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For the moment, however, all I could actually make out were the hand-wringing Paolinas, and this frumpy figure sidling into my peripheral. It is my astral duty, in both my aspect and house. So sorry you feel that way, Richard. Or Return to Chapter Fifty-Five. We got hose to run. It took burrowing through the thickened crowd, this craning, gasping party to some savage crime wave, but I crept along a few steps at a time to get the bigger picture. Marooned on a center island, I could see how cars clogged Fillmore Street, from its steep hill up to Broadway down to Marina Boulevard, angling, shivving, no longer bothering to honk, gridlock ruling every intersection in between.

From here, the seismic strike almost looked clean and surgical, much of the Marina seemed to have come through unscathed. But what took hits took megahits, many buildings collapsed and cascading like crab baskets into the streets. Joists knuckled, chimneys caved, leaving this combination equity-fat retirement village and yuppie ghetto desperately in the lurch. En route, I had seen four-story apartment buildings folded like circus tents to but two or three upper floors, crushing long-term tenants, house pets, garaged cars—anyone or thing so shortsighted as to have chosen lower rent over a view.

Charming six-figure matchboxes snapped like stick figures off their slab foundations, some twisting grotesquely and downsliding into heavy traffic, some already being bulldozer demolished. Once killer addresses were now leveled heaps of lath, brickface, Spanish tiles, tarpaper-tacking siding, pretzeled fire escapes and garage doors flapping like clothes on the line; pavement split and threshed as though too thick a pie crust over too little mincemeat filling. Some of the worst had plowed well out onto outer Fillmore, dead ahead.

One in particular splintered entirely too close to home, as the SFFD battalion commander had firmly confirmed. Still flaming and smoldering fires soaked up all the water dehydrated firefighters could muster, from cherrypickers, gerryrigged hosing, portable hydrants and makeshift pumps, eventually carrying neighborhood alluvion as far as Fillmore. There it dovetailed with an oily flow of muck down from Cervantes, roughly between Beach and Northpoint, and more precisely between my soaked and old, splinter-ripped blue Etonic running shoes, here where I went toe-to-toe with the ruins.

To now, her home had been an off-tone green stucco two-flat with arching, recessed doorways and black window shutters that matched its ornamental wrought iron faux balcony trim. And hold they did, save for some surface cracking and falling terra cotta tiles. It was hardly their burden that this so strongly flanked runt would fall like failed layer cake out an oven door.

Christ, why this, why now! Head over to Divisadero and haul some line. Little wonder the flat was a short-term steal. Now look at them, three floors of memories heaped into a ground-floor moraine across from the Middle School. I kicked bitterly at the red-tagged rubble of Fillmore; it kicked back, a jagged length of lath slicing the remainder of my torn shoe up to the foam padded tongue.

Stretching to either side were banks of other, wavering apartment buildings, rent dull and uneven as bad lower teeth, some bay windows trilling and bay windows beetled to where book could be made on which addresses would hang tough through the post-quake pocket. But there was no doubting —it had all the structural integrity of a Sunbelt savings and loan. Window drapes tangled with ceiling insulation, which swabbed around wall framing that had snapped clean as garlic breadsticks, adding to a fetid, vapory one-and-half store pile.

Scattered wardrobes, threadbare throw rugs, and kitchen cabinets purging stale fatty foods. An oddly intact roof sandwiched the whole shabby mess—concealing what had accumulated in their ground floor garage over several generations. All the better to obscure what little I myself had gathered over a scant few months. Fault lines, building pressure, imperceptibly undermining reputedly solid ground. Then, out of the blue, a violent, rolling shake with resulting liquefaction. Power poles still swayed, trolley wires whiplashed out to Marina Boulevard, where a lone trolley coach sat stalled degrees into the 22 Fillmore route turnaround, MUNI service to the District still spotty at best.

I froze in my tracks at the sight of the 2 Cervantes apartment house horseshoed well out into the intersection—sagging severely, snuffing lives, generating enough frictional energy to immolate that pump, multi-bay service station across the way. So I chomped my lip, drop kicked some stucco and cursed the moment I had caved in and moved her in, not to mention the realization that seven months remained on her lease. Sweating out those aftershocks, steeling my sea legs, I vice-gripped the pry bar, took to picking at clumped plaster as if boiled cabbage on a school lunch tray.

Amid the dust laden wreckage, I unearthed shawls, TV trays, family albums and bureau drawers before finally hitting upon a dense patch of splintered lath and floorboards, which upon persistent probing revealed some leading indicators of my personal first floor losses. The biggest thing to Marina proper since the Pan-Pacific Exposition had come to bury everything, even her charts, texts and picture frames. But troubled as I was by what had been lost, a more terrifying prospect was what might yet be found. Building pressure, sudden thrust, resulting liquefaction.

From our very first feazing encounter, it had become such a discernible pattern over time…. Sudden after tremor: what remained of the building creaked, shifted, scalding hot water momentarily pouring down from a ruptured pipe above, dousing a small radiant flame-up. A strong odor of dimethyl disulfide emanated from the gaseous pile, burning the eyes of first responders and morbid rubberneckers who had been gathering about the scene—seemingly everybody short of the shattered Paolinas and a hell-shocked MIA named Richard Muntz.

Facing this smoldering, ill-defined rubble, the firemen cinched up their turn-outs and red and white on black hard helmets, donned dust masks against drywall, asbestos, lath, plaster and any infectious matter. I could overhear them going over their triad maneuver, how one would pry clear a path into the heaps, another cut and chainsaw deeper into a pile that would most possibly have buried one casualty or more, like gophers burrowing into paydirt, with a third plowing a wider tailback for critical escapes.

That was where I offered to make myself useful, by prying as best I could into their business. So in they went, straight off searching for hidden leaks and shut-off valves, digging away lathe, plaster and all jumbled manner of household debris, to reach the heavier going and any bad situations. Yelling, banging, poking in holes, sniffing like cadaver dogs, the firefighters crawled hands and knees through bedding, couches, jagged dishes and dust-grimed drapery. Breathless and coughing, the forward pair gradually reached framing under the halo of quartz emergency lights, hammers pounding, chainsaw chewing away.

They in due course slid aside remnants of doorways, down to wall studs and cross beams, which was about when they came upon the hand. Wrinkled and gnarled, turning to purple blue, it bore a topaz Cassini ring on its finger, the firemen yelled out. Trouble was, the clutching paw appeared to be beneath a section of floorboard or wooden room door with a major support beam resting at an angle atop that, like a paper weight on a stack of invoices, surrounded by a two-foot high berm of debris, wires and jagged glass snaking out all around.

We stood frozen and gripped by the dozens as those two dirt divers took hack and chainsaw to the timber, their number three back-up relayed their play by play with shouts and laughing banter designed to encourage them and placate the crowd. Which was precisely what their tailback said the ground crew was doing, taking their irons and chain saw to a tongue and grooved hunk of unhinged door amid the peril of stray gas and sparks.

Their plan was to split that teetering panel, gaining access to the weightier obstruction immediately below it, then what, god forbid, might lie beneath that. This ostensibly involved cramming a small hydraulic jack under a corner of the dismembered floorboard, pump raising it inch by creaking inch, and shoring up the sucker with wedge blocks and errant lengths of 2x4s. Enter the ghosts of T. Too rich, too powerful, too privileged and conspiratorial blah, blah, blah…all the insinuations, the recriminations and remonstrations.

This is why Jews are fearful and retreating to their God-given homeland in droves. Rad, man: Several neoprene hooded, half stripped down surfers in squishy rubber slides toweled their way back past us—laughing, shaking their heads, totally in the curl, gnarly haolies all. No safe harbor today, though—camo-bereted National Guard riflemen, DHS and Coast Guard contingents were seeing to that, not to mention any mayhem any militant plotters they may have been chasing down.

Good cop, bad cop: like we really had much choice in the matter. Hikers and runners alike now scaled the craggy steps amid felled tree limbs, scattered pine, juniper and soaring eucalyptus, through shriveling lilies, tangled ivy, orange-flowered ironweed and poison oak. Yes, up where pupping, bushy-tailed alpha coyotes were known to prey on pet dogs and feral felines, where San Joaquin kit foxes and dreaded San Francisco garter snakes roamed free. I suddenly recalled how we once held a proximity talk up there near the mulchy, shadowed hollow, which was currently a caution tape jamboree.

And these dicks were expecting me to perp waltz up there, no matter how goddamn interesting a person they might find me? A Bridge Patrol officer then sauntered up to the converging interagency officers and bereted Guardsmen to spin an even more improbable terror scenario. Turned out the feared suicide bomber was more of a Good Samaritan—a good surfing Samaritan, at that. Gonzo surfreak told the bomb squad that after a long, gnarly underwater struggle, he freed up a rambunctious lb. Guess the like, 8-foot pinniped got his whiskered snout snared in some ancient anti-submarine netting strung after Pearl Harbor.

Now Jewish communities must be proud and self-affirmed, not shamed or shying away from challenges. It for sure is no walk in the park. How do you figure? We could team up on the Middle East issues and all, build an act out, maybe even co-author a best-seller, then take it on the road. Indeed, why should only ultra Jews study burning issues such as anti-Semitism? Take my case—I may be part the anti, more the Semite. This goddamn tape recorder job is worthless.

Besides, the whole idea did begin to feel right somehow. With that, I banded the mic wire around the jammed recorder, ready to toss it into the bay; on second thought stuffed it back into my vest pocket, spectre of an Eisenhoff agency payback tipping my scales. By now the terror freeze started to ease in earnest, however. Those South Asian techie types had even scurried guilelessly back up into their tour bus, as if fleeing Fallujah or Peshawar. Traffic began to move, though apparently not quickly enough for the powers that be.

Orders having shifted via two-way: there would be no hoofing up to the crime scene while it was still being processed, no yellow caution tape. Treywater then cranked the ignition, straightening his mirrors, re-cocking his paisley-banded Popeye fedora. The Feds having turned us over to the SFPD, a lone park police squad car still fixed to follow us downtown, apparently to sit in our Hall of Justice bare-bulb third degree. We commenced pulling away from the congested park delta space, but that was about as far as things got from there. Take it to the campuses, civic councils and the like?

Why, we could even seek to criminalize such bigotry, or at the very least be envoys or lobby for some sort of anti-Semitism Awareness legislation. Just think of all the forums, the followship. Real, meaningful teaching moments—even one on one—infinitely more palatable than the likes of Moledet, ADL or ZOA, ending all the ugly anti-semantics and false flags.

The sheer power of innovation—who knows what further grief and evil we might forestall? Detective Lisle then waved off some pesky, lawnmower-buzzing yellow GoKars and a flaming red Moto-Guzzi out his door window. Swinging a quick, officious U-ey, our plain black sedan ran up against the tail end of a nougat brown Nissan Sentra, which happened to be stalled at the hands of a ranger traffic cop. Around us, emergency vehicles slowly cut through the tie-up like Arctic icebreakers, while hasty Coast Guard response teams stood down in procedural return to stations by sea and air, chastened withdrawal to everyday quarters about the bay.

Then there came a cautionary yellow Saturn Turbo Sky roadster—chilling, jive honking with its white top down. Impudent, in fact—as in finger. Pure, unadulterated digitus imputicus, a fighting gesticulation harking back over 2, years—Caligula to the Boston Bean Eaters, et al. I could but stifle a sour little envious smile. And, god help us, think of the fees—fault-free enterprise. Hope rings Saturnal, after all! Are you game? At least until they get back to the peace table with some better, more workable plan.

But you are in, even with our…divergences of opinion? Marking time as we waited for the CHP traffic conductor to grant us passage up the Long Avenue hill up to Lincoln, I glanced up relievedly through the door window at that fog woodsy Andrews Trail not taken.

A band of freshly footloose runners strode down Long hill before us, marathon colors against gray, leading my eyes back in the general westerly direction of a brick Fort Point remarshalling its composure, right up to its sallyports and small lighthouse tower on its far cannon corner. Anything to avoid the gum-smacking surveillance of Detective Treywater, never mind the seething, bullet swivel stares of Officer Lisle.

As I tracked the joggers negotiating a bi-way crawl of overheated vehicles along Marine Drive, I found myself of all things, squinting. They once again revealed Ft. If only we can get through this…fall. Odd what a guilty conscience will make a body do. Sounds like a solution to me. Chapter One. Thwapping helicopters, foghorns, and emergency sirens: overall, this gusty little trapezium was tensing up in kind. Iranian exchange students north from Westwood scampered to snap souvenir digipix against a bridge they could barely see. Young women in black fleece vests and core pants stopped chattering about their love lives, focusing instead on the stronger, ever lapping surf assaulting heaped boulder road buttressing along a narrow beach line below the rusty chain-link retainer.

Even a naturally licksy, slobbery Bernese barely a leash length away was growing balky, stressing and stretching his gentle leader bridle, particularly after another St. Francis yacht race starter pistol popped and echoed our way from the Marina through a bouquet of popping parasails, their boarders leaning heavily against the wind. Minute by minute, the bay itself became increasingly hyperactive, waves splashing up against the seawall like North Shore Weimea.

Two foot Coast Guard speedboats skimmed waves toward Fort Point, machine guns cocked and aimed. That hi-tech flagship cutter stormed in behind them, under swirling cover of the turbo whirlybirds, armed to the tail blades with high-caliber firepower. DHS seemed to be coming at this threat alert with every weapon in its arsenal, save for remote drones and firefighting DCs. They seemingly sensed being about to witness history their grandchildren would savor around zeltenplatz campfires well down the Autobahn.

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Others just cursed their rotten three-day luck with local weather. With more and more of the world buying in to their plea for statehood. Leaving Israel and its policies increasingly torn and isolated, Am Levadad Yishkon, however unfair and misguided those sympathies may be. Misusing U. Resolution to aim toward a single state between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. Which essentially means erasing Israel, no matter how their activists may absurdly couch it. Good intel, bad intel. At the present, it was so hard to tell.

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For certain, however, the authorities were closing in—to the extent that I barely noticed those MeccaJava types, slipping past us on our blind side, toward the instant parking lot that Marine Drive had become. The high seas frigate-sized cutter brushed starving salmon boaters aside on the trail of radar, sonar and Doppler vector screen blips.

Above, armored helicopter gunships strafed the bridgetops, Hellfire missiles at the ready—shrouded approach viaduct to deco concrete pylons, over mid-span stiffening trusses, tower to tower. The orange choppers zipped in and out of the fog cover, hovering and circling, in search of suspicious figures or contraband bent on bombing the bridge back to the days when it was but two disjointed towers and dangling cables that Pan Am M China Clippers flew over in ascent. Back when Okie wing-walkers danced atop sputtering cropduster bi-buckets doing loop-the-loops over the bridge rigging to entertain the hot handed riveters.

Days when few believed that this salt-blasted boondoggle would ever so gracefully span the Golden Gate. How frightfully symmetrical would it have been: this holy grail of varied self-destruction being taken down by suicide bombers. No barrier netting or empty shoe memorials could keep these latest sick-minded males from their self-detonating rounds.

What will be might very well be, all right. This I knew, first, shaky hand—albeit over at Ocean Beach, barometric reading sinking fast. Such a painful preoccupation nearly blinded me to that young Muslim bunch, snapping camera phones, grins plastered on their bearded barista-terrorista faces. They vanished behind a getaway vehicle, mayhap to make their escape to an idling, black-tint windowed…tour bus: some fumy diesel Grayliner stuck amid the emergency squadrols and rescue vans. Where were the local ICElander agents on this?

Who tracked that, for chrissake, who the fuck code-cracked whom? All these restive Palestinians mainly concentrated in two crowded areas, separate and unequal, like acute opposing earaches, with Jerusalem throbbing smack between the ears. Why not cool it with the walls and better arrange the age-old puzzle, by clearly and more logistically arranging and delineating between Palestinian villages and Israeli settlements—say, into eastern and western sectors?

Uppermost of the crescent could begin near Jenin, or Tiberias even. Settlers gain more of their Judea-Samaria westward where the bulk of their blocs already are. Blank slate, forget about past claims and conflicts, just start fresh in stable coexisting communities, mutual border movement factoring in issues of statehood and citizenship as ongoing processes.

Except that cedes much of the higher, more fertile land to Palestinians, which the settler movement would never move for—let alone any of Area C—particularly the younger set. Nor would Israel brook any such impairment to its overall security. Besides, those Orthodox Israelis believe in their biblical right to that territory in its entirety—for the original Jews of Palestine lived in four holy cities, Tiberas, Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and you can include coastal Jaffa.

Chosen People, fully chosen land—not a wurst bun contrivance like yours, the sort of Balfourian rigging that beset the Middle East in the first place. Anyway, from there, the Palestinia Crescent sweeps southward on a gentle arc, banking off the Jordan border, past the Dead Sea to the east, only as far as, say, Bethlehem to the west. Greater Israel notwithstanding, do you honestly think it wants to revisit that quicksand nightmare, much less letting Hamas rain down rockets from up on the east?!

So have Israelis rebuild that hellhole into a Tel Aviv-quality resort and residential coastline—prime southern beachfront property, as you call it—with even more direct access to the Mediterranean and off-shore gas development. And peaceably relinquish their shoreline in the process? Why would Israel want to remain a fenced-in wedge between Jordan and Egypts Sinai, anyhow, when they would gain another Mediterranean port and resort?

Let the Palestinians try Chile, for all I care, as thousands of them already have. Regarding Jerusalem, since there is no way either side will relinquish claims to their capital, east and west sectors could remain in place, as well as the Christian presence in and around Bethlehem, with the city coming under an international trusteeship and protectorate, like Olmert suggests.

What in fact you will have is ever more chaos, rival Palestinian entities competing for dominance, from Jordan itself to your Palestinia to Hamastan, Israel caught in the middle. These things have away of settling themselves, sorting themselves out to some sanctified plan for the best—one way or another. And you figure this is a game Israel can win? But remember, security must always trump simplisticy, if you will. And Israel can only keep losing leverage by dragging its feet. And that means less peace and more land for Israel?

Meanwhile, neighboring Arab states shrug and the world moves on to bigger fish and potatoes, as if benign neglect will make the whole occupation mess go away? The windowed partition itself took me back to that bullet-proof robbery shield in my Chicago taxi cab, only this time the heat came from the other side.

And do you think only Israel is invested in the status quo? That the Palestinian Authority really wants to upend its cushy status quo, actually govern a nation-state and contend with Hamas? They did back the Palestinian National Covenant in , however, which of course called for the destruction of Israel. You see, Palestinians put diminishing stock in the so-called two-state solution their very selves. They unilaterally pursue statehood through international channels, or just give up the solution for the sword?

Chapter Fifty-Eight. Skies clear, facts come to light, with Saturnal divergences spinning purposefully away…. Here, one last chance, better catch her whilst you can. But to no avail. That grand, riveting span in international orange vermilion, the strong, graceful ironwork of its latticed trusses, how its inter-pylon arch vaulted so majestically over the barbette tiers and parapet cannon mounts of masonry scarp-walled Fort Point. We could barely make out the Gate itself, let alone any ensuing suicide jumpers or head-on colliders along its enshrouded railings and deck, or whatever other crisis was developing out there.

Instead, Paulen gestured us further across the cramped, trapezium-shaped cradle of an open area forming the ultimate sea-level gateway to the Golden Gate. Clogging it were gaggles of pained yet persistent tourists from the Inland Empire and Plains States, sorely underdressed for the occasion. Canadian and Taiwanese visitors lingered along the thick metal links of an anchor line and concrete posts of a chain retaining barrier that had taken over for the lengthy seawall—flapping, unfolding, otherwise lost in their freebie guidemaps as though they actually had somewhere else to go.

So I suppose I am endeavoring to help you clear things. Even if it has taken some ethnological hyperbole on my part to draw you out—keeping you honest, so to speak. By now the damp cold wind was turning my front teeth blue. So if you want a real person of interest, try the professor here. Not since I was often speaking hypothetically, employing a reductio ad absurdum device from a bit of methodological research. Primarily to assess you on this Thornia matter, understand, discover whether you were actually capable of such a hate crime.

Yeah, suurre you were. But I assure you it is simply a misunderstanding—tempest in a contretemps. It will all blow over with the foothill winds should I return to Boulder, and get back to teaching Social Interpenetration and Symbolic Interaction. Back to publishing, not perishing, as well. Now, gentlemen, deed done. Alas, perhaps another broad spreading of the Verniere seed. I mean what do you think had me safely holed up in Boulder all this time?

Those park service vehicles revved away, though similarly finding in short order they were on a red flashing mission to nowhere. From here, all the way out to Fort Point, Marine Drive stood bumper to grill bra still. Warning lights blinked, sirens beeped and wailed atop the fire engines and heavy rescue vans, motorcycle cops wedged ahead. All were officially intent on delivering paramedics and bomb squads out to the fort, along this narrow roadway snaking between the coastal range and overslapping bay.

Amid the chaos, I found myself mentally drifting up into those coastal slopes, tracking a Yahoo ad-muralled MUNI bus rolling slowly around an upper Lincoln Avenue curve, the North traffic stalling on Doyle Drive, over to the toll plaza. Even through the deepening fog cover, I could picture miles upon thousands of miles of untamed sea outside of that bridge approach, just beyond the geometric underspan gaps, wondering how such wide-open spaces could be so clotted here on this sliver of an inlet.

Interagency airborne police cruisers and choppers, circling newscopters and overall commotion nearly blew a chevron formation skein of brown pelicans into the water, ravenous and sickly as they already were, diving for baby chinook salmon. The CG cutter patrolled a socked-in Gate as if it were the Persian Gulf; orange helicopters swept and swooped about the bridge at Fort Point, searchlights scanning, bullhorns crackling with warning calls, gulls scattering around them as armed commandos descended on windblown harness lines. Hovering above it all, that cotto salami gliding in and out of the fogbank had to have been the red Saturn airship.

We were discussing Mister Herbert. Tell them officers, if you will. For it was no picnic steering him out this far, believe me. I had no idea this was where it was headed, believe me. I sensed your baiting charade early on, gathered what you were fishing for, still had to keep you in tow. Honestly, buying that Boulder spiked shoe yarn—textbook confirmation bias. And to think I was just trying to extend you some kindly redemption. Have us a little chat, just to play it safe. The whole damn thing stinks like a cum bucket, if you ask me. That pretty much served to seal off the paved western tip of this cramped wedge space and beyond, much to the consternation of hypercurious chin rubbers, lookylosers and pseudo-sleuths commingled breathlessly about this slender Y fork in the bayside access road.

Rolling up to her in hot pink pants commiseration, was a somewhat belligerent six-wheel blader, Cow Palace derby combative as the San Francisco Bay Bombers in their day. How dare they?! Not today, however—at least not for us, not at the moment. Instead, Paulen had guided me into the cradle of an open area forming the lone sea-level gateway to this side of the Golden Gate. Filling it were clusters of more painfully farragoed tourists from all points east and west, cold snapping beef and cheesecake shots against the bridge backdrop, family gatherings briskly huddled for warmth against the world-renowned Gate-Headlands tableau before any incendiary DHS hell broke loose.

Meanwhile, the way things are going, my chances of amicably returning to the Sosh Department and CU Faculty Club are vanishing in the fog. Or did he say up and to the left? So is he pre-scripted or thinking out loud? A mole or just a hole? She has a certain fondness for star sapphire, you know. Those park service vehicles may have revved away, but similarly found in short order they were on a red flashing mission to nowhere.

For from here, all the way out to Fort Point, Marine Drive now stood bumper to grill bra still. Towncars, campovers, stretch Continentals, news satellite vans and smoky, flabby tour buses: God forbid any of the responder rigs should wend their way through that winding gridlock to the fort itself. Warning lights blinked, sirens pinged and wailed atop the fire engines and rescue vans, motorcycle cops shoehorned ahead, officially intent on delivering paramedics and bomb squads out to the bridge along this narrow access road snaking between the coastal range and overslapping bay, spinning wheels at best.

Amid all this chaos, I found myself drifting up into those coastal slopes, following an ad-muralled MUNI bus rolling slowly around a Lincoln Avenue curve, the North traffic stalling on Doyle Drive, over to the toll plaza. Still, I gained some hazy relief from the bushy green West Bluff hillsides, sussing out the spotty wildflowers and manzanita.

The clearing of a pathway gets more problematic as least resistance encounters a scrambling show of force…. Atop the low shorewall we paused, watching this ever-grinning Japanese stone artisan regathering, reconfiguring jumbled rocks, driftwood and sediment into an odd-lot menagerie despite the winds, painstakingly balancing sea-smoothed flotsam into amusing wet stone and stick figures, which dried precariously in place along the narrow beach strip until the next wave once again washed them away.

This hard rock assemblage delighted young kids—a mass relief to their harried, exhaling parents—and to the welcome distraction of us both, as well. The same could not be said for out-of-towners and local faithful, gathering to assess the looming disruption. It enveloped the bridge towers, Crissy Field beaches and all the sun-kissed life that was now fleeing them, temperatures free falling some twenty degrees. A ghostly container ship snuck in under the gray-white cover, pushed through by the staccato blare of fog horns dueling from either side of the shrouded headlands.

Cold concrete, piles upon piles of sediment setting in as I shifted and squirmed, looking out upon the hockey stick leg of Torpedo Wharf, fearless fisherfolk barely visible now for all the fog. Kids squealing, parents moaning and groaning their exhaustion: I restively nudged Paulen back toward the safe haven, sanctuary city skyline, mostly gray blanketed though it was.

But he quickly, assertively spun me degrees around with some outbound gesticulation. This led us to the Warming Hut and Gift Shop, the crowded apron around it which formed an intersection of the Bay Trail and a graded by-lane that fed onto Torpedo Wharf itself. Out front here, milling about was a discombobulated bunch of day trekkers: Horticulture therapists far afield, dejected birders holding out for a rare glimpse of an marsh egret, least tern or clapper rail; backyard botanists debating hydrospheric research and the succulent science.

Panicky southland sorority goddesses further irradiated their salivary glands and temporal lobes by aimlessly staging selfies, tapping out distress-O-Ss and TXTplanations, talking smart-ass, phony phone trash, living their gossipy little TMZ lives out loud before retreating into the warmth of hut and waiting rides. Passing between the Hindu five and us shuffled some fertility tourists over from the Benelux, a May-December couple just off a mid-July spiritual marriage.

Warming Hut proper was abuzz with conjecture beneath two swirling, thwakking Coast Guard copters, its gunners riding the doors. Coolpix were snapping like shutterbugs along the velvet ropes come Oscar night, near as the eye could see. Vaporblocked: The following passage to be revealed in due course…. Crossing before us, a pack of Chicano and Cantonese fishermen bolted from Torpedo Wharf, nets and tackle in tow.


  • Peep, the Hundred Decibel Hummer.
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Their side draft upended a Gay 90s big-wheel bicycle, and the herringbone tweed fop riding high atop. Craigslist hook-up cruisers, quite the milfs at that, had been scouting out the tender beefcake on parade, but they hastily packed up their virginity kit bags and flibanserin, alongside their wet dreams of canoodling with some buff young studs.

Seemed even the best-laid plans were being blown away in the trail dust…. Skirting this anxious, clotting crowd, we angled back around the off-kilter Warming Hut, one-time military engine warehouse, to a polygonal open space between the barn structure and two smaller, rectangular buildings due west. Somewhat filling the airy space were late-day trippers disgorged from a variety of vehicles in a rear-side parking lot.

Yet fuzz dicier elements sprang from a couple of metalflaked Buick scrapers—vintage 50s, with chrome spoked rims, mainly Outer Mission accomplices—along with Bernal bangers in their turtle-top beaters, out for some innocent air and a casual casing. Looked to be suspected mean street snipers or body dumpers once the sun went down—alongside gang taggers cruising for a little date rape and toss. Vaporblocked, more to come…. Crowd bursts froze in place with morbid curiosity as sirens quickened and coalesced, apprehension washing in. It was like Loma Prieta all over again all right, only with the temblors at bay, the storm door opening, monster rain squalls on their way.

Paulen fielding a fresh call, I edged along the Hut wall like a mouse along a baseboard, drawn to that laminated plaque standard, between a stenciled red-hot EcoGlobe patterned with the faces of Environmental Volunteerism and another, thermal plotted with colorful translucent ripples encircling carbon dioxide danger zones. The slanted, corporate signage acknowledged generous contributions of leading co-chairs and an august roster of CEOs, titans, barons, magnates, chieftains and advisory board directors—so many of them curiously based in Chicago.

Blowing in from the Windy City as well was the thematic message and thank-you verse from EcoGlobe co-founder, Lisa Samuels. But what sent me all ashifting was her heartfelt inscription at the bottom of this filigreed gold-leafy panel, in honor of her creative partner in climate consciousness. Vaporblocked, mtc…. I rather itched to join them, Paulen having peeled off aways, idling in circles as he entertained another earpiece call.

Damn, has he set me up for this? I ripped open the rolled envelope enough to loosen a yellowing newsclip …. The a-ooog-a horn of a replica Model-T touring buggy summoned its sightseeing load to the parking lot startling me to my waffle-worn soles. Paulen soon gathered me up with an abrupt tug of my elbow, back to the Promenade, if not to my senses. At his insistence, we rejoined the Bay Trail mix, antsy everywhichway as it was, the entire Warming Hut apron a restless blur. On the periphery, several young Arab-looking chaps strode hurriedly by us, having emerged from a fire lane between two adjacent low storage buildings, park signs up which pointed out toward a row of public restrooms.

But then, as doc here was apt to say, all those bloody Muslims looked alike. This pallid uniformity proved less a visual refuge for me than the distant San Francisco skyline over my shoulder, that phallic Coit Tower, as well as Telegraph and Russian Hills, fog ringing all but the needle peak of the Transamerica Pyramid. A westerly wind-fed fragrance secreted from the explosives storage shed cum restroom row, pungent as tipped-over Porta-potties on a sewer treatment site, affording me little further incentive.

Still, this was no time for regrouping, Paulen coaxing me deeper into the helter-skelter Promenade swarm, head-on facing the fog-shrouded bay sally and scramble beyond Torpedo Wharf. Curious this: some fleeting history amid the crowd swell, the confusion by land, sea and air. That was about when some old crusties huddled around a transistor radio atop the breakwall suddenly cut in front of a band of scant runners hauling ass inbound.

Therewith, their salty loss leader decried newscast rumblings of a bomb threat against the bridge itself. Chapter Fifty-Five. Around a revealing corner, some way past familiar figures pose a disturbing meet and greet…. Thornia had closed her downtown salon, having grown increasingly fearful of crime, bodily attacks and an array of other mishaps and maladies Saturn might ring her way.

Safer, surer bet—no doubt about it: I even swung by to visit her from time to time. As for Richard, he split his time between an SRO hovel on outer Post Street and a tiny illegal in-law apartment she kept behind her garage space. At , Richard was likely down handing out astrology flyers in Jackson and Union Squares. Meanwhile, Dame Thornia had been puttering around her salon—rearranging candles and plastic flower sprays, as was her wont—as she waited in humming anticipation of a session with some Pierce Street boozer harboring a directional disorder.

Richard eventually wheeled her out of General, back to a steel-beam retrofit home her insurance had covered, with his knothole supervision. Of course Thornia, bless her supernatural heart, would never be truly ambulatory again. So Richard rose to the challenge, homecare minder-wise, with myself eventually manning the ill-fated Saturnine.

Richard proceeded to wheeze, weasel and wheel her around in an unpowered chair over the years. She apparently drove him more bitterly harried and desperately crazier than he congenitally was; or maybe they had some haywire suicide pact. I just kept my healthy distance, flitting in and out, even moreso amid the dot-com bust, fretting over I-Team TV investigations of crooked Bay Area psychics. No, tres no bueno, at all.

Return to Chapter Fifty-Five…. Saturn Sessions…. More fisherfolk continued to flee in from Torpedo Wharf with their nets and chum buckets, poles and sinkered lines waving carelessly over their double sweatered shoulders, menacingly catching the eye. Fog cover or no, a turn of the corner, and that International Orange icon was right there ahead of us, elegantly traversing the Golden Gate strait, an errant green and while Cessna splitting the twin tower uprights, or what was left of them, like a Fog Bowl field goal.

Not party to this emergency scramble, a huge Crowley tug towed its dredging barge in beneath the span, seemingly pulling more misty chowder in with it, chugging slowly mid channel past Torpedo Wharf. While tacking further inward, scattered tall sails glistened under the remaining East Bay sun. Either way, would that I could have caught their wave. They have you filed away under Cautionary Tales. From there, it was a little surveillance and process of elimination in the Upper Fillmore cafes. I happened upon a neighborhood throwaway paper. Its gossip page had a photo of some Junior League brats toasting Java capps, with none other than you, the elder in the background.

Then I spotted Robin Williams mugging for the crowd in front of that Mecca place, and voila, there you were. A gray-out made the lime green mainsail of a foot Beneteau gybing off that rust-hulled container ship pop out of the oatmeal continuum like neon against concrete tiling. So we negotiated a tight squeeze around the former utility shed, into a faceful of mast-snapping gales. Against them, a San Francisco fireboat rushed past us toward Fort Point, hose spigots gushing great guns. She happened to have a double-forwarded birthday card you must have sent her quite some time ago, but it did have your return address.

Thus, in due course, her cause coincided with my need for an initial test case. Geeky guys with huge upper bodies and slimmy, gymmy legs; women with epifannies freezing in racer tanks, bitched about how right when autumn comes, San Francisco turns to summer.

Black Sheep, White Crow and Other Windmill Tales

Then just when summer weather arrives, this late-fall frigidity barrels in on a dime. But no time for such flat-footed irony, what with all this code-red ruckus going down. Then an foot Coast Guard cutter shot past Torpedo Wharf, sprung from Alameda like a crash-test Benz toward the gate, parting the sea lions and sevengill sharks, its wake splashing up against us at the cement breakwall, whereby we had drifted, so as to avoid an overwrought Presidio Terrace matron heeling her scabbed-ass standard poodle, its fluffy pom-poms matting in the mist. Affording cover directly overhead, a new MHc gunner copter, courtesy of recent DHS funding, swung counterclockwise—an armed escort with mounted M barrels cooling out its side hatches in the salty marine air.

The continuing Coast Guard scramble hardly went unnoticed among lingering wall huggers, shaken and rattled by all the heavyweight bay action. As in, towers come tumbling down, manic fanatics saving the world by blowing it up: Christ, where had those MeccaJava cellmates vanished to anyhow—was it Yemen, Algeria, or the Centerfolds Lounge? Buzzing around the ebbing crowd were rumors that Osama bin Laden had threatened to strike an array of Bay Area landmarks, not least the GGB, and that Homeland Security was dispatching a military counter-terrorism force on the double.

Which left everybody wondering whether this was a legitimate bomb threat or just a make-work disaster drill, although not laying odds on the latter. So taking leave posthaste were freedom-fried French tourists on rent-a-bikes, greenie-shirted girl scouts, merlot-sipping surrender monkeys moussing their Q scores, overdressed Russkies, scantily clad Thai girls on the make, and smiley Indonesians pushing quilted old man wheelchairs.

Alongside came all the trembly blue-dog Shibas, morkies, porgies, yappy shihapoos and laltipoos. But manning up, staying behind to scope out what was up with all this were migrant carloads in from the valley, weekend bangers here from Compton and South Bronx, dogpatch clubbers wielding cone-necked Mastiffs and cage-snouted Rotts.

Meanwhile a tandem of heinous kite surfers hung maniacally out there on the water, getting sandwiched between that Coast Guard cutter and a deck-stacked Han Jin freighter. The pell-mell evacuation left me squeezing between a soggy black-coated retriever and a mesh-grated window at the far end of the corrugated mine shed, right where its corner pinched seawall-ward into the Promenade like a stockyard cattle guard.

So a Web search got us to a defunct saturnine. See that path over there, heading up toward the West Bluff slit trenches and bunkers, look familiar? They happened to move a rotted eucy trunk and dig up the remains in that hollow up there—get where this is going? Even had eight tiny stone markers framing the sack. Thereupon we shifted over to a small clearing, skosh of open space between the corrugated rest room shed and former explosives supply building turned a local NPS headquarters.

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Before I could wipe dry my lips, a boots-on-plank commotion seized upon our attention—startingly so, left to right. In the process, the lab gave up on carbon testing, but did salvage some low copy mitochondrials from her pelvic bones, found blunt-force trauma to her skull too, under a ratty henna wig—textbook anger-retaliatory, mighty ugly…musta muddied her up real good at some point. But we brought in our forensic artist for some facial recon. Others issued forth from the front entrance, leaping into their various scooters and minitrucks, coordinating with lagging bridge cops and Federal Protective Services, likewise the squad cars of myriad alphabet agencies.

All aimed for the turmoil out at Fort Point, that historic brick garrison tucked beneath the graceful skeletal ironwork arch of a southernmost bridge cantilever, cannons still fixed on battles never waged here, foes who never fully arrived. From our own immediate vantage point midway along the lengthy HQ building, we could barely make out the centrinel fortress, which was now equally fog obscured. I found myself hoping against hope that those Mecca Javahadis had no taste for liquid ammonia nitrate or fertilizer. Muntz, taped to the bridge railing. Undated, too bad, but it did say something about how she drove you to it.

Then there was this old appointment card, with your name and a phone number scribbled on it. Now, can you explain that, Mr. What the hell have you done?! I should never let that Muntzter sign her out of General Hospital, what with her Loma Prieta injuries. Up there in her favorite Golden Gate inspiration point yet—her source of so much psychic energy, divine creative force, where she could spend all her natural-born days—just like she had always desired. Crematorium, nice little SATurn, then spread her love around up there, Richard!

Agghh, whatever, no getting around at this point—time for a roll of those bones. And since you were cooperative enough to leave behind your snotty napkin at MeccaJava, now we have that fresh DNA sample too. Little did I know Nick had risen to department head during my CU days. So we compared notes, and I felt I owed him a solid. He thought I might be helpful when it came to you, once his probe led to your Boulder connection.

I was also approached due to my knowledge of Boulder and San Francisco. Chapter Fifty-Six. Turmoil, terror storm in with the fog, force a restrained reckoning and the makings of a far-flung plan…. Doc and I stepped lively trailside as another park ranger sped along in his enclosed motor scooter, amber roof light flashing toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

We angled over a V-fork here in the promenade, to a brown wood topped picnic table just vacated by a short-sleeved Indonesian family that had been chillingly ill informed. Its cement bench was cold to the touch, let alone to our tushes. But tucked as the table was between the mound of some steel-doored former munitions bunker and the first grassy berm, we found a brief respite from the winds. Still, we remained near enough to the gravel path to hear the siren call of small Park Service utility truck closely following that NPS scooter, not to mention the conjecture of pedestrians it pushed to the margins.

Yelled the mouthier of two graybearded day hikers who had grudgingly made way for the emergency vehicular traffic on this stipulated foot and pedal-only trail. Jay-Bee was to be in on it, of course. Little thing thought it would be a fun acting game, sort of like her beauty pageants. It was so intriguingly devious, and Trisha could be gratuitously persuasive, in a bipolar sort of way. Moreover, by that time, of Mister John Boy, I was not exactly a fan. Beyond the promenade, a foot Kelly Peterson double spreader heeled acutely, up to its fin keel, off Torpedo Wharf, its jib ripped to tatters in the mid-channel gusts.

Asian fishermen lining the long, right-angling pier barely budged, however—dropping lines for rockfish and roaming stripers like there was no dinner tomorrow. Between here and there, trailing runners hurdled the roll-a-leashes that fat Pugs and feisty, cone-necked Labradoodles stretched out across the trail path.

Their clueless masters doted over the cuteness of their precious little darlings—the joggers ready to relegate them to that pet cemetery over in the shadow of Doyle Drive. Port side, picnickers rushed to fold up the tents and trappings of their Saturday outings in full breakdown mode, even though nestled in the comparatively calm isobaric troughs between a ribbed configuration of grassy knolls.

The West Bluff picnic area comprised a scattering of wood and steel frame tables bolted to concrete bases, public grills mounted and cooking aside a few. Flat topped and family friendly, the half-dozen area berms were like monster molehills, ostensibly designed and configured to break the very winds we saw today—good luck with that. So prepare, I did—with a back-up measure or two. Not least, rigging some suitable footwear, and mixing and mismatching semen samples I had extracted from several used condoms I found among variously discarded Coors twelve-pack cartons on the front lawn.

Something of a cocktail on the come, just in case I needed some faux left-behind traces. What the hell were you thinking? You must be joking. Besides, what about the notorious intruder theory? Or the drunken drop-in molester suspects on University Hill? Which I surreptitiously practiced balancing on for days. Better that than incriminating footprints in the snow…shall we go? I followed his lead back onto the Bay Trail, merging with the vanquished volleyballers and several foiled birders who kicked gravel on their way out of a fenced Snowy Plover habitat area just down the beach.

Tucked within those berm troughs to our left, outfitted Team China toddlers chased a junior soccer ball on to the trail, a red, white and black one that rolled by us like Nevada tumbleweed. The next little landscaped valley revealed Latino kids crying over an upended plastic playset. There was no mistaking that platinum moldie from The Zeitguys—those now middle-aged rockers still strumming oversexed love songs to juicy teenage girls. River Road dives to Hollywood Hills to Telluride to Pacific Palisades to Montecito and Carpenteria, with a bullet: Business trade rags had it that, for an encore, Josh now was cornering the ticket scalping industry, gangsta hop to geezer rock.

So I quietly repaired to the basement to bide some naptime, setting my watch alarm. A flock of hovering sea gulls nearly bombarded us with guano before perching on a series of tall signposts behind the mud brown plank benches to our left. Posted Park Service pennants and banners were shredded worse than Fort Sumter battle flags at this late stage of the afternoon.

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Seemed the gulls sensed feeding time, poised to swoop between here and a lone, scraggly cypress tree, beneath which were two umbrellaed food carts—snack stops, side by side. To its right sat a Tex-Mexicali padre in a Lakers cap and Mighty Ducks jacket manning a tamale-burrito cart with ice-cold sodas and ices—bad form and timing all around. Yet both were overstocked, undersold, out of pocket—packing it in for the day, throwing the rest away. Hence, the gathering of the gulls, marking time for the bun-warmed spoils. Then again, so were some of the strategically benched codgers: Funny, the fewer their brain cells, the more they thought they knew about scrounging ways and means.

The force of old OCD habits kicking in gave me some freebie-jeebies of my own. With that, we looped around between the last-call sandwich carts and barn-size NPS Warming Hut, Paulen futzing with his earphone, me nearly stumbling into some rental trail bikes a Danish family had parked under the cypress tree. Squinting and straining, I was unable to make out the bridge and Marin Headlands for all the fog cover, even though they usually appeared little more than a long toss away. On second thought, I decided to whizz pass on any cold colas, while doc quickly signed off to voicemail again, only to rejoin me with a duly closing billfold.

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Vaporblocked: Sordid details to come…. Having settled on an upper step, we caught a straightaway view of an Asian Star container ship fog horning its way through the chowder, loaded for Oakland crane docks, blowing laser sailboats and a Red-and-White Fleet sightseeing ferryboat out of the center bay channel. Up here, we also had an ultra-wide, over-the-shoulder panorama of the cityscape, Telegraph Hill down to Potrero, still gleaming brightly in whatever remained of the late-day sun, an East Bay ridgeline backstopping the clear, seamless skyline.

How far back was that? I just wanted to be up there in more familiar neighborhood territory as we spoke…. Directly above, the leading froth of the fog had since passed us by, still layering, lathering in, winds pushing it well over East Beach and the St. Francis Yacht Club, obliterating Fort Mason piers—much less the Crissy tidal marsh and those pro-lifer hicks bused in from the sticks. Still, not to be deterred was a scattering of chronic tan lizards up and down these cold, crescent steps, hanging tough for a sudden sunbreak—old bait shop boatsman slickers draped over their Speedos—stubborn ramrod shivering despite themselves.

The sort of buzz-cut hard guy dater dudes who were into noose-neck sex back in their day—online porn surfers who might have once dive-bombed their old flame-outs in a hijacked Piper Cub given half the chance, but now were merely testosterone depleted. Made me want to find a cure for the male pedicure, or at least spot them a closer shave. Otherwise, nice view though, as much as could still be made out—watching the ships roll in, watch them roll away again. I can imagine she went whiter than her usual ghost. So they either honored my position in the community or wrote me off as just another tabloid publicity hound.

The strato-cumulous white tourist dirigible aimed to start hovering over downtown hi-rises against still clear skies, if not appearing to dock Hindenberg-like atop the ominously dark BofA monolith. No sign of that red Saturn airship, however. So much for the appetizing aroma of Dijon mustard and chilly dogs.

Crissake, no more bullshit, what the hell was I doing out here any longer, let alone going one step further? Bundled up against the elements, my spinal nerves forcefed a synaptic surge, this cranial discord, all the way down to my coccyx lumbar—fissures, sensory ganglia, pia mater and all. You must be quite conversant with the rages of physical transgression. Like I said, bare with me on these things. Brand: Unbranded. The ageing bee Hummer has had to relinquish his post as commander of the Hive Defence Garrison through injury, but his heart and his courage are as strong as ever.

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