SEPTEMBER 11, 2016

OLD LOVES

So anyway, the days have been sunshiny but cool with mysterious breezes at dusk. At dusk the ramparts of the pogonip come rolling over the hills of distant Babylon and before anyone can notice, the top of Grizzly Peak is also fortified with a thick cover of mist. We had a momentary burst of heat, but the fog coming in this way announces the change in seasons. People crossing the bridges pass from a gray overhead ceiling through the Twilight Zone mid-span where anything can happen.

Bosco the pig came out to snuffle curiously the changed air of the Gold Coast, and observed how a leaf detached in the breeze to swirl in the air, before shuffling back into his hovel. It is what it is. Nothing a pig can do about it.

The leaf danced in the air above the telephone lines and went down the block to where the newly retired Officer Rumsbum, no longer even an imitation officer guarding the parkinglot of City College or protecting the basement floor of Macy's in his retirement, stood with his hands clasped behind his back, stiffly at ease with his cordless phone in his backpocket on the fire escape of the building he had inherited as the son of the previous live-in manager. He did not get paid for the position, but he did enjoy having the run of the place and telling people what to do.

A Toyota pulled up in front of the building and started to park in the narrow space between the two garage entrances.

"No parking! shouted Rumsbum.

The driver leaned out of the window and looked up. "Whaaa?!"

"No parking!" Rumsbum took out his phone and displayed it. "You're gonna get towed!"

"O for Pete's sake," said the driver, who nevertheless departed.

he had been living in the same room for 48 years

Rumsbum had thought about moving after his retirement to Tennessee where he had kinfolk; it was cheaper there. But he had been living in the same room for 48 years, the same room he had shared with his mother before she passed away due to cirrhosis. He liked being in charge here. And the people were nice; they always did what they were told. And in a few minutes he would move his truck from down the street to the now empty space between the garages in front. Life was good.

The leaf sailed past a squirrel who scampered along the lines to the pole where he leapt across to the lines passing in front of the empty storefront where Pagano's Hardware used to be and a tree hung over close enough to be safe haven from the Cooper's hawk that just then circled overhead before heading southeast.

The hawk noticed activity down there near Otis and swooped down to have a better look, but it was only Martini fussing in the ironmongery garden at Marlene and Andre's place.

He finished checking on the bean plants and sat down to have a cigarette. Andre came out to join him on the steps.

Martini asked howzitgoin.

Feelin' old, Andre said. Hard work, low pay, mouths to feed.

Just you wait, Martini said. Give it enough time and you will surely feel old for real.

Tell me about it.

I remember when they pushed that 580 connector right through the heart of Oaktown. My daddy fought them right up until the end and in the end they just took the house by way of eminent domain. Heck I can remember when this land we are sitting on was all water.

That was Mayor whatsisname filled all this in. Made the lagoon, Andre said.

Yeah, old whatsisname is right. Got people so mad they set his car on fire.

He kill himself?

No, you're thinking of Mayor Ralph. Mayor Ralph had nothing to do with it.

The two of them sat for a moment, thinking about massive construction projects, demolition, and solitary midnight despair while a bee clambered over the broad face of an autumn sunflower in the garden.

You ever married? Andre asked, thinking about his own problems as a stray leaf swirled in the breeze around him.

O that is a story, Martini said. I could tell you the story all about how I met my first love at the county fair and how it never panned out and I could tell you about a French exchange student I knew one summer, then there was Diane of course -- can't forget that one -- and I could tell you about Elizabeth . . . how for years . . .

Martini paused and looked down, looking like the saddest man in the world.

It's okay, Andre said.

he wore a . . . mantello

The truth is, said Martini, I have been graced by the presence of beautiful women, shining from inside to out. And how it ended does not matter so much as I was gifted by knowing a few precious souls who gifted me with their light for a short while. Let me tell you I had a vision the other day when I was in the City. I saw a man sitting in Vesuvio's with a cup. He was obviously from Tuscany -- I could tell. He wore a beret over hair gone silver and a mantello and he had a walking stick leaning up on the table and he sat there looking out the window, not seeing me but remembering something because there was a faint smile on his lips.

I want to be that man someday, Martini said. I think the story ends better that way. For me anyway.

The bee on the sunflower arose heavily and bumbled off over the fence, passing a late monarch butterfly that dodged and dipped until it wandered through Lincoln Park and over the green bench dedicated "To all my dumb friends" and then fluttered past the front of Chad and Tammy's bungalow where she stood chatting as the dusk light faded with an old friend come to visit from far off Marin County where people can afford to take things like aroma therapy seriously.

What was normal now feels sometimes strange

In New York City, on Christopher Street where the trees grow in a line surrounded by cobblestones, a woman walking alone past a line of political posters, featuring the angry face of a demagogue with an open mouth, heard the sound of a plane overhead and looked up into the night sky. It was an American Airlines jumbo jet leaving New York for San Francisco and she thought to herself, "It's been fifteen years now. What was normal now feels sometimes strange and what we used to take for abnormal we take as a matter of fact." She put her head down and descended into the subway.

Far away across the continent packed tightly with the masonry of States scored and lined by the work of harvesters and combines, sat the Editor at his desk, lit by the circle of the desklamp. There had been a nasty flu going around which knocked people out with nausea, water poop, coughing and general misery. The entire office had gotten it and now everyone was coming back, tentatively, with pockets stuffed with Kleenex and ricola lozenges.

Back in the day of knee-britches

After coming back from HIS war, the one that took place in hot, sweaty jungles instead of hot, sweaty deserts, he had been convinced people are just meat. Now he knew better; looking at all the trash bins piled high with tissue paper, he knew for certain people are bags of mucus. Back in the day of knee-britches the kids would dare one another with the most ridiculous dare-you-cross-the-line things. Back before anyone had ever met or seen a real communist, they all knew that Communism was a real bad thing because of the way the Folks talked about it. So the dare came down: would you allow yourself to be forced to join the Communists by stepping up on a dais and swearing on a stack of bibles, or would you rather piss on your grandma's grave and drink a quart of camel snot. While standing neck deep in a vat of donkey poop. No! Worse! Bear poop! Neck deep in liquid bear poop while drinking camel snot.

Kids that age know about poop. It can be said they have not left that age so far behind which featured all kinds of smelly messes and so they know what IS and what's SNOT.

All these childhood memories surge back with a vengeance. Sometimes these memories surged up the front and sometimes they impelled out the back. That's just the way it is. As the Counting Crows said, "The price of a memory is the memory of the sorrow it brings."

Back in the day, when he was three years into his time at Poly High in the City they had all gone to Playland at the Beach to take the rides and scoff at Laughing Sal, the animated fortune teller who had seemed so fearsome when they were younger.

When they were younger! They were older but not so much older than they all are now.

she had been AP 4 in English

He knew that Rachel was in the park somewhere and he fantasized about what he would do if he ran into her. The Rachel that worked in the newsroom had the same name and was a decent enough person, but this earlier Rachel had short hair, hair like corn silk and eyes that were cornflower blue and she was already on the varsity teams for soccer and cross country and she wrote deep, incisive, biting articles for the school newspaper which contained very few if any proofing errors and he imagined running into her at the rides where she would say something like, "These rides are puerile. Lets go somewhere else." She liked words like puerile -- she had been AP 4 in English.

He went over and did not see her and so got on the whirl-a-gig thing, which turned out to be unfortunate as something he had eaten, either the hot dog or the cotton candy started doing a sort of slow simmer inside him when he got off and he sort of staggered along the midway until he came to the shooting thing and there she was and he forgot how he felt, although he did feel sort of hot and flushed and she was so overjoyed to see him, or so it seemed, and she said, "This stuff is so juvenile. Lets take a walk. You look like you could use some fresh air."

So they went down to the ocean beach and she actually put her hand in his, this girl he had watched for so long and they walked in the dark a long ways toward the Cliff House lights and she said, "I really like you. You are not like the others; you really get me."

She turned her face up and was standing very close, their bodies touching and the surf was going and the stars above and the salt wind and her lips were deliciously full and they both were young and filled with life and he felt very hot and something clearly was about to happen.

That is when he threw up.

they closed Poly High and tore down the . . . buildings

Much later, after his recovery from pneumonia, and after his father -- a third generation Californian Baptist of the Hellfire variety -- had put him through a rigorous physical regimen meant to toughen his soul and save his body -- or vice versa -- he graduated from high school and she went on to Northwestern University in Illinois and so he joined the U.S. Marines. Not long after that they closed Poly High and tore down the old high school buildings.

A moth banged onto the screen window from somewhere up above in the darkness.

Somewhere out there, beyond the curtains of muttering dark night, with the eyes all around, somewhere out there was a like mind. Somewhere out there was another Creator of a different sort, also longing in his or her heart. And so he sat at his desk with his remaining white hair flying about his head in an aureole, lit by the pool spilled by the desklamp, persisting after all these years, doing all for Company.

The moth remained on the screen and he saw clearly it was a Sphinx. It was still warm enough to keep the windows open, but autumn was coming on and soon it would be chill. He stood up after putting the Issue to bed and stretched his old bones. It was coming on autumn, a chill breeze came through the window, and the hour was late. He wondered what would become of this newsroom after he was gone. At the end of the day, that which remains is all we have ever done up to the point the building collapses around us. That which we have done. And that which abides yet still.

The howl of the throughpassing train ululated from across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights, quavered across the starlit waves of the estuary, over the riprap embankments, over the moon-silvered grasses of the Buena Vista flats and over the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the defunct Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

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