HARD TIMES

FEBRUARY 07, 2010

It's been a stormy week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The Special Election came and went pretty much as everyone expected and the rains performed their usual dances to sodden the Southlands and send more misery East. That old Pennsylvania groundhog came out to see his shadow and then scamper on back in side for another three to four weeks of winter. For now we have a few more showers forcast for the upcoming week, which means no good for the rest of you out in the Heartlands. Wouldn't bet on that Monte Carlo falling through the lake ice just yet.

Javier skipped out on covering First Fridays and the Oakland Art Murmur on rumors that the lovely Leslie of San Leandro was out looking for him in advance of that annual debacle of a holiday known as Valentine's Day. Instead of going up to Trestle Glen, he hid out with a bucket of chicken wings and a case of beer in his apartment to watch an old road-movie starring Gene Hackman and Al Pacino called "Scarecrow."

Leslie found some striking Italian with suave good looks so Javier is off the hook for now.

In any case, the sky boils with Michelangelo clouds, muscular with gods and sungold each day, while in other parts of the country George Winston plays etudes across the sifting snow crystals that sweep over the hummocky drifts.

Officer O'Madhauen patrols down Lincoln, looking any sort of hapless citizen like to be solvent enough to pay a ticket and so help balance the City budget. He pulls into the dead-end street known as Mozart, turns around and parks with his radar scanning down the way and his lights off. Much better to pull over citizens, for the law abiding generally will do no violence. Some of the criminals out there carry guns and knives -- they are very dangerous types with no respect for the Law. Might even hurt a cop given half a chance. Much better to pull over citizens and balance the budget. The rain trickles down the windshield of his Crown Vic.

At the Sanchez place, Mr. Sanchez sets down a cup of tea beside Mrs. Sanchez, nee Ms. Morales, who is grading student papers. "The Wordsworth guy be in the church and because the preacher is being boring he starts thinking about all kinds of things cause he's bored and thats when the guy gets his illuminations of mortality. That be what it means. It's all in the title. Everybody knows how boring the sermons get, so people start dreaming other things during it. That's the universality part. . . ".

Mrs. Sanchez sighs and looks out the window at the boxed azaleas nodding in the rain and Mr. Sanchez kneads her knotted shoulders.

Concurrently, Reverend Freethought of the First Unified Unitarian Church of the Island ponders her next sermon, which she tries to enliven with jokes borrowed from standup comedy routines she gets from Youtube.

Over at Marlene and Andre's household the place is packed to the gills with humanity, as the weather enforces all who supposedly live there to actually sleep there physically, for there is no other place to go. Jose forgot to go fetch his load of food from the monthly CFS distribution at the foodbank, so now they are all digging into the freezer for last year's production of fava bean chili. Times are tough and in such times, fava beans are the staple of the survivors. It's Winter and the Great Recession is still in full swing. Everyone is out of work and there is no money for anything. Out back, they've started the crops all around the ironmongery left by Mr. Howitzer but it will be a while before the greens fill out. Sprigs of adolescent bean plants stick up between the garlic shoots promising greater things in a few months.

Night arrives like a tired man returning home to hang up his raincoat by the door, scattering a few drops here and there before turning out the lights. Around the little cottage the swaddled bulks shift and snore in their sleeping bags. Occasional Quentin reposes again under the coffee table while Mancini, Xavier, and Pahrump occupy the floor with Bonkers and Johnny Cash. Suan has the couch again. The hallway bunks are all filled with Marsha, Tipitina, Alexis and Piedro. Jose has the closet and of course, Andre and Marlene use the one bed with Wickiwup.

Everybody had Marlene's bread soup again for dinner. Marlene is with Andre in the single bedroom. The burned wedding dress from a couple Thanksgivings ago still is nailed to the wall in the livingroom.

Martini, who used to work at the NUMMI automobile factory in Fremont, mentions that he got some work this weekend blowing leaves.

That's good, said Xavier. Then everyone is quiet for a while.

Do you think these hard times will ever end, asked Martini.

No, said Pahrump. Get used to it.

Okay, said Martini.

From far across the way the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the waters of the estuary as the engine wended its way past the dark and shuttered storefronts of Jack London waterfront, heading from the Port of Oaktown to parts unknown.

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

 

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