Most excellent

Price of gasoline got you down? Not to worry. The problem hasn’t escaped our own Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico. “Northern Californians are being held hostage at the gas pump,” Herger writes in a letter to the chairman of the House Committee on Resources. The administration, he says, “has demonstrated a complete and total lack of leadership in preventing this problem. It is a clear failure of domestic and foreign policy.” What’s this? Wally criticizing the Bush administration? Stop the presses! Oh wait, start the presses up again. Herger’s letter was written March 17, 2000, when Bill Clinton occupied the White House and gasoline prices were nearing $1.75 a gallon. Now, with prices closing in on $3 a gallon, we don’t hear a peep from our congressman about the rocketing price of gasoline. “I believe our nation needs rigorous and attentive oversight to make certain that this administration doesn’t fall asleep at the wheel again,” said Herger at the time. Now it seems that all the Republicans who are running things, including Herger, have fallen asleep at the wheel and we are headed toward the cliff. Where is all that oil we were supposed to get from Iraq? Maybe Wally is driving a hybrid these days. And why aren’t the SUV drivers who wheel their monsters among us waging some sort of protest at the pumps? This is America, damn it. Doesn’t the Constitution guarantee us the right to life, liberty and really cheap gas so we can drive ridiculously large automobiles?

I’ve recently joined the ranks of people who carry around telephones that aren’t attached to cords. It’s a long story that involves my 11-year-old son making some sort of trade that landed him a cell phone. “Hey,” he said to me soon after his acquisition, “I need to get a pre-paid phone card to make this baby work.” So, carrying on a male tradition that runs in my family, we dispensed with any kind of research and ran out and bought the first phone card we found—$39.95 for 100 minutes. Seemed like a good deal, but it didn’t work for his phone. So I did the only logical thing I could think of—I bought a cell phone that the card was designed for, something called TracPhone. (For the longest time I told myself that I would be the last person on earth to buy a cell phone. Then I learned that a mountaintop-dwelling Tibetan monk who had taken a vow of silence had picked up a Verizon wireless from the local Circuit City in Nepal, and I figured it was my turn.)

I’ve learned a few tricks since I got my Nokia cellular phone. (Although text-messaging my son is not among them—I can only produce gibberish like “Hi wy tv wwih wyou.” And he’ll message back, “OK.”) For one thing, while talking on the cell phone and driving your car, reception seems to reach optimal levels if you drive really slow and weave from side to side like a guy headed home from the Towne Lounge at 2:30 in the morning. And whatever you do, don’t use your turn signals—their electronic pulse seems to interfere with the incoming cell signal. Also, reception peaks when you’re going through the checkout line at the grocery store and the checker bothers you with a question like, “Paper or plastic?” and you have to say to the person you’re talking to, with an appropriately irritated tone, “Hold on,” and then snap at the checker a rather sharp, “Hey, I’m on the phone here!” Isn’t life in 21st-century America grand? What more could we ask for, besides really cheap gas to operate our Ford Excursions?

The paper you are holding in your hands was recently judged by the California Newspaper Publishers Association as either the most-excellent or second-most-excellent weekly in the state of California. Better than those big-city weeklies in San Francisco or Los Angeles or San Diego. Better than the weeklies in Fresno or Modesto or Carmel or Santa Cruz or Monterey. (We won’t know if we were the most- or second-most-excellent weekly until the awards are made in July.) But we did just get notice that we are in the top two. Let it be known that I am extremely proud of the staff here at the Chico News & Review, the best damn bunch of people I’ve ever worked with. I love you guys. Really. Somebody get me another beer, I think I’m going to cry.