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It was the Best Of times 

Twenty years. Twenty years of telling everyone what’s best, whether they like it or not.

I’m tired of this whole Best Of charade, stuffing listing after cheerful listing into one issue packed with enough spin to make the Earth turn faster. These saccharine-sweet writers could make even Ken Lay and Enron look like saints worthy of our devotion. They could make President George Bush’s ideas for quelling the mounting gas prices seem downright plausible. George wants to help fill the country’s cars for less money by dropping environmental restrictions set by EPA and opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for exploration, which sounds like a man in a coonskin cap and a rifle over his shoulder looking around intrepidly with his hand on his forehead to shade his eyes, but really involves big things like machines and drills.
 
I’m even more tired of all the calls New Times gets in the weeks after Best Of hits the streets, from people complaining that the winners who won shouldn’t have taken first place in the first place. For the last time: You all voted for them. We’re just telling back to you what you told us. If most of you picked Starbucks as your favorite coffee joint over a locally owned shop, it’s your own damn fault. You’ve made your corporate-chain-supporting bed, so lie in it already. Try not to get those greasy McDonald’s fries in the sheets.
 
If I seem crankier than usual, you must not know me very well. In fact, you don’t know me at all. I’ve always been this cantankerous, and more so when I have canker sores. Plus, I get moody this time of year because I hate it. Worse than Tax Day. Worse than Christmas.
 
Two years ago, Alex Madonna died right when the New Times staff was putting its Best Of issue together. Last year, Steve Moss died at right around the same time. That just sucks, no matter how you slice it, and it slices right to the bone, no matter how you suck it.
 
To top it all off, if superstition teaches us anything, it’s that deaths and other such ghastly occurrences come in threes, so when I noticed that everyone around the office was gearing up for Best Of this year, I started looking over my shoulder. If anyone’s time is up this time around, it’s mine. Alex, Steve, and I were a trio. Three of a kind, willing to tell it like it is around San Luis Obispo. To poke at everyone’s soft underbelly just because we could.
 
We were sort of an unholy trinity, with Alex acting as the wealthy, manly father pissing into waterfalls at his bright-pink inn, Steve moping around here at New Times like some sort of hippie son who can’t find a real job, and me hovering in the wings, pulling strings backstage like a deus ex machina ghost on the wind and mixing whatever metaphors I felt like mixing. It was great.
 
Now, I’m the only one left, and sometimes I’m not even sure if I’m really even here any more. People look right through me like I’m neither here nor there. It’s depressing. Sometimes I go down to Pismo Beach and have my picture taken in one of those tourist photo booths near the pier, just to prove that I’m really around.
 
I hear that Pismo, however, might not be the best place to visit anymore—at least if I want to preserve my virginity.
 
Pismo Beach Chief of Police Joe Cortez recently distributed fliers to locals, warning them—per Megan’s Law—that a “serious sex offender� was living in their neighborhood. In a letter to Pismo Beach residents, Joe said that he wanted to give everyone the opportunity to protect themselves and their children from the sex offender, then proceeded to say that the law prohibits the police from answering any more questions—like what sort of protection they’re talking about. Do we just need to make sure we lock our doors at night, or should we buy a gun?
 
The letter goes on to note that the police don’t support or condone criminal actions that arise out of the release. If you break the law to protect yourself against this man that we’ve just told you to be afraid of and prepared for, the police are saying, we’re still going to prosecute you as a criminal. Short of moving to Paso Robles, which is darn near paradise and so, I would gather, immune from the terror of sex offenders, I’ve got no good advice for the people who now live within a mile of someone the police feel compelled to warn everyone about. You could probably just yell at him if he comes near, but that might qualify as hate speech. You better clear what you’re going to say with your attorney first.
 
That said, the police do encourage Pismo Beach residents to report any criminal activities or suspicious behavior related to the sex offender. They provide their phone number and everything, so you should keep a cell phone handy at all times. Otherwise, you’re on your own, but remember: Knowledge is power! ∆


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