YOU EVER BEEN TO MINNEAPOLIS?
AUGUST 14, 2011
It's been getting gradually warmer and sunnier on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Lately it's started to look again like summer had taken a mind to act properly, however the Canadian geese have already started getting restive.
As if this was too cold a place to hang around for winter. Maybe we better pay attention, for with all of this global climate change, this winter could bring about anything. Prelim reports from the Farmer's Almanac folks report a mild response to El Nina, with colder that usual temps for most of the USA this winter. NorCal looks to have about an average prediction for this winter. Still early to say.
It's been such an unsettled and unruly cold summer until this weekend. Rachel, the dance teacher for the Metrodome, came out to sun beneath the sudden glow in the early part of the day while the laundry churned in the automat and she glowed under the warm rays, her normally active body, usually leaping about in twirls, suddenly still as an amphibian. The bean vines grew and the hydrangea expanded and everything green thrust upward under this beneficence. The garden had decided to enjoy a flash mob without benefit of Twitter or Facebook, a quiet riot without helicopters.
A couple Canadian geese flew overhead, honking loudly a memento mori. It's a little early for them to start getting restive.
In this unsettled time, folks congregate among those they know. Those with family they trust, cluster there. Others flock to their churches and associations. For those who have nothing like that, there remains the Old Same Place Bar on this weekend of the Full Moon, a time that is always fraught with mystery and unexplained appearances.
It's the weekend of the Full August Moon and strange occurrences abound.
The times were hard and getting harder and more stressful day by day. These days the talk among the tables often turned to angry muttering. Fights broke out in the street. People had their cars broken into. All stuff that used to happen when the Navy still occupied the Base out on the Point. So Padraic got some music into the Old Same Place Bar in the form of Denby who occasionally showed up with the rest of his band, The Monkey Spankers. Most of the time Denby sat there alone, however, as payment consisted of five dollars plus tips and one free beer per player.
Its a gig. Times were hard and any gig was better than nothing at all. Some weekends the Monkey Spankers went over to the Frog and the Fiddle on Webster, but Peter, the guy who used to own McGraths, knew something about music, and the place tended to attract capable musicians, so they didn't play there that often.
"Play something soothing," Dawn asked.
So Denby played the tune he wrote about Zack Raymond's drowning. It was mostly in A minor.
When he had finished that one, Eugene asked Denby to play something more upbeat, a happier song.
"Sorry homie," Denby said. "I don't know no happy songs."
Margerie Schtupp put a five in Denby's jar and ordered a Fat Tire from Suzie at the rail. Margerie, a big horsey gal with hair tied back in a ponytail and an outrageous pink feather boa around her shoulders started up a conversation with the Man from Minot. Margerie was outgoing and could start up a conversation with an oak tree.
Turned out she did not live on the Island, although she used to over by Paganos near the St. Charles Lunatic Asylum. She liked to take her work breaks on the Island because the old fashioned charm pleased her and it was relaxing to hang out among the bougainvillea-shaded streets where kids still played stickball during the day and where nearly every block sported a neighborhood mobile basketball hoop.
O and what was it she did?
"Honey, I do, um, bodywork. Sorta. On San Pablo."
The Man from Minot changed the subject. Where was she from?
"Born in Santa Rita. Back when it was a Navy hospital. My dad was a sailor officer." She laughed abruptly. "Guess that says it all. My dad a sailor who left town and never come back. Born in Santa Rita and destined to go back. Time after time."
The Man from Minot remained impassive.
"You don't mind talking to someone like me, now do you honey?"
The Man from Minot shrugged. "All kinds a people in the world. Don't matter to me what you do. People is people all over." He paused. "Just so you know I got no money."
"Oh don't you bother about that. This is where I take my break. I like the old time feel of this place. You want to keep it that way. The other day I come along in daytime and a party of kids was out in front having a birthday party. Little girl about so high was blindfolded and whacking one of them piñatas. She looked to be Mexican. Real cute. All of them. I almost had a kid once . . . . You ever been to Minneapolis?"
He had to admit he had not.
"Me neither. My sister moved there. She says its nice there too. I still get letters from her, real letters. I got no computer you know. She must be the last person in the world who still writes longhand. Someday I gonna go there and visit. Not in winter though. Gotta be summertime. If I ever get any money saved up. Hard to do that these days, though. With the rent so high and . . . expenses. All the expenses. I got no insurance so I had to pay all out of pocket for my teeth when they got broke."
And so the evening passed in light conversation.
Towards closing Margerie asked the Man from Minot for a ride back to Oaktown. He demurred. Said the car needed . . . a new throbbleswitch.
"Uh huh. Okay." Margerie said. "Just wanted a ride is all. Really is all. Hey! Anybody heading over to Oaktown?"
Dawn looked at Padraic. "Use the truck," he said. "Take Suzie with you."
Suzie's left eyebrow rose at that but as they went out, Eugene held the door open for the ladies.
"Thank you kindly, sir. You are a gentleman." Margerie said. "See what I mean. Real old fashioned. Don't nobody hold no doors open for you in Oaktown."
Dawn drove the truck with Suzie in the middle and Margerie sitting on the outside.
"Much appreciate this, Dawn," Margerie said. "I woulda had to walk a long way through the tunnel to get back. Sometimes I take a taxi, but that costs you know and lately income has been pretty low. Kindness is a strange brooch in this all-hating world."
She had become a regular at the Old Same Place quite a while ago, so she was not exactly an unknown quantity. Dawn felt sorry for her.
When they turned the corner in Oaktown onto the foot of San Pablo Suzie could see the full moon shining her light all the way down the arrow-straight road where figures stood in doorways, two-stepped in front of chainlink fenced lots, or leaned up against streetlights. There must have been nearly fifty women, and men dressed as women, all wearing short skirts, high heels or platforms, all staring with sharp eyes, calculating every car and truck that passed, making small motions with their arms to attract attention.
A woman with hair piled way up high, skinny as string and wearing a red faux leather skirt took two steps forward, looked up and down the Ave', looked at her watch, took two steps back, looked at her watch, stood a moment, then repeated the exact same motions as if she were a glockenspiel figurine.
A car slowed and stopped about two blocks down and they could see a cluster of figures gathering at the driver's side window.
Margerie got out of the truck, inhaled deep and bravely tossed one end of her feather boa over her shoulder.
"Thanks guys! You take care and stay out of trouble," she said. "Especially you," she said to Suzie. She then stepped out into the moonlit night and vanished before their eyes.
Dawn's mouth was set in a firm line as the two women returned to the Island.
"Times are real hard," Suzie said.
"And getting worse," Dawn said.
They both breathed sighs of relief as they turned off Constitution Way to head down Lincoln.
Dawn dropped Suzie off in front of her apartment and waited until the girl was safely inside. The pretty girl waved before entering and shutting the door.
Dawn then drove back to the place she rented with Padraic and paused to look down the quiet residential street with its old buckeye trees and wooden fences draped with bright orange trumpet flowers, all illuminated by the full moon. The dew had settled on the broad leaves, which wept in the stillness with quiet drops to the earth. Their neighbor, Greg, had his mobile basketball hoop pulled up in his driveway. Big wheels and other toys lay scattered on the lawn.
"I almost had a kid once . . . . You ever been to Minneapolis?" The voice of regret and lifetime disappointment echoed inside Dawn's head.
Right then, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the innocent wildflowers blooming among the unwanted weeds of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the sad, shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its old journey to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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