I love golf. The brightly colored balls, the sweet smell of cotton candy wafting through the air, the satisfaction of dropping a putt into the mouth of a giant clown. Of course that’s miniature golf; the full-size version is another story.
I played that only once, and since I did so as a lefty borrowing right-handed clubs, saved some time by rounding up my scorecard to infinity. But I understand that a lot of people using the correct-handed clubs find it quite enjoyable, and would never wish to impose upon their recreational choices – unless those choices happen to threaten an endangered species or two.
For instance, if they enjoyed clubbing baby seals with nine irons, or using golf balls made from panda testicles, I would strongly encourage they take up a new hobby. In the case of Sharp Park Golf Course, it was built on the habitat of the red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake, back when nature was still considered to be an eyesore and in need of mowing. This forced the critters to move to the nearest remaining habitat: Pescadero marsh. Unfortunately, animals are poor map-readers, and most got lost en route, causing the stragglers to be protected by the federal government.
It all began when famous golf architect Alister MacKenzie, inspired by the success of the Ocean Shore Railroad, decided to emulate its winning formula by building a golf course on a coastal sand dune. After several delays, the course finally opened on April Fool’s Day in 1932, ushering in the park’s “golden era,” which lasted six whole years, until a storm washed away seven holes, ushering in the park’s “underwater era,” which lasts to this day.
In an attempt to salvage what was left, a berm was illegally built in the 1980s to keep the water back. Unfortunately, it kept the water back in the wrong direction, causing the course to flood all the way to the clubhouse. Because the protected frogs laid eggs in the ensuing lake, the course was forced to leave it, and instead supplied golfers with specially designed floating clubs, putting snorkels, and amphibious golf carts. As a result, the course has had to be subsidized by taxpayer money every year, but that’s okay because it’s San Francisco taxpayers. Suckers.
Now an organization called the “Center for Biological Diversity,” representing a narrow special-interest group known as “life on Earth,” hopes to turn the troubled course into an endangered-species habitat. San Francisco Supervisor Russ Mirkarimi has introduced legislation to consider the idea*. This has led to a contentious debate, which so far the golfers have been winning handily, since the snakes and frogs have proven incapable of even the most rudimentary language. Therefore I will humbly attempt to speak on their behalf, assuming they are history buffs capable of reading a financial spreadsheet.
Golfers: The golf course was created by Alister MacKenzie, a famous architect, in the 30s.
Snakes and Frogs: Oh yeah? We were created by God, an omniscient being, in the Permian era.
Golfers: Restoring Sharp Park would lead to more mosquitoes and West Nile Virus.
Frogs: Our extinction would allow mosquitoes to run rampant over the earth, leaving death and destruction in their evil wake. Although they are quite delicious.
Golfers: Sharp Park is on track to make a profit this year.
Snakes and Frogs: Only if you ignore the huge subsidy it receives from the San Francisco general fund, and a $250,000 repair of the berm. With that kind of math, even GM could look profitable.
Golfers: If it weren’t for the berm, there would be no habitat for the endangered species.
Snakes and Frogs: We’ve been here for millions of years. The berm wasn’t even invented until the Neolithic Revolution, about 10,000 years ago. We can manage without it.
Golfers: We can reconstruct MacKenzie’s historic original design.
Snakes and frogs: The one that was partially below sea level and lost seven holes to the sea after six years? And that was before global warming kicked in. You might as well reconstruct Atlantis.
Golfers: We like animals, and would never want to hurt them.
Snakes and Frogs: It’s not that you’re malicious, it’s that you’re golfing on what used to be our habitat. Have you ever tried to breed on a golf course? It can be a real buzz kill when the sprinklers come on.
Golfers: Some of us have been golfing there for 20 years and we’ve never seen a San Francisco garter snake.
Snakes: Our numbers are in the tens. We rarely even see ourselves anymore.
As you can see, the little critters do have a point. But don’t despair. It is possible that the area can be restored as habitat, while still keeping a smaller nine-hole golf course. Or better yet, miniature golf.
Ian Butler is host of Laugh Locally on PCT26. You can reach him at email@example.com. Learn more at RESTORE SHARP PARK
*Mikarimi's other legislation is for San Francisco to run pot dispensaries, so it’s possible that he plans to grow weed at Sharp Park.
As one era comes to a close, and George W. Bush desperately seeks a non-brush-clearing accomplishment to fondly look back upon, (“No major locust plagues on my watch!”) a new, exciting era begins, provided you find selling pencils for soup money exciting. Fortunately, we have a new president whose retooled slogan, "Change You Can Do Laundry With," is well suited for the times ahead.
Like many small towns, Pacifica is vulnerable to the economic meltdown that some say is just beginning to melt. For instance, The Corral Steakhouse, which survived for several years despite being so remote that it could be found only by accident, has closed only months after being named Best Steakhouse in San Mateo County. Everyone is mourning the loss of this venerable institution except some nervous cattle and the county’s second-best steakhouse.
In this economy, if we aren’t careful, eventually we won’t have any restaurants left that don’t feature a happy meal. And it’s not only restaurants that are vulnerable, as evidenced by the fact that Fresh & Easy apparently has decided to close without bothering to open up first. Old Republic Title in Linda Mar also has closed, probably because no one could figure out what exactly it sold.
As they say on Madison Avenue, “When the going gets tough, the tough rebrand.” Do you even know what our motto is? Neither do I. I had to look it up, which shows you just how effective it is. Turns out it’s "Scenic Pacifica!" That, besides being what my English teacher would call a "sentence fragment," isn’t going to bring in any tourist moolah. Here are some possible replacements:
1. "Pacifica, several of our restaurants are still open!"
2. "Pacifica, the sleepy bedroom community that never sleeps!"
3. "Whatever happens in Pacifica stays in Pacifica—although nothing ever happens in Pacifica!"
4. "Pacifica, a great place to blow your kids’ college fund!"
5. "Pacifica, not too small to visit, not too big to fail!"
Admittedly, these might not be the best slogans in the real world. I’m a comedian, after all. That’s where you come in, dear reader. Send me your motto ideas and I will publish the best ones in a future column, provided there are any good ones to publish. Come on, I know you can do it, and if not you, then that creepy guy reading over your shoulder.
We also need a new official song. Our present song, sung to the tune of "Ta Ra Ra Boom De Yay," is called "Hail Pacifica," although it rarely hails here.
I propose we replace it with "Fog Bless Pacifica," sung to the tune of "God Bless America":
Fog bless Pacifica, land that I love.
Stand astride her, and hide her,
Day and night from the light up above.
Foggy mountains, foggy valleys,
Foggy ocean, white with fog.
Fog bless Pacifica, my fog-drenched home.
This song embraces what I call a fog-positive attitude, which will become a huge selling point as global warming picks up steam (literally). And it can be sung during the seventh-inning stretch at Little League games.
Another idea that has been bandied about is for Pacifica to have its own currency, and I’m totally behind it, so long as "Emperor" frank winston’s picture is on the front. The idea, popular during the last Depression, is to have money that can be spent only here in town, often for a discount. The trick is to make bills that can’t be counterfeited by Colma, those cheap bastards.
Finally, we need to pass a Styrofoam foodware ordinance that can save the planet and the restaurants. And none other than Gorilla Barbecue has shown the way. The restaurant, which contrary to rumor has never served barbecued gorilla, recently began offering biodegradable packaging for an extra quarter. Keep in mind, its customers are not a bunch of vegan, hemp-wearing greenie-wienies but hard-core carnivores with bloodstained hands and gristle stuck between their teeth, and so far two-thirds of them have voluntarily chosen to pay extra to save the planet!
Based on their success, I propose we enact the state’s first hybrid "mandatory-voluntary" Styrofoam ordinance, and require that restaurants give their customers the option of Styrofoam-free packaging. Of course, any restaurant that wanted to go completely Styrofoam-free would be welcome to do so. Heck, they could take it even further and go package-free and ladle soup directly into customers' hands if they wish.
The point here is to reduce Styrofoam use without putting any restaurants out of business, which is important to me personally, because I’m a lousy cook!
Pacifica musician, writer, television personality, and all-around nice guy IAN BUTLER has written and self-published a book, now on sale at Florey's Book Co. Check out this 10-page PREVIEW. Semicentennial is a collection of Ian's humor columns from the Pacifica Tribune and PacificaRiptide.com, and includes illustrations by Tom Jackson. Look for his interview about the book in the Pacifica Tribune, December 17: IAN BUTLER INTERVIEW
I owe this column to the Franks—Cimo and winston.
You see, it all began 15 months ago, when Frank Cimo, in his “Frank’s Saloon” column, accused an 80-year-old peacenik of intolerance. This inspired me to fire off the following letter to the editor: “Frank finds a tolerance teacher’s intolerance of intolerance intolerable. This makes him intolerant of intolerance of intolerance, which no tolerant Tribune should tolerate.” (You should definitely read that three times real fast right now.)
It didn’t run that week, so I called Elaine Larsen, the Tribune’s editor, to make sure she knew it was an actual letter and not a prank. She said she loved the letter and was running it the following week. This made me just cocky enough to spontaneously blurt out, “How about I write a whole column sometime?” (If Frank can do it...) She quickly agreed. Apparently, she’d been taking some heat for Frank’s to-the-right-of-Dick-Cheney political views, and was more than happy to balance it out with a little comic relief.
I still had to figure out what to write about, and that is where the other Frank came in (or more accurately “frank”—he always insisted spelling his name lowercase). frank d. winston, the “Emperor of Pacifica,” had been busily promoting Pacifica’s 50th anniversary, and he gave me the idea of spoofing our first 50 years. That first column was so much fun I kept going and eventually learned to type with both index fingers.
It was a struggle at first. Every time I successfully finished a column it felt like a miracle. The early ones were pure silliness, until I noticed I was on the opinion page and figured I should probably mix some opinions in there while I was at it. So I cultivated a few, such as “litter is bad” and “voting is good.” I quickly learned it’s easy to be silly, and easy to make a point, but really hard to do both at the same time.
After experimenting with different narrative styles, I eventually settled on “first person, omniscient” or “from the point of view of a punctual know-it-all.” I also developed a fondness for top 10 lists, although usually ran out after five or so. The footnote* was added later as a desperate gimmick.
It was frank d. winston who pointed out that Pacifica’s 50th anniversary isn’t just a day; it’s a whole year, and our 50th year, November 22, 2007 to November 22, 2008, turned out to be an eventful one. We had an oil spill, the biodiesel and light brown apple moth controversies, a historic election (Obama), a botched election (Miss Pacifica), the closest election that is mathematically possible (measure N), and nearly elected the first openly male Laurie. Our beloved “Emperor” passed away on September 11, adding a sad milestone to our semicentennial year.
I decided to turn the columns I’ve written so far into a book, a retrospective on Pacifica’s 50th year. Yes, I know the marketing potential is pretty dismal. My target audience is mostly limited to people who live here and will buy a book of stuff they already read in the paper; but hey, I need something to give my friends for Christmas. (To you in the future who are reading this in book form, thanks - unless you checked it out from the library, in which case you are cheap and unprincipled - although generally speaking I am pro-library.)
I wasn’t the only person making humorous observations about Pacifica this year. Tom Jackson the cartoonist has been making his own wry commentary, in comic form, directly across the page from my column. (When you close the page, they are close enough to get intimately acquainted.) So I phoned him to ask if I could use some of his cartoons. He didn’t get back to me for the longest time, which I totally understand now, considering that he’d just had a heart attack.
Tom’s doing much better now, and probably because he’s presently on more medications than Lindsey Lohan, has agreed to let me add his uniquely skewed perspective to the book.
One more thing - after 15 months of writing a column every two weeks, I plan to cut back to one a month. This means those of you who look in the paper for me every week and are disappointed (or relieved) half the time, you will now be so twice as often; but hey, I need to find a better-paying newspaper position, such as paperboy.
Many thanks to Elaine, Tom Sullivan, John Maybury, and everyone at the Trib for the opportunity to goof off in public. It’s the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on, although truth be told, I frequently didn’t bother wearing any.
I hope some other voices will step up and fill the void. Maybe even you. Come on, if I can do it...
*Such as this one.
Wow, what a great election that was. For once, everything went right—unless you happen to be gay.* Or Republican. Gay Republicans were extra disappointed. And it must have been especially awful for married gay Republicans with pregnant teenage daughters, although for liberal mixed-breed chickens with Muslim-sounding names, this election was particularly triumphant.
Another group celebrating like crazy is the Pledged-Not-To-Cut-Their-Hair-As-Long-As-Bush-Is-President demographic. Pacifica has at least one member of this group, who has asked to remain anonymous, but when you see that scruffy Deadhead-looking dude suddenly go all GQ, it’s probably him.
The weird thing about Obama being elected president is that he is a few months younger than me—now I feel like a total slacker. While he has achieved the most powerful position in the world, I’m still struggling to find a word that rhymes with Pacifica. I already had to give up on my dream of being a child prodigy, now this. And did I mention I’m an inch shorter than the new first lady?
At least the nightmare of Florida in 2000 is finally over, and this time Ralph Nader didn’t play spoiler. That role was filled by Tod Schlesinger, who got just enough votes to edge Pete DeJarnatt over Cal Hinton, compensating for the fact that Pete’s campaign photo looking like he just got out of the sauna. As a dejected Hinton supporter lamented: “Tod is my side’s curse.”
Shortly before the election, Tod brazenly admonished the voting public for being “stupid and apathetic,” which may explain why he got 600 fewer votes than last time. If this trend continues, he will receive a negative number of votes in eight years.
Although I am a Democrat, I will miss Cal. I announced him at the Fog Fest as “my favorite Republican,” which is true, but Frank Cimo heard me and took offense. For the record, Frank, you are my favorite right-wing nut job, and yes, there is a difference.
Mary Ann Nihart kicked butt, winning by 1,500 votes. She campaigned relentlessly, with a lawn to lawn-sign average of 1.27, a stat not seen since the steroid era. I attended a party in support of her campaign a while back, and at one point there was a jam session downstairs that included members of the Fingerpuppets along with Julie Lancelle on violin, Nancy Hall on drums, and me on bongos. We were pretty much Frank Cimo’s nightmare supergroup.
Jeff Simons, who was endorsed by the San Mateo Times, finished out of contention. This probably has something to do with the fact that San Mateo couldn’t vote for him.
As for the school board, the two women won handily, despite one of them supporting convicted felon Mumia Abu Jamal years ago. It’s okay, though, the Pacifica school board is not in charge of Mumia’s incarceration in any way. I checked.
Odd man out Laurie Frater, who hails from Scotland, where the men are named Laurie and wear plaid skirts, is a longtime member of Asylum, Pacifica’s own improv comedy group. Laurie was definitely the funniest candidate; that he lost does not bode well for my political career.
Thankfully, the City Council postponed voting on the Styrofoam foodware ordinance. Somewhere along the line, the words “voluntary ban” accidentally were inserted into the ordinance, which makes it less of a ban and more of a helpful hint. (They may want to change the wording to the more accurate “imaginary ban.”)
If they are going to bother to pass a “voluntary ban,” they might as well go for it and include all undesirables such as SUV driving, drunken voting, unicorn abuse, and oxymoronic ordinances. Or just pass a real ban and leave the helpful hints to Heloise.
And finally, that big city just north of South San Francisco (whose name escapes me) voted against renaming its sewage treatment plant after George W. Bush. Instead, it will unofficially be known as the “Too Good To Be Named After George W. Bush Sewage Treatment Plant.”
*(San Mateo County voted overwhelmingly against Prop. 8, so we’re cool.)
Ian Butler is host of Laugh Locally on PCT 26, which recently won two more WAVE Awards, not that he is bragging or anything.
The 2008 Miss Pacifica Local pageant was an even bigger success than last year and came off without a hitch, except for the minor detail of accidentally crowning the wrong contestant. But hey, things like that happen all the time, remember Bush vs. Gore? And unlike Bush vs. Gore, all the contestants were highly qualified, unless you count me.
You may remember that last year I appeared as a “contestant” in a lovely pink dress but had decided against doing so again – until Rita the pageant director showed me the breathtaking gown she had picked out for me this year. Plus she said I could play a Bedouin guard and wear a jester costume complete with silly hat, which definitely sealed the deal.
So I was onstage when the winner was announced. I feared something was amiss when the time came to announce the winner, but the envelope wasn’t ready. You know how time flies when you are having fun? Well, it crawls when you are onstage waiting for an envelope; we were up there long enough to thoroughly reapply our toenail polish.
Finally, after some stalling tactics, including last year’s winner Adrianna Manner telling an inspirational story and me sharing a joke from a 3rd-grade joke book,* the envelope arrived. But instead of the winner’s name, it just had the score, which wasn’t much help. (“And the winner is: 237 points!”) Eventually an envelope arrived with names on it, and the lovely redhead Britta Lorenz was crowned Miss Pacifica Local 2008.
The problem was that the judges were supposed to pass their score sheets to the scorekeeper after each event, so she could add them up as the show progressed, except the judges forgot about that part. This led to a severe case of “math buildup,” requiring the scorer to add everything up during the final song, which is possible only if your name is Einstein, Deep Blue, or Rainman. (Full disclosure: My 10-year-old daughter was the “scorekeeper’s assistant,” which we had assumed was a spokesmodel position and wouldn’t include any actual math.)
Later, when there was time to double-check, it turned out that Trisha Callero actually had the most points. But nobody wanted to rip the freshly planted crown off Britta’s head. Some even felt that by holding their score sheets too long, the judges had “cheated,” and therefore a mathematical error was as good a way as any to determine the winner. But really, it was Tricia’s call – and she showed the winning form that has made her Pacifica’s favorite part-time mermaid, insisting that her friend Britta remain Miss Pacifica Local.
And that’s the way it stood for five weeks. But after a while the crown started feeling a little heavy on Britta’s head. (Princess grooming tip: It’s okay to take it off for sleeping and hair washing.) She eventually “abdicated” her crown to Trisha just in time for Fog Fest, which may be the first time in Pacifica history that someone correctly used the word “abdicated” in the first person. Britta is now getting involved with Pacifica Beach Coalition and enjoying her crown-free lifestyle.
Thus, Tricia made the Fog Fest trifecta, simultaneously appearing as a mermaid, Guinevere in the Spindrift play Camelot, and Miss Pacifica Local. Some spectators were confused, like when the producers of Bewitched replaced Dick York with Dick Sargent, on the grounds that they were both Dicks. In this case, they were both redheads, but that is where the physical similarities end (for one thing, Tricia has a tail).
So it all worked out okay. I used to think that beauty pageants were pointless, but I’ve seen the positive effect it can have on its participants, including this year’s third contestant, Tiffany Herbert, who despite being outnumbered, represented the non-redhead demographic admirably. But it has to be done right. Here are my recommendations for future pageants:
1. More contestants. In three years, we have had a total of seven, or an average of 2 1/3 each year. There must be a plethora of girls in town who would like to play dress-up and cut ribbons for a year.
2. Crown the correct contestant the first time, even if it requires a hand recount of all hanging chads.
3. An adult scorekeeper’s assistant who likes math.
4. Rather than one person running the show and making up all the rules, a committee of several people running the show and making up all the rules.
5. More cowbell.
We were fortunate that the girls all had a good attitude this year, but some take this stuff pretty seriously, and some of their parents are lawyers, if you get my drift. In the meantime, we have an actual election coming up. Let’s make sure we get that one right!
Ian Butler is host of Laugh Locally on PCT 26. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Q. Why are gorillas' nostrils so big? A. Have you seen the size of their fingers?
It’s election time again, and the future of civilization hinges upon you personally making the right choices (but hey, no pressure). To help you decide, I will call upon my unique qualifications, including two semesters of community college and a diploma from the Hyena School of Comedy.
This year we have so much to vote on that we have a special four-sided ballot (not sure what that looks like, but you’d better brush up on your origami). So let’s roll up our sleeves, attach our nasal clothespins, and get to work.
John McCain and Sarah Palin like to call themselves “mavericks.” One thing Pacificans know about Mavericks is that the waves there are enormous—they would eat them alive! Therefore, I am endorsing the only candidate who would have a chance—Barack Obama, who was a Hawaiian surf bum in high school.
Jackie Speier is the obvious choice for Congress because she is hotter than Sarah Palin and can pronounce nuclear.
Pacifica is in the 19th State Assembly District, and although no one is exactly sure what a State Assembly District is, everyone I know is voting for Jerry Hill, because he comes to a lot of Pacifica events and has a really cool beard.
Prop. 1A is for high-speed rail, which is like the Ocean Shore Railroad but much faster and with less falling into the ocean. Vote yes.
Prop. 2 would require that farm animals have enough room to stretch their limbs. Anyone who votes no should be forced to live out the rest of their lives in an economy airline seat. Vote yes.
Prop. 3 is for children’s hospitals. I love children, but they make terrible doctors. Vote no.
Prop. 4 would require pregnant teenagers to notify Sarah Palin. Vote no.
Prop. 5 mandates that rather than locking up nonviolent drug offenders, they would be required to crash on Amy Winehouse’s couch. Vote yes.
Prop. 6 would designate half of the state’s population as prison guards and the other half as prisoners. Vote no.
Prop. 7 would mandate renewable energy, which sounds great, but everyone is against it, including both political parties, the Sierra Club, and my barber. I’d better recommend a no vote or my next haircut could be scary.
Prop. 8, also known as “Gavin’s Law,” eliminates the right of gays to marry, denying them the opportunity to suffer like the rest of us. Vote no.
Prop. 9 would keep criminals in prison longer. With the economy tanking, it would be a greater deterrent to release them early. Vote no.
Prop. 10: See Prop. 7, add T. Boone Pickens. Vote no.
Prop. 11 changes the way districts are drawn up. Right now it is done by monkeys with darts. Under Prop. 11 it would be done by different monkeys. I have no monkey preference.
Prop. 12 provides assistance to veterans. It is supported by everyone except those who secretly wish we had lost World War II. Vote yes.
Measures Q and R would tax parking facilities and vehicle rental businesses in unincorporated San Mateo County, if such things exist. Vote yes.
Now on to the stuff Pacificans really care about (judging by yard sign quantity), starting with the school board. We have three candidates running for two seats: Eileen Manning-Villar, Cynthia Kaufman, and Laurie Frater. I will refrain from endorsements because all three are highly qualified and dedicated women, even the one with the mustache.
We have a highly contested City Council election, with five candidates vying for two seats, $700 a month, and an opportunity to get yelled at by Tod Schlesinger.
Incumbent Cal Hinton may be older than John McCain but is still capable of stopping an automobile with his body.
Incumbent Pete DeJarnatt, also known as “the quiet Beatle,” has done his part to make City Council meetings shorter. Plays a mean sitar.
Mary Ann Nihart was voted in high school “most likely to negotiate a Middle East peace accord.” Pacifica might be a slightly tougher challenge.
Jeffrey Simons didn’t vote in 75 percent of recent elections, in a risky ploy to court the “nonvoting vote.”
Tod Schlesinger consistently mistakes City Council meetings for pro wrestling matches. If elected, he may accidentally assault himself.
I’m rooting for Pete and Mary Ann, with Cal as a respectable alternate. Those who don’t like any two candidates may write in Pacifica’s beloved “Emperor,” frank d. winston. He is no longer alive and it would technically be a demotion, but I would love to see his name in the final tally!
Ian Butler is host of Laugh Locally, which airs Friday and Saturday nights at 10 on PCT26 (this week's topic: Tod Schlesinger). Email email@example.com. This is an edited version of Ian's column in the Pacifica Tribune.
I admit it. I had started to give up on the Styrofoam ordinance. I figured that with “Silly Season” here, the City Council was going to pass the buck until after the election. (By “Silly Season” I mean the time when the wheels of government grind to a halt while candidates try out their stand-up comedy material.)
The lowest point came that fateful afternoon, when my daughter Serenity and I went to the creek that we have been cleaning up for a year, and it was – to use the scientific term – totally gross. There were plastic bags full of muck, hundreds of Styrofoam pellets, and it smelled like the wastewater treatment plant on one of those days when there is more wastewater than treatment. Worst of all, there were no frogs at all – just hundreds of flies running roughshod in marauding gangs. A year ago, there were so many frogs you couldn’t walk without stepping on one, but now you couldn’t step on one if you tried (not that I would have tried).
There are two possibilities as to why the frogs were gone. One is that the water is so polluted that they all got sick and died. This is pretty likely. I had tested the water, and it was roughly the equivalent of living in the basement of an outhouse. But there were hundreds of frogs at the time I tested the water, and they seemed okay then. So what had changed?
Well, for one thing, there is no longer all the litter that we cleaned up since last year. Could it be that by removing a ton of plastic and Styrofoam from the area, we had inadvertently taken away critical shelter that somehow made an uninhabitable habitat halfway habitable?
Those were the doubts creeping through my mind that day as we cleaned up the latest batch of garbage from the lifeless creek. It was so gross that I almost added to the mess by losing my lunch, and couldn’t even eat dinner that evening. I moped over to the City Council meeting on an empty (and rather queasy) stomach.
So I was pleasantly surprised that night when the council voted 6 out of 5 to move forward on a Styrofoam ordinance (in addition to the entire Council, candidate Mary Ann Nihart voiced her support). I went from pleasantly surprised to totally freaked out when I got home and a red-legged frog jumped out from under my couch*. Yes, that’s right, I had an endangered amphibian beneath my furniture, which is probably illegal, and you probably don’t believe me anyway. Nevertheless, it is true, and although I don’t actually believe in signs, I’ll make an exception in this case.
Any doubts you may have are perfectly justified. I have a history of falsifying frog manifestations. When my boy Irie was a child, whenever he made a wish, such as while blowing out birthday candles or dandelions (when they are on fire), he would always make the same wish: for a little frog to appear in his hands. I would suggest that he wish for something a little more practical, such as a motorcycle with training wheels, but he always insisted on the frog. He’d close his eyes, wish with all his might, and be heartbroken when it didn’t appear.
So one day I caught a frog in our yard and called him over, saying, “Irie, blow on this dandelion and make a wish.” Just as he opened his eyes, I slipped the frog into his hands. He was completely fooled and had the same look of wonder that I had the first time I opened an email from a Nigerian prince. For a long time, Irie believed in his ability to conjure frogs, until years later when I broke down and told him the truth, that Santa Claus did it.
So when the frog jumped out from the couch, I half expected it to be a prank, maybe some kind of payback, but everyone else was sound asleep, so it appears the frog showed up of its own volition. I was so excited that I woke my wife Avril, told her what happened, and slipped the frog to her in the dark. In retrospect, this probably wasn’t such a good idea, but she was a good sport about it, after I pried her from the ceiling.
I can’t help but think the frog wanted to show its thanks to the City Council, the Pacifica Beach Coalition, and all the volunteers who work to make Pacifica a little more hospitable for our amphibious neighbors. Or maybe it just took a wrong turn at the swamp.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to re-spackle the bedroom ceiling.
Ian Butler is host of Laugh Locally, which airs on PCT 26 at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday night, except when it accidentally doesn’t. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Once again California Coastal Cleanup Day is approaching, when the entire state of California gets together and picks up all the junk we’ve left on the beaches over the summer. Everything from sunglasses, suntan lotion and beach towels (in the southern part of the state), to hoodies, hand warmers and wool blankets (in Pacifica).
Just kidding, sort of. Actually, plastic is the most prevalent item throughout the world’s beaches, primarily found in the four plastic food groups: plastic bags (1 million collected last year worldwide), plastic bottles (1.5 million), cigarette butts (3 million) and teeny-weeny Styrofoam pellets (way too many to count).
Why is there so much plastic on our beaches? The cryptic spam email I received this morning with the subject line of “Supply Plastic daily products on wholesales” only hints at the ominous nature of the problem. One thing is for sure: It is possible to sail across the Pacific in a boat made of 15,000 plastic bottles, as evidenced by the recent voyage of Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal. They sailed right through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch on a junk named Junk made of plastic junk, to prove that the ancient Polynesians may have once done the same thing.
Such a voyage may be a bit daunting for the average Pacifican, but if you could help clean up the beaches on September 20, that would be a start. Those of you who planned to participate in the last Earth Day cleanup but were deterred by the gale force winds, this is your chance to participate without having sand particles permanently embedded in your face. I got involved last year, and now have a serious case of OCLD (Obsessive Compulsive Litter Disorder), which means that I cannot be in the same zip code as a piece of litter without being compelled to apprehend it and read it its rights.
Of course, picking up litter is only going after the symptom, and not the root cause, which is our disposable society. To that end, many cities in California are passing ordinances limiting the use of plastic bags and Styrofoam. For instance, Malibu has made it illegal to sail a ship made out of plastic bags unless they are biodegradable bags. Pacifica is considering a Styrofoam foodware ordinance, although there is some resistance from people who have grown accustomed to the taste of toxic chemicals leaching into their food.
Speaking of food, the Slow Food Nation event just wrapped up in San Francisco, reminding me how lucky we are to have so many slow food options here in Pacifica—and no, I’m not just talking about the Linda Mar Taco Bell on a sunny weekend. Soon we will even have our first organic restaurant, The Green Enchilada, which is being opened by Joe Murillo, owner of Pacifica Farmer’s Market (not Pacifica’s actual outdoor farmer’s market, but the grocery store called Pacifica Farmer’s Market in Manor, which deserves some slack because it was here first).
Last week I went to Linda Mar Beach with Clark Natwick, Pacifica’s official Snowy Plover spotter, where we saw eight of the little critters nesting in the sand. I can see why they are threatened. Their nests are indistinguishable from a toddlers’ footprints. It is important to keep your dog on a leash there, except maybe during the months of June and July, when the microclimate-savvy birds apparently fly south for the summer.
I recently teamed up with local drummer Larry Arndt, A.K.A. “Lawrence of Oblivion,” who will perform with me at the Coastal Cleanup Day after-party, as well as at Fog Fest. Larry rides his bike to work every day—from Vallemar to San Francisco! Apparently, he has a small biofuel refinery in his intestines capable of converting granola into “bicyclediesel.” Larry works at the Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park, which is having its grand reopening on the same weekend as Fog Fest. It’s going to be amazing, but not nearly amazing enough to miss Fog Fest, so don’t even think about it, Larry!
That’s not our only scheduling conflict. The City Council candidates debate takes place at the same time as the beach cleanup. There is a solution for those of you who wish to do both: Pick up litter anytime between now and then, document it on a special form, and turn the form in on Coastal Cleanup Day, right after grilling the candidates on their views on such important environmental issues as a Styrofoam ban and mandatory tampon mulching. See you there! For a beach cleanup form, call Lynn Adams at 650-355-1668.
Ian Butler is host of Laugh Locally on PCT 26 Friday and Saturday night at 10 p.m.
Ian's column also appears in the Pacifica Tribune, because we all like to share in the fun.