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Trim the fat 

Well, Gung Hay Fat Tuesday and all that. Mardi Gras is over and I’m still here, you’re still here, we’re all still here. We survived for another year despite potential destruction from debauchery and the nuclear hazards of bare breasts. Those things have a long half-life, you know.

 To celebrate everything being quiet on this western front, San Luis Obispo plans to operate as a Mardi Gras quarantine zone at least through next year, too. Police Chief Deb Linden should be proud. And she is. I know it in my heart, which has been three sizes too big since Christmas. I’m seeing a specialist about it next week. My doctor said that such an enlarged organ could be hazardous to my health, especially considering my age, which you’ll never know. I’ll take it to my grave — hopefully later rather than sooner.

 Fortunately, this year’s Mardi Gras was tame enough to keep my overtaxed ticker from exploding. No parade. No wild orgies in the streets. No frantic fleeing from rock-and-bottle-battered cops.
 The most fun I had was circling blocks to drive through sobriety checkpoints again and again. The first time, I wore a fake mustache. The second time, I wore a huge sombrero. The third time, I wore both. I spoke with a different accent each go-round.

I think I had the Highway Patrol fooled for a while, until they remembered the name on my license from my last time through and had me get out and walk the line, just like Johnny Cash, who was probably having more fun than I was. Yes, I know he’s dead. That’s the point.

 This year’s Mardi Gras was so tame, Mayor Dave Romero could have left town again to go skiing just like he did last year, except he didn’t, probably because he did go skiing over Super Bowl weekend and had a run-in with a snowboarder that left him in stitches — the medical kind, not the laughing kind.

 That sort of accident can shake a man up while knocking him down. Dave admitted that he’s not as young as he used to be, which is true for all of us, but I think it’s truer for him. How he still manages to hit the slopes is one of life’s great mysteries, second maybe only to the enigma wrapped in a conundrum deep-fried in a riddle that is Marty Tracey’s relationship with Atascadero.

 Marty, the city’s former deputy director of redevelopment, was busted last year after reports surfaced of his calling property owners and asking them if their refrigerators were running and adding, by the way, that if they refused to sell their land, the city would use eminent domain to take it away from them. Oh, and did they happen to have Prince Albert in a can?

 Subsequent details are a bit hazy, mainly because city officials were closing doors faster than sailors on a submarine with a screen door. After the phone-call fiasco, Marty was asked to resign. Then he was reinstated and put on paid administrative leave — which sounds like a vacation to me — but nobody knew where he was. He was radio silent, and even the city’s receptionist said she couldn’t find him on sonar.

 Now he’s back — ping! — and he’s better than ever as Atascadero’s redevelopment specialist, a title that shares a pretty crucial word with his previous title of deputy director of redevelopment. But don’t mind me. I couldn’t even taste the difference between Coke and New Coke, so I may not be the most reliable judge of repackaging something that hasn’t really changed at all.

 The biggest surprise here, to me, is that the city wants Marty back at all. He’s not exactly a dream employee from a public relations standpoint. And don’t forget that he seems to occasionally manage to vanish so completely that nobody knows what he’s doing.

The man’s like Houdini, except Houdini didn’t worry people by making them think their land would be taken away against their will. Or maybe he did. I have to admit that I’m not a Houdini expert. In fact, I wish I hadn’t used the Houdini analogy at all. Your honor, I withdraw the previous paragraph, except for the first two sentences, which I particularly liked.

 The other biggest surprise here, to me again, is that at least one Atascadero city council member didn’t know a thing about Marty being back, no matter what title he was using, and the Atascadero News has yet to mention his return. It’s like someone at the city — the administrator or the attorney or whoever, no one’s talking — tried to sneak Marty in the back door. Houdini would never sneak in a back door, either. That man had class.

 As for Atascadero, I’d blame the brouhaha on all the pot they’re smoking, except the city managed to win its fight against the Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers medical marijuana dispensary, which has closed its Atascadero doors for good. So I’ll blame it on all the pot they’re not smoking. Maybe a toke or two would lighten everybody up and help them to actually talk to each other, you know? Really talk to each other, man. I’ll bring the snacks. ∆

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