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Those were the days 

The best thing about the past is that it’s already happened, so there are no surprises, except when it comes back to haunt you like a carton of kung pao chicken you find at the back of your fridge, and the last time you ordered takeout was during the start of the war in Iraq, maybe the first time around.

In that case, the past stinks, which is a pretty good metaphor for life in general, and 2004 in particular. The other problem with the past is that, also like kung pao chicken, it tends to get fuzzy after a while. Did Michael Jackson’s most recent courtroom drama start this year or the year before? When was it again that Jay Vestal’s death while in the hands of local sheriff’s deputies came to light? Do you think I can still eat this? It smells fine. I’ll just pop it in the microwave.

If you were to ask me, which you probably weren’t, I’d tell you that all the news for a year should stay in that year. That way, names like Kenneth Freitas would stay contained in their own little segment of time, so we wouldn’t have to keep seeing them year after year and think of all the horrible things associated with them.

On second thought, that’s a stupid idea, but I guess you asked for it. If we never brought up people who deserved to be brought up again, justice would never be delivered to those people who needed justice delivered to them most.

Say hypothetically that somebody does something one year, like, oh, I don’t know, kills a girl with his car while she’s walking through a crosswalk in September 2002. Then say that, theoretically, his case were to sit around for six months. By then, 2003 would be in full force and the accident would be a thing of the past. That wouldn’t do at all. Someone needs to
bring up the bad stuff again so people
can see it and make good stuff happen, like a letter-writing frenzy, DA investigation, and September 2004 trial leading to
a conviction.

So we continue to take the past from behind us and put it in front of us like a steaming plate of Chinese food, picking and choosing the most usable parts with our chopsticks of selective memory to be transferred to the taste buds of public opinion. Forget it. That metaphor stinks as much as my dinner.

Let’s try this Tupperware marked “pasta.� You’re not on Atkins are you? Now there’s a thing of the past. That fad went out almost as fast as Mid-State Fair CEO John Alkire. A few years in the business and he suddenly takes off for Fresno. Why anyone would want to trade Central Coast weather for that sort of valley heat is a mystery to me, until I think about how what I pay for a one-room hovel here would land me a dream home there, even with the real estate “dip� in October. I’d like to find the real estate
dip who first sold me my place, which
has been leaking now that the rains have returned, and smack him into 2006, but
I digress.

Anyway, this past fair was the first in a while without Alkire at the helm, and everybody predicted that it would lose a bunch of money because most of the big-name bands had booked by the time anyone got around to calling them, but the fair still happened, cotton candy was spun, food was fried, and cows were sold. Sure they lost money, but it’ll all happen again next year, and
it’ll be as sugary, fattening, and manure-filled as it’s always been.

Speaking of manure, that pasta doesn’t smell so good either. Let’s go grab a sandwich. Good thing Oprah dropped by SLO this summer to make sure Art Café kept its doors open. You drive. I’m sort of dizzy from the fumes, and the last thing I need is to get pulled over again. Where was I?

Oh yes, the stinking past and real estate. Had I moved on? No matter, I’m going back. In 2004, two big land deals had a lot of locals yelling at each other. One was about the state buying coastal land at a fraction of what some people thought it was worth, and the other was about a local landowner who wanted to build a shopping center on his property despite the fact that downtown businesses are already upset that the Madonna Plaza offers shoppers another place to empty their wallets.

The former one is called, I think, the Hearst Ranch deal and involves Ernie Dalidio. The latter one is called, if I’m remembering correctly, the SLO Marketplace, and involves William Randolph Hearst. I could have those names backwards. I could have everything backward.

I should probably quit before I say something I regret and spend most of the new year wondering why I opened my big fat mouth to remind everyone about the Atascadero Police Chief Dennis Hegwood rape allegations, Alex Madonna’s death, and the Mardi Gras riots that destroyed the city’s morale, along with parts of the city itself. No wonder everyone’s so eager to welcome in 2005. ³

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