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Tossing the f-salad 

The hills have completed their annual alchemy, that impossible conversion from green to gold, and the afternoon winds bring the scents of sage and lavender. California summer is on the wing, and so naturally I find myself obsessed with the f-word.

Ever since Christy Heron wrote a commentary about the closing of her favorite record store a couple of weeks ago it began "what the f...?" people just won't stop writing or calling about that word.

Christy is a brassy chick. She uses the word when she slams her knee against the desk. She uses the word when she drops her piece of crispy bacon on the floor. She uses the word when she tells people how adorable their children look.

So it would be hard to imagine her not saying the word when she saw the closed shop. But couldn't some editor have changed it to, say, "What the heckers?" That's what many of the letter writers and callers want to know.

"Why do you have to drop the f-bomb?" asked one caller.

The f-bomb. That's supposed to be the funny way to say it. But I find myself wondering why that phrase caught hold. Why not "hoisting the f-sail," or "shearing the f-sheep," or "short selling the f-hedge fund?" Couldn't somebody just as well "butter the f-toast?" or "play the f-chord?" Scrap that last one.

One of the writers saw the use of the word (and the ironical fact that Christy was on her way to Blockbuster while she got sad about the loss of an independent record store, but hey, as Christy said, Blockbuster's about your only choice for movies in Grover) as proof of the softheadedness of liberals. Just like Al Gore and John Edwards, he said. Which is a peculiar logical jump, particularly since the U.S. Supreme Court recently changed federal broadcast law in part based on the cursing of our President Bush (the court specifically noted his remark to British Prime Tony Blair that the United Nations needed to "get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit"). It also noted Vice President Cheney's comment to Senator Patrick Leahy to "go f yourself."

Still, even though I think that letter was idiotic, I'm generally on the side of the complainers. I think the word itself is beyond great especially terrific to say when it ends in "er." But there's not really anywhere else to go once you've deployed it. Once you've unleashed the thing to complain about a record store, how do you emphasize your more severe displeasure when, say, you're an employee at the state's most dangerous mental hospital, Atascadero State Hospital, and the power goes off for a week and everybody's hot and mad and none of the usual security features are working? Sounds like a horror movie, but this one's true and last I checked it was still going on. I think I just might call in sick by day five or so.

Speaking of summertime fun, some of the careful watchers of the development-friendly San Luis Obispo City Council believe that things are being lined up for a sneak move, in which one or more of the many, many major development projects that are slated to reshape the city's skyline will get snuck in and passed during the summer months when people aren't paying as much attention. It's happened before.

Do we all realize that in other places the word "grand jury" has real weight? In most parts of the world, grand juries hand down indictments for major crimes. Here, they issue reports that point out the obvious and then get ignored. One recent report warned that SLO is in danger of becoming a "rich retirees' ghetto," if it doesn't focus on lower-cost housing.

It's a great turn of phrase, but it won't be a real ghetto until it produces its own rap stars. I learned about that story from an article by the Tribune's Bob Cuddy, who, people keep annoyingly pointing out to me, is a damn good reporter. "Well what do you expect from Santa?" I retorted. Have you seen him? Strangely, he never works at the paper on Christmas. Cuddy is among the demographically narrow group of columnists who write for the paper, but he turns out to be sometimes funny, especially his recent observation that you don't seem to be allowed to speak at microphones around here without noting that you've lived here for at least 40 years.

At least, as far as I know, the Tribune's columnists have a clean record. You can't say the same about the jailhouse writer featured in The Rogue Voice, whose kicker line "A literary journal with an edge" reminds me of Monty Python's killer rabbit bit, "Look at the bones, man!" Editor Stacey Warde recently acknowledged, after first denying it even chastising writers for their "uninformed, prejudiced and hysterical comments" that writer Tito David Valdez Jr. is a convicted rapist.

As for the decision to keep running his column, I only have one question: "What the fuck?"

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