Diary of a Mad County

Sept. 20 - Sept. 26

Wednesday, Sept. 20
Orange County sheriff's deputies discover a marijuana farm near O'Neill Regional Park in Mission Viejo and harvest about 20,000 plants with a street value of $12.5 million, though that does come with a complimentary Phish CD. The bust is a shock in this bedroom community, where the city motto is "You don't have to be high to live here but, um, what?" The farm was large enough to actually have groves, groves that flourished within sight of Stoneridge Estates, a gated community with multimillion-dollar homes, though property values immediately plummeted with news of the plants' removal. One newspaper reported that Stoneridge residents were "stunned" by the bust. Said one resident, "Oh, shit, they got the grass? All 40,000 plants? What, only 20,000? I mean, ooooh, oh, who will think of the children? The children must be considered. I believe I will go consider the children as I mellow out by gazing upon my blacklight poster of a naked Aztec chick riding an eagle or a dragon or a griffin. What the hell is a griffin? Is that the one with the fire? Remember Merv Griffin? That dude was funny. Bet he was high. And Barney Fife, dude was totally high. Hey, anybody see the block captain? That dude has my Phish CD."

Thursday, Sept. 21
All eyes are on the United Nations after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez calls George W. Bush the devil in a speech before the general assembly. People are outraged by Chavez's characterization and, though we're no fan of Mr. Bush, Chavez's comparison is unfair. For one, the devil seems like the kind of guy who always has a plan whatever the situation, including an exit strategy. For another, he seems like the kind of guy who gets things done: the Inquisition, World War II, a singing career, this is a can-do guy. Bush? He mostly gets in slap-fights with Venezuelans. But that is beside the point, which is that while watching Chavez's speech I caught a glimpse of those massive white earphones the delegates use for translations. They look like the temperature selector from an electric blanket. Um, pardon me, ambassador, but you can get headphones not the size of a small appliance at Target. They cost, like, 10 bucks. Or maybe you prefer to hear about the crisis in Sudan while wearing a 1983 Yugo over your ear. Peace.

Friday, Sept. 22
Tired.

Saturday, Sept. 23
Huntington Beach once again proves that it has a small penis as it defends its trademarked right to call itself "Surf City USA." Lawyers for the city's visitors bureau send a cease-and-desist letter to a Santa Cruz T-shirt shop currently selling T-shirts that read "Surf City Santa Cruz California USA." Yeah, because that's a bigger threat to Huntington Beach than filthy ocean water, mad-dog cops and crooked politicians. And besides, is there anything more surfy than a cease-and-desist order? I just hear the phrase "cease and desist," and I'm cast back to a time of such surf legends as Miki "Da Cat" Dora and Roy Cohn. This has become an increasingly dull and stupid fight between those two cities for the right to call themselves this always dull and stupid name. And most of it, frankly, is coming from Huntington Beach. When a spokesman for Santa Cruz dismissed the seriousness of the T-shirt infraction by saying, correctly, "C'mon, it's only a T-shirt," Huntington Beach Mayor Jill Hardy showed just how truly surfy she is by answering that if Santa Cruz "wants to help a business violate trademark law, that's Santa Cruz's problem. The city of Huntington Beach would not take it lightly if a store was violating federal law." Gnarly! And hey, if there's anyone who knows about violating federal laws, it figures to be a mayor of Huntington Beach, because those dudes know all about violating the law—that and how to walk with your hands behind your back and a jacket thrown over your face.

Sunday, Sept. 24
Golf
. As if.

Monday, Sept. 25
From Nick Schou: "Three years after the Weekly exposed then-Huntington Beach Mayor Pamela Houchen's fraudulent real-estate deals—and about two years after the rest of Orange County's media establishment caught on to the story—U.S. District Court Judge David Carter sentences her to 37 months in federal prison. It all started when Houchen, a local real-estate agent who doubled as a city official, purchased apartment buildings and illegally converted them into condominiums, thus depleting the city's paltry stock of affordable housing units and enriching herself—while the buyers ended up with apartment units that they thought were actually condos. Houchen sat teary-eyed through the daylong proceeding, wiping her face with an endless supply of tissues as several of her victims testified that she ruined their lives. Although her attorneys argued that Houchen had cooperated with the government from the very beginning of the case, victim Renee Tarnow testified that Houchen kept quiet about her involvement until roughly a year after 'OC Weekly blew the scandal wide open' in October 2003. It wasn't until the Times and Register jumped on the case that Houchen abruptly resigned. And despite Carter's sympathy for Houchen's status as a mother of 4-year-old triplets, he gave her the harshest sentence possible: 37 months—seven more months than prosecutors, who signed a plea agreement with Houchen that led to six other convictions in the case—had asked for. 'You and I both know that public officials will never be looked at quite the same way,' Carter told Houchen. 'That's a stain on the trust the voters give us.' Carter ordered Houchen to surrender herself to the U.S. Marshal's office on Nov. 6."

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