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The closest I ever came to killing a man was the summer of ’04 when my grandfather fell and broke his hip, and I was assigned the responsibility of looking after him because “it’s not like I had a job or relationship or anything else to do.” Pretty harsh words for a fourth grader, but that was my family for you. Nothing was ever good enough for them. Which is why I gave up on my dream of being a space doctor. Also, I realized the whiny doctor dude in Firefly already beat me to it.

Grandpa liked to play Monopoly, but he insisted on playing his way. He always got to be the banker, telling me, “It has nothing to do with me being your grandfather. It has something to do with me doing a darn good job.” Then I’d catch him reimbursing himself for his services as banker, even though he’d volunteered to be the banker in the first place. And when I demanded to know just how much he’d reimbursed himself, he’d refuse to tell me, insisting that it was because he’d look like too good a guy if I knew just how cheap he was selling his banking services.

Then he’d get hungry and start prattling on, in that geriatric fashion, about how you can’t beat a good prime rib, lobster, and duck dinner. No siree, it just didn’t get any better than that. Even in the fourth grade, I understand that no one actually eats like that. Not unless you’re over 60 with too much exposed chest hair and you’re trying to sell someone half your age on a date. How was grandpa even alive at his age, stuffed full of prime rib, duck, and lobster?

And worst of all, about halfway through the game he’d insist on trying to sell me some property I knew was worthless for $50,000.

“I mean, come on, once in a lifetime,” he’d argue. Like some cheap used shoe salesman. “Once in a lifetime.” Every time I hear those words I picture his smug toothless grin, the long, wiry hair growing out of his ears and I just want to smash a walker against the wall.

My grandpa wasn’t a bad person. It was just the fact that being an old guy who’d gotten his way for so long made him chronically incapable of being questioned or evolving or doing things differently, or acknowledging the existence of rules and a worldview that didn’t mesh with his own. He wasn’t capable of playing a fair round of Monopoly with a fourth grader, much less running something more important like a household or business or, heaven forbid, a city.

I think we’re seeing that same problem manifest in Morro Bay where two city councilmemebers—George “Gramps” Leage and Nancy “Harrumph” Johnson—were elected to serve as city liasons on a committee to organize the city’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Their first act as liasons, besides demanding $50,000 from the city because, in Gramps’ words, “We gotta realize this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” was to vote to employ restaurants that Gramps owns to cater a big chamber dinner. Which featured … you guessed it! Prime rib, lobster, and duck. And now Gramps is a little confused about why people are calling fowl that he voted to allocate city funds to his own business.

Did the committee bother offering the contract to other local restaurants? Nope. Why would they when the city councilman fighting for the committee to get more money than the rest of the City Council deems reasonable, also happens to have a couple of restaurants? What’s a favor or two among buddies? And what’s wrong with good ol’ boys just helping each other out? It’s not like it violates one, or several rules. Except that it totally violates one, or several, rules. And it’s unfair to every restaurant that would have been interested in catering a prestigious city event but never even got the chance because the owner didn’t happen to be a member of the City Council.

And when the City Council decided to demand an account of how public funds were spent, Gramps and Harrumph were the only two city councilmembers who didn’t vote to support the motion. There was a lot of snorting and grumbling though, which is a pretty classic maneuver among people who know they’re not in the right, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to admit it. Ever. 

Of course, Gramps is refusing to reveal how much he paid for the food, instead asking “Why should I give out that information?” and insisting “I don’t want to look like a good guy here, and that’s what it’s going to look like” if he reveals how much he was paid.

Trust me, we’re well beyond the point where there’s even a possibility that either Gramps or Harrumph could emerge from this situation looking good. Best case scenario, they look feeble, inept, and doddering, and are distracting attention from Morro Bay’s semicentennial celebration. Worst case scenario, they’re two city councilmembers trying to conceal what was obviously a very bad decision by refusing to disclose the amount of public funds involved in this very bad decision. I’m not saying their days would be better spent in a facility where the Ensure flows freely and no one can see well enough to call you out when you’re cheating at Monopoly, but you won’t see me arguing that the city of Morro Bay is better off for their alleged service.


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