MAY 15, 2017

DEATH AND DANCE

 

So anyway the hills have all gone green since the rains and the scarlet rockets of tritoma are launching everywhere. The mornings begin heavy with high fog and clouds, yielding to gorgeous sunshine by afternoon. Little Leaguers, each no taller than knee high to a grasshopper, continuously occupied the verdant diamond at Warner field all weekend. Fishing season has started and with all the streams are flowing in the Sierra, the anglers are splashing about in schools of pickups and Subarus, bringing the kids they have spawned who leap in the golden sunshine while dads snap up overpriced meat jerky and fancy lures and rigs from the smiling sporting goods clerks.

Eugene headed out to Lake Crowley for opening day, turning down a hot date with Juanita in the way avid fishermen do, preferring the uncertain rewards of the spincast and the dry fly over the only slightly more certain benefits of female companionship in Springtime.

Besides, Eugene has a dog. And it is named Buffles, a sort of mongrel mix of terrier, schnauzer and Labrador. Terriers are known to be passionately attached to their human companions so that relationship and fish suffice for Eugene, a man who no more understands what to do with a serious woman any more than most people can puzzle out the God Particle.

Father Danyluk is an avid fisherman

This Sunday's sermon at Our Lady of Incessant Complaint was on the subject of the parable concerning the loaves and the fishes. If you thought this came about because Father Danyluk is an avid fisherman, you would be correct. Right after the mass he grabbed his gear and went out to Crab Cove only to face a low tide situation -- he had gotten the tide tables reversed in his mind. The reason he got befuddled was due largely to seeing Lola Montez sitting there in the front pew, and Lola's last Confession had completely turned his head around.

She had come in there about a week ago and after the usual perfunctory rituals had answered to the question "have you sinned?" with the response, "Father I am not sure."

This of course required some explication and so Lola said that she enjoyed making men happy, which itself is not a bad thing, save for the manner she did so with her Spider Dance at Rem and Stumpy's Burl-E-Que across the water. She liked to make men happy because it was so easy for her. She knew what they liked.

Father Danyluk had to ponder that one a bit before asking if she took enjoyment from the means or the result and were there any other things she . . . nevermind, just stick to the first question.

She said both of course. Could dance be a crime in the eyes of God?

The priest pondered that one a bit and said, "Not necessarily. Ballet for example."

O I do a kind of ballet, said Lola. It's like a Charleston ballet with spangles.

The Charlest . . . O for Pete's sake say three Hail Marys and go forth and sin no more.

I can't stop, said Lola. I need the money.

Lola was really quite a sweet child. And there had been Mary Magdalene so it probably was all good in the end, the priest thought to himself while sitting on the edge of the riprap looking out over the tidal mudflats. For all we know, she might turn out to be a saint greater than Mother Teresa.

That night the Old Same Place Bar was packed with people engaged in serious drinking. Papoon, the Somewhat Liberal, sat at the left end of the bar and Babar, the Conservative, sat of course at the far right end and they glared at each other like UFC contestants for it was come to election time.

Everybody was in there watering up after the memorial service for Martin Garcia, who had been Mayor during the brief period when dancing had been outlawed on the island. The ban had been meant to close down the sordid dance halls where ladies would line up to offer the gentlemen something more lively than the fox-trot upstairs in the rooms that were to let on an hourly basis.

ladies were not supposed to do that

The poorly worded legislation had the unfortunate effect of shutting down tea dances and balls as well as the high school prom. It ended when Mattie and Flo got up on the roof of Crolls Pizzaria to dance in public to waltzes played from Flo's gramophone. They were arrested and thrown in jail which caused public outrage. When they got released they nearly got arrested right away again for drinking celebratory beer while standing on the sidewalk -- ladies were not supposed to do that.

Mayor Garcia had nothing to do with the dance ban, but the stigma remained with him for the rest of his life, which made him withdrawn and bitter, living in that old elm-shaded house on Grand Street.

In memory of that time and other bad legislation, such as Prohibition, the patrons pulled the tables to the side and while Denby played tunes like O'Carolan's Welcome, the folks there danced and danced the night away with Padraic clapping his big meaty hands. Even Suzie took a whirl on the dance floor at the urging of Dawn, who hoped this might bring the girl out of the funk she had been in ever since that affair with Jorge had ended with him being taken in for being a Basque Separatist.

And so there was music and laughter and dancing on this peaceful night and no one got shot and no one got stabbed until it was nigh unto midnight.

As the clock ticked over to the new day the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

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