Opinion » Street Talk

Let the good times roll with the punches

The message from the city is: If your friends want to come to town this Mardi Gras weekend, tell them to stay home, unless they’re coming to watch the Amgen Tour of California bike race, in which case, by all means have them come.

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I may sound like a broken record when it comes to Mardi Gras in this town, but it’s better than sounding like a boring old fuddy-duddy, the sort of person who hands out apple slices or tangerines or rolls of pennies to kids on Halloween. What kind of a schmuck does that? The short answer: Not me. I don’t even answer my door at all on Halloween.

 I do, however, believe that people who do answer their door should hand out candy. I also believe that the city needs to get its collective panties out of the bunch that they’re in and stop being afraid of letting loose and having a little fun, which would be a big improvement over the no fun that was had last year around Mardi Gras. This place was as dead as open mike night at a cemetery.

 Ever since the city started its “party’s over� campaign, I’ve been clucking my tongue at the prudish actions of the knee jerks who took one look at Mardi Gras weekend in 2004 — during which, I’ll admit, things got a mite out of hand — and declared that the sky was falling on the innocent bystanders here in San Luis Obispo.

 In case you actually took the city’s advice and got out of town last year, I’ll fill you in on what happened in response to the city’s big crack-down: Nothing. Arrests dropped. Nobody rioted. Hooray for us. Elected officials and police officers walked around for weeks after the non-event, flashing “V for Victory� signs and patting each other puritanically on the back for taking a local feel-good tradition and trampling it completely into oblivion after one or two bad experiences.
 This year, SLO police spokesman Dan Blanke has been saying that the party’s still over, and I’m still clucking my tongue. Cluck, cluck, cluck. Actually, it’s more like a tsk, like this: Tsk, tsk, tsk.

 To be fair, which I don’t have to be (it says so in my contract), the city has said all along that its intent has been to come out strong against partying and then slowly back off until everyone’s spirits are broken even without the massive police presence. That means this year’s Mardi Gras celebrations will see something like 100 less police than did last year’s, though the number will still be hundreds more than usual. It’s like sucker punching someone only four times instead of five.

 To be less fair, the city’s recent Gestapo tactics may have prevented any riots that might have happened — which is fairly difficult to measure — but they’ve also made San Luis Obispo as popular as that quarantined Cal Poly kid with whooping cough. “Come hang out!� we say. “Look! We’re still fun, even though you may get a beating for adjusting your bra strap in public!� And everyone just smiles and nods and slowly backs away and gets in their cars and drives to Isla Vista, which, despite flowing almost perpetually with more drugs, alcohol, and sex than any typical SLO Mardi Gras parties of years past, always manages to get Lois Capps elected. But I digress.

 This year, San Luis Obispo even enlisted ultimate fighter Chuck Liddell to encourage people to tell out-of-town friends to stay away, which, forgive me if I sound a bit naÔve here, seems a bit counterproductive when you consider that San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director Lindsey Miller has been working her tail off to make sure out-of-town visitors do come to town to watch the Amgen Tour of California bike race.

 The leaders of this fair city seem to be talking out of both sides of their mouths, or at least out of both ends. On one hand, they’re hiring a man who regularly beats people senseless to tell visitors to stay away, and with the other they’re beckoning tourists to come and see what they hope will be the biggest event ever to come to the county. Meanwhile, Lindsey’s crossing her fingers, hoping that Mardi Gras won’t stumble onto the happy, sunshiny bike scene like a drunken uncle at a wedding, hitting on anyone and everyone and puking all over the parking lot.

 So ultimately, the message from the city is: If your friends want to come to town this Mardi Gras weekend, tell them to stay home, unless they’re coming to watch the Amgen Tour of California bike race, in which case, by all means have them come. Just be sure they’re coming to watch the bike race. If they so much as hint at the fact that they may want to celebrate Mardi Gras on some level — for instance, if they say the words “Mardi Gras� or wear clothing that they could easily take off in order to be nude in public — discourage them from coming. The Iceman would want it that way. ∆

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