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Outlook not so good 

We were set for life. In the few days before the riders came through here, you could walk around downtown and literally see the dollar signs in people’s eyes.

I was sitting at the bus stop the other day when this fortuneteller offered to read my palm, so I said “sure� and offered her my hand. She held my palm up to her face and scanned it for a while, but I guess she got bored because she stopped about halfway through and asked me if I had anything more interesting to read.
I had a copy of New Times, but I didn’t want her to predict doom and gloom for the paper, so I told her that all I had was a Bazooka Joe gum wrapper comic. She shrugged and said that it was better than nothing, which I took to mean that it was also better than my crummy future, whatever that may be. I held my hand up to my own face. My life line looks fairly long, but my love line is practically nonexistent. And I need to trim my nails.
When the fortuneteller finished reading her comic, she leaned close to me and whispered with a breath that reeked of garlic and cheap gin that she was on her way downtown to visit the SLO Chamber of Commerce. They wanted, she said, to know whether the Amgen Bike Tour of California was going to come back through the city next year.
“Is it?� I asked.
“How should I know?� she said. “Do I look like a physicist?�
I think she meant “psychic,� but I didn’t say anything. My mom used to tell me to always wear clean underwear and never argue with a gypsy. I was determined to follow at least one piece of my mom’s advice that day.
The tipsy gypsy’s mysterious utterance was the first I’d heard that the big bike race might not grace San Luis Obispo’s carefully crafted and calculatingly charming streets in 2007. Everyone seemed so sure that the folks from Amgen would drop on their knees and kiss the ground we walk on after they saw what we had to offer, I guess I took it for granted that the overhyped event would become a permanent part of the local landscape that we eventually couldn’t get rid of, even if we tried—like Bishop Peak or the Madonna Inn.
The fact that the future Tour of California route is up in the air has caused a considerable amount of consternation among the people who thought that SLO clinched the big deal with its hospitality. Everyone tried so hard to be extra nice because the race signaled a incoming golden age of tourism revenue. That race was our nest egg. We were set for life. In the few days before the riders came through here, you could walk around downtown and literally see the dollar signs in people’s eyes. More than one member of the Chamber of Commerce was mentally paving Higuera with gold.
I wasn’t one of those people, though. The only things in my eyes were bloodshot veins from staying up late and drinking.
Around the time that my mom was dispensing sage advice about laundry and boxer shorts, she would also tell me that you shouldn’t count your chickens before they hatch. That’s good advice, and doubly so for SLO, especially if those chickens are in charge of what they hope will become the next big global bike race, like the Tour de France, only without all those pesky French people standing around in their berets and striped shirts.
Or, in this case, maybe the chickens represent the money that SLO leaders are hoping to get from hosting the race again. I’m not sure. My metaphors all tend to break down a lot sooner than I’d like them to, much like everything else in my life. If I told you a list of everything of mine that failed right in the middle of launch, it would fill the rest of this column—and then some. Also, I’d probably get sued, although something as interesting as legal action in my future would probably have kept the fortuneteller at least a little more interested in what was in store for me.
As for the Amgen crowd, I can’t figure out why a bike tour of California would avoid San Luis Obispo. Maybe while the riders were here, they complained that SLO reeked of B.O. because of all the unwashed transients we have lounging around. Maybe they worried that we’ll have so many new houses and stores here next year, the streets will be too crowded to ride on. Maybe they just couldn’t handle the fog.
Whatever the reason, I’m sure that SLO Chamber Tourism Director Lindsey Miller is crossing her fingers and rubbing her rabbit’s foot and praying to whatever deities she thinks are listening to bring the tour back here again. Hey, a human sacrifice might help, but I’m not about to volunteer. I have too much to live for, no matter what some drunk fortuneteller says. ∆

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