AUGUST 17, 2014



So anyway, So anyway, this past week maniacs cut the head off of another innocent person, apparently under the misguided idea that murdering someone innocent will somehow persuade the Western powers to keep away from ongoing wretchedness this group is causing and get the Saudis, the Kuwaiti's, Yemen, Egypt, Turkey, Oman, and whomever else to join in its head-banging lunatic ideas of a State governed by misinterpretation of the Koran, apparently by people who have never read it.

Mustapha Kemal, the cleric at the local Island Mosque shouted angrily with a copy of the holy book in his hands. "The Prophet never was commanded by Gabriel to recite that you must kill your neighbor dentist for fixing the teeth in a man's mouth!"

Aboard the Iranian spy submarine El Chadoor there has been much soul searching with the Captain concluding with an aphorism. "This conquer the world is old-time stuff coming from the days of war against the Mongol hordes, and now which has nothing to do with the Prophet or defending the Faith. It is said that the man who takes just one step towards god shall enjoy the fact that god will take two steps towards him. In other words, it should come easily, and not at the point of a sword."

Now that both Labor Day and Memorial Day are past, the Bay Area is moving inexorably toward that special Holiday which brings out the monsters, the nightmares, the spooks, outsized spiders, ghouls and devilish smoke machines. That is, of course Election Day.

But before Election Day we have the far more enjoyable festival of fantasies and costumes called Halloween, which is celebrated here with more zest than anywhere else in the world for this part of the world has long held a patent on making fantasies real. Or at least, you know, actionable. The boys dress as girls and the girls dress as boys and dweebs dress like their favorite Star Wars character. Well, that happens all year anyway, but still, it is a good excuse for a Bay Area party. There is even something in it for children as well.

Marlene and Andre are planning their shindig at the Household with found materials and Martini is fashioning a skeleton out of rebar and LED's ripped from discarded circuit boards, while Mr. Howitzer is cobbling shopping lists for Dodd so as to trick up the Mansion a bit. This being an Election year it will also serve as a fundraiser for the Conservative candidates, one of whom wants to help Chevron put oil rigs in the Bay.

Up in the hills at the Greek temple Mr. Terse is still keeping tabs on Joshua, who has been holed up in the sanctuary ever since they came after him for blowing the whistle on the Administration's secret wiretapping of regional Mayoral restrooms. Joshua pokes his head out once in a while to tease the humorless Mr. Terse.

"Scotland free yet?"

"Scotland shall never go free of Great Britain!" shouted Mr. Terse. It was all he could do to avoid unloading his service pistol at the ornate door of the church which had snapped shut. "Damned liberals," grumbled Mr. Terse.

In the Old Same Place Bar, Babar -- the Conservative Candidate -- sat with Papoon -- the Somewhat Liberal Candidate. The Pee Tardy Candidate, Mr. Retentiff, and the Green Candidate, Ms. Olive Flambeaux couldn't stand to be in the same room with each other so they remained absent.

Babar asked how Papoon stood on the McKay Avenue issue and Papoon expressed surprise that Babar would want to know.

"Of course I want to know. Whatever is your position, I must be logically in opposition."

Well, that is American politics in a nutshell.

McKay Avenue is one of those things that began with backroom deals that seemed assured before someone squawked about taking land designated for expansion of the Cove parkland and giving it to a Developer.

Taking the land designated by ballot is one thing, but giving it to a Developer many found to be odious.

The GSA, former owner of the land, felt because it is the Federal Government, it can do whatever it wants and so got into a hissy fit with Eminent Domains and the Regional Parks and Rec people got into a legal snit and amid loud arguing and drive-by nastiness got asked to sit together and discuss the matter like adults, which of course did not work out and soon everything descended into an atavistic brawl with motorcycle chains and knives and rending of teeth and smashing of chairs over people's heads.

It was worse than the warfare Oakland endured during the eviction of the Occupy protesters from the Plaza in front of City Hall.

Asking some people to act like adults in this area is like asking the KKK to please show a little more sensitivity and tolerance.

Father Danyluk, priest of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint, paused by the moonlit Cove with the disputed strip of land extending its dark arm out into the Bay. He had been paying a visit to Mrs. Dudgeon to provide the widow with whatever consolation a man of the cloth had to offer. Mr. Dudgeon had always been a dour, gruff man with a lineage going back to the Bear Flagger days. One had the impression that he had set his opinions about age 13 and had seen little reason to alter them since.

A branch of the Dudgeons had split off from the clan when Isiah Dudgeon decided to join a cult known as the Golden Dawn. His progeny never seemed to flourish financially, becoming variously Sikhs, Transcendentalists, Unitarians, and ultimately Buddhists. It was Lance Dudgeon who changed his name to Druge and helped found the Tassajara monastery, while Bruce Dudgeon got into Speakeasies, bootlegging, and rum running during that famous time.. This branch of the family, by being so disreputable, were call the Low Dudgeons and it was a bad thing to associate with any of them.

Ralph, of course, belonged to the other type of Dudgeon with money, the High Dudgeons.

His house had been one of the houses snagged up by Eminent Domain during the big 580 highway connector when the massive construction project pushed through the heart of Oaktown and he had never lost his sense of injustice and outrage about the events. Many people lost their homes and whole neighborhoods got cut in half. The government paid homeowners about $28,000 per plot of land with a house on it, which some thought was fair enough, but soon after that property values skyrocketted through the roof. This whole affair left Mr. Dudgeon a bitter, angry man, although he was not a man without means. His family still owned a tract of land in Mariposa, and in fact his great grandfather had been among the people who unloaded the land belonging to Charles C. Fremont back then when he himself had fallen on hard times before becoming Senator.

In any case the seizure of the house put in him a savage distrust and hatred of the government to such an extent that his wife, Irene, took the opinion that his heart condition had been caused by this one event in his life.

It may be other factors contributed. "Damn hippies! Thought we got rid of you back in the sixties!" he shouted at the Occupy tents in Frank Ogawa Plaza. And his face got red and a little foam appeared at the corners of his mouth because of the medication he was on. Not many of the people in the tents had been alive during the sixties -- most of them had been born a good twenty years after the high water mark of the times referenced by Hunter Thompson had been reached and ebbed away with all the detritus. If asked to describe what a Hippy was, they would have been hard pressed to mention even their parents, who also had been born well after the high water mark. "Uncle John, the CPA? He's old but no, he never was no hippy. Maybe, but I don't think so. Hippies have hair all over the place and Uncle John is as bald as a cue ball . . .".

We are likely to continue to have misunderstandings for quite a while longer about a period of time that particularly affected California, but in any case it was at the family farm in Mariposa that Ralph Dudgeon died. The postman came by and saw the mail had not been taken out of the box for a couple days, even though he knew Ralph had been dropping in recently. So he drove up the trail there and coming to the house found Ralph standing there with his hands on the rain barrel.

The postman, Merv Levinsky, called out to Ralph but the man did not move. Merv sat there with the engine idling for a while and still Ralph did not move and the wind kicked the door open.

Ralph had come out there to move the barrel, or maybe look in, but nobody will ever know for he died, probably in an instant, standing with his head down and holding onto the barrel, leaning a bit on the side with a sort of contemplative look on his face, like a man trying to remember where he last laid his glasses or someone about to fart.

Well the funeral was a modest affair over at the Basilica with not so many people -- Ralph had been 82 years old and had seen quite a lot of his contemporaries pass on before him -- but the ham and cheese sandwiches were supplied by Raleys and the bread was from Semifreddis, so they were pretty good and by the end of everything all the plates were clean.

The children all sent their respects from Connecticut and other places where they had drifted like box elder seeds scattered about the world.

Mrs. Dudgeon offered Father Danyluk some port, but he abstained. "Don't mind if I have another myself, she said cheerily. "It's not so bad. I think I will have the curtains redone."

She did not seem to be sad or grieving at all. Quite the contrary, she appeared as chipper as a chipmunk in June. "O, I forgot to water the hydrangea! Don't be downhearted Father. It's all for the best. He is in a better place, I am sure."

So after this business, Father Danyluk stood beside the lagoon where he had fished for many a year, the waning moon rising high, still with some strength left after its Supermoon status had faded. It had been the summer of Supermoons. And the old priest wondered what had he done with all the light . . . .

There came from far off across the water the ululation of the throughpassing train as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their sentry lights along First Street, letting its 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 former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its ghost-haunted, weedy railbed, 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 past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.