THE TREE IN SITU

December 23, 2007

The unusual weather has driven the seagulls far inland and they have been circling above Wally's Fish Market for some days now. The temperatures have hovered around freezing and every morning the frost has blanketed the roof across from the Offices. Winter has come on with a vengeance and with serious intent around here, and from report further East, we hear these reports of terrible ice storms.

Unfortunately, we must report that further ice storms are on the way. Tomorrow the storm hits early morning and that means mid-week friends in Minnesota and Nebraska and OK will get slammed once again.

We are unfortunately well versed here in disasters of fire and flood, but have no experience with ice and snow, so we wish you all the best.

Thank you for your message / but I don't understand / I don't understand these things / You know some people won't understand these things. / Just won't understand these things ./ I know you are strong / May your journey be long / Now I wish you the best of luck.

Xavier Rudd comes over the battered boom-box with serious intent.

With all of this uncertain weather the seagulls have been flocking over the parking lots here, indicating severe weather is to ensue for somebody.

The installations have proliferated all up and down Lincoln Avenue with houses limned in lights. The Chanukah bush has become the Official Solstice Tree for the Offices here and so we have avoided all sorts of arguments when Chanukah ended midweek. Mornings come with frost and black ice on the neighboring rooftops and all the native Southern Californians run about wearing three layers and more. Oh, would they know a proper Minnesota winter, they would cease to complain.

Meanwhile one can recognize the odd and rarely found native San Franciscan striding along in shorts and sandals, kicking up ice crystals at his heels. Cold does not exist except as a state of mind imported by dour Easterners.

Over at Andre and Marlene's Squat, the tree, liberated in traditional fashion from the windbreak that borders Harbor Bay Parkway and now sitting in its iron washtub retainer, has taken on a wonder of lights and tinsel and those fabulous ornaments inherited by Marlene from the Russian grandmother. After an evening of beer and spaghetti and Andre noodling on his Ibanez f-hole archtop and Javier banging on the turkey pots, there the thing stands, a wonder of Christmastly color and lights and all sorts of things. Assortments of colored condoms from the Planned Parenthood Clinic festoon the branches amid the homemade strings of lights cobbled together by Mancini, who gathered electrical cords from abandoned appliances so as to fashion together an hodgepodge of LED lights governed loosely by a circuit board ensconced in an old shoe box.

Pahrump twisted a lot of aluminum foil to make the tinsel and everybody added some little dangle to add to the general decorational hysteria.

Then there was the crowning glory of the Russian ornaments complete with a perfect glass angel perched on the top of the very utmost spire of the tree and there she glowed, secretly knowing all the hardship and troubles and strife of this earth but paying that sort of thing no mind, for she was the Punk Angel of Altogether, a tough Angel with stitches and safety pins in her ears and she was all right for she was one of them, having crossed the oceans in a box and then been shunted aside as a worthless thing in the minds of others, and left to rot in poverty and neglect until Marlene should claim her back again.

Down in the Fruitvale district, where the dealers have shot out the streetlights, the Dealers said to Sharon, "Don't you worry. We will protect you. In the Fruitvale the Quonset hut of the Sausal Creek Crisis Center makes its home in all seasons and in all seasons, the bereft of the world, the 5150's, the mad, the hopelessly insane, the needy, the shrieking and bouncing off the walls, the simply bad off needing meds, all come looking for some voice to tell them, well, your searching is done now, Pilgrim. We will issue an RX.

This Sharon came home after her double shift, needed to pay off the medical bills and the expenses of a sordid "hit and run" on her car to see this tree, glowing like some lost hope in the darkness. And although the Editor had in mind a story in which some manic event resulted in the catastrophic destruction of Marlene's precious ornaments, we find that at last, such endeavor is foolish and counterproductive. Marlene and Sharon have suffered enough. So let us retire to our brandies and our goblets of wine to observe this hour dispassionately.

Marlene and the whole Sick Crew of the Squat and Sharon gazing upon the wonder of lights made by the efforts of a few people. Across the way, the midnight train howled through the dark and shuttered Jack London Square, and echoed in a waver across the lamplight-flecked estuary as the train itself continued on from the Port to parts unknown.

This life is full of such ugliness and greed and horror, but every once in a while, a tree stands lighted in the darkness, as if symbol of something, or perhaps sufficient unto itself: a beautiful thing that needs no explanation.

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

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