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Fly the friendly skies 

My dad always used to tell me that appearances were everything, which is probably why we kept them up so long in my family. “Everything’s fine!� we’d tell the neighbors. “All that shouting last night was just a game we were playing. We threw all of my brother’s clothes out on the lawn so they could air dry.�

I was reminded of that fatherly wisdom the other day when a friend stopped by to tell me about 3rd District Supervisor Jerry Lenthall’s recent jaunt to San Francisco on behalf of local concerned citizens who were furrowing their brows at the possibility of PG$E — sorry, that was a typo and my delete key is broken so I can’t erase it. Let me try again: … on behalf of local concerned citizens who were furrowing their brows at the possibility of PG&E tucking spent reactor fuel rods into casks at Diablo Canyon, which makes the nuclear power plant sound like a classy winery with cellars open for tasting and touring. Have you tried the Chernobyl Shiraz? It’s divine. Anybody care for a Three-Mile-Long-Island Iced Tea?

Anyway, the energy company really wants to dump its radioactive garbage in our backyard, but for some reason, not everyone in the area is happy with that plan, so dutifully concerned citizen Jerry, a month before he was sworn into office, said he would travel to the City by the Bay to act as “a watchdog for the voters� while PG&E lobbied to sweep its radiation under our coastal rug and walk away whistling, with its hands in its pockets.

Then Jerry boarded a PG&E plane.

There’s no conflict of interest, he said, because he paid his own way to San Francisco, see, and they had a spot open, yeah, and he even testified against PG&E while he was there, so neener, neener, neener.

“Appearances,� I can hear Pa Shredder saying, shaking his head. “Appearances are everything.�

PG&E officials must be positively glowing right now. When you’re conveniently that close to Diablo Canyon, it’s hard not to. The commission approved PG&E’s plan, and in return asked the company to open up three miles of coastline to public use. PG&E hadn’t wanted to open up that land for safety reasons, but agreed to do so to clinch the deal. Jerry argued against opening the stretch of coast as well, which is what he defines as testifying against PG&E, but he’s all for bringing in the reactor rods.

There may have been nothing technically wrong with Jerry hopping a ride on PG&E’s private plane, but that doesn’t mean he should’ve done it just for convenience. It could be convenient to share a cab with an escaped convicted psychotic mass murderer—especially if it’s raining as hard as it’s been lately—but I wouldn’t recommend it. I’ll walk, thanks. A little water never hurt anyone, after all, unless you live in Oceano.

Recent rains clogged storm drains with eucalyptus bits and channeled gallons of rainwater into Bill Bookout’s nursery storeroom. No one in Oceano wants to take responsibility for keeping the drains open because no one wants to be at fault when those drains stop up and damage property. Floods happen, they all say. Water is water. That’s life. Not my problem.

I hope that attitude doesn’t carry over to their feelings about the Indian and Sri Lankan tsunami victims. Whose fault was that massive tidal wave? Not mine. It’s not my job to monitor the ocean, so it’s not my job to make sure that those who are suffering get relief. Water is water. Floods happen. That’s life, and it’s convenient to just shrug and look the other way.

Convenience, in and of itself, is not a good argument. Heck, if I operated on the principles of convenience, I’d just stuff my pockets full of candy bars whenever I left 7-11, instead of taking only one or two. That way, I’d save gas money on less trips to the store, and I’d have less of a chance of getting caught.

Things don’t really work like that. If you show up at a Hanukkah celebration in a car driven by a Hitler impersonator, it doesn’t matter if you paid your own way. You’re going to get dirty looks, at the very least.

If you step off of a PG$E plane, people are going to think you spent the entire flight shaking hands, swapping jokes, and sharing peanuts with energy company officials, no matter what you say after you land, and especially if you end up saying the same thing your fellow passengers have been saying all along.

If you imply that fighting flooding isn’t worth any effort because it’s been going on for more than 30 years, as did Oceano Community Services District’s Mitch Cooney, people are going to think you’re lazy and unresponsive. Sorry, that’s life. And it’s not my problem.

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