THE BULLY PROBLEM

AUGUST 26, 2012

 

So anyway the weather has turned moody with breezes and tumultuous skies. Howard reports out of Mammoth that a subtropical ridge built over the Golden State, pushing off all of that monsoon weather in the high country north, leaving some precip in the lower regions of the Sierra and a trend toward warming in that glorious time known as "Indian Summer". The Western US will see an end to their killing spate of thunderstorms which have been causing havoc with forest fires for the past couple weeks. Locally we will see temps along the coast climbing into the 90's by midweek, creating some false expectations for those seeking to take advantage of school days to snag some recreation time, as the Sierra are likely to remain unruly for the duration.

Trip reports coming in state that the previous winter resulted in low snowpack conditions resulting in very dry conditions at present and warmer that normal temps at elevation. This does not speak well to the upcoming season which needs to get a better than average dump of snow for agri-business here to survive. A low snow-fall season will put the kibosh on any new housing developments in the valley extending for some 500 miles north to south.

they have been digging a trench to fix the sewer and gas lines

Down in front of the Old Same Place Bar they have been digging a trench to fix the sewer and gas lines for the past nine months and this thing has taken an epic scale of magnitude in that it involves not one but two utilities with a third, AT&T trying to horn in there and get some fiber optic cable laid during this project. As a result the street is gradually being torn up for about two hundred yards with flagmen routing the cars and all sorts of heavy equipment taking up parking when the operation is not actively working and there is the Great Island Trench about six feet deep passing right there in front of some folks six sheets to the wind so it all evens out in the end.

the At&T guy says "you got a pretty nice hole there"

Meanwhile the At&T guy is down there talking with the EBMUD guy and the PG&E guy standing there and the At&T guy says you got a pretty nice hole there, gee that is a really sweet hole of which your mama and all your aunts oughta be proud -- sure would be nice if we could get in and lay that cable and the EBMUD guy says that is fine but we have to fix this sewer line that is going out and to do any other work we need a variance filed so you go and do that.

How long that take to get approved?

About six to eight weeks.

How long this line be open?

About three weeks.

So what happens after three weeks?

We fill her up and lay on the patch. Can't leave a hole there.

So we will have to dig that all out again.

I reckon.

The AT&T guy turned to the PG&E guy, who said, "I am here to ensure gas and safety. Don't bother me about nothing else. I don't care."

The AT&T guy sighed and went away. You didn't ensure Brisbane, a number of people died, and now suddenly you care. Only because when things blow up people get excited.

the people there lived like the elvish folk of old

Years ago people used to call Brisbane the City of Stars. Of course there were those electric stars up on some of the roofs, but the real reason they called it that was because, sitting behind the mountain of San Bruno in a little nestled vale, you could see the broad swath of the milky way with all of its stars in the night sky undiluted by light pollution from the City and the people there lived like the elvish folk of old. Then came the developers with their final savage conquest over the mountain butterfly and all the populations of deer and rabbit and fox that used to live up there around the radio towers. Now, there are trenched gashes in the mountainside of San Bruno, long black sears through the neighborhoods from the gas explosions, and little white crosses heaped with flowers to mark the dead. But at that time, Brisbane was the City of Stars.

School has started around here and all the little urchins are busy about their business of growing up in the usual fashion. It takes a full day to handle new teachers, the odd bully throwback in this suddenly bully-conscious age, and all the newness that the old folks say is just a rerun of yesterday minus the apple on the desk.

Adam managed to get into a scrap on the second day of school

Adam managed to get into a scrap on the second day of school at Longfellow, but this was an honorable one in which he defended Lucius from that nasty Rumsey kid who always pretended to be the Big Cop on the Block with his old crossing-guard badge. In fact, Rumsey just bossed the kids around and got his gang to throw rocks at the more recalcitrant ones.

Adam came back to the House all marked up and touseled after laying into Rumsey who had been set to beat up poor Lucius. Everyone knew Lucius was "simple" and had a hard time understanding things so picking on the boy was generally regarded as bad form.

Rumsey told the boy to stop while he was doing the crossing-guard thing even though no cars were coming, and Lucius obediently halted a few feet off the curb, which incensed the rigid Rumsey to such a pickle he fairly flew at the confused fellow who hopped from one foot to the other in consternation.

Adam saw this happen and one thing led to another until he and Rumsey were rolling in the gutter tearing at each other with all the other kids standing around cheering and Lucius laying flat out where Rumsey had decked him. Nobody liked Rumsey, who didn't have a dad and whose mother tended bar at the Moonlighter.

Adam was a street-smart scrapper from Oaktown but Rumsey was bigger and studied all of this UFC Ultimate Wrestling stuff so they were pretty evenly matched going at it until Father Danyluk and Pastor Nyquist pulled them apart.

When Adam got back to the House Marlene fairly lit into him until he went off to the rip rap breakwater to sulk by himself for a while until the light began to fade over the Bay.

Along came Pahrump who sat down beside him and the two skipped stones for a while.

Adam professed not to know what gets into that Rumsey kid with all the advantages he had. It wasn't like East Oaktown. He didn't have to be the way he was.

"What is it that makes a kid such a bully? Why are they that way?"

Pahrump was of the mind that Rumsey's problem was that he didn't see his advantages and that the kid actually saw what his whole future was going to be, which featured all these kids around him climbing up above him as time passed.

"What is it that makes a kid such a bully? Why are they that way?"

Pahrump sighed.

"Bullies don't know love, but they sense something out there they have no part of. They are afraid of what is going to happen to them and so the only thing they can do is push this fear onto other people."

"Well he's gotta change that's for sure," Adam said.

A lot of bullies never grow up. They just become insurance adjusters,

"Well no, that doesn't really happen in many cases," Pahrump said. "A lot of bullies never grow up. They just become insurance adjusters, professional football linebackers, border guards, realtors, and cops, still operating at the level of eight years old. You will find them in all walks of life, in fact."

"Darn."

His mom died and he grew up and got himself a job as a security guard at I.Magnin

"Darn is right. I know a guy just like this Rumsey feller. Still living in the same room he was raised for forty-five years with his mother. Had no father to speak of. Mom drank like tarpon on holiday. His mom died of a bad liver and he grew up and got himself a job as a security guard at I.Magnin where he gets to wear a gun and boss people around. Since he lived so long in the same place, they made him manager of the apartment complex he lives and so he runs the place like some kinda third world dictatorship, yelling at the tenants and taking all the good space for himself. Saw him just the other day out front screaming with the veins bulging in his neck at some poor lady walking her dog past the front door. No, some bullies just never will change and you really oughtta feel sorry for them. You want to know what kind of person does this waterboarding thing you heard about on the news? Well there is your pool of applicants."

"I can't feel sorry for this Rumsey. He's a jerk."

"Well now try to see your face in the face of the Other," Pahrump said. "Sometimes I think about my life and what happened to all my people and how it would have been different, maybe, save for that big bully named Christoforo Columbus. And then I remember how that man died, broke and alone in a lunatic asylum. Which I expect they do not teach you in school."

"Man . . ."! Adam said, shaking his head.

that man . . . likely will die all alone in that same room he was raised with no one to care for him

"Here is a boy with no dad, an unspeakable mom, and who never, never, never will know what love is about. He has never felt it, never had it, never will get it, just like this security guard feller I am telling you about. Sure enough that man has never married, never had a girl or boy friend to speak of, and likely will die all alone in that same room he was raised with no one to care for him and this Rumsey kid is heading down that same path straight as an arrow to that sterile, cold room, a 21st Century Ebenezer Scrooge. You on the other hand lucked out by coming into the Household where Marlene sees after you. And all the other people there, hard as their lives are would do anything in the world for you, Adam. So think about that advantage for a bit."

"O balls." Adam said.

"I think I said my piece. Now here is the moon."

They looked up at the moon tracking through the cloud-wracked heavens above the Bay as the west flaming in rooster-tails of incarnadine and gold subsided into the cooling aquamarines of sunset before allowing the brilliant necklaces of the City across the water to glow quietly from the ramparts of Coit tower along the hump of Potrero and the distant lookouts of San Bruno Mountain hiding the once fabled City of Stars beyond the ring of the stadium.

"A man walked on that planet up there," Pahrump said. " I remember the day."

"Wow, you were alive back then?" Adam said.

Leave these bullies behind and shoot for the stars

Pahrump laughed. "Yes and I am alive still and may live to be a hundred although I am not keeping score. Even though you have gotten used to being flung into space, I know I never will make that trip. You might though. Leave these bullies behind and shoot for the stars, Adam. Even if you don't ever get there, falling half-way short is still a fur piece to go."

And so they looked at the calm moon making its stately way across the sky.

"Learned in the Army always shoot higher than you think you can reach," Pahrump said. "The first fellow who walked on that moon could have been an accountant instead of an astronaut. But something in him made him try harder."

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the moonlit water, over the lunar waves of the estuary and the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on the first step of its long journey to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

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