JANUARY 10,1016

WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS


So anyway, a couple dockwallopers pounded into the Bay Area to make everyone glad about a respite from the drought, which led to a few days that had even native peoples from the Great White North shivering in their down comforters here as ice rimed the bushes, glazed car windows and froze water pipes through Xmas night. Most Californians had forgotten what real cold felt like and what it could do.

Sita responded as efficiently as any eco-landscaper would, by wrapping the external pipes in old socks, which had a most gratifying effect for all her efforts, and she clapped her gloved hands together with efficiency and confidence this did the trick quite well, albeit with not much real effect should a serious cold snap ever set in that matched something in Minnesotta, a place she had never visited.

"The El Nino is finally here. This is it."

Fortunately for Sita and the amnesiac residents of southern Marin County and the Island, the set of dockwallopers yielded to a Pineapple Express of huge proportions, allowing all the local weathercasters to nod sagely and say, "The El Nino is finally here. This is it."

Howard the Dweeber, up in Mammoth, sat back with his brandy beside his roaring fire to review his own reports that had predicted this system some four months previously.

Satisfaction is being right. Wisdom resides in not saying so too loudly.

Due to the weather, all the denizens of Marlene and Andre's Household have gathered under the common roof once again. Snuffles sleeps in the deck hole made that fateful celebration of Javier's fiftieth birthday when the place nearly burned down.Occasional Quentin has again moved to sleeping under the coffeetable. The bunks in the hallway once again are fully stocked by residents, so all fifteen denizens are packed into the one bedroom rented from Mr. Howitzer's realty firm.

This situation has existed ever since the rental situation became obscene. People have to live somewhere and poor people must make do.

This being the post holiday season, the official House tree was disassembled to join its fellows in the pelting rain for Boy Scouts and Waste Management to collect.

New Year's passed same as last year. Most of the Household members had to work, but over in the Lutheran Parsonage the two old friends sat to discuss Reformation and Pardons.With the schools closed Ms. Morales (now Mrs. Sanchez) has been spending her time the way most schoolteachers do on their days off - writing up new lesson plans, mending torn textbook covers, purchasing supplies the District fails to provide, and catching up with former pupils of hers at Longfellow and Encinal.

She has seen a number of generations come and go, from Edison (Go Otters!) to Longfellow and the Home of the Jets high school ("When you're a Jet, You're a Jet all the way") so there is a fair amount of catching up to do. The troubled Karen has managed to stay in college after finding a group of goth kids just like her, and so one potential human arc remained on her trajectory up and out of the small town corrosion that nearly destroyed her. One, at least, got saved from falling through the cracks.

"I lost him! I lost him"

Some others -- not so lucky. As a teacher you can never take full credit for the failures or the successes - you do your best to be there for them. Her friend Sharon, the Crisis Nurse Practitioner at the Creek Psychiatric Crisis Center sometimes would burst into tears on the phone, saying, "I lost him! I lost him" about some casualty of the 8.5 million metropolis that embraced, sometimes roughly, the tiny little Island city. But then she worked over in Oaktown, where life is a waiting game for many.

Because the Island has no real mental health services she saw many neighbors on the brink drop in there.

"I hate this place!" Sharon says angrily. "Why did they not case manage him when I asked? I should move away tomorrow!"

"Well, you would like St. Paul," said Ms. Morales, who had visited only one other place in the United States other than the Bay Area since coming to this country from the Phillipines.

"O heck no. Too cold in the winter! I would rather go south. San Luis Obispo maybe."

"We would miss you," Ms. Morales said. She knew that Sharon would never move. The sick little island, as she called it, needed her too much.

On the streets of the island, Officer O'Madhauen prowled in his cruiser, looking for the stray crosswalk scofflaw, the speeder, the stoplight shuffler. There had been a rash of burglaries on the Island, but sooner or latter, they'll run a red light and then! He'll have 'em!

In the Almeida household, Pedro is enjoying a couple days off from hauling crab, puttering about the house, repairing the chicken coop, resealing the toilets, and fixing the wretched wiring by running number 10 ground wire down and out to the rod, trying to undo years of lousy two-wire knob and tube that reversed polarity about as often as regulars to one of those fancy dives where the men dress as women.

In other matters he got underfoot and in the way of Mrs. Almeida who was heartily glad the Hollardays were coming soon to an end before she could get pregnant again.

The opossum sat and wept quietly

At Marlene and Andre's household on Shoreline, all sixteen souls who called that place home due to the obscene rental situation had been living cheek by jowel during the cold snap when normally the pressure would have eased by folks sleeping on the beach or at the Shelter. As the night extended itself langorously with a purring stretch, the ragged and battered Xmas tree glimmered in its washtub. Deep into the night, as snores and sleeping rustles filled the cottage, a small marsupial snout emerged from the hole in its trunk, followed by a bulbous form that lumbered quietly across the bodies wrapped in sleeping bags, over the coffee table that housed Occasional Quentin and prowled along the floorboards looking for an escape from the madness without success. The opossum sat and wept quietly when no egress was to be found, before it grabbed a macaroon someone had hung from the tree and there sat on its haunches to eat it as a sliver of moon watched through the window.

The animal then crawled back into the washtub and into its hole and curled up there to sleep with the others of that dysfunctional family household.

In the Old Same Place, Padriac and Dawn and Suzie handled the Hollarday business efficiently and with success while Denby plunked on his guitar in the corner. Suzie observed the rituals, the lines, the dances and the happy unifications that departed the bar entangled arm in arm with equanimity before opening late into the evening her anthropology text. "The Bonobo forgo the tedious courtship rituals found in other tribal groups, preferring to simply state the preference or offer, which is usually accepted with alacrity as they enjoy mating at any time of day and any season for procreation or simply for the sheer joy . . .".

As for Suzie, the jewel yet undiscovered, the Hollardays consisted of visits with friends and a single, small, roasted turkey. Per Island Life tradition.

An expletive broke into her thoughts as the door opened to let out a happy couple. The expletive came from a blonde with crooked lipstick at the bar, who said, "Lost him! Nearly had that guy and then that Valerie! Such a bitch! Gimmee a gimlet."

"Life's tough, girlfriend," Suzie said as she liberally overpoured and delivered the drink.

"Thanks pal."

Wootie's tame moose herd snuffled

Down by the Estuary near the Park Street bridge abutment Wootie's tame moose herd snuffled and shifted in the darkness. Eunice the moose, for once remained quiet, but deep within her she dreamed of the perfect escape, running through forests in the far north, far distant from these trammels and imagining the cries of dismay from Wootie Kanootie: "Lost her! I've Lost her!".

Eugene Gallipagus tosses in his own dreams in his bed. Of the time the Great Golden Trout appeared to him at Lake Martha. And his great dispair as the line parted with a snap. The big one that got away. Lost him.

"Can't save everyone ..."

Father Danyluk paced in his chambers before going over for the traditional annual nightcap he enjoyed with Pastor Nyquist who seems genuinely happy as Sister Profundity lets the Lutheran into the rectory annex where the fireplace is already burning bright.

It has been the habit of the two friends to have this forbidden meeting each year. As Pastor Nyquist put it, "You and I we have made our seperate peace."

Indeed the Lutheran pastor enjoyed the high quality of spirits kept by the Catholic priest in the larder and the Catholic priest had long enjoyed the superior singing skills of the Lutheran congregation as loaners during the Xmas pageant and Easter.

"You look troubled," the Lutheran said.

"Ah. The Mendoza family would not hear of any help and now Jorge has gone off to San Quentin on assault with a deadly weapon. On top of the robbery charge."

"I heard about that one," Nyquist said.

"Afraid I've lost him," said the priest.

"Can't save everyone," the Lutheran said, inviting a distracting evening of debate.

And as per usual, the social evening ended the same way each year. Both men asleep in their armchairs before the fire.

one hand closes into a fist and . . . the other opens . . .

The Editor bid everyone a good night and a happy new year as the place closed up for the final issue of the year. The Editor stood before the window watching the granddaddy racoon run back and forth in the yard, cigar firmly in place, hands clasped behind his back like Admiral Horatio.

He never knew exactly how to wrap things up. Everything, including Life, seemed always so tentative, subject to last minute revisions. A lot of issues last year had turned out wretchedly bad. But cannot dwell on that. The past year had been packed with many, many disappointments. Old friends had died and others had gotten married. Many things had not gone well. An old friend had come to him complaining about all the evil in the world, all the assholes. She, an otherwise pacific person, said she wanted to line them all up against a wall when the spirit moved her. See them fall.

And for some reason he thought about the replicant in Bladerunner who tried to prolong his life, such as it was, by driving a nail through his palm so as to prevent the hand from closing into a fist.

What kind of poetry is that, to imagine that death is the hand closing into a fist?

And yet as the replicant died and the fist closed, a dove escaped from his other hand. So that is the way it is -- one hand closes into a fist and becomes death; the other opens and becomes human, allows life to continue. That's always the way it is -- can't take credit for the wins or bemoan the losses. Life is tough, girlfriend. Life is being there at all.

In a little while, bottlerockets, fizzlers, M80's and all sorts of ruckus would terrify all the neighborhood dogs in bringing in the New Year. Might as well get ready for whatever comes next.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

 

 

 

BACK TO STORY INDEX