I didn’t used to read the “news”—not what passed for news in this little pond, anyway. “What’s the point?” I thought. It’s about the same every day: That little blonde girl from Mission Prep wins a race, the Board of Supes offends the environmentalist or the rancher or the developer, and some merchant markets a new green wine or cheese or egg or ham to the simple people of SLO who are willing to shell out some greenola for a chance to feel oh-so-sophisticated—and righteous, too!
It was all good news for so long, and everybody wanted to spread it around like thick, rich manure on fields of our minds. Everyone’s houses were gaining value so fast, you could feed a small village of starving children off the climbing equity alone (just 70 cents a day buys clean water, medicine, and food for one child)—but then again, why not just buy the village, build a hotel, and pay the starving children 70 cents a day to work at a resort? It sounded great until the developer went broke. Then the news started getting really interesting.
The developer went broke after offering 20 percent returns for investing in a project that was too risky for a bank to invest in—and we know now that the banks will give money to just about anyone—because really, who wants to hang out at a resort full of starving orphans? A body can’t really taste the pleasures of a bourgeois existence with the orphans and “untidies” eyeing your organic grass-fed steak so longingly.
Then home prices started falling. Ol’ Shred still can’t afford a house—not with my bar tab climbing so steadily—but I hear it’s a buyer’s market. I’ll ponder that over a shot and a beer. Of course, Santa Maria has a predictable glut of cheap homes, but aren’t we all so much better than them? ’Cause we’d never live in Santa Maria, what with all the shootings, and the gangs, and the affordably priced housing. Come to think of it, the housing might be the only thing separating us from them. (Don’t tell Sunset Magazine, but San Luis has seen its share of murder and robbery lately—and probably teenaged pregnancy, too.) Folks who spend less time than I pondering important things might think it’s a symptom of the failing economy. But seen through the bottom of an empty pint glass, the problem seems clearly rooted in something much more sinister: socialism.
Not too long ago or a while ago, depending on when you read this, a Republican congressman from Alabama named Spencer Bachus told reporters he knew of at least 17 socialists in the House of Representatives. He won’t release the names, though, classy guy that he is, but he’s keeping a secret list. Not even anonymous columnists can know who’s on the list, and that’s a shame, because this writer could really use some socialized health care. I seem to have lost my guts, and my teeth just aren’t as sharp as they used to be. So they tell me, anyway. And yet nobody hands me a file.
If all this sounds a little familiar, maybe you’re old enough to remember the fear-mongering ’50s. I can’t even count to 50, let alone 57, which is the number of—gasp!—communists whom Joe McCarthy claimed were infesting the State Department back then. It turns out that Old McCarthy got the number from a bottle of ketchup or catsup or cat soup. But 17? Now where did that number come from? Is it the age of consent in Alabama? No, that’s 12, as long as you’re kin. But 17? What a random number. Actually, it’s the most random number there is, according to the number nerds at MIT. Really, ask a person to pick a number between one and 20, and most often they’ll say 17. It’s just what you say when you don’t have anything better to say. What a coincidence that Spencer said it, too.
Red to Blues
In early April, the SLO City Council decided to sign contracts with SLO Baseball Alliance, who will likely play ball as “The Blues”—but don’t call them that yet, because they don’t actually own the name. That’s just a minor detail, though. They’ll figure it all out after they figure out from whom they need to buy the team. Nonetheless, the City Council, in its haste to sign contracts with anyone but Blues founder Tim Golden, is now in business with one of the state’s top tax delinquents, Golden’s ex-partner Joe Vergara. The State Franchise Tax Board reported that Vergara owes the state more than $560,000 in taxes for 2007. That’s the same year Vergara claimed huge losses while running the Blues.
After Golden bounced a few checks—which he paid immediately—the city was eager to cut ties with the blue-eyed dreamer. They signed on with Stevie Mac, the face of the Blues in 2008, who subsequently bounced checks and landed in jail, where he sits right now. In fact, he’s been there for months, just waiting for a Tribune reporter to come and see him. Mac, whose real name is McPherson, has been smeared on the Tribune’s front page more times than he’s overdrafted his checking account, but he’s still waiting for an interview, he said.
Anyway, the city sure learned from its mistake. This time, local leaders only want to play ball with an organization that can pay its bills on time.
SLO’s “urban forest” could be on the chopping block if the city takes the Chamber of Commerce’s gardening advice. The chamber, which sports a logo with a gull (more on that later), advised the city in January to get rid of the mature trees downtown. You know how those branches make a lovely canopy that hangs above Higuera and elsewhere? Those trees are too big, they say. Replace them with smaller trees, they say, like the ones in downtown Paso Robles. The chamber put together a bunch of slides showing the wrist-width saplings and asked, “Why can’t we have that, too?” Let me guess: There are 17 reasons the old trees should be cut down?
And back to that bird: San Luis Obispo is 10 miles from the ocean where gulls live. The only seabirds that venture this far inland are the ones who circle Cold Canyon landfill, hoping to feed on the scraps. Again, don’t tell Sunset Magazine.