FIRE, FIRE, FIRE
DECEMBER 4, 2011
So anyway, the pogonip settled in for a serious spell early in the week, snarling traffic and creating hazardous conditions on the roads as people insisted on plowing through the stuff blindly at full speed. The Ohlone say the pogonip, their word for fog, was brought here so that the Europeans who had stolen the land would get lost and wander away.
The one thing that can clear the place of fog is wind, and this week California got quite a lot of it as Santa Ana's kicked up a ruckus from LA to the Bay Area and out to the Sierra crest where gale-force winds topping 120 MPH were recorded.
Other than a few branches and high wind advisories for the bridges, we came out fine in the Bay Area. They are still cleaning up the mess in SoCal, however, and the high winds lasting a few days really unsettled nerves.
Among the hallmarks of the Season, besides the fog, we have the annual flu outbreak. Denby was no exception, and so he had to pass up the weekend gig at the Old Same Place Bar for sitting in his cell swaddled in blankets and sipping mint tea while going through box after box of tissues. For comfort he plugged in his mp3 player to listen to the live version of "Telegraph Road" over and over again.
Far out at sea, Pedro on board his boat El Borracho Perdido kept his eyes on the instruments. Right from the dock, visibility had dropped to about five yards, and so, fog or not fog, fishermen must fish, all sailing out the Golden Gate entirely by instruments, sending out hails to each other so they would know where everybody was.
Discussions with the industry buyers had collapsed, leaving the price of crab uncomfortably low for the fishermen. The motor needed an overhaul. The winch was rattling loose in the stanchion. Stuff needed fixing, not to mention all the expenses at home. Because of the downturn hitting the invested annuity, he would have to put off retirement for a while. Hard times.
Pedro's worried mind had him turn the dial on the FM radio to catch his favorite weekly program which had been a comfort to him for over thirty-five years of fishing. The televangelist possessed a comfortable voice, a voice that felt like reassuring old shoes as the wind whipped furiously through the guy-lines and gear on deck, and his variety show always featured talented young folks, singing and playing music. This week there were two women on that lifted his spirits right up, each in a different way.
Listening to the wind while in bed, hearing the old house creak and groan, Mrs. Sanchez (nee Ms. Morales) fingered her rosary beads anxiously until Mr. Sanchez put his arms around her while the tree branches thrashed around outside. And so she was then comforted in these hard times.
Out on the street, folks hurried from wherever they had been to return to those places from which they had come, and in so doing, sighed as they dropped their bags before unwinding the scarf and taking off the hat, comforted in finally getting home at last where no crazy drivers were out to commit vehicular homicide.
In this time, the lights under the doors at the parsonage, at the manor, and at the rectory remained lit well into the night as lost souls looked to find something with a little help in the only way they knew.
In the Old Same Place Bar regulars bellied up to the rail and filled all the tables. When times get rough, some folks look for comfort and consolation in the old, reliable bottle of Fat Tire Ale. Who is to say this way is any worse or better than visiting Fr. Danyluk.
As Jacqueline finished closing up the Salon, Mrs. Cribbage barged in demanding a treatment and would not be dissuaded on account of the Salon being closed.
Sign says open," Mrs. Cribbage said. "And here you are and all the lights on. I swear that's the problem with this country. People just do not want to work . . .".
The Cribbages were on very good terms with Mr. Howitzer and were putting money into the projects that would ensue after the Land Swap deal had been forced through. Force it through they would, too.
The Cribbages had influence in this town.
"I could close this shop in a heartbeat," Mrs. Cribbage once told a storefront owner on Park Street to his face in front of customers. "And you will never do business here again. I mean it."
So Jackie wearily set up everything to give Mrs. Cribbage what she wanted. What she wanted was some atmosphere while her hair was being done, so she plugged in her iPod nano and listened to Keith Jarrett. Jackie turned off the lights in the far part of the shop and flicked off the neon Open sign to prevent anyone else from coming in.
"Perfect," Mrs. Cribbage said. She took a scented candle she had purchased an hour ago from her bag and set it on the armrest of the chair next to her and settle back to enjoy unwinding after a long day of kvetching with the girls and shopping off-island.
As the whole procedure wound down, Jackie felt herself getting more and more tired and distracted, thinking about expenses -- the landlord had raised the rent on her space there -- the loss of customers due to the hard times, and the eternal problem of Lionel. She had a billowing can of hairspray in her hand when the door to the shop flew open to introduce Maeve, who said in a gust of wind that tore through the place, knocking magazines from the rack, "Hey, you still here!?"
"Noooooooo!" Jackie shouted.
The wind blew the hairspray into the candleflame which got larger and larger and larger until suddenly all the stuff in the air sort of popped at once in a flash. Mrs. Cribbage's head of hair ignited into a torch, and for a moment they all sort of froze like that while the woman's hair burned before the two stylists each grabbed fire extinguishers. Mrs. Cribbage, instead of obediently remaining quietly in the chair to burn, jumped up screaming and ran out the door into the wind, which only caused her problem to become more intense.
Someone called the Fire Department and the 911 tape was evocative as well as entertaining as the caller and the Dispatcher kept interrupting each other.
"Hello? Hello? Someone's on fire here!"
"You say you are on fire? Where are you?"
"Can't you tell? GPS or something? There is fire . . ."!
"You're calling from a cell phone. I can't get a fix on you. What address?"
"I'm on the Island . . ."!
"Well can't you just jump in the water if its an island. . . "!
"No, no. They won't save me here, its . . .".
"Oh you must be on Alameda Island; we know they have a response problem. Okay then, we'll send a boat. . ."!
"Noooooo! Not a boat! It's not me! That's . . .".
"If its not you, why are you calling?"
"Someone is on fire!"
"Okay now, let me get this straight. What kind of fire . . .".
"O for Pete's sake . . .".
"His name is Pete or that's your name. I am just trying to be clear . . . Why are you groaning, are you in pain . . ."?
Maeve and Jackie caught up to Mrs. Cribbage who sort of fell into the piles of cardboard being stacked by the old recyler man who had arrangements with business owners to collect all the broken down boxes for recycling. The boxes were stacked among the trash bins there and while double jets of fire retardant got fired on Mrs. Cribbage, the cardboard which had started to burn, and the recycling man with his truck, several metal bins got knocked over.
Kicked by the wind, the bins made a terrific clatter as they rolled down the street just as the fire department arrived to survey the wreckage of what had been one of the Island's foremost Society Matrons.
"Ma'am, was that a Prada you were wearing when this happened?" One of the female firepeople said.
A photographer eating a late night burrito at Juanita's stepped out and snapped a few pics of the bedraggled Mrs. Cribbage, then went back inside to finish his burrito and a margarita before sending the images off to his employer, the Contra Costa Times.
Meanwhile, in the Old Same Place Bar, Padraic was getting heartily sick of telling people to keep the front door closed for the wind blew in all kinds of trash. Sure enough Eugene left the door open as he sauntered on in.
In a moment, as they all looked, a demonic rattle approached from some distance away, getting louder as the thing, whatever it might be -- monster, evil robot, train wreck, furious disaster -- approached the little bar. They all held breath and no one moved to close the door as the ominous thing drew nearer and nearer.
Suzie moved to get behind the bar as the noise approached, getting louder. Padraic picked up the 8-guage shotgun he kept behind the bar. Eugene picked up a chair and they all faced the still open door.
"Saints preserve us from the terrible Se"! Dawn said. The crashing metallic noise became terribly loud.
In through the door rolled a bright, shiny trashcan lid which sort of spun in a circle before wobbling to a clanking halt, where it sort of just lay there, looking obvious..
"This must mean something." Dawn said.
"Not necessarily. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," The Man from Minot said.
"See what you have done!" Padraic said to Eugene, who, as usual, had not the foggiest clue.
The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the windswept grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way 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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