Rainbows and Chiclets

I’m on a much-needed but thoroughly undeserved vacation this week. We’re regrouping at the News & Review after being pulled through the wringer of public condemnation. We’ve been called insensitive, whorish and bitter. We’ve lost advertising before or had bundles of issues tossed into Dumpsters by some of the largest and most-respected businesses in town, including AT&T, Wittmeier Auto, Enloe Medical Center and the local exotic-dancing industry (actually, a stripper named Raven). In the latest flap a couple of advertisers objected not to content but to the fact a special issue of the paper wasn’t getting distributed as they were told it would be. That’s reasonable. So we asked ourselves, is it worth it to piss people off and risk losing advertising dollars, especially when that is your sole source of revenue? We thought not. So from now on we’re opting for a new tactic here—we are going to write only heart-warming, fun stories. Stories like you see on the evening news about a mother dog nursing baby rabbits somewhere in Wisconsin, or a pig in West Virginia that knows how to flush the toilet.

With this new spirit of adventure in mind, let me tell you about my vacation to north San Diego County—at least up to this point—in excruciating detail. First, consider this: Think of what is annoying about certain behaviors in Chico, multiply that by 11, and you have an idea of the North County culture. Everyone here, it seems, has a cell phone attached to his or her ear—driving, shopping, sitting in the theater, dining in a restaurant (and this extends to the waiters and waitresses), gassing up the car, sitting in living rooms and watching TV. And everybody has a personalized license plate, like the skin-headed guy in the black Jetta (MARNSGT), who zipped past on Interstate 5 in Oceanside. Women in their 70s walk the aisles of Vons grocery store dressed like sisters in a Chico State sorority. There is very little open space left in North County, other than golf courses. Hey, Dan Herbert, don’t think open space has intrinsic value? Pay a visit to La Costa. Don’t forget your golf clubs.

We visited Tijuana, Mexico, the day after we arrived. No cell phone use here, except by gringos looking for things and people to exploit. I’ve never seen so many young Chiclets gum and rubber-snake salespeople in one place. (Ever been cussed out by a 2-year-old?) We went to the world-famous San Diego Zoo the following day. My observations tell me the great apes realized they were captives. The gorillas were pissed and unreceptive to their human gawkers. They kept their backs turned to us. The orangutans, on the other hand, seemed to have accepted their life sentences and were trying to make the most of their situation by clowning around and generally entertaining the crowds on the other side of the Plexiglas windows. A visit to the zoo is both exhilarating and sad.

If you find yourself in Southern California anytime soon, don’t go to the Universal Studios, as we did. Thinking we were smart, we purchased plastic credit card deals at the local grocery store, saving about $5 per ticket. We got to Universal and, feeling pretty smug, walked around the ticket buyers’ lines straight to the ticket-takers, where we were told we had to get our plastic credit cards verified at the will-call window. There we discovered about 20 people in line at a booth that sports five ticket windows. Only one was open. After 45 minutes in the hot sun, we made it to the shade of the booth’s overhang. The people in the line behind us were cranky and starting to question the wisdom of a visit to Universal Studios. Through one of the closed windows I could hear people inside the little green building talking and laughing. “Open another window,” I said, “or you are going to have an uprising on your hands.” A woman’s voice answered from inside. “Not me, I’m getting off work now.” I grabbed a young guy walking past and wearing the Universal employee uniform—khaki shorts and a flowery shirt. “We’re short-staffed,” he offered as he pulled away from my grip and disappeared into the crowd. The visit went downhill from there, and we vowed never again to attend a Universal Studios film. That ought to teach them.