Excerpts: Part 1

March 1, 1996 [W]ho aside from you, dear readers, has ever heard of OC Weekly? Though I don't miss the LA Times cafeteria, I do rather miss the snap of recognition that came with the mention of the Times' million-circulation name.

So, when [musician John] Prine called for a scheduled interview the other day, I didn't initially identify us as the Weekly but instead adopted a name I hoped might hit a nerve:

OC Weekly: Hello, Occupational Dentistry Magazine. John Prine: Hello? Mr. Prine, I think the question our readership would most like answered is: Do you floss?


In show business, a person's smile is among their greatest assets. How much of your fame do you attribute to your teeth?

Not much. Usually when I go to the dentist, it's about three years too late. You can see pictures of cars in their eyes when they look in my mouth. I get abscesses, root canals. They fall out, all kinds of stuff. Since I'm going on the road soon, I've been going to the dentist, like, twice a week for eight weeks in a row.

Do you always try to get your teeth in such prime condition for the road?

No, just every time I get married. I'm gettin' married next month when I get back, and you want to start into a marriage with good teeth.

Jim Washburn, "Music With Teeth: John Prine takes the bait"

March 8, 1996 [W]hen the last resident had spoken, Fullerton Chief of Police Patrick McKinley aired a grievance of his own, one that stunned the audience: "Somebody in this room probably knows who fired the bullet that killed Ramon Toro.

"If somebody could tell us who fired it," he continued in a sharp voice, "we wouldn't have to do something like that."

The chief's crisp remark captured the essence of the troubled relations between Fullerton police and the Maple area's primarily Latino residents. And it made one thing unmistakably clear: the city's police have decided to bring their own pursuit of justice straight into the living rooms of anyone they believe is connected, however remotely, to shootings like Toro's. In doing so, they've adopted operations reminiscent of Vietnam: an occupying army bent on separating the "bad guys" from the "responsible" population it claims to protect—and at the same time, using brutal tactics that tend to punish both groups in equal measure.

Nick Schou, "Fullerton Metal Jacket: When the police go military, the city goes Vietnam"

March 29, 1996 I understood now. If I were prejudiced and uncaring enough to exclude an airport—or, for that matter, any technological advancement —from my neighborhood, it was only a matter of time before I would be painting Juden on storefronts and shipping Japanese-Americans to Manzanar. Denying property lefts was mere preface. First you subjugate the developers; next you enslave Arabs, Hispanics, the handicapped and working women. I had been a fool, a bus driver on the road to the Final Solution.

NIMBY outrages flowed through my head like black-and-white newsreels: Pol Pot? Hitler? Stalin? NIMBYs. The Spanish Inquisition? Rwanda? The U.S.-backed genocide in East Timor? Mere precursors to the suburban slow-growth movement. Thank God I was rescued before my soul was lost.

Nathan Callahan, "Death of a NIMBY: From now on,mi back yardes su back yard"

April 5, 1996 "Let's take a run-through," a producer suggests. Of the poem, she means. Waiting for the poet, we've been through everything else twice. I've been warned and warned again: when [Homeless Writers Coalition president Robert] Chambers finishes the poem, I'm supposed to turn from camera three (his) to camera two and say something kind about the poem, reintroduce the poet, and give him a moment to get off his perch, cross the set and sit with us in one of the dense-as-diamond chairs.

I introduce him. Homeless. Poet. President of the coalition. He's featured in the PBS special The United States of Poetry. And here he is reciting his poem "My Country's Dissin' Me."

It's no recital. It is organic and natural, a seamless indictment he seems to stitch together as he goes—about job loss, class and a global economy that isn't global enough to include people like him. It references telephone company advertisements, multinational corporations, the Pacific Rim, cardboard boxes and world trade flows. It is musical—rising and falling, spit, snug, chanted without artifice. And it ends with a vague, dangerous-sounding reference to revolution.

And when it ends, there is silence. Nobody does anything. I forget to look into camera two. The floor director forgets to tell me to look into camera two. Looming over the poet's head in the monitor behind him is my immense face, and I see it as if that face belongs to a stranger because it's expressing something I've never seen it express: fear and hope at the same time.

Will Swaim, "Poetry, Schmoetry: Rhyme—and the reason for poems"

April 5, 1996 Next to them on the OCN election-night set were Buchanan Stepford wife Jo Ellen Allen and OC Weekly left fielder Mark Petracca, who appeared to be playing footsie. The way they were carrying on, it seemed that at any moment, Petracca was going to stand up, grab Allen by the shoulders, throw her down on the carpet and scream:

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