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Hobos and dry humor 

I write this from a dank, smallish jail cell where I have been sitting for more than 12 hours, biding my time by scratching notches on the wall to count the passing minutes and plotting my revenge against the people who illegally detained me for exercising my civil rights. 

I know I’m in good company. Who could forget the year and a half Mother Teresa spent in jail for marching somewhere for something about civil rights? I think she marched to the ocean to protest the salt tax? Or Martin Luther King Jr., who was so dedicated to the issue of Irish independence that he spent 18 years in an English jail cell that was probably not much different from my own? The point is, I’m just like all those other do-gooders unfairly targeted for daring to dream of a world where sneaking into your neighbor’s house with giant buckets to grab a couple quick gallons of water for a Pinterest project doesn’t qualify as theft or breaking and entering. 

“Forgive them, father, for they know not what they do!” I shouted while the cops accompanied me to the police car and callously insisted that I duck my head as I climbed in. Because I’m the bigger person. And bigger people say stuff about forgiving people, even though they’re also prone to angrily flooding the world in a giant hissy. 

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The judge pointed out that I could just stay out of my neighbor’s house and use my own water for my project. But if stealing my neighbor’s drinking water to fill a 200-gallon koi pond where I plan to meditate naked on Wednesdays and alternate weekends is wrong, maybe I don’t want to be right. Or maybe I just don’t understand this drought because I was raised in a society that prioritizes consumption and instant gratification above fairness and consideration of the long-term consequences. 

I’m not alone, though. Friends of Atascadero Lake understand where I’m coming from, but on a much larger scale. Distressed by the sad condition of the Atascadero Lake, which is currently less of a lake and more of a puddle, the friends are petitioning to drill an expensive well and pipe “supplemental” water into the lake. The question on everyone’s mind: In the middle of an intense drought, who has water to spare for a lake whose function is mostly aesthetic? 

And let’s be honest here: Atascadero Lake never won any beauty prizes to begin with, so while its crater is certainly a depressing sight, the absence of actual water doesn’t drastically alter life for most Atascadero residents. You know what might drastically alter their quality of life? Running out of water for drinking, cooking, and showering. And refilling the lake won’t undead the fish that are already gone. 

As part of its campaign, Friends of Atascadero Lake paints a picture straight out of Pleasantville: happy families eating ice cream sundaes and gathering round ye ol’ ponde after a spiritually refreshing Sunday church service. Young couples paddle swan-shaped boats, and the high school’s varsity quarterback tosses a football around with his dad on the perimeter. 

Of course, everyone’s saying the effort won’t suck water from the diminishing groundwater basin, but this is the North County, where homeowners are running out of water and dozens of wineries just keep planting acres of new vines. 

So how realistic are people being about the situation? 

Then there’s Laguna Lake, where city officials allowed a bunch of carp to die off without making an effort to save them on account of the fact that they’re an “invasive species.” When this drought gets worse, I hope whoever comes to save us and finds us flopping around on the ground gasping for water doesn’t have a sufficient enough grasp of history to remember that we, too, are an invasive species. Of course, residents who live near the lake are throwing around words like “disgrace” and “shame,” but let’s all step back for a quick minute and ask ourselves: What the hell did we think was going to happen? 

We settle land never meant to be populated by tens of thousands of people. We build Wal-Mart supercenters and plant thousands of acres of grapes and water our lawns twice a week. Then we’re surprised when there’s not enough water to go around. But no one wants to make sacrifices.

Everyone wants the city council to magically fill the lake so no one has to worry about property values. And while property values are great and all, there are more important things. Like not running out of the sort of water we need regular access to if we don’t want to die.

If all this talk of drought has depressed you, why not throw on your poor people clothes and help raise cash for wanna-be supervisor Lynn Compton? That’s right: On Sunday, Oct. 5, Compton wants her supporters to throw on their very best “hobo attire” and head down to the Oceano Train Depot to slurp down some “hobo stew.” I wish I were making this up, but I’m not that good. That a politician running for office would so blatantly fetishize the disenfranchised in order to make money for her campaign makes me so mad, I’m not letting her have a single one of my buffalo nickels.

I’m wondering why Compton’s handlers never bothered to explain—maybe drawing some pictures to help illustrate their point—that the supervisor represents everyone in the district. And you know what people who struggle to make ends meet don’t love? A rich person who thinks the lower class is nothing more than a party theme.


Shredder loves a good toga party, but only if poor people are playing Roman slaves for the night. Send comments to [email protected].

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