The Year in Snark

Squid stroked the furrowed brow of Rosco P. Coltrane, Squid’s beloved mess of an English bulldog, finished the third bag of salt-vinegar-shrimp-flavored potato chips of the evening and settled back into the sofa for a night of self-loathing and a Law & Order marathon. Squid had been invited to what sounded like a great New Year’s Eve party, and then at the last minute, the host included a “no assholes” clause, so Squid decided to stay home and instead think deep thoughts and review the year. From January to December, here are Squid’s greatest hits. (And – bonus! – check the Squid column on p. 15, where Squid gives a little preview of those whom Squid expects to wrap in a warm and loving tentacle embrace in 2016.)

~::~

MAKE MY DAY… Squid spent much of the holiday break chillaxing at the movies, dipping fluffy popcorn into shrimp-flavored butter, sipping eggnog and sitting in the dark, watching tales unfold on the big screen. The Babadook – with an eponymous creature and a creepy little kid – scared the crap out of Squid.Boyhood, which director Richard Linklater filmed over 12 years using the same cast, kept Squid so entranced that Squid longed for three more hours in the life of Mason (the boy in the title). And Squid thought Squid could get an interview with local luminary Clint Eastwood, whose American Sniper was released in big cities on Christmas and is finally coming to Monterey.

Alas, Squid was Shaq-ed. Squid was made to feel like that empty chair at the Republican National Convention.

Despite a campaign that involved begging, pleading and cajoling, Squid was told Eastwood (aka, Dina Ruiz’ ex-husband, aka the former mayor of Carmel, aka… oh hell, you know who Eastwood is) wasn’t doing local press on the film, and certainly wasn’t doing it with the Weekly. Eastwood “has a long memory,” one rep told the paper. Squid supposes it’s possible Eastwood is still holding a grudge for the Weekly’s reporting on the back-door dealing that led to approval of hisTehama development, but if Squid can forgive Eastwood for Trouble With the Curve, surely Eastwood can forgive the Weekly for that.

ON POINT… Sometimes Squid feels like Squid is perpetually past season out here on the Pacific, while Squid’s New York friends are up on all the latest hotness. Like drinking artisanal bone broth out of ironic coffee mugs. And practicing barre, the ballet-inspired workout based on isometric movements said to lengthen muscles.

Now the trend has come to Carmel. At least three dedicated barre studios (Go FigureCarmelBarre and Physique Exercise Salon) have opened just in the past year, while Carmel Valley Athletic Club and Carmel Valley Ranch have added ballet-based fitness classes.

As part of a New Year resolution to eat less buttery shrimp and tone up bloated tentacles, Squid signed up for a barre class. But all of Squid’s fellow students – strictly women, with the notable exception of Carmel Mayor Jason Burnett – seem to be sexier than Squid, in fancier workout clothes, frenetically thigh-swinging as if there’s nowhere else they needed to be.

Squid has a hunch that for many of Squid’s classmates, there really isn’t. Except for Burnett, who probably rushed off to a meeting after class, clutching a steaming mug of bone broth. If only Squid could be so cool.

CARMEL-BY-LAND… Squid’s always looking to pinch pennies while keeping Squid’s eye on the prize: retirement, preferably some place safe. That’s why Squid was excited when an email arrived from Steve Richmond of badcredit.org: “This morning we published an article ranking America’s 20 safest small cities for retirement.” Carmel made the list at No. 8. Squid clicked to find out which small cities could actually be safer than Carmel.

The list ranks the cities based on crime rates weighed against population – Aliso Viejo (California) is first and Ramapo (N.Y.) is second – but when Squid gets to number eight, it says Carmel (California) has a population of 84,880.

Unless about 78,000 people moved in overnight without Squid knowing it, Squid sensed a problem. So Squid wrote to Richmond, who wrote back: “It seems we’ve mixed up Carmel, CA and Carmel, Indiana. Thank you for catching this, we’ll revise the story immediately.”

But it got Squid thinking: What could Carmel, Indiana, have that Twee-by-the-Sea doesn’t? According to Money magazine, Carmel, Indiana has lots of roundabouts, tons of performing arts and the annual “Porchfest” – a daylong music fest of garage bands playing on various front porches throughout the city.

That got Squid to thinking too. Replacing intersections with roundabouts? Encouraging live music and loitering in front of people’s homes? Squid can almost hear the anguished cries from the gadflies of Carmel, California.

FIFTY SHADES OF BEIGE… Just to be clear, Squid’s not trying to pick on Monterey, but it can be tough to resist at times, because Squid loves the city so. And when Squid saw the new public bathroom installed Feb. 20 in Monterey’s Simoneau Plaza, resistance became futile.

Squid was thrilled when the city announced last year its new bathroom would be a “Portland Loo,” an innovative stainless steel bathroom designed by the namesake city. Not only would the transit plaza finally get a much-needed facility, it would be sleek, graffiti-proof and indestructible.

Then Squid saw the city’s announcement on its website, which touts that the normally slate-colored loo is the first in the state “to be specially color-coded to meet the request of the Architectural Review Committee.”

Yes, that extra-specially coded color is beige, baby, beige. Did Squid miss some kind of memo dictating that Monterey be awash in a sea of beige beigeness? Has anyone from the ARC seen the charmingly colorful villages of Cinque Terre, Italy? Or for that matter, even traveled to Mexico? Why has the city chosen to fixate on a color distinguished only by its lack of personality? Is “Monterey beige” a thing?

Squid Googled it: You can pick up a “Monterey beige” rug at Home Depot.

#BRINGBACKHANS… As Squid was settling into Squid’s beanbag chair over the weekend, a bowl of shrimp-flavored popcorn at Squid’s side, Squid checked up on one of Squid’s favorite Twitter accounts, @cityofmonterey. How many times had Monterey voted for itself as “America’s Happiest Seaside Town” in the past week, Squid wondered?

The answer gave Squid pause: only once. Once? After voting 17 times in recent weeks, only once? Was someone on vacation? Sick leave?

Then Squid came upon something else that gave Squid pause: At the March 17 Monterey City Council meeting, the city will adopt a social media policy. Coincidence, or are the two linked?

Now, Squid has it on good authority that one of the main tweeters from the city’s account is Assistant City Manager Hans Uslar, who tweets masterfully from city council meetings while sitting up on the dais, and who Squid guesses came up with the hashtag #grabyourmoment.

The city, Squid feels, is lucky to have such a talented tweeter in the mix, and fears the downward trend in voting for itself “Happiest Seaside Town,” coupled with the new social media policy, might mean Uslar will be less free to grab his moment.

It reminds Squid of the most epic Twitter battle of all time, where comedian Kyle Kinane had laugh out loud fun with Pace Picante’s Twitter handle, one that culminated in an employee named Miles being sent home early after he got into a back and forth with Kinane. Shortly thereafter, #BringBackMiles was trending.

Squid’s hoping Uslar wasn’t given a similar treatment, that he still has free rein to tweet at will. There’s only thing that will convince Squid: The city’s campaign for “Happiest Seaside Town” must resume in full. #BringBackHans.

MAY I HAVE ANOTHER… Like all cephalopods, Squid swims through the day guilt-free, and has little experience in the way of confessions. After Squid wakes every morning, Squid kills Squid’s breakfast, takes a quick nap, then heads off to work and eats shrimp popcorn until lunch. Just another perfect morning of murder and unnecessary snacking.

Humans, on the other tentacle, have this thing called guilt. They do something, eat something, sleep with something, and then later beat themselves up about it.

Guilt is an elusive concept to Squid, but for a brief, glorious eight days, Squid hoped to understand: The Facebook page Carmel Confessions, billed as a place “where you can anonymously have a voice… a place where people can share their deepest feelings, fears, concerns, or thoughts,” gave Squid a window into the human minds of Carmelites.

The first post hit March 3:

“Carmel Confessions #1: Sometimes at my real estate office, I go into the bathroom before anyone else arrives, and blow that place up. Everyone thinks it’s my boss.”

A slew of posts went up the next day. Squid’s favorites:

“Carmel Confessions #7: I work construction, and my foreman is a total dick. Last week, I put coffee grounds in my socks, because I was told it absorbs sweat, and keeps your feet dry. Then I made him a cup o’ joe with my boot coffee. Drink up, asshole.”

March 6 dropped a nice one:

“Carmel Confessions #11: I pooped in the bushes by the beach on Ocean ave, because i couldn’t make it to the restroom. Should I have used a Mutt Mitt to pick it up? I was so embarrassed.”

Thank goodness this person wasn’t near the new bathroom on Scenic and Santa Lucia, they might of shat on the living roof. Squid shudders at the thought. As well as at some of the posts over the following days, including on March 11, the last confession:

“#29: Years ago I got it on with a cop’s wife. Since that time they have divorced and a little while ago I ran into her and her kids at my bank. I couldn’t help but notice that one of her children had a uncanny resemblance to my boys. So being coy I whispered in her ear is that one mine? She giggled and replied does a bear shit in the woods! This made me feel pretty awkward!”

And that’s it. End of posts.

Is #29 the page manager? Has revenge been exacted? O’ Carmel Confessions, where art thou?

You might not be a true picture of guilt, but you’re a true picture of dirt.

Squid misses thee.

PUSH ME, POLL YOU… Squid was watching Dancing With the Stars when the phone rang. Squid answered and was transported to a magical land where there is no time or logic. Even though it’s only April 2015, Squid was transported to Electionland.

A political “pollster” from Portland wanted to discuss the Monterey County Board of Supervisors’ District 4 seat. And the pollster wanted to know how Squid felt about District 4 Supe Jane Parker.

“How do you feel,” the pollster asked, “about an elected official who doesn’t work well with colleagues?”

While we’re asking misleading questions, why leave out her apparent challengers, Seaside Mayor Ralph Rubio and former Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue? “How do you feel about an elected official who doesn’t wear an undershirt under his dress shirts?” and “How do you feel about an elected official who sits on the dais with a look of disapproval and chides people who don’t agree with him?”

Squid called Parker and asked: Isn’t it early for this? “This is early,” Parker says, “but when there are people who want to unseat an incumbent, they have to start early. Especially a relatively popular incumbent.” Zing.

SOFT RUB… Squid has curious habits for a cephalopod. When other cephalopods are cruising the coast for a mid-morning snack, Squid is searching out shrimp popcorn. While fellow mollusks court in groups, Squid prefers the romance of a candlelit dinner and a glass of Pinot.

Perhaps Squid’s most unusual habit is using time and brainpower (both limited) to scour city council agendas, a routine that’s usually as mundane as it sounds. But every once in a while, something piques Squid’s interest, like a vague item on the April 24 Monterey City Council agenda to amend the city code with respect to massage parlors.

Was the city finally going to crack down on rubdown businesses, the sheer number of which has baffled Squid for years? Squid called the city attorney’s office for answers, and was told no, the proposed changes were minor.

But then Squid saw a headline on the Monterey Herald’s website: “Monterey’s massage businesses in the hot seat.” Wait, what? The article then goes on to state, “It is not clear yet what Tuesday’s discussion will entail.”

How’s that for a sensational headline that doesn’t match the reporting. Not that Squid’s complaining. It’s not often Squid gets to read city code about “friction, stroking, kneading, rubbing, stretching, pounding, vibrating, or stimulating the external surfaces” during the workday.

RIPE MOMENT… Squid loves Squidself some veggies. OK, who is Squid kidding. Squid likes Squidself some shrimp popcorn sprinkled with cayenne blood. But Squid does find drama delicious.

Dole Fresh PR flaks were hoping Squid would be all aflutter upon learning that Dole reps would be accepting a proclamation from county and city officials making May 21 and every pre-Memorial Day Thursday here “Eat More Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Day.” They even furnished some recipes for grilled banana parfaitspinach avocado hummus and charred summer salad. Squid would rather have greasy sardines, but hey, to each species its own. “An annual reminder of the link between increased produce consumption and a happier, healthier life,” the press release read.

Only word came that a day earlier, May 4, hundreds of Dole salad plant workers, family members, supporters, politicos and religious leaders marched to demand that Dole provide what the workers’ union is calling “living wages and benefits.”

President of Teamsters Local 890 Crescencio Díaz didn’t put too fine a point on the carrot: “These workers are giving their working lives to the progress of Dole,” he says. “They’re demanding that Dole ensure that these families can take enough home for themselves.”

DOOR PRIZE… Squid remembers when Rosco P. Coltrane, Squid’s beloved mess of an English bulldog, was just a pup. There was exhausting obedience training mixed with lots of positive reinforcement, all so Rosco could grow up to be the fine dog he is today. Squid wonders if that’s what veteran Monterey County Deputy District Attorney David Rabow had in mind during recent dealings with neophyte prosecutor Aaron Brown. Seems Brown was in Rabow’s office, nipping at his heels over an issue while Rabow just wanted to be left alone. Sources tell Squid Rabow asked Brown to leave, but when he refused, Rabow used his office door to make physical contact with Brown and get him out of his space. In many workplaces, this might be considered assault. In the freewheeling world of Monterey County government employment, it’s just another day at the office. Rabow and Brown didn’t respond to requests for comment. Meanwhile, Chief Assistant Deputy District Attorney Berkley Brannon called the Rabow-Brown kerfuffle a personnel issue.

If Rabow’s name seems familiar, that’s because in March, he sought (and got) a restraining order against retired sheriff’s Deputy Bob Empasis, who believed Rabow had been mucking around in his marriage. When that one happened, Brannon called it a personal issue. Squid notices a trend here – and the words “Rabow” and “issue” run through it.

DRESSED TO KILL… Squid was getting ready for an event, going through the frustrating ritual of finding an outfit. “Does this shirt say, ‘Power cephalopod,’ or does it make me look pasty?” Squid wondered. Squid is Squid’s own worst critic when it comes to fashion, but it turns out, fashion critics abound all over Monterey County.

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Take a recent anonymous postcard sent to Salinas City Councilwoman Kimbley Craig. Craig had been photographed at the “Party in the Library” fundraiser forHartnell College, and the picture was published in the Californian’s “Off 68” lifestyle publication that panders to people who refuse to live in the city limits. The picture, the anonymous writer pointed out, shows Craig’s bare arms “above her elbows.” “As we get closer to 40, it’s important to dress carefully,” the writer scolds. “We’re not 18 anymore.”

Squid wonders if the writer sends similar postcards to male politicians: “Salinas Councilman Steve McShane, stop wearing leopard print in public! CouncilmanJose Castañeda, knock off the social justice T-shirts – your un-loofahed elbows offend me!” Squid could keep going, but Squid has to squeeze into Spanx to keep stuff in place.

DEEP THROAT… Squid was relaxing in the lair, taking an online quiz to determine Squid’s spirit animal (it came back “otter,” which was a load of crap) and waiting for a massive chunk of data to download. Suddenly, Squid heard a splash. Squid assumed it was those irritating whales showing off for the BBC crews filming Big Blue Live – Oh look at us, look how cleverly we breach, Squid imagines them thinking.

But when Squid peeked outside, Squid found a pasty middle-aged white man weeping at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf as he watched his laptop sink into Monterey Bay.

“If they can’t find my laptop, they can’t find my information,” he told Squid. “Isn’t that right? Tell me it’s true!”

Squid then realized: The man was an Ashley Madison customer. Ashley Madison is the defunct website that claimed to help members of the married-but-bored set have affairs. A hacktavist group calling itself The Impact Team posted the personal information of 30 million Ashley Madison account holders on the dark web, a virtual place where lots of illegal stuff happens. So far, the data dump has resulted in lots of marriages being ruined.

Squid wrapped a tentacle around the man’s shoulder, offered him a cup of tea and asked if he wanted to confess anything. That’s when the man began to speak.

“I’m a successful businessman and writer and I now own a media company. I work out every day. I’m also well-educated and literate and know all about fine restaurants, dance clubs, museums and the opera,” he said, sniffling. “I actually live in Carmel. I’ve met presidents and prime ministers! I can introduce you to celebrities!”

Tell me more, Squid encouraged. And the floodgates opened. The man told Squid his wife didn’t understand him, and he was looking for a woman he could make feel very special. “If you turn me on, I can make love to you all afternoon,” he said. “No kidding! It’s always been my best feature!”

Then it occurred to Squid that the man was quoting directly from his Ashley Madison profile. And Squid knew this because someone had mailed that very same profile to Squid earlier that day.

If any “slender gals” who have unattended feelings they want to unleash (and look as good in jeans and sneakers as they do in cocktail gowns and heels) and who also happen to like early-morning walks in Paris or Shanghai are interested in a fortysomething media company owner from Carmel who can’t keep his wife happy, please get in touch. Squid will forward the message.

MOVE IT MOM… It had been such a nice year, 2015. Squid vacationed in the Sea of Cortez and even made a cameo on BBC’s Big Blue Live. It’s also the second straight year Monterey was pegged one of “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns” by Coastal Living, a magazine that allegedly exists.

Squid’s not sure if the city will crack the top 10 in the 2016 contest, but for anyone who witnessed what happened to local mom and business owner Laura McKinnon at the Old Monterey Farmers Market Sept. 8, they would have seen a very unhappy resident. McKinnon, owner of Seaside Yoga Sanctuary, is pregnant and was out with her young son. She sat down on a stoop in the shade while the vendors finished setting up. Then, she writes on Facebook, a security guard told her she was in violation of the city’s sit-lie ordinance, and suggested she move to benches on the other side of the street. McKinnon told the officer she was pregnant, and needed to be in the shade. “Didn’t matter,” she writes, “I had to move.”

Oh, sit-lie ordinance, how Squid loathes thee.

SILENT MODE… By the time Squid is done slogging through the workday, one that often includes talking on the phone with strangers who may or may not be completely crazy, there’s one thing Squid won’t do after settling into the lair: answer a call from a phone number Squid doesn’t recognize.

But over in Pacific Grove, some Pagrovians aren’t so discriminating, and pick up the phone whenever it rings. And based on an email forwarded to Squid from one such Pagrovian, the phones are ringing in P.G., and the polling over a proposed “admissions tax” has begun.

The tax is being considered to cover P.G.’s projected budgetary shortfalls in the coming years, and has two primary opponents: the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, whose ticket sales would provide the lion’s share of revenue generated by the tax.

Among the questions the poll asks are whether or not one has an opinion of Aquarium founder Julie Packard and/or the P.G. Chamber. And according to the email, it included three “long-winded arguments” on why to oppose the tax: it’s illegal; that only 20 percent of the Aquarium lies in P.G.; and that tourists who visit the Aquarium contribute to P.G.’s tax base.

Squid’s no genius, but even Squid has good guess at who’s funding this poll. It rhymes with “terrarium.”

TEAM PLAYER… Squid has been around long enough to be cynical about a lot of things: Imitation shrimp-meat just isn’t as flavorful as the real thing, for example.

But Squid generally believes that within our bitterly partisan political system, candidates can reliably count on their respective parties to have their backs. No matter how fringey they are, there’s a party machine to help them do the nitty-gritty work of campaigning: walking door-to-door to talk to voters, making phone calls to ask for donations, stuffing envelopes.

So Squid would’ve expected the Monterey County Central Republican Committee to kick into high gear to support the campaign of Pacific Grove City Councilwoman Casey Lucius for U.S. Congress. After 23 years, unbeatable incumbent Sam Farr is retiring (he’s never lost an election in his entire career), leaving an open seat. Lucius is facing off with Democratic Jimmy Panetta, so far the only Dem to announce he’s running, laying the groundwork for what amounts to an anointment to the seat formerly held by his father, Leon Panetta.

Squid would think Republicans would flock to Lucius. She’s ambitious (aiming for Congress from one term on City Council – but then again, that’s more experience in elected office than Panetta), smart (formerly a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School) and well-versed in national security (her proposed policy against ISIS is a popular GOP position: ground troops, economic sanctions, plus a cyber-attack against the tech-savvy recruiters).

So Squid was a little surprised to learn that the local GOP hasn’t fully embraced Lucius’ campaign as their own. So was Lucius. “I wish I had more help,” she tells Squid’s colleague. “I wish the Republican Party was more capable and structured.

“This is where the Democratic Party is so successful: It seems like they have this machine in place, that they know how to get the vote and raise money. They have donor lists. At every level – national, state and county – the Republican Party just seems like it doesn’t have the same organization or momentum.

“Going into this, I thought, ‘There will be all this help behind the scenes.’ That hasn’t been there.”

Local GOP party shot-caller Paul Bruno says the party has limited resources, and is likely to allocate more on local races. (Sounds to Squid like code for, Lucius will likely get clobbered by Panetta.)

Or maybe it’s because Lucius believes climate change is real, despite the party line. Or that she’s a believer in affordable housing. Or that she’s a vegan. Squid gets it: Those things are a little scary to hard-line Republicans. But Squid thought partisan allegiance was as American as apple pie. Or maybe this is what happens when a Republican candidate starts asking questions about the ingredients in a slice of apple pie.-

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