Ink-Stained Wretch

Squid’s life isn’t easy. Sometimes the Wi-Fi goes out, meaning Squid can’t livestream City Council meetings and has to leave the lair. Sometimes Squid burns the popcorn. Sometimes politics get nasty. But through it all, Squid and Squid’s trusty sidekick, English bulldog Rosco P. Coltrane, keep a watch over life in Monterey County. Squid devoted a lot of ink in 2016 to elections, Monterey Downs, Fisherman’s Wharf leases and other unpredictable happenings, and here looks back on some of the low – err, highlights – of the year.

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ALMOST FAMOUS… Lately, Squid’s hopes and dreams have not been panning out. First, seeking fortune, Squid blew a week’s salary buying worthless Powerball tickets, which led to a shortage of shrimp-flavored popcorn in Squid’s lair.

Second, seeking fame, Squid applied to be an extra in Big Little Lies, an HBO miniseries starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon being filmed in the Monterey area Jan. 25-29. Squid toned up Squid’s tentacles, turned Squid’s most flattering color, snapped a selfie and sent it over to Rich King Casting. Fame felt imminent, but a week later, Squid received this response by email: “Unless you would like to be made into fried calamari, your services will not be needed.” Bastards!

Then Squid started hearing stories from the set, and how one colleague saw Witherspoon fake a sprained ankle in a scene. Her acting was so good, Squid’s colleague felt a pang of sorrow at the sight!

That’s it, Squid decided, time to get in on the action: Squid unchained Squidself from Squid’s desk and oozed down to Wharf Marketplace, bought a couple bottles of vino and began wandering around the stars’ trailers in the parking lot. Squid successfully fended off an approaching security guard – “Wine delivery for Reese Witherspoon” – but nobody was home in her trailer.

Sigh. Perhaps Squid should dream a little smaller. Sharknado 4?

JUSTICE FOR SOME… Squid loves a good word game, partially because Squid’s outsized brain gives Squid a leg up when playing Words With Friends against Squid’s harbor seal pals. So when Squid saw the California Civil Justice Foundation on Assembly candidate Anna Caballero’s statement of economic interest – the form public officials must file to show how they make their money – Squid was puzzled at first. It sounds like an organization devoted to fighting for civil rights. Then Squid realized it’s really just clever word play: The nonprofit has the same Sacramento address as the Civil Justice Association of California – a group purportedly built to “reduce litigation against small businesses,” but a closer look shows it’s a front group for big business. It’s registered as a lobbyist and large political donor, and board members include big businesses from every sector, like Dow ChemicalExxonMobilJPMorgan ChaseApple and Anthem Blue Cross.

After Caballero stepped down from her post on Gov. Jerry Brown’s cabinet last fall to run for Assembly, she started a consulting business, Caballero and Associates. It’s listed on her statement of economic interest, where she’s also obligated to include the names of clients who paid $10,000 or more. The sole client listed there: the California Civil Justice Foundation. Which makes her proposed ballot designation – “independent small businesswoman” – also sound like a smart word play.

BRANDING TOGETHER… In times like these, where daily, horrific headlines are starting to feel as certain as the sunrise, Squid looks for every opportunity to lighten up Squid’s world.

This past week, it so happens, Squid saw that ray of light on page 14 of the Weekly. There it was, hiding in plain sight: “[Salinas] has also rebranded the neighborhood, replacing the name Oldtown with Salinas City Center.”

Tickle Squid translucent.

To provide a quick recap, the story is about how spiffy downtown Salinas is becoming, thanks in large part to the area’s property owners, who voted in 2015 to tax themselves to fund upkeep of their storefronts.

The city then thought, apparently, it was a good idea to take a perfectly fine name for downtown – Oldtown Salinas – and replace it with a name that has about as much personality as a ream of office paper.

Salinas City Center? That’s a brand? Here’s an exercise for branding brains out there: Say it five times real fast! Does it not have a certain foul ring, or at least rhyme, to it?

The rebranding campaign is not exactly recent news, but it’s part of an effort, by the city and the Salinas City Center Improvement Association, to bring in more businesses and customers to the area. What’s next, hand sanitizer dispensers next to every light post? Or perhaps painting the whole town – err, city center – beige?

To be fair, Salinas officials are not the only ones who launched a rebranding effort that fell flat. Just this weekend, in the days leading up to the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump announced his VP pick Mike Pence and released their embarrassingly NSFW logo, a T spearing the center of the P, which incidentally spells “TP.”

For once, Squid wishes local officials would take a cue from Team Trump; within 24 hours, the campaign backtracked on the logo concept and started from scratch, releasing something far more civilized.

Whether or not Salinas backtracks, luckily a rebranding committee doesn’t get to decide which name the public actually uses, because like a good nickname, some names just stick.

So for Squid, and most everybody else, Squid imagines, it will be Oldtown Salinas, forever. It’s a name that connotes charm, dignity and history – not office paper.

So again: Say Salinas City Center five times real fast, and let us never utter the name again.

A TALE OF TWO PEBBLES… Every year, Monterey Car Week makes Squid feel so many feelings. On one hand, Squid gets a little giddy seeing tens of millions of dollars of luxurious metal cruising around the Monterey Peninsula. Squid has dreams of taking a 1966 Lamborghini Miura for a joyride on a car-free 17-Mile Drive.

On the other hand, the pomp and ceremony of Concours d’Elegance make Squid want to roll up in Squid’s old jalopy, whining serpentine belt and all, and pull a few donuts on the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Things got a bit crowded on the Peninsula for the annual gross display of affluence. Hotels were full and Squid decided to ooze around the bumper-to-bumper traffic to take in the spectacle of it all, and discovered even short-term rentals – illegal everywhere on the Peninsula except Pacific Grove – were also full.

Squid expects some clarity on the controversy over short-term rentals soon. In Pebble Beach, a couple is suing Monterey County for blocking them from renting their 5,500-square-foot, six-bedroom and seven-bath estate, which they offer as a scenic wedding venue. In the case, William and Duncan Lewis v. Monterey County, the couple claim that since short-term rentals aren’t explicitly prohibited, they are technically allowed. A ruling is expected any day.

While Squid waits to see if a wealthy couple is allowed to keep renting out their ocean-view estate, there’s another housing controversy coming to a head in Pebble Beach.

Del Monte Neighbors United is the group that sprung up to oppose Pebble Beach Co.’s proposed 24-unit workforce housing complex on the Pebble-Pacific Grove border. The project would enable some middle-income families to live in a high-cost place, reducing traffic and helping Pebble’s employees live near work. But the neighbors group has opposed it every step of the way.

Squid has watched them from the outset, when they argued against letting the riff-raff into their P.G. neighborhood, on a basis tinged with classism.

They’ve gotten more savvy about public relations. The final decision on whether to approve the development heads to the County Board of Supervisors tomorrow, Aug. 23, and Squid expects a big showing of haters. Squid also expects to hear more reasoned opposition, because that’s part of their strategy.

As one member wrote on the Del Monte Neighbors United Facebook page, “As with the input we gave to the Planning Commission, it is recommended that we not talk about any potential diminution in property values, and not to lambast inclusionary, affordable or employee housing.”

Instead, they’ve made it all about the trees: “We do want to let the Board of Supervisors know that we welcome affordable housing in our community – but why destroy over 700 trees to build the project as proposed?”

Squid has a daydream even less realistic than driving a ’66 Lamborghini Miura.

It looks like a group of NIMBYs coming around and welcoming new working-class neighbors to their neighborhood. But Squid can hope.

SEEING CLEARLY… Being a translucent cephalopod, Squid has great respect for transparency. Squid enjoys reading nutrition labels flagging the saturated fat in Squid’s favorite shrimp-flavored snacks as much as Squid enjoys looking up salaries of local nonprofit executives on Form 990s filed with the IRS. But public relations people always seem to get in the way of Squid’s happiness.

So it was on Aug. 8, when Leticia Livian, P.G.’s human resources manager and Facebook administrator, tried to silence P.G. resident Lisa Hanes, who’s outraged for being fined $1,000 over her pet pig Bruiser’s feces, and also ordered to rid of Bruiser. Hanes publicly blasted the city on the city’s own FB page, and published emails showing City Manager Ben Harvey’s references to the Hanes family as “pig people,” and purport to show a preference to the neighbors who complained about the smell of Bruiser’s feces. Squid was amused to see the city code violation Hanes is being fined for has nothing to do with pig poop, but dog poop. Livian did not find it as amusing. She emailed Hanes to say she was violating yet another policy: the social media policy by posting unfavorable info about the city. Livian gave Hanes a day to take the content down. A day later, all gone. But there’s a funky smell that isn’t going anywhere.

CON TRAILS… There are times, Squid admits, when Squid wants to be someone else. This past election day is one example, when Squid donned a human disguise in an effort to vote at the ballot box. (A trail of slime gave Squid away.)

Humans also seem to have this urge, as evidenced by some members of the recently formed Toro Park Trail Advisory Working Group, which organizers are trying to dub TPTAWG. The working group, which is meant to meet twice per month, was convened by the Monterey County Parks Department to suss out the ongoing conflict between hikers and bikers at Toro Park, one that arose due to unsupervised trail building by mountain bikers. The 13-member group is meant to reflect a balance of both sides, and when applying to be a member, applicants had to self-identify whether they were a hiker, runner or biker.

Sounds great, let’s do this TPTAWG thang!

If only it was that simple: Susan Benjamin, who identified as a runner, happens to be on the board of the Monterey Off Road Cycling AssociationPhil Craig, “hiker,” is also on the MORCA board! And “hiker” Keith DeFiebre? Nearly every picture on his Facebook page shows him riding a bike!

For the record, that means there are two more bikers in the group than there are letters in TPTAWG.

D IS FOR DUMDFOUNDING… Occasionally, Squid comes across an indulgence – a picture book for grown-up cephalopods. D is for Dump Trump: An Anti-Hate Alphabet, a self-proclaimed “picture book for adults about a man-child,” is just such a book, with 26 poems and 20 cartoons. It’s by a Monterey couple, writer Brad Herzog and illustrator Amy Herzog, who launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their book project. They intend to donate $1 of each book sale to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Like good Americans, the Herzogs have a genuine love of RV travel, and for 17 summers, worked as traveling spokespeople for the RV Industry Association, crisscrossing the nation and talking about the virtues of doing so in a gas-guzzling house on wheels.

Greg Gerber, editor of the RV Daily Report, got wind of their book project and went on the offensive. “While I support the Herzogs’ right to free speech, one has to wonder why these California liberals need other people’s money to publish a book,” Gerber wrote June 28. “It seems rather odd that RVIA would turn a blind eye to such a divisive book in this politically charged environment.”

Within 24 hours, RVIA terminated their contract, because the book “distracted from our core values of political neutrality,” spokesman Kevin Broomsays. The Herzogs once won the association’s national Spirit of America Award – ironic considering political speech is perhaps the only thing more American than road-tripping.

GRAPES OF WRATH… As Squid cozied up in the lair on a recent weeknight, ready to sit down to a glorious meal of barbecued shrimp, Squid struggled to decide which of Squid’s white wines would pair with it best: A Hahn Chardonnay or a Manzoni Pinot Gris?

Squid decided to go online to compare tasting notes, but got sidetracked on Facebook along the way. Scrolling through a never-ending stream of baby photos, Squid froze on a friend’s post that went like this: “New test: replace the word ‘Muslims’ with ‘Jews’ and then ask yourself, ‘Do I sound like a f***king Nazi?’” On that post, Mark Manzoni, grandson of a Swiss immigrant and chief of the Manzoni Estate Vineyard, replied: “The difference is Jews were not the murderers, it was the Nazis. Here it is the Muslims who are murderers. Get a fucking clue dumbass.” Ahem.

Then Squid checked out Manzoni’s Facebook page, which, it so happens, is public. On it, Manzoni professes his allegiance to Donald Trump, and refers to President Barack Obama as a “fucking Muslim extremist,” despite the fact Obama is neither a Muslim nor an extremist. Manzoni also asks God to impeach Obama. “I will not be politically correct for you shallow thin-skinned idiots,” he writes in another post. “I am not a racist.”

Squid, far from convinced, uncorked the Manzoni and poured it down the drain, because some tastes you just can’t get out of your mouth. The Hahn, Squid notes, was delicious.

COUGH JOB… Squid’s not known for Squid’s athletic abilities, but Squid has a talent for scarfing down large quantities of shrimp-flavored popcorn in one sitting. If popcorn-eating was an Olympic sport, Squid would be popcorn-eating’s Simone Biles. Squid can imagine the endorsement deals: Squid-approved popcorn. Squid-quality ink. Squid-themed T-shirts. And Squid’s English bulldog Rosco P. Coltrane could also score some promotions.

Squid’s endorsement hopes pale compared to gold medalists’, even Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, now best known for Lochtegate, rather than swimming fast. But Lochte landed his first post-Rio endorsement deal with a Carmel-based company. The ad campaign for cough drop company Pine Bros. will reportedly be based on the theme of forgiveness. As in, cough drops are “forgiving on your throat.” Squid gets it: While Lochte was telling the authorities about being robbed *cough* at gunpoint *cough* he was really just trying to find redemption.

Pine Bros. announced the partnership with Lochte via Twitter with the hashtag #easytojudgetimetoforgive. When Squid launches Squid’s new side businesses landing endorsement deals, Squid will keep that motto in mind: Even if you can’t spray ink or power through popcorn as well as Squid, Squid forgives your shortcomings.

SHAKE SHAKEDOWN… Squid oozed down to Fisherman’s Wharf before the Monterey City Council on Sept. 20 to sample free clam chowder at Old Fisherman’s Grotto. But when Squid arrived it was closed. Squid turned around to only see that Scales Seafood and Steak – another Shake family establishment – was also closed.

Squid then heard chants of “Save our Wharf!” in the distance. Following the sound, Squid slimed down Pacific Street toward City Hall and ran into a group of nearly 100 holding signs slamming the city. “Wharf Lives Matter,” one claimed. More than a few protesters still wore restaurant uniforms from the Shake-owned restaurants.

It was a paid vacation, or at least some of them thought so, though Squid is dubious of how free their speech is when protesters are on the clock. The restaurants shut down for the evening – along with Liberty Fish and The Coffee House – to join a permitted protest at City Hall to decry what they call the city’s attempt to steal property from wharf business owners in lease negotiations.

A snazzy flyer and Facebook page for “Save Our Old Fisherman’s Wharf” show their doomsday depiction of the wharf of the future, with McDonald’s and Hooters.

Squid can smell PR guru David Armanasco all over it. The local spin doctor extraordinaire doesn’t come cheap. Squid knows the money isn’t coming from Liberty Fish, which claims it can’t afford to pay the city of Monterey more than its current $406.20 monthly rent. Maybe whoever’s paying for PR can help Liberty Fish find the financial freedom to make next month’s rent.

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WORDS WITH TREES… Squid knows a good time when Squid sees one, so Squid oozed down to the Oldemeyer Center Sept. 29 to bear witness to the first Seaside City Council meeting about Monterey Downs since the project’s final environmental impact report was released in late July.

Early in the meeting, City Manager Craig Malin reminded everyone there would be no votes that night, as it was only a workshop, and also felt compelled to say that the project “applicant is not a person, it’s a corporation.” (It’s actually an LLC, which are explicitly not corporations, but Squid digresses.) Terminology was a theme of the night, with several minutes of questioning by Councilmember Ian Oglesby, who wanted to clarify for the record that the project site is not a “forest,” it’s an “oak woodland.” (If you look up synonyms for woodland, guess which word you’ll find!) “If we’re going to talk about it, we need to have the proper terminology,” Oglesby said. Mayor Ralph Rubio wanted to clarify the percentages of different tree sizes on the site. “I keep hearing ‘old-growth trees,’” he said, and appeared satisfied when told there are 60 trees on the project site with a trunk diameter of 24 inches or greater. But the best line came from Teri Wissler Adam, the city’s contract project manager, when she was asked about the assumed water credits from the county in the EIR. “The EIR is full of assumptions,” she said. Squid checked the dictionary this time: “a thing that is accepted as true… without proof.”

IF THE FANCY SHOE FITS… Not having feet, Squid doesn’t wear shoes, but if Squid could, Squid would likely favor sleek and sexy stilettos – to be ready for things like nights out at the ballet.

When Squid’s colleague bragged about getting a permit to wear high heels in Carmel, Squid not only felt a pang of envy, but also was reminded of former Monterey Peninsula Unified School District Superintendent Marilyn Shephard, who fell and broke her ankle while wearing heels on a Monterey sidewalk in 2014. She sued the city in 2015, claiming she was no longer able to enjoy fashionable heels because of her injury.

That litigation is still ongoing, but it would be moot if her fall had happened in Carmel. Since 1964, the village has required people who wear high heels in excess of 2 inches to have a permit. While it seems like just another quirky Carmel law (it is), it also protects the city from liability on its narrow dimly lit streets. Over the course of 42 years, city officials have doled out 1,186 free high-heel permits. In 2016, 270 permits have been issued to visitors to Carmel from all over the world. (That’s up from 189 issued in 2015.)

It’s easy to make fun of Carmel, from its war on ice cones in the 1980s to its war on beach fires in 2015. But the quirky village that loves regulation has at least protected itself from litigious fashionistas.

If Squid tries fancy shoes, maybe Squid will try them somewhere else – just to be safe.

RENTAL MENTAL… Squid thinks of Squidself as good-looking, kind, rational and brave. So yes, Squid has a lot of fantasies. That means Squid identifies with the likes of outlaw/cowboy executive chef Michael Jones of A Moveable Feast and, until last week, Cachagua General Store. Jones believes all sorts of nasty things about his former landlord – and Squid – and often takes to Facebook to lash out. And Squid’s fine with that. Squid may not have the largest brain in the sea, but Squid knows better than to assign credibility to late-night social media rants. Still, Squid spit out shrimp-flavored popcorn when reading one of Squid’s favorite e-newsletters last week. In reporting Jones’ move to Lokal restaurant in Carmel Valley, Edible Monterey Bay editor-in-chief Sarah Wood honored a pair of Jones pipe dreams: “Jones says a story in a local newspaper about his dispute with his landlord and the Soberanes Fire combined to make residents think CGS was closed… Meantime, he says the landlord was expecting ‘Carmel rents.’”

Squid knows Jones had blamed his eviction on Squid (the “local newspaper”), for quoting Jones himself as saying the store would at least close for roof repairs – though the eviction notice was issued well before that story ran, citing months of unpaid rent and lease violations. Squid also knows the rent – around $2,300 – is far from what, say, forthcoming Mulligan Public House pays for a smaller space in Carmel (around $10,000). Squid’s colleague called Wood for her side of the story, and she delivered a series of explanations for why she didn’t exercise basic journalistic practices. She “wasn’t doing a big story for the magazine,” but an e-newsletter piece on deadline. “We are serious journalists,” she said. “I was reporting his opinion.”

She also noted this would be Squid’s first time writing about EMB. “I thought you had some rule about mentioning we exist,” Wood said. “This would be so unsurprising that the first time you report that we exist is to slam us.” Squid’s not sure if Squid should feel better or worse that Squid’s never appeared in EMB, except in photos of calamari.

BOBOS IN PARADISE… Squid loves a night out on the town, and appreciates a contemporary take on Shakespeare in Carmel (like Pacific Repertory Theatre’s King Lear) but has a soft spot for more classic bohemian fare, partying with artsy lowlifes who enjoy music, wine and revelling in self-imposed poverty as starving artists. So on Nov. 6, when PacRep awarded its first-ever Bohemian of the Year Award to Barbara Livingston, a former city councilmember and current president of the Carmel Residents Association, Squid couldn’t help but laugh.

The award is to celebrate those who have fought “to keep Carmel, ‘Carmel.’” (Presumably, that refers to Carmel’s bohemian roots, when starving artists dominated the town.) Squid thinks PacRep had to engage in revisionist history and serious stretching of the word bohemian for the award to make sense.

While Squid respects Livingston’s tireless community engagement and understands she is beloved by many, this “Bohemian” has been outspoken against more wine-tasting rooms in the city, saying they will fill the streets with violent drunks. She has fought live music in city limits, specifically a singer-songwriter playing acoustic guitar at Mundaka and live piano music at Affina. Not very bohemian stances, Squid thinks.

The word bobo, coined by New York Times columnist David Brooks, comes to Squid’s mind. The portmanteau – combining the words “bohemian” and “bourgeois” – shows the hybrid of affluence and counterculture. Squid would suggest that next year, PacRep give their award a more accurate name and celebrate the “Bobo of the Year” instead.

SHADES OF BEIGE… Speaking of “placemaking” techniques, Squid has long been an observer of the city of Monterey’s limited color palette. Namely, beige – there’s even a shade called “Monterey beige.” (At least it’s not “Seaside Beige,” which could’ve generated a similarly contentious renaming process to the one Seaside City Council just went through.)

The latest casualty of Monterey’s beige-making is the wall of the Dali17 museum above the tunnel. The museum’s gone through name changes of its own: Before it was devoted to surrealism, it was the Museum of Monterey, and before that the Monterey Maritime and History Museum. Back in 2011, the Monterey History and Art Association commissioned “The Wave” from L.A. artist Andre Miripolsky, part of a $80,000 contract. The other day, the mural was covered over with, you guessed it, beige.

DOWN BALLOT… Squid gets it. Life can be confusing – is that a seal or sea lion? Rockfish or rock cod? Reality show star or president-elect?

But even amid a most bizarre and complicated time, Squid believes some confusion is far less understandable – or acceptable. So, as the year’s end invites reflection and Squid comes out of Squid’s Thanksgiving dinner stupor, Squid has some ink for Joe Heston and the KSBW editorial board.

To gracefully help local voters with the recent election, they encouraged a “no” vote on every single referendum on the ballot, including items like Measure E to fund Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks, Measure T to grant South County more access to Hartnell satellite campuses and Measure X to raise millions for local road maintenance, transit and pedestrian projects. (All three measures passed.)

Then there were yes-worthy state measures like raising the cigarette tax (Prop. 56), ending the death penalty (Prop. 62), legalizing marijuana (Prop. 64) and banning plastic bags (Prop. 67). (Those passed, with the exception of overturning the death penalty.)

KSBW’s take: “Our campaign slogan: ‘Voting NO is the way to go!’”

That’s crazy lazy. If KSBW isn’t willing to do its own research on what’s on the ballot – an appropriate role for responsible press – it has no place making endorsements.

Now Squid does plenty of lazy and irresponsible things. And, to reiterate, it can be a confusing world out there – is that a monkey-faced eel or a wolffish? But Squid’s not about to confuse Heston et al’s position with any form of public service.

As part of the “endorsement” commentary, Heston describes the amount of state propositions and local measures in a way that can also characterize KSBW’s diligence on behalf of voters: “It would all seem comical, except it is just plain sad.”

DRINKING GAMES… A few weeks back, Squid’s boss hosted folks from alternative weeklies across the West for a conference. Squid likes having guests; it’s a chance to learn, network and show off the lair to out-of-towners.

Part of that is a cherished tradition is taking visitors to Del Monte Beach in Monterey for a bonfire and beer. Unfortunately, the Monterey City Councilvoted 5-0 in August to ban alcohol consumption on city beaches without a permit.

The city originally wanted to charge residents $50 for a permit and nonresidents $65 with additional proof of insurance, but stumbled when it came to implementation. Squid’s colleague at the Weekly called the city to get a permit and was informed there was still no policy on issuing them, so went ahead and threw a beach party – with no cops. While the City Council and Police Chief Dave Hober don’t seem to object to laws they don’t enforce (e.g. medical marijuana deliveries, a sit/lie ban, panhandling restrictions), it was clear no one – probably not even city staffers or cops – would spend $50 to have a six-pack of beer on this beach with friends.

On Dec. 6, the council approved a different fee: $10 for a public consumption permit for 10 or fewer. Squid did the math: It’s about the price of a craft six-pack. Squid will drink a beer for every citation issued in 2017 in one sitting. Squid expects that even after that, Squid will still be sober.

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