March 22, 2015
The Wee Man Returns
So anyway, some signs that changes are in the offing have started to appear. Trees are bare and the oranges are gone from the trees and each morning starts with a ritual of throwing on a parka to get the coffee going, but in the delta, the trout stir beneath the freeze. The Official date of Spring's beginning was March 20th, and on the porch of the Universe, Old Gaia slowly revolves her ravined and forested face back towards the light shed by her son, Phoebus Apollo, the coverlet of stars and comets and planets and galaxies draped across her ancient knees as she rocks back and forth in that chair.
This week the Old Same Place Bar was again the center of attention during St. Patrick's Day, a day that is celebrated all around the world, save for in the Emerald Isle itself, for the Wearing of the Green is meant to hearten the Irish Diaspora, who number, as some estimate, at some 32 millions, while a bare 8 million actually dwell on the Island itself.
Various things account for these numbers. The Great Potato Famine sent many abroad of course, while hardship, better opportunities, lousy weather, the incessant screaming of the Bann Sé, and a savage, unregulated priesthood sent many more to seek such fortunes as young people may find better than at home. So said Hamlet's friend and it is as true now as it ever was.
But such Irish as may live in America stand to profit much from this truth that there really are only two kinds of people in the world: the Irish and those who wish to be.
So it is at Island-Life we celebrate the Irish the day or week after, just as we commemorate Martin Luther King the week after his birthday, because you really should be thinking about the benefits all year long MLK brought you instead of just on one day with a BBQ and you should be wishing you were Irish and thanking the fact you are so far from Troubles and roofslates every day of the week instead of just once a year with a Gaelic coffee along with a shot of Arthur Power.
So there y'are.
Tuesday night everything was roaring along at a fine clip at the Old Same Place Bar, an unusually lucrative evening for a midweek night when things normally went slow. But on St. Patrick's Day, all the amateurs came out in force, wearing the green and downing pints of Guiness like it was good for you.
It was late in the evening and somewhere down the street warbled a sultry saxophone playing Harlem Nocturne. The Depuglia brothers sat at a table with a pitcher of Guiness for each of them. Bjorn Rubbitson schmoozed with a table of Not-from-Heres who had come over from the mainland to check out the Island and see The Longest Ride at the Paramount. Officer O'Madhauen, off duty and dressed in civilian clothes sipped an O'Douls by himself after watching Mall Cop 2. Nurse Betty and her friend Gardenia from the Hospital flirted with a couple off-duty Coast Guard guys.
All was going quite fine and Dawn was slinging out the Gaelic coffees by the gallon, so called because Padraic refused to label them as Irish, for no daycent Irishman would so malign the Water of Life by adulterating uisce que bah with unnecessary ingredients. It was fine as it was in the cruiskeen luin with nothing perhaps, perhaps, but a wee block of ice to cool it down some. And all was a chatter and a clatter in that home snug of so many for so many years with Denby laying down a quiet bluesy backbeat on his guitar in the snug and the boys at the bar talking about the Villanova game that just ended and the upcoming fishing season.
The Man from Minot was talking to Maeve, Jackie's helper at Jaqueline's Salon about bromeliads while Eugene was discussing with Latrena Brown sea slug eversion and other topics that almost certainly would ensure that he go to bed alone again this evening with placid countenance.
Only that Suzie sat there in her loneliness with her Anthropology book behind the bar during the quiet times, wishing she, too, could join the conviviality and common rapport after her disastrous affair with Jorge, who turned out to be a Basque Separatists during a trip to Italy. This caused a great deal of grief and required Padraic to fly out there and straighten things out for the American. No, she is not a Terrorist, and no she has no Islamic sympathies either and what the devil has that do do with the Basque people anyway?
O why do smart women get involved with such devious men? Especially when they are so beautiful. It is all quite frustrating. And on this particular night, Suzie was mooning about that episode when so many people seemed to be so artificially happy.
That was when then the door was opened and the wind appeared. The candles blew then disappeared. The curtains flew then he appeared, saying don't be afraid.
It was Him -- the Wee Man. What did he look like? For a start he wore a twill newsboy cap on a head of bright red hair. Red, too was his full beard and cobalt blue his eyes. He wore a green checked waistcoat which sported a gold chain that went into the side pocket and green checked pants. And on his feet a set of green suede brogans with tassels and toe tips that curled up and about in a merry way.
Jason Arrabiata, CFSM, turned from the bar and looking at the Wee Man, exclaimed with joy that one of God's Chosen had arrived.
The Wee Man seemed to take this in stride as he climbed up onto a stool and ordered a pint and a shot. While waiting for the pint to "stack" he made inquiry to Jason as to what he meant.
"All midgets are preferred by God for he has touched them so repeatedly on the noggin from above that their stature has remained diminutive. It is a sign.
"I am not a midget," said the Wee Man.
This so startled Jason that his body jerked and his eyebrows went up and down to such an extent the Wee Man smiled despite himself.
"Then what are you," Jason said.
"What am I?" said the Wee Man, reflecting. "Well I have been myself all day."
"Well I most humbly apologize sir," Jason said.
"Apology accepted," said the Wee Man. "What then are you, pray tell?"
"Me? I am Jason Arrabiata, a pastor of the faith of the Flying Spaghetti Monster."
"A man of the cloth. And a bit daft besides. Well then, I shall not kill you," said the Wee Man who downed his shot of Jamison's with satisfaction and shot a small derringer pistol into the ceiling without so much as looking before putting the weapon away. A bit of faery dust rained down and everyone remained quiet.
As to what the Wee Man really was, besides himself all day, which most of us can claim at nearly the same rate, the matter was open to speculation and never-ending discussion. Some say he came from the Spanish Armada that sank off the coast and others say he was of the legendary Firbolg that harried the ancient Romans loose from the Emerald Isle thousands of years before. Some say despite his stature he was related to the mythic giant Finn ni Cuchulain, Finn McCool, whose body extended the length of Howth, and that his apparent manifest physical size was merely a kind of trick, and some say that he was of the tribe of the Bann Sé that howl about the chimneys at night and therefore a sort of faery, but with some disreputable attributions, including cigar smoking and farting.
A faery fart is something about which to contemplate at a later time.
In any case the mood of the bar settled back into an easy rhythm of drinking and conversation and all would have been fine had not the Depuglia brothers got it into their heads to harass the visitor by tossing peanuts at the back of his head. Suzie saw this and came around the bar, followed by Dawn ready to give both of them the weight of her tongue, but Tom Depuglia slapped Suzie on the ass, calling her a fine piece of meat on a stick and Dawn made to punch the hoodlum as Padraic came around the end of the bar with a look in his eye and with his blackthorn stick beside.
The Wee Man stood up on the stool and clapped his hands once and everyone froze in motion, unable to move forward or back save roll their eyes. All save Suzie who stammered apologies for this dreadful behavior and that they were good folk here. The Wee man then drained his Guinness in a single draft and said, "I know Suzie, I know. But alas I truly deplore violence, for it is said that from the days of John the Baptist the kind and the good have suffered violence, but the violent themselves shall bear it away. And as for you two," here the Wee Man indicated the Depuglias. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the hell, whither thou hasten."
And he waved his hand with an almost indifferent attititude and the bodies of the Depuglias became free to move, but instead of running out of the bar they came at the Wee Man as if to attack him. Tom Depuglia threw a great roundhouse punch that continued in a circle until he punched himself in the nose with astonishment. To everyone's wonder, the fists they made launched at their own heads and they beat themselves up ever more vigorously the more energetic they tried to come at the Wee Man until they staggered around in circles with breaking knuckles and bleeding noses.
The Wee Man sighed. "O dear, dear, dear. Such a sad display of pugilistics I have not seen in many a day. I would like to see both of you improve, but I simply must be on my way now." And so the Wee Man clapped his hands twice. There was a blinding flash of light, followed by darkness as all the lights went out for a moment before coming on all by themselves. When they did so everyone was free to move at will again.
"O drat, the scamp has done something to my knickers again!" Dawn said. While everyone look surreptitious looks beneath their waistbands the Depuglias hopped up and down in what appeared to be great pain. "Ow! Oww wow oww! He's turned them into cactus!" They finally ran out the door Suzie held open for them.
"Look at that wilya," Padraic said. "Cute as a pansy in a lunatic asylum florist shop." His blackthorn stick had been transformed into a bouquet of long-stem gladiolas.
Suzie returned to behind the bar while the flirting between couples resumed with a little more heat.
"I'd like to see what he did to yours," Maeve said to the Man from Minot.
"That was Ecclesiastes," said Jason aloud.
"Verse 9:10," said Reverend Freethought, who came over to his table. She was Pastor to the Island Unitarian Church on Santa Clara Avenue.
Suzie served up the next rounds while Dawn and Padraic went to the back restrooms to change whatever it was the Wee Man had done to their knickers. Padraic returned very red-faced with something clenched in his big fist and Dawn had to pry his fingers open to see what it was -- a g-string. She hung it up behind the bar next to the golden knickers of a couple years ago. "At least they are green," she said.
"The man is a sodding pervert," Padraic said with energy. "What about you?"
"Show you later," she said coyly and turned away to fetch another case of Harp from the back.
Suzie meanwhile returned to her anthropology book. It's a dark night on the Island that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the Old Same Place Bar sits one bartender still puzzling Life's persistent questions.
Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
BACK TO STORY INDEX