January 17, 2014

Same as it ever was

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:31 pm

[<B>Note:  This column is an example of Gonzo commentary and is therefore exempt from the fact checking process.</B>]

Jack London’s “The People of the Abyss” paints such a grim picture of people who are doomed to an abysmal existence of constant sorrow that will inevitably lead to an early grave but it does offer a possible view of the world that some political recidivists want to revive for America in the near future.  Was London’s tale of picaresque adventures titled “The Road,” a precursor of beat literature?  Was London’s “The Iron Heel” an inspiration for “It can’t happen here” or just a book that would hardly ever be compared to “The Canticle of Leibowitz”?  Did London’s “John Barleycorn” inspire “The Lost Weekend”?

After skimming through a copy of a Jack London biography we encountered in the Berkeley Public Library, we hightailed it off to the world famous Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue to see if they had an affordable used copy of the Library of America’s book containing those five of London ‘s social novels.  They did and so we paid cash for it (are charge cards the new century’s version of eight track tapes?) and started reading.

London was a socialist and so if he were still alive today he would probably do an appearance on Jon Stewart’s TV show to lament the status of the unemployment benefits that were recently terminated by the Simon Legree Republicans in Congress.  No one in their right mind really expects them to be reinstated, but the liberals are expected to play the game and urge the recalcitrant Republicans to recant and approve the resumption of the checks that prevent despair in the ranks of the job seekers.  The challenge for the Republicans is to find the rhetoric that will make their hard hearted response seem to be a logical extension of their compassionate Christian conservative philosophy.  Quibbling over parliamentary procedures is, of course, the perfect example of how Jesus Christ would answer the question:  “Do you want to restart the checks or not?”

London might be sarcastic about the free press’ feigned outrage, which is supposed to make the Democratic “attempts” to perform a resurrection on the social program that has flat lined look genuine, but is, instead, designed to divert attention from other topics where some back room manipulation is needed.

When the Target security breech was first announced, the hottest show on the West Coast made the assertion that the source of the hack was in Vietnam.  Have you seen any news stories about the source of the mischief?  Why is that information about the specifics of the source of the hack being ignored in the American media?

Are the doubts about the potability of water in some areas of West Virginia coming from the same whack jobs who say they can “prove” global warming is occurring (i.e. “the Scientists?  [Doesn’t that sound like the name for a Goth band?])  Aren’t those two ideas equally ludicrous?  Who would decline a drink of smelly blue water just because one of the global warming posse said it was “dangerous!”?

Is Fox or the New York Times presenting better and more coverage of events in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon?

While we were reconnoitering the Jack London cabin (made with material from London’s Yukon cabin) we encountered some transplants from Boston who were exploring their new hometown area and gave them some recommendations about how to most fully enjoy (one of London’s recurring themes in life) their new local area.  Get a guide book, lest you obliviously sail past an obscure location that features an arcane attraction that would amuse and fascinate newbies and long time residents alike.  That conversation could easily be expanded into a full length column about the delights of living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Heinolds’ First and Last Chance (bar/saloon) in Oakland has always been synonymous with the name Jack London and so on Sunday January 12, 2014, we went to that city to have a look-see.  Was London really one of their “regulars” back in the day?  They have a photo of a young London reading a dictionary in that very building (the owner gave the lad the book as a present) for Doubting Thomases and fact checking columnists.  The unique bar, which tilts because of effects from the famous 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, can best be described by the word “über-funky.”

While we where at that gin mill (the First and Last got its name because it was the closest tavern to where oyster fishermen “clocked in” and “clocked out” for their jobs), we had to order a diet Coke™ because hey didn’t have Sarsaparilla. (Taking photos of Jack London’s cabin and Heinold’s saloon in Oakland CA,for this column seemed like the most likely solution for this week’s challenge for the photo editor.)

While savoring our drink we chatted up the bar tender and realized that we could easily write a column about the great bars of the world, where we have had a libation.  (We missed the real Quinn’s in Tahiti [the one that’s there now isn’t the legendary original according to what we have read].)

We could also do a column just limited to the famous bars that were a “home away from home” for great writers.  Didn’t Jason Miller, who wrote “The Championship Season” (Go 49ers!), used to drink at the Dinner Bell in Dunmore Pa.?

In the spirit of “ripped from today’s headlines,” we noticed that in the “People of the Abyss,” the homeless were kept out of London’s parks at night and that the police roused anyone attempting to sleep in public at night.  Sounds like the same complaints we heard recently, while visiting residents of Berkeley’s People’s Park.

We have suggested to one of Berkeley’s most noticeable panhandlers, known by the street handle of Ninja Kitty, that he run for Congress on a “I’ll get rid of the homeless in Berkeley” platform.  The conservatives would expect him to implement a “Getting a job (i.e. work) will set you free” style program and the Berkeley liberals would expect him to help expand the under funded social programs to help the homeless and also vote for him.  He’d be elected in a landslide.  Hit the pause button for that idea, he told us he is too young to be a Congressional candidate.  Maybe he can just help collect signatures for councilman Kris Worthington’s petition?  Ninja Kitty does, however, have a facebook page.  (

Originally we had intended to write a column for this week that compares and contrasts the movies “Wolf of Wall Street” and “American Hustle.”  The two are simultaneously both similar and quite different.  It’s like one baseball game that’s a no-hitter pitched by Nolan Ryan, and another contest between Boston and New York that, after the lead chances several times, ends 13 to 12, with a bottom of the ninth inning walkoff grand slam (for the Yankees, naturally).

London, if he were still alive, would probably be able to take diverse bits of information, such as the annual traffic fiasco, that inevitably accompanies the Forth of July fireworks display in the Marina del Rey area, the recent resignation of L. A. Sheriff Lee Baca, and the political headaches for New Jersey Governor Chris Cristie, and combine them into one coherent column, but we’ll have to check with the Marina Tenants Association for the background story and get back to you on that challenge.

In Chapter 27 of Martin Eden, London wrote:  “When he starved, his thoughts had dwelt often upon the thousands he knew were starving the world over, but now that he was feasted full, the fact of the thousands starving was no longer pregnant in his brain.”  Does that explain why Republicans prefer to discuss the homeless while enjoying a good meal?

Now the disk jockey will play Boston’s “Don’t look back” album, Chicago’s “Greatest Hits” album, and John Denver’s “Rockey Mountain High” song (has that become the official anthem of the Legalize Pot movement?).  We have to go see if the record high temperature for San Francisco in January will be set today.  Have an “over the lips, and through the gums; look out ribs here it comes!” type week.

[After a clerk at the Pacific Cookie Company on Telegraph Ave. bragged that Janice Joplin had “come on” to her grandfather on a national TV talk show and then went online to prove it, we knew we had a great item for next week’s column.  Tune in next week at the same bat time, same bat channel for the full story.]

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