Sunday, November 13, 2005
Vote Of No Confidence
I love being from Riverside. What it does for me is hard to convey to people outside the greater Los Angeles area, but it's very freeing. Socially, the expectations are so low that I can get away with just about anything. I bathe regularly, keep my hair trim and clean, launder my clothes and almost always wear shoes because I want to do those things. If I chose not to, a simple "He's from Riverside" would get me all the nodding sympathy I could want in Orange or Los Angeles counties right before I got thrown out of whatever place I had befouled with my presence.
We don't wear stained old wife-beaters and holey boxers in public because we think it's the right thing to do. We do so because the geographical prejudice is so pronounced that even if we were to try to succeed at things like fashion and... existing... the resulting social anathema would be the same. So why bother? Let's be comfortable instead.
This all doesn't apply to the trucks with the giant lift-kits put on them and the naked lady mudflaps. We just like those.
What I'm saying is that there's a perception about my hometown area that lingers in the halls of social justice like Tara Reid at an awards-show after-party.
The national media isn't helping. When does anyone outside of SoCal ever hear anything about Riverside? When some kid kills his mom and cuts off her head and hands. Or some crazy person from elsewhere dumps a body in one of our invitingly remote and pristine open spaces. Or when some convicted felon who is currently in jail gets elected to a school board.
See, these things accumulate and then they stick, culminating in a certain image that is less than favorable. Nobody wants to talk about how we have a California Pizza Kitchen AND a Nordstrom, no. It's all "Hey, what's up with the guy who got elected to the school board from jail?"
In fairness, I would like to point out that this did not actually happen in Riverside. All the by-lines from the national stories say "RIVERSIDE, California-" but that's because newspaper people are lazy and stupid and easily confused. This is the same crowd that keeps running "Garfield" comic strips despite the fact that it hasn't been funny since 1982. Mondays bad, lasagna good. We get it. Move on.
Riverside itself is a cosmopolitan, sophisticated city of nearly 300,000 people, which means we elect regular politicians to things like school boards; ones who either can be bought by local business interests or who have relatives in other key governmental positions. We can do graft and nepotism as well as the next city.
The election result came out of Romoland, a place in Riverside County several miles from Riverside itself. Romoland, for those who don't know (and I include everyone ever born in that category), is to Riverside what Riverside is to everyplace else: remote, rural, useless. It would be the butt of jokes as Riverside is, but honestly, I wasn't sure it even existed before this story came out. It was sort of mythical, like the Seven Cities of Cibola, except with cowshit instead of gold.
The bad news is that I, even though I would like nothing more than to pretend this never happened, am honor-bound to try and defend this as the internet's premier Riverside apologist. I did it for the guy who chopped up his mom*, I can do it for this.
So it's, like... uh... good that this guy got elected to the Romoland school board from jail or whatever. I totally sincerely believe that. Yes I do. Yes I do. Here, looky, a list and everything:
1) He has regular employment. Maybe it's in the prison laundry or shank-making or selling his ass for cigarettes, but you know he's keeping busy in there. Very industrious people, prisoners.
2) He has a fixed address. Riverside County is made up of itinerants from every corner of the globe, with further constant shifting internally as we all cash in on the insane housing market. I've moved three times in the last 5 years myself. There is something comforting about knowing exactly where to find a guy, even if it is in D-Block.
3) He's a politician. So he knocked over a couple of small businesses. Big deal. Who hasn't? It isn't like he lied about being in the Alabama National Guard or sodomized an intern with a cigar or shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. He's up-front with his misdeeds, which is refreshing. He's kind of like John McCain that way. Their biographies even share some similarities, only instead of being imprisoned and tortured by the North Vietnamese while serving his country, he's being rightfully incarcerated by the Great State of California for parole violations that include spousal abuse.
4) Spousal abuse and his wife is totally advocating for him. He must be one helluva guy. If she can accept him, why can't you?
Some political science guy from UC Riverside in the article says the prisoner won probably because his name appeared first on the ballot alphabetically. I totally dismiss that theory. It's not because I discriminate against and summarily dismiss people from Riverside. It's because he's a political scientist. They deserve our scorn.
This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.9
*= the ears of the multitude still ring with my now-famous "shorter casket means less taxpayer burial expense" argument.