Diary of a Mad County

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 18 U.S. troops in the holy city of Najaf surround the Imam Ali Mosque, where Iraqi cleric Muqtada Sadr is hiding with hundreds of armed supporters. News reports suggest Sadr may be willing to abandon the mosque in exchange for a place in the new Iraqi government. Meanwhile, despite its 2-1 loss to Morocco, the Iraqi Olympic soccer team is guaranteed to advance to the semifinals in Athens. A Bush campaign ad takes credit for Iraq's fine performance.

THURSDAY, AUG. 19 Mad County Diarian Steve Lowery splits town and asks me to take over his column for a week. I start looking for interesting items in my e-mail inbox and discover that Skyy Vodka has just introduced the latest in its line of flavored vodkas: Skyy Orange. Like the TV show The O.C.and the light-hearted teenage romp A Clockwork Orange, this is an obvious attempt to cash in on Orange County's hip and happenin' lifestyle. I also learn that an Associated Press/Ipsos Public Affairs survey—which asks Americans whether they think the “United States made a mistake in going to war in Iraq”—finds 50 percent responding yes. That's a 10 percent increase since April, when only 40 percent of Americans read the news. The Orange County Register conducts its own informal poll of local residents and discovers that half believe President Bush screwed the pooch. And this in what the travel brochures say is one of America's most conservative counties! Meanwhile, no polls are released in Iraqdue to continued fighting between U.S. forces and supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, who refuses to surrender.

FRIDAY, AUG. 20 I get hit with a family emergency and fly to my hometown of Reno, Nevada—immortalized by Vladimir Nabokov in his masterpiece Lolita as a “dull and dreary desert town”—to visit my ailing grandmother. There used to be nothing but a panorama of sagebrush leading to distant mountains behind her back yard. Now, all I can see are more houses. I take solace in the fact that Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr has apparently abandoned the holy Imam Ali Mosque. Speaking of Holy Shiite, when did the Virgin of Guadalupe die and make Bishop Jaime Sotoprotector of Latinos in Orange County? He's already raised hell about a spicy depiction of la Virgen at the Fullerton Museum Center (see Gustavo Arellano's “Nuestra Señora de Censorship,” Aug. 20). Today, Soto denounces the growing raunchiness of Spanish-language radio in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I think it's very harmful, particularly to younger people,” Soto declares. Pardon me, padre, but given the dozens of priestly sex-abuse lawsuits that threaten to bankrupt your diocese, maybe you've got more important things to do than listen to wacky Latino morning shows like El Cucuy.

SATURDAY, AUG. 21 A friend is listening to wacky Spanish-language radio—KZAB-FM 93.5 “La Sabrosa”—when the station runs a Taco Bell advertisement in which the announcer, speaking Spanish in a Charlie Chan accent, tells listeners to sample the restaurant's tasty “bu-llitos.” What genius told Taco Bell that making fun of Chinese people would get people to eat Mexican food? Here's a tip, Taco Bell: stick to what you're good at—making fun of Mexicans. In Reno, I spend the night in a smoking room at the Peppermill Casino and wake up at 2:30 a.m., choking on fumes. I try unsuccessfully to lull myself into a coma by watching women's Olympic speed-walking on the casino TV but am instead kept absolutely, apocalyptically wired by news reports that say rebel Iraqi Shia Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr is still inside the Imam Ali Mosque. At dawn, I grab a coffee inside the casino's lobby, which is full of Professional Black Golfers from Sacramento. Two crew-cut rednecks in cowboy hats slug their beers and glare menacingly at the black golfers. The tension breaks when one of the yahoos asks one of the golfers, “Where are all the fucking sluts at?”

SUNDAY, AUG. 22 The Times reports that thieves outwitted an unarmed security guard at the Munchsmuseet in Oslo, snatching The Scream from the wall before disappearing in a stolen car. I care less about this than the fact that my great-great-uncle, Olaf Schou, who was an idiot, donated another version of the painting to the Norwegian National Gallery. So if the brazen criminals who took The Scream are reading this, please forward said painting to me, c/o OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701-7417, Attention: Scream for Nick. And I thank you. In today's Register, Latino entertainment reporter Justino Águila hacks out two long stories on the high-flying Mexican lucha libre bouts at the Anaheim Indoor Marketplace, a story we did three and a half years ago (see Gustavo Arellano's “Lucha F@!#%n' Libre!” Feb. 8, 2001). In his article, Águila twice translates the term “lucha libre” as “fight for freedom.” The only problem: as anyone with a third-grade level of Spanish can tell you, lucha libre means “free fight” and refers to the fact that no weapons are used in the struggle. It's similar to “karate,” which is Japanese for “empty hand.” Aguila, by the way, is Spanish for “dodo bird.”

MONDAY, Aug. 23 Even though we're trying to kill him, radical rebel Iraqi Shia Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr—who is still inside the Imam Ali Mosque—manages to secure the release of kidnapped American freelance journalist Micah Garen. U.S. forces thank Sadr by dropping bombs within yards of the mosque. I fly from Reno to Southern California and spend more time on The Golden State of Disarray Freeway (5)trying to get to Santa Ana from downtown LA than I did in the air. I pass the time listening to Patt Morrison on KPCC's Air Talk discuss how much better life is in Europe—where the average daily commute for workers is 19 minutes. Gustavo Arellano complains that his girlfriend officially dumped him. He spent his entire weekend purchasing $10 worth of stamps with 1,000 pennies. Arellano's exercise in penny-pinching proves that old copper coins can be used for something other than filling Arrowhead water jugs, polluting public fountains, throwing at cars, tossing off high buildings or placing on train tracks. As to what to do with all the stamps? Gustavo, who lives with his mom, suggests sending a card to your mom.

TUESDAY, AUG. 24 ATimes article quotes a Sports Illustrated article in which members of the Iraqi Olympic soccer team essentially tell Bush to fuck off. God punishes the Iraqi team with a 3-1 loss to Paraguay, ending its hope for a medal. The Garden Grove City Councillistens to speakers argue for and against the city's plan to sell off a chunk of Harbor Boulevard to an Indian tribe that would pave the way for a Steve Wynn-run casino. Ironically, for the past two years, Garden Grove officials have viciously maligned cybercafés as modern-day speakeasies, driving most of the locally owned coffeehouses out of business. In an amazing display of restraint, Mayor Bruce “Bulldozer” Broadwater—a man who wields eminent domain the way that fat guy in Gladiator wielded a ball and chain—comes out against the casino, citing his Christian beliefs. Funny: Broadwater wasn't citing Jesus Christ two years ago when he was about to flatten a working-class neighborhood to make room for roller coasters.

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 25 Good news in Iraq: news reports suggest that radical firebrand/rebel Iraqi Shia Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadrhas been crushed by the weight of his own name.


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