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Standing room only

Is it just me, or is it getting harder to find a place to park your butt downtown? The last couple times I went to Starbucks and bought a latte - just to hold while I was sitting around, looking cool - I couldn't find an available bench to use for my sitting around, which put a severe damper on my attempts at looking cool. I had to stand around, and standing implies way too much effort. "You're trying to hard," one of the faux-Goth kids who sometimes hangs around there told me, and she had two different shades of eye shadow.

On the other hand, I've also noticed a definite drop in bad guitar music and good panhandling downtown, at least in the parts that used to have benches. Just last week, I starting digging in my pocket for a handful of change to automatically hand to the bearded man in the beaniewho usually stakes out a seat in front of Jamba Juice, but I turned the corner and ended up tossing a few nickels and dimes into a flowerpot. The Goths really rolled their eyes at that one, but I just snarled at them to go back to the street in front of Linnaea's while I uprooted a pansy to get my 45 cents back.

And while I'm thinking about it, what happened to those artsy benches that used to provide a tacky place to sit over where the Court Street shopping complex is now? Remember those benches? They looked like big sheets of plastic molded to resemble Bishop Peak or Cerros San Luis or something.

In the absence of any cattle mutilations, this whole bench abduction phenomenon has Tom and Jim Copeland's fingerprints all over it, but I don't have my magnifying glass with me, and I really want to go wash my hands after sticking them in that flowerpot. I think somebody puked in there or something. Seriously. Smell this. No really, smell it. See?


Live and let live

Congratulations to Mr. William P. Clark of Shandon, who didn't die this last week, despite the Tribune's apparent insistence that he did, under the name of Robert Nimmo. The local daily put Willie's mug into a story about the death of the former Atascadero mayor, though the paper was nice enough to run a correction when it realized that Willie was still alive.

Actually, the correction didn't mention whether William was alive or not, so I guess I shouldn't assume. Any word from you guys at the Trib? And while you're at it, could you see if former New Times Staff Writer Abraham Hyatt is still alive, too? Even though he writes for you now, I still like him and hope he hasn't died since last I saw him.


Time out

I'm no saint. No, don't argue. It's true. I'm not the model of propriety you think I am, though with years of practice I've still managed to cultivate a holier-than-thou attitude, which is why I have no compunction in telling you that at least one of your local elected leaders/alcohol providers is no saint either. Any guesses as to who I'm talking about?

A hot tip from a hot source turned me on to three local notables who've collected more than their fair share of parking tickets downtown - you know, where the benches are mysteriously disappearing. Using state-of-the-art technology, including a fake beard and a pair of binoculars, I was able to obtain one of their license plate numbers, which, when fed into proper channels, yielded some tasty results.

The plate in question belonged to City Councilman Paul Brown. At least, I think it did. My binoculars were smudged a little, and I kept looking down to make sure my fake beard wasn't slipping and revealing my unnaturally smooth skin, but it sure looked like the owner of Mother's Tavern getting into a black Suburban with stickers that expired back in June. Curiouser and curioser.

Paul's record includes 402 parking tickets acquired since January of 2002, but that's where the juiciness stops, unless you count the even juicier rumor that he's got more than 600 parking tickets total when add up all of the fines tacked to all of his cars. He's been paying the fines regularly, however, so it's not like he's some deadbeat delinquent. Still, 400 some odd parking tickets - 104 of which were handed out this year - were juicy enough to make me thirsty for something more. Something like profit.

Blackmail's out of the question, mainly because I'm not smart enough to pull it off, and Paul probably doesn't care whether people know that he's racked up such an impressive record downtown, where the Downtown Association encourages merchants and store owners to not park their cars in the hopes of luring more shoppers to the area with the promise of ample parking just for them.

One legal and potentially cost-effective option, Paul, is to hire me to move your car around all day, staying one step ahead of the meter maids and whatever the masculine form of meter maids is. Meter men? Meter squires? Meter butlers? Male maids? Whatever.

I'll charge you less than the sum total of your tickets, and I'll come pick you up wherever you're at, so you don't have to worry about needing to get to an important meeting and having no idea where your car is. Just give me a few minutes to come get you. You can't expect me to just drop whatever I'm doing and rush over and kiss your feet, your majesty.


No forwarding address

A little birdie told me that Michael Jackson may occasionally come back to visit his palatial Neverland Ranch, but that he most likely won't live there anymore. If that's true, Santa Maria's probably out of the running when it comes to hosting his next child-molestation trial. Bahrain is now a strong contender for the honor, but I hear that Toronto is gunning for it, too, after losing the 2008 Olympic bid to Beijing.

Good luck to all the competing cities.

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