MONARCHS GO SOUTH… Squid was enjoying a little Central Coast vacation, trailing tentacles in the Pismo State Beach sand, when Squid stumbled upon the town’s Monarch Butterfly Grove. Tens of thousands of orange-and-black beauties clustered on the branches, and through binoculars Squid marveled at how the sunlight lit up their translucent wings like stained glass. But the spectacle also brought a touch of melancholy: The butterflies are eerily absent from Pacific Grove’s own Monarch Grove Sanctuary. The latest count, according to entomologist Paul Cherubini, is a depressing six. And yet the Herald ran a Jan. 4 tourist-target piece by Lily Dalton of Adventures Monterey Bay, quoting P.G. Museum of Natural History Director Lori Mannel as saying the grove has “huge clusters in December,” despite this year’s sad reality. City government watchdogs including Esther Trosow blame the butterfly vacuum on heavy pruning done at the direction of Public Works Director Celia Perez Martinez, which could have messed up the distinct microclimate that attracts the fussy insects. But monarchs are mysterious creatures, and no one really knows for sure why they shunned P.G. this year. One thing’s for sure: Squid misses them.
HEAVENS TO BIXBY… The majesty of Big Sur has been immortalized in song, prose and Squid ink. Soon, it’ll be stamped into American-postal history with the Feb. 3 release of a Bixby Bridge USPS stamp. Surrians on the WildBigSur e-mail list were miffed a local artist wasn’t commissioned to glorify the 78-year-old classic concrete-arch bridge on Highway 1: Toby Rowland-Jones asks, “Why on earth, given the plethora of amazingly gifted artists we have here in Big Sur, no one was asked to do this stamp?” But a post from Rep. Sam Farr notes the USPS has to stick to its own bureaucratic process. And it’s hard to deny Illinois illustrator Dan Cosgrove did a nice job, even working a brown pelican into the iconic scene. Squid would love to add the Bixby issue to Squid’s Monterey County stamp collection (featured prominently are last year’s kelp forest scene and a 1979 Steinbeck portrait), though the $18.30 Express Mail postage is almost as steep as the Garrapata slopes. Surrians have a better idea: Rather than issue the stamp with no fanfare, as the USPS is planning, let local “artists and partisans” create envelope art to complement the stamp, and Big Sur’s post office can cancel it on the first day of issue. That would soothe miffed locals, celebrate Sur pride, produce a collector’s item, and help publicize the lasting beauty of a region still healing, physically and financially, from its burn wounds. Michael Minasian has made the request; Squid’s hoping the USPS will deliver.