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Bienvenue! Welcome, fremde! Étranger, stranger! Glücklich zu sehen!

Step right up, darling, young Mustangs; sweet, innocent Cougars. You look like you could use a tour guide, and I just happen to be dressed as the master of ceremonies from Cabaret—I like to get a head start breaking in my Halloween costume, especially when it involves yards of pleather that chafes in all the wrong places.

Stick with me and you won’t have to worry about anything—except chafing. You might still have to worry about bills, grades, the drought, your future, ISIS, upcoming elections, student loans, global warming, and melanoma. But at least you’ll have a good handle on local politics, so when you go home for Thanksgiving and your family wants to know what that fancy schoolin’ of yours has accomplished, you’ll be able to rattle off more anecdotes about the SLO County supervisors than anyone ever wanted to know. Besides, you’re in America’s happiest city now, and if you don’t smile voluntarily, one of the SLO City Council’s ambassadors will cheerfully staple your face into the proper expression.

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Trust me: It’ll be fun. I hardly ever use big words besides the ones I make up myself, and I’ve sunk pretty much every dollar I ever made into the local bars, so I’m about as coherent as Kanye West—and equally convinced that I’m, in fact, Jesus.

First things first: You now live next to a nuclear power plant, which PG&E and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have assured us will not blow up after an earthquake. Unless it does, in which case you don’t have to worry about finals ever again. We don’t really know what the chances of nuclear meltdown at Diablo Canyon are because PG&E neglected to run their recently released study through an Independent Peer Review Panel before they went public with their own interpretations. Of course, PG&E insists the facility is A-OK, but asking a nuclear facility to say whether or not it’s safe is like asking you to honestly grade your own final exam. And asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to actually regulate the power plant is the equivalent of asking your parents to grade you.

“Junior might have forgotten to show up for a few classes, but he says he has a solid grasp of physics, and we’re just so gosh darn proud of him that we’re gonna give him an A for effort. And cuteness.”

Also good to know: After more than 10 years of fighting with anyone willing to throw on a pair of gloves, Dan De Vaul finally broke ground on Sunny Acres, a sober living facility that will go up on his property off Los Osos Valley Road.

Lovers of drama, never fear, for De Vaul is passing off his curmudgeon crown to Sjany de Groot, who is mere days away from having her nursing home facility for children financially gutted by unfeeling bureaucrats. As the Sept. 30 deadline approaches, it’s increasingly difficult to get a straight answer from de Groot about what’s going on—stirring memories of De Vaul’s own cantankerous, not-doing-himself-any-favors standoff with the county over permitting. Unfortunately, health officials are exhibiting the same zeal over shutting down the 37-year-old care facility as they once showed for crushing De Vaul’s dream of assisting the local homeless.

And just when you were starting to think the tales of law enforcement officials behaving very, very badly were on the decline, two correctional officers from Monterey County were arrested and charged with homicide in relation to a man’s death in a San Miguel bar brawl. In a twist that pretty much indicated that local law enforcement officials are over the moon that the two men weren’t local, the Sheriff’s Department rushed out a press release to the media about the arrests.

I have to admit that I found myself wondering whether the Sheriff’s Department would have thrown a publicity parade if the correctional officers turned out to be local law enforcement agents. Cops—here and elsewhere—tend to have each other’s backs, often at the expense of truth, fairness, and their commitment to protect and serve. It’s somewhat novel to actually see not one, but two of the boys in blue arrested for their bad behavior. But I’m haunted by questions about how the situation would have gone down if those correctional officers were from SLO rather than Monterey County.

And don’t get too comfortable thinking you’re safe in your collegiate bubble, young scholars. You think none of this applies to you, that what happens in the broader world can’t touch you. But if you’re anything like some of your predecessors—binge drinking, throwing offensively themed keggers, and getting arrested for allegedly selling prescription drugs out of your frat house—you’ll be at the mercy of the local law enforcement and media. And given that I haven’t showered since Truman was president, and some of the local cops are apparently armed with bayonets from the military, you might be better off, I don’t know, actually focusing on your education while you’re here.

But don’t look so scared, young Cougars and Mustangs! So life is disappointing? Forget it! We have no troubles here! Here life is beautiful.

Welcome to Happy Town, kids. You’re gonna love it. Or else.


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