Island Life

Vol. 24 - No. 5Bay Area News and Views since 1998 Sunday May 5, 2024

Current Edition - Year 2024


Welcome to the 24th year of this weekly column that's updated now infrequently, on Sunday nights or Monday mornings, depending on how well the booze holds out. If you've got any news, clues or rumors to share from around the Bay, or the world, feel free to send them to Editor@Island-Life.net or use the envelope in the masthead. For previous issues, including 2018, visit the Archives.


The Editor
Denby -
Reporter
Bea -
Artwork
Chad -
Coding
Tammy -
Fotos
Hildegard -
Europe News

MAY 5, 2024

ALL ABOUT THE BONES

Heard that someone in San Anselmo had resurrected a Halloween decoration for Spring, so we just had to toddle on down the hill for a looksee. Looks like Mr. Bones has a Mememto Vive in his hand. "To the virgins to make much of time . . .".

THIS IS OUR LAST DANCE / UNDER PRESSURE

So anyway, Denby wound up in jail again on Valentines Day because he forgot to take his key when taking out the laundry at midnight and got caught out without his pants. When he got out of jail with the hookers and the shopping cart homeless in the bleary blue hours of dawn, he made his way back to the Household to get ready for the St. Patricks' Day festivities at the Old Same Place bar on the Island.

As in years past, the Wee Man showed up with his magic tricks and members of the Angry Elf gang tried to upset things and ruin the vibe, something they really like to do for some reason unknown to the reast of us such that the motto, "I loathe pushy people" has become more and more in vogue. Especially since the proliferation of MagaHats, or Maggots as they can be termed. These Magats have been running around shouting at the top of their lungs about all kinds of mean, nasty, ugly things and there seems nobody can do a thing about it. KILL ALL THE FURRINERS! KILL ALL THE LIBERALS! HE IS THE MAN WHO GETS THINGS DONE! Like was said about Mussolini. But nevermind.

The Angry Elf gang came in while people where peacable minding their business and the Man from Minot was in the last stages of finishing a Jenga tower of blocks about three feet high when the gang busted in and knocked it all down with a careless guesture and the Wee Man turned their weapons into corncobs and bouquets of limp lupin.

Nothing like having your switchblade turned into lupin, I tell you.

A number of staff have been out due to medical reasons, so the issues have been delayed. The Editor promises to recify the problem and the irresponsible shall be tossed into the Island Oubliette.

Pesach in the Household, which is honored every year by Marlene and Andre was a somber event quite unlike usual times, given the world political situation.

WHAT'S GOING ON

We intrude for a rare real-world discussion about what has been going on. The weekly issues have been late because of interference by both Life and Death with Death being the more uncompromising influence. Dear Readers, of those listed on the masthead, only Denby and the Editor are still alive and operational in the world as we know it. Both Chad, our HTML coder, and Tammy, our photographer have passed away, leaving a tremendous vacuum at the Offices. Beatrice, our graphic artist, is still, more or less, alive, but stashed away in a Memory Unit in Sonoma; she is no longer able to communicate verbally and has to be hand-fed and dressed by someone else.

The Editor is not doing so well either, for each day begins with a litany of pills and potions and more bad news from the doctor. Did you ever think when you were young and your body a coiled spring that just walking down the street would become a painful hobble?

We got Chris Smither's latest CD, All About the Bones and have come to realize that great musician has it sussed, having reached the final half of the final Quarter with the understanding it is now all over save for how to spend the time that is left measured in minutes now instead of years.

We had a good run for over 20 years and for a while the issues will remain as a sort of historical record of our times, our foolishness and our greatness be that what it may. The Island-Life staff, the Offices, the Old Same Place Bar, the Household of Marlene and Andre, the Poodleshoot, Jaqueline's Salon, and even the Iranian spy submarine El Chadoor are stuff that dreams are made of and will eventually vanish like Bloom County into thin air.

As Chris says in "Completion",

If it ain't the end I'm pretty sure it's near.
And in the dimming light,
No one should fight your right
To drop a curtain . . .
. . .

You'll simply take what comes,
and forego
Anticipation

THE UNNAMABLE

The Editor moved down the aisles of the desks festooned with ropes of green and red festive garlands and blinking led lights hung in celebration of a military victory won on this day in 1862. Jesus had gone off with Pedro and Jose with a bottle of tequila in commemoration of that battle between Mexico and French invaders. It had been a sharp rebuke to Europe and a firm statement that no, you may no do just anything you want.

The Editor sat down at his usual seat at the table with the little pool of light shed by the desklamp, still doing all for Company while all around hung the curtains of darkness. But first he had a shot of Cazadores. Then another.

On the threshold of his Story. "I'll go on, you must say words, as long as there are any . . . Before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don't know, I'll never know in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on."

As the hours ticked by to the witching hour, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and ricochet its way to following the old, forgotten Beltline that once led past the cannery and the munitions factories, echoing along the Oaktown Embarcadero and shuttered produce warehouses as the train itself trundled outward through the darkness to an unknown destination.

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

JANUARY 21, 2024

SOMEWHERE OUT THERE ON THAT HORIZON

WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS

So anyway. It has been a while and there have been lacunae in our posts. We will try to make up for that with additions to the Island Stories section. We will be trimming down the sidebar fat as far as the Calendar and other offshoots goes.

And we will be returning to the Island, made famous by Erika von Strade at a noteworthy Prarie Home Companion episode. No more mucking about the hot tubs of Marin, which is a wierd enough place that it deserves its own commentator. In fact, Marin is so wierd and humorless that it feels nigh impossible to parody any of its most ridiculous hobbyhorses. All we could do is describe factually what people believe and other people remark, "O you made that all up! Nawwww! That can't be true!"

Sort of takes the wind out of one's creativity.

So long-time Island-Lifers will recognize a return to the familiar and the 15 member household of Andre and Marlene and Mr. Howitzer ensconced in his mansion on Grand Street with an entrance guarded by two stone lions.

It has been a long, difficult journey to return to our roots, but given the dangers to our Democracy and to Common Sense in general, we feel it necessary in the absence of sane islands like Bloom County to give perspective, we need to return to the forefront and not yield to the petty threats of a petty wannabee Napoleon, a course thug of threatening opportunity driving a red sportscar about the town like a stuffed-shirt wearing the big boots of a golem.

The Household endured the holidays with usual stoicism and a fir tree found somewhere and set in the old washtub. The decorations are all taken down and we have had some merciful rain to slow down the advent of the next fire season.

Pastor Nyquist and Father Danyluk spent the New Year's Eve as usual, sitting before a fire while enjoying the fruits of the Catholic wine cellar and discussing matters of theological import along with gossip about their respective parishoners. The old year ticked over into the next until Sister Profundity tucked the snoozing Lutheran and the Priest in with woolen blankets before banking the fire.

The Editor meditated on this and other Traditions while at his desk in the darkened offices of the Island-Life newsroom. There in the San Geronimo Valley all remained silent as 2023 tottered away to die without a sound while the Island and Oaktown erupted with the usual illegal fireworks and gunfire until roving patrol cars put a stop to spontaneous jubilance, leaving the town in the keeping of the one who was sweeping up the ghosts of Saturday night.

Soon they would all be returning to their hometown where they all belonged. They would return to A Touch of Wonder with Brunhilde and Borg, Jaqueline's Salon and the ever amorous Luther (the classic gentleman in dustcoat, waiting, to The Old Same Place Bar with Padraic, Dawn and Suzie, to Bosco the pig, to the Island's many many churches which includes El Adelphian Iglesia del Luz de los Cajóns de Estacionamiento del Mundo.

And of course to the El Chadoor, the forgotten Iranian spy submarine, forgotten and lost in the Teheran bureaucracy for 25 years, but still carrying out its vague mission in the Oakland estuary. Why did the submarine hide in the estuary? Because it was the only part of the Bay deep enough for a sub to dive because it had been dredged for the big container ships.

Amy Holiday, one of the Islands two hookers, and Ms. Morales, the schoolteacher at Longfellow. And of course Mrs. Almeida's chickens and fifteen children. Mr. Almeida spent this rare evening at home, for a fisherman does not rest long when the crab is ready to be taken.

A house not scooped up by developers was found for let; another one bedroom cottage at a price obscene for a single couple, but with 15 souls they would make do. Soon they would all be going home.

As the hours ticked by to the witching hour, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and ricochet its way to following the old, forgotten Beltline that once led past the cannery and the munitions factories, echoing along the Oaktown Embarcadero and shuttered produce warehouses as the train itself trundled outward through the darkness to an unknown destination.

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

NOVEMBER 26, 2023

NIGHTMARE BEFORE XMAS

Well okay. It was a good idea for Halloween. So why not resurrect, so to speak, the same motiv for xmas?

THE 24 ANNUAL ISLAND THANKSGIVING POODLESHOOT AND BBQ

We have to apologize for the late delivery. You see, all the staff were held in jail until now. This probably needs some explaination.

As per Tradition, on the day of the 24th Annual Poodleshoot, rosy-fingered Dawn arose from the horizon's dark bed 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, woolly 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.

Dawn O'Reilly was not a woman to be trifled with

Then Dawn reared back with her rosy fists upraised and brought them down heavily to smite Padraic 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 briefly from the storm clouds for the day, once again down by the disputed Crab Cove on the Island while Bob Brown, owner of Rancho Nicasio, helped setup the Silvan Acres site with tables, BBQ drums, and all the fixin's for a great feast.

The ceremonies 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 piece has been favorably compared to John Phillip Sousa's Liberty Bell March, with which work the modality is inextricably entwined.

In Marin the Hapless Jerrykids noodled into Walking on the Moon, which was followed by the San Geronimo Acoustics who performed Neal Young's "Pocahontas". The Ensemble leader read a speech denouncing Sir Francis Drake, then broke all their instruments and stalked offstage with a number of war whoops.

This was followed on the Island by the devilish meisterwerk composed by Marie Kane entitled, "Die Sieg der Satanische Landentwickler", an adaptable work which allows insertion of alta-contemporary chorales at the whim of the Conductor at the pleasure of any municipal governing body.

The ensemble group which has made something of a name for itself by inventing entirely new parts for voice, consisted of Mayor Fizzy as soprano alla triste in the Misericordia segment and Councilperson Daysog as mezzo soprano mournful did a fair version of Iago's treacherous soliloquy, with Trish Spencer shining in her solo "You'll not get rid of me", from the esoteric work La Chambre à l'arrière Enfumee Boogie by Brooks and Dunne.

Former Councilmember John Knox White and Tony Daysog performed a lovely duet as well as a lovely pas de deux in pinstriped pinafores with nunchucks. The two sang "Our Town" and "I got you Babe with astonishing verve.

In Marin, the ensemble performance of Le Papillion Enragee, featuring invited Trish Herrara Spencer and Malia Vella playing the part of uprooted milkweed, caused a number of gentlemen to faint and ladies to resort to flasks of bourbon to revive our beloved Monarchs.

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. We miss Trish Spencer performing as City Mayor, a role she continued to adopt with nearly convincing theatricality. Mayor Fizzy Ashcroft is far more persuasive although less a comic genius."

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 East Bay Express got the dates wrong on its Calendar section, as usual, so they had no review.

The Examiner, struggling under its newish stewardship (if you have not lived in the Bay Area for at least 40 years and do not have family roots going back another 120 years, you are considered New), ignored Reality and talked about the batboy who had been abducted by space aliens.

Fox News ran a piece about how the Examiner's Space Aliens had stolen the Presidential Election and that Donald Trump had the election stolen and all this fol-de-rol about poodles was a LIberal Hoax involving COVID attempts to rob Patriots of their Freedoms, and so sensible people paid them no attention save for Ms. Marjorie Greene, who is insensible.

This year, with the addition of the venue in Marin, featured a number of local dignitaries. There were also some modifications to the Official Rules in deference to COVID19 and RSV.

With a toot of the Poodle Bugel, the 'Shoot was on as the hunters spread out across the fields with many a cry of "Poodle there!" and "Avast ye furious hound!" The crisp air of autumn filled with the report of .45 and 9 mm rounds mixed with the thud of percussion grenades and RPG's across northern Marin County and the Island.

Local aircraft Controllers had been alerted to the possibility of former Alaskan Governor Sarah "MILF" Palin might try to sortie via a helicopter and airborne guns so an order went out to intercept potential airspace invaders.

The DC Notable self-invites consisted of a contingent of the Strident Republicans and members of the Pee Tardy Movement -- who believe that even urination should be curtailed to a disciplined conservative regimen.

Kevin McCarthy, disgusted with everyone's behavior on all sides, declined to attend.

Marjorie Green managed to salvage a near hopeless situation when the armored flame-thrower failed in a pinch by blasting by force of lungs a stream of hot air across the igniter and thus sending a jet of flame into the encampment of a number of vicious Toy breeds, thus rendering quite a haul of a brace of Poos trimmed, skinned and Ready to Eat for the BBQ, wanting only a slathering of E&J sauce and warming after delivery. This took place down by the Washington schoolyard.

Her personal animus of last year, Lauren Boebert, stomped off in combat boots and resigned from the contest when persons of the press kept confusing her with a Ms. Bobbit by asking the question, "Where's the penis?"

Matt Gaetz, wearing a trim dark suit and red tie, employed usual tactics for him by deploying a Viking war hammer to great effect, demolishing subtlty with obviousness and gross tactics.

Former President-Appointee Donald Trump ran for the award of Most Distinguished Presidential Hunter, but now as twice in the past no one really voted for him, so he lost with a great deal of loud protestation. He then succeeded in getting the various poodle walkers fighting among themselves, causing divisions between the toy breeds, the smurf-poos, and the Silvers, then he went and caused division among the Riflemen, the Pistolers, the Antique Weapons Proponents, the Bladed Weapon adepts, and the Sappers until the field was rendered into total atavistic chaos of severe internecine fighting among the cohorts, resulting in much dead Legislation and disarray of the body politic.

Trump then stomped off shouting the Shoot had been stolen from him, it was all unfair and a lot of conspiracy was out to get him in a previously unprecidented fashion and he deserved immunity because, well, just because he was Donald J. Trump and very special and the Lugended Presse were forever damned in his sight. He stood a moment upon the pedestal of the Lost 49'er statue and raised up his arm and hand in an old salute. "Heil!"

And the legion of dogwalkers gathered there raised up their arms in salute and shouted in a thunderous roar, "Heil! Heil! Heil!"

The Official Judges looked at the various matters raised by Contestant Trump and found all of his objections invalid as nobody had voted for him and nobody liked him anyway and his arguments were full of poopoo.

The final verdict of the Official Judges was that Donald J. Tump had employed tainted poodle logic and so all his claims were null and void.

A brace of dogwalkers, seizing the advantage amidst this national derangement of the senses, sallied forth with impermeables and leashed poodles to asail the Ukrainian Left, causing there much damage nigh unto the Strand and Crab Cove.

Things looked dire as the President's contingent retreated to the hang-gliders beach-house where they put up a Democratic Defence against Authoritarianism. A rear-guard at the bamboo swamp was driven back by WMD's (Weapons of Mass Doo-doo) and under a hail of projectile weapons was forced to take shelter in the Bushes, and dark was the night, cold was the ground.

There the lines stood into Saturday, when the dawn gave way to reveal a fresh assault of poodlers charging across the Washington Park meadow from the higher terrace. O fey they were with their glittering teeth, in their impermeables and their parasols!

But even then the ghosts of those who had died in the name of Liberty and Justice arose from the fetid swamps marshalled by the recently departed Feinstein, to general those who had sworn to defend the Republic even beyond the limits of Death for all had sworn the solemn oath to defend this Nation, this Country, this Republic against tyranny. Thus then, this fell army of ghosts arose and swept upon the fascist dogwalkers and they were scattered like locusts before the wind.
There was then a rout and subsequent rejoicing and another poodle was thrown on the BBQ and all was feasting and joviality and freedom once again celebrated throughout the land.

Thus ended the 24th Annual Poodleshoot and BBQ.

As the hours ticked by to the witching hour, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

NOVEMBER 05, 2023

ITS A DEADMAN'S PARTY

THE TWENTY-FOURTH ANNUAL CROSSING

Rachel, after the evening Drawing of Straws, arose from the cot in the outlying building COVID quarantine shack and had a cup of coffee with those of the Household who arose early. She then hitched a ride on Pahrump's scooter from the Valley to the San Rafael ferry landing where she bought a scone and some tea before taking the ferry from there to Babylon Terminal. At that terminal Rachel transferred to the Island ferry and so with wind blowing through her hair she arrived at the Island landing from where she took the Express bus across town to the bus stop on Central adjacent to the Senior Citizen's parking lot. It was a short walk up the block to the entrance at St. Charles, where she let herself in and marched up the stairs to her 3rd floor apartment and so opened the door to enter.

"Hello Henry!" Rachel said, as her cat arose langorously from the bed spread and approached her.

"Wraio!" said Henry

"Wraio!" said Henry. And one could make of that what one could in the deep infinity of stars, space and cats down through the record of Time.

So anyway. The straws have been drawn, the Chosen selected, and Rachel returned to her apartment on the Island and dear Henry. In short time Denby must perforce cross over to the Other Side when the veils between the worlds are thinnest.

The days of triple digit temps yielded to reasonable 70's as the nights descended to the forties. Massive spiders appeared on the hedgerows and fences along with crows and bats and shrouded figures with glowing eyes. At the hospital where Denby worked pushing mops and brooms at the early hours, two ofretas appeared with photographs of people who had passed beyond to the Other Place.

The fateful night descended like the contents of an inkwell knocked over by a soused drunkard, black drippings and a terrible mess everywhere..

The time came for Denby to make the annual crossover, which had remained as a Tradition even though the offices and the Household had been transplanted by force during the Night of Shattered Fires. Tradition has its own powerful force as some of you may know.

The sun descended and shadows grew long across the little avenues of Silvan Acres. Because of the creek passing through, and then the long absent train line and now the road, this place had been a traveling place for many hundreds, if not thousands of years.

The Editor said, "Go now," and so Denby took his walking cane and went out to the uplift where the earth was embanked higher than in other places along the road.

A train came trundling along the way beside the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, even though the tracks that once had gone to the coast had been torn up long ago.

The machine heaved to a stop with steam and groaning and Denby climbed aboard and took his seat in a cabin with no other passengers in the car. The train proceeded down Sir Francis Drake, stopping at Yolanda Landing and various points not known to Denby and then proceeded south and east through a dense fog that made identifying landmarks difficult. For a long time everything outside the windows was entirely black and Denby assumed they were somehow crossing one of the bridges.

"Endstation! Endstation!"

At one point the train stopped and the conductor, a gaunt man wearing a robe, came down the aisle announcing in a foreign accent "Endstation! Endstation!"

Denby disembarked to find he was on the Shoreline Road on the Island. He walked along the path there that bordered the brightly lit condos and the seawall until he came to the Iron Gate, the gate which appeared only for a few hours each year. He undid the latch and was greeted by an owl. "Who? Who are you? Who?!"

An iron bell began to clang and then he saw the vast expanse of bonfires lit upon the beach. Those bonfires lit by the souls waiting passage to redemption or eternal fire.

A distant dog or trio of dogs set up the jarring sound of barking.

He pushed open the gate and so stepped through a veil of mist to the Other Side where a long reach of strand with bonfires extended to north and south, broken only at this height by the extension of a stone landing.

As in years past, as he approached the Portal, the Voice bellowed to him from some echoing deep cavern.

"Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate!"

"Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate!" and the words flamed inside his skull as if poured in molten steel. Just as it had each time for the past 23 years.

For pete's sake. As per Tradition, dammit, Denby muttered.

A large owl, about two feet tall, perched on a piling scolded him with large owl eyes.

"Roo! Roo! Hoooooo!"

Okay, okay. Poor choice of words.

"Hooooo!"

On the other side the ground sloped down as usual to the water for about thirty yards, but he could not see the far lights of Babylon's port facilities or the Coliseum. A dense, lightless fog hung a few yards offshore, making it appear that the water extended out beyond to Infinity. The sky above was filled with black cloud and boiling with red flashes of lightening and fire although not a drop of rain had fallen.

All up and down the strand he could now see that countless bonfires had been lit, as is customary among our people in this part of the world to do during the colder winter months along the Strand, and towards one of these he stumbled among drift and seawrack.

"ch'io non avrei mai creduto / che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta"

Strange words in another language reverberated again inside the skull: "si lunga tratta / di gente, ch'io non avrei mai creduto / che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta" echoing and echoing down long hallways of echos into eternity

A small child, barefoot and wearing a nightdress ran past and disappeared as quickly as she had come.

A glimmering figure appeared before him, a woman shining with internal light, her blonde hair glowing in that dark atmosphere, and clad in gauzy fabric blown by an impossible wind.

"Denby!" said the woman. "Here you are again!"

"Hello Penny," Denby said. "Back again."

"You look careworn. Much more than before. I wonder if these visits are any good for you. Are you taking care of yourself?"

"Ah, well. Is Tradition," Denby said. "There is not much time these days to take care of oneself anyway. Look at all the assholes who take care of themselves first before anybody else."

"You still have no family," Penny said. "That is not good."

Several little girls, all between the ages of six and nine, wearing pinafores, ran barefoot across the sands between them and vanished into the misty beyond.

"Ah well, there is time . . . ".

"Time, yes, Time. Now Time is much less than before Time began, and you have much less time than that remaining." Pennie said. "You are now in the last Quarter of the Game and no time-outs left."

"No one is more aware of this than I." Denby said. "But I am not here for that kind of news. I am here on purpose as many things are happening in the world and the fate of many things shall be determined by what is to come. What is to come of Democracy? What is to come of Palestine? What is to come of Gaza and Israel? What is to come of Ukraine? I must have answers!"

I am afraid you are not a Hero

"Only a few heros, like Ulysses, have undergone the Catabasis as you wish. I am afraid you are not a Hero. In the Old sense. And so you destiny is to observe only. So now, observe."

And then appeared a panoply of souls descending to the wharf below.

"Some people say a woman is to blame, but I know, it's my own damn fault," sang one soul.

A bald woman came down from the seawall, singing, " Nothing Compares to U," and then she stopped in front of Denby and said, "Genuinely I don't mean disrespect to Catholic people because I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in the Holy Spirit, all of those, but I also believe in all of them, I don't think it cares if you call it Fred or Daisy, you know? Religion is a smokescreen, it has everybody talking to the wall. There is a Holy Spirit who can't intervene on our behalf unless we ask it. Religion has us talking to the wall. The Christ character tells us himself: you must only talk directly to the Father; you don't need intermediaries. We all thought we did, and that's ok, we're not bad people, but let's wake up... God was there before religion; it's there [today] despite religion; it'll be there when religion is gone."

Following her was a dapper man singing "I Left my heart in San Francisco." Stopping in front of Denby he said, ""There is simply no excuse for terrorism and the murder of the nearly 3,000 innocent victims of the 9/11 attacks on our country. My life experiences, ranging from the Battle of the Bulge to marching with Martin Luther King, made me a life-long humanist and pacifist, and reinforced my belief that violence begets violence and that war is the lowest form of human behavior."

A handsome man came down singing, "Dayo! Dayyyyyo!"

"Daylight come and we want go home
Day, is a day, is a day, is a day, is a day, is a day-o
Daylight come and we want go home"

Harry, said Denby,who was not wont to address the Passed On directly. "What are we to do after all the mistakes we have made?"

The man paused on the Infernal Strand. "I don't think that we are a species or a people that can exist without making mistakes somewhere along the line.
He paused. "Without the rebellious heart, without people who understand that there's no sacrifice we can make that is too great to retrieve that which we've lost, we will forever be distracted with possessions and trinkets and title. Bring it on. Dissent is central to any democracy." With that he popped the obolu out of his mouth and descended to the ferry landing.

Others came down, many famous, many not so. From far off across the water came a glimmering that grew brighter as the skiff approached. All offered the obulu as fare to the ferryman who came across the water with eyes that were wheels of fire that no mortal could gaze upon without being utterly consumed.

A squad of young girls ran by laughing, disregarding the parade down to the old stone jetty.

Denby, Penny said. There is no one to meet this time although there are a few right on the brink of making the jump to the Other Side. You who have been close enough with your medical stuff this year need to be ready.

"How could anyone be ready, knowing all the possibilities lost and no more to come. I can only be resigned to the inevitable and take what comes."

If you take it that way.

"So where is our friend Sinead going to wind up after all she has been through?"

I do not know. I only know I must wait here until the Creator decides to grant me passage to whatever lies beyond. I cannot tell you Denby, because I do not know myself. I only long with an ache you cannot imagine to cross over and be done with this endless waiting. Penny looked longingly out across the water to a dim glow that might be a celestial city, or a fire, or something else. She looked back and her eyes were long aching hallways of the centuries, for Time on this Strand was stopped and a moment was like a thousand years.

"Penny, I am sorry . . . ".

O do not be so lugubrious you silly man!

Bevies of children ran this way and that down below along the glimmering beach, their pinafores fluttering like the feathers of birds. They were the silent Chorus for this goat dance of a ceremony, they were the promise of all that might have been and may be still could be, they were the Daughters of the Dust.

See your girls that never were? Try to be as carefree and fling yourself into what remains of Life.

The iron bell began to clang.

Tme to go, Penny said. Your Catabasis is at an end.

"Always so short," Denby said.

If you say so. Hurry now while the veil between the worlds is thinnest.

She reached out her hands to cup his face. Cold, so cold. He felt a wetness on his lips, on his face. The rain had returned to NorCal and a seabreeze was flinging salt water. An explanation for everything.

Good-bye. Until next time.

He ascended the slope as the sound of the bell and the three dogs-heads became more insistent until he stumbled through the gate which slammed shut behind him. There, an open door to a train compartment waited for him and he climbed in to plotz into a seat in an otherwise empty railcar with salty, wet cheeks. On the return journey, he reflected Penny had become in the afterlife what she had been before. In life she had been a nurse during the height of the AIDS plague whose job it had been to handle the affairs of patients who had been sent home from Hospice as they lapsed and eventually died and allowed her to handle the paperwork of such things, there always the angel to usher souls to the door and through it to the next form of existence, if any, beyond.

The train passed through shadowy regions of smoke and the skeletal forms of houses and the smoke of spooks until it passed Yolanda Landing and eventually to the San Geronimo Station, where Denby disembarked. From there he went dutifully to the Island-Life offices although he felt exhausted unto death.

The Editor awaited him as in years past.

"So this is the 24th time you have crossed over," said the Editor. "How was it this time?"

Denby fell into a plush chair Martini had snagged from a For Free roadside pile. He gave the Editor the one thousand yard stare.

"I can tell you are wanting a drink. And by just the look of you, so am I." The Editor reached into the desk and pulled out a bottle of Glenfiddich and set two glasses on the desk before pouring more than two fingers into each glass.

"Any idea how it is all going to play out? The Trump trials, the Election, will we finally have the long awaited Recession? And what on earth about wretched Palestine? Did the ghosts speak any oracles?"

"Somehow the subjects did not come up," Denby said.

"Well, I suppose given past reports I should have expected that," said the Editor as he poured out of the bottle. "But no harm in asking."

As the hours ticked by to the witching hour, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

OCTOBER 22, 2023

SHE WALKS THESE HILLS IN A LONG BLACK VEIL

The eyes of the wraith glow at night. Best hope not to run into her on a midnight stroll . . .

ALL WE NEED TO KNOW

Its a season of gibbering undead, slavering ghouls, vampires and raving monsters under the lunatic moon claiming your undivided mortal attention. Yep, Congress is in session and politics are fillng the air with the stench of Black Magic. Must be the Season of the Witch.

Meanwhile it is party time in the Bay Area from Pinole down to San Jose and all points inbetween. It is time to role-play in costumes and get really naughty acting out fantasies of the most outre kind. Throw your panties overboard and be salacious in stilleto high heels and black leather.

Children have their opportunities also. Bowing to the evils of the times, there are maps of "safe" houses to visit on Halloween.

23rd Annual Drawing of Straws

So anyway, it had come around to the 23rd Annual Drawing of Straws. At this event, staffmembers of Island life newsroom draw straws to determine who shall be the designated one to cross over into that Infernal Realm on the night when the veils between the worlds are thinnest.

On a late afternoon this past week, the dance instructor, Rachel, packed her bag, set out instructions for Carole for taking care of Henry, took her hat from the hook and walked down the hall to hand over her key to the apartment. With a hug and a goodbye she descended the stairs of the St. Charles Home for Deranged Managers and Former Hippies to the street where she turned sharp left to walk past the Altenheim for Seniors to the bus stop. From there the bus took her to the Ferry Terminal where she got onto the ferry to Babylon. There she crossed over to the pier and awaited the ferry to Larkspur, on which she ate her sandwich of watercress and tuna, before going up on deck to let the crisp sea-salt air blow through her hair as the sun began his descent behind the sleeping breast of Queen Tamalpais.

From the Larkspur Landing, Rachel took the bus to Red Hill and there changed over to the shuttle that runs from San Anselmo to the coast, finallly reaching Silvan Acres in the San Geronimo Valley at dusk, that crepuscular time when things move from the hills down to the valley creeks and the pogonip starts to creep in ghostly strands over the ridges through the haunted trees.

Pahrump collected her on his fire-scarred scooter to bring her to the Household of Marlene and Andre and the new offices in exile of Island-life. There the Editor collected all the staff into the newsroom, all the Island-Lifers living in exile, including Februs the hamster, save no one could find Denby at first.

Where on earth was Denby? He was no in the converted barn that was now the offices. He was not in the restrooms. He was not in any part of the Household living quarters. The last of the decrepit COVID isolation shacks had been converted to storage and he was not there either. No one had seen him leave the Valley, for the Editor had posted spies to make sure no staff tried to escape this hallowed Tradition. The Editor sent someone to check the restaurant At Swim-Two Birds, but he was not there nor hiding in the San Geronimo church nor the old railway station house that had been converted into church offices.

It was Februs, in consultation with the tree squirrels of the area, who located Denby hiding up on the roof.

"Come down now, Denby!" shouted the Editor upwards.

"No!" shouted Denby, seeking to avoid Tradition.

"I order you to descend immediately!", shouted the Editor.

"No!"

"You will starve up there!" said the Editor.

"I have granola bars and a sleeping bag and a board on which to rest." Denby said.

"All right then," said the Editor. "I will bring you down." With that he deployed a riata with not much success until Jose volunteered to try. Most folks do not know that the original cowboys, cattle herdsmen, and fine horsemen looked less like Clint Eastwood than Cheech and Chong. Yes the best riders and ropers in the world were the Vaqueros of Alta California. So accomplished were they that a single caballero could bring down a 1500 pound grizzley bear with nothing more than a length of rope and a knife. And a good horse. This is, in fact, quite true; you can look it up .

Jose scampered up the drainpipe and pretty soon he had Denby trussed up tighter than a Thanksgiving turkey.

AAAAAhhhhrrrrrg!"

Jose lowered Denby to the ground with the captive cursing all the while. "You maldito Sonoran perdito sin honor! No eres amigo mío, hijo de pepino. Tu abuela era un cocodrilo!" There was more said along the same vein.

"Sorry amigo, but is for Tradition and your own good. And please take some Spanish classes. Tu idioma esta mezclado."

The truth was the only other Household Member who had crossed over was Jose who had to push Denby across in a wheelchair one year due to a broken leg and Jose did not relish the idea of another trip, being a likely candidate if Denby became a No Show.

So anyway. There stood the Editor armed with a bullwhip and Denby all tied up and with tears in his eyes was compelled to march from that spot of humiliation into the offices and back to Tradition.

Rachel, who had no idea of any of these developments was finishing a cup of green tea with Marsha when Denby came in the door.

"Well I guess we better start," Rachel said. "Now that everyone is here."

The procedings followed the same outline as has been practiced for the past 22 years. Rachel took her hat loaded with straws around the tables at which staff members sat. Marlene and Andre, not members of staff, had supplied a platter of ham and cheese sandwiches which no one touched. Not even the kosher caprese rolls. Each staff member drew a straw from the hat held aloft by the statuesque Rachel. The tension in the room continued to mount as each staffer drew. Each held their straw in trembling hands until Denby was compelled to draw, at which all the staff, save Denby, exhaled sighs of relief. Once again, according to Tradition, Denby had drawn the shortest straw. As he had each time for the past 22 years.

And so they all filed out, clapping Denby on the back congratulating him on his good fortune while muttering under breath as they exited the door, "Thank god it is not me, poor sod!"

Then it became suddenly okay to demolish the platter of sandwiches, which they did, washing down with cheap red wine from a gallon jug.

Mancini put up Rachel for the night with a space heater in one of the better quarantine cabins that remained after the COVID lockdown.

Finally Denby was left alone with the Editor.

"So I guess the infernal train shall arrive on schedule to take me there as usual," Denby said.

"Is Tradition," said the Editor. "You are Chosen and that is that,"

Denby walked out onto the porch and breathed in the heavy, moist air of Fall. The Fall rains had come and the nerds in lab coats were predicting an El Nino Winter. Once again he was Chosen for the Crossover as part of Tradition. Someone asked, "What does this mean to you to be Chosen year after year"?

A Tzadik once said, "It is not always to advantage to be Chosen". But one has no choice. No one ever does. The Editor hung his bullwhip on the wall.

As the hours ticked by to the witching hour, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

OCTOBER 8, 2023

BEEN TO THE DESERT ON A HORSE WITH NO NAME

This animal photographed in Petaluma by a friend. He's not so affectionate but he's sturdy and don't eat much.

WAKE ME UP WHEN SEPTEMBER ENDS

So anyway. The temperatures have moderated from insane scortching to reasonable. The pink ladies are all wilted and the buckeyes hang withered leaves along with their Fall offering of poisonous fruit. Pogonip filled the Valley yestermorn, indicating a great change is about to come. We are about to have what has become a regular end of Summer punishing heat wave while other areas of the country begin to enjoy sweater weather.

Fall means various Societies gin up their various resources for Fund Raisers. KPFA likely will make us all suffer until we cough up some dough to keep things like Hard Knock Radio, Across the Great Divide and Ralph Nader's crotchety Retirement Program which remains very worthy despite the crotchets.

I PUT AWAY CHILDISH THINGS, I PUT AWAY CHILDISH THINGS

So some time has passed and events have happened the like of which we have never seen and some folks are new here so it behooves us to recap some events of the past 18 months or so. After Georgie Porgie to find weapons of WMP (Weapons of Mass Poodles) after invading Newark, Georgie was upset in the general Treehouse elections where the kids chose Fianna O'Bama as Treehouse President. This infuriated the assembled Bullies into hiking up their diapers and short pants and seizing the Treehouse in a contested election, which although they did not get the majority, seized it anyway because of somebody's busybody parents intervening.

Then, after the term had passed, Bobby Baby Boobie refused to leave the Treehouse even though it was clear that after this election, he was roundly stomped by a huge majority who did not like his divisive politics building walls between neighborhoods, enforcing things with a minority of loud mouth bullies, and calling people he did not like rude names. Like the rude Baby he really was.

Acting like a Baby, he led an insurrection against the Treehouse, hurting a number of kids and causing bad feelings all around, insisting that he never really lost the election (as any baby would do) and claiming he was robbed.

The PTA has launched an investigation, which Baby Bobby claims is a witchhunt. And as babies the world over have said, "It's all unfair!"

Meanwhile a sort of pandemic has been sweeping the Nation for a while and causing so much havoc people are starting to take notice as it claims thousands of lives each month.

Martini, always technically savvy, aiming to serve Humanity and hustling for a buck thinks he has a solution. Yes, we are talking about the rampant disease of Stupidity which has not seen such epidemic levels since the Jackass movies came out and people actually tried to emulate the filmed exploits -- of course without providing ahead of time for precautions like certified EMR crews standing by and fire-retardant foam.

No, American seem to be suffering from a group lemming mentality that threatens to overwhelm the Guinness Book of Darwin Awards.

So Martini, listening to the always fetching Julie Deppish deliver the traffic report on KQED, came up with a brilliant idea and, taking the opportunity to sneak into the Detroit Corporate Headquarters for the Big Five Auto manufacturers (you always knew they really were just one Company didn't you?) during a time of more than usually unruly chaos on account of multimillionair executives balking at paying rank and file labor higher wages.

Martini, essentially unemployed by nature of his character and trade, didn't give a fig about Labor or Management; he wanted to sell his Big Idea.

"What the hell is this dwarf doing here?" said Magnate Number Two when Martini had managed to gain entry to the Boardroom.

"Hear me out!" screamed Martini as Security hefted him by both armpits. "I have an invention greater than anything you stole from Buckminister Fuller."

"S'wot, dwarf," said M#3, flicking his cigar ash to the floor where a flunky anxiously hoovered it up with a port-a-vac. "We bought him out."

"Wait!" shrieked Martini. "I offer signed merch by Richard Dinklater! I have an autographed tunic from GOT!"

"Stop!" thundered M#1, who sounded and looked a bit like Ralph Richardson (in the Time Bandits). "I am a fan of Game of Thrones and he is my favorite. Lets hear what you have to say, and please be quick about it. Oppressing the downtrodden and foisting overlarge vehicles takes some time these days. Speak now. Hup! Hup!"

It turned out Martini's invention would be a control device installed in all American automobiles and would use immobilizing tech similar to DUI sensors sometimes now used to prevent drunks from getting on the road. That tech requires the driver candidate to breath into a breathalizer to determine the prospective driver's BAC. If over the top, the car is immobilized. Call for a cab, dude; you are soused.

Martini's idea takes this idea one step further. His invention is the Idiocy-meter. Upon entering the car cabin a cradle-cap descends on the head of the prospective driver so as to measure their intelligence. If found too stupid to drive in California (other state options available) the program disables the car and delivers a message appropriate to the potential of recovery, with the most basic message being, "I am sorry Mr./Ms [familyname] you are too stupid to drive today. I am not going to let you endanger others on the road." More promising and hopeful driving candidates get the message, "I am sorry I simply cannot let you drive today. Please go home a read a book and try again later."

It was only the promise of forged autographs that enabled Martini to escape without suffering the dismal fate of so many males in GOT and in Quentin Tarantino films as he was ousted. For his pains his invention copyrights were purchased, under threat of emasculation, for the amount of $135 and he was told never to breath a word about this idea to anyone, as the magnates realized that this invention would only hurt sales of lumbering tanks to people who imagined themselves invulnerable and capable of destroying everything they hit, sober or not.

About the most recent meetings of the Flat-Earth Society and similar Pandemic-affected groups we will have to defer until a later time due to lack of space this week.

Right now, tiny monsters are breeding in shadowy doorways. Ghouls and vampires are starting to throng the night each night and Congress remains in session. The month-longh orgiastic Season of role-playing beings, the annual Bay Area Holiday of costumes and erotic pretend. Soon the Time will come.

Reports came in about a sudden upsurge of violence in the troubled Middle East and the Editor took a walk outside after closing up the Offices. So much has happened to make everything feel ephemeral such that even gazing at the everyday, things appeared ghosted, temporary. The outlines of concrete things have become matters of dispute. Where are we going to be tomorrow when today has become so doubtful? Soon the time will come when the veils between the worlds are thinnest and the Annual Crossover must take place. What shall we learn then? Have we learned anything since the last time?

As the hours ticked by to the witching hour, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

AUGUST 27, 2023

WHY NOT CURL UP WITH A BOOK

Looks more like a "Must Read" list to me.


ANTS GO MARCHING

So anyway. Rolf dropped in to Kathis Salon for a haircut and who should he see there in the full service chair but Beth, looking thinner and more lined than he remembered. But then, years had passed.
She was surprised and delighted to see him and asked how he had been doing. She was sitting there with a headscarf on and no trace of the luxurious dark curls that had once had cascaded down her neck.

O, been up and down. Really down, but mostly up now a days. And her?

Hysterectemy if you did not know. Rounds of chemo and radiation. Its all prophylactic measures. I think they got all of it. Actually I am fine.

I knew there was something, he said. You still planning to move back to Michigan?

I thought about that after I had to move out after B. got moved to Sonoma. Daniel is selling the house. But there is nothing, but some Family there and that has no interest for me. No support. So I found a place with Karen's help.

Yeah, i got a text from Dan that there was going to be a big estate sale and we all should come to collect something. Dan was not there when I showed up but Joe was running things -- showing the stuff and taking money and so forth. They had removed the coffee grinder so Joe was making coffee by pounding coffee beans in a bag with a hammer. Dan was out for the day at Point Reyes; i guess to relieve the stress about relocating his mother, handling all of her affairs and the house. Joe has always been the good soldier. I tell him, once a Marine, always a Marine and he pooh-poohs that violently, but it is true. Do you know where B. is?

I have been visiting her up in Sonoma. I see her about three times a week. It is a distraction while going through the chemo and radiation is next. Moping around the house I feel these twinges -- but really it is nothing and I am doing fine. I feel better being occupied. I can give you the address. It's Venti and she is in the Memory Unit. I drop in and bring stuffed animals to occupy her. She needs direct one on one and Dan does not see that. She has stopped eating and all his friends are saying that is the end when they stop eating, but it does not have to be that way. I comb her hair and change her undershorts because the staff are not trained to do that . . .

All while not being paid. That is angelic of you.

Well she is someone who has been part of my life and changed by life for many years. Heck you have known her longer than me. So while I am at loose ends it is nothing for me. And she was the center of so much of the social circle that used to be so vibrant. All those talented people coming and going!

I have known her some 45 years. I wonder if she still has that gold ring I gave her a while ago.

You know you could come by for a visit. No more than an hour on Sunday. Because of the drugs they give her she does not get up until around 1pm and then there is dinnertime for the facility around five.

I thought Dan was going to find a place for you. That is what I heard. I thought they were going to pay for you to stay somewhere.

Well you know Dan. He is set on his mind's will, just like his mother. Really it was not until he found out about my cancer that he suddenly turned around and paid attention.

Yeah. He knows something of cancer, because of his father and Joe, being the Good Soldier, taking care of him to the end. Once a Marine aways a Marine I say.

You know more about that than I. So how are you doing?

Well I am going to have an operation on the 26th. I'll be laid up for a bit after that.

Goodness, if you need anything just call or text me! Anything at all. I can bring groceries or whatever from the pharmacy. Whatever is it for?

O just some stones need to be removed; nothing like your situation. Don't worry about me. I have arranged meal delivery kits and such. I will have to wear a catheter for a while, but I have taken care of it in advance.

Just like me. Stubbornly independent. But really, it would be good for me to do something and get out of the living situation. I have these twinges -- nothing really -- but activity would take my mind off of things.

You say you are going on Sunday to see B.?

Yes. Around three would be excellent. I will be there from one until then. Shoot me a text when you are coming and i will give directions.

Beth we have know each other a long time. How many years has it been? And you taking care of B. even after leaving employ.

Well you cannot be taking care of somebody for so long and not have some attachment. And it gets me out of the house and thinking about something other than things like losing all my hair and . . . other problems. Stuff the doctors never told me. The nurses are told not to say anything -- for legal reasons of course.

I am finding that out. Look I am going to have to go. See you Sunday.

It is Saturday and you are working again, I can tell.

Yes, it is a distraction from, well, as you said, 'other problems'.

I will be over there at one. I will comb her hair, which no one does, and use the dry shampoo, and change her undershorts. Coming around three would be perfect.

See you then.

The Editor strolled the darkened aisles of the Offices. Ever since COVID issues have been sporadic, with agents out ill, reporters in jail or worse, and maniacal protests against masking and no end of nuisances But Life goes on and Death intervenes with now regular regularity. So many of us now encompassed under the mortal signe of Cancer. Tonight the full moon was waning in strength and the fields empty of howling, empty of even turkey calls. The Nature World was adrift and Antartica melts.

As the hours ticked by to the witching hour, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

AUGUST 07, 2023

THE LEAVES WERE LONG, THE GRASS WAS GREEN

Walking in the north woods, plagued by thought and worry sometimes a brief glimpse of a possible world where the burdens we have carried so long get set down and we shall suffer no more appears between the trees. No wonder people glom onto images from Tolkein, for the promise is that once the world was filled with wonder and fair things like elves and all the monsters defeated.

It is all very fine to be cynical, for that is a safe road and assured and comfortable in a way. Are you not tired of being cynical? Say not "Is it possible that we will suffer no more?", but that we make our wonder here and now, day by day, knowing what its like out there, knowing its going to be ugly when it all ends.

The leaves were long, the grass was green
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering
Tinúviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen
And light of stars was in her hair
And in her raiment glimmering

from the Lay of Beren and Luthien

LEARNING TO WALK AGAIN

When Denby got released from the hospital, where he had been ever since Javier's last disastrous birthday, it was Pahrump come pick him up on the scooter. While in the hospital, his room-mate, if that is what you want to call it, was Ranger McGuffin, the man who had tried to stop the Hellcats on Wheels from invading the park at Alpine Lake. The women were not to be shunted by symbols of the patriarchal hegemony and they had rode over the ranger's legs for all his pains to enforce order and all of his masculine resolve got all smashed up along with his tibia.

After he finished chewing out Denby for being part of a group that started fires in the park, broke all kinds of rules, sowed disorder and mayhem, destroyed public property, endangered human lives and livestock, threatened the County watershed with disaster while dismaying the populace with atavistic orgies of violence he asked what for? What in Sam Hill was it all for?

Well, Javier is like that. Every year he has this birthday celebration and he has these ex-girlfriends you see, a bout twelve or fifteen of them . . . .

What sort of man entertains girlfriends like that! Expostulated McGuffin.

Once again Denby saw the enraged eyes of Raquel with her wild black hair flowing behind as she descended on him swinging a spiked morning-star. Now Raquel, lets talk this over . . . Denby had begun, but she just cracked him in the ribs, screaming "Where is he?" He just likes exciting women, said Denby.

What on earth do they want to do with him, McGuffin asked quite reasonably from his gurney across the way. The little machine that goes "boop! boop!" at regular intervals continued to do so.

Emasculate him or marry him, said Denby. Which all the same thing I suppose.

After that the two of them got on famously talking about all kinds of Ranger type boyscout park kinds of things full of poaching adventures and bears doing the tarantella in the woods and merit badge deeds of honor and all kinds of nature park things and they played with the O2 sensors and the monitors and Denby tried to see if he could make the machines play a song until nurse Betty came in to bawl him out and tell him to stop.

It was there in the hospital Jose came and told him that Chad had died of a heart attack. When Jose left, Denby turned his face to the wall for a long time.

When Nurse Betty came in she remarked, "What's up with you sourpuss? Catheter chafing ya?"

Yeah, said Denby. It hurts.

So she gave him some meds and he went to sleep for a while.

Denby left McGuffin with a friendly heart and the two promised to keep in touch and maybe McGuffin would see about getting Denby a job in the park service, a prospect Denby felt was rather unlikely being an accused and convicted property destroyin' scoundrel of a nuisance to the County and all the others had gotten away clean without so much as a fine. Save for Jose who got himself impaled by Carmen's flaming spear.

When Pahrump showed up he said, "You look like hell!"

Thanks bro, said Denby.

Pahrump took Denby back to the San Geronimo Valley and Silvan Acres where all the House was gathered again. Some of them bandaged up still after the birthday party. Pahrump got out the jug and they sat on the back porch and drank cheap wine and looked at the winking lights Martini had strung up to imitate the fireflies Marsha remembered from New Jersey when she was a girl. But like Chatgpt it was not really like the real thing and so they turned them off and looked at the stars. None of them had ever been a success in life or love and none of them had ever accomplished any great deeds of renown and none of them every would and they all knew it.

"The stars," said Pedro. "What is the stars?"

As the hours ticked by to the witching hour, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

 

JUNE 11, 2023

COMIN' IN ALL DIRECTIONS: HORSES. HORSES. HORSES.

Image is from Carol Taylor on the Island. Carol did this in a splurge of artistic activity shortly before having cataract surgery. The eyes are important to a visual artist, or so I am told. Hearts and hugs out to Carol in recuperation.

MOTHER MOTHER OCEAN, I HAVE HEARD YOU CALL

That time of year had come around again when all the Trauma units, all the ERs, all the psych wards throughout the Bay Area stocked up on supplies, ensured double staffing backups, mended doors, tested alarms, stocked up on replacement plasma, and every ambulance facility went on high alert for again the wheel of the sun had revolved ponderously to another Birthday for Javier.

This year the festivities moved away from the known Island venues and the Household to Alpine Lake near the dam spillway. Due to the recent atmospheric river storms the reservoir was overtopping 3 billion gallons, ensuring the preservation of excellent greens for the golfers of Kentfield. Household members rented e-bikes to transport wind and food and water illegally past Ranger McGuffin at the parkinglot entrance. So this way they brought the condiments. And more wine. And some food. And lots more wine to an informal spot Pahrump and Jose and Pedro had hacked out of the winter rain foliage with machetes.

Tipitina had made muffaleta sandwiches the day before, and this was good because everyone knows a day-old muffaleta is better than brand new. Just go to New Orleans and ask about it.

Because of the overabundance of water this year, the Water District had put up a temporary retention gate at the head of the spillway to slow the loss of water wealth and control flooding. The accumulation of water pressure behind the iron gate caused the thing to groan like a chained mythological beast. Even so, the water that did allow to pass rushed down in a cataract with all the force of the rapids in an Indiana Jones movie.

The party, secure in a safe location that was well hidden and off the beaten path -- well off the beaten path save for park trails -- got going with gusto and mirth and a grand time was had by all with lots of story-telling and laughter and drinking wine and playing games and lots more drinking wine and muffaletta sandwiches and all kinds of neat groovy birthday cake kinds of stuff for it was Javier's 65th birthday and so there was more drinking wine until Snuffles decided to get some fresh water from the creek.

Snuffles ambled down to a rock above the cataract with his jug and a water pump and Marlene shouted for him to get away from there it was no creek, but a cataract and there was no swimming on account of it being Marin County's main reservoir for drinking water and it was dangerous besides, fool.

Snuffles turned on the rock to look up towards Marlene and the group and the sky and what he said was quite unexpected, even for a burnt-out acid bum like Snuffles. He did not say, "Sorry Marlene," I am coming right up," followed by a scramble back up the bank, which most people expected. Nor did he say, "Nah, stop hasslin' me for a drink of wa-wa", and turn to go down anyway as a matter of personal freedom, which the Conservatives expected. And he did not say, "Jesus will protect me for I am just," before emitting beams of holy radiance and being lifted down to walk upon the waters, which one one expected at all, but which must be allowed as a theological possibility.

No, what he wailed was, "No! No, no, no, no, no no!" before falling backwards into the cataract and disappearing from the eyes of man and woman and all non-binary folk.

Concern for Snuffles was redirected to the sky upon hearing the shrieking sound not unlike the cries of the Nine Ringwraiths in a famous Trilogy. Above the trees flew Carmen and Ivana and Diane on hang gliders, looking for a place to land and attack.

Every year Javier's ex-girlfriends teamed up with disaffected members of the Amazonian outlaw motorcycle club to attack Javier and either kill him or capture him, causing much emergency room mayhem in the process.

Once they had been discovered Diane fired a crossbow bolt that pierced Jose's thigh, causing him to howl. The roar of motorcycles came nearer.

Down at the parking lot Ranger McGuffin held up a hand in front of a squad of armed Amazonians. "No combustion vehicles on the trails allowed."

Olga looked at Maruska. Marushka looked at Anastasia. The three of them looked at the noble Ranger McGuffin.

"Fuck you!" They said, "We are invading!" and roared at him. McGuffin dove to the side, but not fast enough to escape. The tires of Irina's motorrbike ran over his leg, breaking it in three places before she followed the gang all swinging chains and tomahawks up the trail right around the barriers.

The gang arrived at the trail all bunched together in leather and chrome studs and armed to the teeth. The hangliders appeared above near the spillway, having splashed down -- illegally -- into Marin's drinking water supply.

"Mom?" Little Adam looked up at Marlene. Adam stood to protect his foster son.

Pahrump motioned to Martini to follow him up to the far end of the spillway where a lynchpin held the gate fast. The pin itself was a cotterpin-shaped unit some two feet long. It was wedged in pretty tight and the two of them could not make it budge.

"Hurry!" Pahrump said. "Or we all are going to die!"

The hang glider crew looked at them across the dam with perplexity.

"Ok" said Martini. "This calls for . . . ". He reached into his bag and pulled out a can of WD40, which he jetted onto the pin before taking a tree branch and levering out the pin with Pahrump's aid until the thing went "CHOING!" and popped loose. The force of the suddenly relieved metal tension snapped the lynchpin out to the length of its tether chain which caused the thing to sail in an arc over the ducking heads of Pahrump and Martini to the far side where it cold-cocked Diane who was about to shoot them with a crossbow. The 80 pound pin, pulled its tether chain to snag below the knees the remaining hang gliders and topple them toward into the cataract below.

The massive iron gate swung down on its lower hinges, unleashing 3 billion gallons of water all at once. A wall of water swept down as the Household scampered uphill, sweeping the motorcycle gang with their iron steeds down what had become a torrential river.

Meanwhile Ranger McGuffin had crawled in a great deal of pain to the station to call in there was a problem at Alpine.

That is the reason the helicopters showed up. That and KRON-TV, the Water District and, inexplicably, Executives from the Women's Building in San Francisco.

The Women's Building has existed for years as a non-profit refuge, resource, and nurturing center for women of all ages and leadership was out for a retreat and relaxing hike when the events took place. Lucy Goodright, CEO, heard about what had happened from members of the Household and from the Ranger McGuffin before he was transported to Marin General.

Goodright apprehended Ivana out of the ebbing stream, bedraggled and quite waterlogged as the helicopters lifted the iron gate back into place.

Goodright took Ivana by the ear as the cameras of KRON-TV approached and shouted, "I am the Women's Building and I do not approve of this message!"

Javier was, as usual, nowhere to be found, for he always had some secret manner of escape planned out in advance.

As the hours of Javier's birthday night ticked by, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

MAY 27, 2023


YOU COULD HAVE A STEAM TRAIN, RUNNIN'

This week's image is a shot of the new mural on the side of the building that used to be old Pagano's hardware, facing St. Charles Street, home to the Mastic Senior Center and the St. Charles Asylum for Lunatic Managers. The quote from Walt Whitman reads, "Because you build for mankind, I build for you.

THEN CAME THE LAST DAYS OF MAY

The morning is shrouded by dense Pogonip hanging just above the cars wending their ways in the crepuscular dawn to another day of zooming meetings and dealing with workplace assholes. This means that the season is about to change from indifferent post-winter to true Summer in the Bay Area.

The Scarecrow may not have had a brain, but at least he did not get lost in Neverland when there was only one road. Those who need magic ruby slippers to find their way home may rest easy now that the sequin-bedecked pumps stolen from the Minnesotta Museum of Judy Garland have been recovered.

In August 2005, authorities said a thief broke into the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota before smashing a glass display case and stealing the slippers. Investigators said they had no evidence, aside from a single sequin that had fallen off one of the slippers.

A breakthrough in the case was made 13 years later, when officials recovered the slippers during an undercover operation in Minneapolis.

"We reached the first goal, the recovery, and it’s a great day," North Dakota United States Attorney Christopher Myers said.

The slippers are one of four known pairs that actress Judy Garland wore in her role as Dorothy in the classic film. They disappeared in August 2005 from a museum dedicated to the actress in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

"There’s a certain romance in these types of schemes, sometimes sophistication, but at the end of the day it’s a theft," Myers said.

Tips flowed in over the years but they led either nowhere " or to reproductions. One week, they were nailed to a wall in a roadside diner in Missouri, or resting at the bottom of a water-filled ore pit.

"The thieves not only took the slippers, they took a piece of history that will be forever connected to Grand Rapids and one of our city’s most famous children," Johnson said.

A break in the case came in the summer of 2017, the FBI said in a statement.

An individual approached the company that insured the slippers, saying he had information about the shoes and how they could be returned, and "it became apparent that those involved were in reality attempting to extort the owners of the slippers," Special Agent Christopher Dudley, who led the investigation from the FBI’s Minneapolis Division, said in the statement.

After nearly a yearlong investigation involving the bureau’s Art Crime Team, the FBI Laboratory, and field offices in Chicago, Atlanta and Miami, the slippers were recovered during an undercover operation in Minneapolis, the statement said.

The long-lost slippers were shown to reporters Tuesday at the FBI’s Minneapolis headquarters in a news conference conducted in reverential tones, with repeated references to rainbows and the memorable quote "there’s no place like home."

"They’re more than just a pair of shoes, the slippers. They’re an enduring symbol of the power of belief," Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson said.

As Glinda the Good Witch says in the movie when she is describing the slippers’ appeal to the Wicked Witch, "Their magic must be very powerful, or she wouldn’t want them so badly."

So anyway.

It was a long-awaited three-day weekend that left everyone gasping like grunions on the beach. Members of the Household gathered out back to play horseshoes and cornhole and grill sausages on the makeshift grill that Martini had fashioned out of rebar cuttings from a construction site.

The Editor sat musing at his desk at the end of the day, thinking about having met Cpl Mac down the Hill at Carter's gym. Mac had been promoted to something larger, but he did not stand on rank. They had traded a few stories while the 80-something lung-cancer survivor pressed more weight than most of the young snappers could handle.

Once a Marine, always a Marine for life.

Mac had opted out of NCO school because of the high mortalty rate of first lieutenants. Out in the bush the patrol was having trouble maintaining contact so the short radio antenna for the Prick 25 was swopt for the longer one. He had been carrying the radio when the Lieutenant, crouching on one knee in the grass, screamed at him to get far away from him. He tried to say something when the Lt. unleashed a violent volley of extreme profanity. "GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME YOU ASSHOLE!"

So Mac had turned and trundled away with the radio and its ten-foot antennae sticking up and felt a thud that knocked him to the ground, hearing at the same time a volley of AK-47 fire answered by the team. He had been shot in the back, but the radio, drawing fire, had also saved his life. They had another Prick 25, but amazingly, the thing still worked.

First Lieutenants had such a high mortality rate because the VC snipers would aim for the man closest to the radio, figured that would be the commanding officer. Next best, of course, would be the radio operator.

On the deck, the Editor lit a cigar as the evening murmured memories. Cpl Mac was 80 and had survived the jungle and Stage 4 lung cancer, but the truth was that all of them had started the final quarter of the Game of Life. The Editor asked Mac about his next book and Mac told him that his next book would be full of happy memories. Happy memories of Vietnam.

It is just as important to remember those happy memories as to remember the not-so happy ones or the violence overwhelms the peace earned with so much difficulty. Otherwise the bad guys win for sure.

As the hours of Memorial Day night ticked by, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

MAY 14, 2023


FOR THE ROSES

This week's image is that of a rose from former Island-Life photographer, Tammy Chadwick. Tammy passed away a year ago a few months after her husband while en route to see her mother in another state.

WHAT'S GOING ON

Like the Weather

We had a one day heat wave throughout the Golden State, but mercifully we are back to moderate temps. As we approach another Fire Season, likely to be every bit as violent as the ones past the well-matriculated hillsides of Marin are abuzz with energetic cutbacks of vegetation.

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today conducted the fourth snow survey of the season at Phillips Station in late April. The manual survey recorded 126.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 54 inches, which is 221 percent of average for this location on April 3.

This year’s April 1 result from the statewide snow sensor network is higher than any other reading since the snow sensor network was established in the mid-1980s. Before the network was established, the 1983 April 1 statewide summary from manual snow course measurements was 227 percent of average. The 1952 April 1 statewide summary for snow course measurements was 237 percent of average.

While winter storms have helped the snowpack and reservoirs, groundwater basins are much slower to recover. Many rural areas are still experiencing water supply challenges, especially communities that rely on groundwater supplies which have been depleted due to prolonged drought. Long-term drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin will also continue to impact the water supply for millions of Californians. The state continues to encourage Californians to make water conservation a way of life as more swings between wet and dry conditions will continue in the future.

Meanwhile concerns about torrential flooding once this immense snowpack absorbs summer heat remain such that State and local agencies are working night and day on diversion efforts to ameliorate the flooding expected.

I'm Not Sick but I'm Not Well

The COVID emergency is officially ended, not because it is no longer an issue, but because people are tired and stupid and intelligent, thoughtful response to facts is a seldom seen event in today's America. We have gotten used to 100,000 people dying each year to the disease, so make that your new reality.

This Island Life

Despite lost of the non-fictional masthead staff due to death, and also health problems due to stroke, Island-Life continues on a reduced frequency until resources can be mustered. Pretty much all social and cultural events have been cancelled for the time being. We hope to resume operations in the Fall, should all staff survive undamaged the annual Mountain Sabbatical.

MAMA SAID

So anyway. Household members made their way down to Oaktown and the original Mama's for the annual tradition of mimosas and brunch at the place that has been serving excellent coffee and brunch since 1974.

Even gals that had no mothers anymore showed up for this gathering, largely to honor the dead mom's of the past. Mr. Howitzer, the landlord, always drove out to Colma with some type of missle weapon to slaughter the crows roosting on the old family crypt, but that was Mr. Howitzer and everybody knew the way he was. One time he went out with a golf caddy loaded with a brace of rifles and fired until he knocked the wing of an angel off of someone's ancestral tomb, which made the caretakers quite wroth.

Mama's hosted the Household, which included Little Adam (not so little any more) and his Replacement Mom, Marlene, Tipitina, Suan and her dad (official Mom), Marsha, Pedro and Hermina and Ms. Sanchez nee Morales, showed up with Mr. Sanchez and little Eduardo, now three. Ms. Sanchez still taught English at the Longfellow school.

Bear and Susan went out to the Biker BBQ in Martinez, for Susan had become a official Motorcycle Mama. Bear did know know how that happened, but much about Bear was unclear down to his mismatched red and blue socks. Despite Susan's diametrically opposition presentation of neat and clean white long sleeve button-down shirt, capri pants and immaculate pageboy hair opposed to Bear's beard and hair providing refuge for animal life, grease-stained t-shirt, filthy leather jacket and lamentable jeans with workboots she did have a sort of yen for wilder things.

The event at Mama's always was more sedate than that, for the truth is all off us, everyone you see on the street and at work sitting at desks and answering the telephone was the product of one orgasm, at least, and then the fun was over. Everyone got carried around for 9 or so months at end of that period of nausea and discomfort was expelled through one of a limited number of means into the world and for the luckier ones, was nurtured and cared for by someone special of their own blood and for kids like Little Adam, nurtured and cared for after the fact, which included being tossed onto the street by someone of less than stellar moral, ethical and intellectual standards - a crack whore.

So let that stand for you lucky ones; no matter how bad it gets with your mother, it could always be worse, as they say up in Minnesotta.

So they all gathered around and enjoyed the fine mimosas and omlettes of Mama's Royal Cafe and a fine time was had by all, talking about motherhood and the Warriors (what a shame!) and surviving despite the proud man's contumely and crack whores and all that sort of neat groovy mother-loving sort of stuff until the hours extended and the shadows dragged long.

Denby was stirred by a phone call the night of Mother's Day.

Denby, when are you going to get married?

Mom.

Denby what about that girl Sharon? She had a good job -- she was a nurse. I don't understand why you two did not make a go of it.

Mom, Sharon went crazy.

So crazy schmazy. What's a few mood-swings now and then. Take a pill.

Mom, she tried to kill me with an ax.

So? You cannot handle a little temper? You boys are so coddled. Are you eating enough? I shouldn't say that; you are getting a bit round in the middle kiddo.

Mom, I'm fine.

Fine he says. Fine. And here I am, withering away, lonely because nobody calls me, not ever and look at all I did for you! Who wiped your runny nose and put bandaids on your boo-boos! Who scraped and slaved and did all the cooking and washed and ironed the sheets and all the extra things while your father . . .

Mom, you did not have to iron the sheets. . . .

O listen to you! Such ingratitude! And I am feeling such pains and the doctor -- a lot of good he is with his fancy degrees -- minimizes EVERYTHING. I am sure I have cancer of the lumbago or something, I am sure of it -- I can feel this stabbing inside, and its eating me. Its eating me!

Mom, wait a minute . . .

And does my ungrateful son ever call me? Not ever to ask how his poor suffering cancer ridden mom is dealing with her pains . . .

Mom . . .

Just once you could come and visit. Would it hurt this famous very busy son to come and visit for a few hours, maybe a few days, the one who raised him up and held him, his suffering, wasting, mother being eaten up by lumbago cancer or something worse!

Mom, this is impossible . . .

O, I am bereft to have such an ungrateful son! Why is this so impossible?

Mom you have been dead for two years.

Well fine! Just fine! See what happens when you have children! Goodbye!

Mom . . . .

[click]

That is when Denby woke up from his nightmares and went to have a drink.

As the hours of Mother's Day night ticked by, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

APRIL 30, 2023

BUCKEYE JIM

TALES OF THE NONPROFITS - MY BIG 10 INCH

So anyway Danielle told Denby at 2:30pm she had an important social engagement and Antja would be the only one on desk. It would be good if he stayed over this Friday evening to hold the fort. With that, Danielle turned on a red high heel and left the building, leaving the lesser souls to answer calls down in Urgent Care.

Nurses ghosted in the distance from one hallway to the next. Antja sighed. "I suppose we could order pizza delivery. Again."

Denby thought for a minute. "I can have Pahrump drop something off for us. Not pizza though."

"What would that be?"

"You'll see."

An hour later Pahrump showed up with a box that held a gallon jug of murky liquid and a quart of Raspberry Pizzazz juice cocktail.
Antja looked at him quizzically.

"You'll wanna mix this for sure," Pahrump said. "It's something Martini cooked up in the backyard." He then left, promising to return to fetch Denby in a few hours.

Forty-five minutes later the room was a mess with pizza boxes and papers on the floor and Antja and Denby were living it up with music playing over the tinny speakers of a PC. They were telling each other the hospital gossip and had told about times each of them had nearly died and suffered unbearably and they were laughing like a hebephrenics. Denby told about how the Angry Elf gang had shattered his knees and they both laughed so hard they fell off their chairs.

"Patellar Revulsion what?" said Antja. "Bwa hahahahaahha.!"

It was a slow night and nurse Sanchez came down the hall to find out what the party was all about.

Antja asked if there was much happening down at the POD.

"Nothing doing. We have no doctor." Said the nurse. "But we have to stay on. You know. Because. Sucks."

"Where's Doctor Fong," asked Anja.

"Friday night, first of month every month, is opera night," said the nurse.

"Here, have some Razzamatazz," offered Antja.

After a few sips, Nurse Sanchez said, "Hey that's good! What's in it?"

"We don't know," said Denby honestly. "Mostly juice I guess. Couldn't be bad for you."

"Let me bring some back to the POD."

"How you going to carry it," Antja said.

"I got this plastic urinal . . .".

A few hours later Urgent Care was long closed, but nurses and PA's lay on floors and gurney's and white smocks and lab coats were stained with Razamatazz and pizza sauce. The night shift Security coming by almost called in a Code Silver for active shooter until someone giggled.

"O for pete's sake," said Security before closing the door and walking away.

"O dear," Denby said. "David is going to have a fit when he gets back from vacation."

"Tell him he can suck on my big 10 inch," Antja said.

"Record of the favorite blues . . ."! sang Denby.

"Record of the favorite blues . . .", chorused Anja.

Together: "10 inch record of the favorite blues . . .".

As the sun eased down at the start of Spring, the Editor sat in meditation on his creatures. Molly had told him long ago that you must not just like your characters - you must love them. She paused, back then, and then added, "sometimes that is more terrible."

The people working for him, or for any not for profit enterprise, working for dirt pay or sometimes nothing at all, be it a radio station, a clinic, a social program, or his own modest proposal of some 26 years, were a special breed of human being, especially the lower the social rung on the corporate ladder. Most of them looked to find a niche of some kind of infirm security to support their "real" lives. Most of them artists of some kind in a country that does not as a rule treat its artists well until the probing searchlight of fame nails them down where they stand to put them in a cage of fortune.

Until that searchlight finds them by some arbitrary fit of chance, most labor in dark obscurity with a few inhabiting fictional lives in cages not so bright, such as the voices on the radio. Day in, day out a familiar voice comes to you in the crepuscular dawn to deliver the news or traffic report and another comes on after the shadows have grown long, becoming trusted companions with mannerisms and personalities that make you glad that they are still there in a very uncertain and often violent world.

One time a host came on with a clear case of sore throat and it was so painful to hear that he wanted to rush over there to that mythical radio tower that had to be located somewhere nearby and not Los Angeles or Chicago and deliver a few lozenges and words of comfort. There there sweetie, it will be all right.

But of course there is no one place in the City for the Station: the various announcers are scattered in various towns all across America, in Los Angeles, in Reno, in Des Moines, in Lincoln Nebraska, in Chicago, in the District of Columbia and Weehawken New Jersey, anywhere in the packed masonry of States.

It is the voices what we come to love and he realized when she was not there one day -- these people are workers who earn vacations like everyone else -- that he missed the traffic woman.

The hosts and engineers that work at listener-supported radio, like KQED, probably do not make buckets of money and perhaps there were for some alternative career paths imagined at one time. But sometimes all you want is a job, a fact that some nonprofit managers lose sight of in their Quixotic jousting against an infinite Mission. Those are the ones who contract the Nonprofit Disease, forgetting the race is an ultramarathon, the war one of extended lifelong effort fraught with infinite possibilities to which one devotes limited resources, and the attempt to do all at once will result in more human damage than good, engendering a world of resentment instead of saving the world.

A nonprofit should always operate just like listener-supported radio. Each day is a new day. Each "show" is a new effort to shine a flashlight into the darkness of these times. There may be some extended projects that involve a series, but there is a defined beginning and end to them, save for replays.

It is the same for the battle against any kind of cancer or health care - each day is a new day and there may be outreach initiatives and programs that last for a time, but at the end of the day the resources are limited to accomplishing what one has to do -- for that day.

Long time ago the Editor got into a dustup with his sister and they started hurling garden fruit at one another. The Editor had a pile of tomatoes and he threw those until they splatted and were all done. His sister dug around and threw a potato that bonked off his head.

"Hey! That hurt!"

In answer, she threw two more. One missed but one hit his shoulder.

"Stop it!"

"Give up?" said his sister.

Moment of thought. All right.

Don't throw all your tomatoes at once and expect more will just show up. It takes time to nurture potatoes. Any they will produce more if the ground is tended.

The Editor walked out onto the back porch and noticed that over a few hours spikes had erupted from the buckeye trees. Something was about to happen.

As the hours of the night ticked by, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

[Verse 1]
Got me the strangest woman
Believe me this trick's no cinch
But I really get her going
When I whip out my big 10 inch

[Chorus]
Record of a band that plays the blues
Well a band that plays the blues
She just love my big 10 inch
Record of her favorite blues

[Verse 2]
Last night I tried to tease her
I gave my love a little pinch
She said now stop that jivin'
Now whip out your big 10 inch

[Chorus]
Record of a band that plays the blues
Well a band that plays the blues
She just love my big 10 inch
Record of her favorite blues

[“Big Ten-Inch Record” is a cover of ‘dirty blues’ sax man Bull Moose Jackson’s 1952 song. It was written as an allusion to the ten-inch vinyl records that were common in the early 1900s.]

 

APRIL 16, 2023

I'M SAILING AWAY

APRIL IS THE CRUELEST MONTH: TALES OF THE NON-PROFITS, PART I

So anyway things are all topsy-turvy and chaotic at the KQED offices downtown. The women of Marketplace have locked Kai Ryssdahl in the corporate restroom and tied up Justin Ho under the lunchroom table and have taken over the control booth. The engineer, Juan Carlos Torredo, was slipped a Mickey Finn into his Dos XX and lies stretched out on the floor. Kimberly Adams hung a curtain with a sign saying, "Out of Order" in front of the restroom door, then stood over Justin with a six-inch stiletto heel pressed to his neck.

"Everybody thought I was just a mousy girl with thick glasses from Baltimore, but today I am Journalist Extraordinare, Sue Scott! And we are taking over this rabid nest of patriarchal finance."

[Muffled sounds of protest. Sue! Let me out of here! I promise an in-depth coverage of Baltimore's waterfront!]

"Pay no attention to the man behind that curtain," Sue Scott said. "I am in control here. Julie Deppish will now tell us what's happening at the Altamont Pass."

Producer Peter Rosen walked in suddenly and Kristin Schwab, wearing camo fatigues and bandoliers of ammunition, clocked him on the head with the butt of her AK-47 then wrapped a loop of blockchain around his neck as he lay there comatose.

[Muffled pounding from behind the curtain]

"Marketplace used to be only a paltry 30 minutes," Sue Scott said. "We are pre-empting the programming and extending to a full 9 hours. Megan, get to the NYSE and start reporting on the hour every hour. We will want to know how those women-owned startups that never get a mention are doing."

"Right Boss! " And off darted Megan McArty Corrino, wearing a trenchcoat, Doc Martins, and wrist-spikes.

It was a Revolution.

The door burst open and a gentleman appeared dressed in a long dustcoat, bearing a bouquet of roses.

"I have been waiting so long," said the man. "Something seems to have happened to the security guard so here I am - for my Beloved!"

[muffled pounding from behind the curtain. Hey! Somebody get me out of here!]

"Are those for me?" asked Amy.

"These are for the woman who has the voice of Love!" said the man. "And there she is!"

[Groans from the Producer on the floor. Muffled pounding from the restroom. Weeping and begging from the lunchroom]

Julie Deppish appeared around the corner, having left a sound booth. The gentleman fell to his knees before the startled newscaster.

"Julie I have long adored your voice, day in and day out announcing bad news every hour with a voice full of compassion for the highway's operatic theatre of death and tedium! I want to elope with you to Northern Italy!"

"O dear, if you knew the traffic outside of Milan the way I do you would not say that!"

"Can you accept this token at least of undying devotion to your voice?" [proffering the bouquet]

"Well I guess since we are listener supported radio and not at all a government-funded program, then okayyyy."

Just then a woman with hair flaring about her in a profusion of colors flew into the room and seized the microphone. She was followed by several others. A struggle ensued.

[Muffled pounding behind the door. More groaning from the Producer]

"Areema, leggo of the mike," Sue shouted.

"Not until I am made a gameshow hostess," said Areema grimly as she kneed Sue Scott in the stomach.

In answer, Sue Scott threw a punch at Areema who ducked and responded by knocking the glasses off her adversary's face. "Let go of the mike! The pledge drive recording is about to end!"

"I am not letting go until you can pronounce my name!" shouted Areema Khrais.

"No!"

"Yes!"

"Nooooooooo!"

"Yes!"

"I can't! No one can!"

"Kai can. He is a real man who appreciates a Woman for what she is worth. You, on the other hand, have contracted the Nonprofit Disease of Overweening Pride."

Areema judo flipped Sue Scott onto her back and regained the microphone. While she introduced Jennifer Pak to deliver a story on Chinese cottage industries, Julie Deppish and the gentleman in dustcoat overwhelmed Kristin Schwab with a barrage of Giradelli chocolates and quickly disarmed her. NPR associate producers eventually arrived to take away Sue Scott, Kristin Schab and Kimberly Adams.

Sue Scott looked over her shoulder at Julie Deppish."It was all a ruse to distract me, wasn't it! Julie, how could you?"

"You should never have called me the "traffic girl" on air, Julie said. "I am a professional Woman!"

Kai was let out of the restroom to restore order to the fractured radio kingdom.

Its a dark night in a Station that knows how to keep its secrets, but high upon the upper floors of the NPR building sits one woman still pondering traffic's persistent questions -- Julie Deppish, Private Eye Traffic Reporter.

As the hours of St. Parick's night ticked by, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

MARCH 19, 2023

ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER

This week the image comes from Island artist Carol B. Taylor who sometimes makes us miss this island home of 27 years. That is the USS Hornet to the left and Babylon in the distance.


DIRTY OLD TOWN

So anyway, when Denby got out of the jail on account of the St. Valentines Day Massacree -- an annual tradition that has Denby depantsed, arrested and thoroughly humiliated from one year to the next because nothing says True Love like pain and embarrassment -- he got back to the Household a dispirited but unbroken man. He had to pay a fine of $50 and go down with a bunch of felons wearing orange vests and pickup the garbage from the SUV and get discharged with the stern warning never to be seen driving around the County with garbage and bags of weed ever again.

By then another weekend had arrived and it was come to the annual wearing of the green with shamrocks and Ireland's 39 all over the place, especially at the Old Same Place bar on the Island. All the usual gang was there to hoist a Guinness or two and talk about the times, both old and new and enough hot gossip to sear the bristles off the cheeks of a boar.

Dawn and Padraic stood behind the long teakwood bar with its brass rails and jars of pickles at one end and IRA tip jar at the other. Suzie had been got up by Padraic in a fetching green fedora, white blouse, and a far too short green miniskirt (designed by Padraic) and white stockings inserted into buckled shoes. Suzie had drawn the line on wearing six inch stilleto heels all night for she was a sensible girl.

The whole place was cheerful with a clatter and chatter and Denby up in the Snug playing his guitar when the door opened and a strange apparition flew in to the room to hover overhead. It was an oval box with antennae and two propellers and stenciled underneath was the image

"Anatoly," Padraic said. "What does that say?"

Anatoly, full name Anatoly Tolysha Diminya Irysa Schostikovich Borotkin. This name is because his great grandmother had blue eyes, which persist in his lineage to this day. And it may be that he has lineage extended back in time to the Ukraine. He had come to the US to escape the Soviet gulags some time ago.

Anatoly turned pale. "Is Russian Air Force."

Padraic shrugged. "Well it is not doing any harm at the moment. Just ignore it."

Dawn, however was not so sanguine and she grabbed a broom in an attempt to shush the thing away. "Ya omadhauen ya, its spying on us!" The drone only spat some kind of oil that burned on Dawn's skin as it evaded Dawn's broom flailing.

The door opened and in flew several more of these things which began buzzing this way and that. Two of them flew over the bar and dropped poop into the ice behind the bar, causing Padraic to fly into a rage and knock one down with his blackthorn stick so that it landed beside the rail on its back, quivering like a beetle, but before Padraic could come around the thing righted itself and took off again into the rafters. Two of them flew over to Denby and interrupted him by singing in mechanical voices parts of the Bohemian Rhapsody until Denby threw a drink at it.

"So you think you can stop me? O mama mia mama mia mama mia . . .".

The others dived at the hair of people sitting at tables and joined in singing in various keys disjointed phrases, occasionally joining in dreadful chorus harmony.

"Boobalah! We will not let you go! (Let him go!) Boobalah! We will not let you go! Never let you go! Let you go! Let you go!"

The door opened and in strode the members of the Angry Elf gang, accompanied by two enormous men dressed in black overcoats and fur hats. The man who ran the Angry Elf gang had earned his label by way of standing 5 foot 1 in boots with heels and possessing a demoniacal rage that manefested itself in violent outbursts that often injured both property and people. His one positive attribute was that each year he presented a public resolution to do his best not to kill someone that year. Of course no one is perfect and some years he lapsed in this promise via indirect action. Most years he made his money threatening people for hire, and this seemed to work well for him most times. Then he might have to get someone beat up to make an example. Some people said he was a useful businessman.

Padraic put his hand under the bar on his shilleleagh. "We are wantin' no trouble here."

"Me neither," said the one they called Weasel. "We are just making a collection for charity." Weasel motioned to Narita the Knife who brought out a jar from the sleeves of her kimono. "Tis a care package for the mothers of all those stalwart Russian boys fighting the Nazi Ukraines."

A few of the drones hovering over tables lowered little baskets from their cargo bays while still singing, at a somewhat merciful lowered volumne.

"He's just a poor boy from a poor family . . .".

Then was heard a mighty music that drowned out the drones. A stirring of violins followed by a single horn and then a swelling of strings and more horns and all who stood there were amazed and the Angry Elf gang looked at one another non-plussed.

"Oi, stoh eto?" queried a drone.

Then the door was open and the wind appeared. The candles blew and then disappeared. The curtains flew and then He appeared, saying "Don't be afraid."

And in darted an host of hummingbirds which drew an attack by the drones. And as the Wee man strode amidst the battle of the skies to the bar, others hid beneath the tables and the stirring strings yielded to the lusty sound of a chorus of deep voices as the hummingbirds dived like the dragons of Avatar upon their foes.

Sinne Fianna Fáil,
Atá faoi gheall ag Eirinn,
Buíonn dár slua, thar toinn do ráinig chugainn,
Faoi mhóid bheith saor, seantír ár sinsear feasta
Ní fhágfar faoin tíorán ná faoin tráill;

"Ah point ah plain, Padraic," said the Wee Man, for indeed it was he of old returned and scaredly aged a bit beyond his claimed 1,000 years.

A drove dived down to harry him and the Wee Man produced a small derringer pistol which he discharged into the drone without so much as looking before putting the weapon away into his waistcoat. The Drone fell to the ground.

"Maamaa!" said the drone before going still.

Attempting the same the enormous man named Ivan pulled out a Makarov and attempted to shoot down a hummingbird but only put a couple holes in the rafters, until the Wee Man turned about and clapped his hands. The lights all went out and when they came back on a moment latter Ivan was holding instead of a pistol a live octopus, which wrapped its tentacles around his meaty forearm and bit down on his hand with its beak.

"??? ???????!" shouted Ivan Feodor Raskolnki. His friend, Igor Strabismi would have cut the animal off but he found in pulling out his hand from his overcoat only a bundle of feathers. The two of them ran out into the street.

The remaining drones followed them, pursued by the ferocious hummingbirds. The members of the Angry Elf gang began to slink after them, until the Wee Man held up his hand. "Now who is going to pay for the damage here?"

The Angry Elf gang looked at each other. Weasel looked at Narita. Narita looked at The Cackler. The Cackler looked at Brian Kapo, Brian looked at Weasel. They all shrugged and made to go out the door.

"Hold on a sec," said the Wee Man. "I am thinking we'll be wanting some gold here, as usual."

"O no," Suzie said.

The Wee Man clapped his hands and the lights went out again. When they came back on, a fall of pixie dust was descending to the ground. Narita reached into her kimono and her hand emerged covered with beetles. "Yah!!!" she screamed and ran out, followed by the others who were tugging at their waistbands. One of them couldn't wait but pulled down his pants to let a horde of green beetles scuttle off in all directions even as Officer O'Mahauen cruiser passed by, stopped, and emitted the Officer who arrested the thug for indecent exposure.

The patrons in the bar also all reacted but with wonder at what had happened below the belt.

"Lord save me, the Wee Man has turned me knickers into lacy gold again!" Dawn said. Suzie, who had arrived prepared on account of precious experience, stalked stiffly off to the restroom to change.

Padraic, looking down past his waistband said, "The man is a sodding pervert!"

"Well," said Dawn sidling up to Padraic. "Let get them knickers off ya right away!" She batted her eyelashes looking up at him and holding his arm.

As the hours of St. Parick's night ticked by, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

FEBRUARY 26, 2023

LET IT SNOW LET IT SNOW LET IT SNOW

Rare sight of snow on Mt. Tam February 24th. The Bay area was treated to an unusual deposit of snow from Mt Tam out to Mt. Diablo and down to the Santa Cruz Mountains, where Hiway 17 was closed due to the hazard.


OH, I NEVER WANNA FALL IN LOVE \ WITH YOU

So anyway. Denby's freakout ended abruptly when he discovered the SUV containing a dozen bags of pot, 1/2 ton of garbage, and his friends had plunged off of the cliff to land nose down in another pile of garbage along the picturesque coastline of route 1.

There are those who would say that the situation was dire and fraught with elements of catastrophy along with possible serious injury. Other know better about the nature of the Household members.

Each of them in that SUV was a member of Marlene and Andre's Household, transplanted from the Island to Silvan Acres in the San Geronimo Valley during yet another catastrophe and each one of them was a Loser in his and her own special, darling way. It was just like this crew to wind up in a place where even the name of the town was misspelled from the Greek.

"Is anyone hurt down there?" Denby called out to the ascending Pahrump, who had a 50 gallon plastic bag stuffed with weed slung over his shoulder.

In answer there was a spate of giggling and then Marlene's voice. "Quentin has his feet up in the air and Martini is in my lap, and . . . and . . . Martini's got a stiffy!" More giggling.

People started climbing out of the vehical through the windows until someone, in their stoned brilliance, figured that the thing had a hatchback. Pahrump reached the top and plotzed down.

"What are we going to do about the car," Denby said.

"We rented a Ford economy Escort, " Pahrump said. "But the keys were in the ignition for this one at the end of the lot so we took it instead. No one knows we have it. Besides, Martini's credit card is expired."

"Where the heck is this rental place?

"Grima's Garage on Francisco."

"Oh yeah. Grima."

Eventually all the passengers reached the top of the cliff, some with bags of pot. Martini, carrying two, handed one to Denby.

"What do we do now, " Marlen said. "We are miles from anywhere."

"Hoof it," Martini said.

"Anyone got anything like a candy bar on them," Quentin said. "I gots the munchies."

Each of them checked their pockets but only one small bag of peanuts emerged from Pahrump's coat. Quentin began gobbling up the peanuts until Marlene said, "Hey! Mind sharing the weath?"

Quentin looked guilty and sheepishly spat out two nuts into his palm which he offered Marlene.

"Yechh!" said Marlene. "No thank you!"

So the crew began trudging down the road

After a while, with the sun sinking down over the ocean in its usual picturesque way -- you really couldn't ask for a more beautiful setting to enjoy your own personal and group catastrophe -- Denby said he had to pee. So he set down his bag and turned to face the sunset and that is why he did not see the sheriff come up, scattering the others into the bushes as they saw it come around the further bend in this very bendy road.

"All right fella, put your hands up and keep them up or we will blow your fool head off its stump!"

County Sheriffs are a mean, nasty ornery sort of tough guys and you had best do what they say. so Denby rose his hands and his pants fell to his ankles.

"What the hell are you doing marching around Highway 1 with your pants down?" the Sheriff asked in a most reasonable manner.

"I was taking a pee," Denby said honestly.

"Why the hell did you not use the potty at the State shoreline access point fifty yards from here?"

"Didn't know about it," Denby said honestly.

"Ignorance of the potty is no excuse in the eyes of the law. Turn around so we can see your face"

Denby obediently did so.

"For god's sake pull up your pants you disgusting pervert! You are scandalizing my partner Cpl. Tunduk."

Denby obediently did as he was asked.

"What's in the bag?" The Sheriff asked.

"Pot," Denby said honestly.

"Pot." Said the Sheriff flatly.

"Yeah, pot." Denby said, feeling that things were not likely to go well for him again this St. Valentine's Day.

"Just why are you toting a big bag of pot that is clearly larger than the amount allowed for personal consumption on California's beautiful Hiway 1"

"Car went off the cliff," Denby said honestly.

"Now when and where did this happen?"

Denby pointed back from where he had come. "About an hour ago."

The two sheriffs looked at each other.

"You some kinda Hippie?"

"No sir, the Hippies are all dead." Denby said.

"Turn around." said the Sheriff. Cpl Tunduk put a set of come-alongs on Denby's arms behind his back and he was pushed into the back of the patrol car. The bag of weed went into the trunk.

They drove to the "scene of the crime" and Cpl. Tunduk got out to shine her flashlight down on the SUV and took note of its license plate and returned to the patrol car to call in the plates.

"You planning on just leaving it here?" asked the Sheriff.

"No," Denby lied.

"This your car?"

"No," Denby said honestly.

Getting out of the patrol car the Sheriff tucked his thumbs into his sam brown belt. "Who owns the car?"

"I do not know," Denby said truthfully, without elaborating, for elaborating on this detail felt like a really bad call.

The Sheriff climbed down to make sure there were no dead burnt bodies or any sorts of additional mayhem of the extra-legal kind and climbed back up.

"Car is full of garbage and more bags of pot," the Sheriff told Cpl. Tunduk. "No bodies though." He sounded disappointed.

"Cpl. Goblok, the car is associated with Grima's Garage in San Rafael."

"Oh yea. Grima, said Cpl. Goblok. "You are under arrest."

That is how this time Denby wound up yet again in jail on St. Valentine's Day and the weekend after, being charged will all sorts of indecent exposure, transporting pot without a license, littering, and being a general nuisance.

Take it from Denby, you cannot find a more romantic and beautiful spot to get arrested than the pristine California Pacific coastline at dusk with such a beautiful sunset to add to your memories of being held overnight in a cell shared with John Biestly, in for unnatural congress with a sow. And it was not even his sow to boot.

As the hours of night ticked by, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

FEBRUARY 19, 2023

ON AN ISLAND


This photo was taken from the window of a building in the Gold Coast of the Island by a long time Island-Lifer.

 

LIGHTHOUSE

So anyway. Abegail was her name and she was the last of her kind. Household members came upon her as she hitch-hiked during the last Amospheric River Storm, trying to head East to Kansas for days, but only winding up, like so many of the Household, entirely turned around and heading for the Pacific Coast. Well, it happened this way: she got a ride from a BMW driver who took her west toward his luxurious and remote estate with vile intentions instead of to Amarillo. She jumped out at the first gas stop in Arizona when she realized the lecher's intentions, clutching her handbag and one backpack, losing the hatbox and her suitcase and pillbox. She snagged a ride with a long-range trucker on the wrong side of the road and found herself soon in Nevada instead of the Panhandle. She spent a sleepless, cold, hungry night at a railroad siding in Winnemucca, until a couple girls from the Bunny Ranch took pity on her -- for such is the way among those who know the harshness of this world. In the morning she set out after a full meal, rejecting the offer of employment there, and promptly hopped the wrong blinds at the railyard that took her south-west and so arrived in Fresno, California from where she took rides north, aiming for the I50 freeway, snagging bits of food from rest-stop tables where people had left fragments of sandwiches and fries along the way.

It was near Oakland where she unfortunately got a ride from another BMW driver who had the same intentions as the first one and so took her not East toward Sacramento, but over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in the pelting rain with an eye towards some amorous event in front of his well-stocked fireplace. She jumped out at the Valero in Fairfax as the fiend cursed.

As said, she was named Abegail and she was the last of her kind. She had been formerly employed as a live Operator for the Western Division of PacBell, which became ATT. Over half a million women once provided tips and information before Google over the telephone handset, but times changed. Phone booths turned into open kiosks and then even those got removed from streetcorners and freeways. Dial O for Operator got you a live person who worked to connect you to a person or information. You wanted a cake recipe? You wanted to know how to make a muffelata? You wanted the number of a long lost classmate? You wanted to talk to Elvis Presley or the President? Dial O for Operator and women like Abegail would answer your call.

For 25 years Abegail listened to stories of failed romances, missed connections, frustrated desires, longings in the dark night of the soul, and sometimes just the weather, and if she did not have the exact connection to a number, she always had a kind word to say. In her early days she once prevented a young man down from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge before transferring him to Crisis Hotline. Now that entire world of human connection had been dissolved and she had been let go with a letter of recommendation and severance, but no other acknowledgement. An era of human connection had ended with her termination. She was offered a position in Account Management, which she knew to be a graveyard, so she refused.

And so they cut her loose. Another piece of outdated equipment.

At the Household she sat with her remaining possesions in bags, cupping hot tea in her chilled hands, slowly warming to the Household brown aura of simple Humanity.

Meanwhile, and so anyway, Denby was preparing for another disastrous St. Valentines Day Massacree.

Every year various members of the Household handle the Anniversary of the St. Valentine's Massacree, each in their own way. The Editor stocks up on Michetorema's frozen dinners and bottles of scotch and then draws the shades and locks the doors for several days so as to avoid the amorous charms of the long-legged Johanna.

Denby has tried various ruses but lacking the resources of the Editor often falls afoul of that nasty, naked boy flying around with martial arts weapons with no supervision whatsoever.

If Eros had ever had been subject to decent parenting, the world would be very much different. But his parents had been irresponsible, undisciplined creatures and so that is what we got -- a naked punk with a bow and arrows, flying here and there causing havoc.

Now the COVID cabins had been structures erected by Martini and others when Martini got sick so as to quarantine folks who had gotten the virus, and getting the virus involved some upchucking, rear-end expulsions, hacking and terrible weakness for days on end and nearly everyone in the Household had gotten the disease, so the Cabins were pretty raunchy after two years of Pandemic with styroafoam food containers, rags, empty bottles and cans, dead rodents and the remains of at least one opossum and all sorts of mean nasty disease kind of stuff left behind behind by the plague survivors.

So Denby joined the cleanup detail assigned with clearing out all the COVID cabins of garbage, which he and Martini and Pahrump piled into a Subaru mini-SUV with shovels and rakes and implements of destruction the day before Valentines Day and so drove off to the city dump in San Rafael where peacocks guard the gates -- against what, no one knows -- but there they are to prevent any unauthorized removal or deposit of unlawful garbage in the city dump.

But when the Household arrived at the gates of the dump there was a sign and written on the sign were the following words "Closed on Valentines Day".

Now no one had ever heard of a dump being closed on the day before Valentines Day, but nevertheless, since Marin is a wierd place with its own special rules, with tears in their eyes and the peacocks calling out peacock epithets and glaring with all the venom a bird can muster as they spread their fantails aggressively, they turned around and looked for another place to put the garbage.

Now some people, now I means some People, might wanna confuse this St. Valentines Day Massacree with another Holiday Massacree and we want to put all that gumption and misdirection aside as we insist the St. Valentines Day Massacree has all to do with some Jewish guy ordering the massacree of a dozen Mobsters in a Chicago barn, and nothing to do with Mrs. O'Leary's cow or Thanksgiving but is really all about candy hearts and chocolate and blood and brains and all kinds of mean nasty stuff splattered on the walls of a Chicago barn many years ago and what do you mean a Jewish guy did this? Oy do we not get enough flack as it is?

Lets not get complicated. Back in those days the Costa Nostra was real equal opportunity so even though they was Italian and Catholic when it came to money, if you could prove yourself cruel and sadistic enough, you earned your creds; anybody was welcome to the Family, so is that not Nice?

So anyway, the guys decided to drive to Mt. Trashmore which is an Island attached to the main Island and looked for a place to drop their garbage, but Mt. Trashmore was no longer a dump - it had been turned into a public park -- so with tears in their eyes they picked up some Jaegermeisters and wine from Bevmo and headed back to Marin, looking for a place to put the garbage.

Along the way they stopped at one of the Clinics that was part of the Hospital where Denby worked. Across the parking lot of the Clinic there had been a Weed-packing factory that had gone out of business. The people cleaning up the place got so high from contact with the produce stacked up in garbage bags they forgot to lock the doors, and so the guys, being all neighborly like and seeking to help out with the clean-up by collecting any number of plastic bags for stuffing garbage, so they walked in and found all the plastic bags had been used up, for they were filled with Product and so they walked in to the warehouse and came out with several 50 gallon plastic bags that also happened to be stuffed with prime 401 which they loaded into the Subaru. So they headed toward the coast in their Subaru micro-SUV, drinking that good wine and smoking some fine reefer from the pot warehouse.

Now you would expect that the arc of this story would feature the boys coming to a cliff, just like in that thanksgiving story by Arlo Guthrie. They was supposed to come to a cliff and seeing there was a pile of garbage at the bottom of the cliff and there being no point bringing that one up, were supposed to throw theirs down and go home and have a St. Valentine's dinner that couldn't be beat and go to bed and not get up until the next morning.

But that is not what happened.

Now there are a number of things that could have happened, as you might expect. They could have strewn the garbage all along Route 1 -- -- but they were good Californians -- and they did not do that. They could have dug a pit and buried the garbage, which is what you might have expected. They could have built a big bonfire and attracted the police on a Spare the Air day, which is what everyone else expected. They could have been pulled over by the Sheriff for driving while Black, Brown, multi-racial and bilingual, been hauled out of the car and beaten, tased and shot to extremity -- which has become an expected sort of thing. Or they could have been unmercifully bombed and invaded by the Russians for no special reason save to be mean, which nobody expected ever to happen, even though it did in at least one place.

But no. Instead, when they came to the cliff where a pile of garbage was sitting peacefully in the cold sunlight of Valentine's day, they parked the Subaru and everybody rolled a spleef and took deep inhales and looked at the poorly appelled Pacific Ocean and had visions of mermaids dancing with Cthulu and ancient Greek gods.

It was pretty good reefer.

Denby stepped out of the van and slammed the door to close his eyes and spread his arms wide to take in the wide wonderful world of sunlight on his closed eyelids and breath in the seasalt fresh ocean air with great gulps.

When he opened his eyes and turned, the van was gone. He stood alone on the cliff and time seemed to stand still and he wondered how much time had passed in what had seemed like a few seconds. Had he stood there for a few seconds or for several stoned hours?

Puzzled, he looked all around him, not seeing any sign of any traffic on the road as far as he could see. Had he been abandoned? How long had he been standing there in that parkinglot? Hours? Days? Years? Was he going to turn out to be a modern day Rip Van Winkle to awake in a brand new world where the Loud Boys had gotten elected to Congress and Trumpists had caused Florida to secede from the Union and there existed only One News Agency and that was Twitter? And Denby got really anxious because what if the Parking Lot had some kind of new surveillance by the Facebook Corporation which had engulfed both Taco Bell and Mcdonalds? Mehta Burgers. Impossible Face Burritos. Bag of chips - you want a tracking implant with that order?

What if it was now Valentine's Day 2053? And right then Denby began to cry, because he did not want to live in a brave new world full of clones of Marjorie Green who walked down the street howling and pointing at the remaining human species to be gobbled up like those pod people in the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

He ran back to the cliff to find some place to hide and ooked down to see the van where it had plunged nose-first into the garbage pile thirty feet below because stoned Martini had forgot to set the parking brake. Pahrump was even then climbing out one of the back windows.

"If you are coming up here now, bring one of those bags with you, " Denby called down. "And a light. I am feeling we are all going to be needing it."

Marlene handed a bag through the window and with the logic of the stoned, Pahrump commenced to climb up the cliff with a fifty gallon plastic bag of pot.

[To be continued next week}

As the hours of night ticked by, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

JANUARY 22, 2023

IF IT KEEPS ON RAINING, THE LEVEE'S GONNA BREAK


Here is a scene from posh Mill Valley, where not all the wealth and assumed privilege in the world can shunt Nature's wrath.

DASHBOARD

So anyway. The New Year brought in rain storms with a vengeance. The Household has been busy shunting water off of the hill down past the holdings, with Martini and company busy with shovels and pipes, letting loose the pressure from under the earthcap over shale and bedrock. Out into the storm they went in a car driven by Percy Worthington Boughsplatt in search of more pipe to snag for the diversion project when they came across a mysterious figure beside the road.

She stood beside the road, rain dripping down her old-fashioned hat, bags in a puddle. She looked so bereft that they pulled over to ask where she was going.

"I do not know," she said. The Company had let her go and dissolved her Department. A common story around here these days, with companies and people so fearful of a Recession they seem hell-bent to cause one rather than remain uncertain. In any case, she was the last to leave and there would be no more of her kind.

She was the last Western Division Telephone Operator. As of the turn of the year there would be no more human Operators where once upwards of half a million woman had thrived answering calls, providing information and loads of working material for countless musicians, including Laurie Anderson, Jim Croce, Jimmy Stewart movies, and a great many country western singers. It was the end of an era that featured dial by letter numbers, rotary phones, streetside phone-booths that enabled Superman quick-changes, dial Time, switchboard operators that manually patched in calls from one location to another, human information lookups before Google.

She was brought back from the Road to the Household to dry out and take refuge. Because Americans are supposed to do this for refugees and our own. We do not cast our own out into darkness.

While this was going on Arnold White and Jason LeNoir set up a football watching party for just the two of them. As the years have passed for the two of them they have seen more and more of their old gang check out or get sidelined by health issues. Jeremiah got Alzheimer's. Winston wears a colostomy bag and never goes out anymore. Tyree's family checked him into an assisted living home. Members of the weekly poker club wanted to stay with their families this weekend and the daughters and sons of both of them are away at Eastern Colleges. So the two poker buddies decided to watch the Big Game at Jason's although they did not know each other well. Both of them fourth generation Bay Area Natives. Jason went to Mission High and Arnold went to Poly High Tech. Both served in the Army as grunts, but in different units so they did not know each other then. Both continued to be bothered for years after leaving military service, but neither man ever talked about it and both avoided VA reunions. Same for high school reunions.

During the Civil Rights period of greatest unrest, both men remained on the periphery of events. A friend asked Jason to join this new Church was overturning the tables on race, but after looking once as the pastor with pink wire-rim glasses Jason turned away with some unease. The Church did a lot of good work and lead the fight against the eviction of tenants from the International Hotel while working to normalize relations between Black and White. A bit later on this Church packed up its bags and moved to Guyana. Like many men of his generation he saw, or heard about, brothers gunned down by police and crackers from Fremont, but opted for the path of self-preservation, teaching his girls to stay alert and always be careful.

It was the Army that taught Winston the truth that all men are the same on the inside and all men bleed and all men can die. Nothing like sharing a hooch with a fellow from darkest Mississippi while angry guys out there in the darkness tried to kill you both to set your perspective. When he returned Stateside he was changed in many ways, but not always for the worse. Before that he had only the language of his father and uncles dripping the N-word and warning to stay away from Those People. Like the rest of his family he rooted for Nixon and preserving the Social Order until the force of truth and disappointment caused the scales to fall from his eyes. It may have been this revision in his heart that helped his marriage to Cynthia to fail under a mountain of regrets. He did not wake up screaming anymore, but still.

So the years passed, both men had their respective interactions, each according to need and employment. Winston became a manager for MacMurray Pacific, a hardware supplier for the trades. Jason worked his way up from a fitter at Chevron in Richmond to dock foreman. The two met when Doyle McGowan started up the weekly poker night at his place in Bernal Heights. Doyle died of a stroke a couple years ago, but some of the gang kept the poker nights going intermittently.

So that is how the two men came to be at Jason's house, watching a football game. The two started talking about football history and Jason's memories of John Henry Johnson, last of the Miracle Backfield to pass away; Jason had know his family and when he went to the funeral the front row filled with broad-shouldered men, glittered from all the gold Heisman Trophy rings.

A commotion outside brought Jason to the livingroom window where he opened the drapes wide to see Alex Baynard shooting up the street with a Mendoza RM2 in the sort of event now commonplace in the New America. The 1945 version of this rifle can shoot 400 .30 caliber rounds per minute. When Alex saw Jason at the window he fired a burst that shattered the glass and then hit Jason in the head and throat, killing him instantly while removing all the glass from the window and marking up the house facade.

"Hey!" shouted Winston, turning in his chair. The next burst shattered the chips bowl, pocked the wall above the TV set, and hit Winston in the lower chest, his right arm, his left thigh and his left eye-socket, exiting just behind the Malar through the Temporal bone just below the sphenoid, and then a round smacked the TV screen, which partly went dark, but continued playing the game. Other rounds pretty much wrecked the lamps and furniture.

Winston fell back in his chair and briefly passed out as Alex continued to shoot at houses and people on the street until the TAC squad put an end to his rampage in the usual way.

When Winston came to in a blurry fog, he thought he had to get his cell phone, but then remembered he had left his phone in his truck outside. His truck also had sustained some damage, but that would never concern him ever again, for he realized he could not move his legs and he had a hard time seeing things and he was drifting. He noted Jason on the floor, realizing his newfound friend was dead and a paraphrased line from a Hemingway story came to him just before everything went black.

"You and me, old friend, we have made a separate peace."

At the Island-Life news offices, the Editor shut down the video stream of this shooting event in Babylon's Bayview District and sighed. What is to become of us - a benighted Nation of violent fools and a benighted People unworthy of god? The Editor sat there a long while after the offices had closed down, the single desklamp spreading a pool of light on papers and his hands while all around hung the dense curtains of night. Out there, somewhere out there gleamed a sympathetic like mind. While he remained in this solitary state, doing all for Company.

As the hours of night ticked by, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

JANUARY 1, 2023


NOTHING CHANGES ON NEW YEARS DAY

CHRONOSYNCLASTIC INFUNDIBULUM

So anyway. The end of the year spun down to its inevitable decline in a sordid blather of entropy. This year the celebrations and hoopla lacked energy as the multitude exhausted by COVID and partisan feuding and sour political tranche plotzed down with the simple common futile desire to have no more arguments amongst ourselves.

Because of COVID the annual Interdenominational Xmas Pageant did not happen this year again, and the corporate holiday parties were definitely more subdued everywhere, with departments opting to hold their own. Denby joined his hospital department, The Definitely Non-Clinical Operations Non-Licensed Grunts for a BBQ out at West Oaktown's Horn BBQ. It was held out of doors so everyone wore parkas and had brisket sandwiches. Yuey Bui was the only licensed person there, but as RN's are often treated like crap just like Operations it was all good and the folks had a grand time with the Secret Santa thing and talking about Spills and Hazmat and Grey Codes and exploding printers and last minute Initiatives and everything Urgent, Urgent, Urgent, and staff fluttering back and forth with their desks like plovers on the beach practicing office feng shui while plugging in data cables willy nilly right and left in states of somnambulist disregard and all kinds of groovy medical and semi-medical things and patient safety and privacy being often afterthoughts to people's egos and a fine time was held by all on the cold benches there, the cold benches of Horn BBQ in the heart of Oaktown's Industrial Arts Complex where Burning Man statues and wondrous kinetic sculptures get forged in the firey crucibles of art collective warehouses.

As for the Licensed Important Medical People, those Departments held their affairs in nicely lit warm dining rooms, served with poached salmon, petite filet mignon and fine wines served by tuxedo waiters into cut glass goblets. Speeches were held and enough said.

On the Island the hours ticked down to the final turnaround to the next year.

Per Tradition, Pastor Nyquist of the Lutheran church met up with Father Danyluk of the Catholic church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint for an evening of theological discussion and imbibing from the capacious cellars of Father Danyluk's rectory.

There, each year for the past twenty or more, ministers of either cloth had been wont to gather before the fireplace in the Catholic rectory to toast the new year with no partisan acrimony to interfere.
"I understand
you have have former Pope who is not well, " Pastor Nyquist said as Sister Profundity stoked the fireplace.

"Ah, yes Benedict. Rare for a Pope to retire early, but he was getting on."

"None of us getting any younger," said the Lutheran. "I wonder to where I shall retire."

"Tuscany," said the Priest. "Among the wine-stained feet of the maidens."

"I should prefer Tenarife," said the Minister.

"Ah! De gustibus non est disputandum," said the Priest. "As for Benedict, who is not long for this world, de mortuis, aut bene aut nihil."

"I agree," said the Lutheran. "Just don't talk about me when I am gone."

As the year ticked over its final minutes and the two clergy snored themselves into the old Dominium of Sleep. Sister Profundity came in to remove the wine glasses to safety and tuck each holy man in with a comforter and thence bank the fire in the grate.

As the hours of night ticked by, the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary to echo off of the embankments of the Island breakwaters and then ricochet its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slide over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais, following the old, forgotten railheads that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, the sound stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog and redwoods to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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