MAY 29, 2016

MEMORIAL DAY

 

So anyway, recent days have brought intense sun and cloud-free skies to the area. All the backyard gardens are in bloom, although the high fog has resulted in stunted tomato plants and pole beans have yet to get up there to a respectable eight -- they remain admonished by the nodding sweet peas that fill the local air with sweet memories. The roses have enjoyed the rains and overcast skies and are now exploding all over the place along with spikes of buckeye. On the landing of the Morgan family a squat Cereus is showing some unexpected promise with a bud that will demonstrate overnight glories.

Across the infinite blue heavens dandled a fluttering pat of color, which dodged across the lawn to settle on a rock right in front of Pastor Freethought of the First Unitarian Church of Considered Redemption. The Pastor observed the monarch with equanimity and so began a reverie upon the brevity of life. The butterfly took off and flew past the Tibetan monastery where Sabine, a monk dressed in red robes, considered that the insect may be a dream of Lao Tzu or she a reincarnated hedgehog, and that there were so many possibilities it did not matter or it mattered all at once.

The pants-wearers haul out the Colman grills

It's Memorial Day weekend, which trends around here to be the first weekend of the Summer season. Down on the Strand all the families come out with their coolers and their volleyball nets. The pants-wearers haul out the Colman grills and the sacks of briquettes for the fixed units in the Park and with the sharp sun cutting down on the shirtless and the bathingsuit, soon the air is redolent with sizzling flesh. The young deer have left their mothers and are seen at dusk standing on the road trying to figure out what this traffic means to them. The smarter ones will figure it out and survive another year. Turkeys are on the roam through the hills which causes some Oaktown residents and businesses consternation for an herd of turkeys is not nearly so complacent as the one sitting in the baking dish at Thanksgiving.

And on the well-matriculated hillsides of Marin you can see all the cows amid random clouds of butterflies, doing lunch amid profusions of golden poppies as they are wont to do at any time of the year.

Speaking of poppies, Memorial Day started as a commemoration of the fallen during Civil War, morphing into Armistice Day, to remember the end of WWI, but as history lumbered forward and this country continued to bleed out in various succeeding conflicts, it became a day to recall those who served and died in all this Nation's wars. Those more distant from the Services chose to include the day as Decoration Day, a day to place flowers on the graves of parents and other loved ones who have walked through the door.

The grey-sided veterans met at the Native Sons of the Golden West Parlor out at the Marina after the ceremonies finished up on Harbor Bay. The Nammies gathered outside around the picnic table and stood at the bar while the handful of Korean War vets took over the card table in the corner. There were a couple Choisin Few among them still alive and so Wally stood them drinks.

He had also been there at the Bikini atoll

There were only a few WWII vets still hale enough to attend both the ceremonies and then come to the Parlor while most of them went over to the Nimitz carrier museum. Among them was Mike who possessed a special aura for he had been Admiral Nimitz's chauffeur for a while. He had also been there at the Bikini atoll A-bomb test on board the Saratoga and been whipped by the needle wind like the rest of the average crewmen. He had been there but couldn't exactly tell you what the initial blast looked like. "If you were an officer you got sunglasses, but that's it. We were told not to look at the island until after the explosion anyway, since it was top secret."

Now, 60 years later his bones were melting from the radiation. The Saratoga had been moored only 10 miles from ground zero. But because of the circumstances of the top secret test, nobody who had stood that initial radioactive blast was entitled to VA medical. "It's me, me, me all the live long day," he said, "Then it's we, we, we when the guns begin to play."

After the booze ran out and the survivors had mostly left Pahrump wheeled Johnny Garcia down the ramp to the parking-lot where the van was just then coming around the corner. Johnny had been wounded in an IED explosion in Iraq. After the van took him away Jose came out with his mop and bucket. The two of them had been cleaning up after parlor events for some time to earn some extra dollars.

"Pero alguien se olvidó de los brazos y las piernas."

"The arms of the nation are covered with glory," Jose said, quoting General Zaragoza. "Pero alguien se olvidó de los brazos y las piernas." Then he added, "But the arms of the mothers are empty."

"General Lee said that it's good war is so terrible, or otherwise we would grow fond of it," Pahrump said. "I think the truth is that we are getting far too used to it."

In the Island-Life Pressroom offices all the windows and doors had been flung open due to the recent heat wave and the Editor went around closing up the place as the cool breezes reversed direction to come in from over the sea, allowing the hot wires of the land to untense gradually with relief.

He paused at the door to the short deckway that looked out to the back and considered the sliver of moon, waning now in Aries after a glorious run. Appropriately, the red blaze of Mars hung off to the southeast, closest it has been in eleven years. An important election coming up and Mars approaches. Not a good omen.

Nobody was going to pot him there on the deck

The Editor, an ex-Marine, did not attend any of the ceremonies. He needed and wanted no reminders and retained no special affection for the Corps. This he told himself as he did his morning 25 pushups beside the bed after getting up and before coffee. He put his hand on the rail and stared through the trees at the lights of people's houses, patches of dark and light which shielded no snipers. Nobody was going to pot him there on the deck. His hand tightened on the rail as he felt the breeze, smelled the scents of vegetation, listened with sharp ears to each and every stirring in the grasses, the chirp and whine of insects, the small animals, the casual drop of a leaf -- over there in that direction, that patch of shadow.

No, no one was going to shoot him right there and then in California in the United States of America. Something for which to be just a little bit grateful.

But taking no chances he turned and went back inside, closing and locking the door. A loud tang startled him, made him crouch down, and he turned to see a sphinx moth had bang into the screen of a window left open. He closed the window and went to the editorial desk and its pool of light. Tonight was a good night for mothing.

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.

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