Opinion » Street Talk

What a riot!


I've been thinking about music lately, how it's supposed to soothe the savage beast and help you visualize whirled peas and all that other long-haired cloth-grocery-bag-toting mumbo jumbo. Unless that music is rock'n'roll, in which case it's more dangerous than Harley-Davison unicycle with a suicide shifter and a bald tire. And even more dangerous than rock is its angry little brother with the bad haircut, punk rock.

Just how dangerous is punk rock, you ask? Well, according to local "law enforcers," it's worth four Paso Robles police cruisers, one sheriff's car, a highway patrol car, and a helicopter. That's how much cop muscle it took to put down the chaotic hellacious punk rock fiasco that was the Paso Robles Parks & Rec Department's second annual battle of the bands last Friday, in which 19 groups of potentially evil teenagers got together at the Mid-State Fairgrounds to compete for the title of the top rebellious malcontents in the land.

Things were going swimmingly as band after band of 14-year-olds did their best rock posturing, pulling moves heretofore unseen outside of their parents' garages and basements, bobbing their heads of dangerous long hair and tapping their lethal toes to the crazy beat of their heartfelt rock anthems.

Suddenly, at 9:30 p.m. cop cars screeched into the fairgrounds, sirens wailing, and heavily armed, rifle-wielding storm troopers jackstepped their way into strategic positions to best subdue these dangerous rock'n'roll rebels and their audience of parents, friends, and an office appliance. Then came the chopper and its searchlight scanning the crowd for ... I don't know, someone singing "I Did It My Way"? Can I have a blue spot, please? No, I couldn't, but I could leave right now!

The cops actually shut down the event without all the bands having a chance to play, hence no winner was declared. I ask you, how will I know which budding rock group to genuflect to? Officer Krupke, I implore you, why did you kill the music?

Well, all the Keystone Cop antics were the result of a mosh pit. Can you imagine? A rock concert filled with teenagers listening to their friends rock out, and they want to start dancing in a circle and running into each other? Kids these days! Why can't they square dance like the rest of us?

Apparently a little old lady in a little pink jacket who happens to work for the little ol' Paso Parks & Rec Department was aghast at this newfangled form of dancing, so she tried to stop the slam dancing by talking to 15-year-olds like they were 3-year-olds, and any 40-year-old knows that 15-year-olds don't respond to 65-year-olds, especially when they're listening to rock'n'roll. So she called the coppers.

For the record, no one was hurt in this little rock opera, except perhaps the hopes and dreams of little Johnny Rock Star who had been woodshedding in his bedroom, playing "Stairway to Heaven" over and over until even his best furry friend Spot was ready to eat guitar strings if it meant not having to endure another guitar solo.

Perhaps next year Paso Rec can host a Battle of the Tea Cozies contest, or a Battle of the 15-Minute Chair Massages. Anything but another potentially explosive event where kids are gathered listening to music when we all know they should be loitering outside of 7-11 trying to coax me into buying them a pack of smokes and a sixer. Don't worry, parents. I always say yes, but then I keep the money ... stupid punks.


Let 'er rip

Getting a fire victim's last name off of a housing park office list, his first name from neighbors, and then checking his full name with county property records seems like an awful lot of work for something officers weren't releasing in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I think a little investigation is necessary every now and then - especially when officials are being tight lipped - but this wasn't the identity of a supervisor taking bribes or the name of a detective put on probation for beating a suspect.

Next of kin hadn't yet been notified and the Tribune still included in its May 2 story several references to the man's full name, as well as the stunning, fact-revealing quote from a neighbor, so vital to the Woodward-and-Bernstein exposé of the fire: "All we know is his first name is Troy and he lives alone and he's been somewhat handicapped." Later, the story mentions that another neighbor "also knew the victim as just Troy."

A follow-up story the next day, however, mentions that authorities still had not identified the victim. Too bad the Tribune did.

On May 8, Executive Editor Sandra Duerr answered a letter from a confused brother-in-law of the victim, who was questioning the Tribune's rationale for forging ahead with identification despite police withholding the name. Among other parts of a meandering sort of apology, Duerr explained that the editor on duty at the time worried that the picture of an unidentified, burned-out mobile home would worry readers that it was their friend or family member who had died. I'm sure that Trib staff are glad to know that identifying the man kept almost all of their readers' minds at ease - except for the victim's family, of course.

Duerr also mentioned that at least one local TV station had already broadcast the name. I know there's such a thing as public record and common knowledge, but decency, morals, and sensitivity should never be thrown out because "they" did it, too - especially if "they" work for a TV station.

One more rip

While I'm at it, I'm still peeved at the Tribune's mis-account of Steve Moss' passing that said he was born a year later than he actually was. And, this one twice, that one of his closest friends who hasn't worked here in years claimed she was currently co-publisher and advertising sales director of Steve's newspaper. That's funny ... doesn't say that on the New Times masthead. ³

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