APRIL 28, 2013
KITES AND CACOPHONY
So anyway, just when it seemed Spring was going to smack into the Island like an old drunk careering his Pontiac into the glass of a laundromat, high fog came in to settle a blanket of chill on everything.
Nevertheless, the traditions of the season remain, because even though this is California and place like no other, we still have our traditions. They might not go back quite as far as in some other places but they are traditions none the less.
The Island is a curious mixture, an amalgam of hidebound conformity and of progressive newness. In some parts of the country you see the middle-aged men coming out with the lawnmowers so as to groom that quarter-acre or eighth into beaten submission, a photocopy of what exists on every other plot for miles around until the entire tract resembles more a necropolis with neat mausoleums than a place where the irregular joys of birth, making babies, tuning carburetors, writing novels, living dreams, mowing lawns, growing tomatos, usurps the devil's boney hand.
But this is an island, where there is hardly space in the sandy soil for so much as a ten by ten foot postage stamp of some kind of greenery. In addition, the shape of the lots has been determined by the robber baron avarice of California history. When Chipman and Aughinbaugh bought the land from the Peralta family they leased much of it to tenants who proved to be less than honorable, for those tenants then sublet and sold slivers of their leased land, presenting themselves as bona fide owners. As a result, many of the existing plots now are long and narrow, presenting a street frontage in some cases of no more than twenty feet. As time passed many of these long lots became split with first a carriage house in back, then a minor domicile with rights of access past the main house in front.
With the open space allocate to carriage way and to a common refuse pit or parking area, the Eastern idea of an English lawn never developed here, save among a few die-hard "Bostons" of the DAR stripe. Where there is any kind of soil people normally plant roses, succulents, jasmine, and the ever present Rose of Sharon, aka Aphrodite.
We are not a genteel, neat sort of people; we come from the sorts of folks that supposedly hung around that vigorous rebel called Jesus. That fellow collected thieves, prostitutes, brigands, murderers, tax collectors, patricides, nervous bicycle riders, fishmongers, alewives, and all sorts of riff raff about him and that is precisely the kind of people we happen to be, rude and unruly.
So it is with our gardens, each a veritable riot of vivid contrasting colors. Each a unique world unto itself.
This does run into the quixotic and contradictory result that with all this supposed individuality everyone winds up pretty much acting and looking like one another, and in a small town like this, one can certainly expect that people will be expected to toe the line.
With the warmer weather everyone threw open their windows and people forgot to allow for the way voices carry. Pedro Almeida got into a big argument with his wife and all the men from the Lost Weekend bar stood outside making bets on what it was all about and how it would end. The Church of Continuous Disharmony flung open the double doors of the old Adelphian Hall so the whole neighborhood down there at The Wedge endured three hours of caterwauling and freakish animal sounds.
"Aaaa-ooooooorrrrrr oooooouuuuuu! Aaaahhhhh mayyyahhhrrrrrroowww!
"Dya think they be speakin' in tongues like?" Dawn asked.
"Bahhh!" Padraic said. "Its the singin' what lacks riddim, harmony, melody, timing and the right key. Not a one of them could carry a note to the letterbox."
Eventually Pedro and his wife reconciled whatever spat had seemed so important at the time and he went out with the kids to the Strand where Matías was going to set up his improbable and ridiculous sail board thing while the little ones flew kites.
Pedro had never approved much of that contraption with all of its fancy paint and gay sail. The sea was not a playground but a place for work and a man must apply his hand at work early and hard and not be fooling around for that was the way life had to be, you see. The sea could smash your little craft to pieces in an instant if you were not careful. You had to be vigilant and as in the sea as in moving through life there were always sharks waiting for a chance to take a piece of you. And this Matías was such a dreamer he had to keep a short leash on him all the time, he did.
So there Pedro was out there getting the kites up for Sebastian and Tomas and, drat! where did that Augustin get off to with his hands full . . .
Sure enough there scudded the happy Matías out beyond the mud shelf more than 100 yards out, happy as a least tern on the breeze even though his mother had told him not to. And there he stood with those blasted kite lines in his hands and Tomas begging to have one, right now, pleeeeeeeeze!
"No! You will just make it crash into those people over there. Wait until it is higher. Matías! Matías! Come back! You are too far out!"
But Matías, scooting now in a large arc two hundred fifty yards and still going out did not hear, for such is the time of year when it gets into the blood of young boys soon to become men and strike out on their own that the exhileration of all that glimpsed freedom can quite overwhelm the senses, the wind is whipping and the speed, o god the wonderful wonderful freedom and speed as if this endless blue sky and infinite sea bounded by the sparkling bridges and the green of the green islands and the magical hump of the distant City so packed with excitement and this day, this moment of youth and the entire world opening up before you will never end.
Turn around? Are you kidding?
"Sebastian! Give me my radio! There from the blanket bag! Sebastian, who kinda wished he were out there on a sailboard with his brother instead of waiting for the safe moment in which the kite strings would be entrusted to him, dutifully fetched the radio.
"Okay dial now."
Sebastian shrugged his shoulders. Dial who?
"Daddy, daddy! I wan' kite! I wan' kite now! Pleeeeezzzzz!"
"Call my friend Felipe. He has a boat. I get him to fetch that idiot back here so I can beat him well. Call!"
"Daddeeeeeee . . . !"
But Sebastian shook his head. "I think you call is better."
"All right here!" Pedro thrust the kite lines at Tomas but forgot to unwrap the ends from his burly forearm as he grabbed the phone.
"Daaaaadeeeee! You have to let go! You have to let go!"
"O for pete's sake here with you! Sebastian take the others. . . ".
Sure enough amid all this tussle the largest kite, some five feet in length with a long tail plunged to the earth -- or more precisely into the middle of a family taking a picnic on the water's edge.
Little Tomas wailed.
In anger Pedro dropped the radio and grabbed his two sons to shake them furiously.
"Hey hey! what's going on!" A man with blond hair stood there with a woman, also exceedingly blond in that bright sunlight with two little girls.
Pedro stammered profuse apologies and ordered his boys to offer restitution, but the family would have none of that.
The woman asked Tomas his name and the girls presented the kite with the information that it was hardly damaged at all.
The man introduced himself as Eric Halvorsson. He and his family were visiting from Norway. He wanted to know what the fuss was all about and so Pedro had to tell Mr. Halvorsson about Matías on his ridiculous sailboard going out too far and he about to fetch him back.
"Ah no worry! I see he has run into my Angelique out there" said the woman who was Mrs. Halvorsson. "She has been on the water since a baby. She is quite good with the sail board."
The woman offered her binoculars to Pedro who looked to see a fuzzy couple talking to one another far out, way far out on the Bay.
"Come join us. We have food enough and some wine. Sit down with us," Mrs. Halvorsson said.
Somehow the radio had gotten lost in the sand and probably was ruined by now. He sat down heavily beneath their umbrella, feeling very, very old, still holding the kite lines. One of them remained high up there, a bright red splash against the incredible blue.
"Daddeeeee! We fly kite now! "
"What, just you? Let me get up now and . . .".
"No no, me and Sebastian and Anne and Marie! We can do it! Pleeeeeeze!"
Mrs. Halvorsson laughed while Eric watched the two teenagers through the binoculars. "I am sure it will be all right. It is a big beach here!"
"Well all right." Pedro grumbled.
"What is it?
"You have to let go!"
Yes, the lines were still wrapped around his arm. He undid them and watched the young folks scamper off and together the four of them managed to get the big kite aloft.
In the meantime, the red one broke loose its tether and Pedro watched it float on the strong coastal breeze over the bay towards Babylon, a bright speck diminishing into the west, to the place where the sun goes after its petit mort each night.
That kite is me. Someday I will go there, alone, a lost, a loved, along the . . . " .
Pretty soon, or not soon enough, the deleriously happy Matías came scudding back in the company of a gorgeous teenage girl, each doing pretty much what teenagers do and have done for quite a long time.
"Sometimes," said Eric, "I feel all bent down like Old Man Winter. But it would be a crime to keep Angelique so close my frost begins to kill her. It is hard to let go, but I must. It is what we are supposed to do."
"Look how happy she is!" Mrs. Halvorsson said.
This being Spring, the sap rises and males of all descriptions envision rescue of damsels in distress. This may be why the boys at Marlene and Andre's Household made preparations to rescue Euphonia from the clutches of the nefarious Anatolia Enigma. Actually, Anatolia was not so much nefarious as merely a moderately capable magician who performed for Elks Club affairs and birthday parties, however he certainly would have liked to have been styled as nefarious, as such a sobriquet would have complimented his dark good looks, his black cape, his air of mystery, and his moustaches. And, it must be admitted, nefarious earned more for the pocketbook than doing good or even doing well. Certainly this has been true at least since the administration of George Bush, Jr.
As for Euphonia, she was Anatolia's latest somewhat female, very unwilling, magician's assistant in his act. She was the classic damsel in distress, and for Euphonia and all that she was, well that will have to wait until next week. Let us only say that she and the invention of the "talking wire" shared an extraordinary intertwined fate.
"AarrrrrrrooooooooOOOOOOOOO!" chanted the Church of Interminable Cacophony. "OOOOOhhhhrrrrraaaargh!"
The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its romantic journey to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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