JANUARY 1 , 2017

NEW YEAR'S

So anyway, it came around to the final days of the year 2016. A dockwalloper had come and gone, sluicing out all the old detritus and knocking down a few old oaks whose time had come.

Indeed, this is the age in which the time had come for many things, and casualties would include ancient oaks and freedom. For most people life will not change as they watch the cattle cars pull away from the station, loaded with their human cargo destined for the showers and the stone soap.

Meanwhile a fellow named Jones decided to stroll along the underwater transbay tunnel and, after a diligent search was apprehended and hauled off on New Year's Eve. Not without causing some traffic problems. The tunnel is 3.5 miles long under the Bay, so if the man was seeking to evade fare expense he would have looked at quite a long walk in the dark had he succeeded. He is now looking at substantial jail time in addition to the fine attendant to interfering with a railroad.

A driver seeking to evade capture by CHP managed to flip his vehicle upside down into a Bushville homeless camp at the 27th Street offramp, crushing a couple homeless folks and rattling a couple of his female passengers before capture on NYE. This evasion effort did not result in the man's escape as the CHP are smarter than that and so are the homeless, so the man now sits in lockdown.

On the Island, while all this tumult took place all around it, parents shuffled their kids off to bed and some households turned on the TV to watch the ball drop in Times Square.

Times Square, if you have not been there, had turned Japanese long ago with immense neon led billboards, weird videos blasted from ten story video screens, and close-packed buildings, and during events like NYE a packed throng of humanity well salted with pick pockets and roustabouts armed with brass knuckles and knives.

Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Morales quietly read to each other a book of poetry by Neruda before going to bed early.

Somewhere in the Bay area, surviving members of the Grateful Dead performed up through midnight in a purple haze.

The Old Same Place Bar of course remained open with Denby's band, The Monkey Spankers performing the new genre of "Aged Rock 'n Roll".

It has been the habit of many years for the parsonage at the Temple Emanuel and the rectory at the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint to exchange visits on alternate years on New Years Eve. This began during Father Guimon's tenure at the Catholic Basilica and the stay of Pastor Inquist. Pastors and priests come and go, but traditions and personal attachments abide. It all came about when the Priest needed decent voices for the Xmas pageant and the Pastor of the Lutheran church, eager to establish good will with his neighbor on the block, developed a hankering for the Priest's well stocked liquor cabinet.

It had been the habit of Father Guimon, a habit taken up and repeated by his successor, Father Danyluk, to take a sharp right coming out of the Rectory to begin the daily constitutional walk about the large block, always moving clockwise regardless of weather. The Lutheran Pastor Inquist had maintained a similar habit, traveling by foot according to his nature, anti-clockwise, so you see it was inevitable that the gentlemen would meet at least once a day.

It was during the last series of serious dockwallopers in the last serious rainy season -- which ought to tell you how many years ago it was -- that the two took shelter at the busstop on Santa Clara when the wind made a total wreck out of the Father's umbrella.

As the wind howled and the rain pelted down, the two got to talking. They talked at first about the things everybody talks about. First about the weather and climate change, then about computer problems, then about the Golden State Warriors, and then about clerical difficulties.

The Priest bemoaned the lack of vocal talent among the Catholics, and the Lutheran bemoaned the lack of community fellowship among the Lutherans and the difficulty of obtaining fresh fish on an island of all places and the two bemoaned each in turn the dreadful times and the loss of poor souls to greed, hardness of heart and evil mischievousness.

The priest invited the Pastor over for a nip of brandy and the two went over to the rectory, taking shelter under the Lutheran umbrella.

Well one thing led to another and the two became friends and everyone remarked how much improved the annual pageant was that year.

This year the Lutheran and the Priest met in the Rectory to sit before the fireplace well stoked by Sister Serendipity to enjoy brandy snifters of cognac after a good meal featuring fresh sea bass caught by the Priest while discussing matters of the spirit and matters of fishing, both salt and freshwater.

"I rather like this new pope you have," Pastor Inquist said.

"O now really!" said Father Danyluk. "What can you know about that?"

"Well he's been in the news of course. After such a dreadful year of dreadful campaigning, he gave that new President elect fellow a good message about acting Christian."

"Ah well! That's nice of you. Not going to send him a message by nailing a note to his door are you?"

"Been done. Wouldn't think of it. But somebody needs to speak to him about the red shoes. They are quite over the top, you have to admit."

"O!"

And so as the old, dreadful year died away, with most folks on the Island staying home instead of whooping it up, the two holy men grew silent, pensive and heads nodded. About twenty minutes past midnight Sister Serendipity came around -- as she had learned to do year after year -- and draped coverlets over each of the friends, dimmed the lights and banked the fire, leaving the two clerics snoring in their dreams into the new year.

With midnight a came a brief fifteen minute ruckus of crackers and shouts, which soon died away to silence and a blessed peace settled upon the Island, from the empty parks and the rows of gingerbread houses to the quietly lapping waves along the shoreline. Venus burned brightly up above the crescent moon and peacefulness reigned over all and no sirens announced bad trouble and nobody got shot and nobody got stabbed.

The train wail ululated from from far across the water, beneath the light-studded gantries of the Port of Oaktown, keening across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock and its weedy railbed and interstices of its chainlink fence, crying over the dripping basketball hoops of Littlejohn Park and dying between the packed gingerbread Edwardian houses as the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the Ohlone burial mounds to parts unknown.

BACK TO STORY INDEX