MERCY AND HARD TIMES

MARCH 14, 2010

It's been a blustery, rainy, wind-tossed, roiling sky, drenching umbrella and yellow slicker sort of week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.

Hear that the East Coast is digging out from the consequences of the latest dockwalloper out that way and Minnesotta is digging in for the Most Dangerous Season.

Spring is the most dangerous season in Northern California. Maybe it is different in other places, but here, wise men remain indoors and order pizza for dinner, hunker down by the TV to watch endless reruns of Monster Truck Destruction and Terminator I, II, III and Iv. Its safer cuddled there in the dark lit only by the blackout curtain blocked TV set glow.

Bees dive-bombing the clover, hummingbirds bayonetting the lavendar throwing out punches this way and that and sending wafts of chemical weapons of mass disruption. Army ants on the march and squirrels conducting reconnaissance forays add to the mayhem, while racoons begin nightly raids. The daisy bush bursts with yellow ack-ack blooms while the poppies are erupting with tiny explosions across the fields. Squadrons of swallows and Canadian geese streak overhead and then, worst of all, there are the girls in their summer dresses.

Meanwhile, somewhere overhead, flying in stealth mode -- that naked fat boy keeps firing off at random his erring arrows of wanton mishap, those IEDs (Improvised Erotic Designs).

Observe Johnnie, happy and carefree as a lark, striding with ruddy cheeks and full confidence. But after him comes Jane, armed with those sharpshooter eyes, that flippy short skirt, and strappy high heels.

Now Johnnie is down! His face wan and his appetite poor, his breath coming out in ragged gasps as Jane cradles his head among the wildly blooming daisies. Hit right in the heart, poor lad.

Yes, Spring is the most dangerous Season.

Javier has especial reasons to remain scarce during this dangerous period of the year. Valerie, his first love, tried to bash out his brains with a brick. Diane ran over his legs with a car. Roberta set him on fire with a propane torch with eucalyptus stacked about his feet. Marina, a charming Russian girl, pushed him down two flights of stairs with an armload of lumber, continuing a theme. Amy went psychotic and began stalking him after paying a Chinese Tong to put a hit out on him, which resulted in several narrow escapades as well as several more injuries due to gunshot and knife.

When asked by staff at Highland ER just why their most popular visitor insisted on choosing such women of questionable stability, Javier would say, "Las mujeres apasionadas son las más interesantes." Passionate women are the most interesting.

The most useful advice, never taken, was offered by the lady who cleaned the floors at three AM as Javier lay there one time hooked up to morphine and saline drips. Her name was Juanita and she was an old warhorse well acquainted with all that takes place in the early hours of the public hospital and just about a hundred years more of experience besides.

"Pero señor, usted debería elegir uno más doméstico próxima vez. Y un poco menos violento." But Senor, next time you should choose someone more domestic. And a little less violent.

The end result is that Javier avoids romantic entanglements entirely until the sheer force of his Latin machismo temperament drives him into the arms of someone with spiked arm bracelets and purple hair every time.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie watches the old mating games of the Season ramp up again for yet another go around, even while those haggard few who never seem to win at this sort of crap shoot take the brass rail for consolation, each a weary sinner searching for the next Best Western like truckers on the Road of Disappointment. All looking for just a place to rest for a while.

Suzie, no stranger to sharp disappointment herself, puts a Richard Shindell CD on the PA as a man at the end puts his face into his hands, a torn envelope and a piece of writing there on the bar next to his Fat Tire and shot. He quitely begins to sob. Music will get us through this thing somehow.

It’s the middle of the night
Near the Indiana line
I’m pulling in a Christian station
The signal’s crystal clear
But I cannot really hear
What he says about the Revelation

Denby is in there, Eugene as well. Plus a few others. Its that kind of night in the bar when the season is just in the middle of shaking off Winter and gathering its Spring buds, the rains are slacking off, and the concert season has yet to begin, when the entire world is bending over after a long cold sprint to catch its breath. Its the in-between time when the cold stars hang over the empty parking lot passageways between places rimed with soft frost before everything changes.

Denby daydreams into a memory of travel during Winter along the East Coast while the song plays over the System. That had been a long, dreary trip, just after Julie had died by jumping through a window.

Whoever watches over all these truckers
Show a little mercy for a weary sinner
And deliver me – Lord, deliver me
Deliver me to the next Best Western

We hear the Man with the Red Shoes is doing well after his nasty surprise of a stroke. Nevertheless, we know full well, such things come with a sort of re-evaluation of continuing enterprises. How temporal it all becomes. And how eternal. Oh yes, Denby has been there and he knows. How brain wounds can scar miles deep. Old friends vanish into the maelstrom of prisons or the swamps of foreign wars. Bandages and Fentanyl are simply surface appearances.

Did he who made the lamb
Put the tremble in the hand
That reaches out to take my quarter
I look him in the eye
But there isn’t any time
Just time enough to pass the tender
The highway takes its toll
The green light flashes go
And it’s welcome to Ohio

Time erodes and once again he is bucketing along in the Peterbuilt cab along I95, or any such eastcoast Interstate, with the World catching its breath before big changes foretold by folksinger prophets chanting poems spraypainted on subway walls. But this time there is no hope from Revelations and Julie singing Dylan songs to the radio. Now,there is no Revolution towards which we may aspire, even as lost and hopeless cause.

Instead, we have the empty snarling of Fox News demanding that we put aside the foolish and dangerous notions of the man once named Jesus. Put aside Social Justice.

At the end of the bar, a man sits with a Fat Tire and a double. He sets a letter he has been reading next to the pickle jar there, put his face in his hands and quietly sobs. Some bad news, apparently. More of the same all over the place.

At four a.m. on 80 East
It’s in the nature of the beast
To wonder if there’s something missing
I am wretched, I am tired
But the preacher is on fire
And I wish I could believe

Suzie pauses before the man who has his head in his hands. It gets that way sometimes in the Old Same Place Bar. Where if you can wade through the teardrops, you are welcome in the Home of the Blues.

Lovely woman reaches out and slender fingers touch the head of the man there at the bar. There, there. There, there.

Whoever watches over all these truckers
Show a little mercy for a weary sinner
And deliver me – Lord, deliver me
Deliver me to the next Best Western.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the troubled water of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the Port of Oaktown through the dark and shuttered storefronts of the Jack London Waterfront as it headed off to parts unknown during this Great Recession.

 

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