Chapter Forty-One

S/S/Sensitive stuff

“Just when you think you’ve 
figured things out, the figures 
just don’t add up.”

           “Hasta be ‘Twisted’…”

          “You’re bats, you ol’ goat. It’s ‘Foul Play’…”

          “Can’t hold a candle to ‘Vertigo’, w’out a ‘Dowtfire’.

          “Looney Tunes, alls yas.  What abouts ‘Streets’? What abouts Nash Bridges? Member ‘The Conversation’?

           They were planted along a different, shadier park pine like senior league benchwarmers. This four-pack of crabby old farts watching the world pass them by, the graybeards sat spittinwads, stroking their chin spinach, dropping pet titles—as an Alzheimer’s exercise, if nothing else. Category of choice: playing the Palace on the silver screen—or television series, as the case may have been.

          The coots had pretty much surveyed that field—except perhaps for ‘Mabel Normand and Fatty Arbuckle Viewing the World’s Fair at San Francisco’—while tracking every tight little twentysomething tail who paraded so prohibitively before them, amorous apparitions out the corners of their glaucomaed eyes. I guess what irked me so was grudgingly recognizing I wasn’t far off that wire.

          “C’mon, Herbert, you can’t leave me now.” Reese Paulen said, repocketing his phone, adjusting his earpiece. “Who’s going to re-show me the ropes around here?”

          “Jeesh…I’ll go just a little further,” I sighed, somewhat short-circuited myself as he pulled me away from the seniors and their memorable media moments. But not before I checked my watch again, then flashed on watching ‘Streets of San Francisco’ back in southside Chicago, itching like Inspector Steve Keller’s trigger finger to hit these same streets again. “Hospitality, and all…to a point—yeah, a really telling point, at that. ”

          Among the 1915 Fair (Vaporbonus) highlights Mabel and Fatty might have viewed were natives getting leied on Hawaiian Day, wiki-wiki teamed outriggers and exotic tropical-flowered luau boats/crafts paddling across a shimmering lagoon, hulas and ukuleles floating an ever warmer promise of aloha island welcome to the mainland’s steamer set.

          Although by today such spirited flotillas had sailed for brighter Oriental horizons, the Fine Arts’ reflecting pool had noticeably stagnated, clotted with algae, mossy patches and various other pond scum—inlet to armlet—particularly around the edges. There, on the low stone retaining rim, young Sponge Bobbers spotted hale carp and tossed bread wads to the lagoon’s bird stock, while wanky pranky pre-teen food junkies stomped along, shooing the fowl away, as if looking to fling some stones at the ducks and drakes as they spread wings, fled across the lagoon. Palace of Fine Arts

          Otherwise, the smoke had feathered more from tar paper black to sandpaper tan up over Pacific Heights, leaving me awonder whether I was the only one who saw it all from down here. Maybe because there was so much more to take in before us, before it all could begin to take us down.

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          “Agreed, so what have you figured out by now?”

          “OK, then, guess I’m still processing your Intifada narrative,” I noted a freckled, red-haired woman passing by with a mousy, downward stare—recognizing her from earlier, ravenous years, when she was known to have done every black MUNI driver on the 22 Fillmore line.

          “You mean as to the utter insanity of Intifada Two—Palestinians attacking with no rules, no defined battlefield? All the stonings, random ambushes, suicide bombings and booby traps? Israel essentially shut down, seeing no pathway to peace with those savages. That was when and why PM Sharon really clamped down.”

          “Mighty ferociously, as I read, overkilling popular resistance on the ground with F-16 missiles, Apache chopper gunships and rubber coated bullets…”

          “Hamas’s human bombs had to be rooted out, Herbert. Tel Aviv buses were exploding, Hebron was being massacred.”

          “So enter far-right toughs fresh from Russia to join the fight with Shas/Likudnik types, huh? Then up went the wall and down went land for peace…”

          “Separation for security sake, cut away the cancer, just like Sharon’s total withdrawal from Gaza.”

           “Anyway, now Clinton’s gone, Arafat’s long gone, Sharon’s all but, so how ’bout we draw a line under all that and U.N. Rez 1397, deal with where things are today. Like, what about the Arab Peace Initiative in ’02—what’s up with that?”

          “Bottom line, you say,“ Paulen pounced, “a red line?”

          “No, make it a green line…”

          “I’ll settle for jaundiced yellow…”

          “Whatever…I got to thinking about the holiday…”

          “Ah, yes, Rosh Hoshana—how surprisingly considerate of you.”

          “No, I meant Good Friday…”

          To my unbeatified ear, John Coltrane’s Love Supreme epic seemed to be playing out of sequence now, but maybe it was just that the distance factor loudspeakered in. Still, I kept hearing discordant snippets of ‘Pursuance’, for there was little ‘Resolution’ to be heard. Jimmy Garrison thumped his bass, McCoy Tyner melodically striding his velvet piano. Then ’Trane went off in his asynchronous tenor torrents and reed-thin plaintive wails, nocturnal moody, shadowed by probing, expressive bursts—triggering my synapses in illogical progression.

          A wildebeest rollerblader cut between us from the blindside, his sharp elbow pads reaving an otherwise increasingly placid afternoon mise en scene. Above and behind those uncanned local film critics in their wooly suit vests and half-tilted berets, lounged a scattering of late, lazy sunbathers last-gasp ray bagging, still lotioning and rotisserie rotating after all these hours on green, rolling knolls.

          Planted among willows and sycamore trees, between pole-staked buttonwoods and wine-leaf ornamental plums, sat leggy young things obsessively picking and plucking at their smartphones, eyes crazy glued to tiny screens, as though waiting breathlessly for the next life-changing sext message.

          “Hmph—sorry, don’t follow…” Doc eyed them like an arborist out on a cherry limb.

          “The Good Friday Agreement in Ireland,” I said, at pains to stay on message. “How a long, impossible stalemate was broken in ‘98 with the honest brokerage of the U.S. and even Britain. I mean, look at the way George Mitchell bridged the differences between Ulster Catholics and Protestants. That kind of positive peace-making has since helped make a Celtic Tiger out of the entire island…”

          “Well, we will see how jolly long that Irish bubble lasts,” Paulen said, averting the overtures of some Anti-Prop 8 activist-petitioners. “But what exactly are you getting at?”

          “Good neighborly intervention, that’s what,” I begged off their pink heart flyers myself, thinking as I was more globally than locally. “Like with the Arab Peace Initiative. What was up with that?”

          “No, what was down with that,” doc countered. “You talk about pizza maps, that Saudi con job added olives, raw onions and Limburger cheese. The Crown Prince wanted Israel to give away the store for a rotten song.”

          “It was kind of a re-start after Taba, wasn’t it? King Abdullah was just looking for a way to fully recognize the Jewish state and settle on some peaceful boundaries for a Palestinian state…”

          “Still is, he reintroduced the non-starter Initiative last year, which remained as unbalanced as his kingdom. The gall—he’s been demanding Israel retreat to pre-’67 lines, accept a Sovereign Independent Palestine from Gaza to J-S to the Golan, with an East Jerusalem capital, and put out the welcome-home mat for all Palestinian refugees based on U.N. 242 and 338. Hmph, what about the Jewish refugees displaced in Arab lands? Then the API lays responsibility for peace and normalized relations at Israel’s feet. What would Israelis get in return? A limp handshake and promise of acceptance and peaceful co-existence—as if recognition would breed recognition. Such a deal…”

          “So Israel’s right to be rejecting it out of hand? C’mon, Saudi Arabia wields a lot of power and influence in the Arab world, and could go a long way to delivering the peace Israel says it wants.”

          “Au contraire, that ‘outside-in’ initiative would be more of a disaster than the Passover Massacre Hamas perpetrated when the API initially surfaced in ’02,” Paulen said, now holding off some roving Obamiacs passing out campaign signs. “This, from a Salafist/Wahhabi theocracy that commands royal totalitarianism. No political parties, no free speech—just ask Saudi women about rightful co-existence. Rubber stamp that? I say stamp it out altogether.”

          “Oh, I dunno, doc—Israel can’t afford to be blowin’ off such overtures, can it? I mean, with the beating it’s taking image-wise—how this fear of neighbors and existential insecurity is eating away at its democratic ideals. The whole, hardheaded narrative is so blasted confusing. And it leaches into others’ lives in subtle damn ways…”

          “Look, if you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention. And I can’t speak to that last comment, but would love to hear more…”

          Soon enough, most eyes were on a director of photography down near the lagoon, bellowing orders to his gofer grip in Mandarin Chinese. The pair were staging and repositioning two reflector stands and a tripod against a sinking sun. Their subjects: a callow Asian couple wearing full white bridal gown and formal tux, in back-bending embrace beneath a droopy waterside cypress tree, a bed of orchids and carnations ringing them like a Rose Bowl Parade float.

          Picture perfect, swans cued in over their shoulders, arrowhead leaf Gunnera Manicata plants framing this jetty’s leeward side. Fresh-faced lovers had been posing in this romantic spot since the Pan-Pacific days, and today’s weekend Avedon couldn’t squeeze his motor-driven shutter fast enough—a baptism reception and bris still to shoot down San Mateo way.

          For my part, I ruefully acknowledged first hearing of this seminal Coltrane album in Her place, sitting lotus on her bed sipping Grenache rose, munching some knish—tapping fingers against the cut goblet as she spun her tale of imminent breakthrough success—KJAZ playing on the component stereo. That session didn’t end as well either, but it might have been worse, the soundtrack might have been ‘Bitches Brew’—couldn’t have chased away all those feral alley cats to that.

          “Yeah, well, another story, another time,” I hedged, grabbing an Obama ’08 button, for souvenir value, if not quite prepared to drink the Bracko electoral cool-aid. “But let me throw a couple more peace approaches at you—for sake of argument. Like, take the West Bank pizza pie. Why couldn’t they separate the sausage from the mushrooms—village for village, settlement for camp for outpost—keep some, dismantle most. Make it half Israeli, half Palestinian, NorthWest Bank and SouthWest Bank, with a Korea kinda 38th Parallel buffer zone between the two?”

          “Gad, how grotesquely unappetizing that sounds,” Paulen snapped, momentarily blinded by the shimmering chrome wingspan of a seven-foot tall silver man in hi-rise disco platforms. The joker stood head to toe in mirror-scale foil, like an irradiated tin man or spacey creature from the crackhead lagoon—blowing small balloons, slapping them scrumming toddlers’ way. “There can be no more parceling out of historic Judea-Samaria, my friend, only unification, ridding it of Arab aggression. Moreover, the settlers would never bite, at all. Seriously, better Egypt can babysit Gaza again, and let Palestinians repatriate to the TransJordan that once ruled them for so long!”

          “Good luck with that. So then why not play to the hudna—split the difference, negotiate with Hamas in Gaza, Fatah in the West Bank—majeure minus the force? Or if you can’t divide it, then what about trading the West Bank for the Gaza Strip, straight up, pay the settlers to relocate? Have the Palestinians link up with the East Bank across the Jordan river,” I asked, shielding my eyes from the chromium reflections. “Yeah, call it Jordastine, with Ramallah its capital. Then Israel can consolidate the coastline, from Haifa on down to Egypt, forget about any threatening transoms between two territories.”

          “Barter the bountiful Promised Land for a heap of fetid sand ruins? And let Iran pour in with missiles and weapons, a half-dozen miles from Tel Aviv? Absurd on its face…” Doc turned away from the dancing glare.

          Would that the Palace itself had provided that couple so stunning a backdrop. But the day was wearing on, and shadows began filling in Rotunda arches, amid the camphor, flax, and blossoming citrus trees, between columns the entire length of the colonnades. That creamy travertine finish had turned the color of dusky sand; Rotunda crown murals were faded history, plaster fallings captured in a safety net.

          The pace of activity around us quickened as we followed this coursing walkway along the lagoon—in another polyglut of languages, at that. We also appeared to be drawing an escort retinue of abiding lagoon waterfowl—whooper swans in our glide path, snappy and territorial; muscovy ducks flapping in a suddenly stiffer breeze, further whipping up some water spray—raptors like a red-shouldered hawk perched on scraggly limbs, rest stopping along the Pacific flyway. Their squawking drew titters from a trio of refugee-lean China girls ashiver in formless floral sundresses, hands and bowl-cut bangs hiding cheekbones beyond the pale.

          “R-r-right,” I sighed, as we walked on. “Then let’s forget about east/west. What say thinking north/south—Israel’s such a long, swollen kidney, with that ten-mile ‘narrow waist’ anyhow. So you split it somewhere below Bethlehem. Israelis get Upperael, Palestinians get from there south as their Lowerstine state, maybe Hebron as its capital.”

          “Sacrifice the Negev and Eilat seaside resort? Never…that’s precisely what Arab armies would love, cut Israel in half horizontally, surround it on three sides, overrun borders from Lebanon to Egypt, drive it into the sea. Come to your senses, man.”

          “Okay, my bad,” I noodled, with increasing impatience. “Map it out so Israel gets the higher ground it’s been patrolling and settling to monitor militancy, armaments and other security concerns; the Palestinian state gets adjoining parcels of lower elevations upon which to build and grow…”

          “Oh, I see—force Israel to settle for rocky herding land while Palestinians freely gain and enjoy the fertile ground and fruits of Israeli labor and enterprise from earliest Kibbutz days onward. And what, may I ask, would become of Jerusalem here? There is no divvying up of the Holy City, Herbert, Israel’s one and true capital. Nice try, but your true colors are leaching through again.”

          “Or they could occupy the same lands on alternate days, like gas lines here in the late 70s. Or have Israelis become Jewish Palestinians in a unified land, call if Ispalia, or something? Or run some kind of land grant auction? Or lottery? Aww, that’s all I’ve got…what the hell do I know?!” My head was throbbing once more, as I wondered how I could be stuck dealing with this exasperating stuff in a beauteous place like this. Total pain in the gluteal nerve, all right, but it ran farther and wider around the wild, tangled neural ANS ivy than that. But theres gotta be a viable solution in there somewhere.

          A pack of urban scouts streamed and screamed out of several Chevy Tahoes and Ford Explorers double-parked up on Baker Street. Darting pell-mell down a grassy slope toward the water, they startled a couple of young lovers getting shamelessly physical aside a lollipop-shaped acacia tree, enroute to lagoon’s edge for a marine biology field trip, trampling a sprouting band of English laurel, violet flowers and pampas grass as they got there. Distracted nary a lick were three generations of a Latino family gathered some twenty feet along the water’s rim. Los abuelos looked on beaming while their son coaxed his esposa nueva in halting Spanglish—senor abuelo proudly cradling a bundled newborn—whose pudgy young mother stood posing in black lace under a blushing pink parasol, turquoise bejeweled earrings big as cocktail bagels shining like her flaming lip gloss in the sidling sunlight.

          That was about when a bloated, shirtless lout in full-torso banger tattoos beer bellied between the chiquita and her husband’s Coolpix viewfinder, shouting ‘Raiders Rule’ with the toast of a tall can Chelada. By then, Paulen and I were sneaking juicy peeks at another, gorgeously blond supermom breastfeeding her baby sans blankie.

          Doc studiously dwelled a trifle longer, much to the consternation of her Cal rugby husband hulking nearby. Some dirty old District coots LOL’d up on the Baker Street sidewalk, Marina Fellinis snapping disposable Kodak moments of it all. A distant sound track, fading in and out: Elvin Jones drum soloed, Palace grounds
Coltrane fanfared into his explosive thematic narration, ‘Pursuance’. Trane’s dissonant brilliance, furious climaxes, machine-gun firing of ideas: All praise—he was virtually praying to his saxophone, submitting to a higher sonic power. Even this far away, I could feel his manic stretches, his painful straining for every innovative note, as if he was living a life on short-term loan, before trancing into ‘Psalm’s harmonic serenity.

          “But not to worry, Herbert…hope springs infernal,” Paulen mocked, as he eyed another comely hill lounger or two humped over their cell phones all aTwitter. “Just remember, it’s complicated. More than ten U.S. presidents and twice that secretaries of state have tried to solve it. This is very complicated business over there…”

          “Yeah, blocks and blocs of complications—except that all I seem to be getting from you is rank rejectionism…”

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          Western skies above and behind the Palace of Fine Arts had been clear, though slightly gauzy—not unlike a Macintosh desktop screen-saver. But they were fogging up over Presidio treetops by the hour, having probably already enveloped the post-turned-park itself. This became ever clearer as we approached the walkway’s last, long sweeping bend toward the Palace gallery’s northern wing. Here, foot traffic began to thicken, like rush hour around Hospital Curve.

          Valiumed au pairs pushed terrible twos on rear-handle plastic tricycles; panicked parents chased after their stampeding five year-olds. A couple of Nigerian exchange post-grads in beaded tribal dress paused to contemplate a football-size ninja turtle that had sprung from the water, slowly crawling past them on its way uphill toward Baker, and who knew where from there. Making a run for it, blessed escape: could have used a bit of that elixir my own self about then. Palace of Fine Arts
“Look, bottom line? All right, the Palestinians don’t want to win for themselves, they just want to drag Israel down. But ultimately, to paraphrase, it’s their economy, stupid.”

          “Aww, that’s really cold, doc. And looks like the Israelis want to swallow it all in. But either way, the bi-way blame game is getting awfully tired.”

          “Perhaps so. However it does remain a zero-sum game, now doesn’t it—land and water, and the blood thereupon spilled.”

          “More like clotted, if you ask me. Foot dragging and sandbagging on the Road Map to desolation. Palestinians want more of the West Bank and get less. They want their homeland back, compensatory justice. While Israel wants to apportion and appropriate via leverage and power. It’s a total impasse that’s been going on for decades. Yah, the ol’ freeze and squeeze, while Palestinians reliably self-divide and destruct. There’s a name for that stallmate syndrome: Stasis Consolidasis. Meanwhile both populations fester and grow.” There, I laid it out, as if dropping the mic, or sliding away from the poker table mid-game, pocketing the gains after all the bluffs, stays and stand pats—heading for the exits. But no go

          In essence, that turtle was breaking free of all these winged warriors. Riled as they were by a seven mutt-to-a-leash dogwalker and Belgian kid slapping lagoon waters with his foam Giants rally finger, the pond wars were bound to set in. A stretch Jeep load of ‘Urban Safari’ tourists from Melbourne had only stirred the stew even more by ambling down to water’s edge with bags full of sourdough from Fisherman’s Wharf, flinging morsels at the birdlife with plenty of salty Aussie taunts.

          Turned out this end of the murky Palace lagoon had a tiny island the general shape of a Wolverine bootprint. Not that I could easily grasp its shape, the mound being so grossly overgrown. Still, I fixed on it in passing. Here was a natural habitat, a precious—and precocious—little nesting sanctuary, a freshwater rest stop along the Pacific flyway. That meant forget the common pigeons and those obnoxious starlings: This tree and vine-tangled birdland harbored the heavyweights, who spilled out into narrow surrounding waters with Cancun abandon.

          Throw in all that sourdough, and some mighty pompous feathers flew. Mallards paddled over, white swans circled the edges, black-crowned night herons sliced through algae beds to catch a crusty tidbit. Monster crows swooped down from island limbs and thickets to divebomb quacking muscovy ducks. But the main event was goose on goose, wayward Canada honkers bobbing, craning their hose necks, beaks snapping for pecking order on the pond and prey, seagulls not much smaller swooping about from island trees, scaring off one another for any sourdough scraps.

          Such a fuss. As we continued around the bend, I could have synched the resulting cacophony to latter passages of Coltrane’s ‘Pursuance’—though that would have risked being seen as tres uncool. Speaking of which, through ‘Trane’s spiritual storm, after the modal downpour, ‘A Love Supreme’ backtracked to full ‘Acknowledgement’. His opening flourish beckoned Latin rhythmic bass and percussion lines, Trane then seizing the studio ‘stage’ with an urgent, venturesome lead—wave upon wave curling ashore.

          His relentless, joyful sax solos melted into a hypnotic four-note modulated motif, the group reprising to shepherd Coltrane’s wide-ranging tonalities toward his haunting, low-bass vocal mantra: A Love Supreme, a love supreme, a love supreme, a love supreme. This much, I remembered from Her running commentary, a retelling of what had been explained to her on a weekend down in L.A., by her ‘dear friend in the music business’, Josh Gravenek.
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          “Ah well, to paraphrase Golda Meir, there will be no peace until Palestinian mothers love their children more than they hate the Jews. They need to direct their energy and efforts toward more productive ends…”

          “You mean like taking their statehood bid directly to the U.N. General Assembly?”

          “I said productive ends, Herbert. Negotiated at the peace table, face to face in good faith by both parties, with no preconditions. Such outside kibitzing will never fly…”

          “Tell that to the Israelis demanding a unilaterally imposed two-state border solution reflecting current facts on the ground—working around the PA altogether.”

          “Just the Likud and settler movement types venting their frustration with Abbas’s and Hamas’s obfuscation and corruption.”

          “Well, I know one end Israel’s settling on settlements and annexation could produce: Intifada 3. Besides, as for corruption, what’s the deal with Olmert’s indictments?”

          “The wheels of justice grind slowly, my friend. But let’s just say, he is the PM we’ve got at the moment, tackling this spiny peace beast. Ehud will get his in due course…”

          By this time, however, I was picking up faint traces of ‘Acknowledgement’, ’Trane’s supreme clarion call bracing us as we followed the walkway’s curvature, not to mention a sobbing purple playsuited toddler dragging her bent-wheeled plastic pram, doting Russian grandparents rushing to praise bathe her, diapers loading all around. An enraptured young twosome balance beamed further atop the lagoon’s stone retainer, at least until their high-flying affectations were stopped in their tracks.

          Three black-neck geese, apparently fed up with the fussing bird swarm, had leapt up on the low wall, honking imperiously, plucking and dabbing at their feather down wings, shaking off the algae and scum, leaving squawker gulls to fight over crumby leftovers in the shade of island tree growth, crows vulture-lurking on the branches above. I couldn’t help but recall dancing and prancing on the edge some myself, with similarly slimmer pickins to show for it.

          Fearless and unflappable, the preening geese were quite the sight, all right, oblivious to gawkers pausing and passing them, including the two of us. Incessant honking flooded the path curve, echoing off the rear bay windows and balconies of mansions wedging in here from Marina Boulevard, trapping pampered rose bushes and magnolia trees, along with UV addicts tanning among them. Frozen mid gait were a scarf-wrapped demoiselle walking a matched set of large Berneses; two hand-holding Dixie domparts, some hostel freaks from Hamburg—even a red-cheeky British couple on holiday, bickering over directions and fares. My eyes soon wandered to a narrow strait between the island and north-colonnade Palace ground, sated swans, gulls and mallards treading about the dingy, moss-murky water.

          Far off in the distance, Pacific Heights rooflines still crowded up the southern horizon, a construction crane or two rising above the thinning smoke and some upper Broadway spreads into full equity refurbishment. There I lingered, hankering to head up that way myself, at least until a feisty Mexican tyke on trike wheeled over to hector the geese in broken English, his bosomy madre yelling after him—then collecting herself, hiking her cocoa brown tube top back up, smiling toward Paulen with inviting eyes. His wink and nod brought us through one last walkway S-curve, and face to face with the utter scale of the Palace’s outstretched arms.

          “Well, I just hope the gavel doesn’t come down before he can deliver on his plan,” I said, further recognizing it was unavoidably hammer time.

          “Beg your pardon,” doc shot a glance back my way.

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          “Olmert’s peace plan, ” I continued. Swimming in my head as well were the crescendo bars of Coltrane’s opus, still reverberating through opened rear Palace theater doors, around redwood tree-lined back gallery walls. Then came my nodding into his mantra: A Love Supreme, a love supreme, a love supreme, a love supreme… “The one he’s been quietly negotiating lately with Mahmoud Abbas…”

          “What would you know about such a thing,” Paulen hedged, checking out my paper and posture.

          “Been catching snippets about it in the Israeli press—Google is a wonderful thing,” I said, a love supreme, a love supreme, her love supreme, a love supreme rang on. “Yeah, it’s like he offering to swap and re-configure the sausage for the mushrooms on that West Bank pizza—hold the stinking cheese. He’ll give Palestinians 5.8% of disputed territory or an equal amount, including inside pre-’67 borders, and a safe highway to Gaza in exchange for annexing 75% of Jewish-populated areas totaling 6.3%. More than land swaps, it’s rumored he’ll offer 5k to 15k refugees right of return, also clear out dozens of settlements, then freeze others—even divide and internationalize Jerusalem. And the way I read it, the PA is all ears except for some of the numbers—if only they all can demilitarize and seize the opportunity.”

          “Yes, well, you can’t believe everything you read,” doc replied, taken farther aback, as if having missed a newsbeat in transit. “That’s certainly something that would provoke intense Likud scrutiny in the Knesset, particularly over security and sovereignty. Calm, deliberative leadership, not bloody craziness in the streets.”

          “I’ll bet—hell, Netanyahu would shoot it down quicker than the Geneva Accords. C’mon, he’s has been railing against land-for-peace plans for years now. One op-ed article I saw argued that he’d swap peace for land any day, that he’d bluster into Israels isolation or blunder into more war,” I said, pressing the newspaper against my hip. “Face it, nothing would ever be advanced process-wise if he had his way—things could only get more…hopeless, right?”

          Closer scrutiny herein revealed a travertine finish weathered something fierce: chipped, pitted up and down the columns; scallops cracked off the capitals atop them; fractured friezes the length of crumbling cornices. Massive vine boxes above, spaced along them like castle barbicans, were moldy stained with the endless droppings of perched pigeons and gulls—cast griffins, winged angels, goddesses in flowing gowns and weeping maidens alike worn to the point of despair, much to Bernie Maybeck’s eternal dismay. I couldn’t keep from wondering what would naughty Stella and Fatty Arbuckle have thought, let alone Edwin Markham—or Pericles, for that matter. In any case, that was the PalacePalace of Fine Arts details
Foundations problem, province of San Francisco Park and Rec, sure to see the PFA through to better days. Paulen and I turned away from the PFA’s north plaza to a flock of pre-teen propeller heads scampering from a school bus, into the Palace gallery’s Exploratorium museum for a little hands-on science and tech at that petri-galactic playground actually hatched by Frank ‘Pinko’ Oppenheimer while he taught at…CU-Boulder, but which could only have come to life out here.

          Following them into the hall was a nuclear family on a day trip from the valley, atomizing, detonating—last tourists off the rear of a motorized cable car just in from a brisk loop of the Golden Gate Bridge, griping about the fog up there, which was starting to obliterate the whole damn thing. Actually, chillier breezes were tending to whip up the lagoon a bit more of late, stirring the scum and algae like green miso soup.

          “Hmph, that may, or may not, remain to be seen. As I’ve said, this is complicated business. These things take time—perhaps it would be like Nixon to China, McCain to Hanoi—Bibi just might be the answer,” Paulen measured his response, and in turn mine. “So tell me again, how is it you seem to know so much about the Middle East situation?”

          “Let’s just say it’s kinda become my business…” But before Coltrane’s ‘Acknowledgement’ properly concluded, another chant occluded in from across Marina Boulevard—one far less transcendental, with little hope for resolution any time soon. Elation-elegance-exaltation, satin sheets of sound: So much for placidity. Her love supreme, our love supreme, our love supreme… Didn’t want to go there; didn’t have a prayer.

          “Exactly how is it your business?”

          “A little complicated, but trust me, it just is…” I glanced up, away from the Palace and Pacific Heights haze. Little I could do about that now anyway, but sweat the charred and smoked stuff—still fretting over whether this peacemeal ping-pong was actually getting me anywhere down here. Suddenly, there it was again, passing over just beyond the PFA, that Saturn airship, bigger and brighter than the receding sun.

          “Sounds like an awfully ‘anti’ business, if you ask me…”

Care for more?

Chapter Forty-Two. The serenity of a Fine Arts
Palace gives way to the more martial art of
confrontation. Biblical in nature, the tensions trigger
a broadside of accusations…