A BLUE VALENTINE

Valentines Day, 2008

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay and the Western edge of the Continental United States. Seagulls have started circling over the Safeway parkinglot, and we have good reports from our Meteorological Desk that another dockwalloper is on the way. The Official Barometer reads 30.05 and holding, but just for now.

Monday is President's Day, the last holiday of any kind until May, as correspondent Jon of Petaluma dourly reminded us.

Lionel has been sitting at the rail in the same seat down at the Old Same Place Bar for quite a while. Since about four o'clock, in fact, and he has not been idle. Every three or four Manhattans, he gets up, goes to the rest room, and in returning at a list of some 25 degrees as if tacking against a stern headwind, passes either the pool table or the dart board and tries to engage in sporting activity. After several mishaps with the dartboard, or say, rather, the darts missing the dartboard, he has been barred from that zone of entertainment for the foreseeable future.

The cat, Walter Mitty, probably will recover, but will never again repose by the ferns.

Along about ten, Denby, the chief Island-Life Feature Editor, came sailing through the door, his London Fog trailing great wings to either side, his hair in complete disarray until he came face to face with Lionel, whom he mistook for Samuel Jackson. Denby had pursued the annual rites of St. Valentine in the manner of his honored Irish forebears: earlier that day, he got a bottle of Arthur Power from EZ Liquors on Lincoln Street and sat out in Washington Park until the bottle was half gone, as well as himself, as curious joggers, children, bicyclists and sundry innocents observed the man muttering to himself in iambic pentameter while weeping uncontrollably.

This muttering sometimes declined to incensed splutters of rage to some startled couple taking a stroll past the children's playground:

". . . here's a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
(ha ha ha ha ha!)
There's a politician
That has read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war's alarms,
But O that I were young again . . . !"
( succeeded by yet more weeping)

By the time the man had worked through much of the Irish Renaissance, had destroyed O'Casey by declamation, misused Evan Boland, trounced Brendan Behan and was well into "At Swim Two Birds", which is an infernal book not to be handled in public or in the presence of impressionable minds when someone called the police and Officer O'Madhauen's cruiser pulled up across the street; so the man took off running as if the Devil Pookah was hot on his heels through the intricate byways and sideways of the Island, startling a family of raccoons raiding a perfectly decent dumpster in the process with a great hullaballoo of screeching. Behind a tenement house on Santa Clara he found an untenanted bicycle, which he hopped upon, promptly crashed through a flimsy gate to the street, and rode thus illicitly by circuitous routes ever Eastward. Thus, came Denby to the Old Same Place Bar in a state.

"Mr. Jackson! You were great in "Black Snake Moan"; absolutely fantastic!" said Denby.

Lionel, who had been mourning the sorry state of his own romantic affairs for several hours in peace, was stunned into an acre of sobriety. He would have been affronted, but Denby offered to buy the famous actor a drink, and so set him to rights again on the path of intoxicated forgetfulness.

Manhattans at the OSPB cost about five bucks, and as Lionel had already enjoyed several on his tab, such an offer was not to be refused.

The two nestled up to the brass rail like old friends.

Why was such a famous actor hanging out in such a place? For answer, Lionel silently removed a piece of blue cardboard, folded in half, cut in the shape of a heart and colored -- somewhat amateurishly -- with blue felt tip marker on the outside. Inside, were the following words:

I B Ur Valentine -- Dianne.

And?

"She be day-ed", said Lionel. "Among other things".

A moment of silence held like the belly of the last drop of corn liquor swinging from the bottle just a tad. Then Denby spoke.

"When things go wrong and will not come right,
Though you do the best you can,
When life looks black as the hour of night -
A PINT OF PLAIN IS YOUR ONLY MAN.
When money's tight and hard to get
And your horse has also ran,
When all you have is a heap of debt -
A PINT OF PLAIN IS YOUR ONLY MAN.
When health is bad and your heart feels strange,
And your face is pale and wan,
When doctors say you need a change,
A PINT OF PLAIN IS YOUR ONLY MAN.
When food is scarce and your larder bare
And no rashers grease your pan,
When hunger grows as your meals are rare -
A PINT OF PLAIN IS YOUR ONLY MAN.
In time of trouble and lousy strife,
You have still got a darlint plan
You still can turn to a brighter life -
A PINT OF PLAIN IS YOUR ONLY MAN. "

The conversation descended a bit from there and the two started arguing about the reason for the long-term condition of the Golden State Warriors, their eternal comparisons to the Chicago Cubs in terms of ability and stature and achievements. Eventually the two tumbled out and back -- unfortunately -- to Washington Square Park and the courts there, where, near midnight Lionel tried to show Denby how to drop a ten footer with something like style and Denby tried to prove to Lionel that he, for one, could jump shot.

"C'mon man! Jump! Jump!" Lionel urged. "Oh for peets sake . . .".

Much of the success of each, such as it was during this enterprise, existed substantially within their respective Imaginations.

Enthralled multitudes of the Oracle arena cheered. The sweat flew. The ball echoed throughout the arena as it slammed the resounding backboard and pounded the aspalt . Bottles were broken. The hoops rang like bells.

It was not before long that the spotlight of Officer O'Madhauen pinned the two like frightened and confused beetles out there on the steaming courts, the enthralled multitudes silenced in the stands all about.

"Is this about a bicycle?" Denby unwisely asked the Voice which came from the Light.

No. It was about public and disorderly and drunk and being a nuisance. At three o'clock in the morning.

"Now you fellows have the right to remain, silent, even though I expect you probably will refuse to be so against the dictates of common sense and decency. You have a right to an attorney, each of you, although I expect decent men and women are asleep and in their beds at this hour. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law, however I am not going to be listening as I do not give a damn about either one of you, for ill or for will. In any case you are under arrest. Do you understand what I just said?" Officer O'Madhauen spoke gravely, somewhat against the book.

The two spoke affirmatively.

"Come along." Said the Officer.

What's that, they said.

"These are called "Come-Alongs". You will understand presently. Come along now."

That's how the Chief Features Editor for Island-Life spent the night of. Valentines Day in jail. Again. And that is why the issue is late after Valentines Day. Again.

Meanwhile, Suzie finds the Blue Valentine on the bartop under a pile of change. Its a dark night in a City that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the Old Same Place Bar sits one bartender still puzzling over Life's Persistent Questions: Suzie Maldonado.

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

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