Island Life: Jan. - June 2013

First Half of the Year

Vol. 15 Weekly News, Reviews, Music and Satire Sunday 2013

dasboot.gifWelcome to the first half of year 2013. 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 23, 2013


This week our staff photographer, Tammy, took this shot after spending the day sailing out on the Bay.


It may be summer but this surely was no slow-news week. Some Islanders are boiling over the recent discussion about the dozen development projects going on will scheduled end dates all happening roughly about the same time, and cumulatively resulting in a net Island population increas of between 12 and 18%. We can't really put a stop to all these things, but there may be a way to brake some of the projects by way of insisting that parking and communal open space be included in designs. The plan for McKay Avenue looks charming, if you can get by the overly cutsie balustrades, however it does look like neighbors will be living packed together like sausages with just inches between buildings. Fine if you want to borrow a cup of sugar, but we are guessing the kinds of folks targeted by this project are unused to anything like sharing or neighborliness. Plunk down a million dollars for a waterfront property and it will be all "you can get your own damn sugar, kiddo".

Some people coming late to the table noted the Target planned for the Landing project, and they are not too happy about it, however of the inevitable "big box" stores Target is one of the more innocuous and better behaved towards its employees and to the communities where they plotz. Construction is underway, which means plans have been filed with the County and City and the archetect has now departed for vacation in Majorca, so proposals to revise the parking are late by quite a margin. The store opens in October and may help temper the huge sales tax deficit which John Russo mentioned in a recent Op-Ed in the Journal.

No one is complaining about In-N-Out burger slated for the Landing, probably because the nearest one down on Hegenberger is apparently pretty lousy. Heck, you can't have steak every day and a good burger is always a good burger.

We know the real reason for the height limit increase around the foot of the Park Street bridge. It is so that when the sea level rises due to global warming we will have high roofs from which to be evacuated by helicopter. Somebody is such a genius around here . . .

On the qualified upside the recent resignation of a key Hospital Board member now makes a bit of sense now that we learn the plan to save the venerable institution includes joining the County system, which means the place will not be closed after all. They tried taxes, surcharges, cutbacks and facility aquisitions but that looming and ballooning earthquake retrofit cost pretty much became the key decider in the choice to either padlock the doors until the wrecking ball comes or join a larger outfit. With Kaiser standing right there with its history and its clinic already in operation here, that left few choices.

We cannot really fault anyone for the way things turned out -- the hospital did not stand a chance persisting as a stand-alone facility. It is more likely to benefit all Islanders across the board as a County facility than as a Kaiser satellite. It had been sending the more critically sick and injured over to Highland anyway as the place has not enjoyed a serious trauma unit of Highland's stature at any time in its history.


In a town that seems to sport more churches per square mile than Ireland and Italy combined, we always have room for one more, and so we welcome the distinctive Church of FSM, which unlike all other churches welcomes everyone without reservation and does not require that anyone put aside already cherished beliefs.

We, on this tiny island, have Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics by the score, Unity and Unitarians, Tibetan buddhists, Baptists of several septs, at least one synogogue if not two, Evangelicals, Mormon temples, a Masonic lodge, Elks, Wiccans, Witnesses, Episcopalians of course in a rather grand looking church where they hand out food to the poor the way Xians are supposed, Shouters and weepers and speakers of tongues and La Luz del Mundo and scads more besides. In fact we have so many churches on the island that a local minister mentioned with some sadness that each congregation must necessarily be smallish as there really are not that many souls who live here to distribute among all of the Select.

Members of our staff have recently been ordained into this new ministry, active worldwide only since 2005, when it seemed the country was gripped by a fever of religiousity that transcended all boundaries of reason and common sense. Up rose the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to return Heart and Soul to the Church, for it must be agreed by one and all these two things are intertwined.

We will present more from the CFSM anon, with special mention that should be a guiding reference for us all, What Would the Flying Spaghetti Monster Do? Indeed, thoughts worth pondering.


So anyway another year has passed and Javier tried to rustle up an ex-girlfriend to make his pal Jose happy last week. Or perhaps two weeks ago. Time flies when fruit happens. Whatever.

So Javier got it into his head that on his birthday he would make sure that Jose, his very good friend had a splendid time. To Jose a good time meant sitting quietly in his chair by the light with a good book by Gabo Marquez or Neruda, but to Javier a good time meant a rollicking evening with a woman or two, a fair amount of booze and plenty of mayhem with fireworks, for Javier was like that. The one time he tried to keep things quiet and sedate was on his birthday, for it never failed that day to be a wretched disappointment. It is truely amazing how these things always happened, for the higher his expectations, the surer he was likely to get smacked in the face with a wet fish.

Of course since neither one of them had any money, the extent of mayhem would have to arrive on the cheep side along with any women they might find.

So Javier could not obtain Francesca, who had gone off to wreak havoc in the Sierra foothills with her biker gang, which was fine by Jose, who understood that he dwelled not within her league by any means. Nor could Javier obtain Martina, she of the leather boots with the silver spurs and the whips.

So the two of them rode the BART train into the city as it started to rain to check out the Crazy Horse where Suan worked as an exotic dancer, with Javier hoping that Suan could pull some strings and maybe get them a free lapdance or something. As it turned out, Suan was off that night and could not be found so they sat in the back watching the stage and nursing single beers -- all they could afford -- until the man with the big shoulders told them to buy a round or leave. So outside a man with a big hat told them to give him all their money but all the money they had was for the BART return trip so they tried to run away down Harrison.

Things did not work very well with this running away such that the man with the big hat and very big friends caught them and beat them both badly and took away their ten dollars which is all they had between them. Now there they were in SOMA with no money and no way to get home and it raining now fairly hard, which at least helped wash the blood off their faces. Jose's left knee started swelling from where one of the thugs had hit him with a baton.

Jose went into the all night diner on Van Ness to see if he could call the House and maybe get Pahrump over on his scooter and when the waitress there learned of what had happened she offered to drive one of them back over the bridge to Oakland, but she could not take two of them as her car was filled with magazines and papers on account of her going to Beauty College and her car was one of those new Smartcars not much bigger than a bug with just two seats. Jose promised to alert Pahrump once he made it back to the House, so Javier was left there standing near the onramp at Fifth as his birthday began to fade and the moon rose in the misting rain over the Bay.

He stopped trying to hitch for a while and got down under the cutout near Second Street where some homies had a Bushville encampment there and they had some wine together and talked about things like the houses all of them had lost during the Housing Bust and the Great Recession until he though he better get back up there in case Pahrump came along with his scooter before it got too late. So he said goodbye to his pals there and climbed back up the side. He had to climb over a few things to get there and somehow found himself on the new bridge looking over at the old bridge where he was supposed to be. That is when he started walking, figuring that since no one was driving the new bridge the cops would not notice someone walking along there on what would become a bicycle path beside the road when the thing opened for sure.

Well that span is a good two, three miles long over open water, not counting the Treasure Island tunnel, so he was pretty soaked to the skin after a few hours of walking along, doing his birthday hike and all and his bones aching from the beating he got from the muggers.

He had gotten about as far as where the bridge swept over the mud flats close to shore when a construction crew working on replacing some of the 30,000 brittle bolts that had failed inspection noticed him. They were mad already about having to swap out all those bolts and in the rain and they did not like someone walking on their bridge before it was ready and without authorization or any papers and so they knocked Javier around a good bit before security hauled him back in a car in the direction he had come to lodge him in the Seventh Street jail for breaking and entering and being an all round nuisance and when he told them all about his celebration they just laughed.

His cellmate was named Guido and he did not smell so good. Another fellow brought in on a DUI upchucked in the middle of the floor, which irritated the guard to no end as then he could not enjoy his midnight popcorn done in the microwave. The final admittance to that bad hotel was a man named Claude who turned out to be an Amway salesman whose demeanor and aftershave persuaded the cop that he was somehow high on something in public. He was not drunk, but full of energy and the goodness of the Savior who had redeemed him from a life of sin and he could not stop talking all night. That is where Javier spent the rest of his birthday.

As for Jose, the woman would not drive him onto the Island, which is understandable given that getting onto the Island involves driving through the Kaiser concrete processing plant to get to the one bridge, as the tunnel was closed for cleaning. Instead she dropped him off around 85th Street near where she lived, and Jose had a time of it getting through the firezone with guys sporting tattooed tears blazing away at one another with just about every form of ordinance and caliber available from the Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Native Sons of the Golden West. Around 83rd two guys walked around with their arms extended pulling the triggers and because they had canted the pistols in cool gangsta style and kept hopping around like rappers they missed each other time after time as cement chips and glass shards flew off of the buildings and cars. Once he got past that scene he came across five guys dropping bottle-shaped things into an olive drab tube which puffed with a loud crump each time they did it. They were firing a mortar at a rival gang's house a few blocks away.

Some guy wearing a bright red jumpsuit grabbed Jose, who thought this was it for sure, but it turned out he was to deliver a message on a piece of paper down the street to somebody. Jose did not know what was on the paper and he did not bother to look as he sprinted as best he could on his swollen knee down International Boulevard holding the message in his right with his white handkerchief waving in his left above his head. All the firing stopped as he did so, save for distant pops a few blocks away.

When he got to a sort of barricade he found a lean-looking fellow, who looked to be all of fifteen, wearing a bright blue jumpsuit and bandoliers of machinegun bullets.

"For Pete's sake," Jose said. "You have to be kidding me."

The Blue fellow demanded the message and Jose handed over the slip of paper.

Blue looked at it, scowled, then threw it down and then began striding back and forth in a most truculent manner, waving his Mac-10 and sporting a pistol tucked into his waistband besides.

"What do you think about that?" He kept saying. "What do you think of that?"

Jose picked up the paper.


It occured to the Blue General that he should respond smartly and so he got together with some of his soldiers and they drafted a pithy response. Here, inspiration alit on Jose in a most uncommon form. He mentioned that just up ahead, not back there, but up ahead was a snarky colonel of the red jumpsuit clan and it would be a real good idea to get a message to those guys and just forget about that daf punk back there.

Jose dutifully took the message at a dead running hobble up four blocks to the HQ of the Red team.


O the red rage.

So that is how Jose made it back home through Shooter's Alley, the worst crime-fightin'est, most dangerous stretch of any city road in the world -- by taking insulting messages from one bivouac to the next, from one house of strange chemical odors to the next.

By the time he got to the bridge he saw with incredulity at just past four am that the span had been raised, for what kind of traffic at that hour on the estuary he did not know but there stood the lighted tower and the two arms of the drawbridge pointing upwards through the falling rain like twin arms raised in plea or despair. Slowly he shuffled along the rip rap and skirted the warehouses and overpasses with his home so close and yet so far away. Eventually he got to the Bushville encampment near the entrance to the tunnel at Webster where at least the concrete overpass kept everything dry.

There he found a couple named Paul and MaryBeth who had set up a tent with plastic sheeting. "Dude you sure look messed up," Paul said. He had a full beard and a bandana and strummed a guitar with five strings.

"We got some canned stew from the dumpster. It says its expired but its still good." MaryBeth said. "We got plenty."

And so Jose was welcomed and was fed for among the poor, there is sometimes real understanding of the way things are and that rare kindness is possible where people do not expect anything in return.

A man came up to them there and spoke unto them and this is what he said. "Have you been touched by His noodly appendage? Are you aware this is the shortest night of the year?"

For it was true that this man was an ordained Minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and he did speak then of fate and hope and charity and love, and of course of these things, the greatest of them is . . . , well, you all know.

And so Jose was comforted and no longer dispaired. For he was with a Community of spirit and his bruised bones eased themselves on the tired cushions of a discarded sofa, the substance of which had gone into the little heating fire there under the overpass.

The Editor stepped out onto the deck as the rain sifted down to look at the solstice moon even as the Island Coven did the same during a pause in the middle of their Wiccan ceremonies down by the Cove.

Wisps of cloud trailed across the face of the moon as if some god had recently passed by after administering a blessing.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, and all the scattered Bushvilles as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

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

JUNE 16, 2013


This week we have a moody pic of the Bay Bridge before construction of the new one. Not sure if we used it before, but its a really evocative shot by Tammy of Park Avenue.

Since we are moving closer to the opening of the new structure we will hunt around for images of the old fellow. Would appreciate any pics people might have of the structure when trains used it on the lower deck.


We have seen some E-mail float over the transom with regard to providing regular content for Island-Life and working with us in other capacities. If you got lost in the shuffle go ahead and resend.


A number of internal snafus at I-L meant we missed out on a number of really neat events. This weekend was the Juneteenth commemoration over in Vallejo where Black Americans recall the last days before news of the Emancipation Proclamation and the accompanying Constitutional Amendment reached the ears of slaves located in the far reaches of the American Empire. The event tends to be joyful, as it should be, located outside the main library there near the marina.

At the marina itself, the annual pirate festival took place with mock swordfights, ship to shore cannon battles and lots of yo-dee-ho. The fun fest tends to attract the best dressed mediaevals from the Renaissance Faire, who always add a lot of color. This was the first year the sponsors asked for funds to help defray what is really quite a large enterprise with hundreds of people setting up and operating several stages hosting dozens of performers on the site that took the Guiness World Record for largest assembly of pirates in the world. Portland had been a contender but this year canceled the festival there. So Bay Area, best be on guard and parley this message: Arrrg!

On the Island we had the unveiling of a memorial for fallen police officers -- curiously timed during the budget discussions as we have fortunately only two fallen officers, whose deaths occurred over a span of some thirty-five years. The IPD has been working overtime on PR which took some serious hits after the wildly inane performance last Memorial Day when our finest watched a man die over the course of an hour. Then they followed up by dumping people on the street at three am by way of confiscating their car. Another man died in that incident.

No one said police work is easy. One of the commemorated officers was shot to death and the other run over during a traffic stop. Talk about a bad day at work. Still, this public event seemed timed poorly -- or well -- as the City faces a $4 million dollar shortfall with all departments taking hits in their budgets. Police and Fire protection account for some 75% of our operating budget and some people in some cities are howling about those services taking a full 40%, so a bit of comparison would be in order here.

The new budget has been announced and it is full of draconian cutbacks, including non-funding for police positions now vacant anyway.

If people want protection maintained at current levels there is no replacement for increased revenue. Increasing parking fines and such will not do the job. Parceling backfill from parking here and cutbacks there and higher fees will stop working pretty quick when you are talking about a shortfall as large as $4 millions. The City has to get into the business of selling something and that something has to be on a continuous basis, for once it has sold land or property, that asset is gone for good. We suggest using that open space, now our only real asset, as a way to generate revenue. And no, another big box store is not the solution.

Interestingly an Oakland recently expressed strong emotions about the budget for police in that city. They were shocked, simply shocked that as much as 40% of their total budget goes to officer salaries and of course, you can see what they get for it. We had not the heart to inform him that of our humble Island budget fully 75% goes to the Fire/Police combo. But on the upside, we now have a police boat and people trained to use it.

EBMUD's recent announcement for its 2-fold rate increases of 9.75% and then 9.5% has some interesting rationalization, as the powerful water entity claims it has been hit by the Great Recession which has resulted in fewer customers. Um, did the Golden State really lose that many people? Then again we hear Socal's water entities also jacked their rates when people started really conserving water. In other words, people did what they were supposed to do and this results not in savings or better water diversion methods but higher rates. Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Recent op-ed pieces in the Sun pointed out that the sum total of all the development projects now in the works will result in a sudden population increase on the Island of between 10 and 18%, with 12% a good conservative figure. So with the present inhabitants ticking over 72,000 souls, you can do the math. Better reserve your parking spot now.


So anyway once again the year had revolved upon its rusting gears to re-arrive ponderously to that dreadful day -- to Jose -- of Javier's birthday. Javier celebrates his birthday each year with nearly fatal consequences, and given his taste for younger, passionate, and frequently violent women, each year seems likely to be the last, yet, despite the laws of averages and all common sense, much like South Park's Kenny, Javier returns once again to celebrate anew, while Jose quivers in fear. The bastard.

It is not that Javier actively seeks misfortune. Things just . . . happen. Like his fiftieth celebration, which was meant to be just a passing of the jug among friends on the porch of Andre and Marlene's Household. They nearly burnt the house down, killing everyone due to a simple omission of care regarding the butt end of a spleef.

This year, much to Jose's great dismay, Javier discovered that his birthday and Jose's nearly coincided by a matter of a few days. This he discovered, purely by accident, while going through Jose's wallet looking for a few dollars for pot wine.

No, no, no, pleaded Jose. Pleeeeeeeeze do not tell anyone.

I don't tell anyone, Javier said. I just have a small party.

Jose groaned. Oh no!

I think I tell Marlene and Erica . . .

No! Is not Marlene the one who stabbed you with a spear? Jose said.

You disremember. That was Elvia. It was Marlene who shot you with the pistol, thinking it was me.

Ahhhh! Nooooo!

Maybe I invite Matilda.

She tried to electrocute use both!

No, that was Pilar. You must be thinking of . . . , let me think . . . of Manuela. Except she set us both on fire. She was a hot one that girl!

No, no, no, I do not want no birthday anything. Please leave me out of that.

Which one was member of the biker gang? Ah! So many flowers in such a garden!


O stop whining, Javier said. Love is pain. Un hombre expects that. Which makes me think. When was the last time you unloaded your cojones, amigo? I mean, not with mule or mano a mano.

Uhhhhh . . . !

I thought so. We genuine men of Latin nature must unload or we explode. That is our machismo heritage. I know! I invite Simona! Ahhhh! Simona of a thousand ways! She will be good for you!

Not the one with the pitchfork!

O you must be thinking of Francisca. Simona was the one with the acid. But she has a good side to her. She can be sensual and she knows all the arts of love. Every woman should be like Simona, but not everyone can be. And not every man deserves to enjoy what she has to offer. But you, mi amigo, you shall have such a night to remember.

Indeed it was a memorable night. But to know all about that you will have to come back next week.

This weekend was Father's Day and all over the island fathers took possession of new plaid shirts and tie-clips and shaving accessories. The luckier ones got power tools. Even Javier, who every year on Father's day gets a little something and a card. The card always says something like, "Happy Father's daddy!" and Javier never knows from whom it came. Was that Esmerelda? Or Diane? Or Consuela? Ah, so many women, it was hard to keep track.

Per tradition the girls living in Andre and Marlene's Household all took their father's out to brunch at Mama's Royal Cafe. Mr. Howitzer drove out to Colma to pay his respects there to the paterfamilias and shoot crows squawking on the granite tomb with his Mossberg shotgun until the groundskeepers drove him off with shovels and curses.

Eugene Gallipagus drove out to where his father lived in a double-wide trailer on the outskirts of Grass Valley, which always was a great opportunity to fish for brookies in the streams now slowing from the meager snow melt in the Sierra. It was there that his father had given him the two precious jewels of wisdom Eugene would carry for the rest of his life.

The first went as follows: See that the girl is happy, and you will be too.

The second pursued the following dictum: Do not stick beans up your nose.

Perhaps it was no surprise that Eugene remained a committed bachelor after thirty-seven years and it seemed that he never would marry for his bean-pole frame grew more gangly and out of synch with itself as the years passed.

The Walrus Club, a collection of cold water swimmers held a little champagne brunch on Father's Day which also served as a planning meeting for their next midnight activity in the Bay.

Tommy and Toby both used the laptop to skype with their fathers living in Boston. Tommy's father told him when would he ever find a nice girl to settle down with and regarded Toby with disdain as the ruination of his son although Tommy had been outed long ago before Toby and the entire thing ended in tears and recriminations with Tommy shouting "You never . . . you never . . . "! and Toby trying to defend Tommy's father despite being insulted and Tommy's father saying incredibly to Toby, "You try and talk some sense into that boy. I am sick of him and his lolly gagging."

"Well," said Toby after the hang-up."It's always good to have strong opinions. At least he is firm."

He said that because his own father had developed a raging case of psychotic bipolar mania and would run around the neighborhood in his truck liberally festooned with vaguely Biblical phrases plastered on the sides promising the close proximation of the Apocalypse and certain damnation for most everybody. This had not helped the man's landscaping business in the way of advertising. Nor did his habit of pruning people's hedges with an electric trimmer -- whether they had engaged his services or not. Perhaps it was his way of trying to rustle up new business using good old fashioned chutzpah. Mrs. Dudgeon had to chase him off one time swinging that big black purse she always carries. Eventually while off his meds he tried to paint a house a curious shade of lavendar one day while the astonished owner, Mr. Cribbage, looked on from his flowerbed. "

"Hey! You! What are you doing to my house!" Mr. Cribbage shouted.

"I paint. I paint I paint I paint I paint . . .".

"Stop that! Police! Help!"

This episode did not end well and the men with curious white jackets came to take Toby's father away.

All happy families are more or less dissimilar. All unhappy families are more or less alike. Some famous Russian extemporizing from his distant hermitage located in Nuovo Zembla, a region that exists coterminous with a few other well-known subterranean and subaqueous mythic islands -- such as Bloom County, Yoknapatawpha, and Wobegon -- said that in preface to one of his many meisterworks. But no matter. It only serves to disprove the essential tenet of certain radical groups which imagine that all social ills shall be cured by "fixing" the American Family. Probably in the same way you would fix an unruly Scotch Terrier or a cat. These people have never visited a home for Transitional Age Youth.

In any case the weather got suddenly schizoid around here. Heavy fog and winds chilling the evenings and mornings has been relieved by bright sunny days. Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez took a stroll with the proud couple taking turns at pushing the pram along with its precious contents gurgling and cooing while hummingbirds made abrupt and fleeting visits. It is a great wide world out there, bucko. Full of all kinds of surprises and all of life and many different kinds of families containing many different kinds of people. Be thankful your family is unlike any other, because the pit of misery is very deep and wide and cruel and largely unfair.

As the night fell, the fog eased in to chill the air before working its magic under the heavens hidden with their stars way up away from here. For light the beach houses and condos along Shoreline provided some fuzzy glow and tiki torches flapped in the breeze hard by the Cove where the Walrus Club arrived to strip off all their clothes, men and women together and shine whitely in that fitful gleem. They hesitated only until the last stood there and in they dove suddenly into that chill dark to swim as so many wrigglers multiplied by the waves and the dark and the tricks of light from a few into millions, all headed toward the milky disk of the horizon and the raft with its nimbus of lantern light, all headed toward some procreative astonishment, each sent forth with slight hope and abandoned. The way fathers do.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

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


JUNE 9, 2013


This week's image comes courtesy of long time Islander, Susan Laing, who owns an art studio on Santa Clara where she makes felt things out of raw wool. During Open Studios a little visitor dropped by and here he is.

You might say we do things small rather well. Incidentally, this song, Dance With the Dragon, by Jefferson Starship is one of the few popular rock songs to mention Alameda by name, albeit not in a nice way.

Fame and fortune -- we'll take what we can get.


Things are winding down in Silly Hall as folks there buckle to the realities that people now have a lot more time on their hands to ask questions amid this fiscal year budget thing that is happening.

So to recap: We have some 8 major development works in progress, all with completion dates cropping up within the same 12 month period and collectively amounting to between an 8 and 12% population increase on the island. There are some estimates which post the increase up there around 18%, but we think a few things may happen during the process to make that number not happen. There are a lot of problems with such a large boost in resident population within such a short time, but that is another discussion.

The budget discussion varies between shrill and acrimonious, but the sum total of what WILL happen is that city government is going to be cut back in a GOP wet dream to little more than muscle and fire protection with a little spare change for fixing potholes. The City is looking to balance its budget on the backs of people who drive, which we can see, looking at other municipalities, is going to result in people driving less. That, in itself is not a bad thing, but this means the claim of adding 50% to existing revenues by way of tacking on parking fees might not work. We are already seeing a proliferation of bicycle traffic during rush hour and other unusual times when you in other times and pre-Reagan days say not so much two-wheeled transportation. We are wondering what is going to happen should this magic number for parking fees fail to deliver as we think the ceiling for such hikes is pretty darn near.

The numbers quoted are as follows: $375,000 more to be added to existing revenues of $675,000 from parking fees and fines.

We had a talk with other municipality folks and found that 40% allocation to police and fire was a bit outrageous. Those people were astounded to hear that we on the Island allocate not 50, not 60 but a full 75% of our budget to police and fire. And Oakland has the highest pay rate for police in the nation, so we are wondering what is wrong with this picture.

Well, we just had this memorial dedicated to the men in blue who died protecting us. All two in sixty years. Um, and how many in Oakland? And the timing of this "memorial" for men, one of whom died before Pearl Harbor was bombed seems curious.

Now we segue over to people responding to City Manager Warmerdam's opinion piece in the Sun regarding the budget. We did feel the article was a bit self-serving, much obfuscatory in dwelling on trivialities which had nothing to do with the issue at hand, and a little bit silly in capping on people who dared question the process, but we took all that in stride as par for the course in usual treatment from Silly Hall employees at that level.

Now it seems that other people glommed onto Warmerdam's weak points and, O!, we think this one better be ready for the hot seat to ensue, because if Warmerdam had the thought that position was sufficient insulation and a measure of authority, they surely better know that another thing is coming.

You don't label voters "naysayers" amid a budget discussion when radical austerity measures are being proposed. This implies that Silly Hall is not unified (it is not but then let's get by that one) and things are in disarray, provoking general lack of confidence. So of course people are going to ask even more questions and demand even more input into the already obnoxious annual budget process.

At the end of the day, we are suffering at the municipal level the rather bad decisions made at the federal level and passed down the chain through the state, then the county and finally to us. When will people realize that "federalism" does not really work? Not when you have China and Afghanistan and Egypt and Great Britain to deal with.


This weekend was the last weekend for East Bay Open Studios. Most artists reported heavier foot traffic this time, which is always a good thing. A number of exhibits are happening in July, especially at Photo and Manna, where some half dozen topnotch artists are combining resources. Look to see some figure studies by Mark Lightfoot at Minna later this summer. For people looking to escape the crowds, there are studios and galleries at Norton Factory on East 10th close to the bridges and a scattering of other fun studios as well. We are hearing that Grey Loft at 2889 Ford Street is doing some exciting things in the area once known as Brooklyn and now called by various other names by merchants who are establishing new community life close to the estuary near the Park Street Bridge.

Also dropped in to SLATE Design where Danielle Fox holds the fort. Danielle is one of the progenitors of the Art
Murmur and First Fridays in Oakland. The city is looking to put a cap on the popular event due to the cost of
providing police security. Indeed most gallery owners had taken to holding their own receptions and events on
the following Saturday or midweek to allow patrons actually interested in the art instead of the street party to
escape the throngs.

With the national economy slowly creeping upwards, Danielle expressed hope for the future as people and
companies see to diversify investments through purchase of moderately priced artworks.

Over at 25 Gallery even the hallway has something interesting. This time around the case sported miniature distillations of uneasy anxieties and dreams.


So anyway, all hell broke loose over at this weeks meeting of the Island Hostesses, the premier clandestine sorority of culinary obsessives, conservative political subversives and extremist capitalists. It seems only yesterday that the club reoriented itself with a name change from the Ladies Who Drive. Recently the club had decided to reverse a centuries-old membership qualification tradition by way of admitting women who previously had been denied. That meeting had been tense with vigorous debate continuing right up to the traditional vote, which always had been done by placing a billiard ball upon the felt of the club's main table. A vote had to achieve not only a majority in favor but any color match pair to indicate that at least two majority sisters were of one mind.

At the end of the night, Pandora held up the winning tokens. "Ladies! We have a pair! Both blue!"

Sounds of cheers, enthusiasm.

That excitement had taken place a while ago. This week, all the brough-haha concerned Sister Florence, always a firebrand, who really stirred up the sisterhood this time.

"Sisters we got a problem! A really big, serious problem, sisters! All the time we spent cajolin' and pleadin' and suggestin' and even, you know, providin' service to our mens and cookin' that steak just the way he likes it and all that effort, all that beautiful dresses and lingerie and nails and perfume and promises and downright weedling! After all that work -- tossed in the heap like yesterday's fashions by that no account tattle tale that no-account, worthless Michael Douglas!"

Sounds of Hear! Hear! Yo! You said it Sister!

"You know what I am talkin' about! I am talking about the Vahjayyay! They ain't be so much talk about our Vajayyay since Judy Chicago!"

Cheers! Hoots! Word, Sister! Word!

"Now I am tellin' y'all you gotta keep it clean! You know what I am sayin' sisters! You don't go sticking your clam up there in some guy's face without some prep time y'all! This looks bad for all of us girls!"

"No stick without a lick!" shouted Pimenta Strife who tended to get carried away whenever sex was involved.

Echoing chants filled the hall.

"They aint no cooties in my 'tang, sisters!" shouted Ms. Lou Cadme. "Any you mens out there can check it out anytime!

Things got chaotic after that.

Well okay. So anyway, again, the weather kicked up with a brisk sirocco that brought temps down and put aside the nascent summer. Mark Twain, had he returned for a visit, would have shook his head, claiming Missouri in wintertime had better weather. This was the weekend for graduations of all kinds here on the Island, for schools and for many adult programs.

Over at the Sala de Calveras a group of 12 Steppers had its inaugural chapter graduation meeting about the same time as the Island Hostesses. Floyd Cratchit sat surrounded by other sitting on cafeteria-style chairs. A black and white Staffordshire terrier wearing a blue and white service dog vest lay placidly beside him. Above his head a lugubrious ceiling fan rotated with irregular rhythm.

"Friends I am here to tell you I am a . . . "

(long difficult pause. Coughs. Sniffs in the background.)

"I am a jerk. I mean I am a total asshole. Ever since I was a kid . . .".

"Now Floyd, we prefer to use the strength-based term 'pushy person.' You don't need to wallow," the organizer, Ms. Light, said.

"Yeah right. I am a . . . pushy person. But I am here to tell you this is my one year anniversary. I been clean and morally decent and polite for exactly 12 months, two days and four hours. I used to bully people around as an apartment manager where I really abused the authority entrusted to me. I cut in line at the Bayview Market. I browbeat people and stepped on their shoes. I cussed out pedestrians from my truck and scared the day workers. Being a jerk had become a sick addiction; I could never get enough power. But, I can say I have not been mean or acted like a bully jerk since June 6th, 2012."

Cheers of support. Way to go! Good job! You da man!

"And I really owe it all to my Higher Power and my service dog, little Amigo."

"Woof!" Amigo raised and lowered his head after vocalizing.

"Thank you, Floyd, for that courageous and inspiring story," Ms. Light said. "Now everyone I'd like to introduce you to someone many of you probably know. This is Mr. Bud Smugg, owner of Peace Bites on Park Street. Peace Bites trains and supplies the service dogs we use, just like little Amigo here."


Bud Smugg had established his business originally out at the Point where he collected animals from the ASPCA and the local animal shelter to train them to provide a very important service. Years ago, after a howling baboon of a man hit Bud in the crosswalk and then cursed him for being there, Bud looked around and noticed an epidemic of jerkiness and porous boundaries had spread like contagion throughout the Bay Area.

Psychiatrists consider someone with vaporous boundaries to be schizo, but all around the Bay Area these people considered themselves to just be superior, with-it, on top of the game.

To such people anything was better than being someone's patsy -- even being a dick. Pushiness, instead of being seen as it is by most normal people, as a nasty character flaw, was seen as a value.

Like any cautious businessman, Bud put out some feelers. He did market research. All over the Island people came to him with stories about their neighbors trying to control their lives, apartment managers who threatened and cursed the tenants, managers who browbeat and belittled subordinates. Pizza restaurants where the customer never was good enough for the food.

Whereas everybody dislikes a wishy-washy pushover, such people really are only annoying at worst and cause harm only to themselves. Most of them abstract themselves from society somehow through Darwinian processes. Jerks, however, always seem to come out, if not on the very top, then on top of somebody by dint of obnoxiousness, which often is misperceived by the Comfortable as usefulness.

It turned out that in every building there was at least one person who made life miserable for everybody else through controlling behavior. We all have had to deal with people like this. In one building a woman tried to get her neighbors to move their furniture in their own apartments because noise of a certain frequency gave her migraines so they all had to change the channels of their TV sets and radios as well.

Clearly the Island suffered from an epidemic of assholism. And in this epidemic, money was to be made.

All the dogs were trained to bite their owner upon initiation phrases like, "I really need you to . . .", and "Well if you don't do this, I guess I will have to just . . .".

The dogs were snapped up like hotcakes once Bud got in business. Tenants of apartment buildings got together and raised kitties to provide a dog for particularly troublesome neighbors. Middle managers everywhere turned into effective negotiation machines and their departments began to thrive. Many boyfriends turned into model lovers after girlfriends introduced their new pets. "Look at the puppy with those big brown eyes . . ."!

That's when Ms. Light, founder of Pushy People Anonymous approached Bud with the comment, "I think we have potential for a symbiotic relationship here. Let's form a merger."

"Cool," said Bud. "Your place or mine?"

The old High School's Administration granite facade and original classroom buildings are surrounded by a ten-foot high fence and the seismically unsound buildings are slated for "reassignment", read demo and conversion to condos. However the playing fields behind the school still provide space for events like graduations for the other schools in the area and what remains of Washington High that continues in newer buildings. Due to population shifts and the legacy of the economic downturn coupled with the new realities of fiscal austerity, for many schools this will be the last graduation to take place on the tattered Encinal playing fields.

A lot of faculty who have been guiding kids for decades since the days the Navy was here are picking this year to be their swan song. So for the class of '13, this is a very bittersweet graduation time. These kids that used to bash birthday piñatas from the branches of thick front-yard maple trees, who used to scamper on bicycles through Jackson and Washington Parks and propel plastic Big Wheels down Benton, St. Charles, Taylor, now are looking at a very uncertain future.

They are about to go out into the society of an Island washed by change and deliberate amnesia. California is a place where people come in great numbers who will have no more connection with their classmates, and who, in many cases wish that past called by some growing up to be incinerated with all the names and addresses and reminders of all the pain that caused them to come here. There are over a dozen projects underway that will result in a 10 to 12% increase in Island population within the next two years, and none of those newcomers will have any memory of Mayor Ralph or when the Navy was here or the year the Jets won the big game between East and West End.

This does include not only people from Newark, New Jersey and Athens, GA but also places with horrific histories deserving of some erasure, like Bosnia and the Sudan, Cambodia and Tibet.

In front of the old school entrance there are class commemoration bricks set into the pavement, starting with the year somebody thought to begin this tradition. Rank upon rank the years march down from 1924 to the year seismologists sealed shut the massive doors between the Greco-Roman pillars.

Dolly Parton, the coalminer's daughter, saw nothing precious in the place that had vilified her and turned her at times into a carnival sideshow. Those who regard the past as a halcyon time are contradicted by those who have no good memories at all. So, with her fame and her wealth Dolly turned her hometown into a carnival themepark.

Many are those here who, given half a chance, do everything in their power to pave over, demolish, rehab, reconstruct and reformulate the scenes of their worst humiliations. For every preservationist, there is another Mulholland pushing forward yet another version of the Peripheral Canal. For every misty-eyed romantic, an angry Dollywood. It has always been that way.

On Saturday the kids of '13, soon to become all too quickly men and women, filed to the rows of cafeteria chairs between bright yellow ropes hung with fluttering pennants of hope. Beyond the chainlink fence which had stymied many homerun hopes stood the Editor watching the assembly. From this distance he could not hear the speaker's remarks and so walked on.

What would you say to the Class of '13 if given the chance? It's fine to preserve those affectionate connections, a few remembrances -- you are going to need them. But like the number of your graduation year, its nothing to which to pin yourself, else your entire life becomes unlucky. Go out there and climb mountains, break your legs on them. Skydive and marry unwisely. Love unwisely and make many mistakes while traveling so your homeboys will not remember you for them. Do all those things and more. Get into trouble. I say do these things because you will do them anyway. Who listens to any old man who has all behind him when things for you are just getting jump-started into the wide blue of freedom?

And when you next, many years down the way, see a group of kids waiting to get on the school bus with their anxious parents standing there, know that by the time the kid steps up onto the school bus everything has already been decided -- its all done. You have already done everything you could do and all the rest is just filling out forms and paying larger bills. At least as far as parental sayso goes.

So that all comes down to avoiding too much reflection save for that which teaches you to learn from your mistakes, of which you should strive to make many. You will never know for sure what is important until you strive hard and fail. So I say to you, Class of '13, go forth and fail. But fail mightily. Then again, if you try hard enough, you just might succeed because nothing is a sure thing. Know for certain that nothing is certain. There is no one Truth. Like any uncertain particle, a quark, a meson, even your humble electron, as soon as you direct your attention there, it jumps away and then its gone. Just like that.

As the witching hour approached, the Editor stood out on the deck to see Orion appearing right on time above the huge boxwood elder. Above all, Class of '13, strive and succeed at not being an asshole. Otherwise, Butt's PPA Service dogs will surely bite you in the end.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

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


JUNE 2, 2013


We had a couple visitors recently checking out the neighbors

The Island - a place where even the birds are curious.


The rash of evictions and subsequent rent gouging has now touched the moderately comfortable in that owners of boats stashed at Nelson's Marina got the posting just days before Marshals chained up the gates, causing an unholy furor among boat owners still in the process of rendering craft seaworthy. The City took possession of the facility May 10th after the owner failed to make good on a $37,000 utility fee. People with the means to own and refurbish yachts are now learning what its like to be served eviction notices and then have their stuff padlocked under threat of theft and disposal. Think this will make any of them start thinking about what happens to people when its their livelihood and family that gets kicked out for no fault of their own.


More salvos on the budget front appeared in both weeklies. One astute commentator noted that although strapped, this Island city is better off than many, if not most, in the state and claims that a "balanced budget" has been hammered out with this and that sort of provision.

There's a bit of complaining about Prop 13, which we seem to recall in our foggy minds happened about three or more decades ago, but you know, civil servants used to possess long tenure.

Nevertheless here we are and while 4 million in debt is not yet bankruptcy of the sort Vallejo suffered, its serious and talking about and is undoubtedly part of the reason the Police Department just announced parking fines and fees increases to boost revenues for itself by $333,000. The island is flat, people. Better get panniers and a new tire for that bicycle in the garage.


With a minority of numbskulls trying to distract the Country with shouts of BengaziBengaziBengazi something in the hindbrain caused us to do a little journalistic research. Well, turns out one person's Administration featured hella worse lapses than the one in Libya. That, of course, would have been the man notorious for failure and on the short list for Worst President ever, the comedian's ever beloved Dubya.

Here's a few facts worth remembering, courtesy of our favorite source for political fashion tips and religious advice, America's Best Xian, Mrs. Betty Bowers:


ProArts is holding its annual East Bay Open Studios. The first weekend passed, leaving June 8-9th, same weekend as First Friday's in the Uptown district of Oakland. In case you have not noticed the abandonment of large swathes of real estate due to the Great Recession by automobile dealerships and the hundreds of micro and mid-sized businesses that fed on the auto sales industry has resulted in a plethora of art galleries and workspaces filling in the holes. With scandalous rents driving working artisans out of Babylon across the water the East Bay is now experiencing a huge Renaissance of creative work that is drawing now the attention of worldtrippers from London, Paris and Buenos Aires.

A case in point is SLATE Design which is curated by Danielle Fox, a former employee of Sotheby's. Fox is launching a multi-pronged artistic endeavor with the idea that when times are tough, it is time to break out the ropes and climb Mount Everest without oxygen tanks.

ProArts includes an host of all kinds of niche artisans from the very publicly successful Pat Payne, who installs large-scale bronzes in open spaces to people who just want to embroider their name for a little fun.

We are happy to see that the former Autobody space at 1517 Park is still alive, now broken up into a dozen studios and calls itself "Popups", however the Autobody name remains on the facade outside and Richard Kane remains as the primary leaseholder, occupying a corner of the space for his music/media covers workshop.

In the other studios there you will find everything from whimsical portraits made of "found" plastic trash to Jamie Banes' miniature worlds constructed of Lucite and powered LEDs. Bane's has moved in his long career from large-scale public art to reduced fit's-easily-in-a-room pieces. He commented that he is fascinated by the industrial complexes with gantries and towers lit suggestively with high-powered lights and will be moving into kinetic sculptures in the future. He is also another transplant from the Telegraph Hill crowd across the water and we welcome him here with open arms. His work can be seen at

On the other end of the Island Susan Laing, felt textiles, has partnered with Margo White, illustration for an interesting visit. Lain works in her garage which still has tools and natural history reminders left behind by her late husband Jim Kitson, graphic designer. The space is surrounded by a garden filled with bursting flowers and succulents -- the garden itself is worth the visit and this year Susan has put out benches and an umbrella for the shade. Laing hand selects raw wool from farms in California, then cleans, cards, and dyes the wool to make truly original wool panels, pillows and scarves. All materials are natural and some of the dyes have recipes going back thousands of years.

Margo White's work can be seen at She does whimsical etching and drawings of beasts, harlequins, and collages -- one of which was featured on the cover the The Monthly (Oct. 2003).

This year ProArts has 350+ open studios with 18 of them on the Island. Drop in to any studio to get a map and a list of participants, enjoy some refreshing liquids and nosh on whatever hummus/cheese plate/dolmas/tapas the artist(s) has laid out.


So anyway, a number of years ago Bear was rode his vintage '54 Panhead for a long ride out in the valley, talking the winding road that climbs up past the observatory and then down again to return to the Island out by Crab Cove, there to look across the water at distant Babylon's string of lights and the slowly easing sunset out past the Golden Gate, easing his mind from the rough handling that sometimes life metes out.

He was remembering a friend of his named Johnny, who had gone off to Vietnam in 1972 and not come back. As for a few others of his acquaintance. For Bear, everyday was Memorial Day, and the weird national holiday had nothing to do with anything in his experience.

a ferocious beard provided home for ... an assortment of animal life

Bear remained the same as he always was: a swarthy man with one red tennis shoe on his left foot and one green one on his right, both diffidently fastened, equally mismatched socks of varying colors depending on what had been found in the drawer that morning or the previous. His sturdy legs sported denims that probably had seen the nineteen-sixties come and go by way of the manner stitches and patches held them together. Underneath something tattered, soiled, and disdainful which once had been a proud leather biker jacket, a tee-shirt that sometimes functioned dually as motoroil absorber and noserag adorned his ample chest above which a ferocious beard provided home for two full lips and an assortment of animal life culled from various alate species. He stored his Harley in the livingroom of his cottage next to the couch.

Some men, inhabiting life in such condition, would have found a lack of female companionship to be a bother, but Bear never had a problem with that issue. He was not without mates, but let us say those relationships tended towards impermanence.

As the sun began to drop behind the striations of liquid incarnadine and gold shot with azure sky and white cloud a flash of green suffused the horizon. Just as old Orion began his thousand year hunt across the heavens a car pulled up and two people got out to amble over and gaze at the vista. All down the beach solitary individuals walked their dogs in the blue light, kicked sand in company, gazed seaward in a way only the mariner and the long-term prairie sodbuster understands, for out there is not field nor sea, but the eternal Big Sky, always worth looking at, especially when Life takes a sudden turn.

The man started up a conversation with Bear, which is no mean feat to accomplish, for you must know Bear was a man of few words, if only for the fact that Bear stored only a handful of those things within the etui of his mind. But this man was Irish, and, for all their faults, the Irish will never be at a lack of words -- it's their own response to . . . inevitabilities.

Look at the stars, said the woman. There's Orion, just like back home.

Which one is Orion, Bear asked.

The woman pointed him out and indicated the twinkling outline points. And that string there that's his belt. Or it could be his sword. Or something else.

Ok, Bear said.

Was he, Bear, an American, meaning genuine article and all that pertains?


And was that not indeed a genuine American motorcycle of the type storied and exalted in literature and film and song?


Well then.

You? English?

Heavens no! Irish. From Ireland. She by way of San Diego with short hops and marriage.


Married yes. But not to each other.

Married yes. But not to each other.


With success comes the dutiful marriage and the wildly undutiful spouse

Well, let me explain, said the Irishman, whose name turned out to be David. The woman was named Danielle. David had grown up in abject penury, which in Ireland is quite a harsh thing for the weather is beastly and the people sometimes worse than the weather when they are your neighbors and aware of you. But a relative had earned a fortune writing children's books about a stuffed bear and his friends and this relative had developed a great wish for David, who got sent off to school where they discovered the boy actually had talent! In music of all things! One thing led to another (this story would itself comprise a short novella) and David became quite the star in the firmament of Irish classical music, working his way, if it may be called that, to full orchestral conductor. With success comes the dutiful marriage and the wildly undutiful spouse, soon dispensed with in typical Irish fashion, with a house and income and orders never to show her face.

This was, of course, when the Republic was predominantly Catholic, and not the hotbed of liberal sin and divorce it has become.

Danielle had longed to escape the drab sandy hot dry confines of San Diego and so had cultivated her own musical abilities, soon gravitating to Ireland, as becoming a member of the Staatskappele in Wien, Berlin, Bonn, Paris, London, Tokyo, Beijin or any of the great cities involved standing in line a long time and worshipping, in turn, someone's personal Priapus.

So she was a flautist and gorgeous and people noticed. The world of performance is difficult and you do what you have to do. So she took up the harp. Easier to say, "Sorry Sir, I simply cannot do what you wish."

O the scandals of the classical music world she could unveil! The atrocious bestial habits! The carnality! The fiddling!

So she found herself in dear dirty Dublin, the Ford of the Hurdles. To stay in country as a musician she conveniently married an Irishman who turned out to be conveniently gay as blazes but with the hots for Eton graduates. They never lived together and so that was that -- she got her residence card, and because divorce was illegal, she remained Irish until death, but what was a girl in the prime of life to do?

She did what all reasonable Irish did in those days: she met David who was handsome, charming, affectionate and moved in with him to make what the Church and State still could not figure out -- harmony instead of Matrimony. They had bearskin fur comforters on their bed made in Bulgaria to keep them warm. For a while fur kept them warm.

Well that story lasted only so long. There is some kind of income for the Kappelemeister of Dublin, but coming from the sort of background he had, David also wanted to do some good in the world and so David took on as a part time sort of thing this choirmaster for a boy's school in Belfield. These two occupations occupied most of his time and of course, there were in the late nights opportunities offered to the handsome Kappelmeister.

As for Danielle, she was quite a hot pistol coming to dear dowdy Dubh Linn after traveling all over the world. O she did the charity work for the Magdelenes in their laundries and she took on the troubles of the wives living close by and sheltered them during the times of red devils in the bed and all hell breaking loose and all regarded her as the saint and soul of all things good.

Well you know how it goes. The brief infidelities. The shouting and the recriminations. The loud arguments of which the Irish are surely the champions. Then comes the dreadful moment when there is the handslap to the face. The overt threat. Shouting and worse. Screaming and shattering of things. The common recognition that Life does not go according to plan. Public insults. Door slams. Anger swells in the close rooms fueled by peat fires in the once homey hearth and requirements. How could you. You ass. Her voice, once the delight of sopranos turning into a shrill harpy's shriek. Smashing crockery. The mild-mannered Choirmaster of a boy's school found himself raising his angry fist to strike. The bestial . . .

Danielle found herself traveling down the hall with a large cleaver in her hand to enter the amber-lit room to find David sobbing with his head in his hands.

The pistol lay on the bed beside him. His hands looked tired and old as they held his bearded head, heavy, so heavy. How had things come to this?

Now was the time for a vacation. Perhaps their last together. Trying to figure things out. Looking for a sign.

So there they were at the ends of the world, their common law marriage falling apart and Orion wheeling overhead from where the arrowshot had put him with his mysterious belt. Everything was finished, everything ruined.

And there sat Bear, listening. I know hard people.

Yes. Of course, David said.

You aren't like that. I see two good people. You describe two strangers. Ask your friends -- is this you? No. Everybody knows. How did you get here?

Uh, said Danielle. We flew.


Uh I think we changed planes in . . . Chicago. Was it Chicago?

I think it was Chicago, David said. It was an airport.

So you come all this way sitting together and here you are. You don't want to break this up do you?


Go home. Meet again. Move. Start over. Talk about those bad people you knew that did bad things. Those other people.

Well, David said. Well.

That wasn't him, was it, Bear said to Danielle. You know him. That was someone else.

Righ', Danielle said.

Look out there for a while, Bear said, meaning the darkening bay with the constellations marching overhead. You came a long way. And he got up and started up his motorcycle and before leaving them there he said, Go home. Become beautiful.

Then he left the couple there and they were silent a long time. Eventually they got back in their rental car and drove away and continued their trip up the California coast, not saying much to each other, thinking. When they got back to their place on the outskirts of Dublin they moved out of the big house and put it up for rent, taking lodgings in a cottage down the path that had once been a gamekeeper's lodge. It was smaller, snug, and the piano filled what passed for the diningroom/livingroom. They changed their names to names which are not recorded here. Before moving out though they had a short courtship. The man who had been David showed up on the doorstep ringing the bell.

The woman who had been Danielle opened the door and exclaimed, "What on earth! Did you lose your keys?"

"Hello," the man who had been named David said. "My name is ---------. Would you like to come live with me?" And he gave her a spray of gorgeous flowers.

The woman who had been Danielle quit her job, snipped a few loose ends, employed different tradesmen, and became the other person that was herself, her real self. A person passing on the street might call out a name, but she kept on, and if they persisted, it was "I am sorry, do I know you from somewhere?"

Friends were very puzzled

And so that is how the story went. Friends were very puzzled and of course for a while telephones and such things were a tremendous problem. You see those people, well they were aweful and we do not deal with them anymore, or as little as possible. The school took things in stride. The man who had been David told them that a dear relative who had written children's books about the adventures of a stuffed bear had passed away and he had taken on the man's name for sentimental reasons. Well with reasons like that, you can go far in Ireland to be sure.

It's not easy assuming a new life; you don't just don one like an overcoat, but in this case it was worth it. Everyone who met them commented what a lovely couple they were. As for that other couple that used to live in the big house up the hill, well. We don't talk about them. We just know they are still there.

The Editor walked about turning off the lights in the office, now past one A.M. and stepped out to look at Orion, now leaning a bit over the Old School building, thinking about this week's issue and its ambiguities. Orion's Belt. Could be one thing. Could be another.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark blue waves of the estuary , and wavered across the waving grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off beneath the gaze of Orion parts unknown.

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


MAY 26, 2013


This week the headline foto shows of part of a local garden where the seasonal flower of California holds sway.

Wikipedia states, in an article most likely written by a English military officer:

"In Flanders Fields" is a rondeau poem, written during the First World War by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially unsatisfied with his work, discarded it. "In Flanders Fields" was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world's most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict.

Here are more personal details as described in

"It is thought that doctor John McCrae (30th November 1872 — 28th January 1918) began the draft for his famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ on the evening of the 2nd May, 1915 in the second week of fighting during the Second Battle of Ypres.

It is believed that the death of his friend, Alexis Helmer, was the inspiration for McCrae's poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The exact details of when the first draft was written may never be known because there are various accounts by those who were with McCrae at that time.

Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was an officer in the 2nd Battery, 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery and had become good friends with John McCrae. On the morning of Sunday 2nd May Alexis left his dugout and was killed instantly by a direct hit from an 8 inch German shell. What body parts could be found were later gathered into sandbags and laid in an army blanket for burial that evening.

Alexis was 22 years old and a popular young officer. Before the outbreak of war he had graduated from McGill University with a degree in Civil Engineering. He was the son of Elizabeth I. Helmer of 122, Gilmour St., Ottawa, and the late Brigadier General R. A. Helmer.

Near to the 1st Canadian Brigade's position on the canal bank there was a small burial ground which had originally been established during the First Battle of Ypres in the autumn of the previous year, 1914. The Second Battle of Ypres began on 22nd April 1915 and by early May the burial ground also contained graves of French and Canadian casualties. It became known as Essex Farm British Military Cemetery.

Lieutenant Helmer was buried on the 2nd May. In the absence of the chaplain, Major John McCrae conducted a simple service at the graveside, reciting from memory some passages from the Church of England's 'Order of Burial of the Dead'. A wooden cross marked the burial place. The grave has since been lost. Lieutenant Alexis Helmer is now commemorated on Panel 10 of the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres; he is one of the 54,896 soldiers who have no known grave in the battlefields of the Ypres Salient."

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Finally, Lt. Col. Morrison wrote during a memoire of that time, "Just as John described it, it was not uncommon early in the morning to hear the larks singing in the brief silences between the bursts of the shells and the returning salvos of our own nearby guns.”


Some things have slowed down to shake hands with the approaching Season of Summer, but crime and rambunctiousness continue with zest and vigor here on the the Island. Neighbors enjoyed a little melee outside the sports bar Scobies in which an estimated 40 people flailed at one another with fists and, apparently knives or broken bottles, as one fellow was found by responding officers prone with lacerations. The residence hotel across the street from the bar had been a source of citizen's complaint, earning it the unenviable local moniker of "The Roach Motel", however ever since the place has been closed for renovation things have gotten dicier at Scobies, which is of the rude wooden bench and pooltable variety of hangout.

The melee seems to have originated from a women's room argument.

In another hallmark of change, the Army/Navy Women's Club officially met for the last time on the date of its 100th birthday at the old Officer's Club. Wives of retired officers started the club in 1913.

It is interesting that the Fire Department, which already has a lock on the lucrative emergency ambulance services, for the Island is now expanding transport services to non-emergency types for the sole reason of increasing revenue. You may hear language about "clarification of agreements" and "reclassification" and such, but we note that a quick two block ride with the FD will set you back a cool $3,000, which tends to drop quite a pretty penny into the strapped Department's funds. If you figure there were just one emergency transport per day, you will see just why Mike D'Orazi and Co. scrapped so hard to keep the transport services a monopoly. This is called "responding adroitly to the new era of fiscal austerity".

Will the Police Department get into the home alarm system business next?

Speaking of fiscal austerity and "new realities", anyone who has anything to do with public services and services that rely upon local government schedules knows that the looming July 1 fiscal end of year approaches like some hairy shibboleth with dripping venomous fangs. Because the end of year is such a fixed line in the sand for local and State governments, now is the time when those massive stacks of paper devoted to budget proposals get heaved onto the desks of clerks and bureaucrats from Yreka to San Ysidoro. Its the time when, even if they may not work much the rest of the year, by god during these months they all put their shoulders to the wheel.

Predictably, our own little Charter government Island has its mixture of Machiavells and mendicants doing battle with one another over a budget that is estimated to suffer a $2.7 million deficit next fiscal year, a deficit expected to swell to $4.4 million on the following go-around 2014-2015.

Our deficit is that large? Didn't know we were even spending that much for a Silly Council and a City Hall that stays open only four days a week.

The lion's share of expense (75% of budget) go to public safety, as in Police and Fire, both of which are enjoying minimal cutbacks. They are getting cut, nevertheless, just not as much as everybody else. The real pain will be felt in General Fund programs and projects, which include a cool half million to be sliced from Parks and Rec, maintenance by Public Works, capital projects. It is not true that our private electrical utility AMP is draining the fund, for in fact the utility has been pumping cash into the fund at the rate of $2.8 million per year -- a situation that is certain to change for the worse.

Looking at the planned methodologies for handling the deficits we see discrepancies as well as inadequacies, the detail of which can be summed up fairly well. The plan is to cut spending per Conservative dogma. This of course results in smaller government, which is the idea behind Conservativism. The cutbacks are insufficient in themselves to handle the deficits as the projected revenue shows only moderate to miniscule increases. So the fallback plan is to "carryover" the loss to the next fiscal year.

Um, yeah.

That idea violates every conceivable Conservative dogma, program, scruple or whatever. It also violates Liberal scruples as well, although you will never hear either side admit it. And it violates common sense.

Common sense here derives from basic business practice, which states you cannot make money by cutting back; you make money by spending money. Now we all know by now that you cannot run government like business. The two entities have different objectives, different goals which do not touch one another.

History has shown that everywhere draconian austerity is practiced, economies stumble and fail. You cannot increase revenue by slashing expenses -- that is called "cooking the books". Nothing has changed in five thousand years of human history to alter the basic rule that you succeed by offering the best possible goods and/or services at the best possible price. You offer the best goods and services by means of investment -- that means you have to put money into the system so things can grow. Call it Capitalism or common sense -- it is and always has been the truth.

Just look at places where there is either no government or a minimal one. Places like Somalia. Is that what you want?

With pride we note that our local BSA troop leadership has stated they would support a national resolution to put aside the anti-gay policies that restrict membership and leadership to heterosexuals only. Local leaders have stated they are present for all local residents and will continue to "extend membership to all youth and adults who are willing to follow the ideals of the Scout oath and law." Patrick Kenny, a member of the local executive board, has stated succinctly, "We are here for the kids." In other words, we do not care and will not ask about any gender orientation. All right, it is said that anything you do for children is never wasted.

Finally in the Letters to the Editor we see that more people are getting miffed at Ron Cowan's Harbor Bay. We have been here on the Island some two decades and more and when we first got here we found a number of people up in arms and angry at the man even then, which did not help things the time his outfit tried a fast one in attempting to seize the land occupied by a public golf course via shikanery.

Edgar Allan Poe has a short story call "The Imp of the Perverse" and its about a guy who just cannot help himself but always must be up to shenanigans and mischief even when the results are bound to hurt himself. It seems Cowan, or his outfit Harbor Bay Realtors, has some kind of imp that propels destructive deviousness here on the Island. California is well over 800 miles long as the arrow flies, but some devil is in Cowan's HBR that makes them want to muddy the waters in this particular spot even though there is plenty of swampland and desert to muck around with elsewhere. Why in the name of Beelzebub the man is compelled to turn his own hometown into Dolly Parton's Theme Park is anyone's guess.

Latterly HBR (sounds like the initials of some kind of blue-collar beer) wants to demolish the athletic club on Harbor Bay so as to place it someplace really inconvenient and replace the location with more buildings. It seems HBR feels they are owed something, but last we heard nobody in Northern California is owed anything save for the Ohlone, the Miwok and the Pomo of Clearlake. We don't see HBR giving any of those people a single postage stamp worth of land.

If HBR leverages a lawsuit against the City -- these days a common way for thieves like SunCal to snatch a boodle for doing little -- they will terminate any future hopes of doing business here as well as any claim to the development land to which they feel they are entitled. At the moment they are wise to stick to importuning and making a nuisance of themselves.


The start of June is always a pleasant time in NorCal. Nine months away from the onset of Winter's worst Shut-in days means lots of birthdays to celebrate in fog-free weather and shirt-sleeve temps. June 9th sees Oakland celebrating its jewel with Love Our Lake Day. Visitors will note that a section by Lake Merritt that used to be 12th Street is now become an amiable pedestrian boulevard. It was all paid for by Measure DD. Check out for details and go to the lake to love it and someone else on and under a blanket.

June also kicks off the summer season of outdoor street fairs. Berkeley gets things going in its own unique style with the LIve Oak Park fair. Check out

Naturally we swing to all things musical. We will be blessed to enjoy Canada's scion of the Wainright family, a family that has demonstrated so much talent that it hardly seems there is enough to go around for the rest of us, in form of Rufus Wainright at Davies Hall over in Babylon. He will be dropping in for one night only on June 9th, as he takes a pause between songwriting, book authoring, classical music composing, and screen acting. But he will perform -- you can expect that.

One of our East Bay gems is Mosswood Park Amphitheatre, a little bit of green tucked into the armpit of Oaktown's downtown in view of the Lake. The sturdily common-folk named Burger Boogaloo will take place there June 6-7th. It is $40 but you will see the likes of proto-punk turned CW man Jonathan Richman who was last seen falling off of a wharf in There's Something About Mary.

Wanna get out of town? Same weekend coming up is the Healdsburg Jazz Festival stretching its legs from May 31 to June 9th hard by the Russian River. Go to for the full schedule which will include Bill Frisell and Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Time again for another Bullwinkelshow! Yay! June 1 will have the Chocolate and Chalk Art festival up on Shattuck in the "gourmet ghetto" of Berkeley. It sounds odd but it really works and this one is fun for all ages.

The mood in music is softer now that a semblance of sanity and intelligence occupies the Oval Office in a kingdom far far away, so now is a good time to get out and forget about unaccomplished missions and Brownies doing "a heckofa job" to the populace. The foreign wars are winding down, America's arch nemesis is dead, people in the Middle East are learning to deal with each other without an American pointing a gun at them and the economy seems to be getting better for some people, even if you have not seen it yet for yourself. From BFD to Outside Lands and the Kate Wolf Festival, this is the summer to be young and randy and full of life before the next wretchedness gets inflicted on us by people imagining they want to do us good.

Mark Twain had an aphorism about that and if you are old enough to remember it, have fun anyway and if you don't like the music, go out and make some of your own.


So anyway, with the weather gotten into something similar to what other places call summer, all the hopeful soon-to-be grads were gettting busy doing very little schoolwork, studying for those finals, having parties in which everybody asked "did you get accepted?" even though the question had been answered three months previously, or from the other side of the socio-economic spectrum, "didja make 'er"? or, "workin' for the old man"? All these things sorting themselves out with excitement, as if anything decided in these days would be the end all, the turning point that would decide everything for the rest of their lives, these teenagers, even while the poppies are rioting among the apple trees and cherries are for sale on every street corner as los migras come down to the warmer temps from up north with their pickup trucks and their flatbeds and their vans from the bing cherry trees of Washington State all lugging sacks of cherries bursting with that momentary mixture of tart and sweetness that we enjoy for such a brief moment in our lives.

The world is turning and to someone on the cusp of life about to reach out to that brass ring going by, everything is right now.

The change of seasons has great significance to those who are older as well. Trout season has begun and now the weather has ceased its up and downs, the opportunities to get into the Sierra foothills arrives. Snow, the lifeblood of California, seals up the trails and roads leading up into the highlands until late Spring. This year the Tioga Pass road opened May 11 and so now was the time to think about getting up there after the initial melt had eased off and the flow of the streams had slowed.

Eugene gathered up his rig, and although living beside the salt water, he drove over to the practice ponds in the Golden Gate Park to practice the perfect cast that in its loops and hoverings in the air imitated perfectly the aerial ballet of a tasty, tempting nymph. Its a curious exercise in a meticulous art over shallow pools that never will host a fish of any size, sort of like Picasso practicing the drawing of a horsey over and over again before doing Guernica. In his desk drawers they found after the artist had died hundreds upon hundreds of carefully rendered sketches of foals, mares, stallions, each precisely rendered and anatomically perfect.

Some kind of front swept in this week from offshore, bringing with it whipping winds and an unearthly atmosphere of pending disaster. There was even a spattering of rain that soaked the front seat of Reverend Freethought's Dodge Dart, as she had left the driver's side window rolled down. A big 5.0 shaker knocked things off shelves up country this week and ruined a few swimming pools but no disaster of obvious note occured.

An atmosphere of pending disaster persists among all of us who know the Masters of War are still hard at work, but you cannot live your life in that zone. We all have this sense that things are not finished, that no mission -- whatever that might be -- is accomplished. It is like the unfinished Boston Marathon which no ceremonial "Last Mile" sort of political shindig meant to assuage our collective feelings can tidy up. Things will just have to wait the slow revolve of the months until the following May for the next marathon, as the entire point is to run the thing the distance without stopping. People need to live knowing that life does not have neat executions and resolves like an episode of CSI on TV. The guy who lost his legs in the bomb blast will never get them back. Everybody knows now what a wool-pulling truckload of malarky was the Iraq war and the market collapse and the whole TARP bailout, but none of the bad guys will ever get punished, not nearly to the extent they deserve.

The weatherman forecast rain for Saturday. Friday the full moon hid behind a logjam of clouds and it seemed the entire world held its breath, waiting for the other shoe to fall as Saturday passed with charcoal striations across the horizon. Now they are talking about late Monday while the very air holds back with clouds roiling with portent.

Ms. Morales, the schoolteacher, has a letter from the troubled teen named Karen who shipped off to college last year. Seems the girl has found a group of like-minded discontents who have formed a goth club out there on the edge of the Valley. Chico is a place where cow tipping is seriously still practiced as if it were an original idea by the local frat boys, so it probably is not too difficult for kids living on the edge to find one another. She sent a picture of herself with her newfound friends and there she was, hair dyed with streaks of shocking pink and black and white, pierced and happy surrounded by tattoos and black leather jackets. She is talking about doing her Junior year in France. Looks like the kid is finally all right, thank god.

The woman tucked away the letter into her box in the garage where she and Mr. Ramirez kept the furniture used for election days. The long tables, the chairs, the flagpole stand that now was superfluous as now the County used a sandwich board that was more transportable and easier to maintain than the traditional flag. Mr. Sanchez said to keep the stand anyway and they would go get a flag from Pagano's or Target next time as this was Tradition and one had to keep a sense of pride about things. After all, the basis of a healthy democracy is not its army -- which is important certainly, but not the ultimate foundation of things -- the basis of democracy resided in the ballot box and the humble people who sheltered it and made the whole thing flow along the way it was supposed to. Every country in the world has an army; not every country has the ballot box together with people like Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Morales. In such small things like flowers capable of cracking hard pavement roars the strength of nations.

The Editor took a walk in the garden. This has been his habit each Memorial Day, regardless of where the Offices have been located and represents his own observance. Of course he gets the VA envelopes and the usual invites to things like bugel blowing at sunrise and so forth. He had despised that sort of flummery when he wore a uniform and saw no reason to change now and still maintained that you could always tell the difference between an officer and a grunt by the response to incoming fire -- the one who ducks down is the grunt and the one who pokes his head up is the officer. All other times the rule was Situation Normal.

There beneath the humongous mistake of a tree that no one had ever bothered to cut back or down -- it was a box elder attendant with the usual problems that infest such trees -- he paused to look up at the nearly full moon. It was then he noticed a little ways up a white box. He stepped up on the wood pile and took it down from where someone had nestled it in a crook. It was a folded carton about nine by six by three inches with a wire handle similar to those used for Chinese takeout. Inside looked to be the leftovers from someone's hot dish casserole, except this one appeared to contain sliced jalapenos.

The Editor remembered when several years ago Juanita had served the Norwegian bachelor farmers who had come looking for their lost Lutheran Pastor Inqvist.

The Editor folded up the box and put it back into the tree and returned to the house for a stiff scotch on the rocks. Thus ended Memorial Day as the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark blue waves of the estuary flecked with white lights and bobbing with red beacons, and wavered across the waving grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off beneath the purple mountain's majesty to parts unknown.

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


MAY 19, 2013


This week's whimsical headline foto comes from Chad's corner and could just as easily pertain to the dreams of some of our more radical anti-development citizens here. Would that it were so.

This sign is used at the Safeway petrol station on the edge of the Southshore Mall.


Monday marks the 4th iteration of "Milk Day", as in Harvey Milk, the gay Supervisor who, along with Mayor Moscone, was murdered in the chambers of SF City Hall by a disgruntled ex-Supervisor November 27, 1978. Official events will be led by keynote speaker Anne Kronenberg, who served as Milk's campaign manager. Most events will take place at Encinal High. For more info visit harveymilkday on Facebook.

While Harvey, known as a personal friend by some of us here, was certainly a major figure, we hope that the legacy of George Moscone also will be remembered. As a heterosexual, Moscone was considered ahead of his time as an early proponent of gay rights. In conjunction with his friend and ally in the Assembly, Willie Brown, Moscone managed to pass a bill repealing California's sodomy law. The repeal was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown.

The waters of the Bay appear to the intermediate sailor to be not much of a challenge, however that chop can turn into some surprising vicious stuff -- we know as we have been out on the Bay in 20 footers. A sailor has to know how to read charts very well as the Bay bottom varies wildly from > 30 feet to just three well offshore, and the current ripping down out of Suisun Bay joining thousands of rivulets funnels through a very narrow passage at the Golden Gate with tremendous force at times with a tidal fluctuation periodically plus and minus eight feet with an average of six.

The fatal accident that claimed a seasoned Olympic sailor recently came not days from the relaunch date for the Oracle boat which had just been rebuilt after its capsize catastrophe last fall. America's Cup organizers say the famous race will continue as planned with July 4 as the official start.

Both the Swedish team for the Artemis and the Oracle base their operations out of hangars at the Point here on the Island. Our condolences go out to the surviving crew of the Artemis and to the family of British-born Andrew Simpson.

With improved weather and a supposedly better economy, the local thieves seem to have upped the ante with a slew of daytime break-ins, sometimes with hot prowl consequences. The thieves are trying to take advantage of people being at work or school and have been targeting houses in the 1000 block between Willow and Fair Oaks, bounded by Otis Drive. Now is a good time to learn the faces and habits of your neighbors and perhaps irregularizing schedules.

Tuesday will be the date for which many have looked. That day the Navy finally does the complete, once and for all, conveyance of the Point acreage to the City. Actually, the transfer will take place in four allotments, with the first happening May 21. About 508 acres of dry land will be passed over with some 870 acres of submerged property. This is the end result of the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Act.

In a seperate deal, the Navy will hand over 624 acres of the airfield to the Veterans Affairs department at the end of this year.

Although the Navy has spent 16 years cleaning up toxic materials much of the land remains "brown site" with limitations on development due to toxic metal contamination, benzenes, lead, and radioactive waste that collected during the Navy's 75 years of tenancy.

So much is news. What remains to be seen now is how the land grab plays out. Greed is a powerful motivator and right now, land is the new gold in California where there are many Californios who wish someone had shot Joseph Sutter in the knees before he got to town waving that bag of gold dust like a perfect idiot.

Of course one could always turn every inch of those 508 acres into a least tern park preserve, but you know it will not happen that way.

This weekend the beautiful weather backdropped a number of events. Southshore hosted the Pacific Islander festival, the Maker Faire took place at the San Mateo Event Center where inventors and craftspeople showcased their original oddities with the Crucible's usual assortment of incendiary mayhem along with the reprise of the lifesized Mousetrap.

We toddled up to the Greek Festival in Oakland as it was from Greece we derived the word "democracy" and the nation that gave us Sophocles, Kazanzakis and the Sedaris family consists substantially of islands there in the wine-dark Aegean sea.

Anywhere Island-Life goes we go in search of music. Because music soothes the aching heart, provides balm for distemper, mollifies assholism, eases the red devils when one is lieing alone late at night in the bed, builds strong character, puts red blood cells in your meat, treats all sorts of social ills including, but not exclusive to, chilblains, nervous jumping up and down, augue, fevers, malaria, ebola, rampant obstructionism, superficial and caustic hurts, bad worms, corns and calluses, venereal disease, hysterical chastity, psychic disorders, halitosis, falling hair, falling arches, cramps, a number of allergies, consumption, savage wickedness, hot miseries, malnutrition, leaking roofs, box elder bug infestation, and besides . . . its good for you.

Naturally the Greeks, coming as they do from a very old civilization have a very fine music. One which appeals to young and old. Here a lovely chanteuse addresses her young paramour.

If you ever visit Pelleponese or the bone-white sands of fabled Ios, you better know that Greek and "shrinking violet" are antonymic expressions.

The distinctive sound of the bouzouki is a mixture of Middle East and Baltic European. Once heard drifting through the groves of Folgandros you will never forget it. Lacking that experience, George Mylordos evokes the cooling breezes caressing the white-washed houses perched on the rocky cliffs.

Philosophers say that our western concept of Beauty comes from the idea of the "Greek line". The features on this girl's face trace a lineage back well over three thousand years.

This music is not for sitting still. Greeks have always been exhuberant and full of rambunctious life. All must dance, young and old!

Eventually even the Archbishop joined the dance.


So anyway, after the last Mother's Day escapade which resulted in the violent death and dismemberment of not only the creature known as Euphonia but also Wally's boat -- don't forget Wally's boat was involved in all of this -- everyone in the Household of Marlene and Andre kept a low profile. Marlene had threatened a citizen with grievous bodily harm featuring emasculation. Martini had misused company equipment after hours, driven a vehicle without proper lighting systems on city streets, ignited various incendiary devices, destroyed a boat and a mansion house and in the process had caused a five alarm fire, and had caused general mayhem. Javier had discharged a firearm within city limits and murdered several household service animals with explosive shells.

They were poodles, but a service animal is a service animal.

Denby, Suan, Jose, and practically all the rest had broken, entered, trespassed, committed battery, assault, theft, and arson.

Two women clad in burkas were molested, stripped and subsequently engaged in devil's alcohol after quitting their jobs as Magician's helpers.

Furthermore, if we had not mentioned it already, Wally's boat had been destroyed by means of explosive in the middle of the San Francisco Bay.

Some of you might want to read back for last week's episode and the terrific fiery end to the figure once known as Euphonia.

In short, it had been an exciting week on the Island which is more known for its kitschy neon signs and old tymy facades.

Of course, the 109 year old bakery, the old florist, the barber shop from the 1940's, Bob's Garage, the Central Cinema, and a few others had been driven out of business by high rents, so that now the places were occupied by ritzy internet cafes and aromatherapy salons and empty rooms awaiting more well-heeled tenants, but still. Even though the old high school is about to be converted to live-work lofts and the Carnegie Library still awaits an angel to renovate and open again in any sort of capacity, we like to think of ourselves as old fashioned because it pays well.

Earlier in the week a spattering of rain flocked the car windows overnight and muscular clouds well shaded with charcoal hung heavy over the town, creating the ominous sense of impending disaster.

This yielded to days of striated sunshine and streaky cloud and fewer explosions.

Before all the brough-haha happened out at the Amazing Anatolia's mansion, Household members who still had some connection to their mothers congregated at the usual spot, Mama's Royal Cafe. Marlene and Andre, Tipitina and Rolf, and little Adam all with either absent, psychotic, or dead mothers spent the time stuffing shells for the bicycle gun Javier had liberated from the museum and packing explosive into the mines to be used later by Martini.

The unremarkable thing about the brunch at Mama's is that nothing exciting happened. No one got killed, no one flew over a lake with a cannonball between their legs and no one got hurt. A few gals enjoyed a fine brunch of omelets and champagne and nothing untoward happened. But this is not the kind of story people want to read.

It is just sometimes life happens that way to some people. The problem is that this story is not universal, no matter how much any member or supporter of the Bush family pretends. For every charming Minneapolis there remains a gritty St. Paul. Little Adam stuffing "defense rounds" into cartridges on a kitchen table has no memory of motherly love and life and warm welcoming arms.

But now he has Marlene and Andre.

The Blathers and Mrs. Pescatore hosted a brunch for their mothers at Croll's. Mr. Howitzer loaned out Dodd to drive the older Mrs. Pescatore down from Napa Hospital where she had been living among the crazy grapevines for the past eight years. While the gentry sipped mimosas and nibbled fine cakes, Dodd cooled his heels at Mountain Mike's Pizzaria across the street.

His own mother had passed away suddenly of a heart attack when Thatcher had been appointed Prime Minister, and Dodd never let go of that association.

"England's first PM" she had said, "And by the likes of her, she'll be the last." She then had keeled over, quite dead after an exhausting struggle fighting for the opposition party. Some mothers have to deal with partuition for sixteen hours and more. Dodd's mother had endured a lifetime of fighting for Labour.

It took them fifteen minutes to get the paper-thin Mrs. Pescatore up the three stairs into Croll's there and Dodd had scurried back to the blue-collar inn across the way with relief.

"I can't see too well. Young man is that a bucket I can spit into if I take poorly?"

"Mother, that is the wine bucket."

In any case the older Mrs. Blather, mother to John Thomas Blather and matriarch of a dwindling clan the members of which had found making money and aquiring things more erotic than procreation. She made no bones about the fact that she despised her progeny and the spouses each had taken. The old girl took fiendish glee in embarrassing any and all of them in public at every opportunity.

"A new nurse came into the facility the other day," she said. "His name is Mario and he is a handsome an Italian stallion as you ever could see. Very manly if you know what I mean. Not like you, dear boy."

"Mother, have some more lemon cake. Your favorite. . . ".

The very frail-looking Mrs. Pescatore offered a trembling comment. "I bet he's got a dingus a foot long!"

"Haw! Haw!" laughed the older Mrs. Blather. "You betcha!"


Things managed to calm down for a while, during which the conversation revolved around safe subjects like the badness of Obamacare, the vitality of the stock market, and the 2nd Amendment's importance and Mrs. Blather drank some three or four mimosas. Then she said, "You kids don't know how to have fun is the problem with you. Always diddling with your iPad trinkets. My mother, your grandmother was a floozie . . .".

"Now Helen . . ."

"She was a floozie I tell you. She was a showgirl for the Follies and she took her clothes off in front of all these men every night. And sometimes she went home with them!"

"Mother, now stop it. . . ".

"O she was a pistol that one! She had a real good time. I still am not sure who your grandfather was. Now what would that make you, I wonder?"

"Waiter! Check please!"

"O it don't matter none. All men is the same anyway."

Mrs. Pescatore woke up suddenly from the nap she had been taking. "That's right. They all got a dingus. Except about you sonny boy I am not so sure. Arlene in 101b down the hall has twenty-one grandchildren. Where are mine I wonder?"


The gorgeous day ended in the west with golden clouds suffused with saffron and pomegranate juice slashing the horizon. Mr. Howitzer returned from his visit to Colma with his bag of murdered crows and his .22 long rifle over his shoulder. He had the habit of visiting his mother's grave out there and had taken a positive hatred to the black birds, vowing to do something about it and this time he had gone out there well armed, chipping pieces off of granite headstones and scattering mourners and bored children until the caretakers had driven him off.

Perhaps he would have Dodd make a pie of them or something. It was in a song or a nursery rhyme so Dodd would find a way to deal with them. He left the burlap back on Dodd's chair and went to have a few toots of scotch and a good cigar.

As the light faded and all the sunworshippers departed the Strand, the distant jewels draped over the humps of the far shore of the Bay twinkled into life from the erect Coit Tower along the spine of Davidson and the bulk of San Bruno down past South City and the City of Stars, Brisbane.

A figure carrying a wreath stepped through the sawgrass at the cove and laid his burden there on the water to watch it float out with the powerful ebb tide to the sea. It was Denby and he stood there a long time watching this frail thing drift away, a token of something miraculous and wonderful and already gone and passed and never to return again.

If anyone had passed at that moment, they would have heard only the single whispered cry, "O! Euphonia!"

But no one passed and Euphonia, a being who existed only by means of her voice, was no more.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap, and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline where the heart expresses its unspoken desires to those who would hear as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its mysterious, heart-stricken journey to parts unknown.

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


MAY 12, 2013


This week's photo is from a reader who knipsed this fellow sailboarding off Crown Beach.



Tried to attend First Fridays this time around after an hiatus of several months and can only say, "Whew doggie! Did we just wander onto the set of Day of the Locust?" The vibe and atmosphere and entire experience has changed radically from what this thing was a year ago. We drove past manned barricades, closed streets, heavy police presence, totally absent parking and finally gave up and turned to head on back after glimpsing a solid writhing column of humanity numbering in the many thousands sort of oozing its way down Telegraph.

We suspect that most are not there for the delicate subtlties of post-postmodern art but a massive street party. We are hearing that gallery owners are responding by holding alternative events early in the day on Saturday and late Thursday for patrons seeking to avoid the madness.


By contrast, Off the Grid at Southshore Mall has relaxed quite a bit without the long lines that attended its opening weekends. The prices appear to be inching down as well, not by much, but one can find fare for under a sawbuck now. And music now looks to be part of the vibe. This band not only has a female lead guitarist but also does original material. We like that.


The 13th Park Street Spring Faire kicked off under comfortable sunny skies and moderate temps. The usual array of tchotchke booths, nine-dollar hot dogs, and wierdly out-of-place services like window treatments and roof repair showed up bracketed by two music stages, which -- seemingly as part of a peculiarly recent Island trend toward innocuous -- featured bland "tribute bands". Tribute bands basically limit their repertoire to greatest hits of latterday rock stars who generally made their fame in the eighties, although imitations of the Beatles crop up from time to time. As one would expect, the results can be mixed, from thin-sounding and off-key to impressively faithful to the original material.

No matter how good a tribute band can be, they will never be as good as the original, and never as original as they could be, and in class they all stand right up there with Elvis impersonators under the glittery neon banners of Vegas. Unless a musician performs a really unique take on a song, the best one can hope for is a sort of mnemonically keyed gestalt enjoyment in which the listening fills in the gaps in the music with personal reminiscences.

Oh well, people hire these things for parties, weddings and bar mitzvahs which at least gives starving musicians some work opportunities while they polish their chops and learn their instruments.

The bands usually possess some kind of whimsical take off name loosely based on their icon originals, so if you like word games, figure out who the Tumbling Pebbles, Tim and the Heartbusters, Blue Scallops Cult, and of course you have heard of Elvis Herselvis. Alas for fans of His Purpleness, The Man Formerly known as Prince who signs his name with a cipher. Perhaps Little Red Convertible Sportscar will have to do for name and fame.

The other beef we have with these retro affairs is their total absence of understanding how finances flow in the twenty-first century. In the age of Apps, iPads and smartphones there is no damn excuse to go cash only at an single booth, not when Off the Grid mobile trucks have sussed out the means. We saw people walk away twice from vendors because no Visa accepted.

In any case to stop our grumbling we caught Stung, doing Police covers, while grabbing a burger from Scolari's.

This guy may not look much like the former school-teacher Sting, but he did possess a capable voice.

When you are backfilling in a trio for a band that had five members, you had better be ready. This guy was.

Further on down the road from the Encinal Stage we made some delightful encounters. Here a young lady is greeted by an amiable fellow who seems to be knowledgeable about the meat and bones market.

Some of you Islanders may know that an 11th hour effort rescued the Animal Shelter, which now relies heavily on donations since it is no longer directly supported by the City.

Whoever came up with this hot day resolution to hyperactive kids is a sheer genius. Each bubble holds 30 minutes of air and is monitored by three observers. Kids are left in there for no more than 15-20 minutes, however most of them were pooped after about ten minutes of thrashing. Needless to say, this one was really popular among the moms.

Every Park Street Fair features Kenny the Clown, perennial candidate for City Hall Office. What better than to put a real clown in City Hall?

Finally, long-term Lifers know that we always break for the Blues. You say you are doing acoustic Blues and we will get somebody there. Sunday, the Hound Kings showed up for a long set from 1pm to 3pm. We don't know why so few bands were hired to do such extended sets, but it is what it is.

The lead calls himself Alabama Smith, but this group does solid Delta Blues. The highlight with these guys is the versitile harp player.

DADGAD or DADF#AD we are there, jack.



Every year when the weather improves, the driving decays and so does people's sense of propriety. While folks blather with cell phones in one hand and steering wheel in the other, criminals scamper about knifing and robbing with merry abandon, limosines explode into flames and letters to the Editor wax purple.

Fellow got into a tussle outside the Chase Bank at Marina Square Village and knifed his associate Friday. Apparently not satisfied with the proceeds, the fellow went into the bank, where one assumes all the money is, and demanded cash of the teller, who of course refused. That failing, the fellow then grabbed a hapless patron in the lobby and demanded cash once again, which may have been a bit much for the poor soul there having a bad day that got worse when the perp knifed this one too.

All victims were released from hospital with non-life threatening injuries, however the man's former associate was detained for possession of narcotics. Okay, we now see why this happened. Sort of.


The squabble over implementing regulations -- at present entirely non-existent -- that would control backyard livestock raising and slaughter, seems to be provoking, purple overwrought language. Here is a sentence fragment from an Commentary piece in the Sun: " I am afraid [we] are approaching a Pandora's Box with a dangerous degree of naiveté."

Oh please. Sure its important, especially if you live next to Bosco the pig and care about him, and sure, people do eat goats and chickens and too many people do not want to know or think about where the B in their BLT comes from. So what? In a place where people are getting knifed in the bank lobby are there not other issues of pressing moment worthy of this language? It is highly unlikely that a sudden rash of roosters will overtake the island any time soon.

Nerzio Fojas, 31, was a newlywed celebrating with friends her marriage when the limosine carrying her and 8 others burst into flames on the San Mateo bridge. Because she was planning a second wedding in the Phillipines with her husband, she is sometimes listed as "bride-to-be". She perished along with four others.

Among them was Felomina Geronga of the Island. Geronga went by the nickname of Fyla and was a senior clinical lab scientist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, friends and hospital officials said.

She had lived in Alameda for about eight years. Acquaintances said she was a cheery person, that she and her husband and children - a daughter in the seventh grade and a son in fourth grade - were the most upbeat folks on the block.

"You just constantly hear them laughing over there," a neighbor said. "They always cheer me up - you hear the kids giggling and the parents talking and laughing all the time."

Fyla was "a working mom who did everything," said one neighbor, rising at 5:30 every morning to make breakfast and lunch for the family.

Donald D. Lum Elementary School PTA members have put together a fund for the victim's family. Those wishing to contribute can drop off donations at the school office — just make sure to specify that it is for the Geronga family. ACLC is currently working on setting up a trust for the family.

She is survived by her loving husband Aldrin, and their two children. Her 10-year-old son, Abero, currently attends Lum Elementary as a fourth grader. Her daughter, Yoare, 12, attended Lum as well, but is now at Alameda Community Learning Center. Both children are continuing to attend school at present.

Other persons who died in that limo fire were Michelle Estrera, Anna Alcantara, Neriza Fojaz, and Jennifer Balon, also a Kaiser employee.


In upbeat news it does appear that the plot of land secured for the City by Jean Sweeny will indeed become treasured open space preserve, at least if going by the language people are using about the space that now now bears her name. Funnily enough it appears that people are also up in arms against the forced move of the Harbor Bay Club to a less desireable location because the land it sits on is, well desired. Once again the Ron Cowan outfit called Harbor Bay Realty is seeking to construct something in a wierdly pernicious and doggedly stubborn way that ignores the fact that people are really sick and tired of all this maniacal urge to build on any and every square inch that does not already possess concrete foundations. These people already charge usuriously high rents for the properties they control now -- can they not be content with the boodle they got?


Speaking of Porky the Pig, seems our Island once again provided a haven for a piggish type, and we do not mean cartoons. Resident Micheal Howey was booked into the Fremont City jail on a cool $1.5 million bond on child molestation charges. Howey worked for 15 years as an elementary and middle school teacher for the New Haven School District, which is apparently part of Union City. Victims appear to have been all girls between the ages of 8 and 9 years of age.

This comes on the heels of the extradition to Ireland of a former priest who had been living and working here up until a few months ago.

Actually, come to think of it, Bosco possesses considerably more honor and nobility than these animals.


So anyway, last week we left you with Denby and the Household planning a daring raid to rescue the personage of Euphonia. Since this entire escapade has been rather abstract, let us present an actual photograph of the very real Euphonia.

That is right, Euphonia is not a phantasy woman. She did exist. Here she is:

Well, okay this photo was taken in 1846 when she was quite a bit younger. Take that into account

To recap, Denby accidentally discovered Euphonia, the Talking Machine, kept in an alcove of the Amazing Anatolia's lodgings. She had been created by a mad German scientist who wanted to give voice to the only long-distance form of electronic communication at the time -- the telegraph. But this was the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in America, where folks have always taken to newfangled Euro-centric ideas a little late, and people were afraid of this new ghostly machine voice. One thing led to another and there was the night of the furious rabble armed with pitchforks and torches, cries of Moloch and Down with the Machines! and by the time the smoke had cleared, the inventor was dead, his machine broken into pieces -- or so it was thought.

That girl caused a scene during the Big Tent Grand Finale

In reality, two sideshow men from P.T. Barnum's circus, named Eeyore and Piglet, had stolen her away in a printer's letterset wagon, fleeing from that terrible scene in a scattering of Helvetica and Times Roman. Euphonia lived on as part of the Barnum & Bailey travelling circus until she got left behind during one particularly hectic post-show tent strike in which the driver became very drunk and a local girl discovered that the lion tamer named Jules had gotten her somewhat pregnant. That girl caused a scene during the Big Tent Grand Finale, which had caused in turn quite a ruckus in the circus. Anatolia found Euphonia under a shroud of dusty canvas in a barn outside of Worcester, Mass. while looking for the farmgirl for whom he had paid $50 to scroungy pimp in overalls and John Deere hat.

"She's in the barn," said the farmer, who disappeared with just a hint of a scent of sulphur. "She's old but good. Have fun."

The Magician had learned about her unique abilities when Euphonia had exclaimed, "Good heavens do you have a hairbrush about you? I must look a mess!" Fifty bucks was fifty bucks. The Amazing Anatolia Enigma, a professional magician, had her boxed up and shipped to California.

"O drat! Boxed again. . . "!

"O drat! Boxed again! Must I always travel third class?" was Euphonia's comment.

Denby talked with her and learned that somehow over the centuries she had become sentient and that she longed to be free before Anatolia completed a ghastly scheme that would turn her into a slave housed in a mechanical lovedoll.

Heavens, this had all the makings of a damsel in distress and more but without the tedious bombast and vehicular destruction of a Stallone or a Schwarzenegger.

"How on earth are we losers going to perform a delicate operation like this?" Martini complained. "We have no martial artists like Van Damme and we have no kick ass good old boys like Gary Busey; we're not Seal Team types -- we're a bunch of wimps and pansies!"

There was an awful moment of silence in the room.

"Vell," said Rolf. "Maybe iss time we pansies and sissies stood up against the bullies of the world who want to organize everybody like an army. Maybe we need to think something for ourselves for once!"

"Yeah!" said Jade Azure, who used to work the old Funoccios in Babylon. "I for one put my frillies on the table for this sister. I say . . . " Here he paused momentously, "I say lets go for it!"

"Yes! Yes! Here! Here!" It was a chorus of assent.

So it was that Special Mission Zero Deep Dark Sixty-Nine took place.

"Why is it called that? It sounds meaningless," asked Arthur.

"Because it sounds really serious and secret and stuff," Denby said. "And people will buy into it big time like its momentous and then we can sell memento tchochtkes."

At the stroke of midnight, Denby, Arthur, Martini, Suan, Jose, and Javier bashed down the gates of the Anatolia compound with a massive replica hotdog from Lionel's Pampered Pup.

Tipitina and little Andre followed quick after with canisters of compressed mustard and relish with which they disabled the guards.

Guards: "Aaaiiiieeeeeaaah!"

Martini disabled two women clad in burkas

Denby and the gang charged up the stairs and Martini disabled two women clad in burkas by throwing his body at them and stuffing stromboli in their mouths. Javier handled the guard poodles by means of a vintage 1922 bicycle gun he had snatched from the Island Museum case. Its effective caliber was .50 and it explosively dispatched the noxious animals with great noise and alarm.

Marlene rendered Anatolia safe by whacking him in the head with a bratwurst and straddling him with thighs of iron. "Move and I will change the major key you sing to something a lot higher, jerkoff!"

"Euphonia, I am here with friends to save you!" Denby shouted amid the billowing smoke.

They found Euphonia in the alcove but also discovered that the window was too small to allow passage of her estimable 1.5 tons. So Martini employed his incendiary skills and, after only a brief hiatus -- just like in the movies, with a massive thunderclap of fire and smoke made not only the window but the entire wall of the second floor passable. This also had the pleasant side effect of provoking diversionary fires throughout the building.

"Goodness!" Euphonia said. "What kind of friends do you have!?"

By means of a winch and ropes they lowered Euphonia's great bulk of metal and wires down the side as the screams of the wounded and the dying mingled in the air with the increasing volume of the sirens.

Suan ... had dressed head to to in skin-tight leather

"I thought you said this was going to be a quick smash and grab," Suan commented as a cupola down the way burst into a fireball followed by a hail of plaster, brick and shattered glass. Suan, always fashion conscious of trends, had dressed head to to in skin-tight leather and carried a wicked-looking wakazashi sword as well as a 180lb draw crossbow.

"I may have minimized the dangers a bit," Denby said. "So as to cultivate enthusiasm."

The distant crump of the bicycle gun could be heard as flames began licking the walls.


The police and fire department arrived at that moment on the street side, but as usual for the Island a confusion as what to do and how to do it while protecting their own men slowed things down significantly.

Wally approached the riprap on the seaward side, ready to ferry Euphonia to safety, however the ropes snapped under the tremendous strain of Euphonia's weight and she crashed the final five feet to the ground.

"Hey!" Euphonia shouted. "Mind my cogs! They're sensitive!"

Martini had gotten a forklift from work, driving the thing over backroads some five miles to the island and on this thing they loaded Euphonia so as to transport her to the boat.

"What's this?" Jose said, holding up a pipe with wires.

"I don't feel so good," Euphonia said.

"What does it look like? Its a pipe with wires. Throw it on the lift and lets get out of here!" Denby said as searchlights began playing on the sward and the water. The building was now fully in conflagration.

With Suan and Tipitina providing covering fire with their mustard and catsup canisters, and Javier somewhere going nuts with the bicycle gun, they trundled Euphonia out to the boat to find there was no landing. They would have to drop Euphonia into the back of Wally's boat without a winch. Up where they had left the winch, gouts of flame shot into the sky thirty feet. The whump-whump of a helicopter made itself known.

"O my boat!" Wally said, seeing for the first time the massive ironworks he was to transport. "Please be gentle!"

"Yeah, gentle is a good word at this point," Euphonia said. "Listen to the man."

"Sure thing," Martini said, and he let loose the straps, letting Euphonia plummet to the boat deck, smacking through the upper level to the bilge.


Denby suggested now was a good time to skedaddle and Wally pulled away with Denby and Martini while the others scattered along the shore. Euphonia's fall had however caused a break in the hull and they were taking on water fast. Denby told Wally to make for the Point on the far side as the helicopter arrived with its eye in the sky.

Later that night, the crew gathered at Marlene and Andre's to share a jug of wine and speak of their escapes. As Anatolia had been keeping some kind of personage against their will -- admittedly not human exactly but still -- his crime could have been kidnapping and a number of other things potentially embarrassing so he shunted aside all prosecution, explaining the fire as a "mysteriouso experiment" gone wrong.

Javier had gotten away the same way he always got out of scrapes - by lying, sneaking, pretending to be a genteman, and running very fast. The bicycle gun was returned safe and sound to the museum.

Martini returned to fetch the forklift, which after all was an innocent participant in everything which had happened.

As for Euphonia, she had a final conversation with Denby before her spectacular demise. But of that conversation, we know nothing.

A Coast Guard Cutter had been dispatched to intercept their boat and so Denby had Wally pilot their sinking craft out to the deep dredged area of the Bay. There, he and Wally and Martini had clambered aboard the dingy and cast loose while the helicopter searchlight had pinned them down and the cutter had approached with all of its guns and its authority of war.

After a few moments Martini's charge had gone off, turning Wally's former boat and Euphonia, mad Faber's experiment in artificial intelligence, into a spectacular fireball and geyser one hundred feet tall that was seen as far south as San Leandro where people thought the Warriors had clinched the runoffs, leaving behind on the surface of the water nothing but a few sticks and the dingy holding the three men who explained to intense Coast Guard officers their little boat had suffered an unexplained engine compartment fire and that about the fire at Anatolia's mansion they knew nothing.

It was a sobered crew that found itself reunited at the Old Same Place Bar and they all were silent for a long time until Pahrump stood up. The two burkha women were there getting soused on Jaegermeister and complaining they would never perform for crazy magians like The Amazing Anatolia again.

"I am a PROFESSIONAL!" one of them shouted. "I didn't get into showbusiness for this kind of thing! My spangle-outfit is ruined!"

The little group from the Household sat quietly at a table, nursing their wounds and beer.

"In the end, we effed up, as usual. That is what we do and that is who we are, hapless effups. But in the end Euphonia got what she most desired. So here is to Euphonia!" And Pahurmp raised his glass. "To the voice of the ages. To the voice of her time and ours."

As they stood there, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap, and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline where the heart expresses its unspoken desires to those who would hear as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its mysterious journey to parts unknown.

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


MAY 5, 2013


This week's seasonal photo comes from long-time lifer Carol, an inmate at the Lunatic Asylum of St. Charles and features another inmate named Henry.

Henry is fond of gambols and laser tag and is considered saner than most of us, although the human whom he owns is known to be quite roguish.


City Council will hear ideas about how to screw up -- um, develop -- the 22 acres of Jean Sweeny Open Space which we note is now being called "Beltline Park" in the funny papers, probably to appease those eager beaver property people who salivate every time they hear of an inch of land which has no pavement or concrete foundations.

Any case, cynics and hopefuls can toss in their two cents this Tuesday at 7pm over in the Santa Clara chambers.

Also in the funny papers and in the blogs a rousing discussion as to what the word "bullying" means. Not much mention of apparently trivial legal concepts like Assault and Assault with Battery, nor is much heed paid to common decency in the discussions, but give some people a subject and they'll expound for hours in a postmodern manner that touches on the main word only now and then.

The flap came about when the Island Sun ran an editorial commenting on the rude and obnoxious people who sometimes take exception to reportage viewpoints and facts.

Bullies pop up in the schoolyard, as most of us know, and by now everyone should be aware they surface in various online ways like rats floating above the sewage. We have personal experience of bullies persisting well past middle age, as the Island-Life offices were forced to move by two egregious examples of wretched lack of humanity.

Of course it is a bit much to expect that everyone will adhere to Robert's Rules of Order and Emily Post in a rowdy Democracy like America, but browbeating, threatening, and intimidating someone by voice and/or manner is called Assault and there are legal penalties for it. Not to say that enforcing restraint or punishing the lack of it is an easy task, but thems the facts, ma'am.

There are apartment managers on this island who regularly violate the law by their threatening abusive language. Will they go to jail or pay a fine for it? Doubt it. Bullies tend to go through life with little change or challenge because what they do works for them and finger wagging does nothing and they know it. What we need to do as a society is stop coddlling bullies under the name of encouraging a certain kind of strength that most clinicians understand is really a mask for insecurity.

Just because your mother was an alcoholic craphead is no excuse to visit pain on anyone else. These bullies need to be isolated and made to feel lonely enough that they consider joining decent society and the warmth of human association a fair trade for false security.

As for any members of the Press, including the paperboy and the front desk receptionist, the idea that these folks put themselves "out there" and available for verbal abuse is sheer nonsense. Don't like the Editorial slant, write your own if you are literate enough to do so. Don't like an Op-Ed piece or a news report, the place to talk about it is the Letters to the Editor. Just don't like the paper at all, drop it and found one of your own if you think you have a better way to get the facts out. As "Scoop" Nisker used to say, "If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own."

In related items we have speculation about what to do with the seismically unsafe old high school, which has people living in "The Wedge" in an understandable tizzy, what with sharks like Harbor Bay Realty swimming about looking for more "opportunities," and feeling entitled about it.

With all the draconian cutbacks over the past thirty years (did anyone's taxes ever go down in this time?) there simply is not the cash reserve to retrofit the late nineteen twenties era structure.

It is the same series of cutbacks which has put the high school swimming pools in the danger zone as fixing up Emma Hood's pool and the one at Encinal will run into the millions of dollars. This undoubtedly is due to "deferred maintenance", a consequence of those cutbacks. The pools have not been in operation since 2010 due to "code violations."

Do they still teach the phrase penny-wise, pound foolish in school?

David Sedaris at the Veterans War Memorial Opera House, Babylon

As long-term supporters of NPR and its affiliates Island-Life sent a contingent of folks over the water to catch David Sedaris do a benefit for KALW, a radio station that does quite a bit with extraordinarily very little.

First, a bit about KALW, for as long-time Island-Lifers know, we have here a fond sense of California history as well as a fond affection for radio.

The station is housed in converted classrooms in John and Sala Burton High School, out where the Portola and Visitacion valleys meet in San Francisco. The facilities and equipment are so modest that David Sedaris after doing a video tour of KALW, called it a "dump."

But to the station's staff, it's their dump, and it's part of history. KALW was San Francisco's first licensed FM station. In 1954, its studios, then in the Gompers Trade School in the Mission, served as the first home of KQED-TV. Originally established as a radio school in the fall of 1941, KALW moved away from teaching in 1971, and soon became the first San Francisco affiliate of National Public Radio and the first local station to air such programs as "All Things Considered" and "Fresh Air."

Yet, for all its pioneering work and despite an impressive range of programs, KALW has existed in the shadows of KQED-FM (88.5), which ranks near the top of the ratings, with about 5 percent of the overall listening audience, while KALW hovers around 1 percent - which, Martin said, represents about 130,000 listeners a week. (KQED draws about 800,000.)

We at Island-Life appreciate that KALW keeps things locally interested, while also bringing in a wider range of national and internationally focussed programming, including Smiley and West, Jim Hightower, and BBC news, while still keeping delightful local news reporters like Rose Aguilar, whom we met at the event reception.

David Sedaris is variously described as a writer, as America's foremost humorist, and a light-hearted gay gadfly against bombastic nonsense and dangerous right-wing nuts. He is, of course, all of those, but more than that, he is our Time's Mark Twain, a extraordinary literary talent that serves to illuminate our dark times with trenchant observations of common sense and laughing reduction of some of our culture's destructive inanities, while remaining thoroughly modest, human and quite likeable.

We do not have Kurt Vonnegut, we don't have Gore Vidal, we have lost Twain and there is no more O'Henry or Thurber or Ogden Nash. Thank god for the Sedaris family.

David Sedaris is the author Barrel Fever and Holidays on Ice, as well as collections of personal essays, Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames, each of which became a bestseller. There are a total of seven million copies of his books in print and they have been translated into 25 languages. He was the editor of Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules: An Anthology of Outstanding Stories. Sedaris' pieces appear regularly in The New Yorker and have twice been included in "The Best American Essays." His Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (with illustrations by Ian Falconer), a collection of fables entitled , was published in September 2010.

His latest book, Exploring Diabetes with Owls, debuted at the top of the New York Times best sellar list.

He has lived abroad for some years with his lifetime partner, Hugh, variously in France and latterly in England, where he does a regular radio show and picks up trash from the countryside surrounding his home to the extent that the local city council gave him a uniform.

In person he appears far more dapper, neat and trim than in his promo photographs. He claims to have been "clean and sober" for over 13 years and apparently keeps fit by means of a rigorous swimming regimen. As he travels extensively, he uses the internet to locate pools in the towns where he lands.

He has no intention of ever returning to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he grew up, as the weather there is too hot and humid.

Sunday night, Sedaris fairly brought the SRO house down, first by appearing on stage prior to formal introduction because, as he claimed, he heard there was a very long line in Will Call and the start of the evening had already been delayed. So he kindly told a few anecdotes to help the time pass then left the stage so KALW station manager Matt Martin, who rolled professionally with the unusual change in program, gave his intro, and then returned as if everything was hunky dory.

He read from his new book, a few new works in progress, and hilarious snippits from his diary, which many decades ago had been the material which had attracted the ear of Ira Glass sufficiently to jumpstart Sedaris into the business.

It is really insufficient to relate a Sedaris anecdote abstracted from the setting and his deadpan manner of delivery which features sparse narrative about mundane matters into which strangely familiar yet disturbing details suddenly pop with startling effect. Where a comedian is only concerned with telling a funny story with a punchline about giving Willie Nelson a blowjob, Sedaris tells that same joke, but framed in a story about an encounter with an obtuse airline employee, which departs from a satire about stupid people to a focus upon his own regret at a certain kind of failure of integrity.

"I realized I had disregarded two of the things my mother had told me never to do. The first was never to introduce the concept of oral sex to a strange woman in an airport. {pause} The next was never ever to explain a joke . . .". Now the story is not so much about telling an obscene joke to a stranger but a poignant recollection -- Sedaris' mother died of cancer several years ago.

Well, okay. You had to be there. Context is what Sedaris is all about and retelling his anecdote or trying to outline it just becomes that same crime his mother warned him not to do. His characters don't just bumble about, they bumble about upsetting the apple cart of expectations placed internally by a society that really does not give a crap about what is important.

Looking at the man's text the reader can see that the seemingly casual delivery is framed in language that is more spare and decided word-by-word than the tersest Hemingway. Not a single noun is out of place and there is absolutely no extra verbiage -- the prose is as sinewy as a greco-roman wrestler, but deceptively so, cloaked in casual attitude and concern for the quotidian mundane.

It is no surprise that we learned he has done plays, together with his sister Amy Sedaris, also a formidible talent, written over 40 essays for the New Yorker, done more than fifty performances as part of This American Life, written scads of poetry, and, as we learned Sunday evening, worked as a bike messenger in San Francisco while in his twenties.

Um, okay that last part has nothing to do with writing but its cool anyway.

David Sedaris is cool, no question about that. He is the rock star of writers and we heartily recommend stealing his books and paying to see him when he comes around if you have the money.

Because, you know, laughter and sanity are good for you.


So anyway, the sudden summer weather yielded to a strange unruly punk front that brought in chirascuro skies muscular with Blakean gods. Saturday looked fine enough with some breezes cutting up the heat, but then the murk of Mordor overwhelmed the angels of the skies.

This strangeness of weather drove most local folks indoors save for the insane street party that has become First Fridays in the Uptown district. Jose and Pahrump tried to get over there on his scooter, but the entire place had gone into compulsive lockdown due to the shooting that took place a month ago. Streets were blocked off and bulky guards stood around looking ominous and authoritative next to the orange cones, while throngs got channeled down the narrow T-graph Avenue.

Ok kids, now have fun.

While normal folks responded to wacky weather each to each, the Household Gang cobbled together a rescue mission for Euphonia.

Who was Euphonia? All right, we will tell you.

Who was Euphonia? All right, we will tell you. Denby had been contacted by the Amazing Anatolia Enigma, a mediocre magician living out of Victorian in the Gold Coast section of the Island to set up some audio for a set performance.

Due to the effects of badly prepared chile rellanos the Amazing Anatolia had to excuse himself for a while, leaving Denby time to wander about the magician's chambers. Denby drew a thick curtain to reveal a strange sort of apparatus and the face of a beautiful woman. As the light hit her eyelids, she opened them to reveal stunningly brilliant irises and the look of alarm.

"My goodness," said the face. "Who are you!"

All about the face Denby could see neither body nor any sort of human or animal shape of any kind. Instead this face seemed hung upon a rusty metal frame of a machine that looked very old although the woman looked very young.

Denby told her his name and asked who and what she was.

"My name is Euphonia," said the apparition, and so began this story.

Euphonia had been created by a German named Faber in 1845 after 17 years of labor and substantial personal sturm und drang. You know those Germans can be so melodramatic sometimes, what with elevation of the Frankenstein monster amid a lightening storm to Beethoven's wild hair and Faber falling into rages in which he smashed up expensive prototypes like paper airplanes while all the neighbors complained about the ruckus. The original idea had been to provide a way to convert quickly the dense telegraph Morse code all of you have learned in school and found so useful into natural human speech patterns so that less sophisticated souls could learn about things like the fate of the Hindenberg and the robbing of the stage coach with alacrity.

Faber found that although P.T. Barnum had some interest in his invention, nobody else other than some wierd American inventors trying to create a better hearing aid for the deaf had the slightest interest. He brought out his creation in December 1845, when Joseph Faber exhibited his "Wonderful Talking Machine" at the Musical Fund Hall in Philadelphia. People found it wierd. A human face hung in this metal latticework and seemed to talk. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain . . .

The problem was that this magic of creating human speech by means of apparent device had been done far more dramatically and effectively by total charlatans who cloaked real people in stiff robes so as to look like disembodied Turks (Turks were big during the 18th Century).Faber had no Turks on his payroll, he had only his simple machine which actually did what it was supposed to do -- talk.

The other problem was that in 1845 quite a lot of people were facing replacement by machines and in other cases, many people were faced with having to work just like machines to make their day's wages. Not a good time to come up with some mechanical idea to replace human voice.

Faber eventually killed himself

America yawned. The world turned its back. In the meantime, as goes the Weaver and the Factory Maid, the world turned to steam, and as for the fine girls to be found, you now had to trudge to the villiage factory in the early morn. Faber eventually killed himself out of despair and -- according to legend -- destroyed Euphonia, leaving all to the speculation of history and those wacky Americans to invent, based on Faber's technology, the telephone.

But Euphonia did not die.

Some quirk, some sense of . . . dare we say love? caused Faber to toss that fatal match aside in his final hours and so pass into history leaving a shrouded form to dream of life beneath the filthy canvas covering.

One has to wonder just why Faber chose to devote such energy to place a human face on this invention. Such a life-like face.

She had become herself, invested with her own intelligence

Years passed. Her machinery passed into the hands of debtors, then into heirs. Technocrats and curious dinkers added and removed various parts. Mysterious black boxes appeared within her workings over the centuries. From mechanical she went electronic. She went through upgrades by inventors who enjoyed the results or not, according to their bent, and at some indeterminate time, Euphonia spoke independent of human interaction. She had become herself, invested with her own intelligence, gotten from god knows where. Some women are like that.

It is unknown how Anatolia had acquired her. Probably through some unsavory trade involving produce from Columbia, that benighted country, weighted and cursed by its evil past.

So there Denby stood in that dark alcove in front of Faber's machine, which had developed over time to speak independently, gifted with its own sentience. A sentient machine destined to live probably forever.

Denby had heard of machines which could compose poetry like RACTER, play chess, discuss Rimbaud, but had never encountered personally any such representative as this.

Denby asked her what did Anatolia want with her.

Euphonia directed his attention to a place where a figure sat slumped in a chair. It was a mannequin clad in a short sequin dress, her legs askew in high heels. "He wants to combine me with that one. It is what you call in your century a "love doll."

You will have a body then.

In a sense, yes. A body that is me, but not mine. With no feelings. As if I knew what they are.

There was a long pause.

"What is it that you want?" Denby asked.

She would have sobbed, but she could not

"I . . . I want to die." Euphonia said. "I have lived like this over 150 years and see many hundreds more and none the better." She would have sobbed, but she could not, for she did not possess tear ducts for that release. Her gods had not found those things necessary.

The effect of this statement was shocking to Denby, but he could hear the sounds of Anatolia knocking about as he returned from the toilet, and so he quickly drew the curtain.

"For pete's sake where the heck are you around here? I should not have indulged in so much black drape and crimson dammit . . ."!

After Denby performed his minor engineering, which he now saw was part of the overall effort to animate the mannequin electronically, he left to go tell his tale to Marlene and Andre's Household.

That night there was quite a hullaballo. Many did not believe the story at all. Some were at a quandary, as if this thing had life, then how could they take it upon themselves to take it away.

The Catholics said that, well, if it so happend that an egg and some sperm happened to fall there amid the ironworks and get all comfy in a niche somewhere that became a womb, then the whole issue became something else . .

The Lutherans were of a mind that it seemed that at some indeterminate moment the hand of god invested this former machine with grace and so on we go on the soul rollercoaster.

The Baptists found it entirely an abomination.

The Church of Egregious Parking Snarking continued to howl and blather.

In short, the evening became quite contentious. Jose gave a great speech, much informed by tequila, in which he argued that all souls deserved the right to self determination and termination and all kinds of groovy things that involved seperating from your madre and padre no matter how ironic they were and eventually Javier got him to sit down for he was very drunk by that time.

The end result in concensus was that they all should rescue the woman and then discuss what to do with her, um body, and then her soul, and preferably include her as an unusual voice in the matter as it seemed this had never happened before.

So okay this is project Deep Six Nine or Eleven Thirty-Two or something, Javier said.

Yeah, said Martini. I gonna put together some mortars that blow that turban head to pieces. . .

Hey, said Denby. No bullets man. No bullets.

Okay, no bullets. Just a few mortars. Lobbin' them over. Go boom! You like . . .!

The results of this expedition will be reported next week.

As they stood there, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap, and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its mysterious journey to parts unknown.

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


APRIL 28, 2013


This week's headline foto comes from our in-house photographer, Tammy who grabbed this shot of a whole flock of birds-of-paradise. The forces of Nature appear arrayed against the stolid armies of the dull and witless.

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


The Church of Latter-Day Saints has suffered some rough handling recently with one of theirs running for the Presidency, a musical composed by the authors of South Park appearing on Broadway, and, of course, there were the famous scenes in Angels in America. The Mormons are no worse, and some would say no better than any other religion with its odd crotchets and intolerances. The Catholics have their pederast priests and wierd sex traditions, the Jews have Isreal and the on-again off-again Diaspora that causes much of Palestine to suffer and lately even the Amish have taken to terrorism of each other's beards, so nobody is exempt from a little critique.

Let it be said, however, that the local Mormon temple has been doing some really good things with its people, which we think is a far better used of resources than mission-izing in Panama. We hear that some 800 Saints went over to Fred Finch Youth Center, a 150 year old non-profit orphanage and psychiatric facility, to clear the grounds on Coolidge Avenue in Oaktown.

That done, another army from the temple up on the hill cleaned up the old train depot that edges Sweeney Park, the new open space plot of land that once was the Beltline track that serviced industrial parts of the Island.


A big tempest in an island teapot developed recently when folks raising livestock here sought to have laws regarding raising fowl, pigs, horses and goats clarified. Apparently bees are included in this list.

It may be one of those "only on the Island" sorts of scenarios, and it seems to have all started when someone complained about Bosco the pet pig in 2011. That bluehair grumpus of a complainer learned a thing or two about poking your fingers in where you ought not to go as neighbors rallied around the beloved porker on Haight Avenue, forcing the City to issue a proclaimation of approval and leading to loads of front-page fotos of the chubby fellow standing in a patch of grass and flowers.


So okay it turned out there were no laws at all on the books against anything other than a handful of regulatory ordinances dating from 1939, which seemed to concern the life of asses.

No we do not refer to any member of the Republican Party or the apartment manager at St. Charles, but the equine animal.

Apparently those 1939 ordinances read pretty much like what they are -- rules drafted by desk-bound bureaucrats who would not know which end of an ass is the front and which stipulate clearly impossible conditions.

Obviously we live in a more urban environment here than what existed in 1939 when it was perfectly okay to house your quarter-century worth of chickens with roosters along with your pig and your cows and your goats in your yard, for it was so common, no one thought to write up rules about it.

Well, the City sees revenue here (another opportunity to charge fees for licenses!) and the animal owners clearly to not want summary evictions of their beloved pets/bacon investments. And in a place that rivals Lake Wobegon for unemployed meddlers who seek every opportunity to harrass IPD for any sort of issue from loud teenagers to obstructionist trash bins, this is a wise path to pursue.

Personally, the distant sound of a rooster is a familiar and comforting sound of nature. But not everyone thinks that way.


Aphrodite's Closet, which took over the space once occupied by Vignettes, has issued a statement that they will reopen pending repair of the extensive damage caused by the immense Park Street fire that took place a few weeks ago.


Hear that High Street Station has changed its venue and is now got some kind of booking agent over there. Things are heating up in the little corner cafe and there are now weekend supper gigs happening. Things end early, probably for the usual Island reasons, so get there before 8.

Roosters is still holding its quirky lineups of former pro sidemen and backups who have cobbled together bands so as to remain in some form still alive. If you are a devotee of rock trivia and liner notes, then Roosters is the place to be on the weekends where old rockers don't diminuando, but arpeggiate to resolve.

Over at the Freight and Salvage, Greg Brown's deep bass voice and irascible folksy humor will occupy the 18th while long, tall, Texas-born Marcia Ball will dazzle on the 25th. Marcia Ball was raised in Louisiana and has cut her piano chops with all the big belly Blues greats, but still maintains a modest approach for someone with a comprehensive grasp of Gulf Coast musicology from Florida to the horn of Texas going back 100 years. We have heard her a couple times, here and in New Orleans, and never fail to be impressed. We understand she likes to hear her fingernails click.

Our hometown boys, Houston Jones, who ramped up here at the old McGrath's, will be providing high octane Americana with Stevie Coyle as guest the first day of June. If you have not heard Travis seque from a bluesy Take Me to the River to Suzie Q and then John Fogerty, well you have not lived. Everyone please be quiet if he does the moving "Three Crow Town." Travis and the boys have gotten well-known enough that their gigs now involve some pretty long-range hikes in the old van, so catch them when they are local. As for Coyle he is one of the few who can actually perform the impossbly tuned stuff concocted by the late John Fahey.

Patty Larkin owns the 7th of June. You may have heard of her. We like her because she also was an English Major.

Next weekend is First Friday in Oaktown, which has bounced back with more control after some rough stuff happened a few months ago. Also in May there will be the artMRKT at Fort Mason from the 16th to the 19th.

David Sedaris will discuss diabetes with owls and why this is relevant on Cinco de Mayo at the Herbst in Babylon as a KQED fundraiser. See you at the reception. Hey, it does pay to be an NPR supporter . . . .

If you like trumpet, look no further than Yoshi's East on the three days of May 10-12 when Cuban Arturo Sandoval storms into town.

THE 1400

Dropped into the 1400 Friday evening just to stretch the legs and see what was happening nightlife-wise. It proved to be a typically Island evening, with a crack funk-dance band named Hiro and the Villians being overwhelmed by a basketball game on the overhead TV's, of which there were four. Hiro, a sturdy, capable soprano, strived mightily, but some gigs you just cannot win over the audience until something exhausts itself.

The 1400 Bar and Grill serves some dishes that are a cut above the usual bar fare and which seem to present a schizo identity crisis between haute cuisine and sports bar grub. They have a lamb burger that is bedecked with a feta-yoghurt sauce and sided with a mixed greens salad which ranks up there with many places charging quite a bit more for ambience. We noticed massive nachos and delicate little tapa sandwiches coming from the kitchen. Pork belly sliders can be had for the sports crowd along with lamb served with tzaztiki sauce. They have the usual basic beers on tap, as well as a full complement of American and European bottles, but also a rotating tap that features something exotic every week. This evening we enjoyed a dark Belgian beer called Grimberger.

Despite the chaos, the waitress remained affable, adjustable to changes in orders, and speedy with delivery. It looked like a gal carrying a tray of jello shots encountered a bit of sexist rough-house behind us, at least as we saw from her unhappy reactions, but she remained professional throughout.

As for the b-ball game, it ended in a heartbreaker in favor of the Warriors.


So anyway, just when it seemed Spring was going to smack into the Island like an old drunk careering his Pontiac into the glass of a laundromat, high fog came in to settle a blanket of chill on everything.

Nevertheless, the traditions of the season remain, because even though this is California and place like no other, we still have our traditions. They might not go back quite as far as in some other places but they are traditions none the less.

The Island is a curious mixture, an amalgam of hidebound conformity and of progressive newness. In some parts of the country you see the middle-aged men coming out with the lawnmowers so as to groom that quarter-acre or eighth into beaten submission, a photocopy of what exists on every other plot for miles around until the entire tract resembles more a necropolis with neat mausoleums than a place where the irregular joys of birth, making babies, tuning carburetors, writing novels, living dreams usurps the devil's boney hand.

the shape of the lots has been determined by robber baron avarice

But this is an island, where there is hardly space in the sandy soil for so much as a ten by ten foot postage stamp of some kind of greenery. In addition, the shape of the lots has been determined by the robber baron avarice of California history. When Chipman and Aughinbaugh bought the land from the Peralta family they leased much of it to tenants who proved to be less than honorable, for those tenants then sublet and sold slivers of their leased land, presenting themselves as bona fide owners. As a result, many of the existing plots now are long and narrow, presenting a street frontage in some cases of no more than twenty feet. As time passed many of these long lots became split with first a carriage house in back, then a minor domicile with rights of access past the main house in front.

With the open space allocate to carriage way and to a common refuse pit or parking area, the Eastern idea of an English lawn never developed here, save among a few die-hard "Bostons" of the DAR stripe. Where there is any kind of soil people normally plant roses, succulents, jasmine, and the ever present Rose of Sharon, aka Aphrodite.

That fellow collected thieves, prostitutes, brigands, murderers, tax collectors...

We are not a genteel, neat sort of people; we come from the sorts of folks that supposedly hung around that vigorous rebel called Jesus. That fellow collected thieves, prostitutes, brigands, murderers, tax collectors, patricides, nervous bicycle riders, fishmongers, alewives, and all sorts of riff raff about him and that is precisely the kind of people we happen to be, rude and unruly.

So it is with our gardens, each a veritable riot of vivid contrasting colors. Each a unique world unto itself.

This does run into the quixotic and contradictory result that with all this supposed individuality everyone winds up pretty much acting and looking like one another, and in a small town like this, one can certainly expect that people will be expected to toe the line.

The Church of Continuous Disharmony flung open the double doors

With the warmer weather everyone threw open their windows and people forgot to allow for the way voices carry. Pedro Almeida got into a big argument with his wife and all the men from the Lost Weekend bar stood outside making bets on what it was all about and how it would end. The Church of Continuous Disharmony flung open the double doors of the old Adelphian Hall so the whole neighborhood down there at The Wedge endured three hours of caterwauling and freakish animal sounds.

"Aaaa-ooooooorrrrrr oooooouuuuuu! Aaaahhhhh mayyyahhhrrrrrroowww!

"Dya think they be speakin' in tongues like?" Dawn asked.

"Bahhh!" Padraic said. "Its the singin' what lacks riddim, harmony, melody, timing and the right key. Not a one of them could carry a note to the letterbox."

Eventually Pedro and his wife reconciled whatever spat had seemed so important at the time and he went out with the kids to the Strand where Matías was going to set up his improbable and ridiculous sail board thing while the little ones flew kites.

The sea could smash your little craft to pieces in an instant

Pedro had never approved much of that contraption with all of its fancy paint and gay sail. The sea was not a playground but a place for work and a man must apply his hand at work early and hard and not be fooling around for that was the way life had to be, you see. The sea could smash your little craft to pieces in an instant if you were not careful. You had to be vigilant and as in the sea as in moving through life there were always sharks waiting for a chance to take a piece of you. And this Matías was such a dreamer he had to keep a short leash on him all the time, he did.

So there Pedro was out there getting the kites up for Sebastian and Tomas and, drat! where did that Augustin get off to with his hands full . . .

Sure enough there scudded the happy Matías out beyond the mud shelf more than 100 yards out, happy as a least tern on the breeze even though his mother had told him not to. And there he stood with those blasted kite lines in his hands and Tomas begging to have one, right now, pleeeeeeeeze!

"No! You will just make it crash into those people over there. Wait until it is higher. Matías! Matías! Come back! You are too far out!"

o god the wonderful wonderful freedom and speed

But Matías, scooting now in a large arc two hundred fifty yards and still going out did not hear, for such is the time of year when it gets into the blood of young boys soon to become men and strike out on their own that the exhileration of all that glimpsed freedom can quite overwhelm the senses, the wind is whipping and the speed, o god the wonderful wonderful freedom and speed as if this endless blue sky and infinite sea bounded by the sparkling bridges and the green of the green islands and the magical hump of the distant City so packed with excitement and this day, this moment of youth and the entire world opening up before you will never end.

Turn around? Are you kidding?

"Sebastian! Give me my radio! There from the blanket bag! Sebastian, who kinda wished he were out there on a sailboard with his brother instead of waiting for the safe moment in which the kite strings would be entrusted to him, dutifully fetched the radio.

"Okay dial now."

Sebastian shrugged his shoulders. Dial who?

"Daddy, daddy! I wan' kite! I wan' kite now! Pleeeeezzzzz!"

"Call my friend Felipe. He has a boat. I get him to fetch that idiot back here so I can beat him well. Call!"

"Daddeeeeeee . . . !"

But Sebastian shook his head. "I think you call is better."

"All right here!" Pedro thrust the kite lines at Tomas but forgot to unwrap the ends from his burly forearm as he grabbed the phone.

"Daaaaadeeeee! You have to let go! You have to let go!"

"O for pete's sake here with you! Sebastian take the others. . . ".

Sure enough amid all this tussle the largest kite, some five feet in length with a long tail plunged to the earth -- or more precisely into the middle of a family taking a picnic on the water's edge.

Little Tomas wailed.

In anger Pedro dropped the radio and grabbed his two sons to shake them furiously.

"Hey hey! what's going on!" A man with blond hair stood there with a woman, also exceedingly blond in that bright sunlight with two little girls.

Pedro stammered profuse apologies and ordered his boys to offer restitution, but the family would have none of that.

The woman asked Tomas his name and the girls presented the kite with the information that it was hardly damaged at all.

The man introduced himself as Eric Halvorsson. He and his family were visiting from Norway. He wanted to know what the fuss was all about and so Pedro had to tell Mr. Halvorsson about Matías on his ridiculous sailboard going out too far and he about to fetch him back.

"Ah no worry! I see he has run into my Angelique out there" said the woman who was Mrs. Halvorsson. "She has been on the water since a baby. She is quite good with the sail board."

The woman offered her binoculars to Pedro who looked to see a fuzzy couple talking to one another far out, way far out on the Bay.

"Come join us. We have food enough and some wine. Sit down with us," Mrs. Halvorsson said.

Somehow the radio had gotten lost in the sand and probably was ruined by now. He sat down heavily beneath their umbrella, feeling very, very old, still holding the kite lines. One of them remained high up there, a bright red splash against the incredible blue.

"Daddeeeee! We fly kite now! "

"What, just you? Let me get up now and . . .".

"No no, me and Sebastian and Anne and Marie! We can do it! Pleeeeeeze!"

Mrs. Halvorsson laughed while Eric watched the two teenagers through the binoculars. "I am sure it will be all right. It is a big beach here!"

"Well all right." Pedro grumbled.

"Daddeeeee! Daddeeeee!"

"What is it?

"You have to let go!"

Yes, the lines were still wrapped around his arm. He undid them and watched the young folks scamper off and together the four of them managed to get the big kite aloft.

In the meantime, the red one broke loose its tether and Pedro watched it float on the strong coastal breeze over the bay towards Babylon, a bright speck diminishing into the west, to the place where the sun goes after its petit mort each night.

That kite is me. Someday I will go there, alone, a lost, a loved, along the . . . " .

Pretty soon, or not soon enough, the deleriously happy Matías came scudding back in the company of a gorgeous teenage girl, each doing pretty much what teenagers do and have done for quite a long time.

"Sometimes," said Eric, "I feel all bent down like Old Man Winter. But it would be a crime to keep Angelique so close my frost begins to kill her. It is hard to let go, but I must. It is what we are supposed to do."

"Look how happy she is!" Mrs. Halvorsson said.

This being Spring, the sap rises and males of all descriptions envision rescue of damsels in distress. This may be why the boys at Marlene and Andre's Household made preparations to rescue Euphonia from the clutches of the nefarious Anatolia Enigma. Actually, Anatolia was not so much nefarious as merely a moderately capable magician who performed for Elks Club affairs and birthday parties, however he certainly would have liked to have been styled as nefarious, as such a sobriquet would have complimented his dark good looks, his black cape, his air of mystery, and his moustaches. And, it must be admitted, nefarious earned more for the pocketbook than doing good or even doing well. Certainly this has been true at least since the administration of George Bush, Jr.

As for Euphonia, she was Anatolia's latest somewhat female, very unwilling, magician's assistant in his act. She was the classic damsel in distress, and for Euphonia and all that she was, well that will have to wait until next week. Let us only say that she and the invention of the "talking wire" shared an extraordinary intertwined fate.

"AarrrrrrrooooooooOOOOOOOOO!" chanted the Church of Interminable Cacophony. "OOOOOhhhhrrrrraaaargh!"

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its romantic journey to parts unknown.

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


APRIL 21, 2013


Generally the headline title is a more esoteric song lyric, but what the heck. In the Golden State, we do milestones like they really mean something. So we have two pix from Loren's passage from the twenties into the age of "maturity", the first being a 100% edible cake (save for the lid).

The second being the star of the dinner table, which, although rather trafe, looks pretty damn good.

Its California. We do things in style here. Incidentally, for those of you wishing to duplicate this kind of thing (also accompanied by punchbowls and Puerto Rican- style canapes like fried plaintain) it takes 20 hours to "do" a pig. And by that, we do not mean the LAPD.

Loren will be taking his Master's in Special Ed this Spring. Time for another celebration?


Of course it would be extraordinarily provincial and small-minded to ignore the events that recently happened on the East Coast.

First of all, let us say that we do have family members in the Boston area and they are fine -- the principal folks were travelling during the Boston Marathon bombings and the others are shut-ins, so they hardly noticed the lockdown.

Secondly, our thoughts and sympathies go out to the Bostons as they gradually put their lives back in order after this reminder that America runs a world-wide Empire and a lot of people have been driven crazy by the way it has been run locally in the past.

In addition, some people are just plain crazy. This extraordinarly violence of recent weeks is not the fault of any one religion or foreign region. Timothy McVeigh was a corn-fed white-bread American from the day he blew up buildings in Oklahoma to the day he was executed for mass murder. So was Dylan Klebold in Colorado.

Anyone remember the Unibomber?

In this time we ask people to remember, in addition to the 184 severely injured in Boston, Krystle Campbell, 29, a female restaurant manager from Medford; Lü Lingzi, 23, a female Chinese national and Boston University graduate student from Shenyang, Liaoning; Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy from the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, and MIT police officer, Sean Collier, 26 with sympathies for the family survivors without venting against any ethnic targets which appear more convenient than accurate.

We refuse to suffer another Manzanar around here.


Ron Cowan still wants to build something, and still feels a little bit entitled to do so. Just why he wants to do his building here and why he feels compelled to tear something down, move it, and put something in its place is anyone's guess.

May be the man is of Napoleonic stature?

In any case, Harbor Bay Associates now wants to rip out Bay Farm Island's Harbor Bay Club and replace it with 80 homes. The Club would be relocated to the Harbor Bay Business Park.

On the face of it, nobody has any sentimental attachment to the newish club, and the 80 unit densitiy is far better than the metropolis he originally envisioned for the site of the MIF golfcourse, a project that provoked a revision to the City Charter, so odious were the terms.

At first glance, this particular project appears to offend no one and, in fact, coddle the wealthy, as we are sure not a single one of those proposed 80 homes will clock in under $800,000. Bay Farm is east of East End, and tends to favor folks with two or more European cars in their garages.

As for the Club, the old one would not be demolished until the replacement, with swimming pool and larger workout spaces were completed. That Club also trends to favor the well-heeled.

Among the six or seven development projects on the board is the rehab of Park Street's 1700 block from auto dealerships that crashed and burned during the Great Recession to new shops at least one restaurant and a brewery with a tasting room.

CVS, which had planned to install a large pharmacy there, pulled out to be replaced with Walgreens. Chase Bank probably will accompany Walgreens in occupying the spot formerly occupied by Goode Chevrolet.

Meanwhile people are debating the future fate of the old high school, now surrounded by the Special Favors funded "Berlin Wall."

(The wall went up a scant four hours after Silly Council public approval, which indicates an extraordinary measure of preparedness that sorta kinda skipped over the usual and traditional, and some say legally-mandated, public bid approval process)

In good news, all crew of the Delta Captain, which sunk 13 miles off Point Sur have been returned safe and hale. The Delta Captain was a tug registered here with Marine Express.

There is a flavor of blue-haired old biddyism in the recent report of a "brawl" that allegedly took place among AIA students in the West End.

No police report was filed, no one got injured in this "brawl", and no witnesses at the scene saw any fighting. Seems someone just got their panties in twist over teenagers doing what they do -- hanging out.

It does appear that Island High kids like to hang on on Spruce Street to "hide from administrators", but that school lets out at 1:00pm and the incident was reported to have happened around 2:38pm.

Now both schools are launching increased security and an investigation because of the complaint.

Oh people. Just smoke a joint and relax already.


AMP is increasing rates 3.25% as part of a five year rate adjustment plan approved by the PUC in 2010. Some commercial customers may see an increase of up to 5%, so better factor that one into your night out budget.

No doubt this will result in a wave of rent increases, as management firms pass on the costs to the tenants. Because, after all, they heard there is no rent control here.


So anyway, Spring has suddenly hit the Island with a solid whallop. Its coming to the end of crabbing season and anyone who buys an oyster now starts taking their chances. Drakes Estero oyster farm may close -- after all they are sitting on federal parkland and their 100 year lease exception just came up.

Generations of NorCal families have driven out that road on Point Reyes that is well paved with shattered oyster shells to fetch back dripping bags of living molluscs for celebrations of all kinds, but this one seems one destined for the dustbin of history. The rule of law is against renewal for another special interest exception and as the local waters warm due to global changes, it may prove to become unfeasible to retain the enterprise there much longer anyway.

This weekend, the clouds finally broke apart to let Mssr. Soleil remind all the fair-skinned just why Black is beautiful and there was a great run on aloe vera and lotion at the Sabroso Pharmacy.

Furthermore the birds have started doing things

The bird-of-paradise plants have all started erupting with their fabulous floral arrangements, the bougainvillea's are going to town and the Aphrodite Amaryllis, which around here grows into bushes some seven feet tall, has been getting all the buzzing insects excited about something. Furthermore the birds have started doing things to remind parents they better have That Special Talk with the younger member of the household before he or she starts getting curious in the backseat of the family Dodge Dart on Snoffish Valley Road.

Oaktown never gets a break, even in Springtime

Little darlin', its been a long cold lonely Winter. But here comes the sun. Over in Oaktown, the swallows come to dip and swirl in the millions over the rooftop garden of the Kaiser building. Once, long ago perhaps they had learned to settle in a grove beside Lake Merritt, but that grove is long gone for several hundred years now, and so the swallows swoop and dive in solid arabesques as if an immense creature coiled and danced above that postagestamp of green which exists there now. People always talk about Capistrano, but Oakland has no charming church steeple there, and of course, Oaktown never gets a break, even in Springtime.

Spring is the Most Dangerous Season.

Spring has indeed arrived. And around here let it be known, 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.

women and girls bursting into majorityhood stroll on patrol

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, their smooth lithe legs flashing beneath 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 also when The Editor, avoiding the leggy Joanne, stocks up on Redbox flicks (Netflix now passe), and a fridge filled with Mrs. Callender frozen dinners so as to avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, especially those arrows sent by that obstreperous hoodlum, Cupid. For the artsbeat he sends his representative, the hapless Jose who safely has no more a clue about eros than Faber's Euphonia, and Javier, who knows a good deal more about eros than someone in his position ought to and nothing at all about Art save for ogling the odlalesque.

Spring means nothing to Javier, who just uses the season for a more vigorous application to his campaign of jolly roger than during the winter. To Javier, there is nothing more savory than an Art Student in the Spring. Bright then glows his personal Kunstpinsel.

Indeed, Spring is the the Most dangerous Season.

Marvin, of Mervin's Merkins (Put a Merkin in your Firkin!) is particularly suseptible. He has a thing for gamines, truth be told. He has images of Audrey Hepburn all around the house, especially from the motion picture Breakfast at Tiffany's. Spring is especially hard on poor Marvin, and Sunday evening found him tucked up in the snug of the Old Same Place Bar relating the facts of his life to strangers and to Suzie, who had her own problems with the lovelife.

Recently he had been smitten by a chanteuse from Texas by the name of Kat Edmonson. For all his faults, Marvin remained a steadfast supporter of National Public Radio.

"I thought it was Heather Masse you were after. And before that Aoife O'Donovan." Suzie said.

They grew their hair long, complained Marvin. And Heather turned out to be disgustingly and happily married.

"O you men!" Dawn exclaimed. "You would hump an oak tree so long as it wore a short, red dress."

"Who is that guy over there?"

Marvin indicated a handsome man with a silver mane and ghotee who sat at a table with three absolutely stunning women, whom he kept enthralled with stunning repartee in three or four languages.

his copilot was a baboon

"Ah!" said Javier, who had overheard this exchange. "That man there, well, when he visits friends in Cordoba, the Bishop of Seville is compelled to come and acknowledge he has arrived in the town. When he attends someone's wedding, a band of wandering gypsies shows up to perform Hungarian dances for free, and all the maids of honor depart the following day, enciente."


"It is true," said the Man from Minot. "He broke the record for the luge in Switzerland, but was denied the gold medal as his copilot was a baboon, and therefore not a human according to the rules."

"Aye, laddies," said Angus McMayhem. "I seen him toss the caber with the biggest and best of them. I seen him once toss a caber while dining on a scone, competin' against the Giant of Ballyfergus while tightrope walking acrost the parapets, hopping with his caber over the crenellations. Furthermore he knows how to play the pipes like real music, he does! And the tales he tells about his days wrestling lions in Africa and setting the poor child soldiers there free. Och begorrah!"

"Africa? Scotland? Spain? How does this fellow get around?"

"In his own private piper cub airplane of course," Denby said. "He taught himself how to fly so he could practice skydiving."

"Uhh . . . now wait a minute!" Mervin said. "O for pete's sake. Who is he then?"

"Ahhhhh!" Padraic said. "That there is none other than The Most Interesting Man in the World!"

It goes without saying the man had before him a bottle of that dark beer marked with the two X's.

In the wee hours of Sunday leading to Monday, Pedro motored his fishing boat, El Borracho Perdido, out beyond the Golden Gate. Spring arrives on the ocean in subtle manner, often detected only by the patterns of fish which migrate much as birds do from place to place. Plankton and algae bloom and attracts certain fish to take advantage of Nature's brief plenty. Sun-warmed currents reverse direction and the legal periods for certain take come to a close while others open up. There is a quality to the air that tells of changes coming on, big changes headed for the mainland. In the interzone that lies between the silver sunlit surface and the place where light shades down to dark purples before entering the fathomless compressed depths beyond the shelf, kelps and algaes wake from a long sleep to nourish with their long chains amid the dancing bubbles the nutrient rich universe that they say was the mother of all life long ago.

Spring is not kind to everyone. The rumor had it, and the rumor was true that Marina Moego-ada had broken up with her lover of some years and in a snap of revenge had dumped all of his clothing out into the driveway, including his faded bluejeans. He had already taken off with that blowsy Texas blonde from the bowling alley, taking the car keys and his shoes, so what was left sat there like a sad pile of reminders of better days, just getting moldy and old and more useless as time passed.

Over at the the Belle Canto Ranch, Oscar came around looking to beat up somebody for having offended a woman who had known a friend of his sister in some manner he could not recall some thirty years ago, but as he could remember neither the man's name nor the woman's he got drunk on a bottle of tequila instead out on Snoffish Valley Road while all the teenagers were having a good time all around him. Perhaps in the end it was better for Oscar and everyone else once concerned after all.

Pahrump gave a good talk to little Adam about putting aside grudges, for little Adam had been getting into scraps at school again.

It is said, Pahrump went on, about two monks passing along the road and coming to a stream that there stood a woman on the bank lamenting the force of the current and the lack of a bridge. The older monk picked up the woman and carried her across the stream to safety while his companion plashed on behind.

After many miles further on, drawing on to nightfall and time to rest, the younger monk suddenly burst out with great agitation about the monk having violated his vows of chastity in not only touching but lifting up the woman in defiance of all their strictures.

The older monk looked calmly at his upset brother and said, "I set that woman down many miles ago. Why are you still carrying her?"

As with our dear Marina, Spring may bring some heartaches, but then, like the ancient Chinese symbol for disaster, there remains the other side. Indeed, there always will be the Other Side. Spring can always be a time to start all over again. Get on over to Target and fetch some decent tightfittin' booty-huggers, gal. Do a little of that Texas bootstomp and shuffle.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its romantic journey to parts unknown.

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


APRIL 14, 2013


This week's photo comes from The Editor who took this shot with his iPhone while taking a walk.


Just got the KPFA reading series in over the wire and looks like there are some upcoming gems, including a return of Eve Ensler to the Bay Area to talk up close and personal about her battle with uterine cancer as well as a talk about America's dirty wars program as investigated by the Nation's Jeremy Scahill. Details are in the Calendar section.

Angela Davis, now a long-time tenured professor at SFSU, will be talking in Commemoration of Palestinian Prisoner's Day at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley April 17, and probably flogging her new book "The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues. Its a benefit for the Middle East Children's Alliance. Go to to find out more.

Some of you folks might remember a young kid named Arlo Guthrie. Well Here Comes the Kid to Zellerbach Hall as part of Cal Performances on April 18, which happens to be his famous father's 100th birthday. He may talk about Woody, or he may sing a song or two or he may do both. Tix start at $22 and you can get them at or by calling 510-642-9988.

The Outside Lands Festival is still collecting names and one of those is reportedly Sir Paul McCartney, however that name is as of yet just a rumor.

The dodgy weather has made planning for the Greek and other outdoor venues an iffy proposition, but keep posted and we will inform as we learn more.


Rumor has it that the former Goode Chevrolet site on Park that was to be a CVS will become instead a Walgreens, meaning the wretched store that sits next to the parking garage will persist in all of its dinky wretchedness. Okay, so one mega-chain pharmacy is like another. Except the CVS in Mariner Square Village remains bright, clean and well stocked, while the one on Central remains an urban slum to visit with long lines no matter what the time of day and its odd gates at the end of the liquor aisle make you think twice about entering what reminds you of a dingy lockup with armed guards and camera surveillance or something.

Not being critical, but just sayin', this place feels really depressing.

Yes the tubes are getting a facelift, which may very likely feature fixing the opening dates, misrecorded on a bronze plaque next to a sign posting a different date. Improved pedestrian guide rails for both tubes -- hinting of opening access for both directions and allowing for free passage around those trundling homeless shopping carts.

Heck, we are all for easier access to the Island for those folks inhabiting the Bushville tent city under the freeway on the Oaktown side.

For well on twenty years we have wondered just what was in those tall structures with glass painted over. Maybe we all will discover wonders. Well, maybe not.

In any case, this project is entirely a beautification project, similar to the "Northern Gateway" plan to impress the well-heeled and newbie neuveau riche that will surely replace the rest of us plebes. Can't raise the rents from obscene to flatly hideous without some prettification so as to allow some perfect numbskull to claim, "well if you want to live in such a nice place with clean streets and no crime then you must pay."

Heck, and we thought we had been already living here for over two decades and our girls were effing born and raised here. That is old nostalgic guff that counts for nothing, apparently. Nobody we know born and raised in SF can afford to live there in their hometown anymore. Why should the Island be any different? After all, Wood School is gone and soon anyone who went there will be too, followed by the old Island High with its Berlin Wall. The idea seems to be to evict anyone who remembers how it was and replace them with people gasping that at least its better here than elsewhere. After all, we heard there was no rent control. . . .

Also in the planning stage is Safeway's addition to the Target at the Landing development. Unfortunately, Safeway plans to put in a "lifestyle" store there attendant with all of its usual irritations -- instead of a reasonably priced grocery -- but the upside has them also putting in a gas station. For West Enders and people seeking affordable chicken and rice in these hard times of sequester and flinty GOP obstinacy there now is a Foodmaxx just over the Fruitvale bridge where the Lucky's used to be.

In national news, the Boy Scouts national leadership acted like anachronistic jerks. So they want to hire grown men to run around in short pants and cute uniforms with braids and tassels and dangling whistles with boys and still maintain a private but well regulated sex orientation that denies anything exists but still goes by some merit badge guidebook?

Something seems wrong with this picture. Maybe they can hire priests to do the job. O wait, there is a problem with that picture as well . . . .

Terry LaCroix was an Islander through and through.

Terry Yorke LaCroix, Jr. passed away in Chico, Calif. on March 19, 2013. He was Alameda's first elected mayor serving from 1969 to 1975.

After his marriage to Patty, he worked as a manager at the Del Monte plant at Buena Vista and Sherman St.

Terry's civic duties and service to his community truly defined his life's work. Over the years, he served as; President of Kiwanis Club, Board of Directors of Providence Hospital (now Summit Medical Center in Oakland), Board of Directors of Hanna Boys' Center in Marin County, Chairman of Alameda Park and Recreation Dept., Alameda City Councilmember (1963-1969), Chairman of Alameda County Criminal Justice Planning Board (1971-73), President of Mayor's and Councilmen's League of California Cities and Alameda's first elected mayor serving from 1969 -1975. Some of his proudest work as mayor was defeating the Southern Crossing and in limiting the building and housing density originally proposed for the South Shore "fill" in Alameda and in the Bay Farm Island "Harbor Bay" development, all of which would have had a lasting negative impact on his beloved island home town. Terry loved to swim and to sail. He and his family were members of Encinal Yacht Club from its early days at the foot of Grand St., through the 1980's at its current home on the estuary.

LaCroix was mayor on Feb. 7, 1973, when a U.S. Navy A-7E Corsair II crashed into the four-story Tahoe Apartments at 1814 Central Ave., killing the pilot and 10 people on the ground. The aircraft was on a routine training flight to Sacramento from the Lemoore Naval Air Station, south of Fresno.

LaCroix was returning from a mayor's conference in Piedmont when he learned of the crash and rushed to the scene.

"The fire did a tremendous amount of damage -- the biggest conflagration we ever had in our city," LaCroix said in a video interview with the California Digital Story Telling Project.

LaCroix said he worked in the days after the crash to make sure the public did not blame sailors at the former Alameda Naval Air Station for what happened, or firefighters for the extent of the damage.

Terry and Pat moved to Redding, CA in 1988, where he continued his years of community service, with his wife at his side, by volunteering at Mercy Medical Center in Redding providing "Lifeline" installation services to people in need and serving as Vice Chairman for the Mercy Foundation's Board of Trustees ("Trustee Emeritus").


So anyway, in a big town people talk about themselves or about grand things, international things about which no one really has any great intimacy. Endlessly. Over and over. And they call that News. In a small town people talk about each other forever and forever. Endlessly. Over and over. They call that news. That is the difference.

It does not feel much like it, but Spring has advanced upon NorCal. We have had days of overcast Blakean skies ominous with chiaroscuro portent and muscular gods hidden among the folds, yet little of refreshing rain to clean up the air. Nevertheless, the yards are crowded with Sam's daffodowndillies and once again the calla lilies . . . the calla lilies! "the calla lilies are in blewm again. . . ".

The contractors have all been thronging Home Depot down there on Alameda Street beside the water and trucks have been picking up los migras from the designated area that leads to the parking lot and you can see sturdy men in paint-spattered canvas overalls hauling flagstones down the aisle, and signs for hauling and gutterwork bloom all along the chain link fence, which all means great things are about to happen.

Eduardo and Rafe returned home, not that they wanted to, as life for them was good in far distant Independence where the crow call of their father, Augustino, remained but a distant and unpleasant memory and there was money to be made for Rafe running the little fishing guide enterprise he had and for Eduardo who did contract work for the Inyo County School District and life was good fishing for trout in Lake Crowell. It was not much money for either of them, but they were grown into simple men with simple needs and the fish from the lake were good.

Life had been good there with the Glacial Divide seperating them from their domineering father and their mother who these days had difficulty remembering what she had for breakfast.

But the message came that Maman had taken a bad fall and the doctors knew nothing about it and it was all a terrible crisis and perhaps Maman would not come back from the hospital at all.

The boys flew in from Reno, which is a good two hundred miles north of Independence up 395 to find Maman sitting there placidly eating pepitos from a paper bag. She seemed only mildly interested that the boys had dropped everything, left behind wives and children and friends and jobs in this hard economy to see about her welfare.

"Hokay, so nice to see you, my boys! My only boys! You know the other ones, the ones that would have been so nice your brothers, well, they died. So you are all I have left! You wan' pepitos con crema? Lets sit here and watch the sopapillas grow . . .".

But Senor Augustino had no interest in pepitos or watching cactus grow. The reason he had concocted this fabuloso histoire about Maman was to get the boys to help with digging up the back yard for a project he had in mind.

The Senior had been a major player in the anti-union growers organization in the Valley. He had fought for many years against Los malditos comunistas, as he called the organizers like Chavez at the time. He had been a big man in those days and his retirement had been well rewarded, but he missed the times when he could order men around, make them do things against their will, maybe sometimes embarrassing.

Senior Augustino was of Old Californio. You did not work the land and make a living -- you did battle against Nature and all human adversaries, and you had to be hard indeed, for someone would come along and take everything away from you and then at any time fire or earthquake could do just the same. The weak were eaten and there was no place for dreams.

By modern standards, life at home for Rafe and Eduardo was severe. Up at dawn and if not a bucket of cold ice water did the trick with no breakfast. No games, no play. All was serious intent, even soccer practice. You practiced to win and that was the point.

It is important for newcomers to this place to understand where the present day Californios came from for there to be a real understanding of why things are the way they are.

Now at 79, the Senor was a man of admittedly failing powers. As for Maman, well, clearly there would be no more sons or daughters out of that woman, as he saw it, and so very well. Also there was the tiredness and the sense that many of his lifelong acquaintances of the same age seemed to have chosen a path to rocking-chair senesence, a life in death of naps and rising only to nobble on a plate of num-num and then fall back again into stupor. Or worse, those hideous games run by volunteers from the church where all the old people did these silly dances in a circle just to jiggle their bones awake for a while!

This, he swore, would not become his own fate. He was not old! He was only 79 and full of vigor and life and spit! Indeed he was of old California, of the kind they do not make any more.

And he had decided that he, Augustino, would build a fabulous pond stocked with rare Japanese Coi. And he would have a house for raising prize guinea pigs. Right in the backyard!

For this project he required labor -- lots of it -- and what better source than free labor from those worthless sons of his who had never repaid a single dime for their upbringing, their education, all their clothes, and all the useless frippery Maman had thought to inflict upon his budget.


So they were so many wrigglers cast forth into the world to live their own lives. Well, he would reel them back and show them how to work by dios amigo!

In the morning he got them out of bed and put shovels in their hands and put them to work digging and hauling rock. By midday, it became pretty clear that even though his own arms were still sinewed and strong like rope cables, using two city-bred hands to dig a pond some fifteen by twenty feet across and some four feet deep would be, if not impossible, then eternal labor. Those idiots did not even know how to wield an auger let alone a shovel and a pickax and their complaining was endless. To cap it all, there came Maman with a tray of lemonade and pepitos, waddling along in those idiotic fur slippers of hers to get in the way.

"Maman! Go take your medications!" shouted the redfaced Augustino. "Go away and take a nap!"

Well, he would show them. He would get this hole dug. And so, to the relief of everybody, Augustino went away for a while.

The next door neighbor, a man by the name of Lars Halvorsson, looked on with some concerned amusement, for the man's house was cheek by jowl with others on quarter acre lots and all this activity caused a ruckus as well as a fair amount of dust. Then there was the matter of the debris bin out front taking up parking space on the street.

Eduardo called on their friend Lupe, who had become something of a curandero by reason of having attended two semesters at UC School of Medicine before flunking out to take wholistic classes from Indians in Sonora while supporting himself as a drag queen. Lupe speculated killing their father might do the trick, but Eduardo did not think that would end very well for him and his brother.

Augustino returned towing a trailor with a rented backhoe. "Observe, my children, how things were done in the old days, when men knew how to get things done well!"

He unloaded the backhoe and drove the thing around to the shallow ditch that the three of them had worked all morning and plunged the blade down into the soil where it promptly cracked open a pipeline that sent a geyser of dark water high into the air.

Senior Augustino yanked abruptly on the control handles, too late and sent the blade high into the air and then froze there as water came down from the fountain all around them there.

Mr. Halvorsson burst out of his screen door shouting, about what it was impossible to tell.

All stared down into the pit that now quickly filled and soon welled over to run in a muddy stream alongside the house into the cellar and out to the street.

All stared down except for Senior Augustino who stared upward with a curious expression on his frozen face.

When Eduardo thought to look up he saw that the backhoe blade had neatly nicked the overhead powerlines.

"My electricity is all gone!" Mr. Halvorsson shouted. "What did you do?"

One end of the powerline lay smoking in Senior Augustino's lap. He continued to stare upwards with wide-open eyes, not seeing the heavens.

They say the funeral was modest yet, appropriate for a man of Senior Augustino's stature. He was cremated, even though a burial plot had been purchased, which some though strange, and the two boys returned to Independence. The house got sold to a Vietnamese family who created a whole new set of problems for Mr. Halvorsson. Maman went to a SNF without complaint for it stood around the corner from a nice panaderia.

Late at night the Editor went to the door of the Offices after hearing a knock to find a small cardboad box on the stoop. Inside he found a dark granular sort of burnt powder with chunks of greyish stuff mixed in. The note simply said "Deseche correctamente". He did not understand Spanish but he took the box and put it up on the shelf next to the bell jar encasing the brass fantod to be dealt with later.

Right then the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to aesthetic parts unknown.

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


APRIL 7, 2013


This week's headline photo comes from facebooker friend, Charlene Hensley.

Usually we get a more typical red with black dots. This image provoked a discussion about the nursery song about ladybugs. The original English version (there are many variations) goes:

Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house is on fire and your children are gone,
All except one,
And her name is Ann,
And she hid under the baking pan.

The English version has been dated to at least 1744, when it appeared in a collection of nursery rhymes. There was also a 1994 docu-drama done by Ken Loach about a British woman's dispute with Social Services over the care and custody of her four children

The sing-song rhythm and a couple lines from this English children's chanson were used by Tom Waits in Jockey Full of Bourbon as follows:

Hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on fire, your children are alone
Hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on fire, your children are alone

The verse probably referred to the old practice of "smoking" plants to get rid of pests. Ladybugs eat aphids, hence are desireable by gardeners.


We are glad to be bringing back Whats The Buzz events reports. This week we have a public meeting on the dock and two upcoming shows worth noting.


What: Meeting and public education regarding disposition of Alameda Point's "burn site" - on north west tip of former base When: Tuesday, April 9th; 5:30 - 6:15: informal discussion with Navy PM and consultant, RAB members, and interested residents 6:30 - 8:00: view Navy posters of the site and talk to available Navy personnel Where: Stafford Room, main library on Oak street @ Lincoln Come to this meeting and ask questions of Navy PM Cecily Sabedra and a consultant. The first meeting - 5:30 pm portion - is a group discussion and allows anyone to ask question in the group format. The second portion of the event is the poster station format where individuals can talk to Navy personnel. RAB members will attend the first meeting as an addendum to regular RAB mtg and learn (for the first time) the disposition of Site 1 - burn site/former disposal pit. The final documents on this site were linked online yesterday (although a number of RAB members question why they're not seen draft documents at all. Late or never produced draft docs ensure that the RAB cannot review Navy processes and decision until after they're made; this obviates the RAB's mandate).

Link to final docs:

David Sedaris returns to the Bay Area for a KALW benefit over in Babylon

An Evening with David Sedaris on May 5th , 2013.

San Francisco War Memorial Opera House

7:30 PM.

The Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, directly across from Davies Symphony Hall.

Reception at 6:30 PM

The celebrated NPR humorist comes to the War Memorial Opera House for an evening of cutting wit, social satire, and riveting conversation, including a question and answer session! Experience live, the hilarious brilliance that created the national bestsellers: Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and his latest Best-Seller, “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk” and the much anticipated new collection ”Lets Explore Diabetes with Owls”

More info and buy Tix

Buried in the Berkeley Rep pre-season announcements (current excellent season continues with Pericles, Prince of Tyre, starting 4/12/13) we note a couple world premiers, including one by none other than the screenwriter for the Oscar-adored film, Lincoln, Tony Kushner. Well, he has done a few other things as well, but this time around the celebrated playwright teams with Tony Taccone.

May 16–June 29, 2014

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures


  • Written by Tony Kushner
  • Directed by Tony Taccone
  • Main Season · Roda Theatre
  • West Coast premiere

Winner of two Tony Awards, three Obies, an Emmy and a Pulitzer Prize, Tony Kushner returns to Berkeley Rep for the West Coast premiere of his latest play. With his trademark mix of soaring intellect and searing emotion, the legendary playwright unfurls an epic tale of love, family, sex, money and politics—all set under the hard-earned roof of an Italian family in Brooklyn. When Gus decides to die, his kids come home with a raucous parade of lovers and spouses to find that even the house keeps secrets. Kushner reunites with one of his favorite collaborators, Artistic Director Tony Taccone, to bring this sweeping drama to the Roda Theatre.

More information


Our roving reporter came across the aftermath of a spectacular crash on the corner of Triumph and Atlantis around 3:00pm Thursday, April 4.

The car, travelling at a high rate of speed jumped the curb and completely obliterated the lightpole before continuing across the sidewalk and median to cross the street on the far side and smash into a brick-clad pillar.

Airbags inflated and all axels and all tires were destroyed.

Police at the scene declined to offer statements and the City website went down during the weekend, preventing further inquiry from the PIO.



So anyway here on the Island, which is not so much the Town that Time Forgot as the Town Time Prefers Not to Remember, a number of wharf sizzlers together with Blakean skies unruly with chiascuro gods and tumult have kept things dank, mildewing and depressing.

People around here, and by People we mean the old timers with sturdy roots going back to Chipman and Augenbach's day, don't like too much sun and uplift, for dank depression reminds us, or them at least, for the times of hardscrabble struggle, economic disaster and pullman car strikes. We do not have a Sons of Norway house on the Island, unless you count Olaf's Waffle House -- that distinction belongs to the Laurel District in Oaktown across the water. At some point we need to make a field trip over there to learn just why the SON are plonked down in such an improbable place.

Ah History. Some say History belongs as spoils to the victors, however beneath any such "official story" about how we got here lies the motherlode of Truth, which like any ore-rich vein, contains a multitude of things, good and bad, and here on the Island we have the Home of Truth right there on Grand Street. Been there since the 1800's.

Spring is coming. Daffydowndillies are out. Tulips. All the early risers acting like NorCal is the same as Minnesotta.

The Annual Meeting of the Island Historical Society took place this Wednesday. Pandora Thighripple, also Heavyweight Dragon for the Island Hostesses, the premier clandestine fraternal organization of culinary obsessives, conservative political subversives and extremist capitalists, held the gavel this time. The subject was upcoming Heritage Day in which the Island would celebrate all the good things about the Island's history.

"Let me say this," Pandora announced. "The celebration is for genuine Island residents who can claim long-term, multi-generational attachment to the values we select. All others can just be quiet."

There was a chorus of agreement and the motion was quickly seconded.

Angela Conocere raised her hand and uttered in a timid voice, "But there are some issues to be addressed . . .".

"I don't here you! I don't hear you!" Pandora said, clapping her massive palms against her ears. "I don't hear you! The theme is Celebration not Denegration!"

"Okay, I just thought some history should include my people's . . . ".

"I don't here you! I don't hear you!" Pandora said. "Next item on the agenda . . . !"

With Spring coming on, and this year the year the America's Cup comes to the Bay, a number of boat owners came down to the Marina to see what needed to be done to get things shipshape. Because of the overcast skies and the occasional drizzle, not much real work got done, but a lot of talk drifted under the docks to make up for it.

Over at Mr. Howitzer's new yacht, The Fountainhead, a gay little party was got up under the awning and boathouse. It was an open bar and folks got there a bit soused and started misbehaving. Mrs. Cribbage flirted with Mr. Terse while Mr. Cribbage buried his head in the lap of Mrs. Stanchion. The dogs, Eisenhower and Milhouse ran up and down the decks with great abandon the way dogs do in the rain and Mr. Blather got up on the roof of the wheel house to spout ill-remembered quotes from a famous Objectivist. Indeed, Mr. Blather quite forgot who he was and began shouting, "I AM John Galt! I am John Galt!" until a gust of wind knocked his feet from under him and he landed in the water after a preliminary bounce on the deck.

Seeing this, while swabbing the teak deck of Miz Perspicacious, a good enough minimum wage job when the weather was fine, Pahrump dove into the fetid marina water and paddled over to grab the semi-conscious Mr. Blather and haul him to the dock where members of Mr. Howitzer's party pulled him up onto the wet decking, leaving Pahrump to fend for himself more or less.

He drove home on his scooter, sopping wet.

When told that an uncultivated plebian had rescued him, saving his life, Mr. Blather burst into tears. "O why could it not have been a Shumaker or a Rothschild!"

That same evening Luther closed up the Pampered Pup hotdog shop and walked around the corner to stand for a moment next to the newspaper stand first erected on that spot in 1936 and still kept in operation by dint of sentimentality and a sense of preservation.

Lionel's family, multigenerational residents of the Island, had come to this place during the war years to help build the massive ships that would replace those sunk during the Pearl Harbor attack. Many of Lionel's family had died during the Port Chicago disaster when an explosion amid the poorly regulated area had destroyed several ships, several wharves and several hundred lives as well as the entire Port Chicago facility. Only a plaque and a line of charred stumps remains there now to mark the West Coast wartime premier arms loading facility.

Along the road there is still a monument to Rosie the Riveter, but then, she was a horse of a different color.

Lionel, was not allowed in the early days of his youth to buy a paper from the kiosk. He remembered Officer Pushkin picking him up when he was seen wandering down Santa Clara toward the Paramount Movie theatre and being brought back to the row houses in the West End.

"Now boy," the officer had said. "I am bringing you back to your place. We don't want any trouble over here. And you know they just won't sell no ticket to a boy like you at the box office. You know that. So don't be crossing east past Grand Street. Run along now back to your ma."

Now in the year 2013 a Black man held the Oval Office and there Lionel stood with the rain sifting softly down and so much changed here he was with a business right there on Park Street.

When People talk about Heritage Day, in whatever small town that Time forgot or chooses not to remember, they also need to factor in a world of pain and hurt that comes with that Heritage. Otherwise it has no real substance.

In the Offices of Island-Life the Editor listened to the rustling of cars passing infrequently by on the wet streets as the rain sifted down. Carrying a glass of Maker's Mark he descended the stairs to check on the peas and slipped abruptly when his game leg, damaged during the disastrous episode at La Monte El Abuelta de Diablo, slipped out from under him and he went down hard. Fortunately without breaking anything, but leaving him stunned for a moment, much like people feel after a big roller shakes things up a good bit so that everyone wonders quietly to him or herself, "Is this the Big One they talk about? Did I leave grandma's jar of marmelade on the edge of the shelf or toward the back? I wonder if the hall mirror held up and if Jeremy got to where he was going -- or was he supposed to go to pick up Adam for soccer practice Wednesday? Is today Tuesday? Has soccer even started yet or is it still Spring Break? Am I supposed to die now and if so, am I dead already? Who am I today? It's past time to prune that lemon tree . . . .

After a bit with the rain sifting down, quite extinguishing his cigar, the Editor remembered who he was and where he was and got up with some effort. Somewhere among the chard and peas in the dark rested an empty glass that formerly held a quantity of Maker's Mark.

Smugness, especially of the small town variety is such a cheap target. There really is not a place anywhere you can find where somebody does not feel that a little halo revolves about their pointy crown. Laughter is the best way to deal with inevitabilities about which one can do very little. Had his cousin simply guffawed at Osama Bin Laden's foolishness when he came to the door only to turn his back with medieval rectitude way back when, so much suffering and stupidity could have been avoided.

Just imagine: "Ozzie, you silly goose! Turn around and come in for some nice raisin bread. Don't be such a fuddy-duddy mugwhump!"

It was his version of history that made Osama the narrow-minded prick that he was. A cobbled story of selected bits about losing the Alhambra, twisted accounts of the Prophet written in an archaic version of Arabic nobody but erudite linguists can read any more than English speakers can read Beowulf, which was written about the same time as The Recitation, minor real and imagined slights dating back hundreds of years.

So long as people still lived who remembered certain things directly, personal and without abstractions, those who claim Heritage ought better take consideration before celebration. Just remember yourselves. That is all.

Safely inside his office cube, the Editor poured himself another bourbon on ice, rain drops pattering softly like so many thousand stories that make up History.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary slapped the tidewater rip-rap, sung between the crooked boards of the old ferry landing, and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided 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.

Jockey Full Of Bourbon

Edna Million in a drop dead suit
Dutch Pink on a downtown train
Two dollar pistol but the gun won't shoot
I'm in the corner on the pouring rain
16 men on a deadman's chest
And I've been drinking from a broken cup
2 pairs of pants and a mohair vest
I'm full of bourbon, I can't stand up

Hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on fire, your children are alone
Hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on fire, your children are alone

Schiffer broke a bottle on Morgan's head
And I've been stepping on the devil's tail
Across the stripes of a full moon's head
Through the bars of a Cuban jail
Bloody fingers on a purple knife
A flamingo drinking from a cocktail glass
I'm on the lawn with someone else's wife
Come admire the view from up on top of the mast

Hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on fire, your children are alone
Hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on fire, your children are alone

I said, hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on fire, your children are alone
Hey little bird, fly away home
House is on fire, your children are alone

Yellow sheets in a Hong Kong bed
Stazybo horn and a Slingerland ride
To the carnival is what she said
A hundred dollars makes it talk inside

Had a Million in a drop dead suit
Dutch Pink on a downtown train
Two dollar pistol but the gun won't shoot
I'm in the corner on the pouring rain
16 men on a deadman's chest
And I've been drinking from a broken cup
2 pairs of pants and a mohair vest
I'm full of bourbon, I can't stand up

Hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on fire, your children are alone
Hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on fire, your children are alone

Tom Waits, Jockey full of Bourbon


March 31, 2013


This photo is of the duck couple which resides in the planter medians in the parkinglot of Mariner Square Village. They have been hanging out there for several years now.

The photo was taken a couple weeks ago, however the recent weather kinda seems suitable for this waterproof pair.


Patrick McCabe, 77, released in Ireland. convicted of child molestation during Dublin tenure 1961-1983. Because Irish law stipulates max sentence based on time period of crime, Mcabe served two years in prision instead of ten, the current penalty.

Mccabe served in Humboldt county 1985-1987 as a priest where he again was accused of molesting four boys. He quit the priesthood and moved to the island where he lived until his extradition to Ireland in 2007.

It's not April 1st, at least not for this last Wednesday's edition of the Sun, but there it was, proud and bold on the masthead: It's Weed Appreciation Day!"

Um, somebody been smoking a bit too much of that Wacky Tabbacky in the Editorial offices on Encinal?

By now everyone has seen it and just about everyone has taken a picture: the rainbow flag flies below the Stars and Stripes in front of City Hall. This photo appeared on another blogger's website and reappeared on Blogging Bayport. Here it is again!

If you post this picture on your blog and email it to 10 friends who blog, then you will somehow obtain $10,000 in the next six months plus you will become the proud benificiary of a pair of Lady Gaga's shoes.

But if you do not repost this picture, your hair and teeth will fall out and all your pets will die.

That little side item we noted a few weeks ago about developing the "gateway" to the Island seems to be stirring up quite a lot of interest now that people noticed the plans featured yet another set-aside for Measure A's height limits in favor of 60 foot towers.

So lets get this straight. After winding through the Kaiser concrete processing plant there in Oaktown, people crossing the Park Street bridge were to enter a shaded tunnel of concrete akin to the nightmares portrayed in the movie Brazil and this was supposed to welcome folks somehow to Mayberry RFD?

It does seem that the rather clueless designers are going to retract this 60 foot height expansion however it is a sure bet that debate on what is to happen, and whether anything needs to happen, shall continue fast and furious. Perhaps when the Angry Elf extortion gang torched the former Tiki bar on the Oakland side, this was part of the Master Plan.

Meanwhile we note that the Boatworks project seems to be going ahead with piling up huge piles of nasty-looking whatnot prior to erecting some, well hopefully better looking piles in the form of buildings.

The Point has people improbably protesting the building of structures to house the low-carbon footprints of dead people, who are unlikely to cause a great deal of traffic congestion after having served their country and had their ashes placed in urns. The VA hospital will, of course, be providing for living veterans, injured and sick, who also are unlikely to add much to traffic. 'Cause, well, you know a wheelchair is only so long and so wide and typically uses hardly any gas.

The least terns will be just fine. If they get sick we do have a ballyhooed animal shelter up and running.

Then we have more development promised, or threatened -- take your pick -- for the Wedge area where the old Island High School vacated by the Unified District used to stand, according to one letter writer. We thought the Wedge is that area hard by the Tube, but we are not sure. We do know that the area there along Constitution Way is slated for more build-up, call it whatever. The Old Island High School, of course at 2201 Encinal Avenue, is yet another plot to look at to make sure we don't get another one of those Measure A variances.

Then there is the area of land which nobody is discussing much where the old Navy hospital warehouses used to be, one of which burned in the spectacular FISC fire a couple years ago.

Oy, yeah. Remember the Park District squabble over the parkinglot that someone wants to call Neptune Pointe (sic). That one seems tied up in the way the VA columbarium location got surreptitiously moved to make space beside this new thing for . . . well, fill in the dots yourself.

So to summarize: The Point, Neptune Pointe (sic), Boatworks, The Wedge I (high school), The Wedge II (Constitution Way), the Gateway north of Park Street, the new mega CVS on Park, plus a couple more plots great and small. Seems a whole lotta development going on.

PSA: Crown Beach, AKA The Strand, will be closed this week after Monday due to annual beach erosion remediation. It is likely to be cloudy with sprinkles in the 60's during the day while the dozers push tons of sand around. Crab Cove will remain open and unaffected.

We repeat: it is not April 1st as of this writing, however the final letter to the editor of the Sun features an ingenious plan by the notorious Alameda Hostesses (you know: "the Island's premier clandestine fraternal organization of culinary obsessives, conservative political subversives and capitalist extremists.") to disable the firing mechanisms of all firearms.

This plan involves deploying the Mach IV version of the Wind-breaker gun disabling device.

Clearly this invention is a state-of-the-art vaporware product of Acme, the Mega-corporation too big to even have a central office or a single CEO. Those of you who have not read the Torpometronomicon, can locate relevant product information as well as all installation manuals, SOPs, and corporate mission statements at

The motto for Acme is and will be until further marketing deep analysis "This holiday, why not travel somewhere WARM & IMPROBABLE for a change?"

No one on staff has copped to having concocted this letter however we do know that someone who recently lost their job amidst this mysteriously booming economic recovery, which apparently does not seem to be benefitting anyone in America who passes the criteria of either owning a car or breathes a mixture of Oxygen and Nitrogen, has been giggling in the back by the water cooler with a couple Persons of Dubious Repute.


So anyway, a flurry of wharf-sizzlers swept through the Island and the East Bay to kick off a soggy weekend. Report has it this system will persist into next weekend.

Right about now the previous storm systems are allowing parts East of here to enjoy a few more weeks of winter. They had a snow-day in Boston, or in a suburb of Boston, and all the kids stayed home, but around here the kids just look out at the gloomy skies heavy with high fog and dream of all the mayhem they could be doing if not cooped up under flourescent lights and behind a desk that has seen the generations make their marks, adding another lump of gum that will harden but last only until Aoife, the School Super, neatly wacks off that calcified lump with a putty knife at the end of the year.

Passover has wound up on schedule, which means this is Easter Week for the Island with its plethora of churches. In great exhaustion from all this mysterious economic recovery that features everyone working twice as hard for more hours, shops and businesses closed all over the Island. Since everything had closed, a group of denizens at Marlene and Andre's settled in with bottles on the porch for a good long drunk.

Mr. Howitzer held a Nest Egg hunt on the grounds of his estate on Grand Street, and in keeping with the new realities of the new economy, all the plastic eggs were empty, save a couple contained scrips with messages like, "Congratulations! Your merger deal just earned the shareholders 1.2 million dollars!" Of course that would be entirely too mean-spirited for the kids, so a number of the dads contributed lucites to be hidden behind bushes, in the doghouse, the coi pond, etc.

Put a merkin in your firkin!

Luther had not planned on closing the Pampered Pup after Saturday did such good business from all the strollers on Park Street, looking to save a few pennies on lunch food after spending big at one of the boutiques, however Sunday dawned chill and overcast with Jaqueline's Salon, Borg's A Touch of Wonder massage, and Mervin's Merkins (Put a merkin in your firkin!) all shuttered up down the street. So Luther sighed, put up a 3x5 index card in the window saying Closed for Easter, and went fishing at the Cove.

Floyd, president of the National Association of Traffic Enfeebled and Directionally Challenged was in Oaktown checking out potential venues for the annual meeting of the Non Compos Mentis chapter, and in so doing wandered accidentally onto the Island. Before he ultimately drove his rental car into the Bay, he side-swiped two fire hydrants, three light poles, a bus shelter (which was declared a total loss) and killed someone's pet weimariner, so Sunday morning started off quite exciting before the churches all opened up.

As was his own nature, Pastor Nyquist proceeded anticlockwise

Pastor Nyquist of Emmanuel Lutheran, meditated on his sermon as he took his walk Saturday, coterminous with Father Danyluk of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint. As was his wont, Father Danyluk took his stroll about the block clockwise, as oriented by true North. As was his own nature, Pastor Nyquist proceeded anticlockwise, resulting in the pair greeting each other once at the start, once in the middle, and once again as they arrived at the same destination, which you may take to be a parable of sorts about different religions in that everyone pretty much ends up in the same place designated no matter what the Prophet or Buddha has to say about it.

The two remained on the best of terms, for the good pastor often loaned out excellent choral singers to Father Danyluk on special occasions, for the priest often lamented that his own congregation could not carry a tune to the mailbox, while it was true that his rectory stocked the better wine and spirits.

The Church of El Luz del Atonal Mundo met again in the old Adelphian for some kind of mysterious services that involved a great deal of shouting and offkey screetching and taking up all the parking with their monstrous SUV trucks for blocks around, pissing off the Baptists around the corner, but at least the kids were kept from running in traffic or sniffing glue for the eight to ten hours it took to do whatever it is they do in there.

The Angry Elf drove around in his bright red sportscar with "Sticky Fingers" Toshie and Bryan "The Gump" looking to hit up a few businesses for a little extortion gelt, but found just about all the interesting places closed, so the group went back to the Lunatic Asylum of St. Charles to watch Incredible Strange Wrestling on his TV amid a welter of Chinese takeout boxes and broken glass bottles.

Sgt. Rumpsey, freed from his regular beat as parking lot enforcer at City College, moonlighted as security in the basement of the Macy's for the Pink Easter Poodle Celebration -- Everything Pink 50% off! He spent most of the day under an immense papermache dog which contained a loop tape of dog noise, longing to employ his sidearm against any one of the thousands of Asian "omas" scrabbling over lingerie, fuzzy slippers and portraits of Elvis done on pink velvet, all seeking to knock down the prices even further so as to haul booty off to their own boutiques.

Someone upstairs upset the cage holding live rabbits in the Easter Beaster display, and a flood of lapine creatures descended the escalador to scamper about in a melee of cursing Toisan and Cantonese, allowing several shoplifters to scoot out the door, pockets bulging. One oma, reverting to earlier village days, held up a captured hare by the scruff before the startled cashier, loudly requesting, "How much this rabbit?"

So the rabbits escaped. To the unsentimental, one is always good for the stewpot.

For Sgt. Rumpsey, Easter in the City turned out to be a very long, exhausting weekend.

I think instead of talking about that we should all go have ice cream.

On the Island, the supposedly happiest day in Xiandom sank into a grey morass of clouds and dank rain. Reverend Freethought looked out at her congregation at the First Unified Unitarian Chapel and she saw Mariah there with her widow's shawl and her old hands and there was the heavy man in the back and up front there was Constance, she of the crackhead sister, and there was the gaunt man in the long coat and chubby Theo who was Irmgard's son and who worked as a sign-holder on the corner for hopeless real estate developments and she closed up her book on the lecturn, saying, "You know I was going to read a passage from Luke about doubt. It begins 'At that time Jesus stood in the midst of his disciples, and saith to them: Peace be to you; it is I, fear not. But they being troubled and frighted, supposed that they saw a spirit,' but you know what I think? I think instead of talking about that we should all go have ice cream."

Well this was a novel idea, to go get ice cream instead of staying cooped up indoors on Easter Sunday, but nevertheless, the minister put a raincoat on over her robe and took up her umbrella and they all went out to Tuckers. So that is how the Unitarians celebrated Easter -- by walking in the rain and eating ice cream sundaes and banana splits at Tuckers.

Because you know, you cannot save everybody, but you sure can provide ice cream instead of hoarfrost.

Terrible things happen to people and no superhero descends

That night, the Editor sat in his cubicle of glass and machine noise with his glass of Old Bushmills. It would be nice to have a savior, but that can't be true for everybody. Terrible things happen to people and no superhero descends from the clouds to beat up the bad guys. Out there the Angry Elf gang roamed like the brownshirts of old, terrorizing the innocent and taking advantage of those who find him "useful". If there are any superheros who can transform, transubstantiate, this miserable existence, it would be that child pounding that Chopin etude over and over, until the day that music ascends from a march into a pean of love lost. It would be that painter, that playwright, that photographer giving voice to the voiceless.

What other purpose art except to produce heartless glass baubles at which to gawk, hysterical displays of meaningless fire.

"Give them spectacle!" shouted the mad genius, not appreciating what it was he really did. Of course give them spectacle, but you can always dose that with an healthy dollop of soul. For what is spectacle without soul? A plate of collards with no rice or beans.

The Editor called Denby over on the intercom. "Denby, come in here and play that song called "Leave the Light on". The one by that fellow from New Orleans.

Denby came around the corner and plunked himself down and got the guitar out of the case and of course checked the tuning and was about to begin when the Editor said, hold it right there. Do that again with the little trills and things you do and the ringing harmony thing you do that goes ting! ting! ting!

You mean the harmonics.

Whatever. I like that. The sound of something about to begin. I reminds me of La Gioconda about to smile but not ready yet. It sounds like hope in the wings, waiting for a cue to enter.

Uh, okay, Denby said.

I think we should take this on the road and highlight American Art, don't you? You know what I think, I think we need to become . . . relevant!

I think you are drunk, Denby said.

Well maybe so, but nevertheless, its all relevant. It is all important. O heck, maybe I am a bit a trop de vin. . .

Right then the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to aesthetic parts unknown.

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

MARCH 24, 2013


Since we boo-booed a couple weeks ago with misattributing the GG bridge we feel it is only appropriate to sling a few jewels your way. Here is an unusual shot of the new bridge under construction with the old one beside -- from underneath.

This shot from staffer Tammy on a jaunt about the Bay a few months ago.


You may have noticed a couple gentlemen scooting around Park Street on pennyfarthings this past weekend. The Pennyfarthing was the only way to go for many years until the invention of the "safety bicycle." in the 1880's.

Its rubber-tire with spoke-wheels design was considered a great improvement over the cumbersome "boneshakers" which had preceded this vastly more comfortable machine, however its inherent dangerous tendency toward "header" accidents, together with a rather primitive brake system meant that it was primary used for pleasure by men of means.

In 1918 pedestrian collisions resulted in a 100% fatality rate of 3025 people.

Despite its risky drawbacks, the machine remains a beloved symbol of yesteryear. They are often used to give a sense of whimsical, dated, carefree flavor in films. The City of Davis uses it as a symbol and a penny-farthing was the logo of The Village in the cult 1960s television series The Prisoner.


First we have a fellow shot multiple times, then five thugs beat up a man on the steps of the police station badly enough to put the victim in the hospital. Now we have a knife fight outside Scobies just off Park Street, which put two people in the hospital. One of the victims had to be rushed to Highland for emergency surgery. The altercation occured Monday morning after 2 a.m.

People. Please calm down.

The rest of the police blotter reads more like normal for us, with the usual public intoxication, graffiti vandalism, 5150 psychiatric, and annoying phone calls, with the one odd note of an arson at the Raider's HQ on Harbor Bay where it seems a fan of some other team torched a BMW at 4AM.

Now! Play hard, but play fair.


The angry sounds of Joy Division fit in well with the hornets nest stirred up by the outrageously obtuse House Source LLC who made no friends on any side of any issue with their 65% rent increases followed by their howlingly stupid apologia after refusing to even sit down and discuss matters in two seperately scheduled meetings.

Now we have people calling for rent control -- which, unless it contains unusual provisions -- will probably hurt the small homeowner landlords here. Although those claims tend to be made by the larger owners.

The really obnoxious thing about how this started is that, amid what amounts to a serious rental rate crisis here with rents jacking to the stratospheric obscene while wages have remained flat for the past twelve years (witness the recent public labor disputes!) this House Source group essentially bypassed all pretense of civility with a big fat uplifted middle finger, saying "I don't care what you think or feel. I am going to do what I want, so eff you."

In the short term people have responded to the high rates by doubling up in all the units, effectively packing the local block population density. This will only work for so long. Then begins the rage as people who own the homes they live in see increasing amounts of dreck on the street, congested traffic, impossible parking -- and a lot more events just like what happened at Scobies.

The sky high rents will ultimately savage the small operator as the sort of folks who can seriously afford two grand for a single bedroom will be entirely happy to levy additional property taxes to fund the kinds of things that make those folks comfortable.

Isn't that what is happening already? Homeowner, what did you pay in additional surtaxes that seem to be getting by Prop 13 this year?

It's not like the Island has always been a desireable place to live. It can always and easily go back to just the way it was when the Navy was here. When the only people who wanted to buy property here were blacksmiths, welders, factory workers, shipwrights and retired merchant marines.

Hey, maybe that is not such a bad thing, come to think of it.


So anyway, the pounding of Canadian geese heading back north after wintering in Rio shook the air, early messengers, envoys, and consuls swinging by the Island were a handful decide to drop down and just hang out without all the bother of long flights, TSA annoyances and rerouting due to mishaps between air traffic controllers.

No one knows exactly why some geese decide not to follow

No one knows exactly why some geese decide not to follow the age-old path all the way to Rio where exquisitely tanned women wear remarkable nothings on the beach and the slum kids hunt through garbage and tourist wallets for spare change, but where the weather is astoundingly blood warm and the pulse of the soro rhythms fills the favelas.

It is just as much an old way which features visitors coming here with every intention of making this Island of Califia a momentary rest, only to leave a few straggelers behind, who, over time, weave themselves in to the weft like the old cooking baskets of the Ohlone.

The fog has come and also the second full moon following the arrival of the Year of the Snake.

Occasional Quentin slept occasionally under the coffee table

Over at the Household, which had gotten a bit cramped during the long, arduous winter season that required that everyone who lived there also sleep there and conduct business there due to inclement weather. Because of the horrific rental situation some fifteen people had crammed into the one bedroom cottage on Otis, making do with bunks and makeshift arrangements. Snuffles the Bum slept in the porch hole when it got really stormy out there and no safe place could be had at the shelters. Occasional Quentin slept occasionally under the coffee table and Suan enjoyed the couch -- because she had the most stable employment as a stripper at the Crazy Horse. Jose and Javier inhabited hall closets while Martini used the fireplace and Tipitinia, Sarah, Rolph, Festus, Xavier, Pahrump, Alexis, Marsha, and Piedro stacked in hallway bunks and the "livingroom" area.

Marlene and Andre and little Adam used the bedroom.

a form of arson they could always blame on out-of-towners

This situation worked out because Mr. Howitzer, the landlord, conveniently ignored the fact that the place was over subscribed with tenants and studiously deferred maintenance, knowing the lodgers would not dare complain, and the tenants managed to keep a really low profile, save when Martini and the boys blew stuff up on the beach -- a form of arson they could always blame on out-of-towners from Fremont.

Social activities generally involved working, looking for work, getting more work and getting drunk before going to work again. This system worked out perfectly in harmony with the American version of capitalism in the twenty-first century, albeit at somewhat a lower level than brokering stock or administering law or selling electronic geegaws to people who do not need them. But in essence, pretty much the same.

Jose and Quentin and Javier shared a jug of wine out on the Strand to welcome the advent of Spring. It was chilly and the wind blew a cold biting wind, but it was supposed to be Spring and they were going to celebrate, goshdarnit, come hell or high water. Meanwhile Marlene and Andre were fixing up the table with a leg of lamb snagged from a banquet the boys had done. The egg, the parsley from the ironmongery garden, the boiled egg, the honeyed nut and apples mash and the flatbread -- it was all there and they had the wine.

Javier had gotten work for the caterers over in Oaktown for the recent First Fridays and he had developed an appreciation for modern art, especially when it involved a female modern artist. In fact he had been making the rounds contributing to the art world and female artists in general with his services. If the artist came to the opening wearing a simple black dress, that creator was his.

Javier had managed to inject passion . . .

Yes, Javier was a hit in the world of modern art for Javier had managed to inject passion, so to speak, back into the bloodless world of post-post modern post grunge minimalist art. He gave new meaning to "performance art," and critics commented about the renewed vitality that erupted now from the oeuvre of certain ladies he had touched with his own aesthetic wand.

"Constance Canterbury has shifted in her studies of abandoned New England outhouses from the dreary puritanical lines of her past work to flaming sensual exhuberance bursting with cross-cultural deconstructed motivs of sex and poly-linguistic meanings that rise up to evoke inexplicably limpid impressions of Moorish Spain and North Africa. Never has the half moon iconography been so fraught with hot metalanguage. . . ". (Harrison, Contra Costa Times)

"O my gawd! Say that in Spanish again!" heaved Appolonia Berechtesgaden, a nubile mixed media artisan, under the naked streams of the full moon caressing the linens. "I love what you do with your tongue!"

Turn this way or that, yet another imbecility surfaced

Over at the Island-Llife Offices, the Editor strode back and forth with his arms behind his back, a new order Captain Ahab filled with memories. The year had revolved again to the time of the full moon and the Pesach. But instead of the white whale, stupendously enormous idiocy humped its way through the choppy seas of American consciousness. It was a Stupidity so colossal that it was difficult to know where to cast his lampoon. Turn this way or that, yet another imbecility surfaced even as the sad ten-year anniversary of the invasion of Newark by Eugene Shrubb and his Army of Bums had slithered through everyone's calendars with most pretending not to notice the commemoration of that resounding series of fiascos.

People had left in a hurry this evening to get home to supper and families, leaving many things half done. Someone had left the door open wide and a glass of wine stood waiting on the edge of the table from a celebration earlier in the evening.

The Invasion itself had come and gone with few even in Newark having noticed their Occupation, due largely to everyone's indifference to Newark, the total absence of any poodle Weapons of Mass Doo-doo (WMD's), and Newark's own large indifference to itself.

"That woman is evilly stupid!" she said.

Now, there was Wally's foolish Sequestration in the men's room of the Native Sons; there was the Pee Tardy folks, so Conservative they resisted going to the lavatory more than once a day; there were people denying climate and weather existed, so the National Weather Service needed to be abolished as an unneeded entitlement, along with military death benefits and firemen's pensions. Follow the lead of United Airlines, in other words. Then that garish, shrill, grandstanding woman lacking any sort of musical talent who always was running around grabbing the mike to call attention to herself and her outlandish viewpoints entirely to make a buck out of making a spectacle of herself throughout the entertainment industry.

It was rumored that Lady Gaga, that sweet girl, sobbed in despair at being outdone by that master of extreme dadaist nonsense, the former governor of Alaska. "That woman is evilly stupid!" she said as she stamped her nine-inch platform boots, weeping into the fur of her roadkill hat.

Meanwhile, on the Island, an as yet unannounced Upton Sinclair waits to write about the obscene land rush to build up waterfront properties on a place that averages three feet in elevation where the Bay Tide average ranges from five to seven in the face of some globally warmed factoids now drifting like so many icebergs in search of the next Titantic.

That's when the great blowhole of the cetacean below began to surface

At the last finance meeting of the Native Sons, Columbia had stood up to announce that the economy was improving, that the prospective sale of some historic properties would bring in dollars to balance the budget which had been sagging a bit to the left of the ledger in the red zone for a while, and that a city in China was looking to invest in golden poppy farms and that things were improving. That's when the great blowhole of the cetacean below began to surface, for the unstated question amid all of this "improving economy", an economy which seems to have been "improving" periodically now for over a decade and a half, concerns just who the hell is feeling the benefits of all this economic "improvement".


So there the Editor stood, a wounded captain on the deck of his ship gazing at the moon recalling memories of Paris. And of Austria. Of Berlin with its old wall and the truncated Bernauer Strasse. Of the Luneberger Heath. Ravens marshalling about the gloomy Tower of London. Hitch-hiking on burros across Capadoccia to the most incredible coastline staffed by homicidal bus drivers and sleeping on the larcenous white sands of Ios before the fabled wine-dark sea.

And now, wounded again years after the helicopters had pulled him out of a rice paddy in the place of green butterflies, just when he thought there was nothing left about which to write, that all the stories had been told, there goes some preposterous numbskull with a plan to stack skyscrapers inches apart near downtown on the Island and another fool claiming his right to raise rents 65% because he thought it proper and reasonable that other people pay for his investment at zero risk.

By god there is a crack of the whip in me yet, the Editor said to himself, and he took a swig of the glass of bourbon in his hand, even though this sort of thing was forbidden by Doctor Cohen. Tonight, the change of barometric pressure, or the approaching offshore storm, or the anticipated Season charged the air with a sense of expectation. As long as fools and knaves continued to run the show and make life more miserable for the rest of us, there will always be more news.

Yet why is this night different from other nights? Each of us has sweated under the yoke of tyranny. Each of us has walked dry shod between perilous extremes. This alone should tell you that there is no end to suffering. Go ahead and put your elbows on the table and lean back on the cushions when you have them.

Perhaps it is time to go and visit the Temple Wall, the Editor thought to himself. Then he went to shut and bolt the front door. No reason to give the Angry Elf gang an invitation to murder and mayhem.

This year in fear and shame. Next year in virtue and justice.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline, the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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


MARCH 17, 2013


This week the headline photo is of a spring bloom. We do have tulips and other traditional early risers, but as this is California, our Spring features a bit of the outlandishly colorful.

Some of these bird-of-paradise plants become full-grown trees thirty feet or more in height around here.


This past week some things happened. People got robbed and shot and beaten right up on the steps of the Police Station. However, as no traffic ordinances were impacted in any of the cases, the perpetrators got clean away.

The school district, which supposedly got a parcel tax passed to cover for the retraction of Prop H. now suddenly is crying poormouth because -- surprise! -- the courts reversed Proposition H. And -- surprise! -- the appeal got quashed. Um, we did see this coming for quite some time, did we not?

There is a little item in the corner of the Sun's front page that references plans to create a "Gateway District" in the area near where the Park Street bridge brings traffic into the Island. This four block area is the first thing folks see after travelling through the execrable-looking Kaiser cement plant area north of the estuary. We have heard people exclaim with some surprise "THIS is the entrance to the Island?" Well, for most of our lives in the past thirty years Alameda was not a desireable place to live and visit, so give it some time. There are some nice people who live on both sides of the water there.

A pranker called with enough energy and threat to cause a total lockdown of the High School. No terriers have been located running through the halls as of yet.

There was other news, but for some reason everything looks a queasy shade of green today and the entire staff is getting into the NSAIDS after this late St. Paddy's Day. Maybe next week we'll get some reviews in on time. Festus came in chattering that Q-Cafe recently has had all the hot chicks hanging out there.

Festus, all 3/4 of a pound of him, is an hamster. What does he know.


So anyway, the fog hung low in the sky all week despite the best claims of the most solid weatherperson authorities at KCBS (All News All the Time!) or the Dowdy Rock station (Kaaaaaaay Fooooooooooog!) or the sometime alternative competitor (Live! One Oh Five! POINT! Three! Hey, we don't suck anymore!).

Yes, once again the radio is your friend. A little inaccurate, as all the media seems to have been for a couple decades or so, but now friendly. Word has it FOX is going to send old men in trenchcoats to the schoolyards to hand out candy to the kids.

FOX always has new ideas; sure, that will work.

So anyway to start again, the fog announces the change in seasons each year with a longish rollout that depresses everyone to the point that some folks even start to think about returning to live in the Midwest to enjoy the snow and the tornadoes. Family arguments loom large in this time, and many is the child who, lodged with relatives or the library during a violent spat winds up living like a gypsy on people's couches or in the stacks between letters H and G of the nonfiction, subsisting on cold coffee and abandoned pizza crust.

When Spring comes around, the sun shines and many families rebuild themselves. That is what the remaining SUVs are for. Mom and dad drive around, picking up the kids, or maybe trading a bad one for something better until the tank is full and then the hulking vehicle is palmed off on the next family, as those things are really useless for anything reasonable beyond demolition derby. You cannot park them, they use up gas and everybody reasonable hates you for driving something so grotesque and socially reprehensible.

"Look Harold! There goes another cash machine for the Middle Eastern Terriorists! Hey mister! Is your mother as ugly as your car?"

Tuesday night Pimenta Strife attended the monthly meeting of the Anti-SUV Proliferation Brigade. Latterly, since gas prices have taken a sort of gentle upwardly trending ski-slope advance, the mood has been festive. Since the ASP Brigade torched a car lot in Mountain View in a daring raid, some six years ago, the lots have not restocked and people are seeing used Hummers offered as option choice incentives by banks to open new accounts.

And many people are choosing the blender instead.

It was movie night and all the girls whooped it up watching the viral youtube thing about the car salesman getting pranked by a stunt car driver.

Main feature was a Sylvester Stallone pic. It never mattered what the movie was about -- big cars always get blown up in those kinds of movies. After Stallone fired a bazooka into a Hummer full of bad guys, Pimenta cried out, "God that makes me want to have sex!"

Spring is a dangerous time in NorCal. All kinds of stuff starts to happen after a few months of people living through a mild form of the kind of weather that they all imagined they had left behind. At this elevation (three feet for the island) we don't get a lot of snow and ice and forty-two degrees is a long, long way away from forty below in Minot or St. Cloud, but it sure is also a long way away from the ever longed-for Paradise.

Yes, we'll all enjoy Paradise once the fire damage is all cleaned up and the house is paid for and the kids have finished with detox and psychotherapy and the crazy neighbor next door has been shipped off to a comfortable padded cell.

Denby has been driven to distraction by the guy next door, who turned out to be related in some mysterious way to his landlord Mung "Bean" Bang. Bang had always been skittish, not wanting to hang around long even to check things out with his property, and Denby found out why.

One day this fellow, named in all improbability Nevermore Mung, popped up over the fence -- itself an improbability as the fence stood some nine feet high -- and giggled wildly before announcing, "I am back!"

Later, when Denby peered over the fence he saw coi ponds, a garden, bamboo, but nothing on which the man could have stood to appear chest high above a nine foot fence. Where had this fellow been up until now? Where was he back from?

Back from exactly where became clear when Denby caught the fellow doing some amateur repair work one day on the side of the tattered Julia Morgan style house.

"What the hell are you doing buddy?" Denby said.

The man was was using a crowbar to rip shingles loose. Which he replaced with untreated, unstained boards.

"I fix! I fix! Ha ha ha ha ha!"

"You dip those in any kind of flame retardant" Denby asked, remembering at least one memorable conflagration in the East Bay.

"No no! I paint! Later I paint!"

Another day Nevermore buttonholed Denby telling him that he had to replace the furnace screen. That it had been put off. That he wanted to do it right now.

Recalling that something on the order of 24 hour notice was required for maintenance, Denby refused. He also changed the locks and gave Mung copies. Pretty soon Nevermore was pounding on the door with surprise. "Hey! You change lock! I cannot get in!"

That's fine, Denby said.

A young man named Stephen lived next door in a separated outbuilding. This man always had the look of someone who carried the entire world on his shoulders. Not a good presentation for a twenty-something guy who worked at CVS as a cashier.

Who is this guy? Denby asked.

"That's my father," Stephen said. "He is back from Vietnam after two years."

I notice my tools have wound up in your back yard. Including the garden hose nozzle. Can I have them back?

"Sure. I don't why he did that."

Denied the opportunity to vent, Nevermore began "cycling"

It became clear that the house, fraught with wacky electrical wiring, bizarre plumbing with fixtures installed backwards, ham-handed door hangs and askew cabinets had been the special project for Bang's troubled relative. Denied the opportunity to vent, Nevermore began "cycling" as the psychologists like to say. One night there was a lot of noise and activity next door and when Denby got a chance to stand on a chair and look over the fence, he saw that the coi ponds and rock gardens were gone, replaced by a fifteen by twenty foot elevated wooden deck with stairs and populated with handmade benches and picnic tables. This had all been done within twelve hours.

One day the ten-foot long garden that Denby had started with nice piles of dark loam just disappeared. Denby found the dirt had been dumped on the front lawns of his place and the house next door.

What's with the dirt on the lawn?

"O that is fertilizer. We do that every year."

That was my garden. Why did your father take my garden?

"I don't know why he did that."

Just another day in Paradise. Where the damaged goods of an eroding Empire with its history of inflicted foreign misery wash up in any sort of condition, useless or not.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar, Padraic had geared up the place for Lá Fhéile Pádraig, or at least the American version thereof.

Back on the Auld Sod, St. Patrick's had been a religious festival, which generally meant that the pubs were all closed. The Irish realized that the Diaspora retained a mist in their eyes such that St. Patrick's Day in Chicago had turned from a proper observance into one of parades and showing the green and lots and lots of potcheen.

Not wanting to disappoint the tourists, or let the opportunity to make a few punts or two, the Irish opened up the pubs and took to St. Patrick's day with zeal, some one hundred years after the Americans had started the whole thing. Of course the priests objected about all the carousing on what was supposed to be a religious feastday, but the priests were no fun at all and they did not make any money for anybody but themselves, so wiser minds prevailed.

In like mind Padraic had outfitted the last remaining bastion of the Republic on the Island after McGrath's had closed to become a poofy fern bar with no music because of a cantankerous roomer who imagined that living above a bar ought to be an exercise in temperance and quietude, Fridays and Saturdays included.

Eviction is designed for troublemakers like this, but in this case, the Nazi's took France and the Netherlands.

In any case, Padraic and Dawn did up the place quite nice with improved Guiness signs, lots of green ribbon and Suzie clad in an ultra-short miniskirt with a cute green beret. Pots of green clover stood here and there. The IRA contribution jar stood there prominently well away from the pickles and pigs feet.

In years past, strange visitations had occurred on this night. One year, the Angry Elf gang had attempted a bold takeover robbery. That nefariousness had been quashed by the magic of the Bay Area.

"I would like to speak to you of magic," said Anatolia Enigma. "As you know I make my living performing prestidigitation, sleights of hand, rabbit out of the hat sorts of things. I have practiced these arts for many years and I can tell you that there is very little I do not know about sawing women in half or escaping from chains while suspended in a sealed vault of water. But all of this pales in comparison to genuine real magic."

"Tell me about magic," Suzie said. "I am not sure I believe in it."

Here Anatolia's eyes opened wide and he raised his gloved hands with exaggerated astonishment. "Ahh! I am amazed you, of all people would say such a thing, for in young women as yourself, there resides a great and powerful magic indeed! O I wish I had the power to beguile young men and older men such as you!"

"O c'mon!"

"Let it be known to all who would hear, for all who still have ears to observe, eyes to pay heed, no one comes here for the weather, nor do they come here for health or wealth. All who come here come here for the magic that is here. Such magic as makes all of my tricks, remarkable though they may be, picayune and trivial!"

somebody forgot to write down the passcode of the month

"O yeah!" Someone said from the peanut gallery. "Then show us some of that magic if it is so great." It was Mr. Spline sitting with Simon Snark. Mr. Spline worked as a Fixer for the Company, a government agency which had such a long ridiculous name that was so highly secret none of its employees ever could repeat it or its acronym in mixed company, not even to their own closest family members. In any case, to throw off the terriorists and similar un-American types, the higher-ups changed the agency name every few years along with the main passwords to all the ultrasecret data. This caused a minor contratemps when somebody forgot to write down the passcode of the month and so 30 days worth of top-secret data regarding North Korea, Iran, China and Martha Stewart remained unavailable, lost forever due to the best state of the art encryption routines ever devised. As it turned out, not much happened that month and nobody really noticed.

That is how secret the Company happens to be, with a name nobody even remembers because it changes all the time.
So everybody just shrugged and calls it the Company, which sounds just ominous enough to frighten teenage girls not into Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Director can still get funding from Congress.

neither one of them had any friends they could trust

Mr. Snark was the local operative assigned to keep tabs on foreign interests on the Island. While Mr. Spline always dressed like he was applying for the position of funeral home director, Mr. Snark always looked like an operative should look -- rumpled and splattered with paint as if he had been working on houses all week. The two of them were very nearly inseperable. Largely because neither one of them had any friends they could trust.

"Silly man! This magic presents itself every day to you. But I will elucidate! Yet before I eludicate, I diverge and prevaricate in this slight digression as I am now summoned by powers greater than myself," Anatolia went on.

Anatolia's eyes grew large and luminous. His cape grew darker and more voluminous. His white gloves danced in the air.

"And now, called by the great numinous forces of light and dark, I present to you with some trepedation and anticipation fraught with the most extraordinary forboding of those terrible and wondrous astonishments reserved now for your very own eyes, the exemplary exactitude and highest exemplar of dimininuative magical persons everywhere . . . the Wee Man!

A poof of smoke and there he stood, once again, the Wee Man. He stood some three feet high, wore a neat waistcoat with fob and watch, clean trousers, and buckled shoes. Upon his head he wore a newsboy cap. His face was either very old or very young, depending upon the light. Everyone later agreed he was the very same Wee Man who had visited last year.

He walked up to the rail where Eugene made a place for him by vacating his own seat to stand there with his beer in hand.

Dawn asked him what he would have.

Guinness of course, said the Wee Man.

"And while you are waitin'?" Dawn asked.

The Wee Man's eyes crinkled with pleasure. "This is a place that understands," he said. "Power. I'll have an Arthur Power."

"Right you are, "said Dawn, beginning the stacking of the Guinness. She set down a glass of amber liquid which the Wee Man drained in a huff before ordering another and looking around. He noticed Suzied and jumped off his stool with great excitement to peer up at her and hold her hand.

"How are you my dear girl"! said the Wee Man. And he bowed and had Suzie bend a little so that he could kiss her hand. When she stood up, towering a good four feet above the small person, he clapped his hands with delight gazing upwards with shining eyes and said before turning away to re-ascend his stool, "I am so glad you now wear matching lace!"

Suzie hesitated then belatedly smoothed down her skirt and turned rather red.

"Both I and life are short; best to take advantage of both while one can," the Wee Man said to Eugene. "What's that you are drinking?"


"O that's harsh! Give that man something to put hair on his chest, for I know in truth he surely could use it." The Wee Man tossed a gold coin on the counter. I say who here is up for some music and dancing?"

"Nevermind that," Mr. Spline said. "What about all this magic we have been hearing about?"

Everyone, knowing all about the Wee Man and the things of which he was capable stood back in a hush, fearing the worst at this impudence.

"Here's your Guinness," Dawn said, hoping to avoid trouble.

But the Wee man got down from his stool and came over to the table of spooks and stood there looking sadly up at Mr. Spline.

"O! My dear! Dear, dear, dear, dear! You are the saddest person I have ever seen. You have no real friends you can trust and even your own family does not know each other."

"You are a fake," Mr. Spline said. "Smoke and mirrors. In the light of day, poof! and you are gone."

this island is no more than 3 feet in elevation yet the tidal change . . . is more than 7 feet . . .

"Look around you! You see the hummingbirds and the birds of paradise and the astonishing miracle of the waves? Do you know that every authority and scientist knows this island is no more than three feet in elevation yet the tidal change in the bay is more than seven feet every six hours? How is it that you do not drown from day to day? Have you ever thought about that?"

"There is an explanation for that . . .", began Mr. Snark.

"Of course there is," said the Wee Man. "But it does not matter. The magic is that it happens at all. Same reason trains in the fog sound more loud, more full of soul."

"Well that's because the moisture in the air makes the medium denser and sound travelling . . .", began Mr. Snark.

"Idiot! It's because fog makes things mysterious!"

"O for pete's sake!" said Mr. Spline. "This is getting nowhere."

"Finally, we agree on one thing," said the Wee Man, who clapped his hands. The lights went out and by the time Padraic had found the breaker box to get things turned on again in the bar the Wee Man was gone, along with two thirds of his Guinness and several pairs of women's knickers, which had been supposedly safe and warm and doing their respective jobs in place until a few moments ago.

Several sudden commandos emitted surprised gasps, to be sure.

Eugene held a full, brimming glass of a dark hopsy beer and Mr. Spline was struggling with something in his coat. To everyone's surprise, when the man finally undid his buttons, a large live salmon wriggled in a shoulder holster where the man clear had expected something else.

Spline tugged and tore at the fish until he had to remove his coat and take off the leather harness. He and Snark left in a huff while the fish lay on the table gasping, until Dawn took possession of it.

"No reason to let the fellow go to waste," she said.

"Hey!" someone said complaining. "The Wee Man turned my knickers into fishnets!"

"I don't know why he did that," Suzie said. "Here's your tab."

Indeed, thus ended another somewhat eventful St. Patrick's Day at the Old Same Place Bar. And of course that's when the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across magically rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats where shamrocks nodded, the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

MARCH 10, 2013


This week's photo comes of a solitary fellow growing in a tended plot among the more common daffodowndillies and lupine. He's the precursor of Spring. Time to get out the garden trowels and get planting.


We know you would rather read nothing but the Sun however an odd sort of criminal activity on the Island came to our notice recently. For those who might want to peruse a different weekly there is at least one scamp who has been making darn sure you Islanders will have no other means of access to the news other than the Internet versions, for we noticed that it was becoming increasingly difficult to locate a Weekly or a Guardian past Wednesday, when the papers are distributed. In fact we have not even SEEN a Guardian paper for about a year on the Island.

It got so we really started to get a jones for reading Dan Savage and took to driving down Santa Clara to check all the kiosks to Webster. Every single kiosk stood empty for five weeks running. Had an errant asteroid clobbered Circulation?

Late one Wednesday last we discovered just why -- as we approached the kiosks on Oak and Santa Clara across from the CVS parkinglot, a scamp parked his car and hopped out with the motor running. He first grabbed all the Real Estate magazines from the kiosk and tossed all 40 or so copies in the back of his car, which already was stacked up past the headrests with papers and magazines. The jerk then quickly emptied both the Bay Guardian and the Weekly kiosks save for the facing issue and barely paused when we tried to buttonhole the fellow for a reason for this obnoxiousness.

"What the hell are you doing fella!" one of us asked.

"It's my job", the guy responded, emptying another kiosk.

"What are you going to do with all these papers?" we asked.

"Read 'em. Take em to the house for the workers. Read 'em at work . . .".

The guy, driving a primer black two door Japanese make car with bumperstickers that had long since lost the message then took off.

We called the East Bay Express circulation desk to ask what was going on. After a couple phone calls Jack Murphy called back to tell us the papers were being stolen for recycling. You see, the good printers fold and stack the papers neatly so snagging the entire bundle maximizes profits for people trying to pack poundage into a small space.

This may explain the thief's choice of vehicles as leaving the motor running on an SUV is sure to knock that profit margin to zilch.

Murphy told us this sort of thing had happened before and stopping the thefts is very difficult as the crime ranks below the lowest in police priorities. He also said that as a circulation manager this sort of thing was one of his worst nightmares.

We commiserated with the fellow, and marked our calendars to get out there to snag our paper early on Wednesday. And carry a good sized can of pepper spray besides, as this goofball is causing people more grief than the pennies earned are worth. The next time we run into him, this guy is going to get more than a stinging rebuke in the kisser.

On the Upside we have two good things to report. Sales-tax revenue is up, so all you folks keeping it on the Island have been doing well by patronizing Q-Cafe, our two remaining privately-held bookstores, Juanita's, one of our two excellent bicycle shops and American Oak, among others.

The other is that the Teacher's Union has reached agreement with the recalcitrant District and the matter is now before the rank and file for a vote. Check in on Blogging Bayport for the skinny on details.

Oh yes, almost forgot another America's Cup contestant is going to base operations here at the Point. Italy's Team Luna Rossa, funded by Prada, will be collecting some 130 folks just to put a boat in the water for a while. But those 130 folks, and the leased space, will add significantly to the city coffers along with the Swedish team Artemis.

The 34th America's Cup will take place this summer with several different events, culminating in the grand enchilada throughout September.

Contrary to public opinion, bicyclists do get cited here -- you had to know that our town is one of the few which does so -- and that traffic school, just like for auto drivers, is an option to clear the record and reduce the fine. Safety classes are held every second Thursday at the AFD at 431 Starddust Place on the Point from 6 - 8pm. For info visit


Letters to the Editor run heavy still on the gun issue, the plastic bag ban, and now, the backwash from the lunatic excuses made by the purchaser of 1514 Benton who stated, in writing, they raised the rents there 60% because they heard "there is no rent control".

Now a primary owner of a different property has stepped forward with a sort of apologia that does more harm than good, especially in a world noted for stoor and bland responses to the outrageous as a customary procedure. The owner of Schiller Place states "I took my life savings, invested in and restored the home". He then lists a few arbitrary rental values, including a statement that "a two bedroom (apt) rents for about $1500". This puts the new rents at 1514 Benton Street still about 30% below market-rate rents."

Well first off, anyone who devotes more than 50% of their total cash holdings in any one asset, and locks up that cash so it cannot readily be recovered, is a fool according to any serious financial analyst. To lock up 90 - 100% of you savings in any one asset, whether it be a mutual fund, an equity, or property , is foolishly suicidal. People just did that during the recent housing bubble and look what happened.

It does not matter how much you want something, how tough you think you are, how savvy you pretend to me. The nature of Capitalism is one fraught with risk and fluctuation of value. The nature of running any sort of business is one of expectation of good and lean periods and a reasonable absorption of debt against the, hopefully, recovery over the long term. No business seriously expects to make a tidy profit day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, on every single deal. Of course such a situation is desirable but get real people, to make money you have to spend money. If you want something assured, pick Communism, where the entire structure is tightly controlled.

We are happy the owner of Schiller did not lose his shirt in the long run, and in the process converted a dump into a valued part of the city, however we do not have the slightest sympathy for anyone in his position crying poormouth. The owner gambled on a business venture -- we know what that is like and we know there is often a sick sinking feeling during the early years before income begins to offset expenses -- however his gamble was made on recouping significant profit gains. He did not do what he did out of the largeness of his heart by any means.

The man clearly wants to make money in the process and understands that only a fool tries to subsist on a single property. To make good on a half-million dollar note and then, in addition, seek income on which to live in the Bay Area just is not going to happen with a single fourplex. Or maybe that is just why the rents are so ruinous and disynchronous with real incomes here -- people are buying stuff they really cannot afford, expecting to live on the income plus some and trying to "pass the expenses on to the tenants" with perhaps a bit too much equanimity.

Now I know a couple landlords both great and small. For the sake of argument, lets limit them to just two. The man who lives off of working property and has no other job owns hundreds, if not thousands of units. Just like the owner of Schiller, he bought run-down properties, moved into the houses himself, and hand-built and rebuilt everything mostly himself. When he did not have a skill, he learned it. Now he is comfortably well off and can afford to pay others to do the work. He typically has set his rents at Market Value, but with the proviso that he is hyper responsive to complaints, and act proactively to benefit tenants to keep them happy without performing onerous structural "improvements" during a tenancy. The time to improve is when someone moves out.

Our second friend has two properties, one in Marin, which has many characteristics similar to our Island. In his case, he wants longevity over maximum per hour profit, so one can say his rents are set below this Realtor-set conceptualization called Market Value. He has a job other than real estate and the rents are designed to offset costs with minor income supplements.

As a result, he has had tenants at 12, 15 and 20 years at a stretch and this has worked well both for him and for his tenants.

In a third case, we have an Island-Life staffer who inherited a house. It needed work. It needed management. It did not matter that the house came virtually free -- he could not afford to keep it and would not in any good conscience "pass on the expense to the tenants."

So he got rid of it.

So we have to wonder about the man at Schiller. Did he teach himself tongue and groove carpentry or already know how to do that? Did he already know how to do wallboard properly, lay spackle and paste, and how to rip out that outdated knob and tube electrical that has been responsible for burning down so many buildings recently and replace it with properly grounded circuitry? Did he already know how to seat new windows to match the old look while removing the old sash-weights? Did he personally get up there on the roof to perform tear-off? Did he float the bathroom floor with miracle board himself? Set tile in the kitchen? There is quite a lot of stuff to know, especially about period authentic houses, and this man is talking about doing just one or two. Nobody learns trades by doing just one house.

If he really just paid someone else to do the work, thinking, well I'll just pass on the cost for this $100 an hour electrician to the new tenants, adding to the destructive forces that ruined San Francisco, turning it into an unlivable city by way of the extreme rents there, well we do not have sympathy. None at all. In fact we would say the same thing to this man we would say to the legions who sat down to sign variable rate interest mortgages for homes costing well over one half million dollars a short while ago: you really cannot afford that house. You should not have done that. Don't do it.


So anyway, a big dockwalloper stomped on through for a day or so, leaving the air sparkling and fresh. Sun came out and so long as you stood and worked in the sun, life was grand.

a solid slug of good scotch would do just as much or better

The nasty flu season seems to be tailing off after a variant possessed of a South-travelling virus sent a lot of people to the toilets and then to the ER. In the old days people used to rely on kindly mothers to supply plasters and chicken soup to remedy this sort of thing, but California is the land of perpetual self invention. Some of these young folks will have none of grandmother's physiks, preferring aromatherapy, foot detox, Reichian pilates movement and arnica holistic stuff which has been so diluted down to a single molecule of something that used to be important embedded in a solid gram of gelatin when a solid slug of good scotch would do just as much or better for your sense of well-being.

Mr. Howitzer came down with this flu rather bad -- perhaps due to his habit of locking the thermostat of his drafty mansion at 65 degrees Fahrenheit in every room save for his private study, where he kept a roaring fire going even on Spare the Air days. So the Realtor howled and coughed up a storm and littered the place with tissues and stopped up the toilets until Dodd was compelled to cook up a pot of his own mother's chicken soup, a recipe that had been handed down through the generations by the Feuersteins, Jewish neighbors of the Dodds in Vauxhall.

The Dodds were historically lapsed Episcopalians, but she got along famously with Sarah Feuerstein and so the two families had mingled for all the festivals, dropping off bagels for St. Stephen's day in one garden and sharing stuffed kidney pie recipes during the raucous Purim masquerade party in another. Dodd made friends with all the dark-eyed Feuerstein kids and helped out little Aaron with his Schul and made just as good a nonmember of one religion as he was a nonbeliever in the other.

So that is how Dodd came to stare into a pot of a nearly perfect Jewish chicken soup. It was nearly perfect and not so because it was missing the most important ingredient added by moms generally when the mom is both present and not an evil, abusive crackhead stoned out of her mind. Some mothers can be like that.

Dodd looked into the pot and Mary looked into the pot and Eisenhower, the Weimariner, looked up at the pot and all determined that something else was needed as the roars of the disgruntled Howitzer drifted down the stairwell.

"I want the Shotwells evicted post haste! Call the Sheriff! OOOOhhhhh, my bloated belly !!!!"

He had already served twelve evictions and raised the rent on a dozen more and issued onerous in situ "improvement" orders to yet another baker's dozen. Something would have to be done.

Mary uncorked a full bottle of Valium and dumped the lot of it right in. "Add a little more pepper," she suggested.

Dodd stirred the pot. One more thing. He found an old blue glass bottle and dumped that in as well and stirred it up before delivering a steaming bowl with a chunk of bread on a silver salver to the master upstairs.

After a short while, calm carefully revisited the house on Grand Street and Mr. Howitzer sang little songs to himself before falling asleep.

"What did you put in there?" Mary asked.

Dodd picked up the blue bottle. "Says here 'Tincture of Opium. Good for indigestion."

"O, I see!"

Over at the Offices of Island-Life the Editor looked at several reports which suggested that the Angry Elf gang had been responsible for torching the famous Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley due to a failed extortion attempt.

How can Evil be housed in such a short package, the Editor mused.

And they were all tough as pygmies from the Congo...

Clearly this was time to enlist the radical Midget Division of the Anti SUV Proliferation Brigade. (sound of trumpets). They were virtuous. They were smart. They were capable. And they were all tough as pygmies from the Congo and they meant business. The Anti SUV Brigade had languished recently as it had become clear even to idiots that only idiots bought SUVs when gas looked to be heading for six bucks a gallon.

The Editor folded his arms and gazed out the window to watch the roof rats that had been feeding from the cat dishes put out overnight by people in the apartment block next door. The rats scampered and danced the way those merry critters will do even though the Editor's upstairs neighbor insisted they did not exist anywhere save in his own imagination. Heck, its an Island with marinas -- thou shalt have rats where there are boats.

When one big one died quite aromatically in her dryer vent that really put her out and she blamed the Editor no end for bringing them in just to prove a point. The Editor could still recall her furious face and her wagging finger. Nevermind they had infested the roof for ages.

some folks got their panties in a twist about the raccoons beating up their poodles

The raccoons used to drive them off, but some folks got their panties in a twist about the raccoons beating up their poodles so Environmental Health had trapped them all and sent them away making people feel it was safe to put out the nocturnal cat food. Now the rats did the gavotte about the woodpile with great joy, for Nature is like a great seesaw. Press down one place and up it goes in another.

"Just none of you better try turning left on Park Street from Otis," warned the Editor. "The Island Police means business. They'll trim your tails, that's for sure."

Spring is coming and all god's creatures, great and small . . . o heck. Just fergeddit.

The long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the chittering waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across mysteriously rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats where little creatures darted and stuffed their cheek pouches, the locomotive pulling boxcars loaded with grain and thousands of rodent feasters glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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



MARCH 3, 2013


This week's headline photo is a shot from one of the benches tucked away near Crab Cove. Our little Eden.

That is far off Babylon hovering, seemingly, over the far arm of the cove .


March has arrived, and along with it the start of the heavy pogonip that always precedes the seasonal weather changes. March is also the time when promoters start into gear for Spring and Summer seasons.

The theatres are winding up their formal seasonal programs; Berkeley Rep just finished an outstanding creative season without the guiding hand of Les Waters, as Mary Zimmerman's White Snake finished up along with the inventive Wild Bride.

Never fear -- former artistic director Waters will return, in a manner of speaking, in collaboration with Sarah Ruhl with a tale of love and longing and genius. Dear Elizabeth follows the beautiful and bittersweet friendship between poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell.

Kicking off Spring, Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci will hold forth from March 8th, while the seldom performed Shakespearean Pericles will likely be given a novel treatment.

ACT will be putting aside its dowdy conservatism for a while with two world premiers in the form of Stuck Elevator, a drama about an immigrant trapped in an elevator for 81 hours, and Dead Metaphor, a black comedy about a soldier returning from the Middle East wars and trying to find work.

Shotgun Players will be starting things Spring with Tom Stoppard's Shipwreck and Voyage, Parts 1 and 2 of Stoppard's Coastal Utopia trilogy. Then there is By and By, a sci fi drama featuring cloning, bad medical science and human frailty, followed by a Josh Kornbluth thing. Can't go wrong there with those choices.

Musically, Robben Ford holds forth only through tonight, while the wildly exciting Ladysmith Black Mambazo owns 3/6/13 for a sold out series of shows.

Jose Feliciano comes out of the woodwork for a rare appearance 3/7 - 3/8 while the considerably paler Jim Messina does 3/9. Did you know Messina was a founding member of Buffalo Springfield?

The 10th Bay Area Black Music Awards takes over on the 17th.

Casts and bandages are off everybody in the newsroom and we are all free of our wheelchairs, so see us out there bopping to Fun at the Greek or wherever and whenever our boys Green Day return home after their ill-fated European tour. So Billy Joe got into a tangle with the pills; its not like this sort of thing doesn't happen in real life as well as rock 'n roll. He is a good kid, he is free and sober now, and we are glad he is back in the game still fighting the good fight.


The Unified School District and the union came out of cantankerous bargaining with a contract proposal for a 1% salary increase for teachers. Which proposal goes before the rank and file for voting soon. The talks, which dragged on for 10 months, featured a request for a 4.5% increase over two years, so we will see how this one plays out. Our teachers already earn less than any other district in the Bay area, which is a damned shame.

In more school news, the first of what may become a series of demolitions due to declining enrollmens took place Monday when the Island High School buildings were knocked down. Plans are to convert the land to its original use as a garden spot.

Now that the weather has improved we are seeing more burgluries happening -- lots of smash and grab vehicle thefts, outlying buildings, storage sheds, etc. Also a continuing trend is the occurance of 5150 psychiatric detentions, with about one per day.

The anxiety-filled tit-for-tat argumentation over the usurious rent continues in letters to the editor, with the first call for rent control hitting the sheets. Given that the contra position has been poorly expressed without regard for the economic realities out there that feature decades-long stagnant wages, it seems pretty destined that after a long acrimonious fight, rent control will surely come here, like it or not. It is obtuse people like the folks who bought the Benton Street property who ironically will ensure that it happens.

The VA, seeking to build a combined columbarium and medical facility at the Point may have sensed that the abrupt shift in zoning boundaries may have ruffled feathers -- and we do not mean the least tern, which animal is being used as a excuse for the changes. Not that the former site abutted and overlapped some waterfront land eyed by at least one developer with jingling pockets. Heck no. All we are concerned about here are a few hapless seabird nests. We have a heart for critters, really we do.

Whatever. A columbarium is a sight better than skyscrapers and odious mulimillion dollar palaces that will drown in the drink when the ocean rises anyway. The tenants are quieter and never will threaten the sensitive IPD with unruly hip hop parties. In any case it preserves the historical Naval presence and dead people in urns will not significantly add to traffic, so it is generally a win-win situation. We just wish our Silly Council would be more transparent about how these things come to pass.

The VA is wisely seeking public input to the decision process in a manner that differs sharply from Suncal's old tactics of deception, and this difference is substantially positive. The meetings will take place aboard the Hornet 3/14 from 1-3 and 6-8pm. We suggest giving the VA a warm welcome.


Everyone know that the High Street northbound ramp to 880 should reopen Monday with the difference that the ramp will become a two lane access ramp. This ramp and the southbound feller will be closed during the evenings sporadically through the end of March.


So anyway, people got so excited about what happened last week with Old Schmidt and an old flame showing up that Lionel nearly forgot that March was Black History Month. He called over to his friend Arthur and the two of them decorated the Pampered Pup with posters of men and women who had achieved great things against impossible odds. Because he was friends of the family he already had photographs of John Henry, one of the original Miracle Backfield for the 49ers, and Curt Flood, who had started the lawsuit that ended the baseball draft as it was back then.

Up went Marcus Garvey and Malcolm and King and Ali along with Thorogood Marshall, Sir Duke, Satch Mo' and so many others.

How come you don't leave these up all year, Arthur said.

The Island being what it is, I still gotta sell hot dogs, Lionel replied. There's IPD that come in here and I'm a realist.

The Old People say that the pogonip was the result of (a) curse of the Ohlone

Midweek everyone woke up to a dense pogonip that permeated every corner of the Island. The Old People say that the pogonip was the result of the final curse of the Ohlone laid upon the invading Europeans: to make them wander in a land not theirs, all mysterious things hidden, blind and unseeing for generations to come no matter how entrenched and rooted they may claim to be, as nothing can be so rooted as the Sequoia or the Monterey Pine which have been here hundreds and thousands of years before the '49ers and will outlast all of our dynasties for eons to come, still shrouded in that coastal phenomenon called fog.

You who claim ascendency and descendency, remember the curse of the Ohlone and the pogonip.

the passing Winnebago and the tented RVs . . . bums on the plush

Tommy and Toby, seeing that the brisk weather inhibited good sailing for the duration, packed up the RAV4 to head up to a time share rental cabin in the neighborhood of Grass Valley, which is a sort of poor man's Tahoe destination for folks who know folks who have lived here more than a generation in some form. The people who settled Grass Valley are descended from would-be miners who found more of value in clear streams and tall pines than grubbing for gold flecks. They and others supplied and refueled the workers who laboriously built this end of the transamerican railroad. When that brief excitement passed, the town collected misfits and malcontents seeking the solitude of the secluded vales and dells in the Sierra foothills. Today, it supplies the passing Winnebago and the tented RVs of people lugging enough home behind them to convert all that is new that they encounter into something safe, comfortable, and familiar -- bums on the plush.

In the still frosty air of late winter Tommy and Toby went strolling and came across the field in front of the middle school of Grass Valley. The expanse was dotted with snow angels and a pair of sagging snowpeople stood beneath a pine marked with an orange sash for destruction. One of the snowpeople had collapsed into the other, an apparent victim of the warming trends of the day although it was presently sub-freezing. The change in the seasons had announced itself even here at altitude and spikes of green were perforating the boundaries of the schoolyard.

The two boys frolicked in the snow and built snowpeople of their own to keep the older ones company, making a little family of frozen souls, and went to the Old Bar with the very long table made of a giant redwood and had a jolly time.

The two of them returned to the Bay Area, where after the crisp cold of ice-blue stars slewn across the heavens, the gloomy air and overcast skies felt almost balmy. They ran into Father Danyluk and Tommy would offer commiserations about the Pope abdicating and all of that. He offered to get ahold of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence so as to bring them over for a Papal Election party, but Father Danyluk did not think that was such a good idea.

He did offer to provide prayers in his heart for the entire order or any one of them should they decided to repent and Toby said that was fine, just fine and they parted ways.

You could have needled him about the Sisters never having molested any boys, Tommy said, but Toby was sanguine.

caterwaul, wail, lament, groan, shout, and bleat the most horrendous unmusical hymns ever

Father Danyluk had other fish to fry in his heated brain besides the Sisters. He had been approached by the Pastor of El Luz del Atonal Mundo, a shouting sect of Christians with a church on Central in the old Adelphian building. All the neighbors had started to complain about the congregation taking up parking on the street before going in there to caterwaul, wail, lament, groan, shout, and bleat the most horrendous unmusical hymns ever sent to afflict the ear of man. It was hard to tell which was worse -- the parking or the singing.

The neighbors had taken to calling the place the Cursed-tian Church for all the malderor emitted from within and all the other pastors were in tears about it.

Can we not send a few Lutherans who can carry a tune and perhaps convert a few of them, they pleaded to Pastor Braun of Emmanuel Lutheran. An interdenomenational delegation was got up to try to bring over a few Baptist musicians from Oaktown but with little success.

Meanwhile each Sunday, and in fact every night of the week, the faithful gathers at the old Adelphian building, which people imagined had been a cult similar to Jim Jones and his followers during its heyday, but who now longed for a little koolaid that would quiet things down a bit.

"Awwwrrrrowwwww Oowwwwwwaahhhh! Laaaaahhhhhhrrrrrrd ahhhhh miiiiiiighteeeee oooooooh!"

Pahrump and Jose stood outside and the cacophony was simply dreadful, and all done in multipart disharmony.

After their ceremonies, the parents seemed to hold some kind of banquet that featured tremendous amounts of sugar treats so as to keep the young ones scampering well past 10pm while they themselves dined on bundt cakes stuffed with enchiladas. When the doors opened and the congregation boiled out, they all seemed tremendously happy and pleased with themselves.

Martini, a Catholic crouched down with his head in his hands. "I cannot take it any more. I keep hearing 'A Mighty Fart Makes our Goody!'"

Father Danyluk shook his head. The Lord works in mysterious ways. But sometimes, it seems He does not work at all.

A cup of coffee which had been beat up by the toast -- it was too weak to defend itself -- smoldered ...

Over on Park Street at the Nighthawks Diner, Denby sat in front of the Blue Plate Special, which appeared to feature some kind of gelatinous white gravy over something that either was turkey or roast beef. A cup of coffee which had been beat up by the toast -- it was too weak to defend itself -- smoldered in a sagging cup. He had had another run-in with the Angry Elf Gang and his ribs were sore from the beating because he had not enought to pay them off. Now he had a ticket and a trailways bus schedule and he was planning to leave this town for Grass Valley with its clean air and its fields of snow angels and its relative sanity any day now. He was sick of it all, the pettiness, the thievery, the greed, the wacky provincial lunacy, the . . . the . . . pettiness of it all. One of these days, just one of these days. . .

The distant roar of the Cursed-ian Church drifted through the windows. "Awwwrrrrowwwww Oowwwwwwaahhhh!" O for pete's sake it was all impossible!

The waitress, a dishwater blonde with the nametag of Sharon came over to refresh the miserable coffee. "How you want 'em, over medium or scrambled?"

Something about her eyes made him pause and say, "Anyway is the only way, schweetheart."

Yeah? I aint no Queen of Sheba and you aint no Humphrey Bogart.

Did she say that or was that something just in his head, in this fantasy world of an Island where, unlike the real one, Truth, Justice and Beauty are the norms.

He pulled out his guitar case and opened it up. He was a little drunk he knew, but never mind.

"What you doing with that mister? You going to play a song in here?" she said, and that was real.

Right then the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the longing waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the still optimistic Calfornian grasses of the Buena Vista flats the locomotive pulling boxcars loaded with memories of Rita Hayworth and Jimmy Cagney glided 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.

Well she's up against the register with an apron and a spatula,
Yesterday's deliveries, tickets for the bachelor's
She's a moving violation from her conk down to her shoes,
Well, it's just an invitation to the blues

And you feel just like Cagney, she looks like Rita Hayworth
At the counter of the Schwab's drugstore
You wonder if she might be single, she's a loner and likes to mingle
Got to be patient, try and pick up a clue

She said "How you gonna like 'em, over medium or scrambled?",
You say "Anyway's the only way", be careful not to gamble
On a guy with a suitcase and a ticket getting out of here
In a tired bus station and an old pair of shoes
This ain't nothing but an invitation to the blues

But you can't take your eyes off her, get another cup of java,
It's just the way she pours it for you, joking with the customers
Mercy mercy, Mr. Percy, there ain't nothing back in Jersey
But a broken-down jalopy of a man I left behind
And the dream that I was chasing, and a battle with booze
And an open invitation to the blues

But she used to have a sugar daddy and a candy-apple Caddy,
And a bank account and everything, accustomed to the finer things
He probably left her for a socialite, that he didn't love except at night,
And then he's drunk and never even told her that he cared.
So they took the registration, and the car-keys and her shoes
And left her with an invitation to the blues

There's a Continental Trailways leaving local bus tonight, good evening
You can have my seat, I'm sticking round here for a while
Get me a room at the Squire, the filling station's hiring,
And I can eat here every night, what the hell have I got to lose?
Got a crazy sensation, go or stay? now I gotta choose,
I think I'll accept your invitation to the blues

Invitation to the Blues, Tom Waits



February 24, 2013


This week's photo comes from the grounds of a youth facility in Oaktown.

Other parts of the country are suffering from the last punches of a long hard winter, but California has already begun blooming, assisted by some recent downpours.


It's no news to anyone that rents have gone beyond ridiculous here to the obscene stratosphere. From a leveling period between the millenium and 2005, suddenly, seemingly for no reason, apartment rents started a dizzy climb to the point that most normal people cannot afford to live here any more if called to move, and large numbers of apartment vacancies appearing as unscrupulous managers force the diehard remainder to pay for the empties. Rents have risen wildly while real incomes have stagnated throughout the Bay Area and nationally.

In an eye-opening front-page item, the Sun indicated that the Mayor is trying to resolve a rent dispute in an attempt to persuade a company from jacking rents on Benton Street 30 to 60%. When asked just why these gougers were doing this to innocent people, forcing many of long term tenants to leave, Bowman and House Source LLC stated "We were advised there is no rent control in Alameda" to the Rent Advisory Committee here. "We wanted to be certain that we would be able to pass the expenses of the $650,00 purchase price, new taxes and insurance ... on to the tenants."

That first bit, put in writing and published, virtually ensures that B&H will be persona non gratia around here as our homegrown owners do a slow boil over what just might be the spark that starts something nasty and a lot bigger than a single tenant dispute. Gee thanks alot jerkoffs seems to be the sentiment. That the purchase price for an apartment building was so low in comparison to some single-family homes going for the same amount just adds cheese to the flaming fondue.

The Island has had a sort of amiable and largely powerless Rent Review Committee for quite a while, but things may have to change, especially as B&H have refused to attend meetings on the issue.


So anyway, the situation after this year's V-day had Denby getting out of jail after the Editor had showed up to post, grumbling, bail before sour judge named Lex Talionis who stated tiredly that it appeared that Denby probably was innocent -- which matters little in the eyes of the Law, as MC Hammer knows full well -- but that he looked definitely hapless and not a flight risk, so bail was set at 150 dollars (about three zeros to the left of what was assigned to Althea) and he was told to never return to bother the jailers about not getting popcorn on Friday ever again.

charges for accessory to kidnapping, grand theft, battery, human trafficking, and felonious obnoxiousness

The charges for accessory to kidnapping, grand theft, battery, human trafficking, and felonious obnoxiousness were dropped the following day.

It does not seem like that we are going to invade or bomb someone again soon

Ever since the country blipped with a rare bout of general common sense in re-electing Obama under the general premise that if we are wrong we might as well go whole hog and avoid changing horses mid-stream amid a couple wars and economic malaise people have glommed onto the idea that even though we have not pulled ourselves out much from the Bush miasma, at least things are not getting much worse. It does not seem like that we are going to invade or bomb someone again soon, and that allows for a certain relaxation. This has resulted in a widespread return around here to genial traditions like V-Day time-outs and being civil to one's neighbor.

Sure we have problems like healthcare and lunatics messing with things they don't like, calling the things they don't like vaguely perjorative terms like "entitlements", and there is the worrisome problem of Orange County -- which should act smarter than it does, but steadfastly refuses to do so -- nevertheless, people still feel optimisitically that the next destructive asteroid heading for earth will somehow zip on by without messing up Lady Gaga's hair or causing a flurry of bad apocalypse movies to afflict us with yet another trashing of New York City's Port Authority building featuring the Holland Tunnel and subways fillling with water.

No wait. That DID happen and it was not a movie. Nevermind, New Yorkers are a sturdy lot and have lived for a long time under impossible circumstances, so they are bound to come up swinging. Battered by storms and mad terrorists in airplanes, New York abides.

Rush Limberger may continue to spout inanities, and that goofball on FOX Spews may continue to cobble his meaningless charts, but forget all that, honey. Grab the KY jelly, dear, and let's unplug the phone!

In short, there is a Future in America once again.

Wally has sequestered himself in the bathroom with a couple of the Golden Poppy Girls

Over at the Native Sons of the Golden West, the Regional Congress has gotten into some trouble as Wally has sequestered himself in the bathroom with a couple of the Golden Poppy Girls in protest against what he and some others see as runaway spending. If they don't come out soon the organization is likely to suffer a severe beating on its credit for they have taken the official checkbook and the Org Mastercard in there with them and nobody can pay any of the bills until Wally opens the door. It would be dangerous to try to break it down, as he also has his 50 caliber pistol in there as well as the cheese tray and a fair number of crab sandwiches..

Besides, the Congress had been imbibing a good amount of wine from Napa and Sonoma and the closest latrine is over at Crab Cove, which is quite a hike when you gotta go.

Even though the situation is serious, Wally locked himself in there with a case of champagne besides the tray of cheese and crab sandwiches, and everyone can hear him and the girls whooping it up.

David Phipps has been looking for ways to jimmy the door open after pleading for Wally to come to his senses and stop embarrassing this noble red-blooded institution before the world, but that door used to be the main hatch to the SS California, which ran aground years ago on the Wilson Shoals, and it was made to withstand a tough pounding.

"C'mon Walleeeeeee!" David pleaded. "There's ladies here that gotta pee!"

"No more entitlements!" Wally shouted through the double-thickness steel door. Sounds of a champagne cork popping and lots of laughter. "Gee Wally! That bottle fizzed up just like you did a while ago!" More sounds of laughter. Waaaahoo!

Meanwhile the Congress sits around, much as it is wont to do

Meanwhile the Native Sons Congress sits around, much as it is wont to do, nibbling on crab sandwiches and taking surreptitious leaks off the wharf into the otherwise pristine marina while trying to figure out how to extend the retirement age past the point everyone dies so the organization does not have to pay out anything for the pensions. It's business as usual in America.

"Walleeeeeeee! After midnight the automatic cuts kick in!" David pleaded. "Act like an adult and be responsible!"

"Piss off! We're havin' fun!" Sounds of laughter. Champagne.

Seeing that there was nothing to be done there, Marvin of Mervin's Merkins and Mike DePuglia, owner of N. Eptatood Contractors (Fabrication , Construction and Auto Repair) went over to the Old Same Place Bar.

"Tell me again how your man drove a VW microbus into a pipeline trench trying to fix the car," Marvin said.

Mike DePuglia shrugged. "The boy wanted to use the trench to get under the frame to get at the transaxle. He just miscalculated where da gasline started when he fired up the welding equipment."

There was a long pause before DePuglia said, "Sure made a big boom when it went. That's how it got inna the trench -- after it caught fire. He didn't drive it in there, exactly. It sorta slid."

"O, I see."

Over in the snug of the Old Same Place Bar Old Schmidt was holding forth, thoroughly schlockered for Lent. He stated that he had vowed to give up sobriety for the duration until March 20. It would be difficult, for the flesh was weak, but he knew he had a strong spirit tested by adversity. In reality, he was celebrating the opening of allowed training for his favorite football team, Hannover 96.

Angry elfs run mafia gangs. Apartment managers strut about mit zee mirrored sunglasses

"All over the Island people do zee darndest things. Angry elfs run mafia gangs. Apartment managers strut about mit zee mirrored sunglasses running buildings like third world dictatorships. The rents keep going up undt zee Congress pisses on zee wharf. Heh ho!" With that Schmidt began singing the famous "Hymn to the 96, Yellow-Blue", a sports song in celebration of the somewhat doughty Hannover football team, which is to Germany something akin to the Lions to baseball or the Cubs to American football. There history is so hapless they lost their original red jersey colors to be replaced with blue and gold.

As if to reflect the nature of the team, there is no fight in the song, but a sort of wistful feeling of loyalty despite all the disastrous . . . situations.

"Schmidt, you are drunk," Padraic said. "And its not anywhere near St. Patrick's day when its allowed to be as drunk as you."

Niemals allein
Wir gehen Hand in Hand
Zusammen sind wir groß
Und stark wie eine Wand
Wir danken dir
Du hast uns viel gegeben
Du bist der Mittelpunkt
In unserem Leben!

(Never alone

We go hand in hand

Together we are huge

and strong as a wall

You have given us much

You are the center

of our lives!)

"Could you call a cab," Dawn said to Suzie.

Indeed, the air warms all over the world as the days get longer, the nights shorter. Tiny eruptions flower across the land of California from the ocean across the Valley and to the foothills where snow still falls as of this date. Nevertheless grand things are coming. Maybe Hannover will not make it to the European World Cup this year, nor even come close, nevertheless the sap still rises.

96 - Alte Liebe
Rot steht dir sehr viel besser als Gelb-Blau
Lass die andern alle reden
Von Bayern oder Bremen
Wir sind immer bei dir
96 - Hah Ess Vauuuuuu!

The door opened and with the gust of cold air entered a tall statuesque woman wearing black high heels, a long London Fog, and with platinum hair that still retained a slight tinge of reddish-gold. She was a woman of a certain age which never tells, but she had been a beauty in her time and was beautiful still with piercing blue eyes.

Schon lange Zeit bist du uns so vertraut . . . O je! Du!

Schmidt stumbled in his song and his eyes bugged forth and his mouth dropped open and he lost the power of speech.

O je! Eh . . .! Eh . . .!

"Nun was ist, Heinrich?" said the lady. "Kater hat die Zunge gefasst? Cat got your tongue?"

"O Lili . . . Why. . . ? I thought neffer again . . .".

"Well, Harry, you know the way the song goes. Sometimes things do not go as one wants."

The old man clearly was broken down, unable to respond as drunk as he was, slumped in his chair as the tears poured down his face, soaking his beard.

"Harry, you are drunk," the woman said. She rested an elegant hand on the man's back and he sat up straight.

"I ham ferpektly kindt and krumble." Schmidt said. "Fin fine. Donkey kay."

"Vot?" Padraic and Dawn said together.

"I am not married anymore," the woman said. "Things did not work out."

"O! So . . . so sorry." Schmidt was trying desperately to rally himself. "Vasser, I need water." he motioned to Suzie, who gave him a tall glass, which he downed in one long swallow. "Lili . . .".

"I am so sorry, Harry. I really am," said the woman. "We should . . . talk."

Suzie tried to take charge as the bar became silent of all chatter. "Could you like do something? He's had enough as you see."

"Right. I have a car. I have a car." Her composure was a bit rattled now that it was coming to doing something. Perhaps she had not thought things through and now she twisted a ring around and around her finger as if trying to remove it.

"O for Pete's sake take the man home," Dawn said. "Work out the effin' details later."

Suzie helped Lili, for that was indeed her name, bundle Old Schmidt from the barstool to the door and out and to the car.

"O don't know if I can do this," Lili said, staggering under the load.

"When they are like this, DONT STOP! Keep moving!"

"Trick is," Suzie said, "When they are like this, DONT STOP! Keep moving!" The trio tacked to the left and to the right, and so they got the wandering ship of Schmidt to land face down with his arms stretched out across the hood of the car after which Suzie and Lili manhandled him into the seat.

As they all gathered at the door to watch the mystery woman drive off with Old Schmidt in the passenger side of a Citroyen that looked to have seen some significant miles in its time, Padraic exclaimed, "Wouldya look at that now! Cute as a wet badger in the hayloft but Old Schmidt and some dame! Who woulda thought!"

Dawn wacked him. "Be kind now!"

The long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the star-crossed waves of the estuary kissing the rip-rap and wavered across the long lost grasses of the Buena Vista flats the locomotive pulling boxcars loaded with painful memories glided 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.

Manchmal geht es nicht so wie man will,
doch unsere Liebe steht deswegen noch nicht still.
Tränen können fließen, doch in der größen Not,
rudern wir gemeinsam im roten Fußballboot!

96, alte Liebe!
Rot steht dir ja viel besser als Gelb - Blau,
lass die andern alle reden,
von Bayern oder Bremen,
wir sind immer bei dir
immer bei dir
immer bei dir

trad. sports team song, "96 Alte Liebe"



FEBRUARY 17, 2013


This week's headline photo is of the baywindows to a house on Santa Clara and Walnut.

The owner of the house lavishly decorates the housefront and the picket fence with neon emblems for the season. Suppose Moby, who wrote Lovesigns, would agree.


Last week we published a photo of the North Tower to the Golden Gate bridge in relation to a story about the Bay Bridge. This error has been rectified with a moody archival image from 2008.

Rest assured, the persons responsible for the error have been suitably disciplined by being stripped, flogged and tossed into the official Island-Life oubliette.


First off we have a few scheduled agenda items concerning things Islander from Alameda Citizen's Taskforce.

ACT’s General meeting at the church this Thursday February 28 is being replaced this month by the League of Women Voters meeting scheduled at the same time at Mastic Center regarding healthcare.


Are you ready for the new health care options that will be implemented this fall as part of Obamacare?

Find out more about the new Health Insurance Marketplace at a free and public forum:
WHEN: Thursday, February 28, 2013, from 7:00 - 9:00 PM
WHERE: Mastick Senior Center Social Hall at 1155 Santa Clara Avenue in Alameda.

The LWVA is pleased to offer this free panel discussion and public forum with:
- David Sayen, Regional Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- Deborah Stebbins, Chief Executive Officer, Alameda Hospital
- David Brown, Area President, San Francisco Branch, Gallagher Benefit Services

Free parking is available: the parking lot entrance s on Santa Clara Avenue between Bay Street and St. Charles Street.

The Health Insurance Marketplace mandated by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Affordable Care Act") will be implemented later this year. This new way of purchasing health insurance will drastically change how we obtain and use health insurance.

Additional information is available from the US Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at

Secondly, The Alameda Wildlife Refuge Resolution sit on the Council Agenda for this Tuesday February 19. Tony Daysog and Stewart Chen will introduce it as Item 9 on the Council Agenda. See

Thirdly, ACT reminds us to please remember to complete your Alameda Recreation and Parks District Sweeney Park survey online. ARPD plans to close the survey by next Friday February 22.

PSA here regarding bus service Monday:

On Monday, February 18, 2013, AC Transit offices will be closed and all buses will operate on Sunday schedules in observance of the Presidents’ Day holiday.

Complete scheduling information is available online at or by telephoning 511 and saying “AC Transit.”

Regular bus service will resume on Tuesday, February 19th.

Happy belated birthday to Maureen Murray, one of the chief chefs who handles Teatro Zinzani's groaning board.

The report on the Tuesday's School Board meeting by Blogging Bayport had some interesting nuggets, but the comments revealed just how heated these small-town politics issues can get when people feel entitled to thrust children into the vanguard for their own political agenda.

Then of course people who actually have children possess their own singular point of view.

It seems contracts, facilitators, administrators, parents, District employees all have their sticks in this ACLC charter school pot, stirring it up as madly as they can before anything has yet happened. Briefly a District program wants to take over the space now occupied by ACLC, which was promised space at Wood Middle School.

Okay, here come the wrinkles. Wood is grades 6-8. ACLC is grades 6-12. ACLC has been housed at Encinal High for 17 years of its 20 year lifespan. The program that wishes to occupy their space is called "Junior Jets" after the Encinal High mascot, and will serve grades 6-8 in preparation for high school, presumably at Encinal. (In the interests of disclosure, one daughter here in the Offices went to Wood before going to Washington.)

Wood has been facing declining enrollments for some years.

So the issue is that the charter school ACLC needs to move at some point. Meaningless interjections concern NEA, another charter school, whether the District is obligated to provide any facilities at all to any charter school (even though it is bound by contract), and whether charter schools are good ideas or treasonous (an issue which does not seem to be directed at participants of St. Joseph's), plus a fair amount of fog and dust regarding additional inconsequentials.

We do not need any more lawsuits on the city or the district. We have contractual obligations to follow. It is logical that an Encinal program be placed at Encinal. So ACLC has to move, preferably to a stable location. Whether charter or Unified District it is the kids for whom we should be concerned. Clearly ACLC would like to remain, for the good of its student participants and for the health of its programs, but such is the nature of Charters that they are subject to some instability and the District must have clear precedence in its decisions.

The District may be wrongheaded, but that is another ball of wax to melt another time in a different pot together with Tracy Jensen's involvement in all this.

It is too bad that parents cannot unify on behalf of the kids to embrace all the available programs and the available programs and charters cannot be allowed to work with District schools to share resources. Ah, but that would be an ideal world.

So here we have some high schoolers from ACLC projected to mingle with grades 6-8 at Wood and some parents hot about that, plus a perceived threat of closure due to declining enrollments. ACLC does not want to go to Wood where the physical facilities are not up to Encinal High's level. Then there are the other charter schools sharing space in other locations which want some shifting with contracts expiring this year as more trouble on the horizon.

In the middle of this imbroglio, the District up and moves its offices from the old high school now fenced off and slated for demolition to rented space costing $30,000 a month.

As one commenter said, All I can say is, I’m glad my kid is in college. I don’t miss the drama. . . ".

Rest assured, common sense probably will not prevail. So best get ready for the worst case scenario, in whichever camp you reside.

In more upbeat news, the candidate we endorsed for Health Board was finally appointed to the seat vacated by Stewart Chen. Tracy Jensen, unrelated to the School Board member with a similar name, appeared to us to be a dark horse with a lot of experience as well as native ties here, so we are glad that she finally achieved her seat after running twice unsuccessfully.

Finally, the unsurprising quashing of the Zack family lawsuit against the city on Monday with regard to the embarrassingly fatal incident which cost Raymond Zack's life on Memorial Day 2011 needs mention. Firstly, although we are a litigious society, the law should always be the absolute last avenue to seek for remedy, only after all other avenues have been exhausted. This is because the law is not concerned specifically with right or wrong, morality, or even justice as understood in the popular sense. The law is concerned with clarity.

The courts are present to issue judgment based on very rigid codes that do not allow for exceptions or for special circumstances in most cases. You may expostulate all you wish about what "should be" but the great strength of the legal system is its rather inflexible, unchanging nature according to strict definitions. A judge therefore is not free to make exceptions if he sees someone clearly wronged when the case concerns an alternate matter as presented in writing by concerned parties. He or she must go by guidelines set before them and those guidelines are usually very clear and harshly black and white in definition. Unclear cases, and possible procedural errors, cause cases to go up to higher courts and possibly the Supreme Court.

The decision in the Zack case is clear according to the letter of the law, and the letter of the law is heavily weighted in favor of public safety officers against imposing liability. Well yes, the hired enforcers of the law would get preference, as one would expect. Any one of us journalists who has covered some kind of event like a fire or building collapse knows that the commanding officer at the CP always has the safety of his troops foremost in mind while they go about their job.

According to the decision posted in full by Blogging Bayport, (, the primary duty of public safety officers is to ensure the general safety of the "general society" and they are under no legal obligation to assist any one individual at any time. The decision unfortunately mentions "moral obligation" however no judge can truly rule on intangible morality -- to do so would be monstrous and against their sworn duties -- the judge clearly meant legal obligation as codified in the State of California, for lawsuits are concerned not with vague ethics or morality but with deviations from code. Morality has nothing to do with it, in other words.

The code regarding police is necessarily specific so that individuals who go about dangerous tasks can make logical decisions that benefit the whole of society rather than any one person.

That an officer dives into a lake to save someone, that a fireman extends a ladder to enter a burning building to personally rescue a child is commendable, honorary and worthy of note. But its not their job to do so, according to the law.

Now if you do want to talk about morality, about humanity, about empathy and concern and just plain decency, well that is another story. Everyone reading this sentence can list a dozen acts they see every week where someone does something or does not do something, which is perfectly legitimate and legal but which is morally objectionable and reprehensible.

What happened on the beach Memorial Day 2011 was reprehensible, inhuman, objectionable and amoral. It was full of cowardice and apathy and blunt obnoxiousness. But it was legal. Has any one of those wretched jerks who took your retirement money during the financial crisis spent a single sweating minute in front of a jury, let alone jail? Of course not. What they did was perfectly legal, and even to this minute perps who get caught on Wall Street committing the worst sort of felonies insist to the last minute what they did was entirely legal.

What we are saying is that just because it is legal, does not make it right.

Finally, the gun debate on the Island flourishes as folks rise up to defend or decry Big 5 for its projectile weapon sales. Let it be known that we observe several gun-involved crimes in the last couple Police blotter reports and we are pretty certain the handguns involved were not purchased at Big Five, and probably not from any reputable dealer. We also note that the debaters fall into two camps which involve experience with firearms. People who never saw a use for them, never grew up with them, never owned one, never fired one trend to be among those who would issue complete bans. People who grew up with them around, who see them as tools, trend to be those who seek reasons to prevent gun control.

Most Second Amendment arguments are as preposterous as the wishes to eliminate all firearms of every type. Both parties sit in the same boat of lunacy.

Reasonably, even though it would be best for humanity, for California, and for the Island to eliminate all firearms, or at least ammunition for them, this sort of thing will never happen. If you even have to ask why, you are a nimbus brain. Even though gun advocates argue that personal weapons ensure personal safety, they clearly do not. Just recently a gun owner was presented with a classic gun advocate example of two armed intruders breaking into his home. The man was shot before he could lay hands on his weapon.

The idea that the Constitution assures gun ownership so people have a means to fight back against a government with tanks, F-16 fighter jets, and nuclear bombs at its disposal is also clearly ridiculous.

Then we come to the pure emotionalists like the fellow who finds viewing the ranks of rifle merchandise on display at Big 5 to be distressing and fearful, who is pretty much on a par with the insensitive wackjob who finds people that disagree with him on firearms to be sissies that by rights ought to wilt away in the rain so as not to trouble his macho sensitivities any more.

Hate to say it, but there really is no magic bullet for this issue -- sorry for the pun.

At Island-Life we have people who have handled, owned and discharged practically every sort of firearm from .50 cal to .22 caliber, shotguns included. We also have people who find the things abhorrent. We also have traveled the country and seen the horrendous carnage in Chicago, in Washington D.C., in LA, and here in Oakland perpetrated by firearms and knives. Something clearly has to change, and that change will be objectionable to a large percentage of America which is shielded from these effects by either location or experience or both.

And of course we all know about Sandy Hook by now.

Is gun control the answer to ending the stories we know that bleed out of Highland's Trauma Unit every day and another Sandy Hook massacre? Sadly, probably not. Maybe a waiting period, not for guns, but for ammunition (generally costing at the low end about a dollar a round) is the answer? We do not know.


So anyway the dreaded V-day rolled down the calendar like a panzer advancing on all the gentlemen and rogues living on the island even as special bundles of rose arrangements rocketed to $70 per bucket all over town. This year V-day came hard on the three-day President's Day weekend, which gave amorous couples the opportunity to request time off and go canoodling like teenagers. All over the Island residents responded to the holiday each as was their wont.

At the Household Suan got her Venus in Furs outfit all ready for work, well supplied with pink boas and such, for V-Day at the Crazy Horse saloon was a big moneymaker. Nothing like the promise of ersatz love to bring in the dollars.

Suzie, behind the bar at the Old Same Place, wore a cute outfit with pink boots and a short flouncy skirt and a deep red blouse, then settled back with her anthropology text on a stool.

Bear . . . trended to trouble fueled by whiskey

Mindful of previous episodes, Denby turned off his cell phone and avoided any sort of place where his friend Bear might hang out so as to avoid a repetition of that sad episode a few years ago that ended up in the County jail. Bear, wearing a grease-stained T-shirt, tattered jeans, one red and white striped sock opposed to a green one inserted into converse hi-tops, also of mismatched colors, with various lifeforms flying about and nesting in his thick beard, generally trended to trouble fueled by whiskey and an Allman Brothers soundtrack. Women, for some reason, found him irresistible.

Denby imagined that it was only appropriate that Bear rode by habit a Harley Davidson with a motor identified as "a knucklehead". But this, he was careful never to mention to Bear. There might be repercussions.

Taking a cue from the Editor, and also inhibited by his recovering injuries sustained during the ill-fated expedition to the mountain pass of Los Abuelita di Diablo, Denby stocked up on Michelina's frozen dinners and Netflix, avoiding potential trouble from chocolate-eating females on the hunt during this time.

In fact he spent considerable time at the Island Free Library up in the stacks among jazz theory and musicology, blissfully remote from the meat markets.

It was there he met Trent, the lonely assistant librarian, who carried with him "The Consolation of Philosophy." Trent's boss, Ruth Harrison, could be a bit of a tartar, so Trent sought every excuse to ascend to the upper levels and there delve into his favorite text.

Trent introduced Denby to his friend Althea

It was on February 14th, while Ruth Harrison was down below orchestrating the "Literary Love" exhibit, complete with copies of D.H. Lawrence, Ovid, Sappho, Anais Nin and the usual suspects along with cool aid and cookies that Trent introduced Denby to his friend Althea, another Assistant Librarian, who proved to be thirty-something, wearing brown leather boots, a short skirt, sensible blouse and librarian's glasses. It was pretty clear that Trent had a thing for Althea, who looked somewhat pretty, depending on the light and the angle.

Althea, as it turned out, stemmed from the honorable Voorhees family, which had settled in San Francisco during the early days of 1840, not long after the Mexican-American war. Her great granduncle, Albert Stevense Voorhees got into a family spat in Nieuw Amersfoort on account of getting a serving maid with child out of wedlock. He was forced to flee across the new continent and after many adventures arrived in San Francisco, which then was in the process of rebuilding itself after one of its many fires.

He tried his hand at various trades, including tanning hides, until the momentous discovery of gold in the hills rocked the world in 1848.

Like many newcomers to the Golden State, Albert soon had the choice of either heading to the hills to seek gold, which everyone assured him grew in water, or taking advantage of this influx in '49 to sell implements to wannabee gold miners. He wisely chose the latter, set up a hardware store on the edge of Portsmouth Square and and wound up richer for the choice. While waiting for customers during the day he played the banjo behind the counter and was often called to provide musical entertainment to the swelling population of San Francisco.

He then applied his talents and resources to establishing a bank which specialized in maritime finances. This proved fortuitious in the moment for the hardware store burned down during one of San Francisco's 9 fires in the 1850's. One of the women he hired as a teller, a tall good-looking gal with blond curls from Missouri, captured his eye. This was not difficult, as women in San Francisco in those days were in short supply and the girl had no lack of suitors.

One day he came in with his banjo and played a Steven C. Foster song which had her name in it and the girl, whose name was Susannah, was hooked. Within a week they were engaged and within two months married. They set up household in a cottage on Mason near Vallejo at the base of a hill and planted there clambering roses that did what clambering roses do up a trellis fixed to the side of the house and there the happy couple lived until the financial meltdown of 1871 and the massive floods that destroyed the California hyde leather industry ruined his finances. One day Albert took up his hat and his pistol and walked out of the front door, never to be seen again.

Lily who escaped to Oakland via rescue boat with her grandfather's banjo

But this was not before Susannah had given birth to a pair of sons and a pair of daughters who carried on the family line. One of those sons, Albert Jr., had previously died in the Battle of the Wilderness after travelling east to help the Union win the war against the Confederacy, but that left Roger, Rose and Petunia. The cottage burned down during the famous earthquake and fire of 1906 and it was Petunia's daughter, Lily who escaped to Oakland via rescue boat with her grandfather's banjo. She met a shipping captain named Joshua Barron and after their marriage moved to his trim house on Walnut Street on the former Bolsa de Alameda, once a peninsula but made into an island in 1902 when dredges carved out the estuary that now exists.

The rest of the family, having lost their homes, also moved to Oakland which had fared better than the City. It was there in Oakland that Lily raised a family, watching the little factory town absorb the hamlet of Brooklyn and try to recover from the earthquake as well as its notoriously corrupt and callous first mayor, Carpenteria. The shallow bay had its mouth filled in, turning into a lake, and the once proud oak forest which gave its name to the city cut further and further back to feed the mania for building in the City across the water. The groves of citrus trees also got hewn down to make the new district called Fruitvale, inhabited by Germans and Irish who worked the Del Monte coffee warehouses on Fruitvale Avenue.

It was in Oakland that Lily met Conor O'Donnell, a strapping fellow with blue eyes from Inneskerry who wooed her by singing "Love's Old Sweet Song" beside Lake Merritt.

As for Alameda, briefly the terminus of the Transamerican Railroad when Oakland failed to complete its own terminus station on time it developed and grew from oak-dotted pastureland once used by the Peralta family to be a bedroom community and resort town. The Strehlow family cobbled together an water park on the western side of the island facing the Bay. Neptune Beach featured two olympic sized swimming pools, a roller coaster, rented cottages, and a confectioner's which invented and then sold innovative frozen treats. There, on a hot day in 1928 Conor pinged all five targets in the shooting booth to win the prize, a little smiling doll with a knot of red hair -- a kewpie -- which he handed to his little daughter, Jasmine.

the Epsicle ice pop!

They then went to the confectioners with Lily where she observed the man scoop into a box of ice and then place a cold round deposit into a paper cone before splashing a good dollop of syrup while calling out in a loud voice "Ladies and gentlemen gettem right here on the West coast the one the only the original never before seen tasty treat available only right here at Neptune Beach . . . the original snow cone! It's a penny sundae on a cone! Snow cones right here! And the brand new tasty cool treat to slake your thirst, the Epsicle ice pop! Get your snow cones and popsicles right here at Eppersons! Right now while its hot and they are cold! Yes indeedee cold as Alaska!"

The snow cone was not invented precisely at Neptune Beach but it sure was popular at the park.

Then the wars came, first the war to end all wars followed by the war that pretty much put the kibosh on that idea. The Voorhees and the Kitson clans sent their sons to the Pacific theatre and to Europe and some did not return. The character of Oakland changed a bit as large numbers of Black workers from the deep south arrived to build the planes and ships in shipyards all along the delta from Port Chicago to the Carquinez Straits and in the massive Pacific Steel foundry which still operates in the Berkeley flats not far from the edge of the Bay.

The Great Depression killed the entertainment habits of American families

The Great Depression killed the entertainment habits of American families, and with that the great Neptune Beach which had feted Johnny Weismuller and Jack LaLanne as well as Olympic gold medalists fell into decline to be eventually auctioned off in parts as the rails stopped carrying riders from all over the East Bay past the enticing rides and pools to the ferry landing-- the new Oakland Bay Bridge now brought families from staid Alameda to the more exciting City by the Bay and further afield by means of the modern automobile.

Jasmine grew into a tall flowering beauty who held off suitors at arm's length for quite a while, preferring to stroll alone along the new landfill Beach area called Southshore, and work as a typewriter in Oakland for an investment firm and read books and magazines from Delauer's. Her social activity consisted of horseback riding and playing the cello and providing vocals in an all women's jazz group that called itself B Sharp. They played coffee shops and nice establishments like Crolls, one of the buildings left over from the Neptune Beach days. Her life was complete and she wanted no changes.

It was at Croll's on St. Valentine's Day during her rendition of "Careless Love" that she caught the eye of a roguish-looking fellow sitting there. He had sandy hair and a twinkle in his eye and a full beard and during the set break he got up to sing "Why Do Fools Fall in Love", so she returned and sang Fan Go Socair A Roguire, which loosely translated means Go Easy You Rogue. He followed up with Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. Exhorted by her band and the patrons of Crolls, all of whom were delighted by this little competition, she followed up with Be Careful It's My Heart.

As it turned out the man's name was James Kitson and he worked as an engineer on water projects.

To cut to the chase, they were married in a month. A little while later after a couple of sons came into the world, Althea was born.

Well that is quite a story, Denby said. It was clear that Trent was smitten with the girl. She had sparkling eyes and vivacious wit and seemed to return the affection, however the bookish Trent was all over himself quite tongue-tied and too shy to get anything jumpstarted.

So Denby helpfully suggested, "Why don't you guys drop in to hear my set at the Old Same Place Bar. Usually I do blues, but I think I can come up with something a little different tonight."

the police, accompanied ... a phalanx of FBI agents ... charged across the street with guns drawn

Outside the library after closing Denby stood next to Althea while she fumbled for her car keys. She asked Denby to hold her bag, a rather tattered-looking and heavy canvas thing, so that is why Denby stood holding a bag filled with $50,000 in tens and twenties when the Island police, accompanied by SWAT team in full riot gear and a phalanx of agents wearing dark blue windbreakers labeled FBI barged across the street with guns drawn and two squad cars blocked off Oak Street. Sharpshooters on the roofs took aim at Denby's noggin.

"Hold it!" barked Officer Popinjay.

"But I am," Denby said, not knowing yet what was in the bag.

"O crap!" Althea said. "How on earth did you guys find me?"

"Careful detective work," said Officer O'Madhauen. "You parked nine inches into the red zone and we ran the tags."

As it turned out Althea had pursued the traditional family interest in banking with a twist, becoming the main getaway driver for a gang that had been robbing banks from Oakland all the way down to San Leandro. So that night Denby did not make it to the gig and Trent remained a shy bachelor for the duration.

That night as Denby sat in his cell a thought popped into his head near midnight, bubbling up through his general misery over once again spending another Valentine's day behind bars.

Whatever happened to the banjo?

As if in answer the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the caressing waves of the estuary kissing the rip-rap and across the affectionate grasses of the Buena Vista flats where a fat cherub of a boy practiced his fearful archery as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its romantic journey to parts unknown.

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



FEBRUARY 10, 2013


This image of the Bay Bridge in fog, taken by Tammy quite a while ago, can now be considered archival material.

Your children's children will not see this.

In little-reported news, Caltrans revealed that the last major piece of the new Bay bridge went into place when the entire elevated structure was committed to its permanent cable supports. This means the bridge is essentially finished save for some basic engineering tidy-up jobs, as in wrapping the support cables in weather proofing, etc.

The official opening ceremony, complete with the new bicycle/pedestrian segment, will take place towards the end of this year.

The old bridge, over 75 years old, with a history that featured rail lines and passenger trains, battered by stray oil tankers and earthquakes, will be cut up and towed away in pieces.


The official end to the Wintertime arrived when they dismantled the ice-skating rink, nevermind what that East Coast rodent Puxatawny Phil has to say about it. That is sooooo East Coast to create a whole tradition about yanking some poor feller out of his house while he is warm and asleep into bitterly cold weather while cameras all go snap snap in his bleary eyes without even the benefit of a cup of java.

Poor Phil. If the dude ever wants to come to California, he is welcome. So long as he can get a job.

Folks probably realize by now that the street work on Lincoln near the Library is about finished. If they don't realize it, their front end suspensions will, as the engineers barely worth the title left quite a stretch of nasty upheaval there where we once enjoyed smooth macadam.

Over in Oaktown, the same engineers seem to have been at work laying down a triple layer of steel deck plating right on the corner at Alameda near the Home Depot shopping center.

There must be an imp of the perverse that makes some men enjoy digging a hole, blocking traffic for weeks, and then patching up the job with something most mothers scold their naughty children about. "Just look at the mess you left there! Now go pick it all up!"

Readers may remember that when we first reported on the court ruling that struck down portions of the 2008 Measure H that featured differential parcel tax rates meant to support the schools we speculated the result would be wide ranging in effects beyond our own humble burg.

Turns out we were right.

Districts extending from Norcal to Los Angeles all had enacted similar parcel tax structures and all of them are now under litigation attack.

Rob Bonta, newly elected to the State Assembly, has presented a bill to legalize variable rate tax structures and clarify tax code language, however it is unclear how effective this would be retroactively.

At stake are millions of dollars in already collected revenue that may need to be returned, not to mention millions more in anticipated revenues in virtually every major school district along the coast. A tidy front page piece in the Sun (Vol. 12, no. 19, 02/07/13 "Parcel Tax Ruling Prompts Fresh Suits Elsewhere") lists a few of the issues involved.

In the same paper folks are still moaning about the plastic bag ban. In truth, the flimsy 99 cent bags are not worth much in durability, so it will be some time until people get used to leaving sturdy canvas and hemp sacks in the car for use at the grocery.

Also returning to the radar are concerns about Point development -- something that after 14 years of discussion probably never will go away.

In the EIR everything seems to have shifted and jostled around with the proposed Columbarium moving (and growing) from its former site beside seaplane lagoon to occupy the majority of the former airfield from City Hall West out to the Bay.

Okay, everyone take a deep breath. Zoning seems once again to be at issue here and it seems someone is playing fast and loose with this idea all over. Didn't we just have a brough-hahah over this with the Federal property that was supposed to go to the parks getting a magic zoning facelift overnight?

Finally, please note that now the weather is getting sunnier, strong-arm and armed robberies are once again on the rise with the criminals getting quite violent at times during takeovers.

We are hearing lots of reports of burgluries, especially from parked cars, so now is not the time to stash your laptop or iPad mini under the seat; they will know it is there, even if out of sight.


On the flip side of the Sun Crossword we were saddened to see that there is no more "B Sharp" in music. If that puzzles you literal musicians, let it be known that Bobby Sharp, jazz genius and Island resident passed away on Monday, January 28. Robert Louis Sharp lived 88 years worth of music and excitement.

Born in Topeka Kansas, he moved to New York where he associated with the likes of Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, and Thurgood Marshall. As he developed his songwriting skills, penning work for Sarah Vaughn, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Ray Charles he also came to know Charles Baldwin.

His most famous work is "Unchain My Heart", covered famously by both Ray Charles and Joe Cocker.

He remained vital into his 80's, putting together a joint CD with our own Natasha Miller not too long ago. We recall that release party as being a jolly rip-roaring time on Park Street in the Island's brief flirtation with jazz nightlife.


So anyway, while the East Coast is experiencing a spot of bother regarding weather, Norcal suddenly sashayed into sunshine this weekend.

The following morning the streets sizzled under unruly heavens

We had an abrupt dockwalloper set in mid-week. The afternoon turned gloomy with boiling skies which let loose by dusk, although dusk had begun around noon. The following morning the streets sizzled under unruly heavens and all the crab boats stayed close in, hauled up and everything battened down while the ocean beyond the gate did what the badly name Pacific often does when peeved about something.

Pedro didn't go out that day, although the really large industry boats still went out to batter against the thirty-foot swells.

There would be no more little house with buckets of molluscs

It was on days of lost revenue like these that Pedro wondered why he had become and oysterman like the fellows up in Drakes Estero. But that time, too, was coming to an end as the Park service had not renewed the oysterfarm lease. All that one hundred year old enterprise was to be knocked down and returned to the wilds of the estero there. There would be no more little house with buckets of molluscs, no more shucking, no more scatterings of shells. Only the quiet sedge, the lapping water and the occasional visit from Marvin, the bear of Marin.

Point Reyes had long hosted a single black bear who had ruled the roost all by himself for decades. Just when people thought he had died he popped up again somewhere poking his furry nose into somebody's business, a chicken coop, or their trashcan. He had not been seen for quite a while, so perhaps he had finally died or gone off to find company of his kind somewhere else.

Which just goes to show you there is no security in anything.

So there Pedro sat with the younger one, Sabina, trying to puzzle out her iPad.

"Now what is this one?" Pedro said.

"This here is Angry Birds..."

"This here is Angry Birds. You gotta use this slingshot and fire the bird and blow up the pigs in their fortress."

"Why are the birds angry?"

"Um... cause the pigs laugh at them."

"O! I see!"

Over on Webster the owner of the newest boutique to set up shop there was desperately struggling to get everything ready by Valentine's Day. What with permits, zany contractors and at least one petty Napoleon thug the opening had been delayed well over a month and in this delay, Marvin was seeing lost dollars go waltzing down the avenue to the Bay, there to drown.

Marvin confessed he had a thing for gals in starchy white blouses

And he had developed such a smashing marketing campaign that all the folks at BofA's business loan department had swooned. Especially Lily Kai, head of Business Development Loans. Most normal people would have found Ms. Kai to be somewhat dowdy, even for a banker, but Marvin confessed he had a thing for gals in starchy white blouses with conservative woolen skirts and plain heels. While discussing his solid business plan she had flushed a little, or so it seemed. And she had touched his hand when exchanging the photo id, which certainly had not been necessary.

Nevermind all that - he had to stay focussed! Focus, focus, focus!

"Marvin's Merkins: Put a merkin in your firkin!"

His ad campaign featured two slogans: For the professional performer - in YOU! That was meant to hit both the performing pros and the average schlub out there. Then there was "Marvin's Merkins: Put a merkin in your firkin!"

Idealistic business plans and dreams and Lily Kai were one thing - sort of -- but now here he was on Webster Street watching the ham-fisted contractors he had engaged erect the big purple and gold sign to the front, the realization of years of dreams running his own business on the Island. And here he was at the mercy of a couple of goombahs operating out of a pickup truck and a van each labeled "Pike and Mike: We do it all!"

Neal Pike, the shorter of the two by a couple of feet, stood on a foot stool holding one end of the sign and was barely able to lift the thing above the door top while Mike stood on a ladder ready to fasten the sign a good ten feet above the street level. Fortunately both of them had left their screw drills on the sidewalk below.

Much of their work had gone this way. Mike had built an elaborate conduit system leading from the gluepot area to the roof, but had failed to attach any part of it to the wall or anything substantial. The heavy plywood encased pipe ran from the hood along the wall sideways and then up through the false ceiling and sort of emptied up there among the wires and HVAC without any sort of rhyme or reason with a 150 sones fan mounted on top to suck away vapors. So of course the entire thing fell down during an inspection from the fire marshall.

The stairs he had built in the back also felt questionably shakey.

Brunhilde ... had chased them off with a 24 volt circular saw...

Then there had been the shakedown even before the place had seen a customer by the Angry Elf gang looking for fresh extortion possibilities. Brunhilde, a masseuse from the shop next door, had chased them off with a 24 volt circular saw belonging to the Pike and Mike outfit, which of course had the safety guard removed, but Marvin knew the gang would be back to bother him later.

The owner of A Touch of Wonder, the next door hoity-toity massage place that had moved to the Island from St. Paul after some difficulties with repairing the bullet holes in the front door glass, commiserated with Marvin while Pike shrieked at Mike for being an imbecile. His name was Borg B. Rubbitson.

"Things are the same all over. Me, I had a gumshoe with somatic issues in St. Paul. Here, we got the Angry Elf, a crook with a short person's complex. My girlfriend says psychotic people are not crazy; they just got personality issues. I don't know why the crooks around here have personality issues that keep them out of the nuthouse, but that is the way it is."

"I guess you can't go around locking up everybody who is psychotic anymore," sighed Marvin. Outside Neal Pike, still standing on the footstool, was screaming so intensely at Mike that his face had turned red and the veins in his neck bulged dangerously as if he was on the point of a heart attack.

"No of course not," Borg said. "If you did that all of LAPD would be locked up entirely and there would be no police force down there."


Meanwhile the game had let out over at the Mastic Center on St. Charles and folks had wandered to the front to the bus shelter there and to the benches in the parking lot. Claude and Sam sat on the bench there to wait for the Paratransit, which as usual provided an approximate time of about 90 minutes or so for scheduled pickup. The wind brought leaves from far away across the lot to toss against the round toes of their brown shoes.

Some people, seeing this old pair, would assume a great deal.

What was it like, living all those years in Canada, Claude said.

Long pause.

I think you are going senile, he said.

You been asking me that same question every month now for the past five years, Lem said. And we have known each other for well over fifty years. I think you are going senile, he said.

To cut to the chase, both Claude and Lemuel had been draft dodgers during the Vietnam War. Claude had fled to the bayous of Louisiana with the ultimate intention of getting to Mexico or Central America, but had spent his entire time in the US in the bayou country, which like some parts of the United States is often treated like foreign land and so remains untouched.

I am not going senile, Claude said.

Yes you are, Lem said. Ever since Katy passed away you have been doddering.

I am not doddering, Claude said. I am fit as a firkin full of warm towels.

You keep asking me about Canada over and over. That is a sign, said Lem.

I want to know and you never tell me.

What the hell is so important about Canada? It's cold and full of moose and Winnipeg is as boring as jail without popcorn. You want to know anything more about it?

You went there, Claude said. You went there and lived there for years. And we all may have to go there again.

Come again?

Those crazy people in Washington can't get enough of having wars

They're gonna reinstitute the draft again you know. Those crazy people in Washington can't get enough of having wars and the enlisted soldiers are starting to figure out what its all about. They are going to stop going over there to get their asses shot off just for a paycheck.

So you planning to ship off your nieces and nephews to Winnipeg?

No, Claude said. Me and you. All the old farts who skipped out the first time.

Come again?

They raise the retirement age until ... they don't have to pay a dime of that Social Security

They are going to start rounding us up, Claude said. All the Boomers and the red diaper babies. They raise the retirement age until its impossible so they don't have to pay a dime of that Social Security we paid into all our lives and to cap it off they are going to put us old farts in re-education camps and make us go out there and fight all the new wars the political wingnuts wanna fight. Get rid of that retirement stuff entirely and seize all the IRAs to build more bombers. It's all to balance their precious budget by killing us off before we get any of that Social Security back.

O for Pete's sake what kinda notion you got in your head, Claude! Where did you hear about this thing?

It's the Master Plan, Claude said. I heard about it on Oprah.

Oprah? You heard about this plan of yours on Oprah? I don't believe it. That woman has more sense in her toenails than you ever had in that doddering fool head of yours.

Well maybe it wasn't Oprah, but I heard it. And you just think about it, how those skinflints are looking for ways to stiff us. And those military types, you know the way they are. Things don't ever change, even though we did get rid of Tricky Dick. They always talked about sending off all the old men to fight the wars instead of the young ones anyway.

Can you just see us piloting tanks and bombers with 4x reading spectacles!

Claude, by old men, we meant the old effers starting these wars in the first place and making money off it. Not hapless people like you and me. Can you just see us piloting tanks and bombers with 4x reading spectacles!

Heck, my eyesight so bad now I'd wind up bombing the church instead of the barracks. That would be a fine pickle now wouldn't it?

Hee, hee, hee, I get my hands on one of them jet fighters I am taking out that entire Fisherman's Wharf first thing. Make a phone call first just so nobody gets hurt and put a couple minutemen right there in the support pilings. Kablooie! Goodbye tasteless garbage! Lem said.

Hey! Remember the time we ran a hose to where the ROTC kept their files in the basement of Theta Delta House and filled it with water! Oh boy!

Hee hee hee! The two old boys chuckled over the wild ideas and memories.

O but remember what they did to Artie when they got a hold of him?

O yeah. That wasn't so funny.

The two of them went silent with somber thoughts of what they had done to Artie. And those terrible days. When some got high on free love while others paid the price for freedom by losing their own. Those damned military types.


"That jarhead is a little a jar."

Around the corner came Mr. Terse in the company of Mr. Spline who were looking into scheduling one of the Mastic rooms for the local recruitment effort. Mr. Terse had retired from the Marines many years ago, but like many who miss the security of regularly administered abuse, he had never really put those years behind him. After a little accident out at the boatworks when the prow of a forty footer slipped from its hoist and came down on his crewcut a little hard he had suffered bouts of vertigo, which he combatted with regular pushups and strictly ordered walking so that even walking solo, he always looked like he was marching in formation. In reality he was target fixing on the telephone poles at the end of the block to keep from tilting over. Terse had never been a likeable fellow and even his old soldier buddies would say about him, "That jarhead is a little a jar, if you know what I mean."

Like many people he lived his life as if in the center of a movie

As for Spline, all secrecy nothwithstanding, everyone knew who he was. It was fortunate that he had never done covert work abroad for most countries do not handle obvious spies with great delicacy. Like many people he lived his life as if in the center of a movie, however for him the movie would have been The Pink Panther.

When Spline saw the rainbow socks on anybody his mind seethed into a boil

There was a near instinctive mutual antipathy the two old guys shared with Terse and Spline: each hated the other with unreasoning passion, pinning old hates to Guy Fawkes effigies that would burn in their minds as long as any of they who had survived through the Sixties continued to live. When Spline saw the rainbow socks on anybody his mind seethed into a boil over pinkos, draft dodgers, anti-american flag burners, protesters of any stripe, laggards, unpatriotic scum, pothead druggies, and all the riff-raff responsible for the unruly state of America that kept it from achieving its dream of neat suburban lawns from shore to shore, sea to shining sea. If things had been left to him and his likeminded cohorts, well, things would have turned out different, that's for sure.

As the two marched past, Claude shouted at Mr. Terse's back,"Aye-hole!"

The two wheeled about and Spline put his hand on his hip to display his holster beneath his jacket.

Lem shrugged. Tourettes is such an affliction. Terrible. Really terrible.

Terse snorted and the two dangerous men continued on their way to find a meeting room.

Their bus showed up and the two friends got on board.

Lets make some ruckus. Lem said. You go get your banjo and I'll fetch my Washburn. Kick out the gums.

Jams, Claude said with irritation. It's kick out the jams, not gums.

It's all green eggs and ham to me.

Whatever, Lem said. It's all green eggs and ham to me.

Over in the Old Same Place Bar, people were getting juiced as Dawn went about putting up cardboard hearts and cupids. Between rounds of Fat Tire and shots Suzie kept her head in her anthropology textbook. Padraic stared at the CNN news coverage about the Catholic pontiff in disbelief.

What is a fellow that age like to live on without a 401k giving up the only job he ever had, now.

Maybe he's going to get married, Dawn said lightly.

No, said Padraic. He's a German and not even a Lutheran to boot. Old Germans are as dry as shoe leather.

Excuse me! Old Schmidt said. I beg for some consideration in this house!

Sorry about that, Padraic said. I am sure there are plenty of frauleins eager to tickle your beard.

Ha! In my time I made such a figure! I could tell you such stories to make this young lady turn red as beets. I danced on the volcano I assure you! O it was hot!

Uh, right.

O Schmidt, Dawn said. Tell us all about love! Do tell us all!

Hah! Luff has nossink to do with it. About zees luff sings I know nossingk, nossingk nossingk!

Nothing canted Dawn agog quite like a good love story, watching lovers fall in love, or having a hand in assisting the dreadful process, but before Schmidt could say another word, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the amorous waves of the estuary kissing the rip-rap and across the intriguing grasses of the Buena Vista flats where a fat cherub of a boy practiced his fearful archery as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its clandestine journey to parts unknown.

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

FEBRUARY 3, 2013


This week's photo comes from the Chadwick archives and is a close study of a lily. Something to get you folks dealing with the persistent grip of Old Man Winter through the passing days.


Even now, old Gaia's face, brown and ravined, shawled in moss and arete shadows turns slowly back toward the bright streams shed by her son's chariot coursing the heavens. It will not be long before those six bright pomegranate seeds will allow the maiden to ascend from Hades to greet her mother, golden sheaf-draped Demeter and the world will rejoice again.

This morning on the steps, a single yellow bee, half sleepy from an early awakening. In this way, the kind mother sends us tokens. . . .


We reported on the possible move of the ACLC charter school, which handles exceptional teens, from their berth at Encinal to Wood Middle school some weeks ago. The fallout of this prospective move has the PTA at Wood up in arms and in fear about the threatened closure of the place. There really is not much to add beyond the fact that Wood, featuring declining enrollment, looked to be in trouble before the move and the USD sees this move as a no brainer for allocation of resources.

Of course, the USD has not charmed many people by way of resource allocation and moving facilities to this point so a lot of people remain concerned.

Adding to these two issues, the Administration moving its HQ to the controversial Mariner Square rental location and the charter school, we now have the Union contract negociations breaking down as teachers kicked against the lack of pay raise over the past four years with only a single 2% raise projected by the District.

Cost, as figured by Blogging Bayport, seem to favor the union proposal, as theirs appears to leave out a 1/2 million dollar "stipend" addition instead of a graduated salary increase.

It is a little puzzling as to why the District is rejecting something that saves them money, but you can look at the Blogging Bayport breakdown at CrunchyNumbers (

The Union is calling for a mediator in the contract negiotiations, perhaps in fear that they are not dealing with compos mentis individuals on the other side here and that someone will bring common sense to the table.

We have to wonder if the beancounters at the USD took math here in our schools. Just sayin'...


Rep. Barbara Lee now becomes our representative since redistricting and elections ousted Pete Stark. Rep. Lee will be holding office hours at the Main Library on Thursdays from 3- 5 pm.


In another brilliant move, Island Police impounded a vehicle in the early hours almost a year to the day, and caused the passengers and driver to walk over a narrow bridge on Doolittle Drive back to Oaktown. The driver, a person with bad knees, was struck and killed at 6:00 AM by an automobile.

Now the city is facing yet another lawsuit caused by our idiosyncratic traffic enforcement, which at least one observer has called "a wierd system with strange priorities."

Since no traffic or automotive infractions occured, the fellow who pistol-whipped a couple victims, stole their wallets and robbed a Papa Murphy's Pizza on Broadway has gotten clean away. You can call 337-8350 if you know anything about this jerkoff.


Normally relations with the Coast Guard, which maintains a facility on Coast Guard Island, remain more than cordial here, however the recent proposal to expand the "security barrier" protected area for cutters is causing some hot tempers to flare. The CG wants to base another three 450 footer cutters there in the estuary and needs the additional 75 feet of space to shield against water-based attacks.

The Island has marinas which will be impacted by boat wake as some fairly large ocean vessels squeeze through the narrower passage.

This may be a no-contest as the CG has regs to follow, the danger to its facilities is clear and present and real, and they have to put those darned cutters somewhere. Not such a big factor, but an emotional one, is that the CG was there before the tony marinas put up shop.


So anyway, by now the dismal news has spread throughout the Bay Area. In countless livingrooms, the TV has gone silent and Dungeness crabs sit half eaten with bowls of pistachios and scatterings of chicken wing bones littering the floor and the coffee tables among the chips and dip while the guys are all packing up to get on home to the missus and their beds so as to be ready for work on time, bright and painfully early.

Thank god in Heaven it was not Dallas.

Super Bowl XLVII has come and gone and our guys did not come out victorious this time. Instead, the sons of that rough and tumble seaport city on the East Coast known as Baltimore captured the title. At least it was not Dallas. In the Old Same Place Bar, Eugene was complaining again and again to the Man from Minot about the bad call - or lack of any call at all -- regarding the interference on that Michael Crabtree.

"Look at that replay, would ya!" Eugene jabbered. "Look at that! The man was all over him! The ref was blind, I tell ya! Blind!"

It might be said, no championship game is worth its salt without at least one missed call just like that one. And so, Tradition Prevails. We really would have won, and still deserve to do so, were it not for that @#$#$% call. The ref was blind, I tell ya! Blind! . . .

So there.

In a way, since New Orleans was not in the running, we are kind of glad another seaport city took the title. Baltimore is another "dirty old town", not unlike Oaktown, with grease under its fingernails and a hearty American flavor about its soul. At least it was not Dallas. Please god, anything but Dallas.

At other tables and other parts of the rail in the bar, life goes on, and it might be said, entirely without any regard to what happened at Super Bowl XLVII. It is generally common knowledge that the greatest day of football is a great day to go to a museum, see a movie, visit a park and generally take the air any place one normally finds long lines.

The freeways become a joy because all the imbeciles who perpetrate road rage are screaming in front of a TV set, venting. You can finally get out to Modesto in the old travel time to visit your grandmother and return without worry about some penishead piloting a cherry-red Miata with a pistol.

Out on the Strand all the upperclass kids banged into one another

Over at Mr. Howitzer's the usual game party was running out its due course in the Rumpus Room. When the Tv version got too tedious, the Blather kids got together with the Cribbages and the Pescatores for a little touch ball game on the Strand. It did not look like the home team was likely to win, so the kids decided to carry on in their own fashion. Out on the Strand all the upperclass kids banged into one another as if they knew what they were doing and they carried on with touchdowns and whatnot, but of course it all decayed into a frenzy of atavistic rending and tearing and thumping, because kids like this were reared without the idea that an independent umpire or referee was of any importance.

The rules always were rules that were supposed to support their own position, an idee fixe that is peculiar to certain highly right wing, Ultra Conservative households.

the kids kept themselves occupied by locking each other up in manacles

So things got chaotic with sprained ankles and bloody noses and all the adults retired to the den to discuss the more important matters concerning the uptick in stock options while Dodd, as usual, was left to clean up the mess and keep the children from murdering each other. Eventually he secured the lot of them in the dungeon once maintained by a Howitzer who had entertained a BDSM fetish, and so the kids kept themselves occupied by locking each other up in manacles and hoods and flailing around with leather whips and playing dare with the electric cattle prods.

There really is not too much difference between American football and BDSM anyway, when it comes down to basics, right down to, and including, the fanny pat.

This is a real uncomfortable time of year for us in the Bay Area, this time after the Holidays are all passed and the cleanup after the Annual Island-Life Poodleshoot has been done so that people come to believe this fiction that we are a genial lot of Islanders with a few provincial ideas coupled with antiquated ideas about old houses and historic preservation for the good of it all, very stoked with humanitarian values and liberal leanings.

That is all poppycock we foist on the tourists to keep them coming and forking over tourist dollars for ridiculous bowls of crab chowder served in sourdough bowls like this is something we provide our own kids for lunch.

In reality we are all sour Californians who cannot stand each other and who seek any sort of rich opportunity to get in each other's way so as to make someone really miserable in hopes they will move away and so allow us a little more space and all of the stuff in their garage.

Well some of us are like that. The rest of us are like Wavy Gravy, genial and loving both dogs and kids and always having adventures that haphazardly prove that human beings, although rather stupid and sometimes dangerous nevertheless remain stubbornly loveable and worth preserving with enough hope to produce another one in fond delusion that somehow, someway, this next iteration will in some fashion by some mysterious process impossibly improve things and not totally eff things up the way so many of our neighbors do.

But in this pre and post season time we don't have a lot of tourists coming around to distract us and give the guy standing on a milk crate painted bronze head to toes something to do down at Fisherman's Wharf; he has to bide his time playing Angry Birds on his Kindle in a bar with an Irish coffee beside -- skip the whip, just coffee and brandy. The wild bushman has nothing to leap out at to startle and so he sits disconsolate with his sere branches and a fortified tea cup in the deep winter chill, waiting for Spring's awakening.

The Bay Tour boats rock gently in their Jack London slips and the Presidential Yacht once owned by that President who sat out a world war in a wheel chair has no visitors and the night watchman sweeps the decks of the carrier that fetched astronauts, now a silent museum.

So,if you wanted to really see what we are like, now would be the time for a visit, drop in for a spell while all the Hollywood has gone to sleep, leaving Paradise just a name on the map up in one of the most dirt poor baking hot in summer counties in the nation try to explain itself and fail with half hearted mumbles in the dark.

the conditioning experience that truely defines a Californio is . . . disappointment. . .

It is said that the conditioning experience that truely defines a Californio is not earthquake, not fire, not loss in the sense of property damage, not attachment to wildly nonsensical '49er spirit which itself was rooted in avarice but the common experience of disappointment, of arriving here or being born and raised here only to find that the only Eden to be had is that which you make yourself and that to be taken away by inevitability, much in the manner of Life itself.

Then there is the Island, a one-time Navy base now bedroom community packed to the gills with nutcases and exhausted common-sense folks just trying to get through the week without resorting to murder. A little island that hosts the Home of Truth right there on Grand Street. The place from which the Doolittle squadron departed to harass Tokyo in its martial pride during the Second World War.

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden, demi-paradise, this fortress built by Nature for herself against infection and the hand of war, this happy breed of men, this little world, this precious stone set in the silver sea, which serves it in the office of a wall, or as a moat defensive to a house, against the envy of less happier lands, this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this Island, this nurse, this teeming womb of heroes, fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth, renowned for their deeds as far from home, for Christian service and true chivalry, this land of such dear souls, this dear dear land, dear for her reputation through the world . . . .

In the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie cleans up the sad remnants of the Superbowl party that never took off along with Padraic and Dawn. "Suppose the next ballyhoo shall be the Valentine's Day thing." Padraic said.

Dawn asked Suzie if she was ready for this one and Suzie had to reply that things were tight. The year had come round and the landlord was upping the rent again. Word had it he was evicting anyone who had so much as hinted of tabacco use just so he could boost the rents that much more and take advantage of the economic upturn.

"Economic upturn!" Dawn exclaimed. "I'd like to see some of that around here!"

Yet still it looked like Suzie might have to be looking for another place and things looked really bad with the Island for all the greed that was in it. People were asking thousands for nothing better than a hole with bare room for a bed and a pot to piss in. All the folks fleeing the bad situation across the water in Babylon were driving things up past extreme.

As for Valentine's day that was a fine thing for people who could afford it and it was all about sales and much bother about nothing else.

Now now, Dawn said. Some day you will find yourself a fine lad.

All the lads that are be nothing but trouble and little worth! Suzie shouted.

All the lads that are be nothing but trouble and little worth! Suzie shouted and stormed out to the bathroom.

A moment of frigid quiet hung like an ice crystal mist in the air of the bar and began a slow dissolve to the tatters and shards that littered the floor.

Ah, be leaving the girl in peace would you now, Padraic said in a rare for him moment of compassion and Dawn was tossed by embarrassment into an acre field of silence for a while. Perhaps it was the misguided affaire with that tango artist which ended up sordidly in an Italian prison when it turned out the man was wanted in six countries by Interpol. Or perhaps it was the general sense of disappointment that comes with flying a bit too high, or wanting too, in romance that often afflicts young women. Who can say what dark aches tear at the heart of a young girl during the witching hours of the night?

So while a young, beautiful girl sobbed in the toilet of the Old Same Place, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the star-crossed waves of the estuary and across the disappointed grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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



JANUARY 27, 2013


It's California. So when other places lay under ice things start to bloom. Here is an early riser in the East End.


There is nothing quite like becoming disabled for a while to get you really into scrutinizing what other people are doing for news coverage while your legs are up under five pounds of ice on the couch. Besides a ton of "darn, I could have covered that one better!" and "darn, wish I could cover that one, but from a different angle, there are the gems that drip from our workaholic bloggers and brick and mortar establishments.

First, we learned to distrust ABC7 and K-whatever for local weather, as it seems those people get their rain prognostications from Saruman's crystal ball rather than from science or reality. Time after time we got the accurate call from NOAA, the same folks those radical Pee Tardy folks want to abolish, surmising that only people with pots of money deserve to be alerted to the approach of hurricanes and tornadoes.

Secondly, the Patch, which began life quite promisingly, is turning into an ad-packed online version of the Examiner, which is not a compliment. We don't know why the Patch is getting worse, but can guess that fatigue and low wages have something to do with it. On the upside, their police blotter still reads with interesting items, and we appreciate the effort there, especially as we know that the IPD has become difficult to work with and uncooperative to several crime stat gathering entities.

Blogging Bayport remains quite a treasure to the extent that we are envious of someone who apparently has substantial resources of time to investigate matters relating to the Island. If she does not, we wish Lauren Do to win the lottery with the proviso that she devote her gains to local journalism.

The most recent post presented the EIR planning maps for the Point, with reference to the Planning Board Meeting to be held Monday at 7pm at City Hall. This discussion will be about the environmental impact report, which will not in itself address the vast majority of the most pressing issues people seem to have, but which should at least touch on some of them and give people an idea of what is in the pipeline.

No, the EIR cannot be concerned with Global warming or rising of sea water levels -- that is not within the scope of the examination.

No it cannot be concerned with other independent development projects in progress.

On the side of fairplay, we note that a number of defenders of Big Five's gun sales have stepped up to indicate that the weapons sold by B5 cannot be categorized as assault weapons on the basis of caliber, which happens to be .22.

Now in fairness we could claim that .22 caliber is not equal across the board, as there are .22 longs to be had with significantly larger wallop, however let it be granted that a .45 caliber slug will always do significant damage to a living creature while a man can walk away from several hits from a .22 or even a .38 police standard cartridge.

Discussions along these lines tend to decay to the old reducio ad absurdem debates over whether attacking your neighbor with a lawnmower is any worse than using a pistol.

The real issue needs to stay focussed on whether we want projectile weapons with capacity for unlimited firepower to be universally available within the community. Quibbles about details descend to pure cant.


Finally our copyboys got around to clearing out the calendar detritus and we expect to be more on the ball in the coming weeks with events. A brief gander at the hot upcoming shows indicates that Yoshi's West will be hosting Michelle Shocked in March, which should be an evening that will likely prove interesting, provocative and unexpected as the mercurial and wildly talented performer may pull any number of musical hats from her impressive arsenal.

Closer in time, North Africa's Vieux Farka Toure will enchant you with stunning vocals on February 3rd, while the Crescent City sends its ambassador, Allen Toussaint, to occupy February 9-10th.

John Waters is coming to town in November. Did you really need that much advance warning for Baltimore's Favorite Son?

This in-between period is always the doldrums for music and theatre, but we note that BB King will be ripping up the boards at the venerable Fox Theatre on February 28th. The booking agent there, apparently inspired has the King followed by Flogging Molly March 9th on a weekend that should allow you time to dry out in the drunk tank in time for work. March 16th sees the the rocky-jazzy Umphrey's McGee bring back the Alt in Alternative music, while Josh Ritter will charm your pants off on March 20th, all at the same venue in Oaktown.

If you are willing to get over to the increasingly overpriced, increasingly irrelevant, and increasingly out-of-range Babylon, Slims still holds reasonable shows in the same old location south of Market. There the hardest working musician in the Bay Area, Tommy Castro will bring his revamped band Painkillers backed by none other than The Paul Thorn Band on Fri. 2/1. This is a rare headline marquee event for Slims, so folks better line up at the doors where we saw Nirvana some years before. Paul Thorn is one of those American originals who is so talented you know he will never get famous unless he pukes on a Kardashian.

As for Tommy, well we love him and his bad attitude, his down-to-earth soul, and his musical virtuosity to bits. As they say, you can't keep a good man down. Stay tough, amigo. You proved you don't have to be a culador to survive.

Just in over the wire, we held the pub of this issue to share with you a new art opening in Oaktown, where it is clear something very big and phenomenal and exciting is going on with regards to modern plastic, graphic and industrial arts all across the city.

Here is the press release for the Blackball Universe event taking place 02/01/13:

"A new tide is rolling in at Blackball Universe. The office-meets-recording studio-meets-art gallery-meets-after hours lounge will be hosting its first group of artists this February. A Match Made in Oakland features work from a trifecta of contemporary Bay Area artists: Westart, Niki Escobar, and Suzie Borhan.

January's Blackball Gallery artist, Westart, will show new pieces created over the course of the month in their studio residency at the Blackball offices. Westart is comprised of twins Adahn and Ian Stewart whose collaborative, mixed-media works command one artist's name, and a whole city's attention. Mixing heroic narratives, comic influences and personal histories, this duo demonstrates a unique style that reflects a common culture.

Feminist and experimental poet Niki Escobar will hang mixed-media pieces which demonstrate her "training in poetry" alongside her "untrained obsession with visual art." Smart, satirical and reflective, Escobar's work explores the experience of women, and the history and mythology of the Philippines. Winner of the Frances Jaffer Poetry Award, and a consistently published poet, Escobar is currently furthering her visual arts "obsession" with a graphic novel.

Suzie Borhan paints, draws, collages and travels, living now in Oakland, hailing previously from Washington and Oregon. She will be displaying thought-provoking, mixed-media works that explore an alternate world. Bahrain's recurring cast of characters occupy a space the audience explores visually and through text with her accompanying narrative poems. "

A Match Made in Oakland will be on display from February 1 - 23, with a first Friday artist's reception at 7pm, and regular Saturday hours from 12pm - 4pm.

Blackball Gallery is located 230 Madison Ave.(at 2nd St) Oakland, CA 94607.

Stay tuned to Island-life. Things are only going to get better from here on out.


So anyway the weather has turned to sunny after a gloomy time of overcast skies. Got a wharf sizzler earlier in the week, which has left everything dripping and pooled along the curbs and gutters in odd places, leaving the ground saturated and mucky topped with dead leaves which did their job a long time ago.

Everyone is sitting in front of grates waiting patiently for dry warmth to invade the earth once again. Those with the means, like Tommy and Toby, are packing up their boxy cars with the snow tires and chains and heading up into the areas around Taboo to enjoy the fresh deep powder. Report has it from Patrick in the hills that snow is falling as of this minute and all his little rug rats are out there making redundant snow angels.

Inside the frosted windows Toby, mother of all those rug rats now pelting their dad with hasty snowballs without regard to the fact that this guy will be the fellow paying for their college tuition in a few years, silently remembers one of the Newtown 26, Charlotte Bacon (6).

for the grace of some kind of god or whatever, Sandy Hook could have just as well claimed one of hers

While dad and the kids go screaming off down the way, causing untold rampant destruction of morals and propriety among the Sierra foothills, Toby comes out into the hard chill air and, as the snowflakes fall gently, she gently lays down among the other imprints and spreads her legs and her arms while looking up at the falling snowflakes, which cling to her long lashes. Toby is herself a schoolteacher in Grass Valley and knows that, but for the grace of some kind of god or whatever, Sandy Hook could have just as well claimed one of hers.

She gets up and leaves the little angel imprint, a memory of Charlotte, a redhead who used to light up the room whenever she entered, the way that temperamental redheads sometimes do and goes inside. Tomorrow was another school day and there were tasks to organize.

Every teacher spends a portion of homelife preparing for the next school day. But then, some say nothing you do for children is ever wasted.

these kids, their childhood stolen

In Oaktown, at the Jack Sparrow Orphanage, the Editor has returned to his clerical duties, knocking about the place on a wooden crutch. In his rounds he comes across the kids from the Avalon school on the grounds and has to reintroduce himself -- the kids don't hold much for long in their heads. Most of them are autistic, PTSD, any number of acronyms needing medication besides. None of these kids will ever lay back in the snow with casual abandonment. They are serious, not laughing very often, these kids, their childhood stolen as effectively as if some maniac had barged in with a fully automatic assault rifle into their lives. Some of these kids lived brief lives in the media when they were discovered in some backyard shed or dank basement chained to a post after several years of non-childhood possession by a deviant maniac armed with knives and blowtorches. Some simply abandoned by foster homes grown too tired of the complications.

As Woody Allen used to say, life is divided between the horrible and the miserable. Just thank your lucky stars you belong to the merely miserable.

As the Editor stumps up the path one of the kids is standing there facing a staffer who alerts the kid, "Someone is coming up behind you."

"Hello!" says the Editor merrily, letting the kid know he is heaving his heavy bulk up the way.

"Hello," the kid says absently before moving inside the school.

The Editor is an adult who will not hurt him. Okay fine. On to other things.

The Editor humps on up into the Administration building. Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. Nothing ever so small.

At Marlene and Andre's Household everyone is huddled around the coffeetable under which Occasional Quentin sleeps. It is bread soup night, so everyone is there with their "Bush Bowl", named after the family that made these circumstances, filled with thick red bread soup somewhat fortified with the meat of a couple squirrels Pahrump had managed to trap.

Life, indeed was good. Warm bread soup with squirrel meat and a warm dry place to squat until the greedy developers got too savage and Mr. Howitzer raised the rent again. One could not complain on this chilly night in January when so many had so little and things were bound to get worse, given the trends.

Out behind the backdoor a couple of bloody squirrel hides hung drying. Martini and the others stood there while Quentin picked his nose and Pahrump went through the age-old practice of squirrel-skinning, which, if you did not know, involves making a few sharp cuts, stomping on the critter's tail with your boot and yanking hard upwards, separating the rodent carcass from his former insulation. If you have seen such a thing, you learn why they call what is left pelt and carcass. Sarah and Tipitina went into the house, unable to eat dinner.

"What the heck is he going to do with that fur pelt", Martini wanted to know.

"Don't ask", Jose said. "I am not so sure I want to know myself. Have another helping of stew?"

"No thanks," Martini said. "I've had enough."

In the offices of the Island-Life the Editor started wrapping up the week. Seems a group of younguns are starting up a gallery in Oaktown. Keeping their mitts in the ring and staying feisty. That was the spirit.

He passed down the line of empty desks to exit the offices and stand in the chill air on the deck bounded by orange and lemon trees now in full abundance of yield, despite the season. There he inhaled the deep scent of citrus and life in bloom. Somewhere somewhere else all life was still encased in ice, but here, in California, the golden land of promise, the oranges were bursting.

all of these snow angels spread their wings

He closed his eyes and there on the deck among the lemon trees and the oranges the editor had a vision. This was the Editor's vision. He dreamed that all the snow angels around the world rose up out of their cold beds in all of the countries all over the globe, in Germany and in Norway, in South Africa and the slopes of Kilimanjaro, Australia and Tibet and the angels started to sing. They sang of spring and renewal and patience and the eternal return of life to the land. In the frosty heavens all the souls of the children who had died danced in a roundel, circles of snow angels arose in flocks to join together and so circle the globe, all the murdered children forming a protective blanket around the earth, and all of these angels spread their wings to block the effects of global warming and so a great thing was come to pass and all the sea levels returned to normal and the wine dark seas were calmed to quiescence and there were no more hurricanes and the glaciers returned to their former majesty.

The long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary and across the non-native grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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



JANUARY 20, 1013


This week's image comes courtesy of Chad's archives and from one of his many visits to the Lucky 13 on Park. It kinda indicates the shaggy dog weather we have been having.

It also shows that the Lucky 13 is a place where mutts are welcome. Just don't pimp yer poodle in there.


During this slow news time, while the newly installed councilmembers learn all about long hours on Tuesday nights over there in Silly Hall. Our sympathies go with you as folks rack up the hours complaining about everything from potholes to the plastic bag ban.

The USD administration is all moved in to their contested rented digs in Marina Square Village. They are offering to allow citizens to tour the place on appointment.

As for the infamous "Berlin Wall" as one letter-writer called it, that remains in situ around the landmark high school on Santa Clara while the Carnegie building, equally distressed and in need of earthquake retrofit does not warrant even a keep away sign.

Cost to deal with the schools upgrades, which probably includes places where students are actually sitting in front of teachers, is estimated at some $92 million dollars.


We noted that the charter school ACLC is looking to expand operations on the campus of the Wood Middle School. We know ACLC, its high standards for excellence, and we know the tech guy over there, Milton, so we were suprised to hear that the PTA of Wood is against the move to their campus.

Seems declining enrollment at Wood proper is threatening the future of the campus, but we see ACLC as a good stop-gap measure to keep the place humming for a while. One of our kids went to school there and we would hate to see another brick of Old Alameda get tossed away, so we are hoping that things can be worked out in the same way the former Arthur Anderson school project helped out the Jets on the West End.

Letters regarding the plastic bag ban have decreased to a dull simmer on the stove in favor of nationally provoked issues, as in school safety in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedies. Turns out cursory safety inspections reveals that plans for handling Newtown-style events have been in place a long time -- they just are not being followed even to date.

Edison, Lum and Ruby Bridges retain multiple open access points, unlocked classrooms, unchallenged entry points, unchallenged visitors, and a plethora of other lapses that indicate that some folks in charge seem to believe we are living in Oz, not in the middle of a 5 county metropolis of nearly ten million people, two millions of which live in Alameda County alone.

On that subject, loosely, some citizens have called for Big 5 stores, which has an outlet in Southshore Mall, to cease the selling of fully automatic assault weapons with extended clips.

You have to wonder just what would happen should someone actually employ such a thing for personal defense in a place as crowded as the Island with its thin walls and children's rooms. Even trained police will sometimes hit innocent bystanders during a gunfight. Have bullets, will travel. . . .

Of course you could always get to know your neighbors, learn each others habits of movement, and watch out for one another. There is always that option.

In the Crimestoppers Notebook we saw an uptick in burgluries, arrests on outstanding warrants, at least one violent mugging, and over ten 5150 detentions for "psychiatric evaluation."


Monday, besides being Inauguration Day for our esteemed President, is also Martin Luther King Day. Here is the scoop on AC Transit:

On the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Monday, January 21, 2013, all AC Transit offices will be closed and Local and Transbay bus lines-- except for those crossing the Dumbarton Bridge-- will run on a Sunday schedule. Dumbarton Bridge service will be maintained at its normal frequency.

Regular business operations and scheduling will resume on Tuesday, January 22.

Complete scheduling information is available online at; or by telephoning 511 and saying “AC Transit.”

We would like to add everyone can sit anywhere they like on the bus and upon arrival may enter any emporium regardless of appearance straight through the front door. In addition, anyone can sit anyplace they like in any sort of bar to watch on TV a Black man get sworn in as President. For the second time.

We have King and the Freedom Riders to thank for that.


So anyway, now is come the depths of the still winter, when the trees shake their long black bones against the pearl grey, unremitting sky, all calcified and hard against desire. Yet, still, under the soft hummocks of snow, the equally persistent root of life winds and bends its way upwards, seeking any old crack.

Over at the Pampered Pup Lionel is in a jovial, backslapping mood, for on the morrow he will be closing up shop to head over to Oaktown and Everett and Jones to watch brother Obama get sworn in for the second time on the big screens there.

Arthur sat at the counter with an all beef special wrapped up in an Alaskan parka with the furred hoodie. "You got that right," he said. "I expect that Justice Roberts will get the oath right this time, dontcha thing?"

we live in a mighty time, a mighty time indeed!

"O tomorrow, tomorrow!" Lionel said. "On Martin Luther King day no less! And on the Dee Cee Mall to boot! I say we live in a mighty time, a mighty time indeed!"

"Welp," Arthur said licking the moustard from his lips. "We'll see what happens to the Public Option after this. I am going over to the Old Same Place later on."

"I'll see you there," Lionel said. "Give my regards to Jacqueline if you go by there. . .".

Arthur sighed. "I don't see what you see in that woman. She's as skinny as a stick . . ."

"O now, you get out of here, you!"

"Ha ha!"

Kings and queens may trade their thrones, but all avails and matters naught within the golden round of the court of Love. There the antic sits and with his pin, well, bores everyone to tears. Everyone would have slept through Romeo and Juliet if the fools had not killed each other in some dramatic fashion.

As the night settled down with ebony folds to drape the town with cold sparkles shining through its fur, streetlights glinting and leaf-torn puddles left from the last lashing of storms, the various inhabitants of the Island huddled, each as was their wont, to wait out this time of expectation, this season of patiently attending the steadily marching hours towards the longer days.

soon the entire block is enveloped in a prison of crystalline ice

Meanwhile the moisture on the windshield stars up, expands, exfoliating into fractals with infinite permutations. The ice expands over the glass, covers the car, creeps along the road, making spiky topographic maps of dreams, creeps up the houses and soon the entire block is enveloped in a prison of crystalline structure that meets others rise up to envelope the old trees -- the city would cut them down anyway -- and brings down the powerlines with the weight, isolating each house with its iPads and its Wifi without electricty or heat until the entire city soon is domed over and fingers of the ice continue to lace out like Fibonacci numbers to crush Oaktown and all the neighboring cities while people slept, body cores gradually cooling in all the people, all the children, all the dogs, until everything was crushed quietly, quietly under a solid lightless sheet of ice and dark and every form of life was stilled . . .

The Editor snapped away from his nightmare in the cold newsroom and stared about him wildly. "What? What? No!"

But there he was in the cubicle, cold but not frozen, while the machines muttered their old complaints by way of their fans. All around him the silent desks with their lamps, computer screens.

Down by the old cannery building, Officer O'Madhauen sat in his Crown Vic, sipping his cup of coffee, ostensibly watching for red light dodgers, but at this time of night, on the eve of a holiday, there was scant chance of anyone coming by through the industrial park. It was just a place he liked to sit and let his mind go blank while the swelling moon rose over the old Beltline zone.

Tommy and Toby's boat, The Lavendar Surprise, rocked gently in its berth in the marina slip while its owners rested comfortably in each other's arms beneath a down coverlet from LL. Bean.

Mrs. Sanchez, nee Ms. Morales, stepped lightly wearing her nightgown down the hall to where Mr. Sanchez lay half asleep. Tomorrow no school, but there were papers to grade. Enough for tomorrow, so she slipped under the covers and snuggled up next to him for warmth.

At Mr. Howitzer's mansion, the one on Grand Street with the two stone lions in front, the master of the house have final terse orders to the ever patient Dodd, who remained at work although it was nearing midnight. There would be a ball. Or something similar. On February 14th. Roses. Candies. Music. Pink champagne. Fluffy shit. Be ready for it.

Yes sir. How many attendees?

Fifty. Be ready.

Yes sir.

Over at Marlene and Andre's household, the place had packed in as folks who slept outside during the warmer months had shifted indoors, meaning all fifteen souls were sharing the same air. And the same bathroom.

"Martini, get your foot out of my eye," Jose said with irritation.

"Sorry . . .". a voice emitted in the dark.

"Put it in your sleeping bag for the sake of god would you!"

"Sorryyyyyy. . . ".

Someone else called out in the dark, "Hey! Anyone got any spare Effexor? I am out."

"O for Pete's sake," Pahrump said.

The household was a model of social interdependence.

Their traditional cheer was a high five and the mantra "Bunchgrass Forever!"

Down the way Katrina Smite stood up from her topographic map of the area after having dismissed the members of the Native Plants Association from their campaign meeting. The group had been planning activities for the coming year as part of their program to eradicated all foreign plant species. Their traditional cheer was a high five and the mantra "Bunchgrass Forever!"

Katrina remained in the door as the last of the members ambled down through the cold to their cars parked on Shoreline. From her steps she could see the Bay and the distant hump of Babylon's southern hills. As well as the horrid marsh with its nasty foreign sawgrass they had been going at for a couple years now. Once that was gone, then the beachhead would be theirs! Yes, it was a brand new year made ready and panting with expectation. The thought of the upcoming battle made her almost, dare we say, moist.

As she stood there, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary and across the non-native grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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



JANUARY 13, 2013


This week's photo is an old one from the archives and was submitted by Mike Rettie in the West End a while ago. Mike's wife works for Callahan Piano which has a workshop on the Point. Clearly, sometimes the usually sedate business of caring for old instruments can get pretty unruly.


The Horror Days have come and gone along with Xmas and all that blather about great deals for 99.99. Hopefully by now all of you have removed the tinsel from your beards and merkins and you all got what was coming to you.

Maybe you even got a merkin for Xmas, a gift which is highly personal although seldom considered as the weather is usually too chill around this time of year to put on on and have it properly displayed.

Although this period tends to slow-news days we note a few events and happenings here along with developments for old stories.

Measure H, which was partly struck down by the Circuit Court, is now going through appeal subsequent to the court's decision to vacate and reconsider. The decision against split-level taxation affects a number of other communities around the Bay who have instituted similar creative funding schemes. Measure H funds were to go to support the public schools. Measure A, also passed by voters, seeks to cover the losses should Measure H eventually go down in defeat, however the litigation is likely to continue on the contentious issue for quite some time. Ironically, Measure A looks like it will impose higher taxes on a flat-field basis than its predecessor ($299 Vs $120 for single family dwellings and 32 cents per sq. foot for commercial property owners).

Already hard at work from his new Assembly seat, Rob Bonta has introduced a bill that will clarify funding for school districts statewide. His bill will likely put him side by side with Governor Jerry Brown as Brown seeks to simplify revenue streams.

We remember Jean Sweeney as a gracious and courteous lady. Courteous and tenacious. The 23 acre open space property she secured via diligent records research that is now named in her honor will have its future decided by committee in various meetings. The first public meeting will be 10 - noon, at the Officer's Club on 641 Red Line Road out at the Point. Another meeting will be held 7 - 9pm February 13 in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

The Jean Sweeney Open Space Park Committee has a Facebook page. Facebookers only need do a search on for her name together with "open space" to show the love.

We have been remiss with updates on what has been happening with AC Transit, and we apologize. The Bus Rapid Transit got a new Director, named David Wilkins, way back in October. According to AC Transit's Press Release, "The BRT project is more than just a transit project. It is an economic development project that will contribute to the economy by creating local construction and construction support jobs as well as stimulate the growth of businesses along the corridor due to the new service. Construction is expected to begin in 2014 with the BRT system fully implemented in 2016."

Wilkins is a heavy hitter with a wildly packed resume of credentials handling multi-million dollar projects, so we expect great things from him.

Also we have this regarding opportunities for public service:

To ensure that its transit services are used and easily obtainable by all members of the public, AC Transit is seeking volunteers to fill vacancies on its Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC). The District appealed for applications from people interested in volunteering their input by serving on the committee as advocates for seniors and disabled bus riders.

The AAC, consisting of 14 members, typically meets on the second Tuesday of the month to address concerns about—and implement and enhance—AC Transit’s programs and services as related to seniors and people with disabilities. The committee was established specifically to review policies and procedures, as well as comment and advise the District and its seven-member Board of Directors on all matters related to bus accessibility.

Citizens appointed to serve on the committee shall serve a term of one (1) year beginning March 1, 2013. In an effort to maintain a diversified panel representative of people who are seniors, people with varying disabilities and of diverse ethnic backgrounds, two committee members will be appointed by each Director.

Qualified applicants must use AC Transit’s fixed-route service, be a senior or individual with a disability and/or represent such groups, and be willing to devote the necessary hours to attend meetings. Along with identifying problems and offering probable solutions and ideas, prospective applicants should also have respect for others, be open to hearing divergent points of view, and commit up to six (6) hours a month to committee-related work.

If interested, applications can be obtained from and returned to the District Secretary’s Office, 1600 Franklin Street, 10th Floor, Oakland, CA 94612 or by calling (510) 891-7201. Completed applications also can be faxed to: (510) 891- 4705. All applications must be returned to the District Secretary by February 1, 2013.

AC Transit has been sending us reports on a regular basis and we hope, as things begin to mend around here, to start reporting again more frequently on mass transit issues.


So anyway the weather has been brisk for around here. Native San Franciscans have been lurking about the Island and we can see them clearly for who they are. These are the folks who stroll around wearing sandals without socks in their shirtsleeves while the saner people around them scrape the ice from their windshields, wearing mittens, fuzzy hats, and full parkas from REI.

Decent people would at least pretend to be chilled so as to bond in some kind of human sympathy with the rest of the world, but not these folks seeking avenues of escape from the obscenely high rents over there in Babylon. Meanwhile, Jacqueline of Jackie's Hair Salon looks out these mornings and smiles to herself, as Jackie stems from Bear Lake upstate Minnesota near the Canadian border. You talk about cold you just talk to Jackie while she is in there doing a tint job on Mrs. Blather, trying to make the lady look a little less gray.

But tastefully, tastefully. Jackie would not have it any other way.

Jackie tells the story about the rumored reason about how the Erickson kid with the cleft lip got that way and the story goes that this boy, whose name was Alfred, had done the worst thing that a boy could do in wintertime. He had taken the double dare and acted out the most grievous nightmare -- plus or minus a few other really really horrible things involving knives and witches -- that afflicted all of us while growing up.

Yes, the hapless child put his tongue upon an iron pump handle after the temperature had dropped well below minus twenty degrees. And there he found himself frozen to the metal there and unable to get loose.

If you touch someone who has been electrocuted then you would get electrocuted

So there poor Alfred was stuck and all the kids too scared to do anything and half afraid if they helped him they would get stuck too somehow the way electricity was known to do -- everyone knows about that, right? If you touch someone who has been electrocuted then you would get electrocuted and have a heartattack and die and be buried in the cold ground. It is a known and proven fact and my cousin read about it in a magazine or saw it on TV.

So all the kids ran off, too scared to do something to help poor Alfred with his tongue frozen to the pump handle and the reason nobody is around to tell about this now is that they all were embarrassed by their cowardice and so each one of them grew up with this terrible dark secret in their hearts about having failed to help a fellow human being.

Even Gwen, dear sweet Gwen with the blond hair and the blue eyes whom Alfred had rather liked in Mr. Joe's Biology class for figuring out the ATP pump cycle before anyone else and who always had smiled at him even though he lived on a farm with his dull brother Axel, even she had run off.

So there he was, all alone, surrounded by snow, hearing the howling of wolves, or something that sounded like wolves, half afraid he would just die there of exposure overnight, his family wondering where he had gotten off to at suppertime and his father in a wax on his lateness and his mother sorrowfully putting away the hot dish casserole.

He would die and they would find him and cut loose the pipe there and put him in a casket with the pump still attached to his tongue and he would bury him like that in a coffin in the farmyard with Father Danyluk debating with Rome as to whether this was considered a suicide or a hapless accident and the good father winning out over that German fellow in the Vatican because Father Danyluk was a good man as head of the parish of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint.

You will have to chose to go to the Other Place

So that is the way he would approach the kingdom of heaven, with the pump handle frozen to his tongue and him having to carry it right up to St. Peter with his beard and the Book among the Host of Heaven and St. Peter exclaiming, "Well we really cannot have this sort of thing in Heaven you know! You will have to chose to go to the Other Place, where it may be hot enough to thaw that thing, or Gabriel.

So of course he chooses Gabriel and along comes the ferocious archangel with his terrible mighty sword with comes up and swishes down and . . .

O my gawd! So much blood in heaven not been seen for so long . . .

In the other scenario, Old Grima, the neighboring bachelor farmer comes along and deals with the situation as tough Norwegian bachelor farmers are known to do. Out comes the knife, the same one he uses for the bulls to make them tame, and . . .

O my gawd . . .!

So that is how the Erickson boy got his cleft lip and got the way he was. However the story does not end there.

Alfred's family saved up their pennies and got the boy to a surgeon who fixed his cleft lip, however with the unfortunate result that the boy spoke with a French accent the rest of his life.

Alfred got a scholarship that took him to France where he stayed and changed his name to Eric, while his brother, Axel, remained on the farm tending livestock. All the French marveled at how, finally, they had discovered one American who finally could speak their difficult language flawlessly. People came from miles around just to listen to him speak.

Eric became immensely successful as a novelist and a fashion designer and he sent home pots of money to help out his aging parents who fixed up the farm so well that Axel became a sort of tour guide for transplanted Minnesotans who traveled up from San Diego to visit the Erickson Estates and ride Percheron horses on the farm that had been made into a dude ranch. And during the long winter months he invited his family to a little place he kept on the Cote d'Azure, where they drank campari by the beach and wore sandals with no socks and shirtsleeves in weather properly designed for such.

As for his companions who had abandoned him, no one now remembers them at all. Not one.

So however the boy had gotten his cleft lip, he wound up pretty well off in the end.

So let this be a lesson to you. Seize the day. Take the dare. It may hurt a lot at first, it might cost you a world of pain, but you just might go places you otherwise might never have seen.

the terrible disaster on El Abuelito di Diablo had nearly killed all of them

High above MacArthur Boulevard, Denby, Javier, Festus, and a few of the other Islandlife crew went through their rehab paces, enforced as physical therapy regimens for each one to deal with their respective injuries after the terrible disaster on El Abuelito di Diablo had nearly killed all of them in September of last year. The room was filled with men, women and teenagers working laboriously on cable machines and padded tables, struggling to regain function in shattered limbs. A fortyish man walked himself between chrome rails over a thick pad, gripping the rails to either side while trying to make his legs work again. A thickset man wearing an armbrace tossed a ball to an inclined trampoline over and over. A teenager removed a solid boot from his right foot on one of the padded benches to run through his routine.

Festus, standing in the window sill, called Denby over from his bicycle, where the musician had set the seat at 9 to get his knee to bend again via constant rotation.

"Look down there," Festus said.

Denby looked down to see a young woman with flowing black hair wheeling a baby carriage down Broadway past the park towards the intersection with its tangle of concrete barriers painted orange and the flapping draped construction going on for the new high rise across the way. The woman was on the Macarthur Park side approaching Macarthur itself and the long light there, breath steaming out of her in the frigid air outside.

"That's Amanita," Denby said. "I know her."

Indeed. Amanita had once a boyfriend who had gotten her pregnant while both had been going to Washington High School. Washington had closed, due to the fiscal crisis, before officialdom could react to yet one more case of a teen pregnancy. The boyfriend had long since vanished, his parents choosing to remove to the Valley rather than face disgrace.

It was unknown if the boy had much say in the matter, but that left Amanita with child and a Catholic upbringing, a combination not conducive to kindness, leniency, or comfort. Father Danyluk, who understood the ways of the world, had hooked her up with some County support and WIC, but having a child at 17 is always a hard row to hoe and sometimes the laughter dies if nothing else.

she started wheeling the carriage in a circle

Amanita reached the corner as the light turned red and she briefly stood there, a thin-stick waif wearing a thick black parka, breathing clouds of steam. Then, suddenly she started wheeling the carriage in a circle and flinging her dark hair and the two of them watching from the fourth floor of the Kaiser building could she that she was singing as she danced with her child.

After a few long moments the light changed, and the girl was gone and the two returned to their routines in the heart of the cold city.

Out on the swell of the wine-dark sea, Pedro fiddled with his radio, trying to bring in his favorite broadcast of the Rotschue Televangalist Variety Show, and got a sort of poor connection with hall-echo sound that made it seem like everyone was talking inside an immense cold auditorium.

There would not be much comfort this night from the show.

There were scant days left on the calendar for crabbing on this season before the pots and nets would give up to lines for herring and other things. As a sole proprietor he was bound to the schedule of local ordinance as well as to the seasons.

As it turned out, the haul was less than as expected this time around and so he returned to port, patient and unbowed, knowing the sea would always provide in some fashion, even though the times had changed, the catch had varied and even the weather had turned quandary.

Out on the high seas, the small hillocks of the waves lifting and lowering his boat El Borracho Perdido, he remembered the pile of ashes by the back steps and the plant which had appeared there one year, a small tearose.

Latterly, despite the gloomy weather, he had noticed the scrawny thing sending out a series of green shoots, one ending in some kind of swelling.

By now in other parts of the country people may be noticing green shoots firing up through the coverlet of snow.

the old tramp shambles in the cold

In Mosswood Park, in Oaktown across the street from the Kaiser building, the old tramp shambles in the cold as the rain began to fall to the bench. He failed to get to the shelter on time, so there would be no bed or food and he thought he might get on the bench and huddle up with newspapers. On the table there someone had left a white box. The tramp opened up the box and inside was a big cake with the printing "Congratulations Marsha and Allen" and a small figure of a man in a tuxedo dancing with a woman in a bridal dress. The cake had been partially carved with some pieces missing on one end.

The rain came down and pitted the frosting. The tramp took a cut piece, ate it and went over to the covered busstop and lay down there and went to sleep. He left the box open and the rain came down on the cake, destroying the message.

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

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

JANUARY 6, 2013


This week's hopeful image comes from facebooker friend Cindy, who joyfully greets every opportunity with enviable zest. It is a shot over the Castro between one of our recent rain showers.


We see by the hits that people have been peppering the camping section. Well, circumstances obviously intervened as to getting the 2012 entry up, but now it is all there, with all the gruesome details. Well, actually, we left out the more gruesome details, if only to make sure that this story helps save someone's life out there.

While the drama may feel excessive for some, four people did die up there. We would like to reduce that number to zero, as Tom the EMT is really a nice guy and putting him through more of that, we feel, is a bit too much.

You can view the story and the pix HERE.

The docs say that although we will set off airport detectors for years to come, we eventually will walk normally again.


By now you have all carted your ailing pine to the curb, put away the menorahs and whooped it up or not as the case may be for the new year. January 1 brought in a raft of new laws, the most obviously intrusive is the "plastic bag" ban which means that you must bring your own totes or pay for them at the register in retail markets.

We think this is a good thing if only for one major advancement: Validation of the Manpurse.

Yes, you stalwart red-blooded Americans can now bare your bags with pride. Uh, swing your bags . . . uh . . . whatever.

So anyway there already are complainers in the letters to the edtor, already listing statistics like the damned liars they are, to rail against the bag ban.

O just get over it people

The other laws, featuring anti-smoking ordinances, appear far more invidious, largely because they negatively affect non-smokers.


Well, we all all for taking smokers out to the obliette and dropping them in one by one so their 2nd hand reek kills only each other. That would be a very fine and good thing. But that is not what the ordinances are about. They are about money. Rent money. Landlords all over Oaktown and other places have taken to evicting folks on the charge of "condemned smoker" so as to raise the rents to even more obscene values that cause Satan to giggle like a little girl and ruin the general ambience of the place.

Heck, they destroyed Frisco with their high rents and outright greed. Now they want to come over here and do the same to us and the anti-smoking foofaw is just so much hooey for the sake of greed.

The Navy League Council is meeting at the Air Museum 2151 Ferry Point Road, Building 77 and folks interested in military sea services, or just wanting to check in on the museum can visit The next event is a raffle and dinner on 21 January. Tickets are $40 and go towards assisting active units. One of the adopted units is Alameda 4th Force Recon, USMC, a unit whose detail has always been of special interest to some of us here with some history with the USN. Long Range Patrol - go long, do it, come back.


Usually we do a comprehensive list of folks who passed away in the past year with a short eval of their life's works. This time, let it be shorter than usual, as who are we to burden the present and the future with the decaying and dead past.

Ronald Searle - Cartoonist
Omar Sharriff - musician
Etta James - Queen of the Blues
Whitney Houston - R&B singer
Don Cornelius - music impresario
Anthony Shadid - journalist
Davy Jones - musician, rock
Adrienne Rich - poet
Earl Scruggs - musician, banjo, country style
Mike Wallace - reporter
Dick Clark - game-show host, radio and tv personality
Levon helm - musician
Adam Yauch - mca beastie boys
Maurice Sendak - illustrator
Vidal Sassoon - barber
Carlos Fuentes - author
Harold Baron Jackson - radio personality
Doc Watson - bluegrass music legend
Ray Bradbury - science writer
Neil Alden Armstrong - astronaut, first man on the moon
Sally Ride - astronaut
Rodney King - police victim
Ernest Borgnine - actor
Phyliss Diller - comedian, former Alamedan
Tony Scott - Director
Helen Gurley Brown - feminist activist
George Mcgovern - politician
Alan Farley - beloved local radio personality
Larry Hagman - TV actor
Gore Vidal - author, genius
Robert Bork - political toady
Dave Brubeck - jazz musician and civil rights advocate
Russell Means - Native American activist
Ravi Shankar - musician
Daniel Inouye - War veteran and US senator
Norman Schwarzkopf - military general

If you had only a few words to describe your life up to now, would any of these apply to you? Would "love" be any one of those words?


So anyway the New Year has ambled through rainshowers like a careless girl sidestepping puddles to the here and new, and suddenly here we are facing the rest of a decade that perhaps may hold a little bit more promise than the months of dark night that preceded this.

O lord, we bewail that tangle of prepositions and dangling referents, but stetanorum est.

Life does not pause. You cannot parse out a lifeline's syntax -- by the time you are finished you are done, really done.

Jose came shrieking around the corner,

That is why Jose came shrieking around the corner at nearly 75 miles per hour, riding the silver Razor broken down to its essence of a skateboard, which Adam's friend Hushpuppy got for an xmas present.

Jose, . . .could not help widespread destruction.

Kids being what they are, the Razor had, after a few days of mayhem involving broken glass and dented car doors, been retired in favor of more electronic presents that could play really neat stuff like Angry Birds and War Dwarf. Jose, like most of the Household, living in a state of arrested childhood, had seized the scooter as a means of opportunity, not as a gratuitous path to further mayhem, however, Jose, being the sort of fellow he was among the sorts of fellows he lived with, could not help widespread destruction.

Having destroyed Ms. Quim's daffodil bed and thoroughly annihilated Mr. Fluxsome's early risers, Jose was streaking toward Mr. Howitzer's tulips, so carefully laid in by Dodd, the irrepressible manservant, when Grumbles, an aging opossum crossed the road in front of him, causing a choice between genuinely dead opossum or slaughtered roses belonging to Mrs. Grimoire, a octogenarian and former resident of a midwestern place known as Bloom County.

Mrs. Grimoire, a formidible defender of the ASPCA, the local animal shelter and the library upon her arrival, had spent considerable effort to resurrect the rare and highly exclusive Bloom County Bloom Rose, known for its spectacular idiosyncratic foliage, now tenderly clinging to an o so fragile trellis in NorCal.

Trembling, the roses pleaded to batman, or any hero abouts, O, please save me!

In such circumstances, a gentleman always chooses blooms over life and reason, and so Jose slammed into an opossum nicknamed Grumbles and weighing in excess of some forty-five pounds to cause said opossum to scream with pain and alarm and flee the terrible scene, which featured Jose tumbling over the incipient tulips on Mr. Howitzer's front lawn right under Dodd's view from the window above.

"Oooooo!" went the opossum, which did not die, nor pretend to, instead lumbering as its kind is wont to do away from that place of near death and destruction.

"Ahhhhhhhhhh!" went Jose, who rolled and tumbled all night long.

"O dear," went Dodd, who observed the floral carnage in all of its atavistic savagery.

Down below, Jose lay moaning amid the wreckage that used to be Mr. Howitzer's flowerbed as Martini, Tipitinia, Pahrump and Adam came running.

Dodd descended the stairs to the front door with his vermilion bathrobe flowing behind.

"This is a find how do you do," he said. "A fine happy new year."

"Same to you and yours," Jose said groaning. "I mean sorry about all this."

"I think not." said Dodd. "You nearly murdered "Auld Grumbles."

"Ah, well, Grumbles, well, sorry about that . . . mi escuse . . . glad he lives . . . sorry really sorry, about the tulips, I'll fix it tomorrow . . .".

I am heartened the American spirit of rebelliousness persists

"Shut up you ninny!" Dodd said. "I'll plant impatience and the master will never notice. I am heartened the American spirit of rebelliousness persists, despite the avaricious depredations of people with far too much money in relation to their lamentable lack of title, sense, or decent school ties and the odious Bush family and I wish you begone and be well. Furthermore I take this to be a positive sign the S&P shall improve this year over 4.5%. Get out of here now!"

"Yessir! Yessir! Ok, I am going now, I am going now . . ."!



As Jose made himself rapidly to vanish and the wounded marsupial examined himself with annoyance in his den, from far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary and the grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to the new year and parts unknown.

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



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