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The wheels on the bus 

When I was just a little Shredder, I had to walk barefoot in the snow uphill for five miles and endure lots of other made-up things that people never really had to endure just to get to school every morning. When I got there, some bully always stole my lunch money, so I had to eat cabbage soup that I heated up over a live coal I had to bring from home.

And now kids in the Lucia Mar Unified School District are complaining about having to walk to school since the school board chopped more than a handful of stops from its route this year. Most of the kids probably even have shoes, the bunch of whiners. Makes me want to turn up my hearing aid and forget that anyone younger than 25 even exists.

District officials have been defending themselves ever since parents who now have to drive the morning carpool started calling and writing with complaints, not the least of which is that some of the walking routes apparently take their sons and daughters near potential sexual predators.

Now that's a complaint I can get behind, especially since I have some experience dealing with predators on my long treks to school, though, back in my day, I was fending off wild animals with nothing but my Red Ryder BB gun and enough pluck and moxie to power an entire episode of "The Little Rascals." I even owned a white dog with a black patch over one eye - until he got eaten by wolves, that is. Poor Sparky.

I was fending off wild animals with nothing but my Red Ryder BB gun and enough pluck and moxie to power an entire episode of 'The Little Rascals.'

Anyway, the top folks in the district are standing by their decision, saying it's better to cut bus stops than teachers. At least they have multiple teachers to work with. I used to attend class in a little red one-room schoolhouse with a pot-bellied stove and only one teacher, Ms. Crabapple, who would make us clap the erasers together as punishment if we talked during lessons - until she got eaten by wolves, that is. Poor Ms. Crabapple.

The bottom line is, well, I don't know what the bottom line is. Kids these days are getting fatter, so it might do them good to get some exercise. Still, I'd hate to be in a car around Arroyo Grande High School at 7:15 in the morning. If you get stuck in that mess, you're there until your kid graduates and heads off to college or you get eaten by wolves. Either way, you're pretty much screwed.


Real free speech

The Paso Robles Main Street Association decided to throw a shindig to celebrate networking on Aug. 24, inviting employees, friends, and families to mix, mingle, and enjoy liquid chocolate flowing from a five-tiered fountain. Sounds fancy, which is probably why I wasn't invited. And don't give me that crap about my invitation being lost in the mail. I've used that excuse enough times to not be fooled by it.

Anyway, I did manage to finagle a peek at the event flier, which announced that if you brought a business card to the party, you could enter to win a free feature story in the Paso Robles Press ("Home of the Agricultural Page and the column of Lee Pitts!").

I've never had the pleasure of personally meeting that paper's publisher, Jason Cross, but if I did, I probably wouldn't know that I had, unless he was wearing a nametag, since the paper's sales executives seem to be the only ones who get their pictures on the web site. It's probably even harder to tell them all apart when they've got chocolate on their faces.

Here's a message to the whole, sticky lot of you at the Paso Robles Press: If you advertise a free feature story, it implies that you also sometimes charge money for feature stories, and money should be the last motivator when it comes to reporting, whether for a hard news story, sports story, feature story, or crummy little column like mine or Pitts's. One of the first things they teach you in journalism school - after sternly warning you that you won't make any money as a journalist - is to report the news without fear or favor. Do me and every other local reporter with a shred of ethics a favor and keep your sales staff and reporters separate. Then give me some of that chocolate.


Speaking of community papers

I was thinking about reading The Cambrian the other day, mainly because I was trying to figure out whether the paper had anything to do with the geologic time period, when, the fossil record tells us, the Earth was populated by weird things called trilobites and jellyfish.

My other reason for thinking about The Cambrian was the fact that more than one person has - and by that I mean two people have - told me recently about an article that mentions the Cambria Community Service District (CCSD) threatening to subpoena two citizens, Pam Heatherington and Eric Greening, for showing their Cambrian spines and publicly opposing the site plan for the city's new water tanks. I can't seem to find the article, mainly because The Cambrian seems to have taken the Paso Robles Press's minimal web presence one step further and kept itself offline completely.

So I don't know the whole story, but that certainly won't stop me from giving my two cents, which, in this case, are worth a whole lot more. Subpoenas don't automatically mean lawsuits or legal action, so all you folks who've been penning e-mails lamenting the death of free speech should take a breath, count to 10, and then start writing again. The folks up in arms pointed out that CCSD legal experts denied the subpoenas, but those same First Amendment advocates think that other evidence points to still-lurking requests for depositions and have their hackles up over what they say are threats to the Constitution.

Whatever happens, Cambria, be careful. The road to major CSD wars is paved with good intentions. Just look at Los Osos.

On second thought, don't.

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