FEBRUARY 10, 2013
OLD FRIENDS. SAT ON THE PARK BENCH LIKE BOOKENDS
So anyway, while the East Coast is experiencing a spot of bother regarding weather, Norcal suddenly sashayed into sunshine this weekend.
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.
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. 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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!
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.
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