So anyway, all the folks who had survived Javier's 55th birthday filtered back to the Household, each in their own time. As it turned out the guy who upchucked in Javier's jail cell gave everybody a lift in his BMW the following morning when the police let everybody out of the drunk tank along with the hookers and the other 24 hour riff-raff. The upchucker was named Ray and he took all his cellmates down to Impound to bail out his car, which was nice and sporty and did not have a trace of upchuck upon its fine German leather.
So that is how Javier got home. Jose, of course, got home after the Tube opened when the guys in orange vests had done scrubbing out all the graffiti in there well past the dawn hours. After spending the night with Paul and Marybeth in their Bushville plastic tent under the overpass, he rolled out and walked the long bend under the estuary past guys pushing grocery carts from some unknown market to god knows where and eventually got to the Household, vowing never to celebrate another birthday ever again.
Some guy named Snowden on the lam from the Man overnighted briefly during this time. The Household, always welcome to subterranean unrecognized heros and any of the downtrodden took the boy in, fed him a good meal of bread soup, gave him a cot on which to sleep for the night, and then sent him on his way to whatever fate Cuba, Russia, Central America or Tahiti may have in store for him.
There was some discussion on taking in such a notorious fellow, but Marlene, being the Queen of the Household had the final say and not even Andre at his peril could gainsay her word.
"This boy has more cojones than any of you and he risked his life to tell the truth. He should be regarded by this generation as an American Hero and now he is running for his life from very mean people, a situation all of us here know quite well, and that is what I have to say about it."
At the Household, things cannot remain somber for long. It is summer and the heat wave is on and Pahrump got out the frisbee to play tag with Tipitina and Jesus and all the dogs, Johnny Cash, Bonkers and Wickiwup and all along the Strand there was much scampering and kite flying and jumping up and down and all sorts of groovy things for summer had come to the Bay Area, which tends to employ its fogs and dismal atmosphere to repel the invader, but for now there was ice cream and our American Hero, Snowden, remained free and alive for the while.
While the rest of the country has been dealing with tons of rain and floods and all sorts of mean, nasty tornado stuff we have been enjoying an heat wave that broke recently. This heat wave crushed the bejesus out of incipient Spring and with the lack of rain everything has been browning over into a fast summer. All the schools have held their graduations and proms and now its safe for proud parents to announce their valedictorian is headed for East Coast Ivy come the Fall.
As people settle into the Summer thing, with its round of block parties and bbq, several of our favorite Island characters are easing out of the woodwork to ease their wounds. Javier is recovering from his birthday party that ended with him in the Seventh Street jailhouse by chasing a flirty thing in a short skirt named Samosa. Jose eventually made it back to the Island the following morning from the Bushville encampment at the entrance to the Tube, limping along through the fumes on the high walkway through the tunnel. Along the way he passed Snuffles who was heading out to his favorite panhandling post at the freeway offramp.
At the Household of Marlene and Andre, space has cleared out now that the weather has improved to allow for sleeping on the beach and so the place does not smell nearly as bad as it does when all fifteen people are crammed in there together during the winter.
When he got back to the House, he flopped down into his closet sleeping bag and Marlene poked her head in to tell him there was leftover garlic noodles.
"Nnnhffff." Jose said.
"You have fun with Javier at his birthday?"
"You stop that," Marlene said. "You know I do not understand you when you speak Spanish."
"Sounds like it was pretty bad."
"Ok. Noodles on the stove. Sleep well."
Old Schmidt finally showed up at the Old Same Place Bar and slid into his usual stool for the usual bump and a beer. Although he had been last seen leaving in the company of a fabulous dame in a red dress and entirely disabled by a paroxysm of emotion, he refused to answer any questions or refer to what had happened.
"So what happened with that woman, d'ya mind?" Dawn finally asked.
Old Schmidt merely lifted one bushy, shock-white eyebrow.
"I am meanin' ta say that Lili Marlene you went off with the other night," Dawn insisted. "It appears to me there is a love story of some kind goin' on here."
"Aboot zeese luff sings, I know nossingk, nossingk, nossingk!" Old Schmidt replied. And that is all he would say about it.
Summer has come around at last. The papa racoon, big as a washingmachine, has been trundling across the backyards in the dead of night, making all the dogs go crazy. Opossums have been scuttling along the base of the old fence and the squirrels commit their usual depredations at frantic speed like Keystone cops chasing bandits.
Those Canadian geese who do in fact return to Canada have done so by now, leaving the indolent and the hapless among them to gabble and poop upon the greens of the MIF Albright golf course and so cause the duffers and greenskeepers much grief as has been their wont for generations.
Summertime, now that kids are off to get themselves into trouble without elderly interference or prevention of discovery, is the time when we hearken back to our origins as an agrarian people. The coastal areas of California are densely urban. The Ohlone lived in balanced harmony with the ecosystem for 8,000 years. The early Hispanic Californios raised cattle, horses, farmed the land and were content with that, however what followed involved a wrenching and tearing up of the landscape where everything done was a part of conquering and seizing precious but lifeless metals. Yet among those were men who returned to the earth for the nurturing it provides.
All over the island tiny plots exfoliate with extraordinary blooms. Backyards host a bounty of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, and even corn. Given only a few square yards of earth not paved over or converted to useless European grasses, our natural bent is to plant, to tend. Then, of course, there are the datura, the bougainvillea, and the exemplary roses behaving with remarkably disciplined exhuberance.
July, of course, is the time of annual mayhem, destruction and self injury that people committ out of a sense of patriotism and childish delight in blowing things up and setting things on fire. These things include tin cans, bottles, trashcans, letterboxes, small animals, bushes, trees, children.
Mr. Cribbage secured several boxes of municipal grade fireworks through a friend at work and held a little backyard affair not far from Mr. Howitzer's Mansion. He was not so foolish as to launch these things there but transported the party to the Cove near where the disputed Pointe that would have been an extension of the Park seemly likely destined for several ritzy townhouses due to a curious rezoning of the land in some backroom deal.
For now it consisted of weed-tufted parkinglots and decrepit sheds abandoned by the Federal government behind tattered chainlink fences. The party made its way easily through a tear in the fence to a lot where Mr. Cribbage eagerly setup the combo boxes as the light faded. He used a BBQ torch to set off the first one which shot up several rockets, followed by a scattering of poppers and then brilliant pinwheels and glowing embers fell all around them, still sending up fizzlers and screamers as he set off box after box until the display had attracted quite a crowd beyond the fence along the Strand. It was really quite something and the low altitude of the explosions created a great sense of excitement. Among those attracted was Mr. Blather with his party and his fireworks.
"Where shall I put these," Mr. Blather said. 'I cannot see a thing in here."
"Over there," Mr. Cribbage waved with irritation, realizing he might be upstaged.
So over in the darkness on the edge of the lot Mr. Blather set up his boxes on a pile of debris near some shrubbery and set off the first one before deploying the rest.
Sure enough, after several whizbangs and fizzlers, one of the boxes tipped over on the uncertain ground and started firing several sparkle trails sideways down the way. One rocket smacked into the side of a shed and exploded into flames. A semi-circle of flames munched its way steadily through the dry grass.
Mr. Blather and party tried stamping out the brushfire with their shoes but none of them had thought to bring along a fire extinguisher. Simone tossed a gin martini on the fire. This was followed by Tom Collins, gin ricky's, Manhattans, and Stoli neat, all with no effect. Naturally the bushes burst into flames and everyone scampered away from the debris pile with the rest of the fireworks as the sirens began to wail.
Mr. Blather looked back as he crept through the fence, thinking maybe about recovering at least one of the boxes at the risk of detention and fines.
"What a waste of good olives," Simone commented, hitching up her gown as she ran.
Mr. Blather departed in some haste as the helicopter arrived.
At the end of another long day, ending the heat wave with welcome breezes and a delightful sunset arranged painterly in washes of golds and vermilions rising up through azure to deep navy blue well above the palm trees, the Editor stepped out to observe the glow of a fire happening off towards Crab Cove. All through the night the crump of explosives, the hissing of rockets and horizon flashbangs had terrified the neighborhood dogs and reminded him of his days and nights spent in that distant place of swamps and jungle which had struggled through nightmare years to become free in its own way from foreign tyrannies.
Earlier that day he had spoken with Nevermore, the Vietnamese man who lived next door about gardening. Some neighborhood kid had set off an M80 across the street and as the Editor straightened up from his instinctive crouch he noticed the balding head of his neighbor also coming up at the same time and the two of them had looked at each other and each knew.
"I see you were not an officer either," the Editor said.
His neighbor had laughed. "I? No. Not officer. Officer no duck. Hah. Garden now. Peace now. We make peace seperate."
"You ever read Hemingway?"
"Heming? No. Who he?"
"A Seperate Peace. He was a writer. Long ago. Another time."
Each night after the chaotic Fourth, fewer explosions. Now, late Sunday all quiet kissed the tender shadows of a voluptuous night, rich with sensuous smells of sea along the water and lemon verbena inland. In the shadows the warm boughs of madrones writhed like lovers together for this brief moment of summer. A seperate peace, yes.
The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the rebellious waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the independent grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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