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Shredder 

Burn baby, burn

I was driving back to San Luis Obispo from Santa Maria on the first day of November - I had forgotten that we built a Costco here in town and wasted a half a tank of gas just to buy a couple economy-size tubs of pumpkin-pie filling - when I saw a huge plume of smoke billowing up into the stratosphere.

"Well, it finally happened," I thought. "Diablo went nova and everybody's gone. No more New Times, no more McCarthy's, no more ... well, I'm sure there are other things worth missing in SLO, and, come to think of it, I'm not really going to miss going into work at that paper every day."

Then I realized that the smoke was coming from somewhere in the vicinity of Lopez Lake, which is nowhere near Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, relatively speaking. Somebody at McCarthy's later told me that the smoke was coming from a 700-and-some-odd-acre controlled burn meant to tackle some persnickety vegetation. I guess Agent Orange has been outlawed or something. I haven't been paying much attention to deforestation techniques since the Vietnam War ended.

Local crews were all set to burn up another 2,000 acres near Lake Cachuma the next day, but I didn't see any of the smoke from that because I remembered to stay in the city when I had to go back to Costco and pick up the dozens of sheets of pie crust I forgot during my first trip.

By the way, don't call me for the next week or two. I'll be busy baking. But if you see an undue amount of smoke coming from my house, don't hesitate to call in some professionals to make sure I'm not passed out from smoke inhalation. Or from drinking too much cooking sherry.

Just don't call the Downtown Association. They've already got enough problems with smoke. Also, I don't live downtown. Or do I?

Norm Eggen, who runs Old Country Deli in downtown San Luis Obispo, has been under fire again for the way he grills his ribs. Some of his neighbors have been complaining because he leaves furniture on his porch, parks his car on his lawn, and plays loud music until the wee hours of the morning.

No, wait. I'm sorry. That's what my neighbors have been complaining about. Turning up their noses at me and my house, all snooty hoity-toity. Like they're the kings of the mountain-not that I live on a mountain. Or do I?

Some of Norm's business neighbors have been complaining for a while now about the smoke from the Old Country Deli barbecue, arguing that the cooking process creates a nuisance at best and hazardous conditions at worst. I have to admit that I've driven through the intersection by his place on many occasions and thought that the fog was rolling in a little earlier than usual, but I'm used to driving in fog and I can get used to driving in smoke.

Norm's neighbor's complaints are such typical California whining. First, a bunch of goodie-goodies doused smoking in bars, offices, and pretty much anywhere indoors. Then, environmental nuts put a stop to wood-burning stoves and fireplaces on certain days. Now, more folks are trying to ban fire used to cook food outside. Isn't that the very reason we tamed fire in the first place? I like steak tartare as much as the next guy, which is to say not at all.

Then again, I don't have to spend every hour of certain working days next to Norm's personal inferno, as do the people over at the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo County. I don't think that they ever registered any formal complaints, but I've heard that some vegetarians in their ranks grumble about the barbecue. Maybe they're used to smoke of a different sort.

Dennis Adams, who operates the Foster's Freeze near Old Country Deli, has been a bit more public with his complaints, citing loss of business due to how some nights it looks like he set up shop in the second circle of hell.

I've never lost business because of a barbecue. I've also never been mauled by passing dogs because the smell of charred meat is permanently worked into my pores, but I don't know if I even have pores. Are they strictly for women? Not that I'm a man. Or am I?

The burning question on everybody's minds was what was going to happen to Norm and his barbecue. He's said that he didn't have the money to change how he does things, but it looks like he doesn't have to because, well gee, the city said that he's been cooking out there for so long he shouldn't have to stop now.

Personally, I think that Dennis over at Foster's Freeze should take advantage of what prevailing winds have given him and come up with some new menu items, like hickory-smoked double-dip chocolate cones. I'd buy them-not that I have any money. Or do I?

No, I don't.

 

Schoolhouse rocked

Cal Poly President Warren Baker is on my hit list. Metaphorically speaking. If he dies under mysterious circumstances in the next couple days, don't come knocking on my door, because I didn't actually make any threats against him or anything. I just made an offhand joke in my column, which I probably should've just erased instead of trying to explain away.

A little bird with access to financial resources recently twittered in my ear that Warren just got a more-than 13 percent salary raise, as well as bumps in his car and housing allowances. I didn't even know that he got an allowance. If I was in charge, I'd take away his allowance completely and give him a spanking - but I'm not in charge, and I'm just joking, so if he's spanked under mysterious circumstances in the next couple days, don't come knocking on my door. But let me know, because that information could make for some juicy Shredder material.

This pay raise phenomenon apparently kicked in for all the CSU system presidents. I'd wonder how they can accept more money for themselves and still look underpaid professors and overcharged students in the eye, but I'm pretty sure that the their contact with the peons and rabble is kept to an absolute minimum.

In protest, I won't be giving the school a singe hard-earned cent of my own money. Of course, I've never supported Cal Poly financially before, so my protest will probably go unnoticed by the general leadership.

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