Excerpts: Part 2

Nov. 20, 1998 In 1982, Vans' checkerboard slip-on deck shoes became an alternative-fashion rage because they were featured in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High; they were worn throughout the flick by Sean Penn, who played a burned-out surfer named Jeff Spicoli. Despite the endorsement of hundreds of real-life professional skate- and snowboarders, the fictional Spicoli—earnestly deadpan and good-naturedly subversive—is probably still the most accurate poster boy for the suburban-rebel values of Vans' typical young customer. He's practically their Buster Brown.

Dave Wielenga, "How Vans Inc. Remains Your Very Own Personal Megabrand."

Nov. 27, 1998 "I'm a nut," Mark said to me and smiled.

I did not know what to say.

"Well, c'mon," he said. "I'll show you my spot."

By which he means his house, the place where he sleeps. Mark's spot is the side entryway of an empty office building. It is enclosed on three sides, and it has a roof. The floor is a slab of concrete about 6 feet by 12 feet, bordered on each side by 1 1/2-foot-wide strips of dirt that once contained plants. The walls are stucco, dirty and streaked. Finding a good spot is one of the most important activities for someone who is homeless. When you first come to the streets or when, for one reason or another (say the cops roust you), you have to find a new spot, you go on a recon. You look for a place that cannot easily be seen from the street (the cops are lazy, Mark explained; they don't like to leave their cars unless they have to). You look for a place that the daytime tenants leave at a reasonable hour so that you can get under cover for the night. If you are lucky (as Mark was), you will find a place with a working faucet that can be turned on with a pair of pliers if the handle is missing. If you are exceedingly lucky (as Mark was), you will find a place with a working electric supply that can be tapped into in order to power a radio or a small TV or whatever other appliance you may have scrounged or bought or stolen. And when you have found a spot, you are very, very careful who you tell about it or invite over for a visit. Someone tipped off by a careless word might hijack your spot. A rowdy visitor, too happy with smoke or booze, might get loud and carry on, irritating more conventional nearby residents and bringing the heat.

Bob Emmers, "How to Live on the Streets: How to get there, how to stay there"

Dec. 4, 1998 One of so many, many irritating things about writing for the Register was the fact that I was scrawling alongside crusading-moralist staff editorials and boneheaded opinion columnists. The situation was strangely ironic—Show writers would be trumpeting the hot pop-culture icon of the month on their cover one day, while a few days later, the paper's troglodytic columnists would be farting out a diatribe about how that same pop-culture icon is Satan's wicked instrument. No wonder the budget for Show has always been so sickly.

Rich Kane, "What's It Like to be a Big-Time Music Writer at a Major Metropolitan Newspaper? 45 Months in the Life of aRegister Rock Critic"

Dec. 11, 1998 Christmas is that most American of holidays because Christmas is about money, and Americans have most of it. We like to tell ourselves that Christmas is about fellowship and family, the kind of things we see in It's a Wonderful Life. Those things are present sometimes, allegedly, but Christmas is about shopping and parents fighting over this season's Tickle Me Elmo du jour and buying the new, digitally re-mastered It's a Wonderful Life laserdisc on a soon-to-be-maxed-out credit card. You know this, even if you won't admit it. This is America, my friend: first you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women. Money—and what we buy with our money—defines us.

Steve Lowery, "The $1.2 Million Holiday! . . . And the gifts you'll actually get!" by Santa Claus

Dec. 11, 1998 Does anyone else find it amusingly ironic that the new federal building and U.S. courthouse in Santa Ana that are named after reputed government-regulation terminator Ronald Reagan—of "History shows that no government has ever voluntarily reduced itself in size" fame—is nicknamed "The Bureaucratic Box"? How about "The Fuck the Poor Triple the Debt CIA Crackhead Trickle Down Me Elmo Central American Death March Box"?

Matt Coker, A Clockwork Orange

Dec. 25, 1998 The Christmas Happening came at a kind of cusp, as we were beginning the slide into more cynical, complicated times. The Flower Children were growing up, getting older, realizing the lures and responsibilities of families and careers. The Movement was just running out of energy. Long hair would become fashionable. Flower Power would become a marketing strategy.

Bob Emmers, "Laguna on Acid: The Great Hippie Christmas Invasion of 1970"


Jan. 29, 1999 Defending any disgraced president's legacy—particularly one filled with decades of treachery, deceit, anti-Semitism and racism—can't be easy, but John Taylor tackles the job with relish. White House burglary operations? Illegal wiretaps on private citizens? FBI and IRS harassment of domestic political enemies? Selling of ambassadorships? Shaking down lobbyists? Blackmail? Witness tampering? Hush money to felons? Smear campaigns? Bribes totaling $549,000 from Greek businessman Thomas Pappas? No problem. According to Taylor, such facts are either gross fabrications of a liberal conspiracy or justified because of the hostile "political climate" Nixon faced. Such a mindset isn't surprising. After all, who is Taylor to contradict Dick Nixon, who went to his grave in 1994 without amending his infamous statement (made, by the way, in Laguna Beach) to British interviewer David Frost: "When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal"?

R. Scott Moxley, "Stand by Your, er, Dick: Nixon apologist Taylor tries to exploit Clinton-impeachment frenzy"
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