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You know, I just can't bare it 

Sorry about the smell. You can smell it, right? You've got to be able to smell that.

I'll come right out and say it. It's me. I've been afraid to take a shower lately, so I'm a bit gamy. Feral, almost. I wouldn't be surprised if there were real wavy stink lines visible in the air around me.

I'm not aquaphobic or anything. I'm just a tad paranoid about the nudity ordinance that lurks under the city's surface for most of the year, popping up right before any Mardi Gras parties like a big, red zit on the smooth, white butt that is San Luis Obispo. It's organic clockwork. A biological imperative or at least it has been since the San Luis Obispo City Council, the SLOPD, and other decision-making leader types decided to threaten any public boob bouncing or wiener waving during the week with particular punishment a few years back.

I'm not an exhibitionist by nature, unless you consider this weekly rant some sort of indecent public exposure, so you may wonder what my concern is. I do worry about accidents, I'll admit hence the recent lack of showers. The last thing I need in my life right now is to strip down to the buff, hop in the shower, and then have to run outside au natural because of an earthquake or something. It could happen, and if it does, I'm facing a fine that I can't afford right now, especially if I want to keep doing things like renting movies and buying food.

The cost of living just keeps going up, and so, apparently, does the cost of creating public disorder by displaying anything from pubic hair to nipples.

My unique odor may have been the reason why everyone avoided me at a Mardi Gras event I stumbled upon in the week before the real big day. The party was themed like a speakeasy, and it was about as easy to find as an authentic hooch parlor from some bygone era. Is this what the celebratory world has come to? Revelers scattered like roaches when the harsh light of police scrutiny turned on in 2004, and even now they're still sticking to the cracks and crevices.

Oh, I'm just cranky. Don't mind me. It's just that at the party and I seriously doubt that anyone even knew I was there I saw a video of the last Mardi Gras parade that wound its way through the now-somber streets of San Luis Obispo, and it made me sad to see people so happy. There were lots of smiles and no nudity that I could see, though my eyesight's not so good. I didn't see any drunken debauchery or public pissing or on-the-street beer bongs, but okay, okay the video was of a mid-day march, not a late-night trek through party central.

Still, seeing those smiles made me nostalgic for the good-old days, back when Mardi Gras meant something to this town, and haircuts cost a quarter, and we all played stickball in the street and kick the can in the vacant lot next to the Five-and-Dime before buying malteds and other strange foods that people just don't eat or drink anymore.

It feels like that long ago, doesn't it? Councilwoman Christine Mulholland seems pretty confident that the ghost of Mardi Gras past has effectively neutered the ghost of Mardi Gras present, ensuring the lack of any Mardi Gras yet-to-come. Police Chief Deb Linden, Capt. Dan Blanke, and other blue-clad members of SLO's finest seem to share that sentiment. I hear that instead of beefing up the force this year, they're taking turns dancing on the party's grave.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a fan of riots or violence or anything like that unless they're on TV or in a movie. Then I know that I'm safe and you're safe and the only people getting hurt are actors just pretending to get hurt. But my own backyard? Forget it. I don't want a non-lethal beanbag in the keister any more than you do unless you go in for that sort of thing, you kinky freak. I also don't want to get a black eye from a stray fist just because some drunk guy thinks he's got a good reason to give me one. Public disorder can be dangerous, I'll be the first to admit it.

Still and here I know I'm repeating myself ad nauseam because I've said this as many times as there have been party-less Mardi Gras in San Luis Obispo there's a line between cutting down on potentially dangerous situations and cutting out a longstanding local tradition completely. It's one thing to shoot a bear that's running at you. It's another to shoot it multiple times, poke it in the eyes, stick marbles up its nose, shave off half of its fur, and then jump up and down on it just to make sure it will never bother you again. You may break its spirit, but at some point, you just start to look like a killjoy. And who wants to be a killjoy? Besides the obvious contenders, I mean.

That metaphor may have gotten away from me a bit, but I hope you see my point. As usual, I'll go on record by saying that there's a wide line between crowds throwing beer bottles at cops and organized groups of responsible adults leading the city in a well-publicized and well-attended annual event. Did the latter lead to the former? Will the continued absence of the former bring back the latter? Can we get a break for good behavior? Will I shampoo my hair in the next week or so?

Only time will tell, and she's a fickle mistress, she is.

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