A GUERNVILLE 4th
JULY 5, 2011
It's been a hot week on the Island set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After such a late start to summer with all the cold and fog, suddenly California got slammed with triple digit temps. Forecasters say we are due for a spate of cooler than average weather -- but that will happen in a week from now and right now we are all sweltering in our stucco houses and all the fans going like mad in every room.
Because of the heat a few of the guys got in mind to leave town. So Pahrump and Denby got together to go up to Doyle's place on the Russian River. They called Doyle and told him they needed to come up there to check the place out and make sure everything was okay after the amazing New Year's Party and they might have to work a little bit to get things right again.
Well Doyle had been a landholder for many years in California and he had done well for himself by dint of some pretty hard work and -- more importantly -- getting other people to work for him, largely for free. He was also gifted with that wonderful attribute called "selective hearing".
He seemed to have missed the part at first about the party and "making sure things were all right".
"Work?!" Doyle said. "Come on up!"
So they started discussing arrangements -- his daughter Jessie was having some college friends up that weekend -- when the first part of what the guys said finally hit him.
"What do you mean make sure everything is all right? What about New Years Eve? Its now July."
"O Doyle, we think there is something we better tell you when we get up there. Does everything that's electrical still work up there?"
"What the hell are you jokers talking . . .".
"See you in a little bit, Doyle. Bye now!"
"Hey . . .!"
Well some readers may recall that last New Year's eve the boys "borrowed" Doyle's place for a little party. While Doyle was traveling. They imagined that everything was okay by now, even with Wootie's moose herd getting a little rambunctions -- it had been a hell of a party -- but it was hot as blazes now and they wanted to get up there to the river, so they got Pahrump's scooter ready to go.
That's when Denby thought of bringing Jose along. Jose had just been released from the ICU after Javier's disastrous birthday party had exploded, more or less, when his girlfriend had tried to kill him there on the beach. Tiki torches, bags of black powder and firearms do not mix well with gallon jugs of wine, and Jose had got the worst of it after the girl had potted Javier in the leg.
Fortunately, it had only been a .38, or he would have been a lot worse off.
Jose had been trying to shield the miniature pirate cannon they had been firing at seagulls at the time when Camille came storming up the beach, firing at will, bullets smacking into everything, including the flaming tiki torches, spattering Jose with jellied gasoline right there beside the black powder meant for the half-pounder. The gun jammed and things sorta went up in flames at that point. Bystanders noted the pillar of flame that was Jose looked positively Biblical.
But now he was out and the problem was how to deliver two guys and himself with Pahrump's scooter. So, in true DIY fashion Denby borrowed a shopping cart from Lucky's and they lashed it to the side of the scooter and so with Pahrump driving, Denby perched on behind, and Jose nestled in the cart with provisions and Denby's guitar in its case they set out for the Russian River -- some seventy miles away around 10am. Things were dicey getting over the bridges as that meant they had to use the freeway, but heck Pahrump figured that since they all wore helmets the CHP wouldn't necessary bother them much. Somewhere around Sebastopol -- about four hours later by back roads they swapped off the wheels for items borrowed from some guy's wheelbarrow and finally managed to get there to Doyle's after a rocky but largely uneventful trip made more interesting by a gallon jug of wine. Took them an hour to get from Sebastopol to Guernville, a distance of some twenty miles.
So they pulled up there at Doyle's around four-thirty and they all jumped into the river with great relief.
The next day the kids decided that everybody should swim out to the Rock, which is a big lump of granite sitting out away from the bank upstream from the dam, and everybody did so except for Denby, who was terrified of water and rocks, so he paddled on out there in an inflateable canoe Doyle had found in an apartment one year after evicting a tenant who had tried to turn the place into an opium farm. Doyle had found the guy had carted in about 1500 pounds of topsoil to lay down in the livingroom and den there after tearing out the false ceiling to install halogen grow lights for poppies. It was not the electric bills that betrayed the would-be drug magnate, but all the water runoff from the irrigation seeping through the tarps to the apartment below. He never found why the canoe had been there, fully inflated in the bedroom, but after the guy had been carted off to the 7th Street jail, Doyle had reserved this piece of property for himself as partial remuneration for damages to the upscale Nob Hill apartment.
In any case the point of swimming to the Rock was to jump off it, the Rock being heated by the sun and the water been by nature cooler than rock, with most folks enjoying the free fall and kids being kids, this they did.
All except for Jose who perched up there as the shadows got longer and longer his newly healed skin getting blotchy by the hour up there.
Jump, Jose, said Denby from below.
No, said Jose.
A cute gal wearing a bikini spoke to Jose standing there. Jose shook his head and sat down.
Goddammit, Jose! Jump!
I'm scared of heights.
So they tried various things -- one of the gals was a marketing exec and another was a Personal Esteem Trainer from New York City and more importantly they wore bikinis and were of the age and shape to look good doing so, but nada. Jose would not jump.
The only way off that shockingly dizzy, quite high precipice of sharp, sheer stone is to jump! Denby said. You try to climb down you will fall, knock your pumpkin head and drown. So jump!
Jose inched to the edge, peered over and -- for a man of Mexican decent -- turned relatively pale. No way!
One of the gals, and then one of the guys, offered Jose a service about which we will not speak here, for this is a sort of family publication more or less, but Jose appeared to consider things, inched to the ledge peered over, then abruptly sat down and shook his head again.
One of the women got on Jose's left and Pahrump got on Jose's right. Okay, all three of us will jump together. I'll go off to the right and you go to the left so we don't bump each other, okay. Jose nodded. Okay now, ONE...! TWO...! THREE...! JUMP!
Off they went. Two of them, leaving Jose still standing there hugging himself.
Where the eff is your Latin machismo! Denby shouted.
I'm scared of heights. Jose said.
It's getting chilly out here and look at the shadows, Denby said.
In truth, the afternoon had revolved with the earth turning from Mssr. Soleil. The great coastal redwoods clad with ivy loomed deep now in the gloomy Tolkein forest all along the river. The blackberry-draped riverbanks softening with the fading light. The hawks which had been circling overhead all started heading home to roost. Swallows darted, kissed, darted off again.
Okay everybody on the Rock. All jump. One after another. Everybody off! Denby called out from the canoe.
So the men and women, boys and girls, one by one started flying off of the Rock into the deep green of the Russian River with tremendous splashes.
Hey, you are all just going to leave me here? Jose said.
Pretty soon, it was just Jose all alone up there.
All your friends are waiting for you down here, Denby said.
Jose closed his eyes. And then, to a wild cheer from everyone, he jumped.
Denby paddled up to him. Now don't you feel better having done that? Hey where are you going?
Gonna do it again, Jose called back over his shoulder as he swam back to the Rock.
O for pete's sake. . . .
That night, it was Guernville's turn to host fireworks. It was tradition that each little town along the river held its own display one after another during the annual holiday period. So they all loaded into Doyle's van and drove out to the pedestrian bridge, climbing over the gate to get right up to the rail there and watch the tradition explode in showers of gold, red, white and blue barely seventy-five yards away, the way it used to be for all of us, without a legion of 100,000 between you and what what happening a couple miles away.
Small town fireworks are the best this way. The only smells of cooking coming from food brought by the family, the ambient light reduced to flashlights and one single distant farmhouse, the local fire department conducting ceremonies, the booms reverberating between the riverbanks right up close, immediate. Maybe the display was not so fancy or glorious as what they put on in Babylon by the Bay, which strives mightily to be The City that Knows How, nor did it feature the technical virtuosity of Berzerkely which also has its reputation to maintain. But the pinwheels and exploding stars and simple UFO effects waterfalling in glowing sparks backdropped by the Sequoia were all the better by reason of being right there, almost in your lap.
All the girls started singing old July 4th songs. Those and Lady Gaga and Beyoncé of course. Fragments of conversations overheard among the some 60 to 75 or so people on the bridge families and friends. Yeah, cousin Jimmy came up . . . Some vets there as well, not to be forgotten: Then the firefight started . . . And the old songs: O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain . . .
When it was over they all climbed over the locked gate to get back to the road. Some girl threw a roundhouse punch at some guy and shouted rather unladylike epithets at him. Another wagged her finger in the face of a fellow who may have been a boyfriend. "I gotta TRAIN you!"
Just summer Guernville romances. Like good health, like summer, like a particularly flamboyant burst of fireworks, like all the things you miss and will ever miss from this point going forward despite the aggravation, already fading, destined to ebb into memories lapping on the edge of some other distant river with dark shores, the shadows getting longer around some other Rock. However in all the tents on Doyle's lawn there was reportedly much rumpus going on.
The following day, they loaded up Pahrump's scooter and set out in the early morning back to the Island, leaving one small town to head back to another before about 37 million other Californians got the same idea.
"Hey," said Doyle. "What was all that about New Year's Eve?"
"You see any sign of, like, moose around here?" Pahrump asked.
"No, can't say I have. Don't think we have moose around here. Maybe some river otters, but no moose."
"Good." Denby said. "Let's go!"
After some eight hours, several longish pitstops to guzzle cheap wine along with Wiz's Magic Punch made from Hawaiian sodas and about 1.75l of vodka, plus two sets of "borrowed" wheels later their rig with its makeshift sidecar trundled through the Webster Tube and back up to Marlene and Andre's Household where about fifteen people inhabited a one bedroom cottage (because of the extremely usurious rents being charged).
"So how did it go," Tipitina asked.
"Just another smalltown July 4th," Pahrump said. "Nothing better."
"And most importantly, Jose jumped." Denby said.
"He proved himself to be a man of cojones and courage, for he returns having slain his enemy."
That night there was much intake of depleted fluids and distribution of aloe from the plant growing out back, for the sun had taken its toll. However there was a lively chatter there around the bowls of the evening bread soup cooked up by Marlene, all about the fireworks and the water and what each had seen, for they were poor, but they were Company and so accounted rich in fellowship. Even on those days when they couldn't effing stand one another. And Jose had returned among them after having endured many trials. For this they were glad. For there shall never be an end to trials, and it was well to stand in Company, more or less united.
As one fellow said rather famously some 235 years ago, "We had better hang together, for otherwise we surely all will hang separately."
History does not record it, but as that firebrand Pat Henry finished his speech in the House of Burgesses, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the amber waves of grain and the passionate wildflowers blooming freely beneath the purple mountain's majesty as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its revolutionary journey to parts unknown -- about 235 years later.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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