Dog Bites

Another Crack at Walnut Creek
The San Francisco Chronicle's Kevin Fagan wrote last Friday how Walnut Creek is now hip. His editors flagged his story with the headline "Walnut Creek -- It's Hip." Normally, the daily papers' utter cluelessness about culture wouldn't bother us -- except that we know Walnut Creek too well. And its slow death and reanimation as a faceless, soulless yuppie theme park can't be allowed to pass unmarked. And Fagan's idiot analysis can't go unchallenged.

Fagan's theory goes something like this: East Bay hippies age, become yuppies and breed, grow tired of urban life, and flee Berkeley to a version of Berkeley without minorities and rough edges, Walnut Creek. And now that they're there, Walnut Creek is hip. Fagan's formulation equates Peet's and bagels and all the other trendy signposts of '90s yuppie consumption with hipness. They are not only not hip; they are the exact opposite of hip. Hipness grows out of discontent. Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" is hip. Iceberg Slim is hip.

Once upon a time, Walnut Creek, around the mid-'70s, had a hint of hipness. It was a small town that almost achieved an independent personality before falling victim to suburban blandness. Kids didn't rub lemon rinds around espresso cups on Main Street; they hid under overpasses, down by the actual Walnut Creek, a pathetic and polluted stream, and drank warm beer, dropped acid, and did speed.

Once there was an art deco movie palace, the El Rey, built in 1910, where The Rocky Horror Picture Show played every Friday at midnight, drawing the town's marginal kids, budding homosexuals, and freaks.

Once there was the Knights Inn, a biker bar whose owner rented out a shack in the back to drunks, where local kids played bad rock 'n' roll, girls got in fights involving hurling ashtrays, and actual honest-to-god criminal drifters sat there until the local cops caught up with them.

Once an old set of railroad tracks ran through town; discontented teen-agers could wander its crossties for miles. Now there's a paved path where in-line skaters in Gucci sweats swoosh.

Of the members of one high school class of 1980, one was killed in a drug-related shootout with cops; one, a promising cyclist, ran headlong into a car and ended up a mentally damaged drunk, wandering the streets bumming change for booze. There were golden boys who committed suicide after they killed golden girls in episodes of drunken stupidity.

The town hummed with the kinds of experiences that make kids want to become writers, not real estate speculators. But that town is long dead. The town that replaced it is a lot of things, some good, some bad, some otherwise. People enjoy it and that's fine. Just don't call it hip.

-- George Cothran

Earth Second! or Third!
One of the most pervasive ideas of American pop culture -- that evil alien space creatures are bent on destroying the Earth and its inhabitants -- is pure hokum, a scientific researcher revealed at a conference in San Francisco last week.

Robert Perala, who describes himself as a prominent researcher in the extraterrestrial sciences, revealed his findings in a speech at last weekend's Whole Life Expo in SOMA, where he was a featured speaker. Perala has just returned from an extensive research sojourn to Europe, where he determined that space aliens are really friendly tree-huggers, not the cow-killing, maiden-abducting, city-destroying villains of popular lore.

The Expo -- populated by your usual crew of New Age spiritual-growth-and-metaphysics profiteers -- didn't offer much innovative in the areas of aural healing, chakra alignment, etc. But Perala's findings, if true, could force earthlings to start thinking about their universe in a whole new way.

For one, degradation of the Earth's environment is harming extraterrestrials, too, through pollution-skewed electromagnetic waves, Perala says. Are you listening, you selfish, narrow-minded Earth First!ers? If you really cared about the environment, you'd call yourselves Earth Second! or Earth Third!

For another, the Air Force's 50-year-old cover-up of the UFO landing in Roswell, N.M., hasn't been the work of nasty government spooks, but rather is an exercise in proper diligence by a government wishing privacy as it cooperates with alien environmentalists.

The secrecy gig is about up, though, Perala says.
From El Nino to other weather patterns, signs of impending doom are growing every day, he says. "The Red Cross has been placed on alert. Well, not exactly alert, but a heightened state of readiness," Perala says. "I know, because I have some friends who are involved at a very high level at the Red Cross."

These doomsday signs are precisely what have led space aliens to come to Earth and aid man in cleaning up his environment. But there's no need to be alarmed, Perala says. Our secretive guests aren't the vengeful beings envisioned by pop-culture hucksters.

"I definitely don't want to put any fear out there," Perala says. "My research denotes that if E.T. was going to introduce himself to cultures such as ours, that is full of so many existing belief systems, that he might do it in the most clever, quiet way possible, and that is to speak through Mother Nature itself. So every spring and summer, when the wheat and the barley is reaching its maturity, they come to leave various symbols to show there is outside intelligence and inner intelligence."

Smart beings, those.
-- Matt Smith

 
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