant

WINES provided by Provenance, BV, Casa Lapostelle, and Pacific Wine & Spirits

SIGNATURE COCKTAILS provided by Ketel One

LIVE MUSIC by torch-singer Tara Linda

ARTISTS IN ACTION watch artists making works of art, enjoy the chance to purchase for as little as $50

SILENT AUCTION sieze the opportunity to purchase works by 25 amazing Bay Area artists for as little as 40% of value (half the proceeds will go back to the artists, half to Oakland Art Murmur - so your support will help in many people in many ways)

LIVE AUCTION an opportunity to purchase prints by two of Oakland's most famous and respected artists: Hung Liu and Squeak Carnwath (bidding starts at 50% of value)

WIN a winelovers package, a dining package, or a life makeover package in a raffle (one entry is included with your ticket)

TRADE artists' trading cards with your friends (everyone receives one miniature work of art on entry)

CREATE a memorable self-portrait with fun props in our complimentary photobooth

HELP Oakland Art Murmur's galleries continue to:
" bring new life to neighborhoods

" provide a positive, culturally-engaging experience to visitors from near and far with their First Friday Art Walks, Saturday Strolls, Monthly Guided Walking Tours, Artists Talks, and more

" establish to Oakland's reputation as an up-and-coming city with a world-class art scene.

TICKETS: $150 for one, $125 each for two or more. Order by mail by sending a check to Oakland Art Murmur, 473 25th St, Oakand, CA 94612 or at Brown Paper Tickets http:/ Questions? 510-325-6659


The AC Transit Board of Directors will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 to consider certifying the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) and adopting a Locally Preferred Alternative for the East Bay Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. The community is encouraged to attend the hearing from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and again from 5:00 p.m. to at least 6:30 p.m.-but longer if necessary-- at the AC Transit General Offices, 1600 Franklin Street, Oakland.

The East Bay BRT project is designed to significantly improve the speed, reliability, and quality of bus service in the Berkeley-Oakland-San Leandro corridor along Telegraph Avenue, Broadway, International Boulevard, and East 14thStreet. BRT projects around the world have combined the best features of rail with the flexibility and cost advantages of bus transit.

The two alternatives being studied are:

" 14.4-mile BRT line connecting Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro, terminating in the north near the Berkeley BART station and in the south at the San Leandro BART station.

" 9.5-mile BRT line connecting Oakland and San Leandro, terminating in the north at the Uptown Transit Center at 20th Street & Broadway and in the south at the San Leandro BART station.

More details on the FEIR and the BRT project are available online at
Individuals, organizations, and agencies may submit comments by speaking at the public hearing or submitting written comments by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, April 23, 2012.

Comments can also be mailed to AC Transit Board of Directors, 1600 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA 94612; or faxed to (510) 891-7157; or e-mailed to; or by voicemail message at (510) 891-7201 (English); (510) 891-5408 (Spanish); or (510) 891-5409 (Chinese) by 5:00 pm. on Monday April 23, 2012.



So anyway the last dockwalloper of a storm passed, leaving gorgeous skies and eighty-degree weather into the weekend, showing that Mother Nature smiles upon Earth Day celebrations.

Another storm is due for a possible flyover with cloudy skies this week and some raindrops on Wednesday, so we will have to wait to see what the weather-frog will do.

In the old days we all had weather frogs

In the old days we all had weather frogs, which we kept close when the skies got dicey. Some said they changed color with the barometer and some said their behavior became skittish in advance of thunderstorms.

When Sgt. Rumpsey was a little tyke, long before he became a department store security guard and parking enforcement officer, he took his weather frog out to the road and nailed to the fence there so he could keep an eye on that pesky critter, which had been fond of running away.

This failed to add to little Rumpsey's limited store of meteorological knowledge, but earned the wrath of several members of the Ladies White Glove & Haberdashery Home & Garden Committee. The LWGHHGC really took exception to this defacement upon the image of the Community's probity.

"How dreadful! Someone will think we are Anarchists!" exclaimed Eustice.

Rumpsey, as was his wont, blamed the crime on someone else. He preserved this tendency toward attribution as he grew older. He came down there after a display of perfume had toppled over and collared a distinguished lady in pillbox hat with widow's shades. "Here now you ruffian! You will have to pay for that!"

She turned out to be of the De Young family and there was much ado about that error, but since Rumpsey had friends in the Department and had lived in the same rooms with his mother for 40 years, nothing serious could be done about him.

It has come to Spring and our little rituals

It has come to Spring and our little rituals. The Native Sons of the Golden West Parlor 33 1/3 took the opportunity to clean out the boathouse and spiffy up the Ancient Relics, which consisted of bearskins, fur hats, a stuffed badger, and several implements dating from the Gold Rush.

A breeze came up while the stuff was lying out there on the green, scattering the packets of golden poppies, which put David and Roberta into a terrible wax.

All over the Island the heady scent of jasmine embraces each one like a lover. Roses are bursting and a spray of calla lilies has erupted with abandon at the new Island-Life offices. Birds-of-paradise and exotic trumpet flowers showily announce their California statehood, the buckeye twists and turns, and, of course, there are the poppies. Scads of golden poppies nodding all over the place. Meanwhile the iceplant has finally justified its drab existence with carpets of violet and purple.

long hours of playing Angry Birds while rain drummed

The glories of Spring's Onset which spark up the place before things get really dangerous visited even the Household of Marlene and Andre which had gotten cramped during the long wet season. Normally, the place functioned well largely because most of the residents remained outside at any given time, but with the bad weather there had been a lot of doubling up on the bunks and long hours of playing Angry Birds while rain drummed on the roof of the one-bedroom cottage.

"Those birds got no reason to be angry," Quentin said.

Quentin, simple man that he was, refused anything to do with the game, identifying more with those harmless pigs the birds wanted to eradicate from the earth. "Those birds got no reason to be angry," Quentin said. "The pigs are just there minding their own business, not bothering anybody. There is something awful National Socialistic about this business of Angry Birds I tell you."

But then Quentin could be amused for hours by a carrot. Go figure.

Pahrump was philosophical. "The Angry Birds cannot help their nature. They invite us to be common a-holes on the level playing field of morality, which is the new Norm."

"Right," said Marlene, who had a Psych degree from UCSF. "It is up to each one of us to avoid being the enabler in their pathology. We must walk away from the trap."

everyone in the household caught pneumonia

So Pahrump said, lets take a walk, even though it was raining. When they got back, they started coughing for several days and everyone in the household caught pneumonia from each other.

This was no common flu but the full-blown pneumonia which had been sweeping the East Bay for months and which neither the CDC nor the local authorities had copped to, for fear of jump-starting a run on DVDs of the movie Contagion.

Heaven knows what kind of chaos that would have lead to: Widespread screaming, hysterical jumping up and down and all sorts of health shenanigans in a broken healthcare system most practitioners were desperately pretending had not a snowball's chance in hell of continuing another decade.

Meanwhile people in the Bay Area have been dying of pneumonia right and left while the Authorities dither and pray for early summer.

All of the household recovered okay because nobody possessed the sad excuse for health coverage called "insurance." Since cost was not a factor, everyone got treated at various clinics, although it was touch and go for a while.

The only one who did not get sick, Jose, took to sleeping in Wally's rowboat under its tight weather-cover down at the marina to get away from all the sickness, which very nearly proved fatal when the mooring detached during a storm.

Jose . . . awoke in the middle of San Pablo Bay

Jose slept through this breakaway and awoke in the middle of San Pablo Bay where the incoming tide had swept him overnight. He popped open the cover, expecting to walk on over to Sterndollars for coffee only to find he was adrift amid miles of water. He knew he was not out at sea, for he could see the Benicia headlands to the north and the Oakland hills to the south.

He had about $2 worth of change, some peanutbutter crackers and a slice of bread so he ate that, kept the change in a plastic bag, and drifted some more, longing for a glass or three of wine. A couple lost orca whales passed nearby and looked at him curiously. Jose waved at the whales, who, not finding him or the boat edible, spouted and humped onward, looking for egress to open ocean.

When he had to pee, he stood up and went over the side as he passed underneath the bridges to Vallejo. He waved cheerlily up at the passing cars and trucks and a semi honked at him. An excursion boat passed by then, and the women on the boat looked angrily at him and so he zipped up without calling for help.

Eventually the little boat drifted near marinas in the Carquinez Strait where he hailed down a sailboat loaded with Catholic schoolgirls.

"Gee mister," one of them said. "You kinda smell bad. You sleep on that thing?"

Jose told them he had survived by dining on raw shark fins and jellyfish. He made up a story about being adrift for twenty days and nights

"Ewwww!" One of the girls said. "That's gross!"

"That is so uncool," another girl named Agnes said. "Don't you know shark fins are like going extinct? I hope you didn't throw away the rest."

Jose swore he had not, but had eaten the whole thing.

"How big," asked Agnes.

Jose spread his arms, exaggerating his fiction the way many men do.

"Wow!" said all the girls, exaggerating their awe the way most girls do.

They put him ashore near West Pittsburg, home of the Fighting Pirates.

"Next time leave the sharks alone," Agnes said. "Sharks are the Scavengers of the Deep."

Jose promised he would.

he and the store clerk fought off robbers

He was some fifty miles from home and it took a while to get back to the Island, during which he slept on the clubhouse floor of the Martinez Hells Angels, had a number of adventures with silver-maned cougars on the prowl in their Lexus automobiles, hitched a ride with a trucker who took him the wrong way to Reno in the snow where he nearly froze to death in a laundromat, had some pressured moments with an amorous salesman driving a pink Caddilac who really was not his type, and got involved with a hold-up at a 7/11 where he and the store clerk fought off robbers in a two hour battle with fire extinguishers and little packages of pepper spray sold at the counter before the guy realized he had a loaded shotgun under the register.

"Well that was a close call," the guy said amid the smoke and wreckage of the ruined shop. "We coulda killed somebody."

When he got back home several days later close to midnight, Javier wondered where he had been. But he had missed all the pneumonia by that point.

"Wussup homie," Javier said.

"Same-o same-o," Jose said. "But I think I gotta get a new rowboat for Wally."

"Why zat?"

"O, these kinda things always seem to happen to me."

"I got a new girlfriend," Javier said. "She's a nurse."

"Aiiiiiiaaa!" Jose clapped his head between his hands. "A real disaster!"

From far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the well-travelled waves of the estuary and the poppies nodding over the sleepy weather frogs 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.

Lyrics to The Onion Song duet

[Both:] The world is just a great big onion
[MG:] & pain & fear are the spices that make you cry
[Both:] Oh, & the only way to get rid of this great big onion
[TT:] Is to plant love seeds until it dies, uh huh

[MG:] Hey world! We got a great big job to do
Yeah, we need you
& everybody who loves truth
Don't you know we've got to clean up this place
& reach far high & oh yeah
[TT:] Yes we do
We gotta be headstrong about rightin' the wrong
& make a mountain of happy souls, oh; [MG:] Oh

[Both:] The world is just a great big onion
[MG:] & I don't care, it's the face people like to wear
[TT:] Yes it is now
[Both:] & the only way to get rid of this great big onion
[TT:] Every one single soul's got to do their share
[MG:] Tell about it, baby!

[MG:] So come on, let's knock on every door
Tell them love is the answer
Whether they're rich or poor, oh yeah
For we don't care what you do
How you look, or your status claim, baby
[TT:] No no, because brothers & sisters
From now on, is gonna be everyone's name, oh oh

[Both:] The world is just a great big onion
[MG:] & pain & fear are the spices that make you cry
[TT:] Yes it is
[Both:] & the only way to get rid of this great big onion
[TT:] Is to plant love seeds
[MG:] Now everybody, got to plant love seeds
[TT:] Come on & plant love seeds
[MG:] Until it dies
[Both:] The world is just a great big onion

April 15, 2012


The song Iris was called that by writer John Rzeznik only because he liked the name. It was the theme for the movie City Of Angels, itself an American remake of the stunningly beautiful Wings of Desire.

Nevertheless, a patch of irises says something about the onset of Spring and our Islanders' love of planting extraordinariness into the tiniest of spaces. This flower grows in a patch barely one meter square, a diminutive conservation of beauty amid acres of concrete.


Sorry it's taking a while to get the Calendar back up and running, what with all the moving distraction, losing the keys, a brief unwelcome visit by the Oakland Hells Angels (!) who have a jones for a neighbor, and thunderstorms to beat the band.

You have not lived until you have been berated by a young Hells Angel with attitude and fierce mustaches.

KPFA has its Spring reading series up. Thursday, May 3, 7:30 pm. Van Jones will give a talk titled "Rebuilding the Dream", Hosted by Aimee Allison, at King Middle School in Berkeley.

A Yale Law School graduate, and former Special Advisor to the Obama White House, Van Jones is president and founder of Rebuild the Dream, a pioneering initiative to restore good jobs and economic opportunity. The co-founder of three thriving nonprofit organizations (the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and Green For All), Van is also the author of the New York Times‘ best-selling The Green Collar Economy – the definitive book on green jobs. The World Economic Forum named Van a Young Global Leader in 2005. In 2008 Time Magazine described him as a global environmental hero, and in 2009 called him ‘one of the 100 most influential people in the world.’

Van holds a joint appointment at Princeton University as a distinguished visiting fellow in both the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. In addition he is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and American Progress Action Fund.

The first Obama administration official to write a book on his experiences, Van offers a unique perspective. He unveils the seven biggest mistakes made by the White House and its supporters, and he systematically reveals surprising parallels between Obama’s people-powered campaign, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.

With the vaunted American Dream rapidly becoming a delusion, tens of millions of willing workers unable to find jobs, millions of homeowners already having lost their homes to foreclosure, and millions more underwater, our politicians merely continue giving tax breaks to the rich and slashing vital services. Workers’ rights are being gutted and public unions are under siege. Countering this, Rebuild the Dream is a new movement growing across America and getting stronger by the day as millions stand up to defy right-wing attacks on the working class and the vanishing middle class.

Friday, May 11, 7:30 pm, KPFA will host an Evening with Richard Lichtman on the subject, “Cry the Corrupted Country: Reflections on the Psychopathology of Capitalism" at the Hillside Club on Cedar Street in Berkeley.

There is a strong inclination in U.S. social thought to regard the past as a golden age, and to view systemic corruption as a more recent phenomenon. But tendencies toward corruption have been present since this nation’s inception. Over the centuries those tendencies have waxed and waned, but they have never been absent, and at this moment they are regrouping and amassing with particular vehemence. Lichtman addresses the historical forces at play, the current conjuncture, and possibilities for meaningful resistance.

High Street Station is once again hosting an open mike for singer/songwriters.

A new "Singer-Songwriter Showcase and Open Mic" is being launched at the High Street Station Cafe in Alameda the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 7 p.m., beginning April 4.

A set of original music will be offered by a featured performer and an open mic session will be held each time.

Musicians can sign up for the open mic in advance by visiting the cafe, 1303 High St. (at the corner of High Street and Encinal Avenu)e. For more information, call 510-995-8049 or go to http:/

ACtransit is considering restructuring the transbay services, starting with service over the Dunbarton Bridge, which is likely to be substantially enhanced to reflect increased demand there. That bridge feeds traffic in and out of the lower peninsula area near Palo Alto.


Our Political Desk has an eye on the Primary Elections coming up in June 5th. Proponents for Measure C, the 1/2 cent sales tax initiative, won a legal battle when Superior Court judge Evilio Grillo knocked down a challenge to place the measure on the ballot. Measure C will raise money for emergency services.

The teacher's union quashed a proposed contract with the Unified SD in an unusual move. Usually, these contracts are approved pro forma. The contract offered a 1% bonus raise plus a conditional 1.5% salary raise that would be rendered a one-time-only item should the State cut funding.

A closer look reveals that the contract included the equivalent of a 4.5% pay cut in the form of an eight-day pay snip. The contract also set class sizes for all grades, contingent upon State fiscal activity. Although approved by the Education Association, the rank and file indicated profound distrust with the District leadership, downing the contract at a rate of two to one.

Any rate, that recent police brough-haha over at Jack London square within sight of the boat landing at the end of Grand was all due to a lockdown at Jack London inn when OPD spotted two Most Wanted felons dash in there on the lam.

Reynaldo Marte, 28, and Amanda Pearce, 21, both Island residents, were arrested on warrants out of Alameda on suspicion of kidnapping, elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon.

The three hour affair put the Inn on lockdown and had helicopters hovering overhead for quite a theatre lasting three hours.

Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Alameda police have been searching for the two since March 27, when Tehachapi police contacted them about an escaped kidnapping victim, Alameda police Lt. Lance Leibnitz said.

Marte, described by police as a "parolee at large," and Pearce allegedly kidnapped the victim, a 55-year-old Alameda resident, out of his home and took him to Tehachapi, where he escaped, Leibnitz said.

The victim suffered moderate head injuries.

Police spotted a stolen car in in the 400 block of Embarcadero West around 11 a.m., outside the Jack London Inn. Inside was the suspect and a woman.

Police tried to stop the suspects, detaining Pearce, but Marte ran into the inn where he barricaded himself in a room. In the past, police said that the suspect has been armed, prompting officers to operate under the assumption that he was armed and dangerous. The hotel guests were placed on lockdown and were slowly by police.

Because the suspect was known to have possessed automatic weapons in the past, police treated him as armed and dangerous. They called in an Oakland-base SWAT unit, before eventually locating the suspect in a hotel room with the help of hotel patrons and other witnesses.

Portions of Broadway and Franklin and Washington streets were shut down.

In true NorCal fashion, as Marte was found wearing woman's clothing in an apparent effort to disguise himself. The sharp-dressed OPD however quickly realized the suspect's pumps did not match his outfit and so now the main suspect sits in the slammer without recourse to makeup or replacement hose.

O the ignominy. O the shame.


It is no great news that a series of dockwallopers ended with the mother of all thunderstorms recently. We put in a query to our amateur meteorologist who has been tracking Island precip for more than a decade, coming up with the following numbers.

Looks like this past March was the soggiest on record for the Island, putting us at well over half of the annual average. Last year was an anomaly with a wet May and wetter June, so history is no guide as to what comes next save that by summer it should be all over until October.

This is just local precip, so the effects of the recent snow on our state reservoirs, which had been looking pretty parched, remain to be determined. Snow fell up to a foot in the San Gabriel mountains, which ought to cheer all those Angelenos with swimming pools, and a good solid load of a couple feet is expected at the higher elevations of the Sierra.

Even with this sudden bounty, industrial farms were looking at allotments of just 30% rising to 40%, according to state officials. Remember Tioga Pass was open into the end of winter and folks were hiking and playing ice hockey on Lake Tenaya at 9,000 feet until recently.

Of course this all may be just a lot of "expect the worst and be grateful when it turns out not so bad". Good thing that Bush feller didn't get his way in logging the foothills which hug much of our water in the form of snow until late. Remember that one?

Hey, we are not bitter. Just sayin'.


So anyway, the Editor knew it was Spring when he saw Roger walking aimlessly around the parking lot of the Jack Sparrow Children's Hospital where he had secured part-time employment.

The cottonwood trees had burst forth

The cottonwood trees had burst forth around the corner from the old laundry, filling the area with these ephemeral angelic apparitions, and whenever a breeze kicked up, legions of ghostly beings poured from the branches, and when they passed by someone, their touch was like a dry, quick embrace.

Roger was the gruff, tough head of Facilities who kept the doors locked, the HVAC wheezing, the bathrooms running and stocked, the larders well larded, the windows fixed, the shipping room running on schedule and all the complicated apparatus characteristic of an institution established well over 150 years ago up and operational on a shoestring budget with the efforts of a well-underpaid staff who possessed abilities that could jump-start a busted truck in the middle of a Somalian desert while warlords took potshots. He was arguably more important than the CEO in his capacity to work miracles on a daily basis.

Some men would have been beaten down by the immensity of a task supporting a charitable psychiatric facility which didn't have enough money to even pave or patch the incoming road, but Roger was a special case, a tightly built man with squarish ex-boxer shoulders above which a bullet head looked this way and that with sharp perceptive brown eyes as he walked with that unique, well-balanced gait of a former prizefighter.

Most of the staff wandered around in ragged gabardine pants, overalls, and paint-stained workboots, but Roger showed up each long day wearing an immaculate brown suit and tie so as to show that he was no mere handyman, but someone commanding respect. It worked, for no tradesman ever was fool enough to mess with him.

there the tough man stood in the battered parkinglot

But Spring and the time of Easter has a way with all souls, gentile and ungentle alike and there the tough man stood in the battered parkinglot of the Facility surrounded by the kisses of Angels, causing the Editor to wonder what the man might be thinking, what he might be feeling amid that heavenly swirl.

Or perhaps he was just thinking about the next UPS delivery, or nothing at all. So often we impose our demons and our angels upon any sort of convenient figure.

The Editor walked down the path and paused to look up from the Quad at the silent Mormon Temple swaddled in tattered of mists from the recent storms up there on the ridge not 200 yards away.

In 1848 the Mormons had arrived in the San Francisco Bay, seeking to meet up with Brigham Young so as to form a New Zion well away from the detested United States. But the whims of the Founder and the chance of fate which had yanked Alta California from Mexico into the Monroe Doctrine arms of the US had conspired against them. Like others who had come to California with the interest of only pausing a brief while, they had stayed, building a massive temple with a spire clad in gold up on Grizzly Peak.

It's true, the early days of the Golden State were fraught with avarice and savage cruelty. But also there were these elements of the Spirit as well.

Roger was a special case.

Roger could well have earned five times the salary earned at the Jack Sparrow working for some big company, but there he stood, year after year, every Spring surrounded by drifting phantasms to whom, perhaps he was listening. Mortals like us see only the detritus of shedding trees. Roger was a special case. Perhaps he stood in that parking lot, listening to things we can only imagine.

In the Rectory of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint Father Danyluk was putting away all of the regalia of the Holy Week and polishing up his sermons, which he meant to send off as articles to The Valley Probity, which had invited him to submit for their series called "Questions of Faith".

Pastor Nyquist next door had told him about how a fellow pastor had lost her sermons due to a computer glitch. While the good Father commiserated with his colleague's loss, he made sure to provide for good backups and, Praise the Lord, a really good technogeek to come and clean things up periodically. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and nothing was quite so mysterious as the electron.

"Let us consider the humble electron,"

"Let us consider the humble electron," Father Danyluk wrote, and then stopped. What can one say about the irascible electron and now it related to matters of Faith? First it was there and when you looked again the puckish fellow had moved on to another level. You just had to trust it would be somewhere in the vicinity or something like that. The priest had a science textbook from St. Boswell's on his desk, but it was little help.

Father Danyluk stepped outside to clear his head. Outside the air was clean, fresh, reborn after the recent storms. The waning moon hung hidden in the high fog but the streetlights kept their halos.

Down the street, a line of wisps from a cottonwood drifted in procession.

The priest forgot all about electrons as he watched the apparitions glide beneath the streetlights.

Far out at sea, quite a ways distant from anything like cottonwoods, Pedro watched the sonar for a different kind of apparition. Modern day commercial fishermen do not rely entirely on luck anymore -- the fished-out grounds and newly barren stretches of water no longer allowed for that. When the blips indicated schooling, that was where the men dropped their nets, relying these days on a different kind of luck.

He tried not to think about a dear friend of his

He tried not to think about a dear friend of his who now lay in hospital, dying of emphysema.

Pedro saw what he wanted and got busy with the nets. After a while, there was the waiting, and in the waiting, there was the faith, or hope, that all would come out well.

There is only so long a man can live expecting disaster and more disaster. The past few years had been rough, but a man can get used to anything. The hauls were good and the hauls were bad. The price went up and the price went down. Nothing mattered, really, except how it comes out in the end. He still had Mrs. Almeida. He still had his dog. He still had his boat. Without all of those, he would still know how to fish.

He picked up the copy of the only book he took with him out there, a combo publication of Hemingway's The Pearl and The Old Man and the Sea. It had been published by Signet in 1974 and had cost then 79 cents. Said so right there on the cover.

Pedro knew that the Old Man had lost everything he had written one time in a taxi when he had left behind his briefcase. That had been long before the age of computer glitches.

But a real writer always has another story in him. A real writer always will know how to write. There are some things they just cannot take away. Like riding a bicycle or knowing how to fish.

"Which is why," the inspired Father Danyluk wrote at the end of his sermon close to midnight, "Jesus hung out with fishermen and one tax collector. Because only two things are certain, as we meditate upon this upcoming April 16th:

Eternal Life and Taxes. Which do you prefer?"

O I am going to have to share with Pastor Nyquist! Father Danyluk clapped his hands with glee. Lets see if he can top this! This is a good one!

Sister Grunion peeked in. "Anything wanting, Father?"

Meanwhile, Pedro sat in front of the sonar, biding his time, confident and knowing all that he needed to know. Jesus hung out with fishermen and a tax collector because both are endowed with the virtue of patience. They know the payoff is always another day away.

Two seagulls got into a tussle in the rigging, resulting in one fellow flying off with great complaint, leaving behind a cloud of fine tufted down to drift in the St. Elmo's fire about the heads of Pedro and his dog Tugboat.

In the distant hospital, the dear friend breathed his last. The telemetry screen flatlined, there was an alert tone, a nurse came and silenced the sound. Some people came and there was a brief flurry followed by the restless, rustling silence that is a hospital passing through the late hours. That was all.

It is never about Faith or Religion or any of that Big Word claptrap. It has always been about abiding, through famine and drought, and suffering. It has always been about the simplicity of the fisherman, his patience and his abiding. There is Faith and there is Charity and there is Love, and I say unto you the greatest of these things is . . .

From far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the reborn waves of the estuary and the callalilies 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 8, 2012


This week's headline photo comes from the facade of one of Island-Life staffer Chad's favorite haunts. Its a tiki-theme bar with neon-colored drinks, vinyl LP's wallpapering the ceilings and pics on the walls of Elvis strumming a uke.

Dear Chad took a walk to the ICU recently, cantankerous Bear Flagger that he is, refusing to call an ambulance just for what turned out to be double pneumonia "because of the expense" - our American unHealthy System inaction.

Folks in the Island Emergency room were within an ace of intubating a ventilator on the guy and our prayers go out to him for some kind of recovery.

"Might as well call on god; he or she never listens anyway," Chad said on the gurney. "Oh don't let them put that facemask on meeee . . .".

Have a tiki Blue Volcano at the Forbidden Island and sip a dose of strong stuff for Chad, best Javascript writer and banjo player in the West.


As we gradually catch up with things here after moving the offices more center stage on the Island, we note a raft of continuing stories.

As most folks know the offkilter former nursing student at an Oaktown private Xian university wound up here at the Southshore Safeway after killing seven people with a 45 caliber pistol. The alleged killer, One Goh, jacked a private car and drove to the Island shopping center after ditching the pistol in San Leandro Creek. At the Safeway, the man requested to use a telephone, which he employed to call a relative and talk about the shooting, alarming the store clerk who alerted security.

Island police arrested the man on charges of vehicle theft, as those charges were quickest to apply so as to secure the potentially dangerous man while the murder weapon remained unlocated. A pistol matching registration numbers tied to Goh was eventually recovered after an exhaustive search.

One Goh now faces a rare application of the death penalty in California for multiple murders with special circumstances, kidnapping, and murder in the course of robbery and carjacking.

Oaktown, of course, is in shock after this tragedy, which is the worst episode of violence in over two decades.

The saga of the Corica golf course continues after the land swap deal was quashed by a wary Council. Various parties who have been in on the machinations from the getgo remain in play, unfortunately.

Kemper Sports still remains interested in securing a 10 or 20 year maintenance lease, with competition from Greenway Golf, which would like to revamp and modernize the course layout.

We think this is good and healthy competition, and the Council members appear pleased that a couple choices remain on the table. It also appears that people who actually use the course and participate in that odd sport known as golf will have some say in what happens,which is how it should have been from the beginning.

As some folks know we have a Great Recession -- for want of a better term -- still going on. Jobs are down, industry is slack, wages are low, cutbacks have become so pervasive in private and public spheres the term has become synonymous with "yet again!"

We took a stroll around the heart of our "downtown", finding a number of vacancies on what is supposed to be Mainstreet USA. Nobody has filled out the greater half of the old flower shop on Santa Clara, the old vacuum dealership/appliance repair next to the BOFA is boarded up, and times have been tough even on Der Wienerschnitzel.

Der vot?

Yep. That odd-looking structure down there near the equally moribund autorow is now vacant after years of supplying tykes and teens with trans-fat fries, corndogs, chili-burgers and tastee-freeze cones of something very similar to ice cream. The smell of grease and artificial cheese will no longer tantalize the poodleskirt and ducktail set as they pull up in their gleaming hotrods with the Big Bopper spinning the tunes through the eternal summer night.

That poison summer done long gone - out on the road today saw a Black Flag sticker on a Caddilac; a little voice inside me said, don't look back, you can never look back.

They are tearing apart the memories of what was, my friends. Soon, all that will remain is some kind of William Gibson construction spanning the Bay with its artificial Reality populated by chrome bars and glitterati with mirror eyes while the rest of us scamper between the burnt-out Blade Runner hulks of former vehicles of dreams. Even Puff the Magic Dragon has become a rusting wreck of a helicopter gunship whose barrels host a population of weeds.

People wanted things to return to something that was before but it all became like a scientific experiment reviving animals from the Ice Age by way of their preserved genomes. There they stand, dumbfounded and already past usefulness, like big evolutionary mistakes. A wooly mammoth, brought back from that deepest sleep, could never hope to repopulate vast stretches of territory with legions of its own kind as it was. The steelhead, once numbering in the millions, each fish weighing in at some 70 to 80 pounds will never again pulse along the Humboldt as they once did in such numbers.

There are too many Asian tapas bars now, to allow that sort of thing ever to return.

If you have to ask what on earth are Asian tapas, you are like me, already headed for oblivion. Let's just sit by the river in rocking chairs and rock them old Blues away. . . .

Der Wienerschnitzel, in all of its preposterous ridiculousness with its improbable and wildly unhealthy menues, which never had the slightest connection to Austrian cuisine, is gone. Long live Der Schnitzel!


So anyway, the rain finally let up for a bit, leaving promise of yet more thunderheads to come. This past weekend, folks all streamed out into the sunshine, and then, encountering weary shopkeepers who had given up on trying to squeeze another dime from a stony economy, found doors closed everywhere as the perfect storm of Pesach conflated with that Easter thing and everybody took time off to eat baked hams or roast lamb.

One thing led to another in that place which was dark as a tomb

Easter is, of course, when the Magic Bunny of Fertility got schlockered in a bar and wound up feeling crucified for days afterward with a terrible hangover. It was only when the Enchanted Chicken of Galilee dropped by with nice warm Mexican hot chocolate that the Magic Bunny revived himself. One thing led to another in that place which was dark as a tomb where somebody had forgotten to lock the door and pretty soon that chicken was laying eggs everywhere, which goes to show you, if you want to be a good Samaritan, better take precautions, like a basket of condoms.

There were some Apostles and some Hindus and somehow Mary of Magdalen got tangled up in this to create what would become the French Meringovian dynasty, but that is all very confusing for the Pharoah smote the First borns, which may be an allusion to abstract jazz. Pharoah Sanders is a nice man and we really do not think he would actually hit anybody. It may have something to do with walls of sound rising like the tidal waves of Galilee or the Suez or whatever.

the wine helps forget your troubles

There was a plague of toads and then of locusts and then it rained for 40 days and 40 nights while all the Second Borns got together for a really nice lamb dinner after escaping slavery. Which is why they all eat library paste and drink wine. The library paste is supposed to remind you of bricks and the wine helps forget your troubles and take away the taste of bitter herbs, which is not a bad idea, really. God knows why you would want to stick something bitter in your mouth and chew on it, but people do it anyway.

Over at Marlene and Andre's, everyone settled in for a feast. 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, even though Adam really was younger in age.

A visitor named Baba kept insisting on her needs. "I need to have clean and kosher napkins. So give me yours." She said to Quentin.

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

"I need to sit where it is warm on account of my condition," Baba said. "Since you have the comfy chair, i am doing to take the divan and the settee for my feet."

"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. It's 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! It's 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 is this night different from any other

"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.

"I need water," Baba said. "You have the napkins already over there. So the water jug should be over here by me."

"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.

this year in fear and shame, next year in virtue and justice

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

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 tosser," 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!"

You idiot, the whole idea of crucifragem . . . is to leave the poor sods up there permanently

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. Those heathen didn't give eff all about the effing Sabbath."

"You gonna just LEAVE ME HERE!" Jesus said in a panic voice. "Whatever happened to 'community?"

"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?"

"You don't need that coat," a strange woman with bottle-cap eyeglasses said. "You have a hat already. I need a coat so I am taking this now. Goodbye." And so the woman left with the coat of Jesus. She had needs.

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 1, 2012


This week's photo is of a jolly pair blooming on Lincoln, bringing some color and light amid the gloom of the recent storms that have been pounding the Golden State. Perhaps they remind us that all this Sturm und Drang is to restore the reservoirs and bring life to the withered land.

Amid the wretched wrack and chaos some strange beauty blooms wild and uncontained, quietly signposting against the ugliness of the world some great possibility.


Seems we have the Spring version of a Pineapple Express steaming through with boxcar after boxcar of drenching rain for a day with a few flatcars of semi-dry weather between. Reports are that the reservoirs stand at 75%, however we will not know what the water situation really is in the Golden State until they do the flyover to measure the snowpack.

This process is fairly simple. At set points the USGS has posted these striped poles in fields high above timberline. The helicopter pilot flies overhead and spots the stripe still exposed by snow and that gives the folks an idea of how much snowpack remains to melt down into the reservoirs.

The next week shows a slow warming trend with overcast skies, but less threat of heavy rains, so the end of this stuff may be in sight and we just may have put off a drought for another year.


The News offices are gradually settling down after the move, re-establishing contacts and getting things back in order here.

Got a PR from sweetie Patti Smith, who has just completed a world tour with her band. She released a song today, co-written with Tony Shanahan from her new album Banga, set for release June 5, 2012. Word has it the proto-punker from Jersey is remaining beautiful and vital and energetic.

Did you know that the Island hosted an Italian Heritage Night? Well... now you do.

This event will take place Saturday April 21st, 6pm, Italian American League, 2712 Encinal Avenue, Alameda, CA 94501.

Doors will open at 6pm for liquid refreshment and dinner will begin at 7.
The cost is $20 for guests, and $18 for members.

The Menu will be: Antipasto, Salad, Pasta, Tri-tip, Vegetables and Dessert.
To make reservations for this fun filled evening please contact Maria Croft @ 510-703-0702.

Entertainment will be provided by the extraordinary vocal pipes of Mark Peters, a Coast Guard officer who specializes in tunes dating from the Rat Pack era.

The Patch indicates that June 5th will see some important new electoral changes. On June 5, Californians for the first time will vote in an open primary.

The top two vote getters in a race will move on to the November general election, whether they are from the same party or not.

In addition, this will be the first election with the new congressional, state Senate and state Assembly districts approved last fall by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. They officially take effect in January. You can look at the new districts at this website: http:/

The Alameda County elections department website is http:/

There are a number of sales tax initiatives but ours is called Measure C - The City of Alameda Public Safety and 911 Emergency Response Measure. Would increase the sales tax by a half-cent in an effort to fund emergency services.

This last one already has a number of heads in a lock-horns battle, and we will provide a full discussion later on.

FloJo did her mojo this weekend nearby on Coast Guard Island. Despite a spring storm that whipped flags into the water and killed plans for a 19-gun salute and nearly drove the ceremony indoors, Michelle Obama commissioned the Coast Guard’s newest cutter, The Stratton, at a wet and windy ceremony Saturday morning.

The First Lady's next stop in NorCal was in SF at a fundraiser at the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco for her husband’s reelection campaign.


Daniel DeWitt, accused of beating to death 67 year-old Peter Cukor of Berkeley, has been judged unfit for trial and has been sent to the state hospital for treatment. DeWitt has a long history of mental illness, and his parents have sought in vain for a long time to have his condition addressed without success due to budget cutbacks in programs that could possibly have redirected the course of the young man's life and averted a tragic event.


So anyway, the blue cold of winter swept through the NorCal territories with gusts of rain and wind, all blustery, spattered with hail, and contrary to the ideas of people from Orange County and San Diego. They did not like this weather at all.

The trees reached up with boney, leafless and skeletal fingers while down below, the dark green vegetation rioted in sopping sedgework.

Denby gradually re-ordered his music and his books, somehow missing the howling of the hebephrenics and the chronics chained to their walls in the St. Charles Lunatic Asylum, his new walls barren and lacking as yet the character of having lived through something.

He would miss Richard, wavering there in his long raincoat and shouting "Eff you!" to all those who really needed to hear that more often. He would miss Patti, and Carol and Ken and Shawn and the rest of the throwbacks and schizoids and the hapless security guard Sgt. Rumpsey, who painstakingly constructed figures out of cardboard, like a grossly deformed Oscar Mazarath, who had made spooks out of painted threads. Over that tiny world, the Angry Elf now held sway and only the future would tell what distortions may arise in that tormented place over which the gangster now held total control.

He would miss the arms of the Old Man reaching up beyond the moon, still standing these two hundred years in that back yard of conquest.

In the grey horror of dawn that burps from the insomniac night, Denby looked at the yard out beyond his new place and saw the flickering shadows of memory past flit across the place -- irrlichter. A word from old grandmother time. Irrlichter are what happens after a long storm when the clouds break up and get pushed at high speed across the skies by high cold winds, making shadows leap and flicker across the ground like madness or wild beasts.

Onward we go, propelled into the future by a storm like Walter Benjamin's Angel, trying to go back and fix the things that have been broken.

Denby came out into the yard where the previous tenants had torn apart the seedbeds and ripped out the bee-hives in their eagerness to extract everything that had been done, wishing to leave nothing of use behind. Above the cloud-wracked sky slashed with moonlight revealed palm fronds, birds of paradise, incipient lilies just on the cusp of exfoliation, and amid the wreckage of the seedbeds the sprout of purple and yellow wildflowers amid the desolation of scattered earth and shattered boards.

Overhead the squawk of geese, ducks and the rare chevron of sandhill cranes, the Island being one of those odd flyways recorded by the diligent Audobon enthusiast. Not far away, one of the first protected aviaries in the nation still held firm against the shore of Lake Merritt.

Beneath the crazy lights of the sky, the flap of the sandhill cranes was majestic, impressive, overpowering with majesty, and there Denby stood with his mouth agape, alone to see this wonder of passing.

Soon the wonder had passed, leaving faint echos of bird cries and the impression of the immense sweep of wings, of something eternal and godlike just having passed by so close. And the sense of himself being gifted and charged with the witness.

As a musician and a writer, he alone preserved this vision. Shared, perhaps, with a few who dreamed also these ephemera, these eternal transparencies.

Right then, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the waters of the estuary before stirring grasses of the Buena Vista flats with memories as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its journey to parts unknown.

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


MARCH 25, 2012


This week's photo comes of the cedar waxwings which flock on Alameda Avenue before departing mid-Spring. The old apartment house on Chestnut and Alameda shields trees which are at least one hundred years old, and so the birds come back each season to discuss important matters.


This item usually winds up further down the page, but after a long holding-in of breath, the mother of all dockwallopers slammed into the Bay Area before marching up the Sierra crest to put back some badly needed snowpack. It's still a little early to tell what the full benefits will be, but any precip at all was welcome to the Sierra which was promising drought conditions until these recent storms.

This recent winter blast brought an average of .5 inches of rain in 24 hours, however some areas saw .84 and more in less than six hours.

Before the most recent storm we were up to about 75-80% of capacity in the reservoirs, so we are looking good as this continuing trof pulls in more moisture due about Tuesday- Wednesday.

Howard Schechter reports snow is falling at Mammoth, with accumulations at that elevation up to 11 inches by Monday, which is all good.

Even sunny SoCal should see some rain, as Schechter reports, "Los Angeles could do quite well along the coastal sections with well over an inch of rain in many areas. It appears that the trof will open as a negative tilt system which could be quite dynamic for Southern Ca."

We know SoCal likes to be "quite dynamic" in the best of times, so they should appreciate that.

We should see a slow tapering off of present conditions, with occasional cloudbreaks of sunshine followed by overcast and spitting up to next weekend, and at least one more big dump of rain before this is over.

Got the report from Mike R. who reports we got 5.05" so far this month against a 14yr avg of 2.85". (8.06" max in March 06) Jan 2.25" vs 2.70" and Feb .76" vs 3.93". Mike calls what is happening, "pulling out of a nosedive."

It should be mentioned that because we have a high watertable coupled with shallow earth deposits on top of packed sand and clay, a few inches here builds quickly where in other places 12 inches would seep right on through.


We are still getting our land-legs back after a raucous set-sail and move for the Offices, but we note that James Cotton pulled his superharp train into Yoshi's East with Elvin Bishop for what must have been a charged couple of nights.

Upcoming we flag Strunz and Farah, who have combined Latin and Farsi rhythms to make something quite unusual and extraordinary in the acoustic guitar realm.

It's generally the slow period in the Season before Spring break around here, but some gems can be found.

Danielle Fox lets us know "Oakland Art Murmur is pleased to announce the second annual Murmurama, a multi-venue celebration including art exhibitions, film screenings, live music, food, wine and more. Murmurama will take place on the Saturday evening of the San Francisco art fair weekend. Art fair attendees are invited to take part in the thriving and nationally recognized Oakland art scene generated by the artists and galleries behind Oakland Art Murmur. Bay Area locals are encouraged to enjoy some of the region’s most refreshing art and numerous gallery activities on a night other than the ever-popular First Friday of the month.

At least sixteen galleries and mixed-use spaces within walking distance of one another will open their doors, many hosting special events, between the hours of 7 and 10 PM. Participating galleries include Chandra Cerrito Contemporary, Classic Cars West, Creative Growth, FM, Farley’s East, Johansson Projects, Krowswork, Manna Gallery, Mercury 20 Gallery, PHOTO, Slate Contemporary, Shadravan’s, Studio Quercus, 25th Street Collective, Vessel Gallery and Warehouse 416.

The event is always free and open to the public and will take place Saturday May 19, 2012, 7–10 PM.

Also in all things art, The Oakland Art Murmur Gallery Association announces the expansion of its membership area, south to the Jack London District. Whereas for the last year, Oakland Art Murmur members had to be located between 27th street and 17th streets, the organization has now opened its boundaries to include galleries and mixed-use art venues between 27th street and Jack London Square, along the Broadway and Telegraph corridor.

This change brings in four new galleries and four new mixed-use venues. Mixed-use venues are businesses such as shops and cafes that also hold rotating art exhibitions on their premises. New galleries south of Grand include: Res Ipsa (455 17th), Pro Arts (150 Frank Ogawa Plaza), Hive (301 Jefferson), and Swarm (560 2nd St). New mixed-use art venues in the area include Betti Ono (1804 Telegraph), Oaklandish (1444 Broadway), Marion & Rose's Workshop (461 9th), and Crown Nine (461A 9th).

Oakland Art Murmur also welcomes three new members to the area north of Grand: Telegraph, which is in the old Mama Buzz space at 2318 Telegraph, Shadravan's, which is opening at 2435 Telegraph, and Wall Gallery, which is at 473 25th St. All new member galleries and venues will be open for the First Friday Art Walk on April 6th from 6-9 pm.
"Many factors came together in this decision," explains Oakland Art Murmur Executive Director Danielle Fox. "First and foremost, we wanted to extend a message of inclusion rather than exclusion, and create a context to work with the arts community on a more significant scale. We are especially excited to be able to partner with long-established art institutions such as Swarm and Pro-Arts who bring not only important exhibitions, but also valuable experience to the organization. Moreover, First Fridays have become very crowded in Uptown."

Oakland Art Murmur is an association of Oakland art venues who are supported by a non-profit Public Benefit Corporation. Oakland Art Murmur's mission is to increase awareness of and participation in the arts in Oakland. Oakland Art Murmur forwards this goal through collective marketing efforts which include a First Friday art walk, Saturday Stroll, guided walking tours, artists talks, and other public programming which are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact: Danielle Fox 510-325-6659

Word has it that music lovers should pick up the eclectic magazine, Paste, as the multimedia magazine features 32 live performances from the latest SXSW in Austin, including a song with Springsteen performing with Arcade Fire.

It is a while until August launches the Berkeley Rep Season, but we have insider dope this arrangement of performances will show the hand of Les Waters in his last blast before departing for Kentucky. Familiar and experienced faces of David Henry Hwang and Mary Zimmerman will return to the stage along with adaptations of classical works such as the Iliad -- this time without the war-mongering and Brad Pitt's pectorals. Should be tasty.


Missed a bunch of exciting stuff that happened around here during the move. Moving is no problem, you say? Yeah, you try budging a 1,400 pound linotype with just a couple of drug-addled cholos, an asthmatic webmaster, a limp-wristed guitar-player and a loud hamster.

Anyway, the Silly Council voted down the land swap, albeit with some twiddling of moustaches by Snidley Whiplash in the background.

Save the Parks is a homegrown group that is seeking to plug the legal loophole in the City Charter that would have allowed the odorous swap of public land recently voted down in Council, requiring any exchange of public lands be presented to the voters for approval. The group is seeking a ballot initiative to that effect.

Sadly, we have another murder to greet this year barely begun. 69 year old Blaise Basica, was found dead in his home at 10:51 p.m., apparently beaten to death. Basica lived in the house at 1029 Lincoln Ave. with his common law wife, police said.

Police have a list of "persons of interest" and they do not believe this was a random crime.

You might not know of Fred Finch Youth Center, however the place has sat on a hill below the Mormon temple in Oaktown for some 150 years, starting life as an orphanage for "wayward children". It is now a major enterprise serving the Bay Area's special needs kids from toddlers to young adults, all dealing with autism, psychosis, schizophrenia, PTSD, and sometimes just really savagely hard luck in foster homes.

Fred Finch Youth Center hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for Rising Oaks, a 30-unit project for people ages 18 to 21 as they transition out of foster care. The project, located on the Fred Finch campus at 3800 Coolidge Ave., will include educational, vocational and social services for tenants.

Sometimes in a harsh world, it is good to know some people still care. After all, whatever you do for children is never wasted, or so we are told by one wiser than us.

Work is underway to renovate the old Islander Motel into a decent place for low-income people to live right off of Park Avenue.


So anyway, the seagulls shrieking over the Safeway parkinglot should have clued people in, but when the dockwalloper hit, armageddon sluiced through the gates and folks holed up with their Redbox and their Netflix and their new IpadIV's, because nobody wants to soil Air Jordans costing two hundred bucks in that grimy downpour.

Midweek San Francisco BART was void of traffic during normal rush hour and you could have played handball across the tracks at the Civic Center Station from one platform to the other.

The Conservative Debate between Babar, Nick Vilespew, Greg Grigfish, Ron Forgotten Raul, and Milt Rumbletumbly. A brace of Mormans showed up at the bandstand on Jefferson Park with umbrellas in support of Milt, but water had shorted the PA system so the whole affair had been called off.

Vilespew continued his campaign of savage ad hominem attacks

At this point, Rumbletumbly enjoyed a significant lead over the others for the Primary on his platform of Cause Least Damage Unless it Pays. Vilespew continued his campaign of savage ad hominem attacks, promulgation of hatred as a core American value, and brilliant foot-in-mouth expostulations. Grigfish continued his damage-control efforts as yet another ex-wife popped out of the closet to demand patrimony and apologies, while it seemed all but certain that Raul would abandon the GOP to run as an Indie candidate, which caused much weeping and gnashing of teeth in the halls of the Hoover Institute. In short, it was another delightful political season for the Primaries.

Over at Marlene and Andre's, the depredations of the Angry Elf Gang had wreaked havoc for a time, until the common decency of those people who had suffered their entire lives under the boot of the evil and the powerful repelled the efforts of the gang to destabilize their community. The gang tore down the bean trellis, broke the hamster run, flooded the basement, got into the House accounting files, and generally made nuisances of themselves the way proto-facsists and petty Napoleons tend to do.

But these people are people used to far harder times than anything the Angry Elf could dish out. He, himself, had been born of a comfortable middle-class existence in a warm Brooklyn brownstone, and so the true savagery of the world had always passed him by, leaving a sort of fuzzy romanticized concept of toughness, and a sense that the real way to get things done was to be hard as nails and tough on everybody else because, as he saw it, tough square-jawed men ruled the world and always got what they wanted.

The Elf loathed and despised his father

When he went out on the streets of Brooklyn, he saw how the sleek black-jacketed thugs always got their way, pushing down the meek, stepping to the head of the line, taking what they wanted. Back at home his milqtoast father, Milton, sighed about troubles at the hat factory and the lousy plumbing in the building, which rattled and banged each winter. The Elf loathed and despised his father and had emotionally written off his mother long ago; she was just an adjunct shadow, an irrelevancy to pointlessness.

As the Elf began to shark loans, run card and dice games, operate minor fencing relationships and moderate "insurance" deals, he came to despise the shills and marks he took advantage of, and with this loathing came a certain self-loathing in that all of his deals on the Brooklyn streets mattered not a jot in the eye of an indifferent God, barely covered expenses in the face of the fabulous scams run by the truely powerful. So he began to drink and do a little of the white powder he sold, which eventually got to him and his sense of self.

This path is a well-known path, known by legion and described by many, so we shall not bother to list the details.

As long as he stayed hooked he was not better than anyone, he was filth.

One day he got up, bleary-eyed and sodden from a pool of his own vomit and the screams of his detested mother. Angrily he stamped into the bathroom to look at himself, not liking what he saw. As long as he stayed hooked he was not better than anyone, he was filth. He had to make a break and get out, get away from these drab, future-less and wretched brownstones, the stoop-boys never going anywhere, the oppressive skies under which nothing great ever would happen. Nothing great ever had happened in that quarter of Brooklyn. Why would things ever change? The place was too limiting. The people too narrow and pinched, drawn into themselves and their Hummel figurines and complaints about the Russia of their ancestors who had befriended Tsar Nicholas.

In four days, all the deals had been done, a cool two thousand in his pocket from a nice extortion scheme sat with a plane ticket headed due west, straight to the land of opportunity, the Golden State, where family had come during the Gold Rush to rob a few Indians, steal from the Mexicans, and carve out a place in the wilderness of Mountain View.

That is how the Angry Elf came to California. Once ensconced there, he ejected from his relations and set sail like a Barbary corsair through the streets of San Francisco, soon finding there were older and more experienced hands at these games who could easily take in any such as himself, chew slowly and spit out the rest as they pleased.

The Island makes no distinction between good and bad; it takes in all kinds like the bilges of any seaworthy vessel, so on the Island the Elf found himself among the ex-Navy veterans and old guard conservatives and crusty Californios. There he learned a few trades and actually began earning some money performing honest work from time to time, which really is far easier at the end of the day than pushing a full-blown Ponzi scheme or doing a limited second-story job.

Then, as happens with the passage of time, the hair begins to turn grey in the Land of the Lotus Eaters. Now it was every once in a while the Angry Elf would gather the old gang together to do a job, as this one for Mr. Howitzer.

Few recall now Al Capone's last sad days

Just imagine: what would it have been like had Bonnie and Clyde retired to a Rest Home in Golden Acres? What does happen to old cons? The ones who do not die in spectacular hail of lead bullets while still young? Few recall now Al Capone's last sad days, aging into useless senility, a shadow of himself as his brain rotted from the syphilis.

From the rain-dripping eaves, the glum and irritable Russian there beside him, the Angry Elf glared at the warm glow of the windows at Marlene and Andre's household where all the community had gathered to hash things out and plan common defences around their humble bowls of bread soup. They started singing. Singing! After all he, the Angry Elf had done to them! They should have been weeping! But instead they were singing! It may have only been bread soup, and it may have only been Andre plunking away on his battered guitar, but the Angry Elf felt a pang as he felt deeply that he had been cast out from life's feast.

Through the week Denby continued to move things out from his rented room in the St. Charles Lunatic Asylum, trying his best to schedule things when the trusty, Sgt. Rumsbum, was off shift working his real job as department store dick in the basement of iMagnin. Sgt. Rumsbum pretended to be a real San Francisco cop, but everyone knew otherwise.

Richard, the fellow who had been lobotomized to cure his virulent cursing

Trundling his things in a shopping cart down the hall Denby ran into Richard, the fellow who had been lobotomized to cure his virulent cursing. Denby had always liked Richard, who still possessed a sort of regal demeanor, as if in some other life he had ruled a kingdom, if not wisely, then augustly and with broad dispensation. The lobotomy had taken something from the man, but it had not cured him of his cursing. Indeed, language was all the man had left in this world.

"Well, old friend." Denby said. "I am going now."

"You go. Eff you!"

"Here is a scarf you can have. It gets cold here."

Kindness a strange brooch in this all hating world. Eff you!

"O! Eff you! Thank you so much! Kindness a strange brooch in this all hating world. Eff you! This is nice. Eff you. So nice. Eff you very much! I miss you."

"Yeah well, I will miss you too, Richard. Take care of yourself."

"I cry. I cry. Eff you! Don't go! Go if you must. Eff you!"

"Bye Bye Richard! Maybe I will come to visit."

And as Denby walked down the hall there Richard stood in his long raincoat, a broken Coriolanus, yet still noble, still defiant with his arm raised.

"Eff you! Eff you everybody! Eff youuuuuuuuuuuu . . . !"

Right then, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the tragic waters of the estuary before stirring grasses of the Buena Vista flats with memories as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its journey to parts unknown with its long boxcar entourage of story after story after story, tale after tale to rival Scheherazade, to some unknown and possibly wondrous future rife with possiblities.

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

MARCH 18, 2012


This week the headline photo comes from the photoshop files of Chad, our coder. Kinda paints the mood of the town lately, with sudden deluges and the stripped trees of winter scratching the sky. Yet here comes a lady, ephemeral and mysterious, bringing some kind of light and color to this chiascuro landscape. Who is this lady and where is she going? We only know she has brought color where none had lived before, promise of things to change. Some pale fire of hope amid winter's despair.


The Offices have moved and are back up and running again. This time we have created fall-backs and emergency systems and redundancies to make your eyes water with the voluminous torporware available from ACME TORPORWARE, PETALUMA, in measures guaranteed to make you run, run like the wind, to get your own exclusive copies of version 1.01 that will make backups stream via laser and preserve all existing marketing availabilities while leveraging core competencies to the extent that your CEO's wet their pants on the golf course by the promise of huge profit margins at the expense of dispensible admin Assistant drones by the bucketload (AABTBL).

Actually, when Chad talks like this, most of us glaze over with something similar to glaucoma, but we trust Chad has all the Code well in hand, taming those nasty snakes of HTML with cattle prods and feathers.

In short, the Offices moved because we were attacked by fascist slugs, because the rent was too high, because it was time to move out into something better.

We produce 52 issues of Island-Life per year, taking usually two weeks out for the Annual Mountain Sabbatical. This past year, we forfeited the Sabbatical because of cost overruns and the Great Recession. So we toss in this one omission as a proxy, always promising an Extra so that you get your annual Island-Life requirements.


Clearly, with battling giant fascist slugs, fending off Angry Elves, and moving the offices under fire a la Dunkirk the Calendar has suffered. Taking a look at things we note the following interesting developments during our hiatus:

Protect Our Parks, a new community organization held a St. Patrick's Continental Breakfast on Saturday, Mar 17, 9:00 - 10:30 a.m. at the Eagles Hall at Oak St. This was, we assume a celebratory one, as that organization arose, among many others, to combat the perfidious "land-swap", about which we shall hear more anon.

A number of Marina folks and shoreline land-owners have complained recently about "anchor outs", which are boats that have moored anywhere near City boundaries without paying docking fees to established marinas. Generally, such vessel are considered abandoned in most jurisdictions. It is really an issue with marinas wanting to preserve their revenue and the local yacht-owners wanting to preserve their sense of entitlement over the waterways, as well as an honest desire to keep the place clean of detritus.

There is another side to the story in that many of these "anchor outs" are habitations for people who cannot afford docking fees. The marina folks call them "homeless" inhabiting boats. Then again, if you have a dry, safe habitation, you cannot call such a person homeless -- just unofficial and unconventional.

Really, there is a movement among some Islandlers to prettify the place for the America's Cup, and these folks feel the anchor-outs are a problem. The Coast Guard has said it is not a crime to anchor your boat without paying a marina docking fees so long as you are not providing a maritime hazard, so there is another country heard from here.

This is beginning to sound an aweful lot like a bunch of docksider, white shorts wearing, Sunday jaunt, fine-weather sailer, mouth-breathers complaining loudly from a mountain of self-entitlement. And it is no wonder that the CG and the local governments have ignored their yelling, as it costs formidible sums to scrap a boat loaded with all sorts of toxic materials, for which somebody must pay.

Nevermind that displaced human beings inhabiting our version of District 9 might also be involved.

We note with approval the City Council canned the dubious land swap deal, for with there was zilch local support. Briefly, Ron Cowan's Development agency wanted to exchange 12.2 acres of useless land for a lion's share of the historic Mif Albright golf course, which is public park land and which was developed by independent funding exclusive of tax revenue from former waste-disposal acreage.

Born-and-raised folks as well as long-time residents dug in their heels, indicating that this deal would cost political jobs if it went through.

On 3/15, the Council knocked down the proposal. Victors are entitled to wear a Rosie the Riveter t-shirt with the slogan, "We can do it!" This time the bad guys lost.



So anyway, the weather finally broke from its equivocating moodiness and a real mother of all dockwallopers set in to pound the wharves and soak the hills into sliding for a solid five days of drenching downpour. If the old saying is true, the lion of winter has come roaring in, and all of us around hear are longing for the lamb part to enter for sure.

Basements are welling up and flooding all over the place where for several years of drought people had forgotten about this kind of thing.

Yes, this is California, and you do not live here for a few decades without some sort of disaster costing you.

There is no natural holiday in March so people have seized upon the Irish, the way they always do, so as to have a good time at someone else's expense and give themselves excuse for cultural plunder.

the battle was conceded largely out of pre-Lutheran politeness

In the year 1132 the Irish defeated the Norwegians at the battle of the Ford of the Hurdles, effectively ending centuries of Viking raids. This was the first and the last major battle that the Irish ever would win, and there is much scholarship which states that due to the advancement of Christianity among the Norse at the time, the battle was conceded largely out of pre-Lutheran politness on the side of the Norwegians. Really, we do not want you to be put out. Go ahead and take the field; we do not want it that much anyway. This may have been the event to provide the template for all civil reconciliations of war going forward. It is a pity the Bush administration was so adverse to learning the lessons of history.

Denby was not thinking about paddywacking and similar abuses when the Angry Elf gang succeeded in invading his rooms to turn things all topsy-turvy, blaming all of the trouble on the chronics.

When Denby found his Johnson tuned to D major, he knew not a single chronic on the hall suffering from autistic schizophrenia was capable of that. All of his music files had been tampered with. The autotune software had been wrenched two full tones out of pitch.

Denby was a musician and not equipped to handle criminal thugs. He did not possess that sort of mentality or drive. He made his preparations to go.

Patty, a slightly autistic schizoid Native American from Pine Ridge begged him not to go.

"Sorry Patty, I am not wanted here," Denby said. Evil minds want their will."

"That is what I am afraid of," Patty said.

Even the hebephrenics forgot to laugh.

On the day Denby moved his four guitars and slim bookcases out of the Lunatic Asylum of St. Charles, it was a cold and wet day in March and a pall hung over the dismal halls. Even the hebephrenics forgot to laugh. The rain pelted down in an anger, as if Heaven itself was furious at how things had come to pass because of the Angry Elf's gang and Mr. Howitzer's intransigence .

As Denby drove away in his rented truck, all the residents of the St. Charles Asylum looked out from the barred windows and waved and then wailed for hours afterward until the trustees, lead by the security guard, Sgt. Rumsbum, came along to beat them into silence with asps and wooden dowels.

It was no wonder Patty had begged Denby not to leave.

In the Old Same Place Bar, the place rang up a stiff business, selling shots of Arthur Power and Jamison's and gallons of Celtic coffees. It grew nigh to the midnight hour and certain folks grew anxious about the re-appearance of the Wee Man who had caused some mischief in years past.

It is an ugly thing when Evil wins a battle.

Instead the Angry Elf gang appeared to order drinks all around -- for themselves -- and the Angry Elf appeared pleased with himself over his recent victory at the St. Charles Asylum. Now this place at St. Charles belonged to him, and he was most convivial. It is an ugly thing when Evil wins a battle. It is something not pretty to look upon. On the eve of St. Paddy's things did not look well upon the Island.

At the stroke of Midnight, the Wee Man appeared, sharp as a tack and wearing a green waistcoat with chain and fob. It undeniably was the same Wee Man who appeared as last year with a twinkle in his eye and a pocket full of tricks.

"I say, you look like a dwarfish fellow like myself," the Wee Man said to the Angry Elf. "You look like an elf!"

"Don't call me an elf!" The Angry Elf stamped.

"O this must be an angry elf! Or a dwarf!" The Wee Man said. "Why are you always so sour?"

"I am not a dwarf," said the Angry Elf. " And if you say that again my hirelings will hurt you."

"O, but here is indeed an angry elf!" said the Wee Man.

With that the Angry Elf motioned his underlings to attack the Wee man, who promptly disappeared beneath their fingers, totally confounding them.

In a trice, the lights went out and all was confusion in the Old Same Place Bar. When the lights came on, various persons found themselves adjusting their underpants, much as had happened last year. Dawn removed to the lavabo to extract a golden brassiere. Suzie dropped a solid gold mesh thong to the ground with irritation to go the rest of the night commando. This caused some excitement in Eugene who crinkled in his gold-lame boxers.

As for the Angry Elf, he hurriedly shucked his pants so as to fling away knickers choked with worms and scorpions.


His underling thugs ran screaming from the bar with pants full of bees.

Her curves looked dangerous and needing caution signs to unwary drivers.

In a narrow cobblestone alley, under a moon that saw Jupiter and Venus in a close conjunction not likely to be seen for another one hundred years, Denby pulled up his rented truck and started to unload his life into his new diggings. A woman dressed in a long black dress leaned up against the lintel, with a glass in her hand. Her curves looked dangerous and needing caution signs to unwary drivers.

Denby paused, brought up short by this apparition.

"So Denby, how has it been for you?"

It had been eighteen years and more along with gallons of water under the bridge since they had last met. And now it was a dark moon under confluence in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a drizzly sky and all kinds of possible weather to happen.

"Well, Sharon, been up and down. Lately been looking up again."

"Luck of the Irish, I suppose." Sharon said. The rain fell upon her red gown and she did not notice.

"You are getting wet," Denby said.

Come on in. I am the Welcome Committee.

"That's right," Sharon said. "I am getting wet for you just standing here. Come on in. I am the Welcome Committee. Welcome to the neighborhood. Let me show you the Welcome Basket."

Right then, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the star-crossed waters of the estuary before stroking the romantic grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its journey to parts unknown, whispering of tales of love lost and found again. And all the luck of the Irish and more besides.

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


MARCH 11, 2012


This week's headline comes from the narrow median strip of dirt on Lincoln across from Pagano's Hardware where a fellow has been creating floral wonders that delight all passersby. Not a month goes by in which there is not a bright splash of color in that otherwise nondescript and drab slot between the street and the pavement.

Nothing heralds the approach of Spring quite like daffodowndillies.


There will be no full Island-lIfe issue this week as the Staff complete the tactical withdrawal of the offices to safer diggings while under fire. See you guys next week.



MARCH 4, 2012


Looks like the fellow on Lincoln who farms the narrow strip of soil between the street and the pavement has once again scored a big success with the arrival of Spring.

It is an urban island but we seek always to find a way back to the garden here. This enterprising fellow on the busiest street has found a way.


This and succeeding issues will be truncated as the offices look to relocate to more hospitable diggings while under fire from malicious entities. Brings back a few memories of pulling out from Saigon a few years ago. This is kind of like that.

Not everyone likes Island-life, and we are shocked, simply shocked that some people have such limited views of the world so as to seek to repress our longing desires. Well, we did express overt opposition to the landswap deal. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Also, not everyone likes the I, IV, V of the Blues, and not everyone loves a Liberal, so just live with it.

Things may get spotty during the transition, but be patient and we will return with a vibrant calendar and on the spot news reportage when the dust has settled. You may trust in this: we are not going away and plan to be here for quite a long while and many poodleshoots to come.


No matter what the idiots have voted, we have always felt that Frank Sinatra song was the real deal about SF, instead of that garish musical number with flouncing skirts and gams. Cannot even remember the name of that song, can you?

Because of course the real memory of a City is the real memory of childhood and growing up here, and no such Barbary Coast fol-de-rol fiction can replace that.

The Island Life staff recently attended the Berkeley Rep premier of Ghostlight. Sorry we could not write a timely review during production, but circumstances intervened to prevent that.

According to Press notes, "When Jon was a boy, his father was shot — and suddenly their lives were part of history. Years later, when staging a production of Hamlet, the son must confront his buried feelings about a crime that shocked the nation. In this haunting new show, Artistic Director Tony Taccone conjures a world based on the historic assassination of Mayor George Moscone. The ghost of the king stalks the battlements of a boy’s mind—and speaks to all of us about love and loss. A poetic collage of fiction and memory, this world-premiere production is staged by none other than Jonathan Moscone."

That the story is haunting is quite true. A disgruntled former member of the City Board of Supervisors of San Francisco climbed through a window of City Hall with a handgun to confront and murder then Mayor Moscone and a member of the Board, Harvey Milk.

The violence completely changed the political structure of San francisco, launched the career of Diane Feinstein into national politics, and scoured the sensibilities of Northern Californians for generations afterwards.

The murderer, Dan White, based his defense upon consuming too many sugar-loaded snacks prior to the event, which resulted in the popular phrase, "the twinkie defense." White was let off on a trivial technicality, which resulted in a fairly wild series of uprisings fueled by outrage now termed the "White Night riots". Dozens of police cars were overtured and burned.

It was reported a short time afterwards that White killed himself via carbon monoxide inhalation while running a car in a locked garage, however rumors abounded that his suicide had been faked and that he continued to live and work in the Mackesson office building in downtown SF under extraordinary secrecy, protected by Old Guard San Franciso powers.

As it so happens history exhalted, honored,and spotlighted the death of Harvy Milk, a gay activist, resulting in something of a distortion in the record. It is true Milk was a seminal activist for gay rights in San Francisco, but Milk was not the main target of the assassination.

White went to City Hall to retract his resignation as a Board Member. Milk was murdered as a side item on White's general dissatisfaction with the way things were trending in San Francisco, which at the time was just beginning the stages of gay power movement, among many other social revisions.

There is quite a lot in the play which brings back many memories and evocations, so many that we wonder how well such a premier could travel, for so many details, from the bucket of water on the head of the sleeping kid to the rambling macho blather of the grandfather ghost feels terribly local. Then again, the play is so much about trying to recapture the famous father from the usurping Outsider that the whole thing feels almost Freudian.

As it stands in the play, Jon Moscone, the son of murdered Moscone hits a creative brick wall trying to produce and direct Shakespeare's Hamlet, hanging up on the depiction of the ghost, which is barely a few seconds of playtime in the original script.

As Jon works out his personal demons and ghosts about the murder of his own father, the historical figures from California past visit him with terrible urgency.

Did we feel confronted by the issues and images of the play? Yes we did. So much so we put off this review for several weeks past the close of the run.

As Poe said, "There are some monsters that must be suffered to slumber or they awake. They must lie undesturbed or we perish."

Moscone was one of the last people to run for office under true, unvarnished political ideals. Harvey Milk may have been the same, which puts the two men in odd company. Moscone was of Old San Francisco. So was White, albeit of the more conservative segment of firemen, policemen and blue collar folk possessed of what they imagined as Old World Values.

It is interesting that the main haunting ghost in the play is not the father, but that of the grandfather who arrives with disheveled prison guard clothes waving a pistol and threatening to kill anyone who interferes. The grandfather here is Old California of a certain era that retains a stranglehold upon society by way of its insistence upon a certain idea of "manhood" and restrictive values. It is the pressure upon Hamlet to "take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them" kind of talk which does not apply in the same way in the modern era.

When Jon realizes what needs to happen, he kills the ghost of his grandfather, who never really had anything lifegiving to offer. In ironic backlash the grandfather ghost kisses his descendent saying, "What is it like to kiss yourself goodbye?"

In reality, finding yourself is the crux of the play, for Californios should know above all others that we do not base ourselves on anything like Mayflower descendents or prairie schooners scooting across the barren wastes. We constantly make ourselves anew. That is what makes us Californios in the land of uncertain ground. We are what we do, not where we have come from.

As Jon says towards the end of what is admittedly a wordy play that could use 20 minutes or so of editing, "The play is not about Hamlet or the ghost. The play is about me!"

That alone is a rare insight into theatre that is so often lacking of real insight.

We do not know if the play will ever be performed again outside the Bay Area. If it comes around, do please attend, for it gives a very human and personal insight into what we take to be the Real Bay Area, the Real San Francisco. And we feel that more of these should appear on the table so that we can retake our image from scenesters and demigogues, and so once again remake ourselves in our own image.


So anyway, the weather finally broke for a wharf-sizzler this week, which cheered up some folks in Sierra with subsequent snowfall. Got a mild down front coming in with promise of a few sprinkles followed by sunshine and then another front will march on in to make the following weekend a bit gloomy with thunderheads threatening some precip -- next weekend not a good time to plan a family picnic. Might rain or might not.

The Angry Elf gang went on after the initial failure to assault Denby to attack Marlene and Andre's Household on Otis with results to reported later. A third gangster gang run by the nefarious Ramsbo Conglomerate out of Medellin has come into town and is engaged in open warefare against the Angry Elves. The suspense! The intrigue! The sordidness of callous criminality! The pathetic backroom Land-Swap deals! Stay tuned for further developments in the "Place where no man is an Island". Drama!

Time was coming up for St. Paddy's Day and all the Old Same Place Bar was astir for preparations for that magic day, and especially for the possible re-emanation of the Wee Man, who had taken to showing up on that evening with wild consequences that generally involved gold and the charming of people's underwear.

Well who would have known but that the Wee Man was a pervert in that direction. Neither Connolly nor Micheal Fury had given notice.

But in this time all over the Island the daffodowndillies were bursting upward, the freesia bows were slyly budding and jonquils were jumping up with exhuberance.

The Old Norman place burned down during this past winter amid a terrible smoke and collapsing of cinders and the fire-department hook 'n ladders all up there doing what they do best while things died and broke apart under their watch, but there amid the pile of burnt timbers in recent weeks, yellow plumes arise.

Spring has leapt ahead and sprung. Life begins anew even amid wrack and ruin and disaster. You old folks just take a seat back while these young kids go to town. They have business to which to attend.

All along the Russian River there is a great racket going on, and this one is not about politics. It's all about the frogs.

Speaking of which, meaning politics and frogs, Babar and Rick Vilespew and Eft Grigich, Paul Dion, and Rummy, all from various factions of the Greatly Orotund Party, all gathered there in the Old Same Place Bar to debate and watch the Hustings on satellite TV. None of them could afford a campaign headquarters, because they all claimed that government was broke and they wished to shrink that entity to nothing anyway.

Nails, a guy with purple hair cut in a mohawk a foot long above his nose piercings and leather jacket said this was fine by him. Anarchy was life without government, so this idea felt just about right.

Babar was not so sure on that point. He did not want his children lectured in school by people sporting purple mohawk haircuts.

Rick Vilespew said that all the women in America should be put on treadmills, thereby losing weight and solving the energy crisis in a single stroke -- clearly drilling now for more oil would be pointless for winning elections for the next two cycles.

Quick Limburger, a commentator mentioned that anyone who disagreed with him was a slut.

Papoon, the Liberal candidate, sat there wishing that someone would kindly make sense enough that he could respond. As it stood now, all the Conservatives sounded like radical wackjobs. They were blathering about bad conditions caused by their own George W. Shrubb and attacking one another as if to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

This was supposed to be a Democratic forte. Now the maniacal idiots of the extreme Right were stealing the Democratic finess for idiocy.

"And another thing," Babar shouted. "What's all this nonsense about God living in a beehive on another planet.?"

"I tap into what John F. Kennedy said about the President being above all this Religion stuff, even though I am a regular church-goer and incorporate religious belief in my public work as the Founding Fathers intended. But in a secular way . . ." Rummy said.

"I have delegates," Eft Grigich said. "I have enough delgates to influence the discussion. I don't care I have not won a single caucus; so what do we want to talk about?'

Papoon sighed.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the intrigue-packed waters of the estuary before interrogating the peaceful, loving grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way from the watchtower gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its historical journey to parts unknown, whispering of tales of nefarious deeds and honest bravery in times of distress.

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


FEBRUARY 26, 2012


If a pier is a disappointed bridge, according to Stephen Daedalus, then we have to wonder about this artifact, captured by the Tammy-Chad coalition at Island-Life.

Seems there is no end to floating history in the Bay and Estuary, where odd things always turn up unexpected, like some Latin lover at your mother's funeral. That Jorge with the open V-neck silk shirt and gold chains? He is from Argentina. Son, I have some explaining to do . . .".


Looking at the Board we see quite a range of items, most of which previously reported.

The big headlines focus upon the "Alameda man" who was arrested in connection with an homicide in Berkeley. Peter Cukor, 67, of Berkeley was beaten to death, apparently with a ceramic pot, within the lines of his own front yard by Daniel Dewitt, 23.

We held back on reporting the man's family relationships - because that is the way we are -- but now the issue is front page.

Daniel Dewitt is the grandson of Al Dewitt, former councilmember and public leader.

Let us put the family connections aside, so as to examine real issues here.

His mother has stated that she tried for years to get judges, courts, police, anyone responsible to deal with her son's psychotic manifestations, but no help was forthcoming. Too many cutbacks had chopped the help that could have saved someone's life. Saved two or more lives in fact. What happens when you cutback government to nothing. Not being political. Just saying.

The Silly Council shunted aside a reasonable vote proposed by Dough DeHaan on the Cowan landswap deal leaving open the possibility of the Council allowing the deal to go through by means of simple majority. This deal may still be prevented if the initiative to amend the City charter so as to protect designated parkland manages to pass. Which means that internecine battles and political bloodletting are in order.

We do not see anyone sponsoring, voting for, or exhorting the land swap deal surviving the political fallout here.

In other news we have a raft of complainers seeking to "clean up" the estuary in advance of the America Cup, with folks still imagining with frankly wierd fantasies about Internationals visiting this burg during the famed race, set to be based in San Francisco. You know, fond hopes are one thing, and deranged lunacy is something else. This is a tiny island on the repudiated side of the Bay and SF is abundantly the City that Knows How.

The complainers worry that folks anchoring in the estuary without paying for permits and whatall will clog the place and make it look less picturesque for the visitors. Um, has anyone checked out what happens in New Orleans during Jazz Fest? We think the complainers are shooting themselves in the foot over this "anchor-out" issue.


Roosevelt School in Oaktown was on lockdown because of a neighborhood shooter Monday morning. The shooter fired upon police from the front of a residence before running into the streets. At last report, the jerk with too many guns gotten too easily was apprehended with no one being hurt. The school was put on lockdown for the safety of the students and faculty.


So anyway, the weather continues an unsettling state of mind, with scant precipitation and fluctuating temps. By this time we normally should have gotten deluges of rain, so folks are hoping for a very wet spring to revive the Sierra snowpack after last year's dry spell. For the past couple weeks forcasters have been hopefully prognosticating precip in a manner reminiscent of certain economists and industry wonks who for some time now have kept saying, "signs are showing that the economy is improving. Last month saw significant gains in retail/housing/construction/factory orders. . ." without every listing the specific signs or numbers. Yeah right. Talk about the weather to make it happen.

Anybody take a gander at the gas prices recently?

Down at the Old Same Place Bar, Babar -- of the Greatly Orotund Party of Conservative Bent has been holding jovial bantering debate with Rick Vilespew and Mr. Curmudgeon, both of various Conservative parties, for they feel their moment in the sun is yet to return, as the lousy state of finances of the local Native Sons of the Golden West, caused largely by their own George W. Shrubb by means of cutting membership fees, reducing revenue-generating projects and starting a full-out war on the township of Newark seems to have born fruit by producing hard times during the momentary reign of a Liberal (shudder!) President.

Nevermind the liberal President was elected because people tired of Dick Chikanery's tomfoolishness, Conservatives unable to keep it in their pants, and widerange irresponsiblity mated with arrogant government intrusion rivalling the Stalin era. It was the Conservative's job to make people forget real history in favor of much more edible revisionism which extolled a Grand Past which never really had existed.

Star wars and shiny pebbles, bite the bullet, the light at the end of the tunnel and what a wonderful time that had been.

Times were hard and they all had drawn in sharp Black vs White the picture of their historically favorite whipping boy, the very man designed in their minds to defeat.

"After all", Vilespew said, "We are wealthy because we are genetically superior. The evidence is clear."

Meanwhile others were busy making nefarious plans. In the Howitzer mansion, the new Mr. Howitzer was meeting with the Gang of the Angry Elf. The Angry Elf, one Neal Tuckus, had brought three of his thugs with him. Badger, a somewhat Russian fellow who had spent some time in a Siberian gulag for being a raskolnik, petty thievery, throat slitting, and bad forgery, Tushie Ainu -- a woman addicted to shoplifting and knife-work, and her companion, Brian Gump -- a forger and master impersonator as well as expert backstabber.

Criminal gangs are not really in reality anything like what you find in the movies. Generally, they consist of bumblers through life, always taking the easier path -- as it appears to them -- while scoffing at any idea that doing the right thing might make more sense in the long run. Tushie and Bryan had been living the high life on someone else's dime when they got a little careless and Tushie wound up preggers. So the little meeting of the nefarious was accompanied by a bassinet stuffed with a loudly complaining little Oscar, who did not appreciate the niceties of criminality at all. Little Oscar much more preferred his bottle with nam-nam.

It is the Bay area after all, and any decent gang will practice appropriate multicultural sensitivity.

"So you are from Japan, and you are from some trailor park, and the kid is clearly a mix of stuff, and you are some kind of Pollock . . . ", Mr. Howitzer said.

"Byloruss," said Badger. "Very different from Poland. Entirely. I could telll you all about it."

"Whatever. And you from some place east of Chicago. So why they call you the Angry Elf?"

"I am from Brooklyn. You got a problem with dat?" The Angry Elf said. He stamped his little feet, making a surprising amount of noise with his boots for a fellow who stood not more than four feet eleven in height.

"Um. Whatever. Listen. I got this problem. I got these tenants giving me troubles on my property."

"What kinda trouble?" asked Badger. "They no pay the rent?"

"Nah they pay all right. But they complain. And they want things. Like they want broke things fixed all the time and want heat and hot water on demand. And they complain about the rents too high. Nevermind the details. I got problems with them. I want them handled. You know? Handled. I need say no more."

"We handle them," the Angry Elf said. "We handle them good so they no longer a problem. You tell me their names and it will be done."

"Yeah well, there is this Denby fellow. He is living with rent I figure too low for his type. You want to take control of an entire building, here is an opportunity. You get him outta there and you got the entire St. Charles Asylum at your disposal. Choice property -- if it were not for the crazies."

"I get ta control the entire building?" said the Angry Elf.

"Yeah, sure. Just cut me a share. I just dislike this Denby guy for being a (shudder!) liberal type."

"What we do wit da crazy people?"

"I dunno. You keep 'em. Evict all of them I say, turn the whole lot out on the street like they did in Reagan's day and turn the place into condos. Just get rid of Denby first."

"I tink I know dis feller," said the Angry Elf. "His fambly comes from Nazis. You know da Nazis dontcha Badger?"

"Oh yes, we know them in Byloruss. We kill them horrible and take away their boots!" Badger licked his lips at the fond second-hand memories of WWII.

"The other people live in a house on Otis, some fifteen vermin in an otherwise fine house which probably could be turning a higher profit as a carnival spot. The place is rented by a couple named Marlene and Andre."

"No problem boss, when it comes to serving the landlords and honest property owners of this burg, I got no restraint."

Mr. Howitzer flicked the length of his cane along a bed of daffodowndillies in a long trough there on his deck, neatly lopping off the heads of all the flowers which Dodd had tended so carefully through the long winter months. "O that I wish these problems were resolved. Good day gentlemen. I trust you will do well."

The gang's encounter with Denby in the halls of the lunatic asylum of St. Charles Street did not go according to plan.

"So Montana, I hear you fambly come from da Nazi's." the Angry Elf began, intending to incite Badger. Then the two would set on Denby and get the crazies in the asylum blamed for it.

"They were German, yes, but we were Partisans in the Eastern zone. They fought against Hitler from the beginning and nearly all of them were executed by the time of the "attentat" and Fieldmarshal Rommel's trial. That is why 'grandmother has no relatives'."

"O, partisans!" Badger said. "We like the partisans."

"Ah, you from Byloruss? We once had family there. You know the town of Kortzyn?"

"O that town destroyed by the Nazis. Everyone killed and thrown in the canal. They built it up again Then destroyed again by the Soviets." Badger was looking doubtful about the whole enterprise. He had lost his desire for battering and bloodletting.

"We should sit down with a bottle of vodka and and talk about the old places that are no more."

"Yes! Yes! I did not know you were of partisans! They were very brave!"

The Angry Elf looked angry indeed and he stamped his tiny feet with rage. "Come along now, we have work to do!"

"Well, see you around!" Denby said.

"Bye bye!" Badger said happily. He was glad to have found Denby was not such a bad sort after all. The Angry Elf was furious, plotting how to turn this thing around. Maybe send the klepto Jap and her booby husband.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the intrigue-packed waters of the estuary before interrogating the peaceful, loving grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way from the watchtower gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its historical journey to parts unknown, whispering of tales of nefarious deeds and honest bravery in times of distress.

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




FEBRUARY 19, 2012


This week the headline photo comes from the flea market that inhabits the coliseum parking lot each weekend. Seems "doll parts" should have been the byline.

Since so many men seem to want a woman without a brain, there you go.


Before we get to Island stuff, let us just pause in remembrance of Warren Hellman, the billion-dollar financier, amateur bluegrass musician, and philanthropist who started the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park more than a decade ago. A commemorative concert was held this weekend, drawing over 10,000 music lovers despite the Bay Bridge closure.

Here was the lineup:

Performances were in the following order and alternated between two stages (Banjo and Arrow), starting on Arrow Stage:

Poor Man's Whiskey
John Doe
Kevin Welch, Kieran Kane & Fats Kaplin
Dry Branch Fire Squad
Steve Earle
Buddy Miller
The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Gillian Welch
Boz Scaggs
Old Crow Medicine Show
Robert Earl Keen
Emmylou Harris with special guest The Go to Hell Man Clan.

Members of the Hellman family wound things up with a few short words, including the retelling of an old banjo joke that Warren used to tell his kids.

I used to ask my grandpa how to tune a banjo and he always would say, 'A wood chipper would be a good start'."

Hellman was an accomplished banjo picker and his band, The Wronglers, performed at the concert with Jimmie Dale Gilmore sitting in. He passed away due to cancer not long after the 2011 HSBF, which drew a record 750,000 attendees. The 2012 festival is scheduled for October 5-7th.


Got a mix of good and bad news, and good news about bad news this week.

We got our first murder of the year when Carlos Fajardo Garcia, 36, of Oakland shot and killed Sara Marie Cunningham, 30, at her Alameda residence and then turned the gun on himself Monday evening.

Patrol officers dispatched at 6:36 p.m. Monday to investigate reports of gunshots found both Cunningham and Garcia at the property in the 2100 block of Alameda Avenue, near Walnut Street.

Despite efforts to resuscitate her, Cunningham was pronounced dead at the scene. Garcia was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he died about 1:45 a.m. Tuesday. The Island hospital does not have a trauma unit.

Garcia and Cunningham did not have children together and there were no reports of domestic violence involving the couple, according to police.

The handgun used belonged to Garcia.


There must be something in the air that is affecting Islanders. A 23 year-old man has been arrested in connection with the beating death of a Berkeley homeowner.

A woman called Berkeley police around 8:45 p.m. to say she and her husband had just arrived home to find a suspicious man trespassing near their garage, near Shasta Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard, according to a statement from Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.

"The husband confronted the suspect and told him to leave," Kusmiss wrote. "Minutes later, (he) walked outside and was assaulted."

Paramedics took him to the hospital, where he died, according to the statement.

Less than a block from the crime scene, responding officers spotted a man who matched the description of the attacker and arrested Daniel Jordan Dewitt of Alameda, according to Kusmiss.

Dewitt is being held without bail, pending charges.


Judge Charles Breyer of the US District Court for Northern California dismissed the developer's $100 million lost profits claim against the city.

When the city and SunCal negotiated the terms of their joint development agreement, they stated that if the city breached the contract, SunCal would be entitled to $1 million in damages. When the city's relationship with SunCal fell apart in 2010, the developer not only sued the city for the $1 million, but also for $17 million in lost expenses and $100 million in lost profits.

SunCal believed it would have made $100 million if it had developed Alameda Point. Our new City Attorney Janet Kern has called this claim "preposterous."

Suncal still has other suits waiting in the wings for decision.

Though the city will continue to fight SunCal's $1 million and $17 million claims, Breyer's decision has "changed the magnitude of our (financial) risk substantially," Kern said. "From the city's perspective, this is a huge relief. We believe SunCal was very aggressive in filing this claim and that they were doing so to try and scare people."

Next week, the city will file its response to SunCal's other claims. The developer will then respond. At that point, the city will likely file for summary judgment, which will essentially ask Breyer to decide the case before going to trial.

As an interesting factoid, the Boalt Hall graduate served as an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force from 1973 to 1974.


The ACTF is planning a rally on the steps of city hall this Tuesday evening about 6:30pm to protest the land swap and try to get an initiative on the ballot to make all transfers of park land determined by a vote of the people.
It is certainly very important to us here on Harbor Bay/Bay Farm due to the commute situation, school impact, property values and loss of our green space.

It is also for the protection of all city wide parkland from similar swaps of our parkland to developers in the future, so the citizens of the entire city should be interested.

Call and/or e-mail the city council to express your views on getting this initiative on the ballot? Go to for info needed. If you e-mail the council members, don't forget you have to resend after you send the first time. If you have information or would like to get involved, contact Marie, .


Just learned from Save the Bay that, on February 21st, City Council will consider opting out of the county’s new plastic bag ban, which the County Waste Management Authority (StopWaste) passed last month. This was a huge victory in the movement to eliminate plastic bags that, among other things, pollute the Bay, and the first countywide bag ban in the Bay Area.

Save the Bay is urging that folks tell the city council: don’t let Alameda become the lone dissenter in the fight to prevent bag litter in the Bay.

Alameda County’s bag ordinance will not take effect until January 1st, 2013, giving the city plenty of time to educate residents about the ban and help businesses to prepare.


Help is on the way to deal with one of humanity's Great Inevitabilities.

The VITA Tax program is free, professional tax assistance for low-income families. Anyone earning less than $50,000 can qualify for the free assistance. Last year, the tax program helped more than 200 families get a total of more than $300,000 in tax refunds.

In addition to helping with this year's taxes, the volunteer preparers can also do your previous year tax forms to bring you back into compliance, and maybe even earn more refunds!

To schedule an appointment for this free tax preparation service, call (510) 898-7840.

There will be a clinic held by VITA to help folks out.

VITA Tax Help
Saturday, February 25, 10:00 am

Alameda Boys & Girls Club, 1900 3rd St, Alameda, CA


Or Leap, rather.

Feel you sometimes miss that all important anniversary date, earning the ire of your spouse? Think of those who tie the knot on 2/29 this year, for that one anniversary will not roll around until 2016. Then again, if you happen to be traditional Chinese or Jewish (we know some of you are) your leap years are spaced further apart -- but those special years contain an extra month. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, so a leap year has an extra month. In the Chinese calendar the leap month is added according to a complicated rule, which ensures that month 11 is always the month that contains the northern winter solstice.

Jews and Chinese have much in common, as our friend The Tzadik often says, and the reports from Ashkenazim born in China boggle the mind, for those wily Hebrew nusmatic wizards have created quite a confounding of dates.

The Hebrew calendar is, like the Chinese one, lunisolar with an extra month. This extra month is called Adar Alef (first Adar) and is added before Adar, which then becomes Adar Bet (second Adar). According to the Metonic cycle, this is done seven times every nineteen years (specifically, in years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19). This is to ensure that Pesah (Passover) is always in the spring as required by the Torah.

"Pesah is not a legend",

In addition, the Hebrew calendar has postponement rules that postpone the start of the year by one or two days. These postponement rules reduce the number of different combinations of year length and starting days of the week from 28 to 14, and regulate the location of certain religious holidays in relation to the Sabbath. In particular, the first day of the Hebrew year can never be Sunday, Wednesday or Friday. This rule is known in Hebrew as "lo adu rosh", i.e. "Rosh [ha-Shanah, first day of the year] is not Sunday, Wednesday or Friday" (as the Hebrew word adu is written by three Hebrew letters signifying Sunday, Wednesday and Friday). Accordingly, the first day of Pesah (Passover) is never Monday, Wednesday or Friday. This rule is known in Hebrew as "lo badu Pesah", which has a double meaning — "Pesah is not a legend", but also "Pesah is not Monday, Wednesday or Friday" (as the Hebrew word badu is written by three Hebrew letters signifying Monday, Wednesday and Friday).

One reason for this rule is that Yom Kippur, falling on the tenth day of the Hebrew year, now must never be adjacent to the weekly Sabbath (which is Saturday), i.e. it must never fall on Friday or Sunday, in order not to have two adjacent Sabbath days. (Ironically, if the belief that man was created on Rosh Hashanah and on Friday are both correct, then the Yom Kippur of that year would have been on a Sunday.) However, Yom Kippur can still be on Saturday.


Years consisting of 12 months have between 353 and 355 days. In a k'sidra ("in order") 354-day year, months have alternating 30 and 29 day lengths. In a chaser ("lacking") year, the month of Kislev is reduced to 29 days. In a malei ("filled") year, the month of Cheshvan is increased to 30 days. 13-month years follow the same pattern, with the addition of the 30-day Adar Alef, giving them between 383 and 385 days.

In other words, go figure.

The Hindus employ a lunar calendar with short months, allowing them room to fudge, temporally speaking. They also enjoy an additional month so as to keep all the celebrations for the different gods in synch with the stars.

At first glance the Iranians appear the most sane of everybody, with an extra day tossed in there every four years -- except when the 33 year cycle terms out and the span is every five years for a while, unless the Mullahs have figured out by means of complicated math practiced since the Middle Ages that the cycle is really 29 years. Or maybe 37.

No wonder Putin has done away with leap years and daylight savings time entirely. A popular President is Vladimir Putin.


So anyway, the weather has been differential lately. Its been cool and foggy, then warmish with sun, followed by brief cloudbursts. The daffodils have all erupted and the tulips are sending up green spikes, while swelling bulbs promise early freesias. Just about on time, perhaps a bit early, all the citrus trees have suddenly burgeoned with bounty.

The warmish weather has been a boon for those looking to gather blooms on the cheap for sweethearts.

The dreaded V-day passed midweek, but folks aimed to plight their troth, celebrate and generally embarrass the bishops on the long 3 day weekend.

As if to help Mother Nature along, Caltrans played the Cupid card in closing the Bay Bridge, to encourage more sentences like, "Oh there is no way to get into the City this weekend, let's just stay home in bed for a change . . .".

One fellow whose commute does not involve cars or bridges, Pedro Almeida, tootled out on his commercial fishing boat El Borracho Perdido with his faithful lab, Tugboat, pretty much as usual.

And as always he listened on the radio to his favorite program, Pastor Rotschue's Radio Sermon and Variety Show.

The Pastor apparently had realized long ago that most of the talk show hosts and radio preachers were all as nutty as fruitcakes; what was wanted was some good common sense on the airwaves. He was no fool -- there was only so much of the Good Word people were going to swallow from a Lutheran Minister. Besides, like any good Lutheran from the Midwest, he hardly wanted to be the center of attention.

So the man got a bunch of talented folks together and turned them loose for a couple hours and invited people who were a little bit famous -- not too famous, or there might be some swelled heads running around -- to come and perform whatever they were somewhat famous for.

We are in the head of a fisherman, right now, so its OK for now to end a sentence with a preposition.

This Minister apparently found the right mix, crossing the diamond with the pearl, for the show had been going on for some thirty-five years.

Lately the man had been bringing in this lovely voice belonging to a young woman named Heather. Pedro did not know what this Heather looked like, but he imagined that she must be quite beautiful with a voice like that.

And, unfortunately for the romantic fantasy musings of a seaman, quite a bit younger than himself.

Nevertheless, no harm in imagining, given the degrees of separation, he out on his boat off the California coast with a wife and children at home and she, hanging out in the Green Room of some theatre below Summit Avenue in Minneapolis with the champagne and the bouquets of flowers sent by admirers all around.

Pedro's heart went pitter-pat until Tugboat looked at him and woofed. Time to haul up the crab pots.

is this really proper that a Lutheran minister surround himself with nubile young beauties

Then he thought, is this really proper that a Lutheran minister surround himself with nubile young beauties each week? Singing sexy things like "Unchain My Heart" and Rolling Stones?

O that Ray Charles, he had been something! Who will remember Jackson or that Winehouse in another twenty years? Ray Charles was the man.

Pedro was of an age to remember when the promising young man named Buddy Holly scandalized the neighborhoods with that twisting dance thing. Or did that craze come later? Had he ever got an inkling that his daughters had been into Courtney Love, and what she was all about, he would have passed away on the spot from a seizure.

His wife wore these boots of Spanish leather and when she wore them, well they really got his blood up, they did.

He had a wife at home, by god, and she was a wife in a mood to celebrate

Time passed, the pots came up loaded with profitable Dungeness and soon enough the randy seaman with graying hairs was headed back to port, the secure wharf there, and the steps leading up from the landing to his warm house, where his warm wife waited with their warm bed. Up from the landing the randy mariner home from the sea bounded with an almost youthful spring in his step. He had a wife at home, by god, and she was a wife in a mood to celebrate this Valentine's Day and she just happened to be wearing boots made of Spanish leather -- and not much else -- while waiting for the door to open and her man to come . . . .

As we discretely close the curtain on that episode, let us drop in on a few other Island-Life characters and see how they are spending the long weekend.

Javier, freed from his dangerous liaison with the nearly lethal Valerie had hooked up the hapless Jose for a night on the town. Javier loved danger, excitement, fast women and loose cars. The younger Jose only wanted to coax beans from the Island impoverished soil in the backyard. In hometown Sineloa or Ciudad Mexico they would never ever have had anything to do with one another. Here in Gabacholand, they had to provide an example of what inspired Mexicanos can do. In the opinion of Javier.

Trouble started right away at the Frog and Fiddle, where Javier loudly protested that there was no Hispanic influence in the music played.

The lead singer of the Flatlanders, a bluegrass band, tried to explain that bluegrass did not possess by nature Hispanic elements, but that at the first opportunity they as a band would learn a number.

Something like El Condor Pasa or La Pistole Y Corazon.

This failed to appease the outraged Javier, although Jose begged his friend to calm down. Perhaps they should go to International Blvd in Oaktown, yes?

Sure, shunt us off to the ghetto where they put us all to look colorful for the holidays. Sure. Lets go where they ALLOW our people, the people who founded this California in the first place . . . !

Javier, calm down, said Jose. It is nothing. This is a bluegrass bar sort of thing to begin with.

Bluegrass green grass, red grass. What is the difference? I say call Denby; he is a musician. He can explain just why this place is so . . . so . . . bereft of culture.

Denby? Denby is a blues musician. He doesn't know anything about it. Please calm down.

Waitress, another Fat Tire and a bump! I will call Denby on the cell phone and bring him here. By force if necessary!

So that is how Denby got yanked out from his somewhat comfortable room in the St. Charles Lunatic Asylum on the dreaded Valentine's Day weekend, where he had been planning to hibernate through the ruckus.

When he got to the Frog and Fiddle, he found the place in an uproar. The Flatlanders had just finished a hot set, putting the place already into a mood. Javier was standing on a table shouting, and Peter, the proprietor had brought out his Kerry stick, threatening to bash out Javier's brains if he did not settle down. Jose stood there wringing his hands, hoping that Denby could resolve the situation, and if not, he would simply leave all of them to scream at each other like nuts in berry farm.

When Javier saw Denby, he shouted, What is more important in music, meter or metonymy?

This question, it must be admitted, floored Denby.

Um, said Denby. Maybe you should get off of that table.

"You are this guy's friend are you?" Peter said. "I have had enough of this. I run a decent establishment that provides goddamned bluegrass music, which none of you sodding effers do in this town, and I am calling the police because I am sick of you! All of you!"

Later, Jose sat with Javier sipping mojitos in El Machado Pineapple on International Boulevard.

You know, Denby should not have tried to explain I, IV, V to the banjo picker just when the cops got there, Jose said.

Nevermind, Denby is a sacrificial victim to the cause of retaking the Southwest for the Hispanic and Native peoples, Javier said.

At that moment, Denby was looking out through the bars of the cold cell they had put him, wondering just why this always seemed to happen to him on Valentine's Day.

Once again the Island-life issue would be delayed because of Valentine's Day Massacree issues.

Why does this happen to me every year? Denby asked the silent stars.

Because it is funny, answered the stars. And you are perfect for the part.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the romantic waters of the estuary before stroking the tender, trembling grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way from the tall gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its erotic journey to parts unknown.

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

FEBRUARY 12, 2011


This week's photo comes from the garden by the Old Fence where Rachel's narcissus bulbs are enjoying the strange, uneven weather we are having by sending out a spray of aromatic stars.


You may have heard about the Susan G. Komen Foundation flap over their initial decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood, followed by a storm of protest that persuaded the Foundation to conduct an about face on an decision that apparently had been influenced by radical conservative groups seeking to destroy the system of clinics which provides health care to women.

You may not have heard that our own Fire Department, which normally raises thousands of dollars for the Komen Foundation, had decided to reroute their fundraising efforts to the local Breast Cancer Fund because of Komen's politically influenced initial move.

The IFD begins to earn good points again.

There is an initiative petition out which seeks to close the loophole that allows the Silly Council to swap parkland for . . . well, to be honest, for land that is parkland also, but not useful for land developers like Ron Cowan. The petitioners are trying to shunt another shady land-swap deal that will result in 100+ more houses here.

The Silly Council reviewed the rather obvious responses to the rather obvious recommendations presented by the obviously biased Grijalva report which studiously avoided pointing fingers or recommending anyone be punished or fired for the fiasco which resulted in 200 first-responders watching for over an hour as a man died offshore here last Memorial Day.

The reason police and fire fighters stated they did not rescue the man: it was not in their budget.

The main report recommendation appears to be that first-responders speak plain English to one another, instead of jargon gibberish. Some would say that seems commonsense during an emergency, but heck, we are just different here.

As a PSA, be reminded that the combined local and Primary Elections are scheduled for June 5, 2012. If you really want to give Ron Paul a shot in the arm, then is the time to do it.

Also, remember that THE BAY BRIDGE WILL BE CLOSED 2/17 - 2/21 during the President's Day Weekend to allow for rerouting as a function of getting the replacement bridge ready.


So anyway, the weather has been moderately chilly for most of the days with some days sun busting through the thick pogonip. Early this week visibility in the AM was less than 100 yards, making for interesting commutes.

Got some squalls forecast for this coming Monday, so take your so'easter to work with you.

the cherry blossoms have been busting out all over

Because of the unseasonable warmth, the cherry blossoms have been busting out all over, causing the squirrels to become quite deranged. The daffydowndillies have become impudent and it does look like the jasmine is well on the way to becoming something early. The sweetpeas have started opening up with fragrant blood-red blooms above the tangles of thick vines as if they had something private to celebrate.

Perhaps Someone Upstairs was casting His own vote on the recent Prop 8 reversal by the 9th Circuit.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that "Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples."

The law was passed in 2009 after it was approved on a statewide ballot by 52% of voters. Prior to that, California allowed same-sex couples to wed.

it was a fine evening on the deck with the ... semi-full moon

Tommy and Toby went out to their boat, the Lavender Surprise, which is docked at the Marina to break open the champagne with their friends, Lynette and Shelly. Because rain and generally unsailable weather still persists, the boat is all secured for the winter. Nevertheless, it was a fine evening on the deck with the still somewhat lopsidedly semi-full moon hanging up there among the slate striations of cloud.

"Should we get married again?" Shelly asked.

"Between the four of us, we have been married six times, but unlike the usual Californian, it has always been to the same person!" Tommy said.

"O lord, I do not think I shall know what to do with another cheese plate wedding gift!" Toby said.

Tommy suggested they donate them to KQED to be used as bonus gifts for people who contributed more than $100 during the pledge drive, but Lynette found the idea tasteless.

Shelly imagined that they could be used by the various hosts during their shows. Imagine Terry Gross on Fresh Air serving up canapés to Paul Wolfowitz or the director of the movie about Betty Page.

"These cheese-whiz things are to die for. I just love your boots, the ones with stirrups. Mmmmm!. . . ".

"I understand you really didn't expect things in Iraq to go so wrong, Paul. Here, have another stuffed olive . . .".

In the Old Same Place Bar, Eugene Gallipagus started complaining to anyone that would listen.

"This is a difficult time of year otherwise for most folks. The Super Bowl is all over -- somebody won, but its difficult to remember all that now. It might have been Madonna doing the Statue of Liberty pass there on the 10 yard line or maybe it was Lady Gaga who did that. Its a long way to the World Series and fishing season is way the hell off in the distance, so there is no outlet, no way to let off steam. There is hunting, of course, but by now all the game has gotten wise to what goes on and the deer in Marin are just too easy.

in Marin, where deer are generally considered to be rats with antlers

In fact in Marin, where deer are generally considered to be rats with antlers, you try and push a deer away from your prize lettuce they will hold some kind of sit-in protest, causing all kinds of ruckus and getting the ASPC involved.

It's gotten so bad in Fairfax that you cannot fire your gun within city limits, and its been years since anybody knew what those limits were.

We have not had a deer come visit on the Island for quite a while. The last one had to swim over here from Oaktown to get away from the drug dealers. Mostly the deer are afraid of the raccoons who patrol their territory with brass knuckles and lead-filled batons. Nobody wants to tangle with an island raccoon -- they get really ornery.

Times are tough even among the animal kingdom, due to all the cutbacks

You would think an island raccoon would have cause to be mellow, but no. Times are tough even among the animal kingdom, due to all the cutbacks. People have started rationing their pet feed, which is a main source of protein for city raccoons. They put out the bowl only for a little while, then, after Leo or Bowser is done with it, the people bring it inside and lock the petdoor. There is less to go around and now its a full bore Recession among the fauna.

The raccoons are going hungry, the opossum has empty pouches to show for his efforts, the earthworms are getting skinny, they cut down the trees on Park Street to make all the birds in foreclosure as well as homeless, the bees have gone on strike, and the spider is sitting there in that web wondering just what the hell the world is coming to."

"Man, that is the most damn foolishness I ever heard. Listen to the man go on about the birds and the bees, cute as a wet Bolshevik in the Bohemian Grove swimming pool!", Padraic said.

"Ah go on!" Dawn said. "The man is only missing his fishin' is all." She turned to face Eugene.

"Now how far off is the season for trout, pray tell?"

In answer, Eugene burst into tears until he put his head down sobbing.

Dawn petted the top of his head. "There there now. You could always fetch us some crab, done up all nice and boiled. . .".

Eugene thrust up his head, his hair in a tangle and pounded the bar. "A crab is not a trout and never will be!"


Pearse and Connolly, the bar cats, jumped up from where they had been curled up together asleep and ran out the door.

They scampered down the street as a gentle rain finally began to fall after a long, leaden day of threat and bothersome chill. They ran through the night on silent cat feet, bypassing the T.S. Eliot Memorial Stone and passed under the window of Mr. Howitzer, which showed by its light the man was still up late, drafting documents and making plans.

Mr. Howitzer, the new Mr. Howitzer making plans? What sort of plans was Mr. Howitzer making on this cold, drizzly night under the lopsided moon near midnight?

He was planning nothing less than the end of all Island Life

He was planning nothing less than the end of all Island Life, as it is now and as it will be. No more kids playing stickball in the street. No more little girls bashing a birthday pinata under the Old Tree. No more Juanita's margaritas or barbacoa. No more independent bookstore with the cat in the window. No more Carnegie building ex-library and no more Free Library. No more League of Women Voters, no more Frank Bette Art Center, and no more quirky art sculptures on the lawn.

Harlan's mother, Juanita, had been pure Oglala Sioux

Earlier in the day, Denby drove past the old decrepit house where Harlan used to put up his wacky signs and he saw there an old man with an unkempt beard, wearing ragged clothes and sitting on the steps, shaking his head and weeping. Harlan's mother, Juanita, had been pure Oglala Sioux (this is, in fact, absolutely true). The Oglala mostly now inhabit the Pine Ridge reservation, and are mostly known for having originated the Ghost Dance. A ghost had come to the old house on Lafayette Street, for Harlan had been evicted a couple years ago.

Yes, there would be no more Harlans as well.

he was a property management man, and . . . he was odious

Why would Mr. Howitzer plan such a disaster for this sweet island that many love so much? Because he was a property management man, and because he was odious. In this place, the two are often conflated.

As the cats sniffed around the shrubbery, something spooked them and they darted off across the street into the dark night. Lit by the lopsided moon.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the ominous waters of the estuary before wavering over the tender, remembering, moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way from the tall gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its hard, hard journey to parts unknown.

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



FEBRUARY 5, 2012


Dave G., the owner of Pagano's hardware, does not come across as a romantic softie when you meet him. A sense of humor does come across, but romantic who owns hardware stores and drives a used Hummer he bought for $3,000?

This week we present the change of seasons and the next Holiday image in the form of Pagano's entranceway display window. We call this one, Ms. Wistful.

Is she waiting for her lover, or hoping one shows up by the luck of the draw? Is she recalling a fateful past romance that ended in some tragic way far too soon? No one knows, for she sits quietly, wistfully, either remembering or waiting, or hoping.

Yes, even in these bleak times, there is still hope.


Blogs can be so impersonal. The more journalistic, personal detail folks toss in there like so much salad stuff -- what they ate for breakfast, who they going to meet for lunch, how exciting the concert/play/beach/strip show was, the more they sound just like everyone else. We all are pretty much the same save for mean people -- who suck. And nobody really cares when you brushed your teeth or anything about your vapid dish on some inconsequence.

Nevertheless, we been going at this thing some fourteen years now, and feel its high time to present our Staff in living color. Heck even the Grand Master in Red Shoes felt the need to make a movie of people doing a radio show. Besides some of us here are smitten with Heather Masse, who wrote a really sweet song that went "Just paint a picture of yourself so I can put it on my shelf then I never never ever will forget your face."

Um, well, stars like that are probably used to people tossing roses and intimate undergarments on the stage, so we will not get into that. It will all connect and make sense eventually. In show business, you just never ever stop, even when it gets really inane.

So anyway here are pix of members of our staff here in the Offices:

The Editor

Denby Montana,
news reporter and music desk

Sharon L'Fey
Social events, theatre desk, piracy.

Web design, Java code, incendiary devices, tippler

European news, Wolperdinger hunting, family issues, foreign intrigue (photo courtesy of Interpol)

Aunt Frailty
Founding Mother, icon, baked goods, inspiring symbol of California

Sorry we could not put everybody here. There's another five or six of us but lawyers pointed guns at us and made us cease and desist. As for the Editor, he would not put up with the photographer for 30 seconds, claiming the "lens made him look fat". This was all his idea; go figure. How vapid.



Once again we have a smattering of mini-matters already reported in other places. We will start of with an important PSA


VOT!?!? You got that right. Plan on celebrating President's Day and low traffic volume in Babylon that weekend. Here is the gist from CALTRANS:

As part of the Bay Bridge Seismic Retrofit Project, the Bay Bridge will be closed in the westbound (San Francisco) direction over Presidents' Day weekend 2012 beginning, Friday, February 17, at 8:00 p.m. The bridge will reopen by 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 21. During the closure, Caltrans crews will complete a westbound detour near the Toll Plaza. Motorists will experience a slight alignment change as traffic is shifted to the south and away from construction of the easternmost part of the new East Span. This work will impact traffic going into San Francisco over the long weekend. Eastbound traffic will have full access to the bridge during the closure.

Please Note: Weather could delay the reopening of the westbound deck or postpone the closure to another weekend.

SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNI (Well, we just couldn't resist the pun, even though this is about the EBay, not MUNI)

While still on transit issue, we have this from Cynthia Vincit at ACtransit.

The East Bay Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project moved a step closer to reality today with AC Transit’s announcement that the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report for the project is now available for public review and comment.

The publication of the FEIS/R provides the public and other interested parties an opportunity to learn about a project that promises to improve the speed and reliability of bus service in the 14-mile corridor from downtown Berkeley to the San Leandro BART station.

The BRT FEIS/R will be available for public review from February 3, 2012 to March 19, 2012. The document can be viewed at AC Transit headquarters, 1600 Franklin Street, Oakland; online at http:/; and at public libraries in Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro.

A copy of the report can also be requested by calling (510) 891- 7175.


The Silly Council is reviewing the "independent" report on the Memorial Day drowning incident in which two hundred police, fire and coast guard personnel watched a man drown for an hour, with the IPD claiming afterwards that water rescue was not in the police department budget, the Coast Guard claiming they could make neither heads nor tails of the radio gobble-de-gook that passed as communications, and the fire department claiming their rescue boat was in dry dock. The East Bay Park service, which offered a boat, claimed no one asked for it.

The report, to be reviewed Feb. 7, contains such prize suggestions as in "don't talk like a fool on the radio so that people can understand you in a crisis, and "get a boat and put it in the water," and, "as this is an Island, by definition a land mass surrounded by water, do consider that you might find it occasionally necessary to save someone who is drowning. Don't count on calling a landlocked city for help."

O for pete's sake.

In a recent incident, the police impounded a man's car for failing to pay registration fees, then set him and his party on foot two blocks from the Bay Farm bridge at 4:43 a.m. A driver of a silver Lexus hit and killed Donnel Roberts as he walked along Doolittle Drive with the three other former passengers. The Lexus driver did not bother to stop, but fled the scene.

The official response is that Roberts had to have known he was driving illegally and that everything that happened was done properly according to the book. His family feels otherwise.


The long-awaited process of transforming the Roach Motel (officially known as the Islander Motel) into an affordable housing center. For a long time the 40-year old structure has been a blight at the end of the otherwise charming Park Avenue area, serving transients, parolees, and sex offenders who had no other place to go. The police were frequent visitors there and neighbors reported constant problems with the place. Extensive renovations will create 62 affordable studio units funded by a mixture of state and federal tax credits as well as 8.6 million of those redevelopment funds that are soon to vaporize. The Re-Dev funding had already been allocated when Jerry Brown terminated the state agencies that used to handled these projects.


So anyway the weather locally has been confused and deranged. This might not comfort other parts of the country which are either laboring under piles of snow or unwonted expanses of barren sod and unseasonably warm temps. While the Sierra finally enjoyed its dump of snowpack in a matter of days, it seems the north territories are seeing odd warmish temps, while we are getting some pretty bizarre results around here. The sweetpeas have started blooming, while the tulips have already shot up green blades. After those perfunctory showers, it has been disturbingly dry.

Saw the seagulls coasting in over the palm trees to the East End this past morning and, sure enough, weatherman has predicted a dockwalloper with winds to body slam the Coast Tuesday onward.

Everything is unsettled and the barometer wobbles like a sick gyroscope.

Over at Marlene and Andre's household, where fifteen people live crammed into a one bedroom cottage because the local rents have become obscene out of equally obscene greed, the mood has been stark. If it were not for regular visits to the foodbank for handouts, the entire household would have starved to death long ago, for Martini's wage as sawboy at the Veriflo factory together with Suan's tips at the Crazy Horse and Tipitina's hourly minimum as an AA in the City hardly amounted to a hill of beans when Marlene had contributed her bookkeeping, Andre the door fees and tips from gigs at Gilman, and the rest their sandwich-board earned gleanings from begging and doing odd jobs.

It's the 21st Century and this is now the future to which everyone looked forward. 90 minutes to Paris lasted barely a few years and the wretched SST got mothballed after a couple incendiary disasters. People are forming Hoovervilles under the freeway overpasses to the Island with shopping carts and sleeping bags. Nearly every week the choppers hover over the ridge. A small riot today in Oaktown involves some 3,000 participants. It's morning in America and everyone has a hangover, hating the sun.

Of course people are cranky. The weather has gotten weird, the Fundamentalists are howling about the fundament everywhere, and then there is Rick Santorum, a man running for the highest office in the land whose very name evokes the most obscene spew imaginable and in that, there is no exaggeration with regards to the man's nauseatingly repulsive views on just about anything. Naturally everyone feels off their feed. Have some empathy.

Amid all this unruly brough-haha, comes floating without pretense and entirely without force the delightful powerful full moon, sailing amid the cloud-wracked skies with calm serenity.

Sitting on the porch near the burn-hole where Snuffles Johnson sleeps during the winters, Marlene and Andre watch the new full moon rise over the Bay while the humps of Babylon strung with pearls glimmer in the distance.

At that moment, Pedro Almeida stepped out onto the deck of El Borracho Perdido with Tugboat, his faithful lab to look at the moon above the unruly chop that signaled a storm coming in next day while the lovely lilt of a chanteuse singing a song on his favorite radio program wafted from the boathouse.

Just paint a picture of yourself
so I can put it on my shelf
then I never never ever will forget your face.

Take a picture of you instead
and I will post it above my bed
So every morning I wake to see your face.

In the depths of the Lunatic Asylum of St. Charles, all the hebephrenics and the chronics and the wacked-out psychos pause amid their ravings as Denby takes to his battered old Tacoma with one string tuned down to D.

Come a little bit closer,
hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin'
we could dream this night away.
But there's a full moon rising,
let's go dancing in the light.

For a quiet time, all is silent and still, save for the quavering voice echoing through the asylum corridors and all the crazies look out the windows at She, glowing as she passes with her trails of luminescent gown.

But there's a full moon risin'
Let's go dancin' in the light
We know where the music's playin'
Let's go out and feel the night.

Because I'm still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I'm still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

Ms. Morales returns from the school and, after her supper with Mr. Ramirez, turns in to bed after the usual nightly rituals. She loves the children and empathizes with all of their problems. The lack of money. The beatings. The horrific abuse. The self-mutilations. But each night she sets out on this solitary walk towards dreams. She gets up in her nightgown and steps out of the door barefoot and walks through the silent houses down to the Strand where the ocean beats with its eternal rhythm and, with the full moon moonlight glowing up from the bright sands she walks out toward the lights of Babylon, which have become the fabulous lights of some distant, impossible city of Hope and Salvation and she is walking toward this City of Redemption across the waters of the Bay, impossible and yet possible. One day she will get there. But she is already fast asleep before she ever does. And so the teacher rests.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the luminescent waters of the estuary before wavering over the sensual moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way from the tall gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its journey to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week. And don't forget to dream.



JANUARY 29, 2012


It might be a bit chilly where you are at, but here in California, the sweetpeas are starting to bloom out by the Old Fence. While it might not be exactly 40 below, this is to let all friends in the northern territories remember that beneath the melting snow lies the seed that in the spring becomes ... well something else.


We got loose items here, most of which you know already, but which should provide some historical basis going forward, as this "blog" tends to have persistence that may aid researchers in the future.

There were tears in Muddville when the Island struck out on getting Lawrence Berkeley Labs to setup their 2nd facility here on 50 acres of former Navy Base. Hopes ran high, as a non-residential option of that quality at the Point seemed ideal for us. Folks came out by the hundreds for boosters and BBQ info-gatherings, trying to elevate the good vibe feel. Unfortunately, LBL already owns land out at Richmond and there they have no traffic bottleneck issues which are already bedeviling the West End.

On the upside, the nearly 1000 acres of land remain choice property in a bad market and the Navy agreed to let loose this prize of excellent waterfront real estate for the price of nada. So we Islanders have money in the bank, and it remains for us, and our Silly Hall leaders, to use this resource wisely.

Some folks trying to protect their children -- and in that enterprise there is no end -- have commented that crossing Grand Street near Franklin Elementary has become a parlous endeavor. Cars whizz by, ignoring kids and any sort of pedestrian in the crosswalks. Indeed, some of our staff have commented that ignorance of the crosswalks seems endemic here. One of our own staff was hit in the crosswalk down at Otis and Grand, suffering the driver to scream recriminations like an howling baboon for daring to be standing there. Of course, we sympathize, witnessing countless other crosswalk violations. The parents want crossing guards and more control lights on what amounts to a boulevard thoroughfare at times and much of that seems reasonable. Not all of it, but much of it.

When it comes to kids, we here think the proper thing to do is do the right thing. So what if those Outlanders call us "CrawlAmedans". Slow down the traffic and get those speedfreaks out of here. We don't need them and we want our kids to walk safely to school.

You may or may not have heard the helicopters this past few days, as alleged Occupier folks tried to secure an empty building in Oaktown on Saturday in an episode that got really ugly. Some reports state some two thousand protesters got involved with storming City Hall, where they trashed some offices, and with causing a fair amount of mayhem in the streets before tearing down perimeter fencing so as to "occupy" the abandoned building.

So much is general.

The official stats have over 400 people arrested, which indicates that far more than " a couple hundred" were involved.

It seems there was a gathering of some "bandana types" that swelled quickly when OPD overreacted with tear gas, beanbags and grenades. So one side overreacted, which propelled the other side to overreact and smash up stuff in City Hall.

This brought in the hard-core riot squad types who started indiscriminately arresting everyone, including KGO radio reporter Kristin Hanes, who objected despite presenting valid press credentials.

The problem with these situations is that when one party chucks the rules to the side the other feels free to chuck the rules as well. Now Mayor Quan is blaming "outsiders" in a weird and unintended evocation of Nazi rant. There might be some "black bandanna" thugs among these folks, but 2,000 people is not a number to be sneezed at in a city of some 400,000.

Everyone talks about how the freeway offramps seem designed to shunt people away from the Island access points. The signage, the routes, the ramps all send people to Timbuktu rather than Park and Central. In response to a rather obvious situation, the MTA and Caltrans are finally getting together to create sane access corridors here. In fact, construction at 23rd and 29th is expected to get underway this year. Right now, anyone getting off at the 29th Street exit must negotiate a labyrinth of access streets to get here. Some like that situation. Others do not. Caltrans estimates that the changes will result in an increased backlog of 10-20% along Park Street.

You just might want to pitch your own voice into these proposed changes.


So anyway it's been a quiet week on the Island, relatively speaking. The Island is our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The pogonip has been heavy in the mornings, indicating a change of season is coming on, and the recent storm clouds have yielded to moderately striated horizons in the evening. Temps have hovered in the comfortable for San Franciscans 60's while the Sierra seems to have revived with a series of blizzards to hearten all the snowbunnies and such that really like to jump up from a warm stove to go scooting around in the snow and ice with hardly any brakes on.

Madness, but what can you expect from Golden Staters gamboling up there on the slopes where god had no plan for such shenanigans.

Here on the Island we have our outdoor ski rink all set up where the Good Toyota saleslot used to be, and on 1/29/12 that whole thing gets taken down and that will be the end of Winter. We don't take chances with parking a car out on the lake ice and taking bets. The Island is far too conservative for that kind of daring. We schedule the end of winter by the calendar, and by god, we will adhere to that design. Will he or nil He.

Fun needs to have some kind of regimentation in this district.

The temps being mild, no one here has any "pump-handle phobia", a peculiar syndrome that affects much of the industrial Northeast and Minnesota in particular.

Day in, day out you would find youngsters licking pump handles with abandon, however as the man said, those items -- pump handles are few to find around these parts.

In fact, on the Island there are no more than two houses left which pull their water from wells, however that anyone does so at all in the Bay area speaks volumes about what we are all about.

If any of you are lost on this issue and all these references, please let us inform and educate, often two very different things.

Once upon a time, when the plains were dotted with nodding "horse-heads", the winters were colder everywhere. Hard to imagine, but it's true. In Winnipeg, an herd of horses escaping a stable fire, ran into the river and froze there in mid-flight, all of them solid as rocks with their gaping mouths fixed in solid terror for months. Local society groups held excursions out onto the ice of the river to marvel and take photographs among these subzero statues plunging in tableaux, and many a union was trothed -- and consummated -- among those heads until the breaking of the ice-dam in May carried all of it away forever.

Yes children, cold was really cold in those days. You could spit and your noogie would tinkle as it hit the ground. Few dared to mark their names in the yellow snow, for the fear of It freezing solid permeated all of the males.

"What happened here?" says the doctor. "Whoops! Looks like it just kinda broke off... "!

So it goes with the pump handle phobia. There were many pump handles then, and the great fear was that one's tongue would become fixed by the terrific minus forty cold to the bare metal, either by compulsion or by . . . strange desire.

Yes, if a man were to apply his tongue to a metal pump handle under subzero conditions, the consequences would surely be terrifically horrific.

We have queried any number of our gayer friends about pump handles and their response is always the same.

"Dude, you are really weird."

It is that kind of world when your gay friends find you, a perfectly red-blooded American, quite odd.

Californians tend to suffer different phobias and entertain other crotchets. When the native son was late getting out of bed to milk the cows, the pump handle was used to gush a sufficiently cold amount of water into a pail, which the native father emptied upon said native son in his formerly warm and dry bed.

Now you may begin to understand what drove that feller in East of Eden and Giant to be such a cussed animal.

You are down there in the pillows of dreams, riding the haywagon with Valerie of the golden suntan, just jouncing along in a surrey with a fringe on top, or riding Valerie on the sunned and jouncing wagon with a tanned fringe on top, or . . . whatever. Then this abrupt ice-cold shower yanks you up out of that better place of dreams to a place of sodden bedding and cow's udders and no breakfast, which on a working farm is serious departure. No breakfast on a working farm in California in those days and you have lost 1/3rd of the benefits.

No wonder patricide was so common in the old days. Sons went about popping their sires in the heads with any old sort of thing: shotguns, the deer rifle, crossbows. Slaughtered patriarchs were left littered across the bloody landscape. It was ghastly.

Ah yes, the good old days. When the weather behaved itself and murder was commonly accepted. You would think the Republicans would embrace this idea instead of their fantastical fiction of ersatz history which is no more real and no more remembered than anything else here. It is far more realistic and closer to the truth.

On his boat, El Borracho Perdido, Mr. Almeida paid scant head to the Conservative babble. He could not, for times were hard and he had to work for a living, unlike most of the conservatives around these parts who lived off of government supply in a number of ways.

He turned the dial of the radio and listened to this week's broadcast of his favorite radio program, Pastor Rotshue's Lutheran Variety Hour while waiting for the nets to spool out.

At the end of it, he thought the show was not bad. It could have been better but it was not bad. The piano player certainly had some gift in him, but Pedro liked the guitar player very much and there was very little for Pat to do this week. Fortunately, that gospel woman had cut loose with some promise. Yes, it did seem that gal would go far.

At the Pampered Pup, Arthur was enthused by the same show and there to talk all about it.

"Man, that gospel gal sure got something going about loving it up" Arthur said. "That there old time religion is really all about Love and Love."

"Arthur," Lionel said, "You need to get over that crush on entertainers from Minnesota. She is just a voice on the radio."

"No man, I can tell she got soul! It just shines on through. What about you and that Jacqueline? You going to the Valentine's Ball this year?"

Lionel said he wasn't sure. He was thinking about it.

"You think about it long enough both of youse be ninety feeding at pigeons in the park on opposite benches, man"

"You don't know nothing about it."

Down at the Old Same Place Bar, Babar still has been holding forth as the True Conservative Candidate in the Greatly Orotund Party against Nick Vilespew, of the National Association of Zenophobic Issues. Vilespew, originally out of Pennsylvania, until the good people rode him out one dark night tarred and feathered upon a rail, has enlisted all the surviving members of Howard "Doomsday" Campion's church and a few adherents of Reverend Rectumrod's 1st Church of Very Severe Baptists.

Vilespew maintains that since all homosexuals and illegal aliens are going to hell, they have nothing to live for, therefore they should all pay for everyone else's medical bills. This is Nick Vilespew's idea of reforming healthcare.

"After they pay into the system, we send them off in containers provided by the railroads to locations where they will be kept separate, but equal, from the general populace and there fully cared for without contaminating our sacred youth. I call this the District IX Single Payer Final Solution!"

Babar objects to this scheme upon solid constructionist grounds. The scheme is clearly unconstitutional for it expects and demands private industry to provide resources to Government in the form of cattlecars, gratis. That is clearly a no-no.

"They could be repaid by means of gold-fillings extraction," offers Vilespew. "We also have a Soylent Green option in our plan . . .".

"No, no, no," Babar says. "Any compulsion of private industry to do anything is anathema in my book."

"O drat!" said Vilespew in a snit. "You are such a silly!"

It must be said that both candidates seemed to lag far behind in the Primaries, while Eft Gregorian and Bud Rummy seemed to be dueling neck and neck for Most Conservative Dingus.

Old Schmidt came trundling in the way he always did, plotzed there on a bar stool and ordered a Fat Tire and a bump.

"So Schmidt, you gotta date for that Native Son's Valentine's Day Ball," Dawn O'Reilly asked from behind the bar, with her bar rag and her look.

Old Schmidt did not answer at first but drank deep of his draught and smacked his lips behind his beard before speaking.

"About zeese luff sings, I know nossingk, nossingk, nossingk!" Ja!"

Meanwhile the lovely Suzie mooned out the window at the brand-new crescent moon below which burned sharp a single bright star, brighter and better than all the rest, but for her, so far away.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the rain-dappled waters of the estuary before wavering over the sensual moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats stroked smoothly by the wind as the locomotive wended its way from the tall gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its journey to romantic parts unknown.

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


JANUARY 22, 2012


This week's photo comes from staffer Chad who took this sunset photo at the Strand several months ago. Time does not matter. The Island sunset looking toward distant Babylon is eternal.


Everyone is talking about the weather. Therein we have a world of news. Two weeks ago we had drought conditions looming over the Sierra and many mountain businesses lamenting the lack of snow, while city fathers patrolled their reservoirs, lamenting the below-normal levels. Be succored. The Mother of All Snow Storms has dumped a load on the Sierra from Oregon down below and all the ski slopes are jubilating with the change in fortunes and local water district officials have been dancing in the streets with the renewed supply.

A quick glance across the board for five agencies, from the NOAA to local KTVU, shows rain forecast through to Monday, followed by sunny days for the next five.
Meanwhile all the ski-bunnies are gearing up for another season on the slopes. There will be schussing and hellz-a-poppin' in the firewood ski lodges enough to scandalize the entire Romney entourage and make Newt Gingrich look like a saint -- which he is most certainly not. Go for it girls. And try to not get pregnant. That only adds fuel to the fire and encourages the Enemy.


Speaking of bonking and devices designed to frustrate Nature, the latest flap coming from Lala Land is that the Bluehairs have got the Freelove folks with their panties in a twist by way of a law demanding that porn stars all wear condoms while working.

This whole scenario is just too bizarre for words. And, although both sides come off (no pun intended) as flaky wack-jobs (no pun intended), it appears, funnily enough, that the porn moguls have common sense and decency on their side in this issue.

Firstly, there is the enforcement issue, which conjures up images of Officer Popinjay dropping into the local porn stageset (which surely must be listed in the Real Yellow Pages) to declaim, "Ah, Johnny Longdong you are sheathed as I detect. Keep up the good work!"

Johnny Longdong promises to keep it up as long as he is able.

One can imagine scenarios better acted on by Cheech and Chong to carry this one through.

The porn industry has responded with pragmatic clarity.

"Look. This is wild, off the top fantasy. It has nothing to do with reality. Your preservatives just get in the way of imagination. What is wrong with you folks."

Well yes. Few of us imagine that meeting a fabulous babe who overlooks our age, our paunch, our lack of hair, and our dweebness, will result in a torrid 5 hour marathon of sensual debauchery that ignores any number of other physical deficiencies with any sense of reality. Maybe these sorts of things happen to the likes of Garrison Keillor, but any of us? Nah!

One item of reality is that the porn industry brings in some 8 billion dollars per year to the Golden State and somebody better rethink their priorities here if they want to keep solvent.

In other arenas of unreality, we have the GOP primary battle, which is creating amusement and fodder for dull news programs everywhere.

You know, you must fault the Democrats for being substantially boring, save for Bill Clinton, and his moment really consisted of making bad choices for sex partners, which consisted of the chilly Icewoman Ms. Clinton on the one hand and the trailor-park trash in the blue dress on the other.

If you were President of the biggest nation on earth who could have sampled from the scads of Hefner bunniers and Oui posers, why the hell would you pick the Pillsbury bosom of a doughy Lewinsky? Go figgur.

The GOP, on the other hand, features a wild smorgasbord of flaming fingernail-painted harpies (Bachman) to the flaming polygamous types of Gingrich. They got the flying saucer god Romney and the jack-booted thuggishness of Santorum whose very name evokes vile and depraved fluids oozing from the bunholes of those he condemns and reviles. (Just google the odious name, and you will see.) Whats up with the GOP this year? Can they not come up with somebody who is halfway normal? Jeez.

From the gallant KPFA folks we have the following interesting upcoming event:

KPFA Winter 2012 Author Event Series

Wednesday, January 25, 7:30 pm:
“Pity the Billionaire: The Unlikely Resurgence of the American Right”
Hosted by Richard Wolinsky
Berkeley Hillside Club
2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley, CA
$12 advance tickets: http:/ :: 800-838-3006
or: Pegasus Books (3 locations), Mrs. Dalloway’s, Moe’s Books, Walden Pond, DIESEL, A Bookstore, in SF - Modern Times Bookstore ($15 door)

From the bestselling author of What’s the Matter with Kansas? – a stunningly insightful and sardonic look at why the worst economy since the 1930s has incurred the inchoate wrath of tea party conservatism.

Economic catastrophe usually brings social protest and demands for change, but when Thomas Frank set out in 2009 to look for expressions of American discontent, all he could find were loud demands that the economic system be made even harsher on the recession’s victims and that society’s traditional winners be given even grander shares. The American Right, apparently moribund after the election of 2008, was peculiarly reinvigorated by the arrival of serious hard times. The Tea Party movement demanded not that we question the failed system (as the Occupy Movement insisted) but that we reaffirm our commitment to its worst excesses. Republicans in Congress embarked on a grim strategy of total opposition to the liberal state.

In Pity the Billionaire Thomas Frank, wily chronicler of American paradox, examines the bizarre mechanism by which dire economic circumstances have delivered wildly unexpected political results. Using firsthand reporting, a deep knowledge of the American Right, and a wick sense of humor, he provides the first full diagnosis of our dangerous cultural malady.


So anyway it's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The weather has been colder than we are used to around here. Not so cold as other parts of the country, or even the Sierra regions of the Golden State, but certainly not tee-shirt weather for the sane. A dockwalloper set in at the start of the weekend, which turned into a periodic sizzler, and reports of heavy snow slamming the Sierra came in welcome.

A drought in the breadbasket of America is nasty business; believe me no one from here to Hyannis Port wants any of that right now. So even though things are grim, everyone is suffering cutbacks and far too many people think the hideousness of Rick Santorum is attractive, it does appear that the drought is staved off for now.

Decisions about the golf course have been postponed until better weather, the hospital continues to struggle, UCB remains mum about where to place its lab extension, redevelopment is assured to continue -- whether we like it or not, at the Boatworks area and Park Street and people are discussing what kind of trees to plop on Park Street.

For the record, the Editorial Board is stridently against non-native palm trees. Palms are not endemic to this part of California, they are not especially attractive, they do not provide close shade and we do not want our Island turned into a semblance of Miami, Florida. We do not have balmy breezes, we have strong, vigorous winds here. We do not march around in flip flops; we wear birkenstocks and harness boots. We are NorCal. We don't tan as an occupation. We do not want our island turned into some ghastly imitation of Long Beach. We are the Island and we have our own history of oaks and boxwoods.

That is our choice and we stick to it.

The Editor has been pulling the remains of his white hairs after the Offices got robbed in a daylight escapade by the notorious Toshienarita Yakuza band, who all stormed in waving sharp ginsu knives. Because the Offices are largely non-profit and nobody ever has any money anyway, the gang got away with not much more than several Raybans, a chiropractic backbrace, several hundred dollars in small change from the cash drawer, and a carton of half-and-half, but not much else.

They all rushed in, screaming all sorts of obscenities in Japanese, and demanding money in English, but finding everyone poor as churchmice, left in great disgust after trashing the place.

The IPD, finding no traffic ordinances had been affected, refused to pursue the matter.

The Editor, nevertheless was incensed. His domain had been robbed, after all. This was insult and umbrage and all of that. All of these hooded ninja-heathen running wild all over the place, rummaging through his files. Ugh!

But he had stood firm, protected his reader's IP addresses, their personal information, blocking the path of the savage nipponese ninjas as they stood firing off their guns into the innocent roof.

"Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, but spare your country's data," he said.

And so he stood with his hands clasped, old fat man with white hair surrounding his balding pate in an aureole. Here I am, so take me now. Today is a good day to die.

"A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;
The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that man's deed and word;
"Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!" he said.

The ninjas left wreckage and disorder. Chad's java code was left strewn in a heap. The Editor stood at the window, a broken Coriolanus lamenting his fate.

Amid the mayhem, missed the last few issues of PHC emenating out of the Fitz up there on Summit Avenue. Hope the old feller is still kicking ass with common sense and Lutheran rectitude.

Down in the Old Same Place Bar everyone watched with dismay on the big screen as the last chances of the 49'ers vanished amid the kick-returns and fumbles. Consider this a rebuilding year. Next year we will trounce those Giants firmly, putting them Bostons into their rightful second place.

Talk swung again to the topics of Politics and Religion, which seem to be dismayingly interlinked these days. Babar, of the Greatly Orotund Party, held forth on the consequences of the recent South Carolina Primary escapade. It's getting into January now, and still no GOP frontrunner is in sight. Eft Gregorian seemed to have pulled ahead in the state known for savage inbreeding, where his seven wives seemed not to affect his pull on the conservative pulpit.

In that darned South people get married to their sister and their cousin six times or more, so Eft's pecadillos mattered very little at the hustings.

Fascistic lunatics like Santorum, whose very name evokes vile fluids oozing from the bumhole, are common as dirt down there, so nobody in SC stood up to say, "Y'all know this feller is a wackjob extraordinaire."

Problem is, most common folk in America just want a President who is sane. The Grody Other Party just wants a screaming extremist.

The result is that, with no clear winner in the GOP, the savage infighting will continue another several months while the Dems have all the time in the world to deal with whoever comes out on top of what everyone knows is a dungheap of ridiculousness. Chris Christie and Paul Ryan figured that one out long before everyone else.

It may come to pass that even the incompetant and boobish Dems will have no trouble at all dispatching the bloodied, battered, exhausted, repudiated GOP contender that staggers forth from the arena to call like some Monty Python knight who has had all his arms lopped off, "Come on now! Come back and I'll bite your legs off!".

It will all be just like a fantasy vision of Paul Wolfowitz or a Peter Jackson version of a battle with Orcs. Just wack their heads off and you are done. So easy. Democracy will bloom with a thousand flowers.

Although Babar really prefers Stephen Colbert, he does recognize that realities will lead to the Mormon taking the brass ring. After that, since folks are wise now to electronic tomfoolery and ballot shenanigans, anything goes. Because of those darned complicated computers, they can't stuff ballot boxes like they used to.

Suzie stepped out back to the yard with the trash bins and the high fence. A slight rain fell down under the half moon scudding among the sea-wrack clouds. Denby, also disgusted by all the political talk which never ever seemed to go anywhere people really cared about came out and sat under the eves, strumming a Neal Young song. It was an old-fashioned waltz-time.

Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin'
We could dream this night away.

Dawn came out and stood there with a washrag in her hand while the clouds rushed across the yellow-lit sky. The spoken-vomit of politics had driven her to seek the clean night air.

But there's a full moon risin'
Let's go dancin' in the light
We know where the music's playin'
Let's go out and feel the night.

Suzie grabbed Dawn's hand and hauled the big woman into the yard where the two began to dance under the pelting rain as Denby sang in his keening, off-tune voice.

Because I'm still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I'm still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

Somewhere on the Island a dreamy girl's arm reached up to turn out the light, all savage greed of landholders and atavistic savagery of powerbrokers forgotten in the night of love.

Down on Santa Clara Mr. Sanchez rolled over to embrace the former Ms. Morales, his new wife. Even in the deepest night of the Captain's authority, the rule of the General's mirror-sunglasses above his proud uniform with epaulets, during the hardest of hard times, the cruelest gray-hearted regime with its stamp of jackboots and savage religion, the moon floats transcendent.

Because I'm still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I'm still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the rain-dappled waters of the estuary before wavering over the moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way from the tall gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its journey to the lunar landcape of parts unknown.

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


JANUARY 15, 2012


Had this week's photo in the files for a while, but then all good things take time to . . . ferment. And we wanted to post this one before the Time of Blue Valentines. It's a photo of Ocean Beach by the ever delightful Jodet. As in the game of Life v.1.0 itself, the challenge is to find the golden heart.


Got a brand new year underway and no special reason to find fault with that. Other than the usual misery and deprivation, however, we will give it time. Yes, give it time.

Got news a while back from Terry that the talented Les Waters is leaving Berkeley Rep, where, as Associate Director for the past eight years, he has helped turn a local theater into a contender on the stage for world-class productions easily matching quality with London's Theatre in the Round and New York's National Theatre.

For many reasons we are sad to see him go, but he goes on to even more ambitious digs at the Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Throughout Waters’ tenure at Berkeley Rep, his shows garnered great acclaim, routinely ranking among the year’s best in publications such as The New Yorker, New York Times, Time Out New York, Time Magazine, and USA Today. He has a history of collaborating with prominent playwrights like Caryl Churchill, Charles Mee, and Wallace Shawn, and champions important new voices such as Will Eno, Jordan Harrison, Sarah Ruhl, and Anne Washburn. In 2009, he made his Broadway debut with Ruhl’s In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), which began in Berkeley. His other productions at Berkeley Rep include the world premieres of Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West, Fêtes de la Nuit, Finn in the Underworld, Girlfriend, and To the Lighthouse; the American premiere of TRAGEDY: a tragedy; the West Coast premieres of Ruhl’s Eurydice and Three Sisters; and extended runs of The Glass Menagerie, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Pillowman, and Yellowman. Waters has numerous credits in New York, his native England, and at theatres across America.

Well, it sucks to see such a talent fly the coop, but we wish the man all the best in his new career.

Got news that the current conditions of bare rock will soon change as a storm moves in this week for some badly needed local rain, followed by even more badly needed Sierra snowfall. Up to now, this has been the driest year on record, with the Tioga Pass open in December and folks clambering the hiking trails which normally sit under eight feet of snow this time of year. No snow means drought conditions going into the Spring, so hope for the best.

We have reports from other parts of the country of bare snowslopes, so the situation is not unique, despite the radical conditions reported from Nome, Alaska.

Proving that we live in curious times -- once more -- we learned that an outpouring of outrage and objections prevented the tattoo chain called "Inkies" from placing a salon on Webster, where once tattoo parlors held dominion along with strip bars and check cashing establishments.

What is interesting is that the main resistance came not from folks against the idea of a tattoo parlor, but folks whose livelihoods feature "getting ink done". Seems "real professionals" regard the Inkies chain as crude, inartistic, larcenous, disreputable folks lacking taste and decent aesthetics.

In talking with a few artists at various East Bay parlors, we learned that tattooist can be highly gifted and talented artists in a variety of media, including traditional paint and ink on paper and that the best tattoo artists can convey vivid original images freehand according to their uniquely developed styles.

One complaint about Inkies by established tattoo artists was that a large portion of their standardized designs have been stolen from an entire style of Indonesian drawings and the workers do very little, if any, creative work.

This attitude of reducing fine art, which happens to be highly personalized, to the level of an Andy Warhol soupcan really ticks of local tattoo artists who pride themselves on their artistic originality.

We asked one artist if he ever continued what seems to be an highly personal relationship established by the process by some sort of contact, and he said that seldom happens. He said it was enough to know that his work was walking around, live, showing itself or being secretive as the case may be. He felt confident that what he had done had been at the time the best he could do. He had made a work of art and cast that work out into the world.


Do you not hate those reviews of restaurants where "the presentation is all"? We do.

Recently, some high-profile people in the food world have offered opinions on what we can eat in the name of causes like saving the planet and pushing boundaries. Rene Redzepi, chef of Noma in Copenhagen, aka the world’s best restaurant, recommended that people in the States start eating squirrel (he hashtagged them “rabbit of the sky” on Twitter, someone else suggested "chicken of the trees").

And "Bizarre Foods" hero Andrew Zimmern came back from a trip to Beijing energized by a 10-course donkey tasting. “Donkey should be on everyone’s plate in 2012,” he says.

Recently an East Bay Express piece focussed its lens on eating insects, as in ants, grasshoppers, and maggots, which apparently are quite tasty. Turns out the main problem here is surprisingly making the diet cost-effective. You want fried ants, I got ants. But just try making those critters pass FDA rules, honey. Yeah, that is indeed a problem.


Oakland Art Murmur is pleased to announce a series of guided walking tours, taking place on the third Saturday of each month, as a way of introducing visitors to Oakland's rich array of visual art venues.

Tours are led by prominent Oakland gallery directors, curators, writers, and artists, and are based on a different theme each time. The tour guide will pre-select five exhibitions that include work relating to their theme. At each venue, the group will enjoy a brief presentation about the gallery and the current exhibition from the gallery director and/or artist whose work is on view.

Oakland Art Murmur ran several of these tours during the second half of 2011, and due to the success of the program, has decided to make it a regular event for 2012.

Tour groups meet at Farley's East, a café with rotating art shows, located at 33 Grand Ave, just east of Broadway, at 2:00. Participants should be ready to walk a distance of four to eight blocks over the course of the afternoon. Tours are free and conclude around 4:00pm.

2012 Tour Schedule

JAN 21 Photography, led by Irene Imfeld, Director of PHOTO gallery
FEB 18 Tour moved to Saturday February 25th
FEB 25
Ceramics, led by Joshua Margolis, Artist and member of FM collective
MAR 17 Drawing, led by John Casey, Artist and member of Oakland Art Murmur's Board of Directors.
APR 21 The influence of CCA & Mills on the Murmur community, led by Marianna Stark, Arts Writer
MAY 19 Current Trends in Contemporary Art led by Danielle Fox, Director of SLATE gallery and Oakland Art Murmur
JUN 16 Living with Sculpture and Conceptual Art, led by Charlie Milgrim of Mercury 20 Gallery
JULY 21 Collective Art Spaces, led by Maya Kabat of Mercury 20 Gallery
AUG 18 Collaborative Art Projects, led by Susan Sharman of Studio Quarcus
SEP 15 Identifying how art impacts our lives - personally, locally, globally, led by Lonnie Lee, Director of Vessel Gallery
OCT 20 "Coda" art as it relates to musical signature, led by Stan Peterson of Creative Growth

For more information on the tours and other free Saturday events including artists talks, receptions, and concerts, check Oakland Art Murmur's Saturday Stroll Page: http:/



It is difficult each year to come up with a sincere and honest appraisal of a man commemorated by this holiday fixed for now on January 16th. Every time, we are halted by memories and by strung-out emotions.

The Wikipedia has this to say:

"Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. King has become a national icon in the history of modern American liberalism.

A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he expanded American values to include the vision of a color blind society, and established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history. "

Well that sure sounds all historical and objective and distant as Heroditus.

It sure does not recall the sense of acid fear in the gut, the astonishing sight of what turns out to be the bright splash of your own blood on asphalt and the way it turns dark in a few minutes, and it hardly presents the weird sensation of being surrounded by a savage howling mob of snarling faces.

If you have never had that sensation, praise MLK you never do. It is not a good one.

There are people still alive who lived through the tumultuous Civil Rights Era. In fact, Jesse Jackson was standing just below the balcony on that day when King was murdered by a racist maniac. We have friends who had to enter department stores through doors separate from the main entrance, which had been reserved for Whites Only. They had to use separate water fountains, separate schools, and sit separate in just about any public place, including buses. At any time, any one of them could be pulled out of line or from their homes to be beaten, tortured, and murdered.

People today talk about racism here as a function of name-calling, employment discrimination, club exclusions, etc., however we only this this far because of men and women like Martin Luther King. Anyone visiting any one of our larger American cities can clearly see by the composition of neighborhoods that discrimination still exists. We have a long road still to go, but at least we are on it now and enjoying the fruits of labor as beneficiaries.

Many of our most superb athletes, scientists, statesmen and women, soldiers, are honored Black citizens who contribute immensely to this country and to society in general.

Monday is a holiday, and for many who do know know these things, that is something for which to be grateful.

It took a lot of people working very hard and at great cost to make the possibility of a Black Man as President to become a possibility. We can say with pride that this possibility became a reality. And that sort of pride is far more justified and true than any foam finger waving or baselessly inane "We're Number One" chanting. All of those people, indeed the entire Nation, owes a debt of gratitude to Martin Luther King, Jr., a humble pastor who never really wanted to become famous or gain a great name for himself. Before he arrived to gently lead our benighted Nation via pacific means into a more enlightened era, an entire segment of American society lived lives no different in quality of freedom than those in the most vicious Communist regime that ever existed. And for his pains he was murdered in cold blood.

Just think about that for a moment. Enjoy your holiday.



So anyway, the temperature has been chill and the pogonip lingering these past few days. When the sun came out a chill wind forced everyone quickly indoors. Word has it that a big storm is heading this way, which will surely rectify all inequities.

It will not, but at least it will be something different and maybe put snow in the Sierra.

The new Mr. Howitzer, spreading his wings and just establishing himself in Society here, sent Dodd out in search of truffles for a particular recipe he had in mind.

he had found a receipt from Sonoma Farms for 1 live pig

Dodd said that raw truffles were not to be had in this district at the grocery, to which Mr. Howitzer responded that Dodd had better find some or else and besides he had found a receipt from Sonoma Farms for 1 live pig. It is commonly known that pigs are employed to find truffles. Where had that pig named Hermano gotten himself?

"Hermano was not the truffle-pig sort, having been bred as the rashers and ribs sort of supplier", Dodd said, and so absolved his friend from responsibility once more. Hermano, snorting and snuffling in a pen located in up-county Sonoma, appreciated this consideration.

Berkeley had long ago put the foo in fou-fou

Wearily, Dodd climbed into his battered Citroen to head up to Berzerkeley to find that the posh Andronico's had fallen victim to the Great Recession. Berkeley had long ago put the foo in fou-fou, so Dodd went searching.

While Dodd hunted truffles, Mr. Howitzer checked in on the work being done to repair the building that had caught fire. While at the site, he instructed the electrician to run the power lines so the hall lights would be on the circuit of one tenant, the porch lights on another's, and the maintenance sockets on yet another's.

"Ah señor, where do I put the ground?" Ferñando asked.

"O don't bother with that."

"Ah, señor, I do not think that is so legal," the workman asked. He was not a licensed electrician, but he did know a thing or two.

"I am not going to pay for it," Mr. Howitzer said. "I'll put one in later. Here's five dollars. Forget about it, I tell you."

"But . . .".


"Okayyyyy . . .".

The mains may have been grounded at one time, but the inexperienced Ferñando could not find it, so he ran a line to the metal clothesline pole. That sort of worked for now, but Ferñando made a mental note to avoid the place in the future.

When lunchtime came around, Ferñando went in search of a food truck, but the City Council had not yet granted its blessing to this necessity. Fortunately, he found Lionel tending the counter at the Pampered Pup hotdog joint.

Lionel was trying to explain to Arthur about how things had changed since the old days.

"These kids running around with their pants hanging down and slouching like no-accounts complain about nothing I tell you," Lionel said. "They just don't know what it was like."

Arthur sighed.

"How things going between you and that Jaqueline? You get past first base yet?"

"And that's another thing . . .", Lionel began.

"O for pete's sake. . .".

"Where's the romance gone today? These kids! Where's the subtlety, the . . . the . . . I remember when it was "Signed, Sealed Delivered" instead of Baby baby I wanna hump you now. There was Ain't No Mountain High Enough, Stop! In the Name of Love, and Heaven Must Have Sent You. . .".

"Sounds like the same old song . . ." Arthur said.

"Four Tops. You betcha. They just don't write songs like they used to. Everything is all sex and drugs and 'hoes and violence."

"Si," Fernando said. "Like La Pistole y mi Corazon."

The two guys just looked at him.

the Annual Golden Poppy Valentine's Day Fundraiser Ball

At the marina parlor of the Native Sons of the Golden West the planning committee was gathering ideas and taking stock of resources for the Annual Golden Poppy Valentine's Day Fundraiser Ball. Wally had got out his hunting bow as well as an 180 pound crossbow and they were thinking of having a live cupid running around, first on Park Street as a sort of ad for the charity ball and then at the Ball itself.

The crossbow was nixed as looking really unromantic and Wally regretfully put it away.

"Now who do we have who is fat and still looks good naked?"

Roberta was shocked. "Is too cold to run around without any clothes on!"

Rachel was contemplative. "Who says he's got to be fat? Put some vine leaves in his hair whoever it is." She was thinking in her head of a couple dance instructors who would look dashing with a quiver of arrows and not much else. They would do it, too.

"They have to wear some pink," Sharon said.

"They have to wear some pink," Sharon said. "At least pink shoes. I adore pink. That's the main reason I like Valentine's Day."

"No, no, no we can't have naked people on Park Street," David said. "This is not Berkeley."

Various members of the City Council were bandied about, but only briefly. Nobody wanted to see any of them nearly naked, not even Mayor Marie, who is must be admitted was a far better-looking Mayor than the Island had enjoyed for quite a long time.

we already know Jessica looks good in a bathing suit . . .

"Who says Cupid has to be a guy?" Abraham said. "Let's get Miss Island! She is civic-minded with her recycling programs and we already know Jessica looks good in a bathing suit . . .".

"Well," David said, "We could drive her around in a compost bin on wheels. . .".

"I can see it now," Abraham said. "The theme for this year can be 'Go green this Valentine's Day!'"

"God!" Rachel said with disgust. "Just think of the wretched color scheme -- green and pink!"

"Or it can be, just imagine, 'The Recycled Heart!'" Wally said. "Don't just throw your heart away, recycle!"

The possibilities began to pour through their minds. Everyone except Rachel, who could not get the image of hearts being used to compost a worm farm out of her head.

"It's just like Love," Sharon said. "You pour dirt on it and . . . it just blooms!" She sighed. "Ah romance!"

Abraham really liked the idea of Miss Island being driven around while wearing nothing but strategically placed refuse. Okay, so its Valentine's day -- strategically placed hearts.

"Can we get, like, pink champagne for this?" Sharon asked.

The bolt snicked past the tree branch to severe a guy-line

Bored, David went outside with the crossbow and, seeing the tempting sight of a plump "tree chicken", fired a bolt, missing the critter who scampered up and away with a flick of its bushy tail. The bolt snicked past the tree branch to severe a guy-line for the mainmast to Mr. Cribbage's new 40-foot ketch. With impressive power the bolt continued on its way to pierce the transformer up on the utility pole at the far end of the marina.

Wally and the others came out of the clubhouse.

"The heater stopped and all the lights went off," Wally said. "I think the power went out."

The Island, from 8th Street on west went dark as sparks began a little show of pyrotechnics up on the pole, noticed only by David.

David handed the crossbow to Wally. "I gotta run. Patricia is having a chiropractic social and I gotta be there. Talk to you guys later!"

"What happened to the power?" Sharon said. "Hey! Look at the pretty sparks over there!"

talk turned from the fire that started at Washington Park

That night at the Old Same Place Bar the talk turned from the fire that started at Washington Park, caused apparently by a power pole accident, to politics. The Presidential primaries were coming up and the battles between the various factions of the Conservative Party, the Very Conservative Party, the American Taliban Ultra Conservative Party and the Ultra Ultra Conservative Pee Tardy Party had gotten fierce. Michelle Schockman had already bowed out when her main campaign manager spent most of the campaign budget on sunglasses for their poodle, Froufrou Pink.

Greg Eft, of the Ultra Conservatives looked in pretty bad shape after news of his seven wives in seven states became public.

all these so-called conservatives were just posers

Babar, present in the OSPB at the rail commented that all these so-called conservatives were just posers. "A true Conservative wears two pairs of pants, uses the right Grecian Formula on his hair and the right plastic on that of his spouse of many years. A true conservative does not travel abroad to any place save Germany, which is held as a modal of how hard work and innate talent lead inevitably to success and the fall of evil socialism. German food is known to be Conservative in nature.

A true conservative does not really believe in starving government to nothing for government can be useful for handing out pots of money to wealthy friends. A true conservative goes to church, but not often and never talks about it, because all churches are always looking for free handouts.

When asked for whom Babar would vote, other than himself (he, himself is, of course, considered America's Best Conservative, for his very physique embodies the heart and symbol of Conservativism) the Candidate considered briefly.

"The most intelligent and clearly superficial candidate is Steven Colbert."

With that, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the shining sea waters of the estuary before wavering over the amber waves of grain at the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way from the tall gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its journey to the purple mountain's majesty and parts unknown.

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


JANUARY 8, 2012


Nothing says the holidays are over quite like the sight of the dried-out xmas trees left on the curb for the recycling truck. Nothing quite says "unwanted" quite like this feller who has an untold story tied up in his never celebrated branches, left out in front of an apartment building here on the Island. Did someone die? A sudden need for divorce cause the family to scatter to the four winds with their presents all shipped back to Walmart? What disaster cancelled this one's Xmas?

Of course it could have been a matter of a sudden resurgence of the heart caused the woman of the house to impulsively throw her arms around her boyfriend/Significant Other with the boxes of decorations all there in the hallway and the tree just brought in. She says, "O Brad, I so loathe all this consumerism and hectic madness!"

"Me too, Janet. I hate Xmas!"

"Let's just turn out the lights and stay in bed for a week instead of all this running around and getting into stupid arguments with one another. Let's just enjoy each other for once."

"Great idea Janet! Let's get naked right now!"

"O but what shall we do about the kids?"

"Drown 'em? Like puppies?"

"No, Brad."

"I know. We can sell them to UCSF for scientific experiments. Just for the Holidays!"

"O Brad, what a great idea! I love you".

"Dammit Janet. I love you."

[They kiss. Fade out.]


In our annual retrospective of the deceased in 2011 we neglected two very important and very unlike individuals, one whom was an angelic creature, the other a repulsive cad.

So lets balance the yin with the yang here and start with the Good Man of Babylon, Warren Hellman.

F. Warren Hellman (July 25, 1934 – December 18, 2011) was a private equity investor and co-founder of Hellman & Friedman, a multi-billion dollar private equity firm. Hellman also co-founded Hellman, Ferri Investment Associates, today known as Matrix Partners, and started and funds the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. Hellman passed away on December 18, 2011 of complications from his treatment for leukemia.

Hellman, although born in New York City, stems from old-line California stock -- his grandfather, Isaias W. Hellman, a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria, launched the family into its financials business after failing as a dry goods merchant in Los Angeles during the early days of the Golden State.

His family moved to San Francisco after the "difficult" boy who just could not put up with authority spent two years at a military academy that was intended to discipline his wildness and teach him some rules -- it did not work. He went on long, pell-mell, hell-for-leather horseback rides, told bawdy jokes, and set himself on fire with a kerosene lantern while sneaking into a room late at night to steal a toy belonging to someone else. In SF he graduated from Lowell High School to go to UCB where he triple-majored in economics, political science and history in 1955.

After serving in the US Military he hard-charged though 15 years at the now defunct Lehman Brothers, earning a reputation there as an aggressive wildman and an equally wild partier. By report he and a friend tried to hide from cops after tearing up a few well-manicured estate lawns in their sports-car by climbing up onto the roof of a house. That didn't work either.

Mr. Hellman built a fortune as an investor and seemed determined to spend much of it. He poured millions of dollars into local causes, some political, some personal.

He bankrolled San Francisco ballot measures that reformed the city's pension system and created an underground parking garage beneath Golden Gate Park. He funded the San Francisco Free Clinic and helped set up an endowment to support aquatic sports at UC Berkeley, where he played water polo as a student. He gave money to the Mills College cross-country team and the Jewish Community Endowment Fund. Concerned about dwindling local news coverage in the Internet age, he helped form the Bay Citizen online journalism site.

And in 2001, Mr. Hellman sponsored a free, outdoor concert devoted to bluegrass music, a love he had nurtured for years, the now wildly popular Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, which began humbly in a City College Auditorium and several classrooms there, catering to an initial audience that numbered in the hundreds. By 2011 the Festival was held in the formerly named Speedway Meadows (now re-named by the City Council as Hellman Meadows) on six stages over three days, with well over one half million attendees on Saturday alone.

A couple years ago he announced on stage during the last performance of the series that year he had created an endowment fund so that the festival could continue "after I croak". That year, the amateur banjo picker performed himself on a side stage with his band, the Wronglers.

His daughter Patricia Hellman Gibbs confirmed Sunday that "yes, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival will go on!"

"He was truly a Renaissance man, excelling in so many aspects of life," she said. "He was a phenomenally successful businessman, a lifelong competitive athlete, a community leader, a dedicated musician, and fiercely devoted to his family. He and Mom were the yin and yang that made our family whole, complementary to each other in so many ways."

Mr. Hellman seemed to enjoy talking about his philanthropy more than his business deals, and often said that collecting expensive cars or art didn't interest him.

"What does move me is the philanthropic stuff," he told Forbes magazine in 2006. "Giving really does move me. Part of it is selfish. It's fun to be appreciated. But the other part is that good things really are growing."

Despite his bronco-buck youth he remained a loving and devoted husband to his wife, Chris, producing four children, some of whom had become somewhat famous celebrities in their own right.

He may have been a wildly successful financier, and in some circles there are those who consider that important, however he will be longer remembered for the wonderful gift of the HSBF long after all those ticky tack "lucites" commemorating big business deals have crumbled to dust.

As for his daughters, they will remember the fairy-tale story of how their father met their mother, at that time a ballet dancer for the London Festival Ballet Company, on the deck of the Queen Elizabeth, and how he would entertain all of them singing funny songs he had written himself, while playing the banjo, and how he possessed a vast repetoire of off-color jokes so funny he could make the milk snort out of your nose.

So much for nice. Now for the naughty. How could we forget the proto-type for stupid bad guys everywhere had passed away this year? Well, it was not exactly by natural causes.

Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti (28 April 1937 – 30 December 2006) was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003. A leading member of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, and later, the Baghdad-based Ba'ath Party and its regional organisation Ba'ath Party – Iraq Region, which espoused ba'athism, a mix of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism, Saddam played a key role in the 1968 coup, later referred to as the 17 July Revolution, that brought the party to long-term power of Iraq.

Well, there is a lot to be said about the man's bone-headed misdeeds and nasty cruelties that seem all too typical of ruthless bloodthirsty dictators everywhere, but that has been documented well enough, from his use of chemical weapons, first against Iran during a nasty war and then against his own countrymen, the restive Kurds, to his brutal suppression of dissent, but most of that has been described ad nauseum.

In 1990 he invaded and looted Kuwait.

In 1990 he invaded and looted Kuwait. An international coalition came to free Kuwait in the Gulf War of 1991, but did not end Saddam's rule. Whereas some venerated him for his aggressive stance against Israel, including firing missiles at Israeli targets, he was widely condemned for the brutality of his dictatorship. His army was thrown out of Kuwait by an international force that saw very few casualties although losses on the Iraqi side topped well over 83,000 soldiers killed.

In March 2003, the U.S. and U.K. invaded Iraq

In March 2003, the U.S. and U.K. invaded Iraq, after U.S. President-Appointee George W. Bush accused him of possessing weapons of mass destruction and having ties to al-Qaeda. No such weapons were ever found and the al-Qaeda connection between Saddam's firmly secular government and the religious fundamentalist organization has been widely discredited as puffed up excuse for a war Bush wanted so as to keep himself and his conservative Republican Party in power. Most Mid-east experts consider any link between someone like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden to be wildly preposterous, given the natures of their extremely divergent public persona.

Saddam's Ba'ath party was disbanded and the nation made a transition to a somewhat more democratic system. Following his capture on December 13, 2003, the trial of Saddam took place under the Iraqi interim government. He was convicted of charges related to the 1982 killing of 148 Iraqi Shi'ites and was sentenced to death by hanging. The execution of Saddam Hussein was carried out on December 30, 2006.

Those are the overt facts every American knows about. There are however, a few interesting factoids to review, especially in view of the astounding truth that Saddam actually believed the US would do nothing about the invasion of Kuwait.

And that he had some pretty solid, historical basis for holding such a seemingly preposterous idea.

Lets go back to 1968, and the 2nd Ba'ath Party coup led by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr that set the stage for Saddam's rise to power.

Iraq was a strategic buffer state for the United States against the Soviet Union, and Saddam was often seen as an anti-Soviet leader in the 1960s and 1970s. Some even suggested that John F. Kennedy's administration supported the Ba'ath party's takeover. Although Saddam was al-Bakr's deputy, he was a strong behind-the-scenes party politician. Al-Bakr was the older and more prestigious of the two, but by 1969 Saddam Hussein clearly had become the moving force behind the party.

As Saddam consolidated his power by both increasing emphasis on modern technology and bolstering the national oil production capability, he sought to eliminate the age-old inter-tribal animosities which have bedeviled so much of the rest of the world by ruthlessly eliminating opponents, among those, the true socialists and the communists.

The combination of anti-communism, oil production, and vastly increased stability made Saddam highly attractive to the West.

With the help of increasing oil revenues, Saddam diversified the largely oil-based Iraqi economy. Saddam implemented a national infrastructure campaign that made great progress in building roads, promoting mining, and developing other industries. The campaign helped Iraq's energy industries. Electricity was brought to nearly every city in Iraq, and many outlying areas.

Before the 1970s, most of Iraq's people lived in the countryside and roughly two-thirds were peasants. This number would decrease quickly during the 1970s as global oil prices helped revenues to rise from less than a half billion dollars to tens of billions of dollars and the country invested into industrial expansion.

1979 proved to be a watershed year for Saddam, who had ascended to General over all of Iraq's forces. In a quiet putsch, he had 68 members of the Ba'ath party ruling assembly accused of treason, including the ailing al-Bakr. 22 were sentenced to death by firing squad immediately, and hundreds more were executed in the following months, making Saddam the defacto dictator and exclusive ruler of Iraq.

That hullaballoo went fairly unnoticed here for the US developed an interest in Iraq's neighbor, Iran.

In early 1979, Iran's Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution

In early 1979, Iran's Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution, thus giving way to an Islamic republic led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. The influence of revolutionary Shi'ite Islam grew apace in the region, particularly in countries with large Shi'ite populations, especially Iraq. Saddam feared that radical Islamic ideas — hostile to his secular rule — were rapidly spreading inside his country among the majority Shi'ite population.

The US embassy was stormed by Iranians and a number of officials there taken hostage, initiating a long and painful episode that featured failed rescue missions and the eventual, temporary, discrediting of President Jimmy Carter's administration.

When Saddam announced in secret meetings at the United Nations he intended to invade Iran and overthrow the Ayatollah, the US responded with some pleasure.

In September of 1980, parts of Iran were invaded and annexed as "new territory of Iraq" with Western approval.

With the support of the Arab states, the United States, and Europe, and heavily financed by the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Saddam Hussein had become "the defender of the Arab world" against a revolutionary Iran. The only exception was the Soviet Union, who initially refused to supply Iraq on the basis of Neutrality in the conflict, although in his memoirs, Mikhail Gorbachev claimed that Leonid Brezhnev refused to aid Saddam over infuriation of Saddam's treatment of Iraqi Communists. Consequently, many viewed Iraq as "an agent of the civilized world". The blatant disregard of international law and violations of international borders were ignored. Instead Iraq received economic and military support from its allies, who conveniently overlooked Saddam's use of chemical warfare against the Kurds and the Iranians and Iraq's efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

In the first days of the war, there was heavy ground fighting around strategic ports as Iraq launched an attack on Khuzestan. After making some initial gains, Iraq's troops began to suffer losses from human wave attacks by Iran. By 1982, Iraq was on the defensive and looking for ways to end the war.

the United States ... supplied Iraq with "satellite photos showing Iranian deployments"

Iraq quickly found itself bogged down in one of the longest and most destructive wars of attrition of the 20th century. During the war, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iranian forces fighting on the southern front and Kurdish separatists who were attempting to open up a northern front in Iraq with the help of Iran. These chemical weapons were developed by Iraq from materials and technology supplied primarily by West German companies as well as the Reagan administration of the United States which also supplied Iraq with "satellite photos showing Iranian deployments" and advised Hussein to bomb civilian targets in Tehran and other Iranian cities. France sold 25 billion dollars worth arms to Saddam.

The bloody eight-year war ended in a stalemate roughly sometime in 1988. There were hundreds of thousands of casualties with estimates of up to one million dead. Neither side had achieved what they had originally desired and at the borders were left nearly unchanged. The southern, oil rich and prosperous Khuzestan and Basra area (the main focus of the war, and the primary source of their economies) were almost completely destroyed and were left at the pre 1979 border, while Iran managed to make some small gains on its borders in the Northern Kurdish area. Both economies, previously healthy and expanding, were left in ruins.

It was this economic and moral support from the West which led Saddam to foolishly believe that he could recover the economic losses by seizing the assets of Kuwait, which government he disliked for opposing his urging of OPEC to rein in production so as to drive up the price of oil. So, stymied in getting quick cash via oil production, he decided to leverage his Western friendships and simply take what he wanted.

the USSR was becoming less a threat as Brezhnev's health began to fail

Problem was, the USSR was becoming less a threat as Brezhnev's health began to fail (he died January 1981 after several years of declining faculties), Iran was quiescent at that time, and Iraq had become less of a military strategic necessity. Prior to 9/11, many in the US felt that the season of violent instability was coming to an end, for the USSR offered remarkably friendly terms for arms reduction in Europe among many other concessions. Only later did people realize these measures were desperate last efforts to hold the Soviet economy together by the Politburo members, among them the moderate Konstantin Chernenko, who would become President after Andropov's brief 15 month stint. Gorbachev succeeded Chernenko after 13 more months. At the time, the Politburo simply acted independent of the largely incapacitated leader while waiting patiently for the man who had once pounded a lecturn with his shoe during a speech to finally pass away.

U.S. ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie met with Saddam in an emergency meeting on 25 July 1990, where the Iraqi leader stated his intention to "give negotiations only... one more brief chance before forcing Iraq's claims on Kuwait." US officials conveyed successive messages of "non-involvement" in Mid-East affairs, which Saddam took to be a green light for invasion.

U.S. President George H. W. Bush responded cautiously

In fact, he was fairly close to becoming right, save for countries other than the US got involved with concerns for regional stability. U.S. President George H. W. Bush responded cautiously for the first several days. On one hand, Kuwait, prior to this point, had been a virulent enemy of Israel and was the Persian Gulf monarchy that had had the most friendly relations with the Soviets. On the other, everyone who knew anything about the Middle East other than Bush was concerned for regional stabillity.

The invasion ... triggered world-wide fears that the world's price of oil...was at stake

The invasion immediately triggered world-wide fears that the world's price of oil, and therefore control of the world economy, was at stake. Britain profited heavily from billions of dollars of Kuwaiti investments and bank deposits. Bush was perhaps swayed while meeting with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who happened to be in the U.S. at the time. Finally, the Soviets realized this adventuring would not do, and that Saddam would prove a poor ally under any circumstances. The Soviets joined with the US in passing resolutions in the United Nations Security Council giving Iraq a deadline to leave Kuwait and approving the use of force if Saddam did not comply with the timetable.

Ultimately, the concern that Saddam's Western-outfitted army, the largest in the region, would attack Saudi Arabia and destabilized the minority monarchy there put the nail in Saddam's coffin.

Saddam ignored the UN timetable and the rest is history.



As we get longer in the tooth, some of these song references start getting really obscure the further back we reach. So anyway it's a brand new year with a brand new full moon hanging up there and more stuff continuing the same as the old stuff. This would not be the Island it is if we started up doing things any different from what we did twenty-five years ago.

Soon as the last potential shopper had fled on the 24th with their potential pocketbook in hand, work re-commenced on the "streetscape" project that decimated 120 big trees on Park Street. Plans are to put in about half that number along with parking meters that are more efficient at extracting dollars for the city and bus shelters with different curb arrangements. Driving along Park has never been a fun job, and right now with the construction, its best to bicycle in or stay off of it entirely.

Speaking of which, the area between Fruitvale and High Street, including the 35th Street passage is snarled with massive construction and destruction going on as part of the 880 earthquake retrofitting. Best to avoid trying to cut through there from the Island to Oakland, as you will encounter quite a lot of impediments. Another onramp is blocked entirely as well, so with the 8th street one gone, there is no way to get onto the Nimitz unless through the tube, Park Street or Bayfarm/Harbor Bay Isle. Man, its like living on an island lately . . . .

Janet Kern arrives to take on the embattled position of city attorney in a time when everyone -- including former city attorneys -- have been taking legal potshots at the Island. Best of luck Janet. You are going to need it.

Planning Board is looking at allowing Target to put in 140,000 square feet worth of store at the former Fleet Industrial Supply Center site. This is the same site where a massive fire destroyed a three-story medical supplies building a couple years ago. 700,000 square feet have already been designated for office and retail space at that location. We generally think its a good idea, as Target has more of the price structure and inventory that match the real demographics and purchasing habits of Islanders here than the more fou-fou boutiques.


So anyway, the weather has moved from the heavy coat of fog and chill to splendid days of striated blue skies and temps ranging into the seventies. Thinking its all over for now, the squirrels have come out, plump as furry balloons, but lacking their usual frisky behaviors, moving a bit like someone just getting going before the first cup of coffee on Monday morning. The Canadian geese have been going to town over at Washington School during the holiday recess, gabbling and pooping happily on the playing field there, so we expect there will be some sqwawking and fluttering when the kids come back.

As mentioned before most of the gang got seasonal work over in Babylon. Jose and Javier got jobs wearing green pants, curlicue shoes and hats with bells to the store Santas. This year the store hired three Santas to cover the shifts, and Marlene got to be Miss Sugarplum Fairy so long as she covered up her tats with body makeup and removed the facial hardware.

She covered the tats with her costume and heavy foundation, but no way was she going to be taking out all the metal. Which was fine, as the nose piercing sparkled delightfully after she borrowed a stone from the jewelry department, and most of the time she kept her mouth shut, which is really all that certain kinds of retailers want out of any woman in general anyway.

Wow! You got something magical in your tongue Miss Sugarplum Fairy!

Marlene, was, however, the only Sugarplum Fairy with a piece of steel piercing her tongue. Some of the younger kids really loved it. Wow! You got something magical in your tongue Miss Sugarplum Fairy!

My boyfriend thinks so too, said Marlene. Here, have some magic dust! And she would shake her wand so that glitter fell all about and the kids laughed and clapped their little hands.

When the Holiday Season came to an end, quite abruptly on the 24th around nine o'clock when the Manager, Mr. Stint, showed up and fired everybody all at once. He did this at nine so that there would be no "getting ready to go" and so that everyone could turn in their uniforms, check out all the equipment and still have time to spend what they earned in the same store. Also, anybody still shopping for something on December 24th after nine sure as heck was bringing in no kids to play with and urge to prod parents into buying yet another pink iPoodle device with the Barbie attachment.

Stint had, in fact, carefully trained all the Santas with scripts that included lines like, "So that's what you would like for Xmas, Jeremy? Wouldn't it also be neat if you got a Guitar Hero kit from the electrics department? That's the 2nd Floor, Jeremy. To get to the elevator just go past the bakery where they have perfectly scrumptious cupcakes with blue frosting for just two ninety-nine. . . "

Or this. "I bet your dad would really like a brand new Black and Decker cordless 20volt reversible drill with keyless chuck! Wouldn't that make him laugh and clap his hands!"

Jose and Javier and Xavier had all been coached as well in how to look adorable and sing "Away on a Manger" and "Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel," but none of them could remember the words in English, so they sang "O Tannenbaum" in Spanish, replacing the key words sometimes to make it interesting.

"Los necessitas, los nessessitas, que verde son sus paredes de baño!"

Marsha joined them as a sort of uni-sex elf and taught them all a few words. Their version of Feliz Navidad featured Yiddish and Hebrew and was wildly unprintable, but began

Bris milah!
Bris milah!
So happy is the moholem
At Bris milah!

So on the 24th they all joyfully collected their paychecks and, marching well away from the ongoing chaos in the Departments fled that place where guys were punching each other in the aisles over the last Air Jordan shoes and women were pepper-spraying each other over Tickle Me Elmo dolls, one of which turned on amid the melee of savage kicks and tears and screaming.

"Ha, ha, ha! That tickled! Do it again! Do it again!"

Mr. Howitzer was gone on to his final reward

So the Holidays of 2011 passed with little event. Little event save for a somber and short funeral procession that left the Baptist chapel where Reverend Rectumrod spoke to a sparse collection of relatives, insurance adjusters, attorneys, and basic leeches as well as our man Dodd. For his former employer, Mr. Howitzer was gone on to his final reward as related previously.

Dodd, with his usual efficiency, had hammered everything together in a nick of time, dispensing with any wake or lying in state -- dispensing with the cost and bother of embalming entirely in fact, much to the disgust of the undertaker, Mr. Black, who, since he had gotten nothing from Mr. Howitzer in life, neither well-wishes nor remuneration, imagined that he was owed something from the wealthy man after his passing.

Dodd, knowing no one had ever cared about the man, chose the economy model casket, and chose a casket only because Mr. Howitzer had already a pre-paid plot waiting for him in Colma (the Chapel of the Chimes cemetary had been too pricey).

It was the quickest funeral ever done by Mr. Black. They were out over the bridge and back in time for tea. No one paused by the open grave, no one sought condolences. This was all about looking at who you might have to sue to get a slice of the pie left behind.

He had not spoken with his brother for well over twenty-five years

As it turned out, there were no slivers. It all went to Bob Howitzer, Harry's brother. Mr. Howitzer had struck out name after name on his will as this one or that one had incensed him, along with long notes as to his reasons for displeasure, meant to be read at the whatever reading of the will might happen. Since most did not show up for that, such ceremony was brief as well. He had not spoken with his brother for well over twenty-five years, so there had been no occasion to strike off his name.

His next closest relative, Aunt Withers, lived in Wrinkled Neck, New York and refused to attend any of it. "Look sonny," said the woman. "Stepping in front of a bus is the best thing the jerk ever gave me."

It was a firetruck, ma'am, Dodd politely corrected.

"I'll send a basket of wine and fruit to the entire firehouse," Aunt Withers said. "What's the address?"

O for pete's sake, Dodd said.

One could do better than leave behind a legacy such as this. Some people find it very little trouble to set up a bluegrass concert series in the park, for example.

So anyway, Dodd found himself in the study facing what turned out to be his new employer, Mr. Howitzer #2, who turned out to be nearly a carbon copy of his brother and every bit as blunt.

the right people always come out on top. What say you to that?

"I made my money the old fashioned way," Mr. Howitzer said while sorting through papers at the big desk. "I inherited it. And just when things were looking a bit thin, I inherit some more. Just goes to show you, the right people always come out on top. What say you to that?"

"Uh . . . yes, sir."

"Hmmph. Glad you agree. So you do what around here?"

"Everything, sir. Pretty much everything."

"Ah! Good! Then keep doing it."

"Yes, sir."

"Now go. Do what you do. But be ready if I need you."

"Yes, sir."

When Dodd got home, carrying an object wrapped in brown paper Barbara asked him if his former employer had remembered the man who had served him hand and foot for over fifteen years.

He had.

Dodd put the package on the kitchen table and unwrapped a silver serving tray with several hard candies. Dodd stopped Barbara from unwrapping one to eat it.

O those are quite old. From the early eighties I think. He got them in case any children dropped by on Halloween. None ever did so they just sat there year in and year out.

There's an inscription on the plate, Barbara observed. They pushed aside the candies to read what was there.

Princess Coq-au-Vin Memorial Races, Fuselli-on-Tine

O Dodd, Barbara said and put her arms around him. Dodd began laughing.

I am really glad the old bastard did not remember me at all, he said. And I still have a job.

Just like the old one.

Just like the old one, he agreed. Let's go to Chevy's for some fresh Tex-Mex.

In going out, Dodd dropped the plate and the candies in the trash.

After dinner they came out to walk on the short pier there in Emeryville while egrets plashed in the tidepools on the edge of the turquoise water that rippled out to where Mt. Tam bulked under the sunset slashes of azure, crimson and gold fading on up to the heaven of stars.

Look! Barbara said. There is a beautiful full moon!

It is the first full moon of the new year, Dodd said.

They stood there a long time looking at the moon, the sea and the stars before heading back to the Island.

While the couple lay in bed, looking at this moon, Padraic also looked at this same moon from the doorway of the Old Same Place Bar. Inside the bar, even though the moon looked distinctly white, or pale yellow at most, and most certainly not pink, Denby played the Nick Drake song. Dawn and Suzie also came out.

Old Schmidt also came out and said something in German. "Der Mond ist noch hell heuteabend."

"What's that about hell," Padraic asked.

"Ach, hell means light in German," Old Schmidt explained.

"So a Hellman would be a man of light," Suzie said.

"Ja, ja. I suppose so."

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the star-spackled waters of the estuary before wavering over the moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats with the wind as the locomotive wended its way from the tall gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its journey to parts unknown in the new year.

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



JANUARY 1, 2012


This week's photo comes from friend and associate Jessica McGowan, variously of Marin and New York, and is of a prow of a boat crossing a river in India.

The well-travelled Jessica has visited China, Australia, and India among more than a dozen foreign countries. She recently returned from that country where she hooked up with alum friends from Colgate University.

All indications that this particular bright class will consisted of some earth-shakers and prime movers in the years to come. In these dark times we look to the stars of the future with some hope. The kids are all right.


Knecht Rupecht has come and gone, all the menorahs have been snuffed out and put away for another year, Kwanzaa is winding up and the Wiccans and druids have packed up their robes until the next time the light changes. Xmas happened last week and we sincerely hope all of you got what you deserved and what you deserved was what you wanted.

In the wan light of dawn after a muted and somewhat cutback New Year's which saw many Islanders huddling close to home so as to avoid lunatic drivers, heavy-handed authoritarian police action, and wretchedly nervous jumping up and down in favor of close circles of dear friends and family keeping close to the Hobbit hearth this year's New Year's passed with a decidedly more subdued presentation than in years past.

The Island had minor events going on to help keeping home on the holiday's a bit more engaging, including an ice rink, complete with genuine "Zamboni" that periodically sallied out on the deck to do what those Zamboni's have been wont to do for ages. The rink, appropriately enough, is located on the lot of the former Ron Goode Toyota, which fell a victim of the Great Recession this past year as did pretty much all of "auto row", save for the scooter shop a few blocks up.

The first few bottle rockets went off a few minutes before the midnight hour, followed by the usual patter of fizzlers, whoopers, M-80's, black cats, and whatnot, however, the really big explosions were absent this year, there were few, if any, crackles from AK-47's and Mac-10's and no sky-high highly-illegal, fiery magnolia fireworks -- at least around here -- and by 1:05am the place was as silent as the fabled stables of Bethlehem from San Pablo Bay all the way down to Fremont along the water.

By the admission of most folks, 2011 really sucked. Mostly because 2010 and 2009 had already been such huge disappointments that people had retained the fond hope, "surely next year would be better".

It was not.

This year around, all across the country we noted there was more a sense of "good riddance" and a resigned determination rather than a sense things are going to improve.

In Times Square somebody set up a "Good Riddance" interactive display that proved to be wildly popular to thousands of New Yorkers.

The comments ranged from global concerns . . .

to deeply personal ones.

We thank the Alameda Sun for doing such a good job providing a retrospective of the year to the extent we feel there is little to add other than commentary. Too bad Lauren Do (Blogging Bayport) took a holiday, but the girl deserves a rest and she, too, noted that celebrations this year were mellower than in year's past.

If you didn't get the Sun, let it be remembered that the City coffers took a badly needed boost from the transfer tax when Jamestown, an international real-estate management firm, purchased the Southshore Mall for a pretty penny and restored the original name from its preposterously pretentious "Towne Centre" temporary appellation.

A threat to draw up the draw bridges at night to save money got the kibosh by the Coast Guard, proving the Semper in Semper Paratus means something, and so also ended the wistful fantasies of every boy and girl -- of a certain age and generation -- which held that was precisely what They did every time a crime was committed on the Island: They would raise the drawbridge to prevent the malefactors from escaping. There is no Santa Claus either, guys.

In February, City Auditor Keven Kearney stirred up a brough-haha by honestly stating the obvious: he was "not optimistic of the financial future of the city . . .". That just means Kevin is not destined for a life in the mendacious world of politics . . . .

April is the cruelest month, or so said that starchy Bostonian T.S. Eliot, yet nobody thought Ron Cowan's land swap proposal to be very poetic when he offered to give the City 12 acres of useless land for 12 acres of land now employed by the Mif Albright Golf Course, which had been the subject of furious legalistic hand-to-hand combat by various parties seeking to tear a piece loose from the embattled golf course. Cowan wants development dollars.Kemper Sports wants total control of the complex -- with perks added in. The neighbors want peace, quiet, parking and open space. Surprise! The golfers just want to play golf. On the existing course.

Typo there in May, you guys. That was "Paul's Newsstand" that enjoyed a restoration after service on that corner since 1939. Larry Trippy operated the stand from 2006 until his death in 2010.

Most municipalities would balk at inviting a major medical university to install a major lab facility, with all of its potential toxic and ethical consequences, however times are tough and the Island came up as one of six major contenders to host the Berkeley National Laboratory extension, largely because it would be nonresidential development at the disputed Point and, quite frankly, we need the money.

The site, also quite frankly, would be ideal for the lab, given its road access, its naturally protected boundaries, the low crime rate, and the local friendliness to such endeavors.

Memorial Day provided the event for which the Island will be known for quite a long while. We are still getting messages over the transom from all over the world about the horrific event that claimed the life of citizen Raymond Zack. On Memorial Day, Zack walked out onto the offshore mudshelf to stand there up to his neck in frigid seawater for over an hour while nearly two hundred private citizens, law enforcement, fire department and Coast Guard collected on the beach to watch the man die.

Because of alleged "bureaucratic difficulties" first responders failed to act to get the man out of the water before hypothermia incapacitated him and he drowned.

A private citizen, risking police censure, dove into the water to retrieve his body.

The event sparked a national furor over what the first responders could have done to save the man. The official response from the fire department was that due to budget cutbacks, no funds for land-sea rescue training had been available and the FD boat had been dry-docked. A subsequent audit revealed that training funds had been present, but unused for several months.

If that were not enough, our Island's own Howard Camping created an international sensation when he predicted the end of the world in the form of something he called "the rapture" on May 22. People gave his ultra-fundamentalist church millions of dollars, believing that it would all be useless after that date.

If you are reading this, you are not saved.

If you are reading this, you are not saved. We repeat: if you are reading this you have not been saved, you have not been raptured, you are not in Heaven right now, the world goes on and you need to get back to work on Monday. And you just might be going to Hell in a handbasket with the rest of us. Sorry about that.

In June the local Firefighters Union 689 and the City concluded big contract negotiations which heavily favored the City. The Police union soon responded with similar concessions. In subsequent months, it was revealed that members of City Hall and the Mayor had all received significant campaign contribution sums from both unions during negotiations.

As a result, Adam Gillit launched an initiative to strip fire fighting responsibilities from the local agency so as to hand over the task to the County.

Towards the end of the year, City Council began postponing debate and vote on the Cowan land swap deal as each deadline approached. The cities of California initiated a lawsuit to stop the State from robbing local coffers by canceling funding programs originally created by State entities, and only recently this lawsuit was tossed out as "invalid" by a Supreme Court justice.

Things went from bad to worse during negotiations between the USD and the teacher's union, which drama was preceded by quite an opera which took place at the School Board, featuring full-bore shouting matches and slung insults. Time out! you guys.

On the upside, Governor Brown dropped in to our very own Island with a corgi to visit "Xmas Tree Lane" (nee Thompson Avenue).

Sadly, it was one of our own who proved to be the last homicide victim in Oaktown. Five year old Gabriel Martinez, son of a food truck owner, was shot to death, an apparent bystander victim of stray gunfire intended for someone else on Friday around 8:30pm. Gabriel became the 110th homicide victim of the year. He is the third child in Oakland to die by gunfire since August.

On Friday night, 5-year-old Gabriel, who often played in the parking lot while his parents worked, scampered amid the usual crowd of customers while his father unloaded soda. He beckoned his son to return a few minutes later.

“Time to go,” he said, Martinez recalled.

Seconds later, with Gabriel almost at his side, shots rang out. Martinez tried to comfort his son, “Don’t worry, don’t be scared,” he said, according to Jorge Martinez. Then, he realized, Gabriel had been shot in the chest. He scooped his bleeding son into his arms, crying.

The man fled to a light-colored, four-door American model sedan, according to police, driven by a woman. The suspects remained at-large Saturday night.

Friends and family said they believe the gunman was targeting someone else in the lot where the truck was parked. Police are still looking for the suspect, who they describe as black, between 20- and 29-years-old, about 6 feet tall and 160 pounds, with short hair, a light complexion, glasses and wearing dark clothing. They say the woman is black, between 20- and 25-years-old, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, 130 pounds, with long hair and wearing a red jacket.

The boy’s father was born in Mexico and moved to the United States more than 20 years ago, a member of a tight-knit family in the East Bay that owns many catering trucks and restaurants. He has a 2-year-old daughter with another woman, and owns the truck and a seafood restaurant down the block, friends and family said. The family lives on the Island, where Gabriel was expected to begin kindergarten.


Okay, we'll keep this one short. Here's the list of those celebrities who have passed on this past year. A buncha folks passed away just in the past month, so we missed all of those, but here goes . . .

Jack Lalanne (September 26, 1914 – January 23, 2011) Fitness guru. Lalanne was an American fitness, exercise, and nutritional expert and motivational speaker who is sometimes called "the godfather of fitness" and the "first fitness superhero."[1] He described himself as being a "sugarholic" and a "junk food junkie" until he was 15. He also had behavioral problems, but "turned his life around" after listening to a public lecture by Paul Bragg, a well-known nutrition speaker. During his career, he came to believe that the country's overall health depended on the health of its population, writing that "physical culture and nutrition — is the salvation of America."

He became famous for completing prodigious feats of strength and endurance from middle age well into his eighties.

On his 70th birthday in 1984 he swam handcuffed, shackled, and fighting strong winds and currents, towing 70 rowboats, one with several guests, from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, a distance of 1 mile

Elizabeth Taylor (February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011) actress. Once considered the premier beauty of Hollywood, the stunning actress also became known for her often stormy marriages, including the tempestuous relationship with actor Richard Burton.

Taylor has been called the "greatest movie star of all," writes biographer William J. Mann. A child star at the age of 12, she soon after launched into public awareness by MGM and a string of successful films, many of which are today considered "classics." Her resulting celebrity made her into a Hollywood icon, as she set the "gold standard" for Hollywood fame, and "created the model for stardom," adds Mann.

Other observers, such as social critic Camille Paglia, similarly describe Taylor as "the greatest actress in film history," partly as a result of the "liquid realm of emotion" she expressed on screen. Paglia describes the effect Taylor had in some of her films:

An electric, erotic charge vibrates the space between her face and the lens. It is an extrasensory, pagan phenomenon

Although gifted with beauty, and given in her younger days to a lavish, glamorous lifestyle Taylor was not an empty head. She lamented the insipid, foolish roles selected for her by MGM and engaged in a wide number of worth causes as she matured.

Taylor devoted consistent and generous humanitarian time, advocacy efforts, and funding to HIV and AIDS-related projects and charities, helping to raise more than $270 million for the cause. She was one of the first celebrities and public personalities to do so at a time when few acknowledged the disease, organizing and hosting the first AIDS fundraiser in 1984, to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles.

Taylor was cofounder of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) with Dr. Michael Gottlieb and Dr. Mathilde Krim in 1985.[55] Her longtime friend and former co-star Rock Hudson had disclosed having AIDS and died of it that year. She also founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) in 1993, created to provide critically needed support services for people with HIV/AIDS. For example, in 2006 Taylor commissioned a 37-foot (11 m) "Care Van" equipped with examination tables and xray equipment, the New Orleans donation made by her Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and Macy's.That year, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she also donated US$40,000 to the NO/AIDS Task Force, a nonprofit organization serving the community of those affected by HIV/AIDS in and around New Orleans..

Taylor was honored with a special Academy Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, in 1992 for her HIV/AIDS humanitarian work. Speaking of that work, former President Bill Clinton said at her death, "Elizabeth's legacy will live on in many people around the world whose lives will be longer and better because of her work and the ongoing efforts of those she inspired."

She converted from Catholicism to Judaism, claiming the Catholic church was unable to provide serious answers to her personal questions about suffering and death. Taylor subsequently helped to raise money for organizations such as the Jewish National Fund; advocated for the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel and canceled a visit to the USSR because of its condemnation of Israel due to the Six-Day War; signed a letter protesting the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 of 1975; and offered herself as a replacement hostage during the 1976 Entebbe skyjacking.

Ironically, MGM was unable to complete filming the classic Cleopatra in Egypt because the government barred her from entry because of her religion.

In March 2003, Taylor declined to attend the 75th Annual Academy Awards, due to her opposition to the Iraq War. She publicly condemned then President George W. Bush for calling on Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq, and said she feared the conflict would lead to "World War III".

On December 1, 2007, Taylor acted on-stage again, appearing opposite James Earl Jones in a benefit performance of the A. R. Gurney play Love Letters. The event's goal was to raise $1 million for Taylor's AIDS foundation. Tickets for the show were priced at $2,500, and more than 500 people attended. The event happened to coincide with the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike and, rather than cross the picket line, Taylor requested a "one night dispensation." The Writers Guild agreed not to picket the Paramount Pictures lot that night to allow for the performance.

Taylor won two Academy Awards for Best Actress, for her performance in Butterfield 8 in 1960, and for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1966. Additionally, she received the Jean Herscholt Humanitarian Academy Award in 1992 for her work fighting AIDS.

Taylor received the French Legion of Honour in 1987, and in 2000 was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DCE). In 2001, she received a Presidential Citizens Medal for her humanitarian work, most notably for helping to raise more than $200 million for AIDS research and bringing international attention and resources to addressing the epidemic. Taylor was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2007.

A dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States, she was born British, through her birth on British soil and a U.S. citizen through her American parents. She reportedly sought, in 1965, to renounce her United States citizenship, to wit: "Though never accepted by the State Department, Elizabeth renounced in 1965. Attempting to shield much of her European income from U.S. taxes, Elizabeth wished to become solely a British citizen. According to news reports at the time, officials denied her request when she failed to complete the renunciation oath, refusing to say that she renounced "all allegiance to the United States of America."

Dorothy Young (May 3, 1907 – March 20, 2011) Harry Houdini's stage assistant.

Dorothy was an American entertainer who worked as a stage assistant to magician Harry Houdini from 1925 to 1926. She left the act two months prior to his death on October 31, 1926. She appeared in the 2005 television documentary, Houdini: Unlocking the Mystery.

Geraldine Ferraro - politician, ex-candidate for President.

Osama Bin Laden - Criminal. Nobody misses the guy. We are only sorry that we never could convince the principals to agree to a mud wrassle match between Bin Laden and former President-Appointee George Bush, so as to settle all of the ugly disputes.

Gil Scott-Heron - (April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011)proto-rapper, musician. He was an American soul and jazz poet, musician, and author, known primarily for his work as a spoken word performer in the 1970s and '80s. His collaborative efforts with musician Brian Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues, and soul, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles. The man who coined the phrase "The revolution will not be televised". He is generally credited as the father of the hip-hop style of music.

Albertina Sisulu - (21 October 1918 - 2 June 2011) Ssouth African antiapartheid activist. Her husband, political activist Walter Sisulu, was found guilty of high treason and sabotage by the apartheid government of South Africa, but was spared the death sentence. He instead spent 25 years in custody on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela, whom he had brought into the ANC, now South Africa's governing party. While her husband was on Robben Island, Albertina Sisulu raised the couple?s five children alone. She spent months in jail herself and had her movements restricted.

They were married for 59 years, until he died in his wife's arms in May 2003 at the age of 90.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian (May 26, 1928 – June 3, 2011) - Physician. Commonly known as "Dr. Death", he was an American pathologist, euthanasia activist, painter, author, composer, and musician. He is best known for publicly championing a terminal patient's right to die via physician-assisted suicide; he said he assisted at least 130 patients to that end. He famously said, "dying is not a crime".

Beginning in 1999, Kevorkian served eight years of a 10-to-25-year prison sentence for second-degree murder. He was released on parole on June 1, 2007, on condition he would not offer suicide advice to any other person.

As an oil painter and a jazz musician, Kevorkian marketed limited quantities of his visual and musical artwork to the public.

Kevorkian was hospitalized on May 18, 2011, with kidney problems and pneumonia. Kevorkian's conditions grew rapidly worse and he died from a thrombosis on June 3, 2011, eight days after his 83rd birthday in Royal Oak, Michigan. According to his attorney, Mayer Morganroth, there were no artificial attempts to keep him alive and his death was painless. Judge Thomas Jackson, who presided over Kevorkian's first murder trial in 1994, commented that he wanted to express sorrow at Kevorkian's passing and that the 1994 case was brought under "a badly written law" aimed at Kevorkian, but he tried to give him "the best trial possible"

Clarence Clemons (January 11, 1942 – June 18, 2011) Musician. He was an early member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street band and soon made his signature wailing sax sound indispensable, helping to broaden the sound of popular American music from its limited guitar, bass, drum arrangements. In his final gig he appears on a Lady Gaga video performing his horn on city tenement stairs.

Peter Falk (September 16, 1927 – June 23, 2011) Actor. Best known for his role as the perpetually rumpled Lieutenant Columbo in the television series Columbo. He appeared in numerous films such as The Princess Bride, The Great Race and Next, and television guest roles and was nominated for an Academy Award twice (for 1960's Murder, Inc. and 1961's Pocketful of Miracles), and won the Emmy Award on five occasions (four for Columbo) and the Golden Globe award once.

His character was a shabby and ostensibly absent-minded police detective lieutenant, who had first appeared in the 1968 film Prescription: Murder. Falk described his role to Fantle:

"Columbo has a genuine mistiness about him. It seems to hang in the air ... [and] he's capable of being distracted ... Columbo is an ass-backwards Sherlock Holmes. Holmes had a long neck, Columbo has no neck; Holmes smoked a pipe, Columbo chews up six cigars a day."

The genuinely modest Falk was astounded to find that the crime series was popular all over the world, and would speak of amazement that villages in Africa that possessed only one TV set knew all about him.

His signature squint was caused by the fact that Falk's right eye had been surgically removed when he was three because of a retinoblastoma; he wore a glass eye for most of his life.

Everyone who worked with him found him friendly, helpful and easygoing. He played himself in Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire, in which he is the only mortal who somehow perceives the presence of the angels, and in one memorable scene has a long running delightful talk with one of the angels in a coffeeshop and then by the abandoned Berlin train station. "I know you are there. I can't see you, but I know you are there . . .".

Betty Ford (April 8, 1918 – July 8, 2011) Socialite, former First-Lady, social philanthropist.

Throughout her husband's term in office, she maintained high approval ratings despite opposition from some conservative Republicans who objected to her more moderate and liberal positions on social issues. Ford was noted for raising breast cancer awareness following her 1974 mastectomy and was a passionate supporter of, and activist for, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Pro-choice on abortion and a leader in the Women's Movement, she gained fame as one of the most candid first ladies in history, commenting on every hot-button issue of the time, including feminism, equal pay, the ERA, sex, drugs, abortion, and gun control. She also raised awareness of addiction when she announced her long-running battle with alcoholism in the 1970s.

Following her White House years, she continued to lobby for the ERA and remained active in the feminist movement. She is the founder, and served as the first chair of the board of directors, of the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and addiction and is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal.

Amy Winehouse - (14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011) Soul/R&B pop singer. What can one say about Ms. Winehouse except that this was one tragic story everybody who knew here knew the ending for long before it happened. Watching the troubled and extremely talented singer with the powerful deep contralto voice perform was like watching a gorgeous train-wreck you just knew would prove fatal. From her bad-girl early teen years through binge drinking and drugs and endless rounds of detox rehab, her voice never quit. It couldn't have time, for she was dead at 27 of the usual suspects.


Steve Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) Apple founder and former CEO. Visionary and genius.

American businessman and inventor widely recognized as a charismatic pioneer of the personal computer revolution. He was cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Apple Inc. Jobs was cofounder and previously served as chief executive of Pixar Animation Studios; he became a member of the board of directors of The Walt Disney Company in 2006, following the acquisition of Pixar by Disney.

In the late 1970s, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak engineered one of the first commercially successful lines of personal computers, the Apple II series. Jobs directed its aesthetic design and marketing along with A.C. "Mike" Markkula, Jr. and others.

Jobs's birth parents were Abdulfattah "John" Jandali, a Syrian Muslim, and Joanne Carole Schieble, a student at the University of Wisconsin where Jandali was a professor. They surrendered Steve for adoption in 1954 because of their unmarried status. They later did marry, however soon divorced and separated.

Arik Hesseldahl of BusinessWeek magazine stated that "Jobs isn't widely known for his association with philanthropic causes", compared to Bill Gates's efforts. After resuming control of Apple in 1997, Jobs eliminated all corporate philanthropy programs initially. Later, under Jobs, Apple signed to participate in Product Red program, producing red versions of devices to give profits from sales to charity. Apple has gone on to become the single largest contributor to the charity since its initial involvement with it. The chief of the Product Red project, U2 singer Bono cited Jobs saying there was "nothing better than the chance to save lives," when he initially approached Apple with the invitation to participate in the program.

In October 2003, Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which generally has a poor prognosis for recovery. Despite medical advice, Jobs postponed professional medical help for nearly a year, preferring to try alternative medicine first. He later regretted this decision, which most professionals state clearly cost him years of life. He died peacefully at home in California.

According to his sister, Mona Simpson, Jobs "looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life's partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them". His last words, spoken hours before his death, were:

"Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."

Bert Jansch - (3 November 1943 – 5 October 2011) You might not recall the name of the Scottish folk musician and founding member of the band Pentangle. He recorded at least 25 albums and toured extensively from the 1960s to the 21st century. Jansch was a leading figure in the British folk music revival of the 1960s.

Jansch's work influenced such artists as Al Stewart, Paul Simon, Johnny Marr, Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Bernard Butler, Jimmy Page, Nick Drake, Graham Coxon, Donovan, Neil Young, Fleet Foxes, Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart.

“With the release of his first album in 1965 he completely reinvented guitar playing and set a standard that is still unequaled today,” Johnny Marr, the former guitarist for the Smiths, wrote in a foreword to the paperback reissue of the 2000 book “Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival,” by Colin Harper. “Without Bert Jansch, rock music as it developed in the ’60s and ’70s would have been very different.”

Neil Young, who included Mr. Jansch on his American tour last year, once called him the acoustic equivalent of Jimi Hendrix as an influence on guitar players. Donovan recorded a cover version of Mr. Jansch’s protest song “Do You Hear Me Now” on his “Universal Soldier” album and paid tribute to him with “Bert’s Blues” on the album “Sunshine Superman” and “House of Jansch” on “Mellow Yellow.”

Jimmy Page, who succumbed to the spell of Mr. Jansch’s first album when it came out, did his own instrumental version of “Blackwaterside,” a traditional song from Mr. Jansch’s third solo album, “Jack Orion” (1966). Retitled “Black Mountain Side,” it appeared on Led Zeppelin’s debut album.

It is not known if Jansch ever earned a penny from that recording.

Jerry Lieber (April 25, 1933 – August 22, 2011) Lyricist half of the tinpan alley songwriting team of Lieber and Stoller.
Cliff Robertson (September 9, 1923 – September 10, 2011) Hollywood actor
Jane Russell (June 21, 1921 – February 28, 2011) actress, pinup, Hollywood "sex symbol" of 1940s and 1950s.
Bob MacKenzie - KTVU Channel 2 News reporter.

Don Kirshner - Music producer and promoter
R. Sargent Shriver - politician
Nate Dogg - singer, rap artist

Andy Rooney (January 14, 1919 – November 4, 2011) tv/radio commentator

Joe Frazier - boxer, world heavyweight champion

Evelyn Lauder - social activist, inventor of the AIDS pink ribbon symbol.

George Whitman - Parisian bookstore owner, Shakespeare and Company

George Whitman's life was packed with the type of adventures that filled every nook and cranny of his bookshop, Paris' iconic English-language Shakespeare and Company.

A bohemian traveler, Whitman was once nursed to health by Mayans in the Yucatan during a 3,000-mile (5000-kilometer) trek across Latin America and sometimes bragged that he had lived in Greenland with a beautiful Eskimo woman.

At home, Whitman was best known as a pillar of Paris' literary scene. For more than half century, his eclectic Left Bank shop was a beacon for readers, who spent long hours browsing its overflowing shelves or curling up with a good book next to a drowsy cat.

Shakespeare and Company was also a haven for every author or would-be writer passing through the City of Light.

For them, Whitman reserved a welcome that turned Yeats' famous verse — "Be not inhospitable to strangers / Lest they be angels in disguise" — into deed: He took in aspiring writers as boarders in exchange for a helping hand in the store.

Vaclav Havel (Oct. 5, 1936 - 2011) Czechoslovakian dissident, playwright

The end of Czechoslovakia's totalitarian regime was called the Velvet Revolution because of how smooth the transition seemed: Communism dead in a matter of weeks, without a shot fired. But for Vaclav Havel, it was a moment he helped pay for with decades of suffering and struggle.

The dissident playwright spent years in jail but never lost his defiance, or his eloquence, and the government's attempts to crush his will ended up expanding his influence. He became a source of inspiration to Czechs, and to all of Eastern Europe. He went from prisoner to president in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell and communism crumbled across the region.

Shy and bookish, with a wispy mustache and unkempt hair, Havel helped draw the world's attention to the anger and frustration spilling over behind the Iron Curtain. While he was president, the Czech Republic split from Slovakia, but it also made dramatic gains in economic might.

Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, born Freddie Lee Robinson (March 18, 1922 – October 5, 2011)

Shuttlesworth was a U.S. Civil rights activist who led the fight against segregation and other forms of racism as a minister in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a cofounder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was instrumental in the 1963 Birmingham Campaign, and continued to work against racism and for alleviation of the problems of the homeless in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he took up a pastorate in 1961.

Shuttlesworth participated in the sit-ins against segregated lunch counters in 1960 and took part in the organization and completion of the Freedom Rides in 1961.

Shuttlesworth originally warned that Alabama was extremely volatile when he was consulted before the Freedom Rides began. Shuttlesworth noted that he respected the courage of the activists proposing the Rides but that he felt other actions could be taken to accelerate the Civil Rights Movement that would be less dangerous. However, the planners of the Rides were undeterred and decided to continue preparing.

After it became certain that the Freedom Rides were to be carried out, Shuttlesworth worked with the Congress of Racial Equality to organize the Rides and became engaged with ensuring the success of the rides, especially during their stint in Alabama. Shuttlesworth mobilized some of his fellow clergy to assist the rides. After the Riders were badly beaten and nearly killed in Birmingham and Anniston during the Rides, he sent deacons to pick up the Riders from a hospital in Anniston. He himself had been savagely beaten earlier in the day and had faced down the threat of being thrown out of the hospital by the hospital superintendent. Shuttlesworth took in the Freedom Riders at the Bethel Baptist Church, allowing them to recuperate after the violence that had occurred earlier in the day.

We'll just single out a few more folks here for special mention. We would like to start with two men who knew each other quite well, Pinetop Perkins and David "Honeyboy" Edwards.

Pinetop Perkins, one of the last old-school bluesmen who played with Muddy Waters and became the oldest Grammy winner this year before his death at his home of cardiac arrest. He was 97 and planning to do a gig the next day.

The piano man played with an aggressive style and sang with a distinctive gravelly voice.

B.B. King said in an emailed statement that he was saddened by the loss of his friend.

"He was one of the last great Mississippi Bluesmen," King said. "He had such a distinctive voice, and he sure could play the piano. He will be missed not only by me, but by lovers of music all over the world".

Perkins was born in Belzoni, Miss., in 1913 and was believed to be the oldest of the old-time Delta blues musicians still performing.

In an 80-year career, he played at juke joints, nightclubs and festivals. He didn't start recording in his own name until he was in his 70s and released more than 15 solo records since 1992. Many of the old bluesmen recorded under alternate names so as to glide by label contract restrictions upon income, which were especially onerous in the so-called "race records" labels until Chess Records came along.

David "Honeyboy" Edwards (June 28, 1915 – August 29, 2011) was the last man alive to have played with Robert Johnson. And by odd turn of events was the last man to see Robert Johnson alive, for he was present the night the master bluesman died.

Edwards was a Delta blues guitarist and singer from the American South, according to the Wikipedia. "Edwards was the last Delta bluesman before his 2011 death."

That sentence contains a world of emotional, cultural and historical import. The Mississippi delta gave birth to a raft of musicians who forged modern American music into what it is today. After the War Years, musicians gravitated up from the South to Chicago to make the distinctive I, IV, V sound that is so characteristic of American Chicago Blues, and which inseminated the early generation of Rock and Roll.

Before all that happened, a vibrant world of music was already in place.

He described the itinerant bluesman's life:

“ On Saturday, somebody like me or Robert Johnson would go into one of these little towns, play for nickels and dimes. And sometimes, you know, you could be playin' and have such a big crowd that it would block the whole street. Then the police would come around, and then I'd go to another town and where I could play at. But most of the time, they would let you play. Then sometimes the man who owned a country store would give us something like a couple of dollars to play on a Saturday afternoon. We could hitchhike, transfer from truck to truck, or if we couldn't catch one of them, we'd go to the train yard, 'cause the railroad was all through that part of the country then...we might hop a freight, go to St. Louis or Chicago. Or we might hear about where a job was paying off - a highway crew, a railroad job, a levee camp there along the river, or some place in the country where a lot of people were workin' on a farm. You could go there and play and everybody would hand you some money. I didn't have a special place then. Anywhere was home. Where I do good, I stay. When it gets bad and dull, I'm gone."

Tom Keith lived a very different life from these guys, but he is important to Island-Lifers.

He had been a longtime associate and dear friend to Garrison Keillor, host of the popular currently running Prairie Home Companion, a radio variety show with some 3 million regular listeners.

From a note penned by GK:

"He was an engineer at Minnesota Public Radio in 1971, when I did the morning show in the studios in Park Square Court in Lowertown St. Paul, and he took the name Jim Ed Poole, did the sports segment, and talked about his pet chicken, Curtis, who lived with him at the Hotel Transom. When "Prairie Home Companion" started in 1974, he engineered most of the first two seasons, using a five-channel mixer, and then graduated to the stage where he played three roles in the ongoing "Buster the Show Dog" the dog, Father Finian, and Timmy the Sad Rich Teenage Boy. He was Maurice the matre d' at the Caf Boeuf and he was Larry who lived in the basement under the Fitzgerald stage.

He was an ex-Marine (who could do a fine drill instructor), a good golfer, a sturdy, reliable, can-do colleague, a gifted performer with the unassuming demeanor of a stagehand. Whenever Tom came onstage for a sketch, I could see the audience's heads turn in his direction. They could hear me but they wanted to see Tom, same as you'd watch any magician. Boys watched him closely to see how he did the shotgun volleys, the singing walrus, the siren, the helicopter, the water drips. His effects were graceful, precise, understated, like the man himself. All of us at the show are shocked by his passing and send our sincere condolences to his family and also to the listeners who enjoyed his work so much."

Independent of that official information, we know that Tom Keith was a constant creative presence on the Saturday variety show, which first aired in 1974 and is distributed by American Public Media on 600 radio stations.

For the 4 million weekly listeners who tune in to hear about the news from Lake Wobegon, the travels of the philosophizing cowboys Dusty and Lefty and the misadventures of the hapless detective Guy Noir, Mr. Keith was not a technician but a comedian in his own right.

A former sound engineer, he received little training in acting but had an innate talent for mimicry. He was able to produce almost any sound requested by Keillor, who writes the scripts almost entirely on his own, usually the day before the live recording, cast member Sue Scott said.

For the past decade, Mr. Keith participated mainly in recordings made at the show’s home venue, the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.

In the early 1970s, he was a sound engineer on Minnesota Public Radio’s “Morning Show,” which Keillor hosted. When bad weather delayed Keillor’s arrival at the studio, Mr. Keith filled the air with music.

The two men bonded over the crack-of-dawn recording sessions, Mr. Keith’s sister recalled, and Keillor invited Mr. Keith to join the show as an on-air personality. He became the voice of the poultry-raising Poole brothers, Ed Jim and Jim Ed (one specialized in roosters, the other in attack chickens, according to the magazine Minnesota Monthly).

Mr. Keith followed Keillor to “A Prairie Home Companion,” first as an engineer and then, beginning in 1976, as a sound-effects man. He also took over from Keillor as a co-host of the “Morning Show,” a position he held for about 25 years before stepping down in 2008.

On October 15, 2008, Keith announced his intention to retire on December 11. The Morning Show was discontinued after a final live performance at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul that morning.

Tom Keith was one of the last and one of the best of those continuing the traditions of old time radio.

Finally, hard times came to some very distinguished local businesses. Boniere Bakery, which served hot rolls and other baked delicacies on Park Street for 150 years closed due to intransigent landlord and the bad economy.

Borders Books at South Shore Mall closed when the bad economy killed the national chain.


So anyway, its been a hard year and no one is sad to see it go. Word came down about Andre's release and Marlene scrambled to get herself and a bag and Adam and everything else to go down there to Oak Street to pick up her man who had spent the so-called Holidays in stir.

At the end of the year, people either contracted inward with friends and relations, much like sea slugs, or took whatever gig looked to be the best or the first in line so as to make some kind of money on this.

Jose and Javier landed gigs playing elves

Jose and Javier landed gigs playing elves for Santa in Babylon for iMagnin, while other members of the financially-strapped household secured jobs as tableaux figures for Macy's in Union Square. Macy's had the idea of dressing up its windows with figures from California history, so we had Martini portraying Portrero, Tipitina portraying a bearded Junipero Serra, and Pahrump presenting Chief Joseph and Chief Marin on alternate days, it being difficult to obtain a genuine Native American to stand in a storefront window portraying a Redman icon during the Holidays.

Something about History has something to do with this.

Arthur portrayed Leidesdorf, the first American Black millionaire, and Rolf, wearing a gum-glued beard, portrayed Sigmund Freud, who never had anything to do with California, but nevertheless had a great influence, it must be admitted, upon the Golden State, especially up in NorCal, and upon the Holidays in general.

Festus got a gig portraying a 49'er in another window and Xavier got a plum portraying General Vallejo. This was excellent, for that window earned a smorgasbord of a groaning table of California's produce, of which Xavier availed himself throughout the day until the window wonks remembered to lay the table of abundance with wax fruit and plastic hams, spraying artificial food scents that drove him near mad until lunchtime.

Marlene stood before the gates of the Big House

While these petty dramas played themselves out to their respective pathetic consequences each to each as the wretched year dragged itself down to oblivion in an atavistic thrashing of blood and violent flailing of limbs, as each segment of American looked to succor without relief, Marlene stood before the gates of the Big House with Adam in hand, a ruined Madonna with child, just like the original, a mother with a child not allowed her own, gifted with an unusable womb, just like the original, although made so a different way. So to speak.

The doors opened and Adam emerged, wan, beaten, cold and clutching the few belongings left him after Those Who Consider Themselves God had riffled through them, taking whatever pleased them.

Having little to start, he was lucky to have lost only a Cat Stevens tape (which he detested) and a silver-turquoise amulet. As well as all of the five dollars that had been in his wallet. Many who have been taken by those who consider themselves god have suffered far worse and lost far more.

"You a-hole what the 'eff were you thinking?" Marlene said.

"You a-hole what the 'eff were you thinking?" Marlene said.

"Eff you," Andre said, tiredly. He was not in the mood for arguments.

For a long moment the antagonistic couple stood there looking at one another with red-rimmed eyes, everything salty and crusty with time and tiredness.

Adam broke loose from Marlene and ran to embrace Andre about the legs. "We still got turkey from the Food Bank and gravy and fixings. Food aint no good in there. I sure knows it."

Out of the mouths of babes. The couple slowly gravitated to one another like necessary planets. Each person revolved on their predetermined axis. Each fated to the eternal revolve designed each to each. Each fated to link orbits for all eternity. For Andre there could be none but Marlene to hoop within his gravity. For Marlene, none but Andre could cause such eccentricity.

"Hey, Marlene got sammiches from Snob Hill. Day be super cool! Let's go eat some!" Adam was hyper.

"Snob Hill? We can't afford that kinda shit . . ."! Andre said.

"O eff you," Marlene said. "It's the New Year."

"Eff you," said Andre. "In that case."

The two of them kissed there on Seventh Street with the cars going by and Adam dancing on the side.

Some say that the moon once had a sister

Some say that the moon once had a sister who gradually approached over time and collided, ever so gently, or so gently as moons may do, so as to produce our present-day lopsided moon with its mountain ranges on the dark side and its bland flat plains that face us on the other. NASA is looking into it, but we know that the moon shall remain mysterious, impenetrable and effulgent with poetry, for its main purpose is to shift the tides of ocean and heart.

"Some people like to go out dancing", Lou Reed used to say.

New Year's eve, the Editor stood at the Island-Life Offices window while the fireworks went off all over the place and people whooped it up. "Some people like to go out dancing", Lou Reed used to say. "Other people like us gotta work."

The offices were largely silent, dark rectangles looming in the darkness where busy copyboys and writers worked during the day and for most evenings. Lately, because of the hard times the Editor has been allowing people to scoot when deadline evenings fall in the middle of holidays. It was hard enough keeping body and soul together in this time of usurious rents and declining income while still working for a non-profitable news agency.

Besides, something about seeing Jose wearing green leotard pants, curly shoes with bells and that stupid elf cap really irritated him.

Hrmmph! The Editor shifted his cigar from the one corner to the other corner of his mouth and returned to the cubicle where the lamp made a pool of light on the desk and the machines hummed quietly with their LED lights gleaming almost like Xmas.

He longed to have gorgeous Scandinavian women hanging on his arm

He felt he had chosen the wrong profession, for he longed for the impossible. He longed to host a variety show attended by fabulously talented friends, a show admired by millions across the country. He longed to have gorgeous Scandinavian women hanging on his arm as he grew older dispensing sage wisdom, witty quips, enchanting stories, lectures on the book circuit to promote his latest successful book about a semi-fictional small town nestled somewhere in middle America, a town of quirky characters and warm, homespun emotions and traditions.

He longed to crinkle the eyes of a dour bachelor farmer with laughter.

He really wished his singing voice had gotten better with time instead of much worse. How wonderful it would be to share a mike with some vivacious young thing just out of Nashville! He longed to enchant instead of plod. Plod like a goddamn dray horse.

He longed to hold the lovely red-haired girl called Fame in his arms

He longed to hold the lovely red-haired girl called Fame in his arms and dance in waltz-time wearing bright red tennis shoes as Time collected its due and he got older.

Instead, he simply got older. That part happened all right.

Somewhere a last fizzler went off, sizzled, cracked and then was still.

From the open window of the Lunatic Asylum of St. Charles drifted the strains of Denby's guitar and the croak of his voice as he finished up a plaintive blues song past midnight.

Will you please, remember me
if we never meet again
Will you please remember me
I'll always be your friend

I was born, born to roam.
I cant' find my way
I want to find, find some kinda home.
Maybe I'll get lucky some day

Once I had a few good days
They're all behind me now
Once I had a few good days
I'll get by somehow

I went down one ole lonesome road
couldn't find my way back
I went down one ole lonesome road
Wasn't nobody cryin' about that.

That feller sure gets depressive, the Editor thought to himself before relighting his cigar. The Editor bent over his desk into the pool of light, finishing up the last bit of business for the proofreader to handle on Monday, wondering if there were a fellow mind out there in the beyond where all was darkness and cold distant stars.

Will you please, please remember me
if we never meet again
Will you please remember me
I'll always be your friend

The Old Year lay down on the dark roofs of the little island town and slept before taking the train to leave. Above the dark hills of the coastal range tattered cloud carelessly daubed the sky with incipient pinks and golds as the new day of the New Year approached.

I wonder if I should pay to have Denby take singing lessons or . . . take them myself, the Editor wondered. A new year has begun. Anything is possible.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the newborn grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its hopefilled way past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its own journey to parts unknown and to an as yet unknown future ripe with opportunities and potential.

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




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