JULY 2, 2017

TWILIGHT ZONE

 

So, anyway. Summer heat slammed the Bay Area and then stood off only a little bit while the engines steamed between heats all along Snoffish Valley Road.

Summertime had officially arrived. Girls were out in their thin summer dresses and the low riders cruised by. The scent of BBQ wafted on the tangy air. The recent heat wave had mellowed out to soft breezes over the golden hills. All was perfect.

Mr. Cribbage came back from his trip to San Diego with a box of Mexican fireworks. He flew down there and rented a car to drive north with the entire trunk packed with explosives.

For many the weekend was an extended holiday, but since the Great Recession and the triumphs of the NeoCon Far Right, many employers kiboshed the long weekend such that people like Tipitina had to haul into the City for Monday and Dodd was retained by Mr. Howitzer.

"This country was founded for wealthy people to be free doing what they do best -- making more money," Mr. Howitzer said. "So it is only fitting that inferior people like yourself serve us as you do."

Mr. Howitzer had a way with words.

As night fell and firecrackers went off all along the Estuary, Denby was out taking a stroll under the three-quarter moon, taking count of the stars and communing silently with the UFO's when the red Miata belonging to the Angry Elf gang drove past and the thugs saw him there. Denby ducked between the houses as the thugs unloaded from the car, armed with batons and knives.

The Angry Elf had never forgiven Denby

The Angry Elf had never forgiven Denby for saying "Eff you, dog!" to him, not once, but twice. Forgivness was not what the Angry Elf did -- that sort of thing was left to the Catholics. Instead, the Angry Elf cultivated spitefull vengeance. So the Angry Elf, who had gathered his gang under the promise never to kill anyone had no scruples about anyone else doing the job. Indeed much of the Angry Elf's work involving extortion, theft, numbers, arson, stolen credit cards, fenced bank account numbers, had a lot to do with someone else always doing the dirty work and carrying all the load of risk while he, the ringleader, took no cash but payment only in the form of "favors".

Denby . . . sprinted between the yards and vaulted fences

In any case the gang members shambled after Denby who sprinted between the yards and vaulted fences until he found himself at the old Beltline where an improbable donkey engine sat with a single boxcar, into which car Denby leaped just as the little engine chugged into life and pulled away, heading Northeast, leaving the gang flabbergasted as the Beltline had ceased operation some ten years previously and many of the rails heading west had been pulled up.

From the open door of the car Denby watched as the municipal fireworks and the highly illegal fireworks shot off along the estuary.

Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission

The little train trundled along the long unused tracks past the Nob Hill grocery and turned to parallel the magical Snoffish Valley Road. He heard a strange music going dee dee DEE DEE dee dee DEE DEE and a voice saying, "Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your imaging apparatus. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... ".

Denby fell into a deep sleep. When he awoke he found himself sitting slumped in a cushioned chair inside a clean car. He got up and stepped off the train which then pulled away, leaving him on an open concrete platform with a vaulted roof. An elevated freeway made some noise off to the right. Signs high up indicated destinations of strange towns with names he barely knew. Mill Valley. San Anselmo. Larkspur. San Francisco Downtown.

"Where the heck am I?" Denby said aloud.

"You be in San Rafael Main Depot," said a tramp. "Spare change?"

"How the heck do I get home?"

"If you lived here," the tramp said solemnly, "You would be home by now. Spare change for something to eat?"

A fireball arose over the trees from the direction of the Cribbage place

On the Island the Angry Elf gang found somebody's dog running loose and tied firecrackers to its tail for fun and to let off steam. In the Island-Life Offices the Editor looked up after a rumble and a distant roar shook the building, thinking it was an earthquake. A fireball arose over the trees from the direction of the Cribbage place and the Editor guessed that things had not gone well with the Mexican fireworks. No fault of the Mexicans; he was sure of that. Damned gabachos.

He put his head in his hands with some despair as the wail of the fire engines drifted over the trees after the fireball. It seems today that all of America has taken a Stupid Pill. He bent grimly and halfheartedly to work.

Language had in America become spoken vomit

Most of the staff had been let go early, which meant the issue would be late, but still it was better for the staff to be with families on this birthday celebration, commemorating a day a few hundred years ago when a group of idealists cobbled together a new idea that would be an experiment in Democracy. Call it a Republic if you will, as if calling something by a name makes some perverse reality that is not real closer to being true when everybody knows the real truth of things. Language had in America become spoken vomit, a repulsive ejection that carried no meaning or use as each atomized individual drifted further apart from understanding the neighbor in a land where communication of any type has become devalued and rendered inane.

The truth is, America is what it is and has always been, a compendium of acts over some four hundred years, including some gracious, some magnanimous, some heinous, some noble, some courageous, some churlish, some stupid beyond belief and some quite in advance of the times.

terms like "extraordinary rendition" supplanting the word(s) "torture"

Inanity seemed to rule the times. Blank-faced foolishness and extremism thrust its gob in front of common sense everywhere and the most ridiculous of ideas and acts have become commonplace while Truth is derided. Blather and spoken vomit have replaced candor with terms like "extraordinary rendition" supplanting the words "torture" and "concentration camp." The Editor put his head in his hands again, feeling a great despair.

The Country, made up of some 380 million souls, cannot be summarized so easily. As The Editor dozed over his desk, phantoms came to pay a visit, for it was hard on the Solstice and the Strawberry Moon and magic was in the air in a time when the veil between the worlds becomes porous.

Bewigged, stockinged, frockcoated, they entered the cubicle from the Other Side. Thomas Jefferson laid a hand upon the Editor's shoulder. Sam Adams and others stood behind.

"We wrote the Federalist Papers to explain what we were doing," someone said. "This then taken as authority ratified the Fourth Estate which we knew was necessary to check the powers of the other branches of government."

"Now is the time," said Thomas Carlyle.

"Now is the time," said Thomas Carlyle. "“Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all. A Fourth Estate, of Able Editors, springs up, increases and multiplies; irrepressible, incalculable.”

"We had better hang together or we surely will all hang separately," Patrick said. "It is as true as it always was; give me liberty or give me death."

A light breeze stirred the curtains and the phantasms silently walked out of the offices, leaving the Editor with his desk-lamp and its pool of light while all around hung the curtains of darkness.

The moon rode high in the sky and the Nation was in trouble. Time to work.

From from far across the water, the night train wailed from beneath the light-studded gantries of the Port of Oaktown, keening across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats through the cracked brick of the Cannery and its weedy railbed, crying over the dripping basketball hoops of Littlejohn Park and dying between the Edwardian house-rows as the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the Ohlone burial mounds to mysterious parts unknown even as a weary and footsore Denby made his way back to the Island.

###

everyone wondered where he had gone

When Denby finally made his way back to the Island, everyone wondered where he had gone, but he did not have a good explanation himself. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball or a strange deck of cards and you have to deal with it. As he paused in his long limp over the Park Street Bridge he looked at the sleeping town he had come to know over the course of twenty years. Far down to the right the ramparts of the new construction already topped the little houseroofs bordering Littlejohn Park. Closer to where he stood, new expensive homes, an entire development, occupied the land where the old Boatworks repair facilty used to be. But beyond to the south extended the quiet streets where kids still played stickball in the late summer afternoons and the bench that bore the legend since 1929 "To All My Dumb Friends" had been repaired, despite intense opposition from Police Chief Grumpus O'Leary, who felt the bench would shelter unsavory elements.

The teenagers did not bother with the bench - they smoked dope and drank gin in the more comfortable gazebo in the same park.

Islanders are Californians, first and foremost...

The Island, home to a stiff-necked, irritating, poodle-walking collection of misfits who also could be kind (up to a point), generous (within reason), and always full of opinions. A people you just had to love because they were both daft and obnoxious, a mixture of all kinds of Californian things. Islanders are Californians, first and foremost and that was the truth, gifted with foibles and blessed, redemptive lunacy.

A bland full moon looked down on the bridge where Denby stood, offering no comment but beauty.

When he got to Javarama he sat down to let Irene pour him a cup of java with only an half mile left to walk. Jason Arrabiata, minister of the CFSM sat there finishing up his Sausage-Rotini Special and he greeted Denby who told him all about how he had been fleeing the Angry Elf gang when he apparently had stumbled into some kind of warp in place and time at the entrance to the Snoffish Valley Road, which had transported him via spirit train to San Rafael.

"That must have been a Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum,"

"That must have been a Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum," Jason said while prodding his gums with a toothpick. "Haven't heard about one of those since the late 1960's.

"Why me of all people," Denby asked.

"You know, as a man of the Cloth I often get asked that question," Jason said. "I can only say you were Saved by his Noodliness and that musicians have special Dispensation around here."

And with that the Reverend Arrabiata offered Denby a ride back to the St. Charles Home for Demented Managers where Denby rented a room in the attic. There, Denby plotzed on his bunk as the moon shone through the window onto the D-9 in the corner so that the strings glowed. The air still felt heavy from the intense heat of the day. He felt like a lizard without a tail; survival has its costs.

"Why do these things happen to me," Denby prayed.

"Because," said The Creator. "You make me laugh! Just gotta love you, man."

From from far across the water, the night train wailed from beneath the light-studded gantries of the Port of Oaktown, keening across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats through the cracked brick of the Cannery and its weedy railbed, crying over the dripping basketball hoops of Littlejohn Park and dying between the Edwardian house-rows as the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the Ohlone burial mounds to mysterious parts unknown

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