The Safety Dance

Stumbling out of bed on New Year's Day 1998, a strange feeling came over us.

Was it the four-Tylenol migraine?

Eyeballs three sizes bigger than their sockets?

The funky taste from Casserole la Whatever Wound up in Our Mouth on New Year's Eve?

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Nope. This was something different, something we've never experienced before.

Total security.

We couldn't figure out what was causing this freaky state of being until we got back to the office. As usual, enlightenment required a press release (thank you, press-release-maker people): "Californians will wake up to a safer state on Jan. 1, 1998, thanks to a host of new laws authored by Assembly Republicans and passed during the 1997 legislative session," stated Assembly GOP leader Bill Leonard's fax.

Ah, yes: like Indiana Jones in a pit of armed crack dealers, the Grand Old Poop had undoubtedly come through again: tripling the prison population, snuffing convicted killers, quashing defendants' rights, spilling more AK-47s and Saturday-night specials onto the streets-all in the name of packing piece, Old West justice and the Republican way. Who else but the GOP deserves credit for the declining homicide rate in OC in '97, while death-penalty convictions reached an all-time high?

However, as we scanned Leonard's fax, we found none of this. This was no Mano a Mano Manifesto. Instead, he trumpeted such Ned Flandersian dreck as the School Safety Law, the School Immunizations Law, the School Bus Safety Law, the Education: Life Science and Conservation Project Law, and-to battle that scourge of modern society-the Body Piercing Law.

Think about it: Would Ronald Reagan (God rest his soul) associate himself with oh-Big-Brother-please-save-us-from-mean-piercing-needles legislation? We think not.

As the year progressed, we were able to put our finger on what was making us feel so safe (important etiquette tip: people tend to stare when you put your finger on what makes you feel so safe in public).

Here we present our month-by-month rundown of the year that was, and you'll discover that-thanks to our forward-looking cops, courts, voters, HMOs, lemons, gnatcatchers, politicians, developers, prosecutors, Register, Just Say Noseys, public utilities, bleeding hearts, school officials, border patrol, toll-road agencies, Walt Disney Co., real-estate appraisers, transportation officials, animal-control officers, and Lord and Savior-we are now safe from buses, cougars, oranges, PinkMan, hate crimes, healthy kids, gnatcatchers, crack moms, Vietnamese youth, bilingual education, hemp-shampoo ads, cigarette smoke in bars, Toni Morrison's Beloved, Wall Street securities firms, black-market pot-bellied pigs, slums of Newport Coast, Orange County's meanest man, Disneyland president Paul Pressler, cold water offshore from the San Onofre nuclear power plant, visiting Japanese businessmen with perpetual woodies, Hermann Goering's wedding sword and Luftwaffe coat, feds meddling in toll-road development, Pat Robertson's Surf City Offshore Oil Terminal, Temple of Doom and Gift Shop, and videographers whose idea of a money shot is an oblivious woman's moving crotch.

As a bonus, we don't have Jay Kim, Matt Fong, Rob Hurtt, Bob Dornan, Dan Lungren, Jim Morrissey, Gloria Matta Tuchman, Mike "Mad Dog" Capizzi, a Mayor Bob Zemel in Anaheim, a Mayor Ted Moreno-who could have made Marion Barry look like Billy Graham-in Santa Ana, and Harold Ezell to kick around anymore.

How safe are we? Marines now watch over Trestles. The Boy Scouts can be as exclusive as our finest country clubs. The Baker Street Gang gangbangs on Iris Circle. When Huntington Beach punk band Guttermouth's lead singer allegedly exposed himself to an underage girl (allegedly), he didn't dare do it here-he did it in Canada. And everywhere you look, they're pouring more concrete-warm, glorious concrete.

Trust us: there's safety in concrete.

Hell, Gray Davis is gonna be our governor! How much safer could we be? Oh, don't get him started; he'll cane kids if he has to.

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