Opinion » Street Talk

Yo quiero Mardi Gras


With Mardi Gras now about as fun as a glass of seltzer water with a stalk of celery stuck in it, the SLO Downtown Association appears to be trying to recoup its celebratory losses by coming up with another excuse to throw a party that has nothing to do with San Luis Obispo and everything to do with a name like “The SLO County Highland Games� or “The Underground Railroad Stops Here.�

The Downtown Association ultimately decided on an idea that it could pass off with some plausibility, and is now hyping the June 4 “Fiesta de SLO� as “a celebration of our town’s Hispanic heritage,� even though SLO is currently about as ethnic as a glass of seltzer water with a stalk of celery stuck in it — though I have to admit that we do have two Taco Bells, one of which stays open until the wee hours to offer beans, cheese, and churros to white college students of Irish, English, or cowboy heritage after they’re done drinking at downtown bars with Irish, English, or cowboy themes.

By the way, did you know that in northern states like Oregon and whatever’s above that before you get to Canada, Taco Bell meals come with little spicy hashbrowns called Mexi-nuggets? At least they did last time I was up there. Something tells me that the nugget is a decidedly U.S.A.-based food lump, but hey, I’m no expert on Central and South American cultures, one of which came up with the concept of zero. I can’t even spell Quetzalcoatl, the name of a feathered Aztec serpent god.

Anyway, since we San Luis Obispans are no longer bragging that we live in the beads-and-boobsiest city west of the Mississippi, it makes sense that we’d go for a different title, something like “the beans-and-foodsiest place to have a fiesta north of the border,� although Santa Barbara is one or two steps ahead of us with its annual fiesta, and the flyer seeking business sponsors for our party promises “It’s nacho ordinary event!� which is just about the whitest slogan you could come up with for a fiesta that includes a salsa competition and “delicious food,� like, I suppose, nachos, which — at least the way we typically make them here in the states, with store-bought Tostitos and pre-shredded cheese blends — seem about as authentic as Mexi-nuggets, or our takes on pizza and Chinese food. Pizza, by the way, has also found its way onto Taco Bell menus in Mexican form. I’ve yet to see any Chinese crossover — maybe pot-stickeritos? — but I’m not holding my breath, unless I’m actually in a Taco Bell, in which case I am.

Hispanic, I’ve heard, means “any people who learned Spanish before they learned any other languages in the United States,� so I guess we could technically celebrate our local Hispanic heritage and not ruffle too many authentic feathers, despite the fact that just about any given snapshot of a random Farmer’s Market Thursday will yield a picture as white as snow.

And funny that I’d mention snow, which figures heavily into my next point, which is to point out that Mayor Dave Romero, who has a Hispanic-sounding surname, was off skiing while more cops swarmed through SLO’s streets than through New Orleans’ French Quarter on Mardi Gras weekend.

Don’t get me wrong. After I saw all the heavy-handed threats from The Man promising bodily harm if I put my body in harm’s way by stepping outside, I skipped town, too. But there’s something about a mayor leaving the city at the time of a potential crisis that smacks of a captain abandoning his sinking ship. Who cares what the admiralty or other passengers think. Have you seen the powder up in Squaw Valley?

While Dave was shushing and moguling on the slopes, his city was holding its breath under the watchful eye of tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of police, who could claim a win from the very first ad that announced how the party was over. Since nothing to speak of happened, not even one nudity arrest, they can all say “I told you so,� and come back in force again next year while Dave ponders buying tickets to Heavenly.

There’s something about a mayor leaving the city at the time of a potential crisis that smacks of a captain abandoning his sinking ship. Who cares what the admiralty or other passengers think — have you seen the powder up in Squaw Valley?

In protest — of the police presence, not the mayor skiing — a group of Cal Poly students decided to hype up the weekend after Mardi Gras as Poly Gras in an effort to encourage alcohol, bare breasts, and wanton abandon (with responsible restraint) in a city that’s less police state and more normal, which, let’s be honest, is not that far off from police state to start with when it comes to college keg parties.

The students are operating under the slogan “The Party is On,� like they can just flip a party switch and get everything going again. Mardi Gras off. Mardi Gras on. Off. On. Off. On.

It seems like a good idea in the American sense of thumbing one’s nose at authority and partying however wherever whenever, but I can’t help but think that less police won’t necessarily mean more party, especially since out-of-town visitors aren’t known for stopping by the weekend after a big beerfest to see if anybody just happened to stand up and shout “Hey! One more time!� Did anyone send the memo outside SLO’s border?

In any case, I’m packing up and heading out again. Dave, care to join me in Mammoth?

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