THE GREAT RECESSION

AND THE MAFIA

JUNE 3, 2012

 

So anyway, the full moon has emerged from its recent eclipse behavior full and round in the sky even as Venus conducts her impudent, her saucy, her once-in-a-lifetime traverse. She is doing it right now, striding across the broad face of her brother, and you can gander at any time while listening to Jack White and friends sing "Steady as She Goes".

Although the weather around here has gotten warmish in the daytime, the nights have remained stubbornly chill, postponing the long anticipated endless summer.

Seagulls started circling over the Safeway parkinglot near dusk, which does not bode well for fine sailing tomorrow.

Everything has endured a delayed takeoff this year

Jose has been belatedly laying in seeds with some promising results at the Homestead farm and the newcomers claim to have found a way to grow tomatoes in total shade and cool temps. Everything has endured a delayed takeoff this year, which means that this summer had better be a sudden scorcher or just skip it until next year.

The bougainvillea has been burgeoning with riots of scarlet, while the trumpet flowers have all drooped with heavy blooms. Spring is clearly madly intent on doing its thing.

Denby has returned to work, strumming with a cast on his broken arm, and the Editor has stumped back to his office cubicle with a cane and a foul disposition appropriate for a man of his caliber and taste in bad cigars.

All of us are wounded in some way in these times

All of us are wounded in some way in these times, so we all just find a way to plunge on forward and make the show go on. That is just the way things go in this world.

Denby got Suzie to smash a wine bottle (Clos du Bois, Chardonnay, 1994) and he embedded a shard in his cast to create the first ever right hand slide/string damper. People were impressed to say the least and his Latin-rhythm version of the Police Dog Blues knocked 'em flat.

He also got extra tips for being a cripple and, were it not for the sudden rainstorm, would have stood on the freeway onramp to Babylon with a sign and a cap like a lot of the other smart guys who figured that you could make a living standing there with a piece of cardboard that claimed any amount of nonsense.

folks couldn't make the extortion payments any more

There was a regular racket going on with the Great Recession clobbering even the local Mafia, who found that folks couldn't make the extortion payments any more, not even after setting a few examples to the torch, as The Angry Elf gang had done to the Tiki Tom that used to sit just over the bridge there. The Angry Elf seldom exerted direct force -- he was far to clever (and too short) to do that. For muscle he relied upon toughguy Johnny Carne Asada, who had been a kingpin of sorts himself before the bottom in the bogus mortgage market fell out along with everything else. These days he worked for the Angry Elf, who sent him over to put the squeeze on Tiki Tom himself.

Johnny had come in there with two of his biggest goons, Click and Clack, the Truncheon Brothers. These guys were so big they had to pass through the lounge doors sideways. Ray came in with the engine block to a 1972 Pontiac LeMans tucked under his left armpit. He used the block for a stool and the occasional battering ram.

"Johnny, times are tough. I got bills to pay and see this tab sheet? I got customers whose kids now owe me money on top of their grandpa! Have a heart Johnny!"

Tom was begging with tears in his eyes and his seven kids of questionable origin peering from around the corner of the bar.

Times are perilous, people get careless with fire

"Lemmee put it to ya straight, amigo," Johnny said. "I got mouths to feed. Like this here Tim and his brother Ray Truncheon. Hey. You no pay the insurance things can happen. Times are perilous, people get careless with fire. And my boys here are real real hungry."

Tim Truncheon set aside a1962 Camaro camshaft with delicacy, picked up a barstool, smashed it to smithereens with some delicacy, and began chewing on the leg left in his hand.

"You see?" Johnny said. "You can't be too careful these days. How you gonna pay to fix that chair now? Better keep up your payments amigo. Buenos dias and $20,000 by tomorrow or else."

"Twenty . . .!? Johnny this is a tiki bar! We don't have that kinda money!"

"I got bills too, my friend. And your debt is seriously earning serious interest on the capital."

"Principal you mean."

"Yeah right. Whatever. I'm hungry. Lets go pay a visit to that restaurant odder side of MLK. I tink da guy there wants a housewarmin' kinda."

"Yeah, housewarmin'," grunted Ray. "Can I do da compression test on da girl? Can I Johnny?"

"Sure you can Ray," Johnny promised. "And the SMOG treatment to the old man if you want."

The two goons hopped up and down with glee. They exuberantly tossed furniture through the windows and left.

Well, needless to say, the little BBQ joints and tiki bars and old time grills of Oaktown had seen such hard times lately that nobody could afford to pay Johnny and the rent as well, which seem to jack up overnight all over the place.

Within a month a dozen establishments all over Oaktown burned furiously to the ground, including Tiki Tom's which had stood at the door to the Island for half a century.

all this arson stuff wound up killing not only the goose, but the entire flock

Main problem here for Johnny Carne Asada, is that as petty Napoleons go, his wattage burned a tick lower than normal, and all this arson stuff wound up killing not only the goose, but the entire flock of golden egg laying geese for his enterprise. This, of course infuriated the Angry Elf.

Casada was reduced to putting the lean on panhandlers, especially the guys who stood at the freeway on and off ramps.

He had Joey and Tim go out and shakedown the onramp guys in a regular circuit while driving their signature Black Maria, collecting fifty percent gross from each mark.

He even tried putting some his gang to work as shills for National Public Radio, skimming a little off of the donations.

Mussolini instead of This American Life. It could happen to you

"Ya ever think about how ya gettin' this programming for free? Well nothing is free, pal, so ya better think about becoming a subscriber. Just think about what would happen if you turned that dial and heard nothin'. Yeah. You heard nothing ever again, deaf as a doorpost, get my drift? Happened to an acquaintance of mine. Skipped pledge week by turning to another station and woke up one day bleedin' from the head from an unexplained accident. Seems somebody had replaced the radio above his bed with a blacksmith's anvil. And coming from the radio? Mussolini instead of This American Life. It could happen to you. So pay up pal . . .".

Unfortunately it turned out there is very little money in National Public Radio. Most of the listeners are penurious.

It was not long before Johnny's eye of avarice turned towards the Island just across the estuary. Here on the Island of Fine Living beside the Bay, Johnny Carne Asada ran into someone with a heart as black with greed as his own, but far more successful at being evil -- Mr. Howitzer, II.

Therein lies a tale which shall be related anon.

Down on Park Street the Editor was pleased to see a new business moving into the old Boudin Bakery. It was a massage studio that called itself A Touch of Wonder and the new proprietor was supervising the installation of what looked like extraordinarily thick plate glass at the entrance. The two workpersons were big husky gals who looked like they had just come off of the farm.

The Editor greeted them and welcomed them to the Island, leaning upon his cane, pausing to relight his stogie. Story here?

The two gals were sisters named Betty and Brunhilde and they were born in Bemidji, and both baked bread between bundled massage appointments where they kneaded buns on a different basis before buying beads and bananas. Their boss's name was Borg.

"Basically sounds like you are bachelors," said the Editor.

"Ja sure," Betty said.

He asked about the plate glass.

"Bulletproof," Brunhilde said.

The Editor commented the district was quiet and generally killing was done only after filing the proper paperwork .

Apparently their studio in Minnesota had been shot up by a maniacal gumshoe who had gone off his nut taking bum diet pills.

Why the violence violating the violet vestry of their virginal viaticum, causing them to vacate with virtual haste via a concealed viaduct?

"Bad pills lead to bad brains," Betty said, "Don't cha know." The proprietor, Borg Rubbitsum, had never gotten over the trauma.

The man looked too skinny to be from Minnesota

The two sisters were blonde with cornflower eyes and sunny dispositions, and the Editor thought they would adapt well. As for Borg, he was not so sure. The man looked too skinny to be from Minnesota or be named Borg. He clearly was balding.

"He has a middle name does he not?" the Editor asked.

"Busby!" Brunhilde burst out.

"Thank you. Good day ladies. Welcome to the Island."

"Bye-Bye!" The pair were as chipper as chipmunks and about as adorable. The Editor limped on with his cane.

There in a chair sat the sleeve to a Martha and the Vandellas

The Editor got to the Offices in their own new location with all things still in the disarray of moving, machines perched precariously on shelves, coffee pot in the sink, toaster oven rattling upon a stack of Atlantic Monthlies and Tom Petty CD's. There in a chair sat the sleeve to a Martha and the Vandellas. Notebooks everywhere, PDA's scattered like gophers, typewriter ribbons unspooled from old Royals that some of the older reporters preserved with jealous stupidity, ignoring the fact that their copy had to be scanned into the modern computer next to them on the desk. There was a monthly war between the staff who preferred lead pencils against those who preferred the engineer's machine pencil and it seemed the two camps would have as much chance of reconciliation as the Jews and the Palestinians.

In his cubicle, which had been sort of reconstructed with shelves and books and the electronic foofraw necessary for getting a publication done each week, the Editor tossed his bulk into the chair, hearing its ominous creak of tired rosewood, lamenting the state of furniture in general around this dump and propping his injured leg up on a cushion.

when it comes to broken bones, you know the stakes have risen

My friend when it comes to broken bones, you know the stakes have risen to a level to which you must adapt or die. There is no other way out of here. Once you are in, you are in for good.

Denby came in and dropped off his assignment, his cast glowing in the dim florescent lights.

Going out again?

Gotta get back to the gig at the Old Same Place. Gotta provide the rhythm so folks can dance.

Well, nobody ever said the path less traveled was going to be easy. Those horses shaking their heads in a snowy wood always will find warmth and fodder and shelter and some people like to go out dancing.

Others like us, gotta work.

Denby went out leaving the place silent save for the running machines, the timers snicking off the lights overhead one by one, the sound of someone sweeping the floors upstairs, leaving only the desklamp beside the Editor. There, in the pool of light with his remaining white hair flying about his head in an aureole, the Editor bent over his desk while all around there was darkness after the Eclipse.

There is no Mussolini on the radio, I am not broken yet.

There is no Mussolini on the radio, I am not broken yet, and I have scads of tales to tell, my friends. This moment's defeat is just a reminder to get stronger and try harder.

That insistent internal voice coming back: try harder.

The Elections are on Tuesday. We have to try harder. There is no other way out of this.

As the light failed across the land, a blur hovered over the struggling hydrangea, which despite maltreatment in the past, had started to bloom again under patient care. There darted by fits a spring hummingbird, come as a messenger, light and ephemeral as Spring itself. Yet persistent year after year.

From far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the persistent waves of the estuary and the free grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive hunted its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown while puzzling Life's Eternal Questions.

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

 

 

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