Diary of a Mad County

SUNDAY, April 14 “Why so happy?” we ask a whistling-while-he-works janitor at The Block at Orange. “'Cause I'm a union man,” he beams. The popular shopping mall recently became the first in California to allow its janitors to join a labor union, according to officials with Local 1877 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Mills Corporation, the Block's owner, quietly struck the deal—and we stress “quietly”; you don't want that shit getting around the Pacific Club—because it needed organized labor's blessing to build a mall in union-friendly San Francisco. Local 1877, which is better-known by its militant motto “Justice for Janitors,” promised to help push for the Bay Area expansion once Mills allowed its janitors in OC and the rest of California to form unions. Says Reina Schmitz, Local 1877's political community organizer, “It's the power of union solidarity.”

HB fish fry
Photo by Keith May
MONDAY, April 15 A fellow named Bo ringy-dingies to report a “holocaust” at Huntington State Beach, where thousands of dead grunion have washed up onto the sand, most heavily around lifeguard station No. 8 near Pacific Coast Highway and Magnolia Street. Seagulls usually feast on such messes, but Bo says they're avoiding these guts-oozing fishies. “You know there's something wrong with the water out there they're not telling us,” Bo alleges. County health officials closed this same stretch of beach on April 9 and throughout the summer of 1999 due to high bacteria readings. The source of the toxins remains a mystery, although leaky beach restrooms, underground-sewer-pipe breaks, bird shit collected in nearby wetlands, and partially treated human waste flushed offshore have all been suspects. TUESDAY, April 16 A 150-pound female sea lion is found vomiting and foaming at the mouth on the beach at 54th Place in Long Beach. She is among nearly 50 sea lions and dozens of dolphins that have beached themselves from San Diego to Santa Barbara since mid-March. Recovery workers say the cause is domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin found in algae blooms on which anchovies—they're not just a pizza topping anymore; they're sea lion food!—feed. Natural occurrences aside, local environmentalists say the size and frequency of algae blooms have increased in recent years, and some fear partially treated human waste flushed offshore is the cause. WEDNESDAY, April 17 King's Seafood Co.—a chain of 11 restaurants that includes 555 East in Long Beach and King's Fish Houses in Orange, Laguna Hills and Long Beach—pulled Chilean sea bass from its menus to help save the fish from extinction, reports the Long Beach Press Telegram. It's quite the gutsy call: King's sells about 37 tons of Chilean sea bass annually. The Original Fish Co. in Los Alamitos may also join the ban, which is already being honored at several famous New York and San Francisco eateries. Hey, if you guys need a replacement, we know where you can score some grunion cheap. THURSDAY, April 18 Do we smell fishy this week or what? Southern California Coastal Water Research Projectbiologists are finding all kinds of nasty shit in the livers of fish plucked off the coast from Santa Barbara to Mexico, reports the Ventura County Star. Nearly all bottom-dwelling sanddab fish show at least traces of toxic chemicals. The sanddabs and white croaker—another fish that has developed a David Crosby-like liver—are considered the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, only the coal mine is saltwater. Researchers say they're finding the pesticide DDT and electronic insulation known as PCBs in fish and marine habitats along the coast, even though those toxins were banned decades ago. Mighty Ducks star Paul Kariya watches the start of the NHL playoffs from his living room for the third straight season. Kariya has played into the postseason just once in his eight-year career; Anaheim has made it to the playoffs just twice in its nine-year history. “I feel good physically,” Kariya tells a Canadian reporter who asks about a late-season foot injury. “Mentally, I'm on suicide watch.” Let's hope he doesn't jump once he becomes a free agent in July. FRIDAY, April 19 Car-alarm magnate turned Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) may challenge U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in 2004, reports the San Diego Union Tribune. Issa, whose district includes parts of south Orange County, joins fellow Republican Representatives Christopher Cox of Newport Beach, Mary Bono of Palm Springs and David Dreier of Pomona as possible Boxer foes. Though Issa spent $12 million of his own money only to lose the GOP nomination for the same office to Matt Fong in 1998, a showdown with Boxer could be like Armageddon. Boxer is Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel; Issa is of Arab descent, and his tolerance of Yasser Arafat and scorn for Ariel Sharon already outrage some, including the radical Jewish Defense League, whose leaders Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel are in jail for allegedly plotting to bomb Issa's Vista office. Of course, all this Arab-Israel stuff will be resolved by 2004, right?

Huntington Beach resident and Republican gubernatorial candidate Nick Jesson informs us that the state appellate court in Santa Ana rejected his bid to nullify the March primary election, which found him garnering 17,746 votes to declared winner Bill Simon's 1,048,013. “This is a very sad time in our country to see so much corruption going on with very few doing anything to stop it,” Jesson tells us. He sued because he maintains he was the only statewide candidate who pledged he'd not join entities that will overthrow the U.S.—as required by law. “This saddens my heart to see that the American people today cannot see what we are leaving to the future of our children. No longer will they know the freedom that we once enjoyed less than 40 years ago. And one day soon, they will awaken to the army of United Nations troops, which already outnumber our troops in our country by four to one, running our country and lives.” Wise up, California: write in Nick Jesson's name on the November ballot . . . before it's too late.

SATURDAY, April 20 Orange County public television station KOCE/Channel 50 boldly ignores PBS network president Pat Mitchell and airs Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street. Huntington Beach-based KOCE is one of 11 PBS stations nationwide airing the CNBC-produced show. Rukeyeser fled to the cable network last month after Maryland Public Television fired him from his 32-year stint as host of Wall $treet Week. In a four-page letter, Mitchell urged PBS programmers to avoid the Rukeyeser show, as it would undermine the all-new Wall Street Week With Fortune rolling out on June 28. That KOCE is going against the grain is no surprise; for years, they've ignored the tastes of anyone under 80 by boldly airing Lawrence Welk reruns. SUNDAY April 21 We stumble onto yournovel.com, where couples give their names, hair colors and other personal details so they can be written into one of 11 romance/adventure novels for $49.95 and change. “Newlyweds can find themselves chasing bad guys on wave runners off the North Carolina coast, foiling a stalker on a luxury cruise ship, or tangling with a cougar in the wild,” states the promo material. “That's just the adventure part. They can also skinny-dip in the Caribbean, frolic under a waterfall, or swing into bliss on a hammock.” Scoot over, Ms. Sea Lion: now we're vomiting and foaming at the mouth. Nick Schou contributed to this week's report.

Shoot! SATURDAY, April 20: American gothic — The family who builds cat shelters together stays together.
Photo by Jack Gould

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