“The golden mean comes
from seeking meaning
without turning mean.”
“B-17…no shit, B-17…”
“Wrong, chucklehead…twin bangers, not four strong.”
“Yeah, four props…”
“But that baby’s smaller, got just two props, Marty. Makes it a B-25.”
“No, see, Lane—25’s more than 17. 2 times 4 more, betcha, do the math…”
“I got your math right here, genius—and that’s the Graf Zeppelin over there. Pass me the fuckin’ Cheetos…”
Aircraft new and ancient were now crowding the Saturn blimp’s thickening skies. A droning vintage World War II bomber had just swooped in over the Golden Gate Bridge, two P-58 fighters hot on its tail—likely on coastal reconnaissance from some Reno air show. High above them climbed another rockin’ Virgin jumbo jet, headed for Heathrow with a red-roaring glow on its nose and wailing quartet of engine cowlings. Bucking that eastward tide was a huge white charter dirigible splitting the vertical difference as it glided seaward out the Gate—to a zep load of upper-bracket sightseers’ delight.
Not far behind that was a sputtering biplane towing its long banner for an SUV dealer’s fire sale on dinosaur Excursions and Navigators—vanishing in the chowder like any more heinous smoke over Pacific Heights. All that was missing up there were the Blue Angels doing low-wire, super-near-collider maneuvers along the water front, or Silvio Petirossi rising from the Bay depths to shoot those daredevil loop-the-loops in his Pan-Pacific monoplane.
With Reese Paulen spinning off to field another earphone call, I scanned the skies like a tower controller for a free-floating glimpse of the red Saturn craft. In the process, I locked fleeting eyes with those two curiously familiar figures, glancing upward once more as I pegged them as table neighbors earlier at the MeccaJava Café. No evasion necessary, however, for bounding up to them at a beach fencepost was this propeller-thin goateed activist with wavy dark hair, pulling a small spindling of neon-green flyers from his zippered fanny pack, handing them one each.
Waiting for Paulen, I kept prudent distance—searching for the Saturn ship, for signs of what may have brought two greaser-leathered lugs like these down here—though staying near enough to overhear.
“It is a B-25, fellas, they call it ‘The Lindy Hop’… and all these flybys have to stop, now…same with the Mustangs and 747…”
“Well, fella, they call me Chet, and what the hell do you know about it?”
“Here, read this. Clues you in on chemtrails. They’re contrails’ evil twin—all the vapor tracks from those planes flying overhead? You think they just dissipate, but they don’t, dig? Much of the time, they spread out into man-made clouds, more and more carrying aerosol particulates, like with Barium and other sub-micron pathogens that can be toxic to you and your children. Take a few of these flyers, pass them around. We must put a halt to all these over flights here…”
“Right here? It’s called Crissy Field for a reason, Dudley. This whole deal started out as an airstrip, always was—pioneer planes took off into the onshores for years and years—military and mail flights, ain’t no stinkin’ ass cropdusters. Bad enough that you enviro-Nazis turned a damn good runway into this frickin’ glorified sandbox. Now you wanna fence off the skies while you’re at it, when you should be goin’ after all those goddamn radioactive cellular towers! Take off, wing flap, chase this down why dontcha…”
With that, Lane whoever sailed a flyer he had been folding into a paper airplane upwards, catching a tailwind, shoveling several more back to the activist like a pigskin to the gut—his partner, Chet wingmanning it, belly laughing at the sight. Paulen having rejoined, we in turn headed back out onto the Bay Trail, collars up, chins down, leaving the bombardier-jacketed flyboys to a spate of dust devils. We thereby distanced ourselves from East Crissy Beach, from those other two MeccaJava expats. as the particulate warfare foot soldier re-donned his gasmask and continued on distributing his leaflets.
Winds that once launched a thousand mail planes now whipped across Crissy sands, erasing the stick scribbles of clammy fingered Montessori muppets—blowing over umbrellas and lawn chairs, sending sun junkies ascatter, coolers, cookers and cocoa butter in hand. Wakeboarders kick-slapped back to shore ahead of looming riptide ambushes, a pair of top-heavy paddlers struggled to guide their oars and kayak up toward the parking lot showers, carnival-colored towels, Snuggies and beach blankets flapping by. A wave-soaked water dog leapt over a rolling beach ball on its way up to its whistling master here on the Promenade, shaking us off enroute. Sure enough, things seemed to be getting a little bit dicey as doc and I trudged ahead bridge ward.
“Hmph, figures,” Paulen said, a parting glance back to the plane spotters, earpiece’s blue jewel light dimmed down. “Blitzkrieg…”
“Again with the Nazi hook, huh?” I in turn looked back for refuge at the yacht club, Palace of Fine Arts, anywhere in between, re-thinking about the steakburgers at Liverpool Lil’s as I fidgeted with my belt.
“There’s that, but I’m rather referring to ‘Lucky Lindy’,” doc sneered, watching me futz with my waistband.
“You mean…Charles Lindbergh, the pilot?”
“No, Charles Lindbergh, the most notorious all-American anti-Semite this side of Joe Kennedy and Henry Ford.”
“Yeah, but Kennedy…Bobby, JFK…”
“They’ve always loved Lindbergh in Europe, you know. Ol’ America Firster, preaching to ‘beware the threat of Jews, and their control of the press, movies, art and so much real estate’. And then you have T.S. Elliot, Patricia Highsmith, Ezra Pound and his Pisan Cantos. Anti-Semitism in the extreme.”
Following the gentle path curve along Crissy’s churning tidal estuary, we pressed on toward a wooden piling footbridge over same. Across the way, beyond the broad sweep of the outer beachfront, extended a long trigger finger of a sand bar that roughly banked the estuary bend, squaring up on its far side to meet the Bay shoreline.
Thereupon, we left the local extremos: hard-bod triathletic trainers, hardcore windsurfers rallying to catch the 18-knot afternoon flood, living on energy shots, Odwalla protein bars and untold gateway drugs, livin’ to lower their booms on the next killer gust—playing the man card with linebacker forearms in a flurry of full-body wets.
Further along the spit, rad kite surfers battened down their parachute-scale parasails for some pre-flight tuning, rigs spread about like pup tents in an REI clearance, devoutly trimming their vivid RRD, Mystic and Ocean Rodeo kite sails, sex waxing their wafer-thin shortboards, stoked to take on this bodacious, gnarly St. Francis course at goin’ on 60 mph.
One after another, the kite surfers mounted their sticks, setting sail to grab a quick gust and glide on out. The whole airheaded scramble left me a bit on the tipsy side, not to mention tripping on the third plank of the estuary’s crossover bridge. That’s about when we came upon more bizarre globes.
“Okay, hit me, doc, I’m all ears,” I dodged, er digressed, trying to elevate the spit we were swapping without straying too far off course. “I mean, Mideast positions are only hardening, disputed borderlines inking indelibly in, so how are we supposed to talk honestly about solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off? What exactly are we talking about with this anti-Semitism deal, professor? What, in the final analysis, are the red flags and ground rules? How about you tell me what you think it’s all about? Is it economic, political, cultural, is it sociological?”
“All of the above,” Paulen looked askance at a family of pasty skinned English mid bridge, quizzically pointing all over an unfolding tourist map. “Yet even more on the order of historical. “So let’s cull today’s bark from the roots here.”
“Right, separate the anti-Semitism from the anti-summitism…”
“All right then, if you ask me, it is couched in the inordinate treatment of Jewish people, whether via demonstrative contempt or subtle condescension. One on one, group on group, or nation on nation: singling them out, lumping them together, ascribing stereotypical traits, features and/or mannerisms as evidenced in disdain, derision, disparagement much less blatant discrimination. At its most dangerous, anti-Semitism can be virtual or openly vile, manifested with hate, defacement and violence…”
“Whoa, ease up on the jargon, doc,” I mimed jotting on a notepad. “Let me get this down…”
Know more/Know less
For those interested, a substantive, more
descriptive discussion of anti-Semitism ensues.
If not, please continue with this chapter below…
“So, as you can plainly see, Herbert, you must admit there is a world of reasons for Jewish vigilance.”
“Yeah, but what exactly makes this anti-Semitism business so special? I mean, Armenians, Bosnia, Rwanda, the Yellow Perils, beaners, wops, micks, spics and samba— there’s hate and bigotry everywhere out there…”
“Depth and duration, my friend,” Paulen tapped his earpiece as the headwinds whipped us back a step or two. “Anti-Semitism is the mother incarnate of all prejudice and malevolence.”
“But to keep bringing it up all the time,” I moved closer, “like in newspapers and…”
“Oh, I see, next you’ll be resurrecting the same old canards about Jews controlling the media for their own advantage and profit.”
“Well, the ADL and AJC do run those full-page alarm bell ads in the New York Times…”
“You’re talking strident ads? How about the Catholic League,” Paulen fumed. “And I might add just because some Jewish people may work in the media, it doesn’t mean they control anything.”
“Hey, th-h-hats not what I said, at all…” Reeling from this rude anti-Semitism smackdown, if not the unsteadying onshore gale.
“Besides, if anything, the media are more biased and distorted against Israel these days,” doc pulled his briefcase closer. “So can you blame ADL and the like? It’s called standing watch, rallying crucial support. Particularly in perhaps the only country on earth that might still be on Israel’s side. An America that has long welcomed the Jews since before the days of Mordecai Noah. How can you possibly quarrel with that?”
“No, hold on,” I sputtered, thinking back to Irish tri-color flag waving out on Clement Street and the Avenues. “I dig, OK? I can remember the IRA rallies in the heat of The Troubles, NORAID recruiters passing the collection plate for Ulster ammo in the Plough and Shillelagh Bar. I never bought into the Provo IRA trip, but never felt that made me anti…Celtic.”
“Tell me, how long has there been a global hatred of the Celts,” Paulen asked, buttoning up his collar. “Who has vowed to push the Ireland into the sea, eradicating an entire people?”
“Ever heard of the Famine?”
“Small potatoes narrative by comparison.”
“Tell that to Michael Collins and Bobby Sands.” Now, is he trying to get under my skin?! Might as well be talking to myself.
“Tell that to Danny Pearl.”
Barely beyond the Haas Memorial footbridge, wind-blasted sand permeated pockets, zippers and collar tops, pinging like a grain gun off the resuming trailside cordons of thematic EcoGlobes, which came fast and biofanatically. Planet by colorfully earthy planet, the message rang through clean and clear. That is, enough of a distraction to nearly get us clobbered by an incoming double-wide competition stroller—new age daddy in full stride, wind at his back, all three wheels a blur of magnesium spokes, his strapped-in heirbawlers too velocitized to either gurgle or scream bloody murder.
Yet wide open as it was, this stretch of the Bay Trail itself now narrowed with a clot of shorecombers protesting and picking up lingering tar balls and oil turds that had slipped in under yellow floating booms along a Crissy beach recently soiled in the wake of a crude Bay Bridge tanker spill. Reflective orange vested, the concerned eco-greenies sopped up this fossil mess from the usually sparkling clean reclaimed sands. Helping them were a team of those Escape-Alcatraz triaths who were out clearing lanes and final training for next morning’s swim, bike and run.
“Hey, I’m not drawing comparisons, am only trying to relate,” I spouted, shrinking in their triple-ripped presence. Enough already, but locked-in syndrome—if I bail now how does that make me look and feel…or fare? “Northern Ireland is managing to break through the decades of strife and killing to forge some semblance of weapons decommissioning and Good Friday peace accords, that’s all.”
“Yes, well, we will see how long that lasts—and by the way, isn’t it curious how Ireland’s former president, Mary Robinson has turned so anti-Israel? Moreover, Ireland has not quite resisted German wartime transgressions in the past,” Paulen countered, with a measure of self-satisfaction.
“Hey, that was more about anti-British feelings than pro-Huns, believe me.”
“In any event, let us get back to this Jewish control rubbish, shall we? Have you followed CNN and Public Broadcasting lately? Utterly relentless Israel bashing—nearly as virulent as the BBC and Guardian.”
“Yeah, but look at Fox, the Washington Times and Wall Street Journal,” I balked, diving back into my newsclip fetish. “For any perceived animus and smear, there’s a knee-jerk accusatory blitz and shmeer, usually calling anyone straying from the pro-Israel agenda an anti-Semite. It’s almost like…”
“Like a…conspiracy, Herbert? The evil, insidious Israel Lobby asserting control?!”
“Your words, not mine…” All right, nose up, course correction. How did I end up in this shit? And how can I trip him up if he is so tripping me out here?! Nothing to shake a joystick at…dead reckoning…something tells me I gotta bank 180 degrees, peel off this flightpath real soon…
“Precisely, but let’s stop mincing those code words, already. Beginning with the whole ‘lobby’ drek. The rank absurdity that Aipac, ECI, et al have gained sway over U.S. Middle East policy, suppressing any views dissenting from the ‘lobby line’. You are implying pro-Israel-Americans can’t think for themselves, don’t have a legitimate right to petition their government, just like any other interest group in the country. Hel-LO, that is the American way!”
We left behind those physio-maniacs, as well as some xx-xy maxonified women stretching on a sandy, curvaceous little trail shoulder, loosening up the ol’ bi’s and quads, slammin’ their hammies against a chill wind, a little tackle and tickle co-ed football playing out around them on Crissy Beach fringes. Further beyond the wooden footbridge, we gazed upon cordons of clustered EcoGlobes. Mid bay, racing boats with shark gray Kelvar sails tacked about yet another Chevron tanker crudely steaming in toward the Richmond refineries, horning the swarm of weekend watercraft out of its channels, crossing paths with a Red & White tour boat bobbing over the cropping whitecaps.
“But labeling anyone voicing concern or writing alternative views anti-Semitic? What’s up with that? I mean, if anti-Semitism is everywhere, it’s nowhere, am I right about this, or aren’t I?”
“Hmph, specifics, Herbert—produce some solid empirical substantiation. There is no hard evidence of such backlashing. Besides, over 70% of Americans support our policies toward Israel. And they’re not all Jewish, I might add, with the Jewish among them not necessarily in lockstep on the issues.”
“They’re so careful not to. It kinda does smack of…”
“Of what, Herbert—of treasonous skullduggery, conflicting loyalties,” Paulen asked, shaking sand out of his hair. “Israel steering us into Iraq, for godsakes?”
“Guess it depends on whether you’re an Israeli-American or an American Israeli, doesn’t it, code word-wise…” Caution, red flag…red meat, at that…
“False choice indeed. Where are you coming from with this, anyway? Been hyperlinking to J Street? Don’t tell me you’ve been reading Slant and Smearsheimer. It’s nothing but shoddy, unmitigated tripe, Herbert, what’s become of your critical objectivity?”
“Huh? No,” I backpedaled, too late, quick to blame my imbalance on blind sight, my increasingly sand-pocked corneas, contracting pupils and irises in the face of these granulated trail gusts, even further clogging my perspective on our shifting scenarios. Neither my conjunctive nor sclera proved any match for this gritty onslaught, which cumulatively rattled my rods and cones, gave me a sore case of optic nerves and chiasm. And what does any of this have to do with Her, for that matter? “It’s just that, can’t you see how rancor and suspicion can come about? And it doesn’t have to be that way, I’m telling you, just resolve some border and statehood issues at the Mideast peace table…turn this whole damn thing around while they still can, get back to civility. It borders on madness not to…”
“Easy for you to say, bargaining away Israel’s safety and security in the process—but to what end? Besides, any such rancor must be a simple case of Lex Talionis,” Paulen replied, slapping some sense into my shoulder. “Remember, the Old Testament says, eye for an eye: So we get snapped at, we snap right back. What’s more, a textbook code word is when Jimmy Carter plays the ‘apartheid’ card.”
“You mean a former president and peacemaker the ADL has called a biased, fascist bigot? Isn’t that basically tarring the Nobel Prize winner as a rutting, bald-faced anti-Semite like Pat Buchanan or David Duke? Isn’t that about as code as you can get?”
“You want defamatory code words, Hee-bert? Try cabal, Zios, Zionist entity, money-grubbing shyster, shady Jewish bankers conspiring to control finances, media and foreign policies worldwide. Demonizing, thoroughly despicable—that’s what I would call tarring—undeniably venturing into anti-Semitism territory.”
“Then how’s about hateful, poisonous, rabid, vial, venomous, virulent? Aren’t those words just as inflammatory? What do you call them?”
“Simply telling it like it is.”
Care for more?
Chapter Forty-Six. Their discussion gets
more heated yet as the trail turns colder, turning
even more personal when new questions arise…