AUGUST 22, 2018

SUMMERTIME

 

So anyway. The furry mimosa, gone hairy with its coat of saprophytic moss, is full in bloom. All the glads have erupted at once a few weeks ago and now all of them that have not bent over with the weight stand much subdued with muted wilts that used to be something and now all stand like silent meditating monks remembering past glories. The prevailing winds have returned although the air is still butter-soft and the shadows flow like syrups. It is late summertime and the stores are all filled with Back-to-School displays.

Pedro has managed to tune in to a faint channel that brings in the latest from his favorite Lutheran televanelist Pastor Rotschue, who appears after a #metoo contretemps and ouster from the airwaves found himself a sort of online home for his folksy point of view.

Pedro is glad that the voice that kept him company for many years out on the bounding main remains present in some form, albeit subdued. Yet a fisherman's lot is one that does not pause any more than the ocean stops for even one emotional second for any one man or group of men. The basement of the ocean is littered with the carcasses of ships that longed in vain for some sort of pause amidst the storm. Life indeed is harsh and its ending inexorable.

When Pedro returns each day from his work, and mounts the rise to the house, the roses of Almeida waft effulgent, driving away all salt scents of the sea.

Life is brutal and short, but then, there are roses raised and managed by your wife. There is that.

And there are the chickens and their eggs cultivated by that same wife, and defended from rats and raccoons, so all things are not matters of decay and evil.

piled high with horse manure

Down the Snoffish Valley road Pahrump, Jose and Mancini carefully tend a 30 gallon bin perched on the edges of the flexible flyer wagon Mancini had rescued from the old Household. The bin is piled high with horse manure they had gotten from the Dickerson Ranch down the way and they were hauling it back as part of the project to make a subsistence garden bigger and better than the one they had on the Island.

As they trundled past Mr. Gruffman's place, the old fellow stood at the gate entrance to his property and swore a blue streak at the sight of our motley crew shoving and pulling a couple hundred pounds of equine excrement.

"Holy s--t!" said Mr. Gruffman.

"Got that right. And it's good s--t too!" said Mancini.

When they trundled past the cottage rented by Missy Moonbeam, she asked them what this was and when they told her, she exclaimed, "Cool beans! That is real Organic!"

Heartened by that encouragement they toiled on, pushing and pulling and steadying the flexible flyer wagon that carried so much horse poop.

Transporting the heavy bin took them a couple hours of hot, sweaty work but when they arrive at the new Household, they dumped it with ceremony next to the area planned for expansion while Andre played the harmonica. Tomatos, squash, beans, peas and green onions are thriving so far. Life is good when you got good s--t. Even better when it was free.

Then the boys settled down with a gallon of 99 cent wine Mancini had found somewhere, for no matter how hoity toity the environs, there is always cheep wine to be found somewhere if you look hard enough.

Ernest, who had both legs broken by the Angry Elf gang before he moved to Marin, takes his evening walk with a cane to breath in the air, listen to the birds and pause at the top of the hill, feeling much of life has passed him by. He'll never become a rock 'n roll star or an airline pilot or an astronaut and the window closed long ago on possible fame on the stage or on screen.

For a while it was quite horrible

But that is all right. He is resigned as two hummingbirds dart by, pause to investigate and then dart away again. It could be worse. In fact it HAS been worse, much worse than living in confusing Marin. For a while it was quite horrible, in fact. But for now he is done with knee operations and taking opoids for the pain and no one has tried to kill him for at least two years. One has to learn to appreciate the small things.

Three young deer come hopping down the middle of the road and pause to stare at him not twenty feet away and then they go skipping off, not afraid but careful just the same. The shadow of a heron passing overhead crosses the road. Now Ernest is one of three Chinese figurines ascending a lapis lazuli mountain and being written about by a Irish poet. And his eyes, his glittering eyes are ancient and gay.

I have heard that hysterical women say
They are sick of the palette and fiddle-bow,
Of poets that are always gay,
For everybody knows or else should know
That if nothing drastic is done
Aeroplane and Zeppelin will come out,
Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in
Until the town lie beaten flat.

All perform their tragic play,
There struts Hamlet, there is Lear,
That's Ophelia, that Cordelia;
Yet they, should the last scene be there,
The great stage curtain about to drop,
If worthy their prominent part in the play,
Do not break up their lines to weep.
They know that Hamlet and Lear are gay;
Gaiety transfiguring all that dread.
All men have aimed at, found and lost;
Black out; Heaven blazing into the head:
Tragedy wrought to its uttermost.
Though Hamlet rambles and Lear rages,
And all the drop scenes drop at once
Upon a hundred thousand stages,
It cannot grow by an inch or an ounce.

On their own feet they came, or on shipboard,
Camel-back, horse-back, ass-back, mule-back,
Old civilisations put to the sword.
Then they and their wisdom went to rack:
No handiwork of Callimachus
Who handled marble as if it were bronze,
Made draperies that seemed to rise
When sea-wind swept the corner, stands;
His long lamp chimney shaped like the stem
Of a slender palm, stood but a day;
All things fall and are built again
And those that build them again are gay.

Two Chinamen, behind them a third,
Are carved in Lapis Lazuli,
Over them flies a long-legged bird
A symbol of longevity;
The third, doubtless a serving-man,
Carries a musical instrument.

Every discolouration of the stone,
Every accidental crack or dent
Seems a water-course or an avalanche,
Or lofty slope where it still snows
Though doubtless plum or cherry-branch
Sweetens the little half-way house
Those Chinamen climb towards, and I
Delight to imagine them seated there;
There, on the mountain and the sky,
On all the tragic scene they stare.
One asks for mournful melodies;
Accomplished fingers begin to play.
Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,
Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.

W. B. Yeats, “Lapis Lazuli” from The Poems of W. B. Yeats: A New Edition, edited by Richard J. Finneran. Copyright 1933 by Macmillan Publishing Company, renewed © 1961 by Georgie Yeats. Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)

The buckeyes are going sere

The buckeyes are going sere, putting all their energies into producing poisonous fruit and the light is soft with the redolence of late summer. The neighbor's nectarine tree now hangs heavy with promise, still small and hard, but getting there. Blackberry bushes along the lanes of Silvan Acres bow down with red and black clusters. The bean vines are producing like mad and the first squashes appear on tables. Yellow crookneck, acorn, zucchini. The tomato plants look ready to make a march on Washington DC so as to pelt those people with vigorous sense.

The days are hot, breezy with Santa Ana winds, The nights are cool and Venus and Mars face off against one another, Venus to the East, Mars to the West. Soon, the Perseids will flash through the sky, natural fireworks.

You must wait; that is your fate.

In Silvan Acres, and indeed throughout Marin County, life passes through a funnel of obstacles and while everything backs up, there is nothing to do but wait. Indeed, much of Life is just like that, if you think about it. There is tremendous effort and activity and then you come to a line that is commanded by one single underpaid, overworked, highly stressed-out, abused and accused and maligned woman with bedraggled dreds doing what she has been told to do for a paycheck that is not really that much behind a sordid counter she has to keep clean herself with a bottle of lysol and a dwindling roll of obnoxiously named Bounty paper towels.

You must wait; that is your fate.

Rednecks are the same all over the world

The various members of the Household are still getting used to life moving at a slower pace in a place where not every store has what you need and every store is miles apart and many people speak a completely different language from Standard English and people never act like someone is about to kill them. Well, there are Rednecks and they act violently and over the top the way Rednecks do everywhere from the Valley to Peoria to Germany. Rednecks are the same all over the world by way of their self-limited perceptions and no doubt you will find Rednecks in India and China and Bulgaria who would be comfortable in the Heartland which so often votes against its own best interests because people are too often persuaded by the likes of Bible salesmen that the moral issues presented by the Adversary are the package that is delivered instead of the reality of what is there, plain for all to see.

The Adversary, of course, is not known for speaking the truth.

For one thing, in getting used to the dispersed nature of Marin everyone has obtained bicycles and now everyone cycles like mad everywhere to get basic things done. The Island, being what it is, must have everything it needs on its bounded soil, and being a small Island, everything you need can be found within walking distance or a short bus ride. Every store is jam packed with everything you could want in the universe, but Marin stores have so little foot traffic, each store must specialize.

Martini has welded together a bicycle contraption that uses a metal bar stool for a seat, lawn mower risers for handlebars, sprockets from old car gears, and a chain that was once a serpentine belt for a Toyota Rav4. With a tubular frame made from plumber's pipe, the thing is as heavy as hell, but he managed to find a starter motor for a Yamaha motorcycle to help get him over White's Hill with the help of a few more gears and belts and tinkering.

Everyone else obtained somewhat normal bicycles from connections in the East Bay because prices for things in Marin are ape-shit despite the fact that wages in the County are low as can be.

no one had tried to kill him for at least two years.

These nights Denby steps out from his quarters, which do not resemble the Lunatic Asylum where he once paid a tidy sum of rent, and looks at the stars. What is the stars, he wonders, wondering as other have wondered in ages past. The night air is cool and the heat of the day is banished, but not the thoughts of someone who has survived many fights. There on the deck of the relocated Household in Silvan Acres, he realized no one had tried to kill him for at least two years.

This is something. And not everyone enjoys this discovery.

A last hummingbird arrived, chirping, at the feeder hanging from the eaves before the light departed the world, the bird darted off, and all was silent. Soon the Perseids would arrive in their glory. Such a different experience from the brawling East Bay: no one tries to kill you and hummingbirds arrive at dusk. Quite a different experience.

He had survived, but now had time to wonder why.

He had survived, but now had time to wonder why. Why was he alive and not so many others? To what purpose was his life now? Women he had known in his past life arose like phantasms in the night, elusive and accusatory. For each of them he held a fond memory and a little regret things had not progressed. Now here he was in the backwater of Silvan Acres just below the landing where the coastal train used to pass and hearing the sound of the ghost train travelling towards the coast or maybe it is the real train echoing across the water as people stand waiting to go on to their destinies on their respective platforms. And one figure steps forward to take his hand. . . .

The night is warm and we are still alive; the world is still there and there is no need to hurry. The trains drive through the night, further than dreams, and now after wandering far, suffering much, learning the cities of man and their foreign ways, he is home. Home at last. Always, he returns home.

So anyway. Fogs have been seen creeping over the distant hills in the early morning and the nights have become chill. Daytime remains hot in the sun, with the sweat beading down. Up north the big fires are banked to 80%, still burning furiously within the boundaries, but no longer advancing with merciless cruelty. The towns of Upper Lake, Lucerne and Nice are shrouded in dense smoke, but safe for now.

Only a few miles away, fire broke out on Black Mountain, scorching 45 acres before containment. It will not be over until the rains come, if they come at all, and that shall not happen for months. The Russians control the elections, a man-baby controls the government, each day brings another Recession closer and each day the news reports another nutcase gunning down a number of people in a public place in cold-blooded murder.

The times are parlous.

On the Island, the yellow busses have once again started their morning and afternoon rounds. First day of school has begun and tiny monsters dash between cars hither and thither affrighting the drivers with their suddenness. Best to slow down and get off the cell phone.

Ms. Morales has returned to Longfellow to bring the felicities and dignity of Emily Dickinson to another generation of pupils, and along the way perhaps rescue a few souls falling through the administrative and social cracks in our civilization.

Someone once asked Ghandi what he thought about Western Civilization and the great man responded, "I think it would be a very good idea!"

The annual Art and Wine Festival happened, but it was fraught with "tribute bands", which we find tedious and boring, so we stayed away. Please come original and do not ride on the coattails of the famous who once risked so much. Painting by numbers is for children.

"No pooping here!"

In Silvan Acres hummingbirds darted around the mossy mimosa tree. The place is pretty quiet most times, save for the accepted feature that just about every household owns a dog. Among dog owners there are the tidy walkers who carry plastic bags and scoops and employ leashes out of a sense of social responsibility. These people stroll past the posted notices for people to clean up their poop, or better yet, "No pooping here!", which seems draconian out in the pastoral hinterlands.

pooping with wanton amorality

Then there are those carefree types who let their hound run about in a fit of barking, chasing squirrels, birds, UPS trucks and sometimes deer with insalubrious consequences, and pooping with wanton amorality here and there. To such people the nature of the dog is to be unfettered by rules and the dog is entitled to bite whatever and whomever it pleases at any time for any reason that is sure to be justified afterwards when the owner surely will exclaim, "He's never done THAT before!" and "It is because YOU must have done something to provoke him." There is some consolation that because the dog ranges at will, it surely will find itself among the dewy poison oak and so return home to have much kisses and hugs lavished upon him by the unsuspecting owner who will develop a furious rash.

As for the Smellings of Maple Street, they regularly tie up their dogs on the large concrete parking pad in front of their house and throw hunks of raw steak to him, but never take him for walks for most of the Smellings are rather ungainly and not in the best of health.

There were a couple yippers that were wont to wander at will up and down the byways, but since the coyotes came one night no one has seen them on the streets.

Silvan Acres is not yet Beverly Hills and of that the Smelling clan is heartily thankful.

Such attention is lavished upon the dogs of Silvan Acres the kids of Calcutta and the favalas of Rio de Janeiro and the Projects of Oaktown would be envious if they knew. Nobody in the favalas dreams of being a doctor or a lawyer or being in love or anything at all save for surviving another day, for there life is but a waiting game.

A dog is but a dog

A dog is but a dog. Their great attraction is that they have no complexities that often attend human relationships and the illusion that the bond that forms is entirely independent of instinct and millions of years of evolution compels many people to believe in total devotion and the innate "goodness" of the animal.

It is true most dogs have souls that clearly are superior to that of many people whose soul's depth barely exceeds that of a plastic flip-flop.

Toto, a terrier mix that lives on Maple not far from the abhorrent Smellings, has had an eye operation that involved removal of a benign tumor. As a consequence, and because he is an animal, he is compelled to wear a plastic cone night and day to prevent him scratching at his sutures.

On his better days, he looks precisely like the canine that appeared in the Wizard of Oz, and he has garnered the admiration of all the women in Silvan Acres. Save for now he must wear the Cone.

On the morrow, Toto's cone shall be removed and his daily misery shall end and he shall be an happy dog indeed. And then once again Toto shall be free to range at will, pooping and sniffing among the poison oak to his heart's content.

As for the kids of Oaktown across the bridge, their miseries shall continue without abatement. Perhaps if Toto knew anything about them, he would do something valorously, but he does not and so when night falls he comes in and settles down at the feet of his mistress who has her own problems.

Now is the time of squashes to take hold

It is Perseid time and the stars are falling. Toto, the terrier mentioned last week, has had his stitches and plastic cone removed and both he and his owner are now happy as peas in a pod. Speaking of peas, the season has long past for the vines that now cling withered to the lattice. The beans appear quite done and the tomatoes are yielding their last fruits in some places that planted early. Now is the time of squashes to take hold. All that spreading of vines and blossoms everywhere imaginable has resulted in swelling bulbs and the appearance of the dreaded Gigantic Zucchini, a manifestation that happens every year, despite the greatest of observation and care.

Zucchini are a bit like what Conservative Republicans used to be - if you ignored them, they swelled up to gargantuan size, consumed far too many resources, and wound up being tasteless in the end. Nowadays there are far worse things than Conservatives or Conservative Republicans, which used to be an oxymoron. Now we have Trumpians, which are neither Conservative nor truly Republican, but more like pig turds, oozy and revoltingly disgusting.

firefighting looks like warfare

These days, the skies are gray with smoke from distant wars against the fires. If you have ever been anywhere near the front lines of a serious semi-wildland fire, you know how much firefighting looks like warfare. There are command posts, personnel going out and coming back from the perimeters, loaded with equipment, sweaty and tired. Gunships going low overhead to bomb the enemy, which in these cases happens to be the advancing line of fire. The foot soldiers armed with pulaskis and hoses engage in sporadic sorties to save this or that building. Heavy equipment charges in to carve out firelines, push fuel back into the inferno so it does not spread.

Denby took a walk with Toto and his owner up on the ridge and looked down on the San Geronimo Valley. The horizon has been hazed over, concealing the late August glory of the Perseid meteor showers. He is recovering nicely from when the Angry Elf gang broke his legs, and he walks with a cane now, but gets along just fine albeit a lot slower than in the past.

an old hippie named Jason Scatterwitt

He managed to rescue his guitars from the gang on a midweek foray onto the Island in broad daylight -- something the Angry Elf never would have suspected. He enlisted the help of Mancini and Pahrump and a van loaned by an old hippie named Jason Scatterwitt. Jason had done quite a lot of LSD back in the day when he spent his time being a roadie for bands like the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. He bought a house in Silvan Acres back when houses cost under a hundred thousand dollars because the area had no sewer system, no postal delivery, and was miles from the City where people made money.

With his mind blown out on account of having done so much acid, Jason was not so useful to employers who took themselves seriously, but he was of good heart and generous impulse and so friends and acquaintances helped him keep his van running, largely because they could count on using the vehicle in a pinch. And who is to say that being smart and sharp and effective and savage is not worse than being kind, generous, slow to hurt, and of good mind.

So anyway that is how Pahrump and Denby secured the resources to dart onto the Island, or trundle, wheeze, bang-bang and cough, in midday when criminals tend to take their naps and so secure Denby's meager possessions, including his guitars, from the Lunatic Asylum of St. Charles and so re-arrive after a circumlocution of the Bay past Eve and Adam's cathedral up on Cathedral Hill where the good and decent Reverend Glide administers free meals to the poor to this day, past bend of shore and swerve of Bay, wheezing, backfiring, coughing, trundling along over the bridge, through the Rainbow Tunnel named after Robin Williams, down the hill and over Whites Hill back to Silvan Acres and environs.

And when they arrived back home, their new home in the woods, they all unpacked their gear and Denby played a song or two or three and Snuffles appeared with a gallon of 99 cent wine that could not be beat and they all were satisfied at arriving safely and against the bitter enmity of the Angry Elf gang that was an evil not to be trifled with.

O to be the symbol of Evil. Hitler is long gone with his toothbrush mustache and there never, god willing, be another Hitler. But the Angry Elf lives on, soured up in his third floor apartments in the Lunatic Asylum for Demented Managers. Drug dealers, fences, thieves, enforcers, corrupted cops make their regular visits.

But in Silvan Acres Missy Moonbeam steps out into her front yard guarded by eight foot high rose bushes still flourishing in golden, red and aromatic white blossoms on this late summer night as the Perseids streak overhead as the haze dissipates and the wine flows across the way at the New Household and Missy spins in her dance of celebration for the change of seasons and the stars dying above.

Ashes to ashes, we all fall down.

The climate is changing, fires are raging, an idiot man-baby is destroying the government of the once proud United States of America, while on the horizon the stars continue to fall. But Missy dances her foolish dance and Jason raises his glass of wine to highlight the blood-red moon, made so by the ash dissolved in the very air we breathe. Ashes to ashes, we all fall down. But a closer look reveals the human race. Full of hope is the human face. . . .

The sound of the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary and wended its way through the fog-shrouded Northbay's well-matriculated hills and slid over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais following the old, forgotten railbeds that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, as it also traversed the estuary to cross the Island and the old Beltline property, and die between the Edwardian house-rows while the living locomotive click-clacked in front of the shadow-shuttered Jack London Waterfront, trundling past the Ohlone burial mounds to an unknown destination.

 

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