JUNE 8, 2014



So anyway birthdays are inexplicably a big thing around here in NorCal. for most people these things are somewhat pleasurable to annoying, but for Javier each year things blow up, get shot, burned, get beat up and/or savagely abused and humiliated. Typically the thing to which these events happen turns out to be Javier's friend Jose.

The day and time to party came around with Javier looking for Jose while carrying a bottle of Reposado Patron, but Jose was no where to be found. In fact Jose had hidden himself in the Unitarian Chapel where Reverend Lisa Freethought held services. Jose had never heard of a Unitarian church, but this being the Bay Area anything was possible and as Unitarians have nothing against comfort, this was one of the few churches with air conditioning on a day that was hot as blazes.

He imagined he had it pretty good holed up there in the dimly lit place with a gallon bottle of jug wine for company, figuring when the time came he would just stretch out in one of the pews. He heard a noise of the door opening and people coming in, so he diverted himself to the lavatory and parked himself in one of the stalls.

A few people came in to use the urinals and the extra stall.

By the increasing noise and then the obvious organ music it became clear that a June wedding had begun and so he was trapped in the toilet. Jose made himself as comfortable as possible with his jug, tucked up his feet on the jon with the seat down and so whiled away the hours. After a brief interval the motion sensor cut the lights, leaving him in the dark.

Meanwhile, in the little chapel things had begun as most traditional weddings do: with a knock down drag out feud between the Fiersteins and the Patakis. It was bad enough that Sophie was getting hitched to a goyische nebbishe like that Spiro. But their entire family consisted of metal workers and blacksmiths and shipping clerks and traveling minstrels. A bunch of gypsies with no culture that lot. Oy! My little girl, my little girl, said Sophie's bubbe.

Of course Harvey did not give consent, said Mrs. Fierstein. The whole thing is crazy; the boy has no prospects, none at all. Not even a situation! Not a single doctor among them and we come from good people and the boy and girl threatening to run off to Las Vegas. Such a scandal is that! Doesn't even know how to make yontif proper. These kinds of mixed marriages never work. It will all end in tears, I promise you.

This probably should not have been said in front of Mrs. Bunion, Spiro's great aunt.

So with all the acrimony getting decided on where to be wed became a Great Issue. Standing in the courthouse with the Commissioner was out of the question. So it was decided they would have two weddings. No. Make that three weddings. Because as it turned out in Alameda you still had to go to the Courthouse as it turned out the only minister on the Island who had filed the papers to be an official agent of the County for Marriage for the month of June happened to be Jason Arrabiata, he of the CFSM.

Pastor Nyquist thought Pastor Bauer had handled things for the Lutherans, while Father Danyluk had thought first the Bishop, then Sister Incontenance had taken care of the papers when he found them all propping the Monstrance, which was simply monstrous and he became quite livid about the lapses to the point the good Sister Incontenance began weeping.

The Methodists typically mail in their forms and as it turns out, the particular box on the corner of Santa Clara and Oak had been entirely stolen during the night, just unbolted from the sidewalk and tossed into a van and nobody had noticed the vacancy for days afterward.

This left the Baptists who always have people in Texas handling administration, which historically has resulted in serious omissions. Hence the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster stood as the sole legal authority for June.

Oy gevalt! That would not do at all.

Now it may seem curious to non-islanders that clergy like Reverend Bauer and Rebbi Mendelnusse would put off such important paperwork, but the truth is that in the County, a laic must put in forms and fees to be a representative for each and every wedding seperately, as the forms officially deputized the clergyman only for any one twenty-four hour period, with some exceptions allowing for 72 hours on a Holiday. As a consequence, most parsimonious clergy filed all the paperwork for June in late August so as to save on fee costs, back dating every wedding on the papers and saving on the tithes.

As it was, on a certain day in September one would find Rebbi Mendelnusse, Mustapha Omer Kemal, Pastor Nyquist, Pastor Bland, Rev. Howler (La Luz de Mundo de Occupado Parking Space), Pastor Bland (Presbyterian), Pastor Nance Haughtboy (Methodist), Father Rich Danyluk (Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint), Reverend Rectumrod (1st Baptist Church of the Insurrection) all in the offices of the County filing papers and paying fees and exchanging items from packed lunches while waiting for the clerk to call each one back to the window, for that is the way the County does things -- make people stand in line, file stuff, then wait more time to be called for verdicts and decisions and stamps of approval.

"You want a knish," offered the Rebbi.

"I got some aebelskivver," said Pastor Rasmussen, from the Oofta Bettya Kirke that catered to the Swedish racing team which had remained behind on the Island after the last America's Cup Race. They had lost badly and lost a sailor or two in the process, but heck, the Island is a darned good place to park a boat and mourn your fallen colleagues.

California is like that -- people come here for one reason and when the reason fades those people wind up staying on a bit longer until they look up and suddenly years have passed and a church packed with their children and grand children has grown up about their ears and they have become part of history without trying.

So anyway, to get back to the story. The Fiersteins held a proper ceremony with a tent and smashing the champagne flute -- one of the set used for regular guests -- and there was all kinds of kletzmer, which irritated the sensibilities of the Patakis who had decided to attend. There is, surprisingly, no Orthodox church on the island, the Greeks having focussed their scant numbers and resources to the chapel up the hill, the same chapel where Wally's son had taken refuge after blowing the whistle on the clandestine Mayor's wiretapping program.

With FBI, NSA, TSA and the FTB all swarming the place, they had to look elsewhere for a wedding, deciding on the politically and religiously neutral Unitarian Church

So there was Jose dozing in the dark in the men's lavatory when a bridesmaid fell into his lap with a squeak.

The lights burst on and there was this woman with dark hair and tattoos of flowering lianas up her bare arms, wearing a bridesmaids dress saying, "O, sorry! I thought this stall was empty!"

Jose asked the girl what she was doing in the mensroom, so of course she told him in whispers, the situation becoming compromising as people, men mostly, came and went and did their business at the urinals.

she had no time for dating, her life was filled enough

The main ceremony done, the bridesmaid, whose name was Eliza, had fled the bouquet-tossing scene, due largely to the weariness from the incessant "when are you going to get married" litany from the aunts. The uncles. The nieces. The godmothers. The god-awful everybody on her nerves. No she did not like Kostos. No she did not have a crush on Peter. No, she had plans for Saturday, please, please stop! She was an artist she was doing great work, she had no time for dating, her life was filled enough without romantic drama and endless scenes -- like the last time -- and she had decided to become a Quirkyalone to put an end to it all.

So she fled the highly operatic bouquet toss. Did he understand the frustration she felt?

Frustration was one emotion with which Jose could identify.

Sorry about the interruption, but it was dark, and no legs visible under the stall and she had never been in a men's room and thought maybe you had to put a quarter in there to open the door, so there she was.

From this angle her face reminded Jose a bit of Audrey Hepburn, but he put that image out of his mind. His own life was insufficiently organized to deal with women of any kind.

Well so there they were and now to get out of the place -- she could come back to the Household and be sheltered for a short while -- but she had promised to secure the silver salver holding the reception crumpets and wedding fantods. Could he help with that?

So Jose found himself sneaking into the reception in the annex, pretending to be a banquet waiter and making off with the salver under his shirt while Eliza mingled minimally and then waited outside.

Several Grand Aunts saw them leave together and nodded sagely before doing high fives.

"I certainly hope this one is a good Jewish boy," Olga said.

"He stole the silver plate," said Ruth.

"That, my dear girl," said Olga, "Means only we have a lever to use."

"I was born in twenty-five and you were born in twenty-eight. You have no reason to speak to me that way," said Ruth.

When Jose and Eliza got to the Household, Javier's birthday party had moved from the sagging porch across the road to the beach and they were all whooping and hollaring and Suan had several of her co-workers from the Crazy Horse there doing pole dances with the aid of janitor brooms and closet dowels. Underwear and rags fluttered on the drying line hooked to the ironmongery garden out back.

Jose was a bit shamefaced about the look of things, being a good boy from Sinaloa who had been raised well by a decent abuelita, but Eliza looked at the sagging porch and the hole from which Snuffles poked up his shaggy head and the general chaos on the beach and then took off her shoes, saying, "I LIKE this!"

So they went down to the party on the beach where Javier was doing the hat dance with Fannie Fast (not her real name) and who should show up but Carmelita, Javier's last, most recent infatuation.

Javier took an eyeful of Eliza and Jose together and only wanted to make someone new feel welcome, especially considering the retentiveness of Jose. "So Jose! You have someone new! Who is this now?"

Jose, a good boy from Sinaloa, was shy, reclusive, and not so tremendous with women, often given to despair and inaction, whereas Javier had decided to inhabit the body and spirit of the hot-blooded Latin with a ferocious vengeance. This meant, unfortunately, that his choice in women often overpowered his limited abilities such that the trauma unit at Highland had come to list Javier as a Code entirely unto itself.

Code Red means get the defib. Code Blue, means fetch the ventilator. Code Javier - o dear, better get the saline and serum type AB+ on the double! Load the cart with gauze and wadding!

It is impressive when one individual caused an entire protocol to be generated in a major metropolitan Trauma Center, but Javier was like that.

Carmelita wheeled about and lashed a bayonet . . . to the broomstick

Carmelita took one look at the beautiful Eliza between the two men and grabbed up one of the long janitor brooms and unscrewing the brush ran at Javier, who, like his nature and luck managed to dodge the thrust by throwing himself to the ground. Carmelita wheeled about and lashed a bayonet she kept strapped to her thigh (Javier's women all were like this) to the broomstick and charged at Jose, ramming his chest with full force enough to send him off his feet. The horrified Eliza, seeing her friend laid low and possibly murdered threw herself upon the Carmelita with the fury of Athena, the warrior goddess, arms and fists windmilling crazier than Don Quixote.

Jose, groaning in pain, removed the dented silver salver that had saved his life from under his torn shirt and tossed it aside.

That is when Officer O'Madhauen showed up with the Island riot squad behind, all lights and sirens going.

"Ladies! And I use that term loosely, cease your violence immediately, and do not attempt to violate the traffic ordinances of this city!" Office O'Madhauen said with a stentorian voice.

In answer, Carmelita swung her lance at Javier, clipping him on the skull and sending a good part of his scalp and blood spattering on the driftwood. Thus occupied, this left her open for Eliza to thwack her solidly in the jaw with a powerful right cross, knocking Carmelita down for the count amid the patter of tear gas canisters.

I love a good party!" Eliza said as the riot squad descended

"Eff, I love a good party!" Eliza said as the riot squad descended the slope through clouds of toxic gas with batons and plastic come-a-longs with which they bound up those guests who had not boosted out of that bad scene at first notice.

All this was observed from the periscope of the El Chadoor, the Iranian spy submarine that had been sent to keep tabs on the Port activities and Island Life in particular.

"You know," the Captain said, as he flipped up the periscope handles and ordered the sub to depart. "I will never understand this birthday thing in America, its operatic expectancy, its mulifarious disappointments."

"Much better to seek the abnegation of desire. Therein lies true happiness," said Abdul, the First Mate.

"That is nearly Buddhist in thought," said the Captain, amazed. "It is very near apostasy!"

"Perhaps, but it is true that it is Buddhist in origin," said Abdul. "But even the Prophet would approve. After all, it was Suiliman that first came down the road before the Prophet."

The Captain pondered these things as the spy sub left the estuary, passed out into the Bay, and thence under the Golden Gate to run silent, run deep to the open ocean.

Then, from far off across the water came the ululation of the throughpassing train as it trundled from where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stand glowing with their sentry lights, letting its blues cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the old Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, quavering among its ghosts and its weedy railbed, moaning between the interstices of the chainlink fences until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off out of shadows on the edge of town to parts unknown.