NOVEMBER 28, 2014

THE 16TH ANNUAL ISLAND THANKSGIVING POODLESHOOT AND BBQ

 

As per Tradition, on the day of the 16th Annual Poodleshoot, rosy-fingered Dawn arose and pushed back the shutters of night to allow Phoebus to mount his golden chariot and so, preceding the day, she trailed her gauzy banners across the firmament, traveling across the yard from the battered old half-moon privy hard by the weeds to the house back porch, leaving behind a sort of dew after her passage. Gently, she flushed, and gently she tugged upon the coverlet, and gently she kissed the eyelids of the sleeping Padraic, but he stirred not. Gently she nudged the man, who only mumbled and snorted as he remained held fast in the soft, wooly folds of Morpheus. Playfully, she noodged him once again, but he remained walking in that shadow kingdom of the somnolent God.

Her fingers becoming rays of sunlight, turned the dial so as to allow the sweet strains of muse Calliope to thrum the air as guided by the goddess Rosalie Howarth of KFOG, but Padriac snored and stirred not.

Then Dawn gave him a mighty thwack, and that got him up all right, for Dawn O'Reilly was not a woman to be trifled with at any time of the day. And so Padraic bestirred himself to make ready for the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ.

So it was that Padraic rolled out the barrels of the Water of Life and set up the Pit for this year's festivities under bright, chill skies, which had cleared from the storm clouds for the day, once again down by the disputed Crab Cove where servants of the Dark Lord had been plotting to seize the land so as to build yet another series of Dark Fortresses not unlike Cirith Ungol. Yea, the place known as Neptune Pointe (sic) was entangled in the multifaceted eye of the Developer of the Spider.

The affair began with the traditional playing of the Paraguay National Anthem, as arranged by Terry Gilliam, and performed by the Island Hoophole Orchestra accompanied by the Brickbat Targets chorale ensemble.

This was followed by the devilish meisterwerk composed by PDQ Bach entitled, "Die Sieg der Satanische Landentwickler", an adaptable work which allows insertion of alta-contemporary chorales at the whim of the Conductor.

The ensemble group which has made something of a name for itself by inventing entirely new parts for voice, consisted of Mayor Marie as Conductor and Councilperson Lena as soprano alla pique in The Lame Duck segment. Councilperson Chen as Loki with his distinctive rubato tenor, and Tony Daysog as mezzo soprano mournful did a fair version of "A Man of Constant Sorrow", with Councilperson Marilyn in her reprising alto triumphale in the esoteric work La Chambre à l'arrière Enfumee Boogie.

Newly elected Mayor Trish Spencer appeared, together with Jim Oddie en masque, performing El Mysterioso Surprise, which evoked tonalities of The Phantom of the Opera. Frank Matarrese reprised his role as Zorro Retournee.

Former Councilperson Rob Bonta appeared in cameo basso infernal as Iago from the Doubtful Friend.

Many reviewers have called this piece amazingly impossible to accomplish, and quite a pastiche. The East Bay Express found "this game of smoky backrooms is too much to believe." Karen D'Souza of the Contra Costa Times has called it "devilishly complicated" and "hard to believe it goes on. And on. And on still more," while Jim Harrington has called this performance, "the most dreadful rubbish since the last time I wrote a mixed review. I never fully approve of anything but this gave badness a new name."

The Chronicle, always more reserved due to the heavy influence of conservative ACT in the City, has commented, "It should be interesting to see how well this thing floats in the future amid this stormy time for companies. Please, we cannot afford another Phaedra."

Of course, their theatre/music review got mixed up for that issue with the economic report and the elections special, so the meaning of that is up to interpretation.

The Examiner, as usual, ignored Reality and talked about the batboy who had been abducted by space aliens.

In any case, after spirits had been revived with a sloshing round from the kegs, the Hoophole Orchestra launched the proceedings with spirited instrumentals. The elaborate instrumental section performed Sousa marches and works by Debussy in true Island tradition, and featured vocals as well as strings, horns, thorns, woodwinds, and bloodhounds.

Performing on the Smashed Manager Organ were Carol Taylor and Pat Aston of St. Charles.

Brad and Janet of Park Avenue performed upon the African zebra-fellator with defibrillation device and plate of 420 Brownies.

Lou Cadme did a standup job upon the Howling Organ Stroker, while Carolyn Masters wowed everyone with the Flammable Pedalpushing Accordion. This complemented Kristin SweetMarie Coomber and Jessica McGowan-Vanderbeck, both with Incendiary Bustier Shriekerspritzers. Nice pair, those gals.

Jeannemarie Coulter contributed her skills upon the Wooden Horsie Flailing Flange with great effect and
Shannon Ramsey sounded affectingly sweet with the Mugwhump Twinkie-Smasher with Airhose.

Jade Myst of San Franciso performed upon the Inflateable Cross with Koan-Zinger and the Crawford Makeup Mirror Shriller.

Antimacassars and doilies were supplied by James Hargis.

Once this essay at musical endeavor was done to everyone's great relief, the Native Sons of the Golden West, Parlor 34 1/2, gathered in a circle for their Invocation,led by Doyle McGowan of San Francisco, and chanted in the language of E Clampus Vitus. The men, wearing their ceremonial robes and colorful fezzes, moved in a circle with their pinkies interlocked, first clockwise, then anti-clockwise, before intoning, "Heep heep Hepzibah!" and all jumping into the air simultaneously. They then sang their parlor charter song, "Die Launische Forelle," After they had done this, they moved again in a circle as before, concluding by bowing deeply, dropping their drawers and thence emitting a sort of 21 gun salute.

After the ritual pouring of Wild Turkey libations, the Official bugles were blown by Pat Kitson of Mountain View and Tally of Marin, after which the hunters moved out into the field. Soon the air was filled with the gleeful holiday sounds of AK-47s, the cracks of freshly oiled Winchester rifles, the occasional crump of percussion grenades, cries of "Poodle there!", and the homey whoosh-bang of old-fashioned bazookas and modern RPG's. In short it was a jolly, fine beginning for a Poodleshoot.

This year, the White House representation was headed by Former White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler who was accompanied by California's Attorney General. Ruemmler is considered one of the top choices to replace Eric Holder, who recently resigned as National Attorney General. Harris had also been considered, however she recently won re-election to the Golden State post and besides, she has said she likes the weather in Sacto better than D.C.

Eric Holder and Chuck Hagel arrived in a seperate detachment which kept to itself.

The change in political realities being what they are, and the 'Shoot being such a popular event, representatives from the Pee Tardy and Republican parties also sent representatives. A specific request to exclude Sarah Palin due to past taste and rule violations was received with great relief and appreciation on all sides.

Notice of a Para Sailing contingent caused some anxiety among the GOP delegates, who have a history of linguistic reversals, but when told this was a California thing involving surfboards, the situation relaxed into genial bipartisan bonhomie, for everyone finally had come to agree on at least one thing, and a new rule against unsportsmanlike hunting from helicopters was passed and a great Huzzah! went up and delegates of all persuasions shouted "Hip hip hooray for the Great old USA!"

Indeed the Poodleshoot, now into its 16th year had acquired the august status of Tradition in America. There is much that is thoroughly American about the entire celebration, which conflates love of firearms, sanguinivorousness, rebellious behavior, ecstatic jumping up and down, questionable music, and gleeful destruction. One is hard put to imagine the genteel -- genteel save for people from Marseilles -- or the logical Germans engaging in any such activity. Certainly not the pothead Dutch or the sensible Italians with their meatballs and pizza. Even the dog-loving Thais, along with the Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese would not engage in such pursuits, as extreme as any of those peoples may be from time to time, for they have been around for thousands of years and so already have their own traditions.

The Japanese have their Kanamara Matsuri, and the Chinese have their Gum Lung. The Indians of India have curry and vegetarianism, which precludes Poodleshoots along with BBQ, and they have their seemingly interminable conflict with the Pakistanis to provide national venting, while the Burmese still need to outlive Yul Brenner.

The entire Middle East is bat-wacky insane at the moment, providing plenty of opportunity for sport killing of each other, which allows a form of protection for the dogs that live there. No one has seen a poodle in the vicinity of Dar es Salaam for well over two thousand years.

As for South America, the Uruguayans exuberantly BBQ guinea pigs during their festivals, dressing them up first in cute, adorable costumes before quickly gutting them, so there is sensibility here of caring. In Brazil, no gaucho worth his salt would waste his riata upon something so lowly as a poodle. Heavens no. And as for the United States of Mexico, dear, beloved, benighted Mexico with its drug lord problems and Jesus on a tortilla, well, the Mexicans have enough problems without creating another by means of a poodleshoot. Besides, most Mexicans possess common sense.

In any case all this talk about Tradition brings to mind previous Poodleshoots not recorded in these annals.

Down by the McKay Avenue spit, where the clapping storks have roosted for generations in the tall palm trees there, a place which traditionally has been a site of contention from ages past up to the present dispute between the GSA and the EBPR, Eugene took a breather in a lull of a fierce firefight between his party and a group of well-armed dogwalkers underneath one of those tall palms with Grant Marcus, a fourth generation Islander. There they leaned upon their rifles as did the ancient Greek spearmen and Tolkenian heros of old and rested amid the continuing battle.

Eugene commented that this scrap was a nasty one indeed, compared to years past. He said he never expected the enemy to actually fight back.

It was then Grant regaled Eugene of Poodleshoots of yore. Back then, in the early days before the Civil War, the poodles were armored with stiff jerkin that resisted the ball and shot of smoothbore flintlock muskets. Then it came down hand to hand battle in the weeds, with men picking up rocks to use as weapons, as in the Battle of the Acute Angle and the Wilderness of Cattails. Then there was the disastrous charge of the Flashlight Brigade at night in '04, which gave rise to heraldic poetry penned by Old Tennis Shoes: "Doggies to the left of them. Doggies to the right of them. Dog poop in front of them. Onward the six or so. . .".

This began among the early Spanish colonials not long after they build the Presidio in the curious year of 1776 out of traditional adobe brick. Adobe is a bad thing out of which to make structures in a place prone to heavy rains, but it took a while for the Spanish conquerors to figure this out. With everything slumping in place, adobe reverting back to its main constituent material -- mud -- the Spanish settlers looked for distractions. They tried bear baiting and they tried bear hunting, making things spicy by using only a knife and a rope against the 1500 pound grizzly, but nothing proved quite as exciting as hunting poodle, a version of which had been introduced by effete Gabachos and which had burgeoned into large, vicious dog packs, the members of which learned to barber each other with flint knives.

The rowdy 49'ers adopted this poodlehunt custom, which as California gradually civilized itself, died out in all but a few rare backwaters, such as the Island.

The 1904 Earthquake and Fire pretty much put an end to many barbarous entertainments, including the Barbary Coast itself -- but that is another story.

It was in November of 1906, the Bay area still recoiling and rebuilding after the Earthquake and Fire when Ole Sanderson and Carlos Tunt revived the poodleshoot Tradition after seeing so many stately homes replace the brick chimney stacks which had once been the defining feature of the East Bay. The sight of a pompadoured creature prancing on the sidewalk where men had once labored with steam and shovel infuriated the two to such a degree they reintroduced the Poodleshoot as a formal event to celebrate thanks upon survival and many are the stories from those days, featuring valorous deeds along with tender stories of the heart.

It was in the tumultuous year of 1916, the US poised to enter the War to End All Wars that Ole Fergeson, armed with a crossbow and taking cover behind a water tank, saved the Stanford House at Lake Merrit from a brace of poodles bearing flaming torches in their mouths, and so met the future Helgi Fergeson, who thanked him profusely in her chambers with her ample gifts. By which she had much renown.

Then, as now, with every tank comes a sentimental story.

So anyway, said Grant. Those were the days.

Then came the general assault and the two were hard pressed, retreating up the spit to the cove where a missile weapon brought down Eugene's companion, even as they joined a group of stalwart lads and lassies who returned a volley that repulsed the onslaught for the moment.

As Grant lay there, passing his last breaths he said, give this message to my relative Grant Marcoux. He is a blacksmith living at the end of Grand . . . . And with that he passed a token to Eugene as darkness covered up his eyes and he was no more.

And with this, Eugene arose and he was wroth and he called forth the others around him for he was fey and young, well not so young actually being something like forty or so, but still fey and they launched their offensive and charged even as the sun withdrew behind veils of striated incarnedine and gold and azure beyond the trees and they came upon the enemy and smote them and scattered them like leaves before the wind and they were utterly destroyed, so angered was Eugene and his companions.

The next day amid feasting and celebration of victory there was lamentation for the fallen and Eugene remembered the token and this he took to the house of the blacksmith was known as Grant Marcoux and some wondered how is it that in this age of iPods and nanothings there lives still a blacksmith among us, but in this house Marcoux dwells yet still, a tethering to a past in which things were made to last and be repaired to last some more, for that is the way on this island, where we do things the old way.

And unto Marcoux, who runs the Pilgrim's Soul Forge, Eugene brought the token and upon seeing this token, Grant said, and so he is gone?

Eugene nodded.

Marcoux took the token and shook it and said, "Thus Jingletown jingles."

Well this made no sense at all to Eugene and he went away with wonder in his heart. For that is the way in times of war; quite a lot of it does not make any sense.

So ended the 16th Annual Poodleshoot and BBQ.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their sentry lights, letting its cry keen across the grateful 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 weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to thankful parts unknown.

 

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