Our Remotest Reader

Radioactive Beagles Here? Sure!

Photo by: Clayton NewbillPaul Brennan is a writer in a small town outside New Orleans, Louisiana. He entered—and won!—our fabulous most-expenses-paid "Win a Date with Commie Girl" contest. What follows is his winning submission.

What can I offer you that others can't? The one thing that all women want, at least according to what they say in public: a date who actually wants to listen to you, who is even looking forward to an evening of you talking about your life.

Too strange to be true? An empty promise? No and no. Before you dismiss this as a transparent ploy designed to improve my chances against the knock-knock jokesmiths of Orange County, consider this: I am willing to travel 2,000 miles to spend the evening with you. Can any of the others say this?

To be perfectly honest, I may have phrased that a little too dramatically. I have been planning since early June to be in Los Angeles from Aug. 16 to 26. It is a trip of 2,000 miles, plus whatever the distance is going from my rather basic accommodations near LAX down to Orange County. But if I explain the main reason for the trip, you'll find that you were one of the inspirations for it—long before this contest.

So please indulge me while I tell you the story. It's a story of you, Bob Dornan and radioactive beagles—though not in that order.

I live at the far end of the 2,000 miles in a place called Slidell, Louisiana. The city is named in honor of the only man ever to be a complete failure in the diplomatic service of both the United States and the Confederacy. It's located in St. Tammany Parish (if you have a Lives of the Saints close at hand, you'll discover there is no St. Tammany, but that has never worried anyone here) on the opposite shore of Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. St. Tammany serves many of the same functions that Orange County does: it's a haven for white flight, a playground for developers and a repository for many of the scarier elements of the state's right-wing politics. How scary? Until he stepped down this past February, the chairman of the parish's Republican party was David Duke.

Yes, that David Duke.

As for what I'm doing here, I won't bother you with that story beyond saying that at the root of the matter, as the first cause in a chain of events stretching back into the depths of my early childhood, Richard Nixon is to blame.

As for why someone living in this corner of the world is reading OC Weekly, Bob Dornan is to blame.

I'm not really a devotee of the Internet—I find digital dancing hamsters no more appealing than plastic singing bass—but it is useful for reading the alternative press. OC Weekly, however, was not on my reading list when I noticed its link at the bottom of the homepage of LA Weekly, but I couldn't imagine finding anything worth my while by using it.

Until, that is, LA Weekly reprinted an OC Weeklystory.

It was easily the most interesting thing in the issue, so I used the link. Then I saw the magic words: "Dornan Confidential." I double-clicked. I couldn't believe my good fortune.

If I weren't agnostic, I'd say, "God bless R. Scott Moxley." I read all his articles on Dornan. Printed out most of them. Thrust them on unsuspecting family and friends. I was delighted.

I've long been fascinated by Bob. At first, he just appalled me, but soon I was looking forward to every Weekly report of his obnoxious antics. Flashy and venomous but clumsy and limited, he is like one of those very elaborate reptiles found in the tropics. He seems to me an important symbol of his political era—he is what you get when you try to run a government without adult supervision.

So, I'd known for years Bob isn't Wagner; he's opera buffa. But it wasn't until I read "Dornan Confidential" that I knew just how buffa the opera is. I couldn't believe all this had escaped the notice of the national press or, at least, The Nation. Clearly, OC Weekly was worth reading.

I came for the Dornan and stayed for the political corruption, environmental degradation and many other pleasures offered each week (not the least of which is the art column, offering intelligent criticism presented after the style of a Viking raid on a monastery—snatch up the treasure and smash the rest, slaughtering whoever gets in the way and occasionally just putting the torch to everything in sight).

Initially, I was an interested but not weekly reader. Shockingly, I was even slow to recognize the value of Commie Girl—the column, not the writer. Sharply written and witty, it was about clubs I wouldn't be drinking in and nightlife I was much too far away to live. Mostly, I was picking articles that reflected what I already knew about Orange County. And that wasn't much.

To me, Orange County was its voting record—Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Pete Wilson, etc. It was a place so right-wing and detached from reality that it sent Bob Dornan to Congress and named its airport for John Wayne (the fierce celluloid patriot who, during World War II, fought long and hard to avoid military service). Of course, I knew there was also the beach, bankruptcy, Disneyland, all-powerful developers and a strong distaste for Los Angeles.

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