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Fall into SLO 

Presenting one alumnus' guide to the county, the town, the school, and everything else sort of

Welcome to the real world.
High school that clique-nurturing facility where you freshmen did your college-application resume packing is a thing of the past. If you lived in another time, an earlier decade, you might refer to it as your alma mater. Nowadays, I don't know what the preferred term is. Frankly, I don't care. And neither should you. You're in college now, and there's no looking back. (Except for the 33 percent-or-so of you who'll statistically drop out before graduation. You all should keep at least one eye on the hometown.)

For the rest of you, I have a confession to make. That line about

click to enlarge THE WRITING ON THE HILL :  The Cal Poly "P" has been made to spell many words throughout the years. You are probably not the first person to think of whatever you are thinking of making it say. - PHOTO BY RYAN MILLER
  • THE WRITING ON THE HILL : The Cal Poly "P" has been made to spell many words throughout the years. You are probably not the first person to think of whatever you are thinking of making it say.
# this being the real world? That's actually a lie. San Luis Obispo isn't as far from the real world as you can get, but it's out there. Way out there. People here have been known to drop $600,000 for a one-bedroom "starter" home. If you were hoping your parents would throw a down payment your way to give you shelter during your academic life, you'd better a) have rich parents, b) have parents who aren't rich now, but who will be after they win the lottery soon, or c) decide to move here a decade ago, maybe back when people said things like "alma mater."

Since that last option is physically impossible, the bulk of you are probably going to end up in a dorm room or a rented house or apartment. They're not as bad as you might think unless you think you're moving into the Ritz. Then they're worse. And you've got some serious reality checking to do.

But that's what I'm here for. I've endorsed your reality check, and it's in the mail. Trust me. I'm like your vastly limited one-stop shop for all things local. Your unofficial sorta-been-there guide to San Luis Obispo. Your go-to guy, if the place you need going to isn't that hard to find.

In other words, I'm just a former student who managed to stick around after graduation. I'm not an exhaustive source, but I'm a reliable one: I took notes along the way.

The campus
I lived on the Cal Poly campus for four years, which, coincidentally, is the amount of time it took me to graduate. Yes, it can be done. (Just make sure you triple check your credits with your counselor along the way you don't want to have to tack on one quarter because of a clerical error. Yes, that can be done, too. I'm living proof.)

My longtime on-campus residency practically makes me an expert on the school. Or, at least, the school as it was in the late '90s. El Ni"o was in full force my freshman year, so the streets were flooded and galoshes were a must. Nowadays, the campus has changed last time I visited, I heard rumbling bulldozers instead of mating cows but many of the fundamentals have stayed the same. Here's a quick list of dos and don'ts.

Don't sign every credit card application that gets shoved into

click to enlarge GLASS INVESTMENT :  If you are old enough, a Frog and Peach pint glass is a good investment for Tuesday nights. - PHOTO BY RYAN MILLER
  • GLASS INVESTMENT : If you are old enough, a Frog and Peach pint glass is a good investment for Tuesday nights.
# your face. A T-shirt or foam football or whatever knick-knack they're offering this year isn't worth high interest rates and massive debt.

Do support the arts on campus. See student plays, concerts, and dance performances. Visit

the art galleries. The quality is great, and these are your fellow students, from University Singers to the Ballroom Dance Club. Even graphic design and architecture projects on display are worth a visit. Also, take in an occasional professional show at the PAC.

Don't change the "P" on the hillside to say "POT." It's been done before. Many times over. Many, many times over. And if you're in Poly Christian Fellowship, don't go up and swipe a sheet or two after the Pacific Cultural Exchange spends all night making the hillside read "PCE." They worked hard and got permission to do it. If you want to see "PCF" in 12-foot-high letters, do it yourself from scratch.

Also, a word to the ambitious: If you have a friend who wants to cover the "P" with CDs, shiny-side-up, to create a glittering monument to the wastefulness of AOL and its free sign-up offers, tell him that three years of scraping together every compact disc in the tri-counties area and spending an entire night duct taping them to the white concrete will yield absolutely no visible result the next day. None.

Don't just show up to the Rec Center with your friends, a canister of blue balls, and a wish. Reserve racquetball courts. You'll probably be able to get in a game if you just pop in, but a reservation guarantees a spot plus, you can ensure that you play in one of the glass courts where everyone can see your killer serve. On the other hand, if you're a profuse sweater or like to play but really suck, you can secure the court as far from prying, critical eyes as possible. Either way, make sure you play racquetball at some point in your college career.

The Rec Center offers lots of other exercise options and equipment. Find what works for you. An uphill walk to class may take your breath away for a moment, but you need regular exercise and activity. Seriously. Sign up for an intramural sport. Meet a friend regularly for some weightlifting. Do a few laps in the pool. Take a martial arts class.

And sign up for a locker as soon as possible, invest in a sturdy lock, and keep your stuff there, so "but I don't want to get my good clothes smelly" won't be an excuse to not get physical.

Also, be sure to get out and about. Walk out to Poly Canyon and see all the crazy houses and structures. Join a weekly game of Ultimate. Explore the campus.

Do follow campus laws. I've seen a guy get pulled over and ticketed on a bike for not wearing a light at night. It can and will happen to you if you're not careful, so if you don't feel like trekking to the some obscure campus building to pay a fine, don't park your car illegally and never, never, never skateboard on campus at least where the man can see you.

Also, if there's an event at the PAC, pay extra attention to where you are and aren't allowed to park. Back in my day, special-event parking occasionally trumped student parking, and a few unaware students were surprised to find that they weren't technically allowed to leave their cars where they left their cars.

Do question why most items and practices banned from the dorms are done so under the "fire hazard" umbrella. Posters on the ceiling? Fire hazard. Flyers posted in your window? Fire hazard. It's the catch-all excuse, and it deserves to be challenged.

True personal story: In my junior year, my roommate and I moved our beds into our neighbors' room to create a new living arrangement: One room for quiet activities, like studying and sleeping, and one room for louder activities, like watching movies and playing video games. The four of us enjoyed almost a whole quarter of peaceful coexistence until our resident advisor finally noticed the switch and made us put everything back the way it was. Fire hazard? Yep.

Do check pay lockers for quarters as often as possible in the first week of school. The newest of the new freshmen sometimes don't realize that they get their quarters back when they reinsert the orange keys to retrieve their books and backpacks. I made at least $5 at the start of each year just by occasionally cruising past the lockers and checking empty coin slots. It's not much, but it was enough for a snack or a few games at the University Union. A quick thought: Do they even have those lockers any more? Disregard this tip if not.

Do combine foods in the cafeteria to make meals that aren't on the menu. Back in my day when the main on-campus eating establishment was called "The Lighthouse" I'd get a couple of tortillas, some chicken strips from the Caesar salad window, a handful of shredded cheese from the salad bar, and pop it all in the microwave. Voila. Instant chicken-and-cheese quesadilla.

Also, don't make a huge mess just because you don't have to clean it up. Somebody does, and you're a real jerk if you think that your time is more important than theirs.

Even if you're not the school-spirit type, go to at least one football game. Go paint your face and scream yourself hoarse. Go with your sarcastic friends and mock it the whole time. Go to just sit and watch. Any way you go, just go. Then, you can say you did.

And speaking of college pride, learn the school fight song. It was obviously written in another time period, probably back when they said things like "alma mater." It's packed with antiquated phrases like "chin the moon" and "kick the frost out" and "bow-wows."

While you're at it, learn the school hymn. You'll probably only ever hear it at graduation, but at least you won't be confused when it starts playing. Also, you can join me when I say that the word "Polytechnic" has no right to be in such a song.

Finally, do take a class or two for fun. I front-loaded my schooling so I'd have a bit more leeway in my upper-class years. As a journalism senior, I found time for Music of the '60s, beginning rodeo, and welding, all of which have helped me immensely in my post-collegiate life. Seriously.

The city
When you finally venture beyond the boundaries of Cal Poly proper, you'll see that there's a whole city around you. Promise me you won't be one of the people who calls this place by the name of the school instead of San Luis Obispo.

click to enlarge MUSTANG PRIDE :  Whether you enjoy or disdain school spirit, support your fellow students in their athletic or artistic endeavors. Go to a football game, take in a concert, or whatever. Better yet, get involved yourself. - PHOTO BY RYAN MILLER
  • MUSTANG PRIDE : Whether you enjoy or disdain school spirit, support your fellow students in their athletic or artistic endeavors. Go to a football game, take in a concert, or whatever. Better yet, get involved yourself.

# First of all, don't walk around like you own the place. You're not the new kings of the town. This city saw a cocky bunch of students exactly like you long before you showed up, and there will be many more long after you leave.

To most of the locals, you're just a wallet in jeans and a jacket and other, older wallets occasionally come to visit, which is a plus. Everyone here will tolerate you, as long as you keep spending here. Folks in these parts put up with your predictable indiscretions because of the money you represent.

But don't get out of line. The hands that gladly take your dollars will just as easily dial the police to shut down your loud parties. This works on many levels, on a scale of house kegger to citywide Mardi Gras celebration. Otherwise, have fun!

Don't panic. You may notice some students walking around town who are already well into their classes. No, you didn't miss the start of Poly's fall quarter. These students attend Cuesta, a community college a little ways to the north. Also, if you start feeling superior to them, don't. Many of them will ultimately transfer to Cal Poly (or even more prestigious schools). Or, they'll get great jobs doing what they love. Plus, Cuesta gets out earlier than Poly does for the summer.

Do visit the drive-in to see a movie or two. Did you know that some states don't have anything close to this type of movie-viewing experience? You're in California. Enjoy what the good state offers to you.

Do visit Farmers' Market. Once you get over your "ogling members of the opposite sex" phase, you'll find that it's a great place to buy fresh local produce and sample cuisine from many cultures as long as those cultures are already represented by a local restaurant.

Do follow politics. Even though you're far away from home, you can still sign up to vote for the November election. There are a lot of ways to change your registration (or register for the first time), but the most public would be to do it at Farmers' on a Thursday evening. Joining the democratic process in the midst of the masses what could be more American?

Speaking of which: See that big empty field off Highway 101? That's Ernie Dalidio's property, and he wants to develop it. Some people want to help him do it. Others don't. That's a big debate going on right now, and you're welcome to join in, especially if you either really, really want an Old Navy or really, really don't like the idea of developers taking their projects through the initiative process.

But that's enough about that. You'll hear plenty more about this subject and others right here in these very pages.

The county
Just as there's more to San Luis Obispo than Cal Poly, there's more to San Luis Obispo County than San Luis Obispo.

This county boasts San Miguel in the north, Nipomo in the south, and a lot of other interesting places in between. There's an In-N-Out in Atascadero, a great beach at Monta"a de Oro, fantastic chowder in Pismo, several piers for doing whatever it is one does on piers, a little place called Hearst Castle in San Simeon, hiking and biking trails aplenty, shops in Cambria (and just about everywhere else), a saloon in Pozo, and enough wineries to make your parents sick.

There's more, but that's everything off the top of my head. I'm sure I'll remember a whole bunch of stuff after the paper comes out, but then it'll be too late.

Surfers: You've landed in a great corner of the world for your sport. It's not the best in the nation, but nobody complains about the early morning runs, the quick sessions between classes, the evening meetings on the swells ... I'll stop. Some of you are drooling.

Before you rush out and fill your sinuses with salt water, however, be sure to double check what you're diving into. A recent rash of pollution has made water quality along the coast a matter of question. A few locals have seen some sharks cruising around, too, but what else is new? They don't call it "the ocean" for nothing. If you want to stay out of the food chain, stay out of the water. Or check out some enviro-camouflage (page 11) that may keep aquatic cartilaginous predators away.

Once you feel it's safe to go in the water, our resident surfing expert says you should watch the waves. If there's a north swell, head to Morro Bay or Pismo Beach. A south swell should send you to Cayucos or Shell Beach.

Hikers: Don't bother hitting Bishop Peak on a Sunday. Everybody else has the same idea. And when you do head up, stay on the trails. Years of intrepid explorers eroding their own paths to the top take their toll.

SLO isn't the only place with a Farmers' Market. Check around the county to find other gatherings that sell produce, honey, flowers, crafts, and other such events. Also, keep your eye out for local art festivals, craft shows, and more. There's something big happening somewhere in the county just about every weekend and even on weekdays. I recommend paging through the New Times calendar at least once a week to make sure you know what's going on.

The wild side
College is all about learning, but let's be honest sometimes you just have to have fun.

Buy a pint glass at Frog and Peach for drinking on Tuesday nights. Mother's Tavern has good food to go with your libations. The Library next door isn't for studying. I've heard Bulls Tavern described as a dive, but I've never been there myself and can't tell you whether that's supposed to be an insult or a compliment. Spike's has a great taco deal on Tuesday nights. Marti's offers a Century Club that involves shots and caricatures. Our resident alcohol and music aficionado cites Downtown Brew as the best spot for tunes and drinking downtown. Blue and Corner View present a bit more of an ahem upscale experience, so don't expect to get crazy. And remember that McCarthy's is full of locals who've been going there for a long, long time. If you do go to McCarthy's, don't dance.

If you've got to move to the music, The Grad is full of students exactly like you. You can try for the token country night, but your best bet is to just show up and grind or be grinded upon. You can also drop by Tortilla Flats. Or check New Times each week to find local jams, jives, concerts, and rock-outs.

When you're through partying, get home safely. Seriously. I wish I could tell you about a safe ride home program, but last I heard, most of the local options were canceled. Find a sober friend, call a taxi, learn to teleport do anything but get behind the wheel.

Sex is serious. Pay attention to everyone your parents, campus officials, community members when they tell you about your options. And even in a place as great as SLO, rapes happen, as do cases of STDs, emotional distress, and pregnancy. Educate yourself and make smart choices.

Finally, a few words on nudity. SLO has a Mardi Gras-inspired city ordinance that makes baring it all an illegal matter during that particular time of year. Pirate's Cove near Avila Beach encourages sunbathers who don't like tan lines. And if you've just got to streak, make the event worth your while. Some guy clad only in a bandana (it was covering his face, in case you're wondering) blasted through Ross downtown over the summer. Was this the best time and place for that behavior? I'm going to say no. Are there other, more appropriate times and places for such a thing? I'm going to leave that to you. I can only tell you so much. The rest you're going to have to learn on your own, through trial and error.

Good luck, and welcome to SLO.

INFOBOX: Say it right

Incoming freshmen participating in Cal Poly's Week of Welcome should note the first word in that title: "Week." Don't call it WOW Week, because then you're saying Week of Welcome Week, and that's just dumb. Also, it's San Loo-iss Obispo, not San Lou-ee. You can call Bakersfield "Baco" and Sacramento "Sac-Town," but if you're going to give this place a trendy nickname, stick with a simple "San Luis" or "SLO." The natives will thank you if they can spot you.

INFOBOX: Seven days of salutations

Cal Poly's Week of Welcome kicks off with Family Orientation Weekend Sept. 16 and 17, then introduces new students to the community Sept. 18 through 22. About 500 trained student volunteers will corral more than 3,000 WOWies on campus, downtown, and beyond.

Editor Ryan Miller graduated from the Cal Poly journalism department in 2001. Ask him about an internship at

Cal Poly leaders face change

A new provost steps in and the current president ponders future retirement


Big changes are in store for Cal Poly. William Durgin begins his first semester as the university's new provost and vice president of academic affairs this fall, and Cal Poly President Warren Baker who holds the distinction of being the longest-serving Cal Poly president may bid adieu to his office within the next couple of years.

click to enlarge AT THE TABLE :  William Durgin (right) is stepping in as Cal Polys new provost and vice president of academic affairs. President Warren Baker (left) isnt going anywhere for now, but he is willing to talk about what life after Poly may look like. - PHOTO BY JESSE ACOSTA
  • AT THE TABLE : William Durgin (right) is stepping in as Cal Polys new provost and vice president of academic affairs. President Warren Baker (left) isnt going anywhere for now, but he is willing to talk about what life after Poly may look like.

# In an interview with New Times, Baker described his plans for the future, as well as the rewards and the challenges of a career that has so far spanned almost three decades.

New Times: I've heard rumors you're planning to retire within the next year. Are the whisperings true?

Baker: I have no plans to retire, but obviously, in the next year or so ... I am approaching that age.

New Times: How old are you?

Baker: I was 68 years old on Sept. 5.

New Times: Do you plan to stay in the area after your retirement?

Baker: Yes, we plan to stay in the area. We've been here 30 years and have a lot of friends and family in the area.

New Times: What do you plan to do after you retire?

Baker: I plan to stay involved with science and math issues and continue serving on some boards. I'll probably teach a little, too, with a little brushing up in the civil engineering courses. I am a professor of civil engineering at the university.

New Times: What is your wife Carly wanting to do after you retire?

Baker: Travel. Our highest priority is Africa. It is a continent neither of us has been on. We might visit an alumnus Inonge Mbikusita-Lewaniki who is the Zambian ambassador to the United States. She graduated from our teacher education program.

New Times: Tell me about your wife, the woman behind the man.

Baker: People don't realize how much time she spends on the university. She is involved in all the hosting we do on campus hosting community guests and receptions.

New Times: Who will take the helm when you retire?

Baker: The general process is the Board of Trustees has a nationwide search and selects the next president.

New Times: How does the length of your presidency compare to that of other CSU presidents?

Baker: Jim Roser Cal State LA president and I started on the same day. I think we are the senior and longest-serving presidents at a public institution in the United States.

New Times: What has been your greatest success as president?

Baker: There is no real one thing. First, when I came here, Cal Poly had good students and a wonderful faculty, but it also had shortcomings in its physical infrastructure. We have leveraged private funds with state money to build 30 to 50 projects. The Performing Arts Center is an example. The second is raising the profile of Cal Poly in the education and scientific communities. The third is launching a development program [the Cal Poly endowment]. We had $1 million when I started in 1979, and we were raising less than $500,000 a year. It is now $165 million, and we raise an average of $40 million a year.

New Times: What was the biggest challenge you faced during your presidency?

Baker: I think the biggest challenge is trying to represent Cal Poly's relatively unique position in the CSU system. There are statutes developed over the years on the nature of programs like agriculture, architectural design, and engineering. All of those represent the large number of programs that make the university more expensive to operate than a more comprehensive university. We emphasize "learn by doing," so facilities for that are important.

New Times: What is the biggest challenge facing the university in the future?

Baker: Being sure we can increase our funding base to secure quality programs and continue to attract quality faculty. Attracting faculty is our biggest challenge, because the cost of housing is so high compared to salaries.

New Times: What has kept you around for 27 years?

Baker: Primarily working on interesting challenges and a lot of good people with a can-do cooperative spirit. I am always optimistic even in the deep recessions we have gone through.

New Times: When were the deep recessions?

Baker: In the early '90s, there were significant cuts. We never fully recovered. We closed the College of Professional Studies and eliminated and cut a number of programs around 10 percent total cuts over a three-year period. We reduced enrollment by 2,000. Over the past few years, we had to again reduce enrollment, and we had a three-year freeze on faculty pay raises. We haven't caught up yet.

New Times: What new projects are in the works?

Baker: Opening an engineering projects building this year, and next year a laboratory engineering building.

New Times: Is the school of engineering growing?

Baker: Yes. It is all worked out based on our master plan, which determines enrollment and where we will grow. At a time other nations are producing substantially more engineers than us, we need to retain our competitive edge in regards to science and engineering.

New Times: How would you characterize your time at Cal Poly?

Baker: It's been a nice ride.

Staff Writer Karen Velie can be reached a

Love 'em and leave 'em?

College students: Consider not adopting pets


When I stroll through SLO's Woods Humane Society, it's difficult to restrain myself from loading my car with furry, four-legged orphans and driving home. Dogs of all shapes and sizes sit anxiously by their kennel doors, their eyes pleading for love, attention, and freedom.

The younger canines leap boisterously, impatient to be rid of the

click to enlarge UNFORGETTABLE :  Fritz is one of many animals at the Woods Humane Society in need of a good home or attention from volunteers who do not have the resources to provide a good home. - PHOTO BY JESSE ACOSTA
  • UNFORGETTABLE : Fritz is one of many animals at the Woods Humane Society in need of a good home or attention from volunteers who do not have the resources to provide a good home.
# confines of a kennel. The older dogs sit more patiently, perhaps because they've had to sit far longer than their younger, more adoptable counterparts. But their eyes are just as eager, just as pleading.

In one room, a dozen kittens mew and bat fiercely at imagined enemies. All of the animals are well cared for. They receive food, shelter, and as much attention as volunteers can bestow. But I want to provide them with a family and love. Fortunately, my cramped little apartment and a landlord who prohibits the presence of animals come to mind. It's difficult to walk away from rows of sweet, eager animals. But it's a decision that the Woods Humane Society encourages and too few college students know to make.

"I think a lot of students are homesick," said Woods Humane Society Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator Steve Kragenbrink. "Especially when Christmas hits, many students start missing their animals from home and they get really homesick and they want to have something there for them

when they come home. They come in and get kittens and expect their kitten to live in a dorm or apartment, and they don't have the foresight to see that the kitten is going to become a cat."

Aside from the reality that young animals are going to grow, many students adopt animals that aren't technically allowed in their apartments or dorms. Collegians often fail to consider what will happen to an animal when they return home for the summer. According to Kragenbrink, Woods Humane Society is inundated with surrenders when the school year ends. Students' love-'em-and-leave-'em attitude primarily affects cats, though the society does take in dogs that students can no longer house.

Worse, some pet owners don't even think to surrender their animal to a shelter. Instead, they abandon it, contributing to San Luis Obispo's feral cat problem which is significant enough to prompt rescue groups to trap feral cats and spay and neuter them.

Still, even if surrendering an animal to a no-kill shelter like Woods Humane Society seems like a humane

way to part with a pet, there's currently a six-month waiting

list for surrenders because the shelter is full.

"We don't want to see them come back," Kragenbrink said. "We see that as a complete failure. We don't see that as placing them with a humane environment, and we don't see that as a humane family."

Woods Humane Society has a strict screening process intended to prevent students likely to abandon pets from adopting. If potential adopters live in an apartment, the society asks for landlord contact information to confirm that pets are allowed and the organization doesn't adopt out to any Cal Poly address. But every year, some students manage to circumvent the rules and adopt an animal that will find itself homeless six months later.

"I don't think they really think about it," Kragenbrink said. "I think it's instant gratification, like 'Oh, I want something cute to come home to.'"

For students who want the opportunity to interact with dogs or cats but who also want to make a positive contribution to the welfare of animals in San Luis Obispo County Woods Humane Society does offer a solution.

"I would advise students to call up Woods and come over here and volunteer," Kragenbrink said. "I call it 'fuzz therapy.' That way, they're curbing the problem instead of contributing to the problem. Come out and groom the animals, feed them, train them, love them."

Students can choose volunteer hours that don't interfere with school or work and can even take advantage of a study room at the shelter, where they can read or write essays in the companionship of a lonely shelter resident. Woods Humane Society is a mere 4.76 miles from the Cal Poly campus, making it a short bike ride or car trip away. Additionally, by interacting with the animals, volunteers increase an animal's adoptability, making it more likely that a dog or cat will find a good home even if the student in question doesn't have the resources to provide one.

Another option for students allowed to have an animal in their apartment but who don't think they can provide an animal with a forever home is the society's foster program, which primarily benefits animals that are too young to be adopted, older animals, and sick animals that need extra care.

"A lot of people that do come out here and volunteer tell me that when they go back to work or school, they feel like their heart is 10 times bigger," Kragenbrink said. "When you come out here and start to get to know their names and personalities and start to look into their eyes, they return that to you."

INFOBOX: Fuzz therapy

For more information about volunteering for the Woods Humane Society, located at 875 Oklahoma Ave., contact Steve Kragenbrink at 543-9316, Ext. 19, or visit

Arts Editor Ashley Schwellenbach has a weakness for all things furry. Send pet tales to


The perfect burrito

Two vegetarians travel to the far reaches of the county in search of tortilla-wrapped perfection


Good food has always been one of my favorite pursuits. The search for unusual dishes brings with it the thrills of exploring new neighborhoods and meeting delightful people. For my tastes and money a great burrito is like salvation from the daily parade of bagels and dry sandwiches on floppy, ultra-processed bread. The road to burrito heaven is long and filled with disappointment, but the rewards for finding that underrated hole-in-the-wall are glorious and well-documented: a renewed sense of purpose or lust for life, increased appetite, weight gain, a surge in popularity, and intense fulfillment.

Because of the generally modest ingredients involved, burritos tend to be an inexpensive and quick food, making them a favorite indeed a staple for many students (or folks perpetually living on a student's budget). When compared to other cheap eats, like pizza, mac & cheese, and Top Ramen (beer is not a food), burritos contain important nutritional elements for vegetarians. They've got protein and iron in brown rice, especially maybe some veggies or salsa, and they just taste so good.

The vegetarian burrito is a category so broad, we often found ourselves making comparisons that boil down to weighing apples against oranges, so we had to go with our gut. Presentation means very little, but cost is something to consider. There were some extras that tipped the scales, like salsa bars, homemade tortillas, location, and ambiance. Otherwise, we let our tastes be the guide.

Kylie Mendonca

KYLIE Our journey begins in San Luis Obispo, after hours, looking for something to fill us up and not break the bank. For a college town, there are surprisingly few options here for late-night nourishment. This is where Tio Alberto's (affectionately called T.A.'s) becomes a valuable asset to the city. Located downtown, at 1311 Broad, T.A.'s serves up half a dozen veggie options, stays open late, and offers a self-serve salsa bar with those jalape"o pickled carrots.

PATRICK I don't know if I've progressed to the "feed me now," stumbling, post-set phase where finding cheap Mexican food dominates my soon-to-be-unconsciousness, I'm not going to remember the food. In San Luis, I tend to seek lunchtime digs, and the Chile Peppers timidly tucked away at 2121 Broad always proves a solid option. Chile Peppers offers a diverse menu, pleasant ambiance, and some damn good horchata, and the service decisively trumps the Foothill installment. Plus, I don't have to put up with quite as many drunk college students.

KYLIE You forgot to mention that Chile Peppers also serves cheap beer, so in addition to the drunk college kids, your chances of running into a drunk local (mid-day, no less) has just gone up. You tell me which is worse. For incident-free food, try Tacos de Acapulco. They make a really consistent burrito, moderately priced between $5 and $6. Their burritos are huge and come loaded with onion and cilantro, and they play great music. The joint is also tucked into a shopping center at 1237 Laurel, so you can get some laundry done or go shopping while you're in the neighborhood.

PATRICK Considering how many times I saw you spill burrito fixin's on yourself during this gastronomical misadventure, the laundry seems an appropriate convenience. Personally, I don't mind some inconvenience so let's jet out of town. Chacho's Mexican Takeout at 1911 Cienaga in Oceano dishes out small but delicious burritos, wrapped in perhaps the best handmade tortillas in the county. Low overhead typically means low prices and this place has roughly the amenities of an East County tweeker hangout. In fact, $6 should purchase more than any reasonable eater can handle. There are a few vegetarian options at Chacho's, but no real accommodations, which is the true mark of honest-to-God Mexican food.

KYLIE True enough. I have the distinct feeling (somewhere mid-intestine) that the refried beans were not at all vegetarian, but it's hard to know if the nausea was a side effect of the lard, the sheer volume of beans and rice we were consuming, or the fact that Patrick drives like my mom. There are some great eats to the north, most notably Tacos de Mexico at 980 Main in Morro Bay. I love this place because of the giant murals of the Pacific on each side of the building. The decor inside is minimal which is okay, because it's all about the food. A veggie burrito is only $3 and is stuffed with whole beans and big chunks of tomato. It is everything a burrito should be moist, spicy, chunky, and cheap.

PATRICK Any traveler knows to follow the locals to good eats, but SLO County residents represent as much ethnic diversity as Bing Crosby playing polo in Utah. I actually don't mind being called a gringo, because wherever that happens might be a good place to score some Chicano chomp. Down Highway 1 and past the Five Cities, Mexican food is pretty much on the menu behind every tackily decorated door. The Guadalupe Restaurant at 757 Guadalupe in you guessed it Guadalupe could probably use some d»cor pointers as well, but they've got the cooking thing down. Everything we ordered, the chef made fresh from ingredients diced, mixed, prepped, and seasoned on site ... and it was good. A healthy variety of homemade salsa really stole the show, however even if it lacked cilantro. Modelo Negro, Pacifico, and Bohemia occupied the cooler, and all of it came at a better-than-reasonable price.

KYLIE The Guadalupe restaurant was near-perfect. I only wish it was in my neighborhood. We ate at plenty more restaurants which were amazing and I can only guess that there are more I don't even know about. So don't get mad if we neglected to mention your favorite taco shack. I'll get there sooner or later.

New Times contributor Kylie Mendonca will eat almost anything but never feed her after midnight. Staff writer Patrick M. Klemz loves Bohemia. Send recipes to or

The red pill

How many MMO gamers are having trouble logging out?


Late on a Thursday night, deep in the Stranglethorn Vale, Alcibiades sat outside the Zul'Gurub instance waiting for his mana to regenerate.

It was 2:14 a.m. on the second floor of Cal Poly's Sierra Madre residence hall in San Luis Obispo, 11:14 a.m. in Stockholm, 6:14 p.m. in Osaka, 4:14 a.m. in Des Moines, Iowa, and so on for 16 other places around the world. Yet, in the common time scope of World of Warcraft's eastern continent, it was just past dusk six actual hours into the raid party's efforts.

Ideally, only four more revolutions of the minute hand remained before Alcibiades could hop a mount back to the Alliance stronghold in Westfall for a safe logout leaving just enough time for the beleaguered Level 60 shadow priest to grab two hours of shut-eye before a critical M.E. lab the following morning. But, as the sun pushed over the Cuesta Ridge, the raid endured.

When the hour of the lab actually approached, the rationale materialized to keep playing. The laws of physics won't change during one missed lab and, sporting a still-incomplete armor template, Alcibiades lacked the resources to join his guildmates in Molton Core the following evening.

Time and tide wait for no Night Elf.

In the world of massively multiplayer online (MMO) gaming, the distinction between the part-time or casual gamer and the full-time or hardcore gamer takes a very literal meaning. Some players wake up in the morning with a focus, if not an agenda, of what to accomplish in their proxy digital lives.

A recent study by UCSF researcher Sonya Brady revealed a fairly steady curve in the average time that college men gamed per week, but the distribution also showed a handful of the 179 subjects far away from the pack. Two subjects even reported playing more than 40 hours in a given week a state of affairs that, while uncommon, Brady said, hardly proves rare.

Although monitoring the effects of video game-use on children has been a pastime of media researchers since the debut of Mortal Kombat in the early '90s, the concept of diagnosing gaming dependency as a medical addiction constitutes a relatively recent development. In 1999, Sony Online released its revolutionary title EverQuest the first to fully incorporate interactive social and economic elements to a virtual world.

The concept of customizing an avatar to represent the player in a digitally manifested algorithmic reality swiftly sucked in millions of gamers and earned Sony's breakthrough title the now entirely trite nickname "EverCrack." Clinical psychologist Dr. Hilarie Cash explained that the ability to chat, trade, and even flirt in the newly forged MMO genre allowed gamers with a less-defined social life to seek out their interaction online.

As industry revenue flowered into the billions, developers honed in on elements proven to keep the subscriptions rolling in. Within half a decade, Blizzard Entertainment forged an addictive masterpiece in the studio's wildly successful World of Warcraft.

Last week, news arrived that Blizzard's blockbuster reached its latest milestone of 7 million subscribers worldwide making it, far and away, the top-grossing MMO on the market. The sustained popularity of the game, researchers believe, is partly due to the developers' success at simulating social interaction to the point of effective substitution. Even in fan circles, the addictive nature of World of Warcraft's in-game culture continually fuels Internet parody, such as in a recent episode of the Toronto-based webcast Pure Pwnage.

"In some cases, [reality] can be profoundly displaced," said Cash, who runs Internet/Computer Addiction Services out of Microsoft's Vatican in Redmond, Wash. "I recently saw a 23-year-old, and his entire identity was around being a high-ranking character in World of Warcraft."

"The thing about WoW is it's so immersive," explained local gamer Matt Staley. "The aim is: How little can you get the player to think about real life? I've seen setups where people have microwaves parked next to their computer."

But, while the web studios quip and the researchers theorize, gaming addiction as a treatable clinical disorder remains in an infant state largely because there are no set guidelines to diagnose it.

A list of symptoms compiled by the National Institute for Media and the Family catalogued the typical behavioral addiction signs, including lying about use, disruption of social life, obsession with the game, and the mood swings associated with withdrawal. Recent studies by Dr. Douglas Gentile of the organization's research arm also showed greater levels of aggression. As far as the long-term social impacts, the data is still out.

Every so often, a report surfaces from some far-off place: A player committed suicide after losing some rare items, or simply keeled over after 36 hours plugged in at an all-night Internet caf». This summer, Shanghai authorities even pressed copyright infringement charges against three men for propagating a virtual illegal arms ring in the MMO Legend of Mir 2 a tale almost as sensational as the notion of copyright infringement in China.

However, these cases prove the most radical of all extremes a few footnotes in a more widespread phenomenon. The typical gaming addict, clinical specialist Cash explained, will simply stop investing time in other aspects of his or her life falling behind in school or work and further digressing in the ability to socially maneuver, which reinforces dependence on the game.

"I've had friends who, if I wanted to talk to them, I would literally have to go and log into the game," Staley said.

This phenomenon led Cash at the Redmond clinic to focus her career on online gaming addiction. Earlier this summer, a comprehensive virtual detox center opened in Amsterdam to much media din, but currently only a handful of treatment facilities in the United States and Canada deal with virtual dependency.

In Harrisburg, Penn., Liz Woolley, who found her son dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his EverQuest terminal in 2001, even recently founded a halfway house for MMO addicts. At most clinics, treatment options include everything from one-on-one counseling, to support groups, to full-blown interventions.

"When people are forced in by the family and they don't see that they have a problem, it's always more difficult," Cash said.

For less-developed cases, clinics typically offer counseling to help addicts develop social skills to break the dependence on virtual interaction.

"[Hardcore gamers] are similar to anybody who would make a hobby into an addiction where real-life relationships and connections are affected," Staley said. "It's all about how one regulates it."

Despite Half-Life Counterstrike, staff writer Patrick M. Klemz eventually graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He no longer has a home Internet connection. Send him an e-mail at

Help or hoax?

Do over-the-counter hangover cures work?


When I attended Cal Poly (many moons ago, young scholars), I remember sitting in the University Union with my pal Frank Warren watching my fellow students come and go, and I turned to Frank and said, "Frank, college is T-shirts." That may certainly be true, but perhaps more true is this: College is hangovers.

click to enlarge PILL POPPER :  Intrepid reporter Glen Starkey drank for the greater good and tested two brands of hangover pills. Did they work? Read on! - PHOTO BY JENNIFER MAY ANTHONY
  • PILL POPPER : Intrepid reporter Glen Starkey drank for the greater good and tested two brands of hangover pills. Did they work? Read on!

# Sure, not every student imbibes in the sauce, booze, brewskis, hooch, or moonshine, but you'd be hard-pressed to find one who by graduation hasn't drunk to excess ... more than once. It's as inevitable as midterms and early morning classes eventually they befall every student. So what is one to do?

Let's dismiss this abstinence idea outright. You just can't expect a student to never overindulge. That's like expecting students to never play their stereos too loud or drive too fast. You might as well try to stop the sun from rising, but rise it does, waking students to a throbbing headache, nausea, aching joints, and disorientation wrought from standing around a keg all night saying "Dude!" while pouring beer after cheap beer down their throats.


There are plenty of folk remedies out there. American Indians claim that eating six raw almonds before imbibing helps prevent intoxication. Others say that drinking a glass of water with a teaspoon of bifidus powder (a "friendly" bacteria that detoxifies acetaldehyde, a digestive byproduct of alcohol) alleviates hangovers.

Then there's the two teaspoons of primrose oil taken before drinking, or the African remedy of eating peanut butter before drinking, or drinking high-in-electrolytes sport drinks before bedtime, or simply drinking two to three large glasses of water before bed. New Times didn't test any of those remedies. Instead, we tested two over-the-counter hangover helpers: PartySmart™ and Chaser? Plus.

To do this right, we needed a control group, a group that drank too much and didn't use the pills. We didn't have a control group, so instead I just thought back to last Saturday morning. Ouch. Moan. Water ... throat ... so ... dry.

Next we needed a group that took a placebo. Didn't have that either. Clearly, this wasn't going to be very scientific. If it were, we'd need to test it on a lot of different people drinking a lot of different drinks over many different drinking episodes. For my experiment, I drank two glasses of wine, four beers (maybe five, who's counting?), and a couple of shots of whiskey all over the course of about four hours. Pretty excessive, eh? This definitely produces a hangover, kids. You don't have to try it at home.

First up, I tried PartySmart™, which only required me to consume one pill 30 minutes before my first drink. PartySmart™, like bifidus power, purports to "protect the liver by speeding up the eradication of acetaldehyde." When I woke up the next day, my hangover felt pretty much like my standard geez-I-drank-too-much-last-night hangover, but my pee was extra yellow ... sort of a curry yellow. Hmm. PartySmart™ is manufactured in Bangalore, India, so maybe it works on Indian booze, but it did nothing for the Irish whiskey or the American beer. And PartySmart™ said it was "Clinically proven." Ha!

I thought Chaser? Plus might be more promising. New Times sales rep Kirsten Blake raved about how well it worked when she and her husband went to a wedding in New Orleans.

"Those of us who took it weren't feeling perfect, but those who didn't were hurting. Hurting! Some were puking. But it was New Orleans. You puked and then you rallied and ordered a Bloody Mary." Ah, weddings!

I carefully read the directions: "Take two caplets with your first drink. Take two more after four to six drinks, or every two to three hours. Do not take more than eight caplets in a 24-hour period or use the maximum dosage for more than one week except under the advice and supervision of a physician." Wow! First of all, where am I going to find a physician who recommends I stay drunk for a week?

I poured myself a glass of wine, popped two caplets, and started cooking dinner. I was cooking with the wine, so most of it went into the sauce, but eventually the bottle was gone. (Hey, my photographer drank some too!) After dinner, I grabbed a brew and a tiny flask of whiskey and took my dog to the dog park. When I returned, I had a pretty good buzz going, so I had another beer with my next two caplets. Then I ate some cheese and Fritos and gave my fruit drawer a withering look for not being full of candy bars.

Two more beers and a glass of whiskey later, I decided to pop two more before heading to bed. Because Chaser? Plus requires drinkers to keep track of their consumption and "medicate" accordingly, there's a big risk of forgetting, but I soldiered on. Plop. I hit the sheets.

When I woke up the next day, I assessed the situation: Head throbbing? Check! Mouth dry? Check! Joints aching? Check! Vague feeling of nausea? Check!

No doubt about it: I had a hangover.

What does this mean for college students? That's a tough one. First of all, we have very different livers. Yours are young and pliable, but inexperienced! Mine's had 20 years' practice on cleaning the alcohol out of my system.

The bad news and the bottom line is this: Your mom was right. If you don't want to wake up with a hangover, don't drink too much.

Glen Starkey still doesn't listen to his mother. Scold him at



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