END OF THE WORLD PARTIES
OCTOBER 30, 2011
So anyway the weather was spectacular nice this week, although nights have been cooling down. Quite a contrast from snowmageddon happening right now in the East. Have to feel for the Occupy Wall Street folks who had their generators and propane confiscated shortly before the snow fell by the NYFD.
Yes, we do not get snow like that ever, but then again, they do not get earthquakes.
Most folks spent their days assembling extraordinary house and lawn displays for upcoming Halloween or madly stitching those costumes for the annual Fright Ball benefit held by the Native Sons of the Golden West which was held in their "parlor", the old hall down by the Marina.
Besides the usual feral female cats, a schooner's worth of pirates and assorted space aliens, the hall overflowed with a Mr. Hanky (that was Chris Lindberg, who held a devotion to the South Park television show), the Almeida family dressed as a bag of marshmallows, the Island-life Editor come as a dead and rotting Ronald Reagan, several members of Congress dripping with blood and looking a bit vampirish, four Bin Ladens, a baker's dozen of hastily done Ghaddafis, and at least one premature, but hopeful, Xmas present. Tommy, dressed as a hamster and Toby, dressed as an elderberry bush got into an argument that started over the upcoming presidential elections. Toby had been pro-Teaparty and Tommy had been virulently for wholesale health care reform. Toby, a converted Log Cabin Republican since he had met Tommy, slammed down a pan of flan, which did not help the settling of that delicacy in the slightest.
"How can you possibly hold such a silly opinion! You are as silly as a ninny!" Toby said, which was quite hurtful. This segued into a heated discussion about Toby's relatives, who did not approve of Tommy, nor their "lifestyle."
"That's where you get your finicky finicky finicky sort of attitude about toothpaste! You are just like Uncle Albert!"
"Oh you think you are so . . . so neat! Well you!"
Lynette, dressed as a chimney sweep sat there nursing an unaccustomed Manhattan on the comfy chair while a hamster in the kitchen shouted at a weeping berry bush. She had gotten into a snit with Susan over Proposition 19 (Marijuana legalization: Lynette for, Susan against because her brother had died of an heroin overdose).
In an evening which had begun acrimoniously, and which showed signs of descending into atavistic savagery, Claude, visiting from New Mexico, managed to intake quite a bit of punch which somehow got him into the mood to breakdance, but all he could do was spin around on his back on the floor. He had gotten into a tiff with Mr. Hanky, the Xmas Poo a little earlier over a fight bet made well over forty years ago at The Embers in the City, and certain unpleasant memories had stirred up. Inside the large tootsie roll costume was Steve.
The two had been married to the same woman, although at different times, and now the woman was with neither man. When an otherwise distinguished professor of physics in his seventies dressed as a cockroach begins spinning around on his back in the livingroom, weeping all the while it makes for an ugly sight and Shanti, wearing an appropriate Arkin Pest Control outfit which looked rather fetching, began shouting at him while the Xmas Poo began knocking back these potent Brazilian cocktails made by Clebia, who actually came from Brazil. Clebia did not need to wear a costume -- she wore what came naturally to any artistically-inclined woman from Brazil in a scheme of long flowing orange so that she resembled a tasty pumpkin. She, owning a B&B in the City, had opinions about the business tax that no one agreed with, but because she was well-bred and of fine character, she held aloof from the arguments.
The lovely Susanne, dressed like a figure from a Leonard Cohen song, observed the contention and found Occasional Quentin to engage in deep conversation, largely because he seemed like an harmless idiot -- which, in fact, he is -- and so they actually had a meaningful discussion about animal nature which touched upon ptarmigans, deer and hummingbirds. It was a kind of an oasis of sanity in that place rife with politics.
The health care debate drew in Doyle, dressed as a talus mountainside, Leonard, dressed as a dead distinguished author, Suan dressed in her stripper's outfit from the Crazy Horse, and Molly, who had come as a jungle cat. Although four people discussed the issues, they somehow came up with five different opinions, and this resulted in a fair amount of shouting and arm waving.
Rachel, from the Offices and dressed as a player for the Giant's began whacking Denby with her plastic baseball bat.
"Hey!" Denby said. "I'm apolitical!"
"I know, but this is fun!" She kept hitting him over the head until Karen ran up and tackled her and the three of them went down in a heap that toppled Carol coming in from the kitchen.
"Hey! The canapés!"
The canals went flying all over which much pleased Bonkers, Godzilla and Fruitbat who ran about gobbling up the olives with all their tails wagging, save for Fruitbat, who is a cat that sometimes possesses decorum exceeding those of his captive humans.
Helen, dressed as a Sans Culottes revolutionary tripped over Fruitbat's leash and crashed into everybody just as they were getting up.
So of course they all went down again in a pile.
A thud reverberated as Nancy, dressed as Scottish castle lost her footing on the olives and cream cheese. "Ow!" She said. "This all comes from liberals and their lack of discipline!"
"For some reason this reminds me of Beckett," Denby said.
"Idiot!" Rachel said with energy. "Shut up!"
Marlene appeared among them, dressed as a zombie and pleaded, "Please, for goodness sake and goodness sake and goodness sake, stop your infernal bickering and enjoy yourselves! Maureen has gone to all this trouble to make this food for us and Greg and Stacy, the newlyweds."
Andre, her bedmate, also costumed as a zombie, tugged on his lip piercings.
There was a brief pause before someone asked Marlene about the change to the vote requirement to pass the annual budget and she unwisely deferred a response. This resulted in a fresh round of arguing and bickering and breaking of glass.
This of course got our pair of punks in a dither, and so two zombies started shouting "eff you!" at each other with ratcheting enthusiasm, but since they always said that to each other, few paid any attention in the general disarray.
Things really began to decay with long-term hatreds and grudges coming up. "I should have left you in the ditch," Graham, dressed as a 17th Century British Aristocrat with a walking cane, shouted down at Claude, who paused in his spinning.
"What? You mean in 1969? And left little David in the back!" Claude said, quite hurt.
Little David, now forty-something man with a family of his own, stood there in his sailor suit and began singing the lyrics to a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and adding little gracenote lyrics of his own. Oom-papa oom-papa. . .
Graham's wife, dressed as Marie Antoinette, reminded him that it was he, Graham, who had supplied the Purple Windowpane to Claude that day.
Quentin, trying to be nice, managed to resurrect an half dozen painful memories and insult Graham six times until the poor man started to weep until he joined the Poo in tossing down several stiff ones in succession. Laurie, dressed as a bodybuilder, offered to break Quentin's arms. "He's an idiot," blubbered Graham. This made Quentin start to cry and Susanne threw her arms up in exasperation.
"Oom-papa, Oom-papa", went David, trying to get his dad to collect himself.
O the air was heavy with History and Politics and family dynamics.
The door was open and a girl, about eight or nine walked in. She was barefoot and wearing what looked like an old-fashioned nightgown with a Peter Pan collar and her dark eyes were very large. The time had just passed midnight.
The girl walked up to Lynette through the crowd and stood in front of the woman. This is what she said.
"Please tell them to stop. I can't rest. Please. It hurts."
Well, of course. Late hour. Neighbors and all. It was a wonder no one had called the cops. Poor child, trying to sleep. Seeing this situation, Susan walked over to stand there and block any more cockroach gyrations and Claude came abruptly to a halt with his eyes staring wildly up at the ceiling. Susan told Shanti to be quiet while Lynette went into the kitchen to intervene between the hamster and the elderberry bush. An odd chill filled the room as a sense of shame filled all of them. Keeping this girl awake with their arguing about nothing, about silliness.
The little girl looked somehow familiar, with her dark hair tumbling down in sleepy curls, as if she evoked something seen on a poster or the side of milk carton. She stood there, holding the most serious expression on her face, then turned and walked out of the door, down the steps and over the breakwater down to the beach with the full moon lighting everything up quite clearly.
"Good god! She's going in!" Someone shouted.
With the terrible events of last Memorial Day still on everyone's minds those who could ran down to the beach. Officer O'Madhauen had stripped to his skivvies and gotten up to his knees in the water before he halted, brought up short by the sight.
There, the little girl kept on going out over the mudflats exposed by the low tide, then over the top of the gentle swells, and glimmering faintly as if lit within by a candle, continued to walk on the surface of the water out into the middle of the Bay and there vanished as all of them stood there, watching.
"Effing A!" said Andre. Everyone else was as quiet as the grave.
At the Sanchez's, the former Ms. Morales and Mr. Sanchez were gathering up everything after a night of door-knocks and trick-or-treats, for their house was known as a "safe house" as Ms. Morales was still a schoolteacher at Longfellow. The procession of goblins, ghosts, witches, pirates, hoboes and Cindarellas had dwindled down to the occasional teen who would show up with a bag and hardly any costume, gone too old to seriously take costume seriously and not gotten old enough to appreciate it for the fantasy. Mr. Sanchez handled those cases with a stern talking-to and the teens left chastened to go forward with the necessary rituals of teenage activity in America.
Mr. Sanchez had bought the house from the executors of the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Strife, the same parents who had produced Pimenta Strife, who even now was recovering from the effects of too much nitrous inhaled at the Exotic Erotic Ball in the City.
It should be hardly no surprise how Pimenta turned out, for her parents spent much of their waking hours justifying their family name. Sarah Strife had been a Blue Dog Democrat and her husband, Sam Strife had been a rock-rib Republican who made Eisenhower look liberal. Where she was fiercely jealous, he was fiercely possessive. There's was not a marriage made in Heaven or Hell so much as the Plain of Discord.
If he was hot, wanting the windows open, she wanted them closed on account of her thyroid. If she wanted ornate French furniture, he wanted Amish simplicity. If she was Lutheran, he was Catholic. She was analog; he was digital. Both rebelled against their upbringing to arrive in opposite directions and cross-purposes. No one could ever figure out how the two had ever gotten together in the first place. Truth was, he came back from Korea with a fire in his loins and a mindset about that for which people and women were intended and he definitely made a distinction between the two.
She, for her part, had delved into the Beats, had absorbed the latest thought by the Feminists and had come to the conclusion that the way to resolve the Male Problem was to seize the bull by its horns, so to speak. Extremely metaphorically.
So, some three months pregnant, she had married him -- as there were few practical options in the 1950's on the Island, which always remained a decade or more behind the rest of the country -- and so they found themselves with the one factor in common of guilt, for Guilt is the one thing that Catholics and Lutherans and Jews all share. Possibly Moslems as well, which would be indicative of how we all are, really, in relation to one another.
So they had this child, a squalling brat who did not improve from that position, who became a Troubled Teen, then Juvie Hall Bad Company, then a perfect nymphomaniac punk living in the City until the City got too limiting by way of its high rents and narrowing attitudes and she returned, an ugly duckling with tattoos to the Island. For the Island provides a kind of refuge for lost birds. Canadian geese that never made it to Rio because they didn't have that much strength. Ducks from Audabon refuge at Lake Merritt gotten a little confused. Hummingbirds, which never need explanation. Seagulls escaping offshore storms.
Then there was the affair Mr. Strife had with Sarah, the dance teacher from the Metronome. When that came out, there was no end to the argument and accusation.
Mr. Strife died one day while out in his garage tinkering with a Morris Minor -- he really had been quite a retentive personality and trying to maintain a Morris Minor was quite within his character. He came out to bark at someone parking across the markings on the asphalt there (taking two parking spaces, he called it) and fell down, quite dead from an heart attack.
Mrs. Strife died about a week later, just after all the flowers and the greetings and the well-wishes had been cleared from the piano in the foyer. The piano had never been employed for music, but had been purchased because Mrs. Strife had felt some kind of musical instrument should be in the house and that a piano was the most sedentary, conservative and established of musical furniture. And besides, it really pissed off Mr. Strife, who would have preferred something practical like a coping saw.
Now, every time there is a full moon, or a high tide, or unusual weather, Mr. Sanchez and the former Ms. Morales can hear these footsteps up above, angry murmurs in the hallway, doors slamming, and this eternal bickering, this sniping and carping and accusation which likely will pursue the former couple down through eternity for that appears to be their fate.
While outside, unplugging the inflatable spider, Ms. Morales looks up and can see the shadow figures of two people shouting at one another and these figures are standing in her own bedroom with the lamplight on, their shadows gesticulating on the curtains.
"Strife people, go away. In the name of god, please go to sleep. This is no longer your place now. Please let us be and go to where you need to go. Leave us in peace."
Suddenly, just like that, the lights went out and all was quiet. But she knew this simple exorcism would not be enough and they would be back again.
The Editor left the party at the hall early to retreat to the relative calm of the Offices. That was the night after the eviction down at Frank Ogawa Plaza and a constellation of helicopters hovered over there across the estuary as the protest activity continued, and a sense of tension remained in the air, kept alive and aloft by the sound of the distant choppers. You couldn't block out the sound or forget about what was going on because you would look up at the sky, quite natural as always and there they were, ominous and oppressive.
The issue was mostly put to bed but one item of essential business remained. Staffers filtered in one by one for this last thing they had to do. What did they have to do when the issue had been largely put to bed?
The Island-Life Tradition, going on now for fourteen years.
"Rachel, hold the cup," commanded the Editor.
One by one the staffers reached in to remove a single straw. Then they all compared. All of the same length, but still straws in the cup.
"Again!" commanded the Editor. "Where's Denby?"
"I'm here," Denby said weakly from a dark corner.
"Bananas and booze, you look like something Fruitbat dragged in from the garden. Get over here and draw."
"Can I, like take a by this year . . ."?
And one by one they all drew straws, and in the end, Tradition won out. It usually does.
"Eff!" Denby said coarsely, and Rachel laughed.
Well, what is this Tradition and who drew the shortest straw and what does this all mean? You all will just have to find out next week. After the last day of El Dias de Los Muertos. And the Awful Task given to the Dreamer assigned. Yep. Next week.
O, but the night grows cold and the blood curdles and strange things flit beneath the crescent moon between the branches of the leafless trees.
As Denby held his fateful straw, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the autumn leaves blowing among the fateful grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its inexorable way past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its age-old journey to meet its unknown destiny.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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