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The Lowest Common Denominator

from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody

“That's idiot compassion," Janet implored.
"The more you go along with an idiot the
more you become as idiot yourself."
— from The Reeducation
of a Turd Peddler

WELL, THE JURY IS no longer out.After a year of legal wrangling, the City of El Fornio has decided that it will be against the law for any person to wear open-toed shoes, sandals, heels or boots—any footwear presenting any fool appendage—on Juan De Anza Street, also known as Main Street El Fornio.
  Why, you ask, has our great, little town decided to play to the lowest common denominator?
  I’ll tell you.
  Last summer a boy from up from Lompoc on his vacation, name of Anthony Firestone, was walking with his family downtown, along the main drag, and in an awkward flip flop hitch—no doubt dragged down by, we discover late in the trial, a McDonald’s supersized coke, fries and Quarter Pounder—stubbed his post-prandial toe.
  Who hasn’t? I remember big toes, bloody and split open ugly—they were a right of passage. I remember Janet walloping her left big toe in the parking lot at the beach. We were, like, thirteen or fourteen. She had great feet and took a hit.   “Medic!” I yelled.
  Unfortunately, in little Tony’s case, the toe became infected and after three visits to the doctor, two doses of antibiotics and three afternoons where he didn’t wash the injured digit, continuing to wear flip flops back down on the streets of Lompoc, little Tone Tony lost the member—which means they cut off his toe (out of respect to his privacy, we never did learn, during the trial, which big toe it was).
I have to say that I’m a bit pissed off about it all. Just because some fat boy stubbed his toe, couldn’t take care of it and got it amputated, we should all be told   that we can’t wear open-toed shoes on Main Street.
  Whatever happened to common sense?
  The lowest common denominator trumps everything these days. This town, in the words of a friend, has become “anhedonic.” Like a lot of spots up and down the coast, they don’t’ want you to have good time. At least, not in the way you used to.
  People could come here because it was a good place to come to. It was a great town—is! But they spend so much time protecting what’s great about it, youcan’t get into it anymore.
  Tony Firestone stubs his toe on Main. Then the next you know, some idiot ex-con gets too drunk in the park and knocks somebody’s block off. All of a sudden, we’re all idiotic ex-cons who get drunk and knock somebody’s block off.   Everytime I have a beer I could knock somebody’s block off, right?
  Last year I pushed a plywood float for three hours up Main Street during the Solstice parade and ended up getting put in a cage with a bunch of other exhilarated volunteers who just wanted one, maybe two, cold ones. Instead, we got our IDs looked over and bright colored bands wrapped around our wrists as guards watched us from the perimeter.
  This is the kind of thing that makes us the laughing stock of the Western world.
I remember when you could sleep on the beach, camp in a canyon or dive off the pier. We’re all treated like idiots nowadays who can’t take care of ourselves. They spend months setting up events so that you might have a good time, but at the end you can’t really have one. Rather, you end up helping the police and city council support their vision of an orderly society. No creature likes being scolded, shining citizen, brazen criminal or loyal pet
  In protest, I vow that some time this week, I will shoot a rabbit out back of the historical society parking lot (there’s a lot of them), put on my flip flops—which I wear, like, twice a year—walk down Main Street, then, eventually, jump off the pier and swim back to shore. None of it is immoral, but all of it seems to be illegal these days.
  Am I becoming nostalgic?

POSTSCRIPT: Today I was downtown and saw that in some of the local shops Little Tony’s Toe Key Rings™ were for sale. Yeah. Someone had made up plastic toes hooked to key rings, designed and executed the packaging, and now you can buy them up and down Main Street. Once I figure out who’s behind this, I’m getting a case for the historical society. Dolores will likely protest, but I feel like I’m about to have my confidence in this town restored.


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