Tom Fulks

There’s something rotten in ‘Happy’ SLO County

Tom Fulks
Tom Fulks dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

My sweetheart shoots me the stink-eye when I gripe about our county being hyped in breathless media declarations as the “best,” “happiest,” “hippest” this or that.

She thinks the attention San Luis Obispo County receives is swell. I think it encourages unwarranted self-regard among too many of us, and entices tourists to flock here and harsh our mellow … actually, mine, to be precise.

To me, tourists clog our roads, infest our local haunts and torque our eardrums with their ridiculous Harley Davidson straight pipes.

So I joke about them. She says I’ve got a bad attitude.

Nah, I say, nobody cares what I think.

You’ve got that right, she says, smiling sweetly.

Years ago, Surfer Magazine ran a big aerial photo of a perfect right point break, waves stacked like corduroy to the horizon during a giant swell.

“If you don’t know where it is,” the caption said, “you don’t need to know.” Exactly. Same goes for SLO County, says me.

When Oprah decreed San Luis Obispo the happiest town in America, I thought: Get a dog. It’ll offer more unconditional happiness than some folks around here.

When Outside Magazine tacked SLO to its list of “The 25 Best Towns of 2017,” I thought: Best what? Best vainglory? Best at ignoring our problems?

Temperatures were mild in Avila Beach on Saturday, July 1, 2017, as hundreds relaxed for barbecue, volleyball, or swimming in the gentle waves over the long Fourth of July weekend. We asked beachgoers: "What is your goal today?"

Media flatterers obviously don’t examine our ugly moles, the ones we ignore, the ones every community has, some of which could be malignant.

To that end, I offer outside media “real” town monikers, alternatives that henceforth should be standard usage in coverage of our little paradise.

If you’re easily insulted, stop reading, step off. Yes, I kid, but beware — there’s something in here to offend everyone. Brace yourselves, snowflakes:

Santa Maria North, also known as Nope-omo, is where arsonists roam free and nobody ever met a bigot. Nope — not ever.

Unassuming Gross-eano — whose park money all went to Nope-omo — better be careful or it might inherit the rap of neighbor Arroyo Grungy, which isn’t. Grover Beach is still Grover City — no beach, tourists searching for one and lots of homeless camps down by the tracks.

Sleazemo Beach is where Oildale meets the sea. What do you call 24-packs of Budweiser? Bakersfield suitcases. Where can you find ‘em? All over the beach, empty. They used to show porn at the Pismo Theater, now cleaned up and turned into a pool hall, right next to the biker bar.

Shell Beach is oh-so-laid-back Snail Beach, right next to Pervert’s Cove and Available Beach, where Cal Poly trolls for love and Fresno gangbangers hunt for prey.

Up the road is San Luis Nabisco, where everything’s so perfect and “happy” some folks might toss their cookies upon encountering a poor person or a home under construction.

Out the valley is Los Grossos, across the way from Morbid Bay, where half-treated sewage is occasionally flushed into the ocean and panhandlers abound.

Up the coast we have Cay-useless and Lame-bria, where some insist you call it “Lamb-bria” whilst offering a soliloquy on “quaint,” like that nasty water problem they seem unable to fix.

Over the hill is Paso Rubles — Trumpski country — just north of Simpleton.

South is Atascabama, where they haul malingering, addicted youth off to County Jail, whose score of inexplicable deaths is racking up like a Crimson Tide football game.

Sarcasm aside, it’s easy to carp about tourists and the puffery of fawning media, fun to mock our obsequious obsession with approval from strangers who do little to improve our communities. That’s on us.

So let’s take a break from self-indulgent back patting for a moment to reflect, to recognize we live amongst plenty of real problems: widespread opioid addiction, intractable homelessness, 11 jailhouse deaths since January 2012.

That’s all too easy to ignore while lulling ourselves into complacency. Addressing it requires a clear-eyed look in the mirror, blemishes and all.

Oops. I’m getting the stink-eye again, so I’ll break into a snarky rendition of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”:

Some things in life are bad.

When you're chewing on life's gristle,

Don't grumble, give a whistle!

And this'll help things turn out for the best.

Always look on the bright side of life!

Because it’s a lot more self-satisfying than looking on the dark side.

Liberal columnist Tom Fulks serves on the San Luis Obispo County Democratic Central Committee. His column runs every other Sunday, in rotation with conservative columnist Andrea Seastrand.

Take in the beauty of the Central Coast with these aerial views of Big Sur, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, San Simeon and Moonstone Beach in Cambria, filmed in May 2016.

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