I wept. My lacrimal glands burst like overripe fruit. Salty, Pabst-flavored tears charged down my face, diverted by wrinkles and absorbed by pizza crumbs clinging to my chin.
It was Saturday, around 2:47 a.m., and I couldn’t track the source of my emotional maelstrom to a single event. Outside my window, a plastic bag made its way down the street, propelled by a powerful gust of wind. For a brief moment, it was as if man (represented by the bag) and nature (obviously, the wind) were of the same mind.
I was in the middle of a fantasy about where their travels might lead them—a romp with the penguins of Antarctica, perhaps, or a picnic beneath the Eiffel Tower—when a crusty, middle-aged man walking his dog snatched the bag from the air and shoveled some dog turds into it. And then I remembered that I was looking at a plastic bag, and American Beauty had already wrung the last vestige of beauty and metaphor from an otherwise unattractive and inanimate object. Clearly, I did not weep for the poignancy of metaphor.
The rabble who stormed the Integrated Waste Management Authority meeting to rant about a plastic bag ban would have you think otherwise. “Plastic bags represent truth,” one cried, according to a reporter’s account of the meeting. “Freedom,” ranted another, using his free hand to decipher his GPS coordinates for a Facebook check-in. And then, just when you thought the situation couldn’t get any more absurd, the guy I’d seen earlier started waving the bag of dog turds. Was he threatening the IWMA? Was it a plea for help? A grown man probably shouldn’t be transporting fecal matter, not even to support the important and completely illogical notion that plastic bags somehow represent his freedom.
Hey “freedom fighters,” why don’t you protest the fact that you’re not allowed to make endangered animals snort nitroglycerine? Or pit baby pandas against seal pups in to-the-death cage matches? My point is, there’s a lot of stuff you’re already not allowed to do. Instead of bitching about it, recognize that you’re one member of a species that numbers seven billion, and we simply can’t go around raping the environment the way we did in the good ol’ days. If you don’t like it, strap on a freaking condom and encourage your neighbor to do the same.
Perhaps I wept for the dearly departed Narcotics Task Force, which recently got its funding cut by the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. Who will infiltrate the cancer ward at local hospitals and pry healthful joints from patients’ cold, nearly dead fingers? Then I remembered that they’re shoot-first-ask-questions-later cowboys who don’t give a flying fig that Californians voted to decriminalize medical marijuana. God forbid one of them contracts a debilitating disease and is forced to choose between ethics and sanity. Don’t even try to argue that being trapped in a cycle of endless, shattering pain doesn’t affect your mental state. If you don’t believe me, I can rig you into a tree like a piñata and beat you black and blue with my trusty cricket paddle.
Deb Gleasen is apparently inclined to disagree, judging by her comments printed in an August edition of the Mustang Daily, arguing that medical marijuana is a “perceived medication.” Given her non-existent medical degree, and the fact that the only reason anyone’s talking to her in the first place is because her boss is SLO County Supervisor Paul Teixeira, I’d say her opinion carries less weight than the bag of dog turds at the IWMA meeting. The only thing worse than a bumbling political goon is the goon’s assistant on some kind of power trip, thinking that her position entitles her to make “weighty” statements to the press.
So yes, I wept for stupidity. For reason, beaten bloody and discarded by the side of some highway a long, long time ago. But I wept for beauty as well. San Luis Obispo, it seems, is trying to set some kind of record for most dollars funneled into the smallest amount of space possible. The city is broke. There’s not enough money for luxuries like services for the disabled and homeless. And the city staff’s response to this economic crisis is to pour $873,000 into blinging out two blocks of downtown. Apparently, it costs a lot to bedazzle a couple of trashcans.
The thing is, downtown isn’t exactly a dump to begin with. It undeniably wins the title of “most upscale section of the city.” So, while people are hungry, jobless, and homeless, local leaders are throwing money at a miniscule section of the city? Once again, the Occupy movement comes to mind, along with allegations that the people making decisions are slanting them in favor of the elite—the people power-shopping their way through downtown—at the expense of, well, everyone else. Can someone explain to me why the city won’t invest in public bathrooms so you don’t have to beg business owners to use theirs or risk soiling yourself on the shiny streets of downtown? Even dogs get plastic bags—for now, anyway.
Don’t get me wrong: I can’t wait to stroll through two glorious blocks of streets paved with 24-carat gold and champagne fountains. That is, if I’m allowed in. I’m guessing the city will hire round-the clock security to ensure riff-raff like me doesn’t go mucking around their little slice of paradise. Maybe I’ll invest in a pair of binoculars so I can drink in the beauty from afar. It’s not really in my budget, but if SLO found a spare $873,000 in the middle of a recession, I’m sure I can muster up some pocket change.
Shredder dreams of bedazzling a toilet. Send rhinestones to firstname.lastname@example.org.