MR. HOWITZER'S DOG AND THE CHILIES

May 5, 2008

It's been a quiet week on the Island, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, our Hometown. With all the doings over there in Babylon this week and weekend, we have had enough to do with handling the inexorable rise of the Parking Lot, which is sure to be the tallest structure on the Island with all of its six stories casting a shadow upon the diners at Jacks Diner. And the Cineplex Monstrosity continues apace as well. Fergus, our photographer, went on down to the Strand to take pictures of sand sculptures somebody had carved into the sand bank that is supposed to hold back the Bay when global warming has caused the seas to rise, but by the time he got there, high tide had run up against the embankment and he would have needed a rowboat to snap the gradually failing artwork. They had been really nice works with very witty sayings carved there beside them, but now it was all washed away. Meanwhile we had a nice full moon this week and this was a fine sight enjoyed by all, but unfortunately Fergus went out and got drunk upon his disappointment about the sculptures and all the photo opportunities lost, so you will just have to trust us about the full moon.

The dahlias have all started to mold up while the morning glories are still going strong and the Kentucky pole beans are making a second comeback here even as the tomatoes start bursting with last-minute harvests. Time to start laying in those cream-based soups and chilies. Speaking of which we noticed Paul out there roasting his supply one at a time in his usual manner: using a propane blowtorch to sear the skins of them suckers.

What the tomato and the walleye is to other parts of the world, is our chili pepper. Cultivation of various chilies, from the mild Serrano, to the incandescently fiery habanero, has risen in this area to a fine art. This is a fine and rare art, for the chili does not grow naturally in Northern California, any more than the eucalyptus or the heavily imported palm tree. The eucalyptus was brought in by mistake by farmers seeking a quick and easy windbreak. The palm tree has been brought in by people from Los Angeles who desire to change the weather and the natural order of things here. Those people, bundled in swaddles of down and wool, cannot understand how we NorCals walk about in November wearing huaraches and shorts even as the sleet and snow continues to fall, and it is they who have instituted this thing called "Global Warming".

Foolish mortals: a bit of fog and wind stiffens the character and improves the morals. For heat, we depend upon chilies. Which we roast upon our verandahs with propane torches. Which are then -- the chilies that is -- worked into fajitas or any such thing involving tortillas prepared properly upon the open flame of the gas stove with a flip here and a flip there and you are done.

Walleye are not known around these parts. We have trout and the salmon and the sometime largemouth bass. Where pike occur, there is great lamentation and a serious industry to remove them, even to the extent of killing everything and everybody in the vicinity. Entire villages have been turned into ghost towns during the effort to extirpate a couple of pike who have wandered there innocently from some foreign place like Minnesota. And those towns look now like something from the Andromeda Strain, sage brush rolling across the square that fronted City Hall.

Speaking of Minnesota, we congratulate its Native Son, Garrison Keillor, for his award from the prestigious Steinbeck Awards for Literary Excellence. This award was administered prior to anyone having read "Poona", so you may be sure that serious consideration to his life's work went into it. Few non-Californians have earned this prize, and just about nobody from Minnesota, and certainly no Lutherans, so Mr. Keillor is to be congratulated on many accounts.

But as for chilies, Susan and Lynn were having lunch over at Juanitas. Sue and Lynn have lived together ever since Lynn moved to the Island from Boston and they are quite the affectionate couple. In any case, they had the chili rellanos, which turned out to be not very good. Susan hails from New Mexico where they make the rellanos in a dry batter, and they are so good few soil their rellanos with any sort of salty enchilada sauce.

One thing Juanita does make well is a margarita that is served in a massive punchbowl with shots on the side. And it's a really great place to celebrate if you happen to contemplate being able to marry after circumstances have changed for the better.

Well Susan and Lynn had had a couple of those margaritas a piece during just this kind of celebration when they thought it would be a really good idea to hope on over to the farmer's market there, pickup a load of chilies, and just do up a load of those New Mexican style rellanos themselves. This made the two of them really excited so they downed the third margaritas really fast. Perhaps too fast. The trip to the farmer's market wended its path in a wavering sort of way up two blocks via blue bicycles with the leftover rellanos from Juanitas stashed there in a styrofoam case strapped to the back of Susan's bike.

They were so giddy they bought a bag of poblanos, a bag of serranos, a bag of habaneros, a bag of jalapenos, and a bag of the notorious Hatch chilies -- extra hot.

But at the traffic light there across from the aquarium store on Park Susan put her foot down and something just didn't operate correctly for she kept on going down and finally fell over. Lynn, also three sheets to the wind, bent over to help her up but forgot to dismount and so she fell over on top of Susan. The styrofoam container of stuffed peppers sort of popped open then, and that is when Hardy, the bassett hound named after the writer Thomas Hardy and belonging to Mr. Howitzer ambled over and snarfed down a load of those peppers, cheese and all. The leash looped around the parking meter let him just within snarfing range. Then he got into the habaneros while he was at it and the dog was quite enjoying himself there for a while as the two gals got themselves together with the help of Suzie, the bartender for the Old Same Place.

The dog sort of sat back with a strange look on its face while the remains of the farmer's market chilies got gathered up and restowed on the bicycles.

That's when Mr. Howitzer came out and unlooped the leash holding back Hardy,who took this opportunity to go bounding down the street in pursuit of a Almaden water truck, Mr. Howitzer running after until his leash caught the edge of the book cart there in front of Books Inc., sending numerous mass trade paperbacks flying in all directions and tripping up Mr. Howitzer who went down hard on a stack of bodice rippers. Susan and Lynn were no help at all, for in chasing after the dog, they collided with each other and went down once again and this time they were not laughing.

Hardy bounded through a pair of dogwalkers being led by their daschunds and lept over a baby carriage, which so infuriated a rottweiler that he tore loose from the toy store there and took off after him. The Almaden truck turned left onto Santa Clara, but Hardy kept on going. Hardy knew exactly where he wanted to go: the estuary with its expanse of cool water. Officer O'Madhauen saw this chase going on, two drunk women on bicycles, a disheveled Mr. Howitzer shouting and waving his cane, an enraged rottweiler, and a crowd of kids on skateboards all chasing with the owner of the rottweiler down Park Street and this presented numerous problems for many of these folks were jaywalking, crossing against the light and otherwise engaged in treasonable activities even as several irate drivers violated pedestrian right of way. So, the Officer put on his siren and his lights.

And all the dogs up and down Park Street started up a great howling.

This commotion caused the commanders of an Iranian submarine which had surreptitiously entered the estuary from the Bay to become concerned that they had been discovered, and so, while desperately trying to back out of the narrow space there they caused Eugene's fishing boat to nearly capsize.

Holding on for dear life near the bridge, Eugene was overjoyed to see what he thought was a rescue dog paddling furiously towards him. It was Hardy and Hardy had not jumped into the estuary to drink the water. No. When a dog eats something that turns out to have been a bad idea, that dog gets rid of the bad idea one of two ways. Either it goes out fore or it goes out aft and Hardy chose the latter method, right there beside Eugene on deck.

We shall go into the aphrodesiac powers of chilies another time for that is entirely a different story.

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

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