Letters to Editor
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Don’t Step On The Tarantula
John Muir, renowned champion of the environment, defined conservation in terms of preservation. The lesser known Gifford Pinchot, first director of the National Forest Service, defined conservation as, “the best and wisest use of our natural resources.” That fundamental distinction - preservation versus use - engages and bedevils us to this day.
We are feverishly embroiled in the same basic conflict although we probably snarl at each other more than Muir and Pinchot did. These two legendary figures in the history of conservation actually got along pretty well.
One afternoon on a walk in the Grand Canyon, they encountered a tarantula on the path. As Pinchot raised his boot to squash the hairy spider. Muir cried out, “Don’t! It has as much right to be here as we do.” The tarantula went on its way unmolested and the two giants of the American environmental movement continued their hike.
A few decades later, Aldo Leopold, wrote in his Sand County Almanac, “Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty.”
Pretty and ugly, valuable and worthless, are in the eye of the beholder. The orca is not inherently superior to the shark …the bald eagle does not by its nature exceed the dung beetle in attractiveness… And homo sapiens is just as worthy as any other species on mother earth if you buy Muir’s egalitarian perspective. The perception is (at least part of) the reality. We all have a right to be here.
Yet despite sentiments eloquently expressed by the likes of William Shakespeare, (“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty!”) powerful sentiments against human beings have arisen in our time, people not trusted to do the right thing, suspicious in all intents, and -as an irrelevant aside- too porky to make reliable judgments about their own nutrition. We need big city mayors to guide our eating habits. But we will talk about the food police some other day.
Intra-species prejudice thrives in San Juan County, right alongside the warring factions who argue the relative merits of preservation versus use. Those who defend property rights believe that a person who paid for the land, built the house, comes up with the taxes, and maintains all of it should be free to live in peace without interference, as long as he or she is not harming the neighbors - be they creatures of the land, air, or sea.
This is where things get dicey. Although experts from every relevant branch of science say that we are doing beautifully here in the Islands, there are some who explode in self-righteous outrage at the mere mention of the words, “pristine waters.”
In the absence of laying the burden of proof where it belongs -on those who holler the loudest about the need for lots and lots of new regulations (despite the kazillions we already have) - we hatch yet more schemes to punish land owners for believing that they should have more say- so over the stewardship of their property than the Friends of the San Juans, certain perky members of the Puget Sound Partnership, various council members thrown out of office (and one trying desperately to get back in), and a few County staff members who don’t realize how odd it sounds when they boast about their generosity in “allowing” property owners more freedom than other counties.
Some environmental protectionists have abandoned the concept of “use.” Through “preservation,” they hope to see all traces of the human element removed from areas like the waterfront. Offended by the sight of houses, they would like to see all shoreline structures disappear or move completely out of the “view shed.”
Has environmental sanity begun to erode with the simultaneous expansion of the field itself? One major American college enrolled 60 students in its Environmental Studies program in 1975. Today the program has 2,680 students. It is a huge field and it is a huge business.
If there is excessive environmental fervor in San Juan County, and I believe there is, a great deal of it focuses less on data leading to valid conclusions through established scientific method than on the conceit of the self-anointed who thrive on power rather than persuasion.
John Muir saved the tarantula. I think Gifford Pinchot might say, “Hey, save that guy trying to follow his dream on San Juan Island.” Pinchot had it right. The best and wisest use of natural resources beats the needless oppression offered up by those who cringe at the sight of an unpermitted garden.
(Janice Peterson is a former college professor at Santa Barbara City College in the field of communication, with emphasis on public speaking, argumentation and debate. Janice tries to be a useful member of the community and a willing volunteer. )
The End of an Era
Watersheds, defining moments, and eras in general are slow to activate and slower to penetrate because it takes years, sometimes decades or centuries for us to realize that the turning point has turned and today is no longer just like yesterday. Bear with me. That was a boring start.
Think of standing on a sidewalk in the twenties watching Model T’s rattle by in a clanking pack and suddenly getting it that all the horses and buggies have gone. Yesterday the streets were littered with manure; today the air is choked with exhaust fumes.
One day we had Beaver and Wally, the next day Honey Boo Boo and Mama June. The Nelsons and the Andersons, the Cleavers, and the Ricardos reflected an America that barely exists in 2013 if at all. The children were spunky and mischievous, the adults were virtuous to a fault. Desi Arnaz may have had affairs but Ricky Ricardo did not.
If the medium was a “vast wasteland” 50 years ago when Newton Minnow delivered his famous speech, you have to wonder what he thinks of it now.
In my lifetime, the coming and going of eras has been dizzying. My music has gone the way of Muzak (in fact, I read yesterday that Muzak is out of business -so who is going to sing to me in the elevator?). Gender specific expectations about little boys with trucks and little girls with dolls are no more. Culturally, and in many ways, fortunately, we might as well live on a different planet than the denizens of the sixties and seventies.
Freedoms taken for granted a few decades ago have disappeared under the withering impact of a disapproving society. I know people who smoke -but always covertly. (Stinky clothes give them away). Smoking is not just a lousy habit anymore, it is the mark of one’s incivility to offended others. I used to smoke and I loved it. We smoked everywhere and all the time Of course I gave it up long ago. I have joined the tsk tsking majority who cannot tolerate the will power deficit of friends and neighbors who are still having fun lighting up. But they will all quit too one of these days (one way or another) and soon the era of big tobacco will cease to be.
But what is the difference, if any, between the end of an era and just an ending?
In the past year Norman Schwartzkopf, Donna Summer, Dave Brubeck, Larry Hagman, George Mcgovern, Andy Williams, Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, Robin Gibb, Dick Clark, Andy Griffith, LeRoy Neiman, Rodney King, Ann Rutherford, Ray Bradbury, Whitney Houston, Davy Jones, and Etta James, among lots of others, all died. Which ones signaled the end of an era?
My candidates are Donna Summer (Disco), Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride (the Space Program in its most exciting days), Andy Griffith (Mayberry was the geographical center of the sweetest sitcoms in the universe), and Ann Rutherford. You have never heard of Ann Rutherford? Scarlett O’Hara’s younger sister does not really conclude the era of classic films of the thirties but she was one of the last survivors. (Melanie Wilkes lives on as the nearly 100 year-old Olivia DeHavilland).
The playwright, Arthur Miller, said that eras end when their illusions are exhausted. There might be something to that.
Children of the fifties and sixties found their idols in the old West with Hopalong Cassidy, Wild Bill Hickock, Annie Oakley, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, John Wayne, and all the others who drew a thick line between the bad guys and the good guys. We adored cowboy movies. The Western represented an era of film that has all but disappeared. The characters lacked depth, the bad guys had no good qualities whatever, the heroes were perfect stereotypes, the women were impossibly beautiful (usually blonde) and compliant or dark and tempestuous (Jane Russell, Katy Jurado).
It was all illusion. But it was fun while it lasted.
Here is my vote for the symbolic end of the old West: The Roy Rogers Museum is gone. It was insolvent and Roy had left specific instructions to shut it down when/if that happened. Nellybelle sold for $116,000. Trigger’s saddle and bridle brought $386,500. Trigger himself was purchased for $266,500. I can’t believe it. They sold Trigger!
Think about these finales in the past few years. Just random endings, or eras brought to a final curtain?
Most of Kodak’s enterprises went out of business.
Lance Armstrong confessed to doping and lost all of his honors.
Newsweek stopped publication. Borders Books closed. So did the Harbor Bookstore at the ferry landing.
Christmas Eve on San Juan Island
‘Twas the night before Christmas, the weather was rotten;
only with ice could worse climate be gotten.
With solstice of winter just recently gone,
the solstice of summer seemed far and beyond
the grasp of our fingers
so stiffened with cold, that even the youngest
began to feel old.
The snowbirds took wing in advance of the storms
to places down South where sunshine still warms.
Snowflakes were hung all over the town, and
Lights glittered brightly both up Spring and down.
The harbor was lighted, the boats firmly moored,
No sound on the docks or the planks or the boards.
The silence was deep, the darkness profound;
Friday Harbor was sleeping,
There was no one around.
But creatures asea and others aground moved noiseless
and smoothly throughout Puget Sound.
Eagle and osprey, raccoon, and frog (but none with red legs)
Soared overhead or waded through bogs (see the new regs).
Fingerling fish drifted under our dock,
lazily swimming through eel grass and rocks.
We drank our hot toddies when presents were wrapped, and
sleepily dozed into long wintery naps.
We dreamed as we snoozed of a rough night ahead
for jolly Saint Nick so far from his bed,
and up in the Cloud with his reindeer and sleigh,
bringing I-Phones and I-Gifts for our Christmas Day.
But WAIT! “Ho Ho Ho” is booming from shore,
Sleigh bells jangling from antlers galore.
The Kaleetan is docking with Rudolph aboard;
He guided the ferries - each full of rewards
for good girls and good boys hoping to see
lots of presents for everyone under the tree.
On Ellwha, on Hiyu, on Hyak and Sealth,
Come Kititas, Chelan, Walla Walla, AND wealth.
Santa has come to bring holiday fun,
Be happy, Be joyful that Christmas has begun!
Bicycles, Barbies, electronic toys, games, brand new books,
and toys that make noise.
Earrings for Mom and a bad tie for Dad,
Jammies for babies, and Brother’s I-Pad.
Sister gets tats that won’t last, thanks to soap,
And everyone looks to the New Year with hope.
No cliffs that are fiscal, no new conflicts brewing,
no partisan wrangling, no politics doing
its best to make mountains of tiny mole hills;
No taxes, no fighting, no overdue bills.
As Santa Claus called as his boat left the dock,
“I see that it’s time, I can see by the clock
to say my good byes as I drift out of sight,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
May the spirit of this magic time and all its many holidays
bring you and your family peace and joy!
Janice Peterson; And, of course, Clement Moore, the author of the beloved poem,
The Night Before Christmas.
You Have Mail! (or Not)
Isn’t it nice that Christmas is inevitable? It reassures us that some things in our cultural chaos fight change. It will land on December 25th ready or not. Christmas will never discommode itself for the sake of our convenience like “Presidents’ Day” has. It will not change dates every year like Thanksgiving does, and it will not confuse us the way Easter does. Do you know that Easter falls on the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon? (Do you know what the Paschal Full Moon is?)
Christmas is reliable; a comforting constant for a society in flux. The tree may be plastic instead of pine, the turkey may have given way to an organic spinach pithivier, and no clay ashtrays made at school by fourth graders will be offered as gifts, but there will be a tree, a feast, and presents for all. There will be carols, there will be decorations, there will be shopping and wretched excess. If you are lucky, there will be cookies and fudge; if you are not, there will be fruitcake.
And there will be Christmas cards…maybe…at least for a while longer.
When I was little, the cards that arrived for the Lindsay family, sent mostly from California and Missouri with a 3-cent stamp, did not matter one bit to me unless they had money in them.
My mother poked holes in each one and threaded the whole lot onto strands of knotted red yarn that were artfully taped to the living room wall in loopy cascades.
She studied her own card lists every year to add new addresses and cross others off -the ones who had stopped sending us cards. She counted the cards when Christmas Day had passed and saved all the letters from the relatives “back home” in St. Louis. She saved some of them forever and I found them after she died in an old Leeds shoe box labeled “Xmas.”
When I got married and became a mother myself, the cards somehow started to matter and I began to obsess about the ones I sent. A Christmas letter or not? Too braggy? Does anybody ever read these things except to make fun of them? Pictures? The one of my husband in the Nehru shirt I made for him is good. The kids at the Grand Canyon is perfect.
How should the cards be signed? Engraved and embossed names were too expensive in the early years and seemed impersonal. Just the right sign-off escaped me then and still does. “Sincerely” sounds like a business letter. “Fondly” doesn’t at all sound like me. I usually settle on “Love.” Can’t go wrong with love.
Our cards are liberally strewn with time-consuming handwritten greetings, questions about the lives of absent friends, and promises to get together soon. We have been vowing to get together soon for decades with some of our old friends and probably wouldn’t recognize them if we ran into them on the street.
The 2012 cards (and photos and holiday letters) are in progress, spread all over the table recently vacated by the archives of my Charter Review Commission documents. If the kitchen table isn’t stacked with something besides food, life feels incomplete and a little slovenly.
Many people have never picked up the habit of sending holiday greetings and likely do not see the return on an investment of 45 cent stamps on cards that cost a fair amount themselves. To those of us who mail and receive them years in a row to the same old friends, the cards are rare and memorable. I may forget a lunch date I made a week ago but I will remember the Thomas Nast Santa drawn for a Christmas card in 1974 forever.
Increasingly, we are receiving email greetings that have replaced the cards. Some of them are beautifully designed and certainly as heartfelt as a real card -a hard copy as we say in these times. We appreciate them and would not want to be rude, but an e-card is not the real thing any more than a Kindle or an iPad encloses a real book. The e-card will be gone in a single keystroke. The actual paper card will last a long long time in the zip lock bag in the shoe box in the bottom drawer. (We received 56 cards last year).
This is the kind of column that could go on far too long and get seriously maudlin. In any case, it is time to get to work on these cards. And you can go look up the Paschal Full Moon and possibly the word, “pithivier.”
Merry Christmas! And Happy New Year!
What’s in a word?
That’s a good question. Like, the limits of my language are, you know, the limits of my world. Apologies to Alfred North Whitehead for the mutilation of his worthy sentiment which, in its original condition, lacked “like” and “you know.”
The abuses of language have attracted my attention lately, probably because I am watching too much television - debates, speeches, and the Walking Dead -not to imply that politics has more zombies per capita than any other aggregate of over-exposed celebrities - but you have to admit that a lot of campaign rhetoric is deadly, repetitively, and painfully dull. No shining cities on the hill, no passing torches to a new generation, no worries about fearing nothing but fear itself or exhorting a weary citizenry to never, never, ever give up. None of those lofty ideas.
In fact, very little of our modern political discourse edifies or inspires the public to eagerly tackle the 168-page tome we voters strangely agree to call a “pamphlet.”
Once again, this column has begun with a digression before the subject at hand has even reared its head or showed its face. (Writing about language makes bad metaphors tempting). The actual language focus for today is jargon, cant, lingo, patter, argot, or vernacular -also known as “slang.”
Slang is generational but not always uniquely associated with a particular decade. “Cool” has been in and out of use since the 18th century. A “cool cat” enjoyed popularity in the 30’s but still surfaces in modern times to be used by the uncool and Dennis Miller, who is cool no matter what he says. “Hanging out” (shortened to “hanging” in the current decade) has been in colloquial use since 1811.
“Squat” as in “you don’t know squat” has been around since the 20’s, and kids have been having a “blast” at parties since the 50’s. “Groovy” has been groovy ever since Simon and Garfunkel were looking for fun but few teenagers of the notorious 60’s said it out loud as often as would-be flower children born too late, desperately seeking social acceptance in protesting just about everything while smoking dope (weed, ganja, pot, mary jane) and living off their parents. Groovy middle-aged hippies are not an endangered species. (Did anyone under 30 ever call someone else a “hippie” in 1970?)
Some slang has staying power and some doesn’t. Despite West Side Story lyrics, the word “daddy-O” as far as I can tell, has never been uttered by anyone except the Sharks and the Jets. The all-purpose and very complimentary “bitchen” departed long ago although it remains a linguistic staple in the Peterson household. I have a bitchen husband and two bitchen children as well as a bunch of bitchen friends. It is not profane no matter what anyone says. It is as close to perfect as five consonants and 2 vowels can be.
“Awesome” is likely the most popular slang term of this decade although it has begun to filter down to the elementary school level which is the kiss of death for any decent teenage adjective. “Wicked” is just about gone and “sweet” is evidently on its way out. A 15 year-old expert was consulted for this paragraph and she offered the following words to express disgust or being in a state of terminal out-of-it-ness: Lame, barf, ew, and ugh. In terms of general conversation within her age group, she advised me to “put in plenty of ‘likes.’”
Closely related to slang are the popular expressions that start out being clever or cute and end up hackneyed with overuse. These words and phrases may bounce harmlessly off the sensibilities of one person and drive another to sputtering rage.
Are you getting tired of “back in the day?” How about “empowerment,” incentivize,” “passionate”, “visioning,” and “kicking the can down the road?” Then there is “comfort zone,” “grounded,” and “in harm’s way.” Why can’t we explore the infinite variety and beauty in word choices rather than endlessly repeating ourselves?
Denis Leary said, “I will not bond. I will not share. I refuse to nurture.” I couldn’t agree more.
And so ends another intermittently cranky essay. In my defense, I will point out that Election Day is less than a week away and if ever there is a time for bad temper, it is now. If you disagree, I refer you to the immortal words of Vinnie Barbarino, “Up your nose with a rubber hose!”
What’s in a word? Everything, that’s what. “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” Thank you Mr. Whitehead.
The County Fair With An Edge
//Writing from the fairgrounds//
We have a booth at the Fair and we are actually living on the grounds while the good times roll. Believe me, a camper parked behind the livestock sheds is the way to go. Very comfy, and the snorting, mooing, crowing livestock provide farmy background noise (especially at about 4:30 a.m.)
This is hometown family fun at its best. In the past four days we have had all the usual contests. Ribbons and trophies for pygmy goats, morbidly obese pigs, weird chickens, etc.
One proud 4-H member posed with her prize-winning rabbit and the tattered ribbon the unappreciative bunny tried to eat. Prizes for flowers, vegetables, canned goods, breads, cookies, cakes, and everything else someone might have the notion to grow and/or bake. I won 2 blue ribbons and 2 red for dahlias, sweet peas, and a loaf of bread.
The Food Court features Greek, Italian, American and Thai dishes, vegetarian meals, and all manner of other healthy offerings. Many prefer the hot dogs on sticks, burgers, and deep-fried specialties like bricks of fries and elephant ears - made to order with cinnamon/sugar or maple/caramel.
People who live on bean sprouts 361 days a year can hardly get through a day at the Fair without at least one elephant ear. We are all unashamed binge eaters at the Fair.
Two justifiably popular events are the Zucchini 500 and the Trashion Fashion show. Although our grandchildren have had the bad grace to decide that they’ve outgrown zucchini racing, our daughter was charming in her trashy license plate dress, nearly as glamorous as the entrant whose gown was festooned with artfully cut cigarette cartons.
Writing about the County Fair is bound to be a wholesome endeavor, but let us also reflect a little on the perversity that makes the Fair such a testament to human contrariness as well as to all that is traditionally apple-pie-sacred. (And the apple pie was delicious, by the way).
For starters, do you know that there is a semi-clandestine outlet somewhere on the grounds set up to sell drug paraphernalia? This is a rumor I have yet to confirm so don’t take it seriously yet. I will ask the Sheriff the next time he walks by our “SAVE OUR CHARTER - VOTE NO on Propositions 1, 2, and 3” booth. (What’s the point of writing a column if you can’t get in a plug now and then?)
Having both the Democrats and the Republicans on the premises certainly delivers the patriotic ingredients of a county fair. I wish the two booths would sit side by side but the Democrats always seem to be indoors and the Republicans outside. Wouldn’t it be fun to see a line up of booths separated only by flimsy tarps inviting passers-by to discuss and enjoy the life-size Obama cut-out, the training for concealed weapons booth, the 7th Day Adventist Health Screening, the shooting gallery, and the giant Romney posters?
I’m not sure where to put the “Psoriasis/Eczema” group or the Paidea School, but the Paidea folks were next door to us and they were fine neighbors so I vote for having them in the same spot if I am ever crazy enough to do this again.
Next year, maybe we could have a design competition for the fairgrounds titled, “Creative Booth Arrangement.” I would put Democratic Council candidates next to Republicans…But wait, that can’t happen because our races are non-partisan.
Nevertheless, the Democrats have prominently displayed signs endorsing the re-election of two incumbents who evidently asked for the privilege. This is a First Amendment right but cheesy behavior, in my opinion (not to mention the fact that the criteria for endorsing a nonpartisan candidate seemed a complete mystery to the Democratic ladies in the booth).
We have nonpartisan council elections and nonpartisan issues. Personally, I think it is poor form to let the political parties into our local election tent, but I am not in the role of political critic of tacky behavior today. I will allow myself one little rhetorical luxury in saying that I truly hope Mr. Ranker will not intrude himself into our electoral processes and our voters’ pamphlets with labels such as “senator” and “Democrat” next to his name. Plain old “Kevin” will do. Our Council elections are nonpartisan. Have I said that?
In my own expert opinion, based on four days of direct observation in between my eight or nine meals a day at the Fair, political correctness is darned hard to pin down in this little piece of Planet Appropriate.
How do these things stack up with any thread of consistency?
• No smoking at the Fair. A few lawbreakers lit up during the musical performances on Friday night, thus inspiring outrage from some attendees. Earlier, I saw carnival workers sneaking off for a smoke and couldn’t blame them. I say be quiet and drink your third margarita.
• A-mazing ethnic slurs. Have you really looked at the paintings on the outside of the Maze? (See below) The larger-than-life cartooned Hispanics mimicking Spanish language with stereotypical pronunciation?
• Taking candy from strangers. I am thrilled to report that not a single parent criticized our candy bowl, and the kids were delighted
And so ends another fabulous County Fair. We go home tomorrow and I’m ready to get back to normal living. A thousand thanks to the hard-working volunteers, staff, and exhibitors who make the Fair so much fun. You should all get blue ribbons.
Join The Club
“//I wouldn’t want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member.//” -Groucho Marx
I’ve been thinking about clubs lately, since I joined one 8 months ago by getting elected to the Charter Review Commission and wondered about my sanity ever since. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be about the CRC. Just trying to get your attention.
What IS a club, exactly?
Kurt Vonnegut, writing in Cat’s Cradle, divided clubs into two categories, granfalloons and karasses. A granfalloon collects its members by virtue of relationships based on group characteristics that don’t actually amount to a hill of beans. Vonnegut mentioned Okies and Hoosiers. I am a Prune Picker from California, not a Buckeye, Husker, or Cheesehead. Locally, “environmentalist” might be reckoned as granfalloonery par excellence. We are ALL environmentalists.
A karass embraces a karmic membership of people who know to the depths of their affiliative essence that destiny is at work. An obvious example we should get out of the way right now is “soul mate.” Awfully overworked. The fellowship of a karass arises from unlikely places and unexplainable attractions. These are the people who never completely leave your heart and you know you will have effortless affection for them always.
Sometimes club associations are based on hard times and unfortunate circumstances. My mother was once a member of “WIN,” an acronym for “Widows and Widowers in Need.” She had a lot of fun in WIN, a club full of octogenarian ladies and one or two very popular gentlemen. Facebook has a site titled, “Welcome to Widowhood: the Club Nobody Wants to Join.”
Cancer survivors are a club that transcends all - age, gender, religion, politics, everything that frequently separates us. Every Relay for Life has in common the wondrous sight of hard core Republicans and Democrats doing the survivor lap around the track, united in celebrating their triumph.
My 31 year-old friend, Jessica, who has a brain tumor, gave me permission to relate an experience she had a few months ago when she went to a library to take advantage of the Free Tax Help. She sat down in front of the tax helper’s desk and couldn’t help but notice the lady’s wispy white hair around her ears and the carrot orange hair on top. At first Jess wasn’t getting much of a response. “Since you’re married, there’s no way you can beat the standard deduction,” she was told. Jess explained that she had cancer and a lot of medical bills. As it turned out, the tax advisor had cancer too. Of course, the orange hair was a wig. Jess described the conversation that followed as a “beautiful reciprocation.” She was grateful that life had brought them together. Maybe a karass transformed from a granfalloon.
Some clubs get you by the throat and never let go. Colleges and universities are excellent examples. Alumni associations are among the most relentless fundraisers on the planet, followed closely by fraternal organizations you thought you left behind decades ago. My husband regularly receives mail from his college fraternity, along with notices about who has joined the “Chapter Eternal.”
Speaking of eternity, the Neptune Society wants me to join the club. I have received two offers for free raffle tickets for which the winner will receive a free cremation. How macabre is that?! Another creepy association with a membership unable to take advantage of club privileges (if any) is the “27 Club,” composed of celebrities who departed the earthly pale at that age - Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain - to name a few.
The most compelling clubs are so picky about membership criteria that it is impossible to get in. Although it is neither here nor there, the human tendency to ferociously desire what you can’t have has always nestled among the imperfections in my erratically envious character with embarrassing vitality.
Here are my choices for five of the best exclusive clubs:
Referencing my former life as a Prune Picker… Once a year these guys (and they are ALL men) get together to celebrate being rich and famous (Ronald Reagan rode with them) The arduous trail ride on horseback includes a chuck wagon that follows the riders around to provide liquid sustenance and steaks as needed. Perhaps my description is inaccurate but how could I know? They wouldn’t let me come along.
Disney’s Club 33
I was a Disneyland monorail driver who would have gladly handed over at least half my salary ($2.56/hour) just to look around. Located in New Orleans Square, it was the only place in the Magic Kingdom to serve alcohol and had a special train called the Lilly Belle. Membership was reportedly $10,000 and they had a 14-year waiting list in 2007. It may no longer exist.
The Giga Society
There are only about six members. Membership of The Giga Society is open to anyone outscoring .999999999 of the adult population on at least one of their accepted tests.
The Ejection Tie Club
To join this club of 5,607 members (10 are women) you must have survived being fired out of a military plane by ejection seat. This is an awesome club. It exists only to hand out special ties for the members. There are no dinners, no get-togethers, no awards for bravery. Just ties.
Doc’s Lab: Pacific Grove, California
Saving the best for last in tribute to Steinbeck fans who followed the travails of the fictionalized Ed Ricketts through Cannery Row and Doc’s “Western Biological.” A men’s club owns the building. When my biologist brother retired, he was allowed to have his party there so I had the singular joy of wandering around among the dusty shelves and bottles.
Being a part of a club satisfies an atavistic need in the human experience. These associations can be frivolous or profound, beneficial or destructive, passing fancies or fiercely defended loyalties, but we are compatriotrophic beings- leaning toward the company of others as plants lean to the sun.
(Janice Peterson is a former college professor at Santa Barbara City College in the field of communication, with emphasis on public speaking, argumentation and debate. Janice tries to be a useful member of the community and a willing volunteer. )
“Good fences make good neighbors” said Robert Frost in a surly mood. The folks across the fence stay on their side and you stay on yours.
Generally, this is a workable solution to the problems that arise from strangers being a little too close for comfort, but we are hopeful that our new neighbors will turn into friends eventually and no longer be the somewhat alien presence next door. The fence idea isn’t working anyway.
This has probably happened to you if your house adjoins vacant property. You expect that someday it will be occupied and built on but when it happens, it’s still a shocker. When our new neighbors arrived, we sized each other up and I concluded that they looked down on us - downright menacing, if not actively hostile.
Then they started to build. We couldn’t believe it. Over-height, too close to what we thought were minimum shoreline setbacks, and much closer to our house than we imagined was appropriate or necessary. (The parcel is over an acre).
Construction began early in the morning, bringing in building materials while most of the neighbors were still trying to sleep. They made a real racket.
Then they moved into their little love nest. No ADA compliance, no evident provision for even basic sanitary concerns. They just did it! AND, they got away with it. No red tag, no as-built permits. Nothing. They just moved in.
Well, our initial frustration has subsided and given way to admiration, even envy.
It must be wonderful to be as free as a bird. It must be great to be eagles.-