The Show Goes On
Randy Bechtel
The Show Goes On

Could a reality TV series about Weed, California succeed? I’ve begun to think so, but only after Eddie and Vivian left Weed for Southern California. Eddie is in West Hollywood at Game Changer Productions helping edit footage shot in Weed. Vivian is on a sabbatical “meditating” in her million-dollar house high in Newport Beach’s San Joaquin Hills. And I’m in Sacramento continuing to follow Weed news on the Internet. Which tells me how pathetic I’ve become; material that may or may not be good enough for reality TV is good enough for me.  

April 22 news article in The Weed News:

The Weed police investigation into the “Bah Bah Stampede” concluded that the explosion which caused the stampede of sheep and goats likely came from a vehicle that backfired on Highway 97.

“Based on a forensic inspection and interviews with witnesses, no definitive cause for the explosion could be identified,” said police spokesman Jerry Sando. “A backfire seemed the most probable cause.”

Sando added that the police inquiry included questioning Clay Poole, whose 1957 DeSoto has been cited 11 times for backfiring. “Poole’s neighbors corroborated his wife’s claim that Poole could not have caused the incident 9:45 a.m. April 12 because that day, as every day for three or four years, Poole did not roll out of bed before noon,” Sando said.

April 22 column “Mona on the Move” in The Weed News:

TV producer Eddie Mars is back in Hollywood turning Weed the town into “Weed” the show.  Meanwhile, the show in town goes on.

Take, for instance, Sol Pine, son of Forrest. “Hags from Hell” is how Forrest labeled the ladies of the Church of Mary Mag, whose sheep Forrest’s goats chased in the Bah Bah Stampede. However, like father unlike son. Nicknamed Sweet Face, Sol Pine has been Weed’s top Realtor for decades by wooing home buyers and sellers with the ad slogan, “Relax, sit back and ride the Pine!”

Ride the Pine Margo Butkis did to get a leg up on the competition bidding on the old Hulsebus place. And no, the sign “Nails” now outside Mary Mag’s new home does not refer to the Crucifixion. “It tells folks that inside is Joan Damone, not only a pillar of our church, but one highly skilled at manicures and pedicures,” says Margo, Mary Mag’s #2 spiritual leader. “Soon we’ll add a sign saying ‘Hairstyling,’ which is my specialty aside from being a righteous Christian.”

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! “Isn’t your church being a little too commercial?” I ask. No way, Margo claims. “Our church has no collection plates, no tithes,” she says. “All church services are free to everyone. They are paid for by the honest labor of our church’s spiritual leaders. Mary of Jefferson herself will soon introduce a line of jewelry.” Which is consistent with the life of Mary Magdalene herself, Margo adds. “I mean, what woman would choose to relocate to France who wasn’t fashion conscious?”

“By the way,” I say, “where is Mary of Jefferson?”  I hadn’t seen Mary Mag’s Mary for more than a week! “She’s spending a fortnight meditating,” says Margo. (Got to like that word fortnight. Sounds better to meditate a fortnight than a couple weeks.) “Where is she meditating?” I ask. “On a mountaintop,” Margo says and can’t divulge more. Hope it’s not Mount Shasta because Mary will be freezing her petunias off.

April 29 news article in The Weed News:

A mayoral campaign that promised to pit Rutherford B. Hayes against Millard Fillmore can no longer be billed as the greatest political contest of the 19th Century.  

The much-anticipated clash of Presidents was nullified by the announcement Monday that Millard Fillmore IX had legally changed his name to Tucker Carlson, Sr. The legal name change was the 54th for the retired truck driver, breaking his own world record of 53 as recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records.

“An abomination” is how Rutherford B. Hayes VII described his opponent’s claim to fame.

“How can Weed elect a mayor who six months or a year from now might change his name to Kim Jong-un or Sammy Davis, Jr.?” Hayes said.

Tucker Carlson, Sr. responded proudly, “Fifty-four baby! New world record! Fifty-four!” He added his candidacy filing has been amended accordingly and a California driver’s license complete with his new name is being processed.  

April 29 column “Mona on the Move” in The Weed News:

It took the approach of Mother’s Day for folks to notice Flora’s Flowers on South Weed Blvd. is now Dick’s Photos. “A new photographer in town?” you ask.  Nope. “A retailer of camera equipment?” Nope. “Then what could Dick’s Photos mean?” Answer: photos of Dick. Of course, you could go to Dick’s if, say, you wanted a wedding photographer. Just know every photo of your wedding will include Dick. 

Because Siskiyou County is blessed with so many Dicks, I’ll specify that this Dick is Dick Stump, formerly of Elwood, Indiana. Word is this Dick won millions 10 years ago playing the Hoosier Lottery and gave up a career in fast food to open his first Dick’s Photos in Elwood. And no, he hasn’t expanded to Weed. It challenges the imagination to think the world has room enough for one Dick’s Photos. Instead, Dick has relocated himself and his biz here. He’ll be back to business as usual once he finds a local photographer to snap his kisser.

Now, I’m not one to judge. If I sound like I’m judging now, it’s because I walked into Dick’s Photos not knowing what you do now. Framed photos cover the walls. On the closest wall are group photos which I looked at while Dick talked on the phone. I noticed two things. First, all photos had price tags of $101. Second, every photo included Dick’s face. “That’s one of my favorites,” Dick said coming up behind me. “That’s my brother and me with Larry Storch.” I say, “Larry Storch? Imagine that . . .” Dick points to the photo beside it and says, “Here’s another gem.” In this photo Dick stands on the fringe of a crowd looking back into it so the photographer can capture (What else?) Dick’s face. “See that man beyond me in the distance?” he says pointing at a face little more than a speck. “That’s Mike Pence campaigning in Muncie!” “Wow,” I say. “And you were there . . .”

Ay, Chihuahua! Whatever Dick said or I said next I forget. All I remember is that I couldn’t see the door for Dick, who is a monument to donuts judging by the crumbs and sprinkles in his gray beard. Dick herds me to a wall covered with solo shots of guess who. There’s Dick in a cornfield. Dick holding a bowling ball. Dick sniffing a plate of spaghetti. Then I see something that’s . . . (I can’t say odd) . . . that’s odder still.

It's a table displaying books for sale. Strange thing is, the books are displayed with the backs of their covers out. And completely covering each back cover is a picture of Dick. No print. Just Dick. I pick up a book and notice Dick’s picture is glued to the book cover. I turn the book over. Its title is Biography of Ralph Waite, Volume 1. Its author: Mickey Bitsko. I say, “I’m sorry. I thought you were Dick.” Dick says, “I am.” By now my jaw is down to my knees. I point to Mickey Bitsko’s name on the book. “Oh that!” Dick says. “The Mick and I have a deal. I sell his books in exchange for my photo being on the cover.” Jeez Louise! My jaw bounces off the floor.

Dick says, “So you know, to purchase a book, you must buy the full set of four volumes.” I say, “This Ralph Waite must have been something!” Dick says, “Hello. Ralph Waite played the father on ‘The Waltons.’” I say, “Oh that Ralph Waite!” I spot an opening around Dick leading to the door. I take it. As I walk backward Dick follows.

Dick says, “Mickey Bitsko and I were certified old timers.” I say, “Really! When were you released?” Dick says, “Abandoned is more like it. The Walter Brennan Institute went belly up.” I say, “All good things must end.” Dick says, “Funny thing, it wasn’t until afterward that Mickey and I met.” I say, “Some things are meant to be.” Dick says, “Here in Weed.” I say, “Weed has that effect.”  Dick says, “Yesterday I saw Albert Einstein, Jr.” I open the door behind my back. I say, “I’m sure you did.” He says, “Need to get him in a shot.” I say, “You do that. Gotta run!”  And run I did—to my car!!!

May 3 news article in The Weed News:

Mayoral candidates Rutherford B. Hayes VII and Tucker Carlson, Sr. are exchanging barbs on their campaigns official websites.

The text of Haye’s website, rutherfordvii.com, begins: “Weed is under siege by immigrants from Los Angeles and Las Vegas!  These carpetbaggers are out to cancel 125 years of culture that has made Weed a name envied throughout California.”

One such “immigrant” is presumably Carlson, who moved to Weed a month ago from Las Vegas.

Carlson’s website, truckertucker.com, wastes no time attacking Hayes by name: “Rutherford B. Hayes VII is a WINO (Weeder In Name Only) who incredibly denies Weed’s future is all ahead of it.”

The term weeder was recently coined by Hollywood producer Eddie Mars to mean a Weed resident upwardly mobile.

Neither website offers much in way of a policy agenda. Both candidates say they support Ukraine against the Russian invasion, the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, and the “Don’t Say Gay” movement.

Like his campaign signs around town, Hayes’ website also includes taglines “Pro-Taxpayer” and “Pro-Family.” Carlson’s website labels these claims as “typical Hayes insights into the obvious.”

“What candidate would be so stupid as to advertise he is antitaxpayer and antifamily?” Carlson’s website asks.

Hayes’ website takes aim at Carlson’s claim that “Weed’s future is being forged by the Weeders of today.”

“Weed owes its good name to its longtime residents, their parents, their grandparents and their great grandparents,” Hayes’ website states. “In this election, voters are being asked to entrust that good name to a man who brags that he himself has never had a good name.”

Sergio Yamaguchi, a political scientist at the College of the Siskiyou, said the candidates reflect a trend in American political campaigns to put personality above policy. “It’s very possible neither candidate has a clue as to what’s involved in governing as a mayor,” Yamaguchi said. “But voters today don’t want to hear about governing. It bores them. What voters want is a pissing contest.”

May 6 news article in The Weed News:

Mayor Millie Punter announced Wednesday that the city has assumed sole liability for damages resulting from the Bah Bah Stampede. The mayor noted that the total cost of damages, set at about $30,000, is significantly less than originally estimated. Moreover, the entire sum will be paid with funds from the state allocated for local governments to prevent and fight wildfires.  

The mayor made her announcement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, then relinquished the floor to City Attorney Michelle Herman, who negotiated settlements with claimants and their insurance companies.

“After investigating the incident, we concluded the Church of Mary Magdalene had acted responsibly by surrounding its grazing area with a portable plastic fence proven to contain sheep,” Herman said. “The goats of Forrest Pine were not fenced, but they were herded by an ample number of experienced ranch hands. The real culprit here was the explosion that stampeded the goats through the plastic fence and caused goats and sheep to stampede into downtown. The cause of that explosion remains unknown.”

Asked why the cost of liability was so much less than originally estimated, Herman said the city was able to eliminate a claim by one motorist that he suffered brain trauma when his Rolls Royce collided with two goats.

“We were extremely concerned about a lawsuit until our insurance carrier recognized the name Vince Bloom,” Herman said. “Mr. Bloom is famous among insurers as ‘America’s Flopper King.’ For 30 years he’s parlayed a crack in his skull reputedly received from a beer bottle in a bar brawl into multiple personal injury settlements up and down the East Coast. Bloom’s M.O. is to stage an accident, be taken to a hospital, have his skull fracture X-rayed, and without making a peep, sign a settlement agreement with an insurer.  The insurers think they’ve bamboozled Vince by settling his case before he contacted a lawyer. In fact, accepting insurance companies’ first offers allowed Vince to fly under the insurance industry’s radar—that is, until its data became shared and employees thought to check no-contest settlements.”

Herman said Bloom’s only condition for absolving Weed of liability was that it agree not to interfere with any broadcast of footage shot by the film crew of Eddie Mars showing Bloom taken to the hospital.  Asked if Bloom might have an ulterior motive, Herman said, “The man’s a multi-millionaire. Pretty sure he just wants to be on TV.”

May 10 column “Mona of the Move” in The Weed News:

I’m at Mary Mag’s having my pinkies polished puce and my locks styled in a Rachel cut à la retro Jen, whose look is back in. On hair is Margo; on toes Joan. In the other chair, face packed in mud, Debbie Waddell sips mimosa through a straw. We’re talking granite versus quartz countertops when Joan blurts, “This morning Margo became a candidate for mayor.” No, no, Nanette! I say, “Now I have to wonder whether my Rachel cut will be ethical!”

The silence spells, “Huh?” I say, “I can’t do business with politicians and claim to be an objective journalist.” Debbie’s mouth breaks from her third mimosa to chime in, “But Mona, you’re the most opinionated person I know.” I say, “Sticks and stones, Debbie!” Debbie says, “Mona, you’re a columnist. Columnists are supposed to be subjective?” I say, “In theory maybe, but as everyone knows, I try not to judge.” 

“You need to learn how to compartmentalize,” Margo tells me. “Look at me. I’m a minister, a hairstylist, a politician. But when I preach, I’m a minister only. When I hair style, I style hair only. And you won’t hear me politicking while I preach or style.” I say, “But I’m one thing—a journalist.” And Margo says, “Not now. Now you’re a lady of style and fashion getting coiffured and pedicured.” Mama mia!  I say, “So you’re saying ethically I could interview you once my Rachel cut is done and paid for.”  Debbie interrupts, “What about me? If Margo turns into a politician, how do I get my hair done?” Solution: a fourth mimosa.

Later, with Margo the politician sitting across from me, I, Mona the journalist, ask ethically, “So Margo, why are you running for mayor?” And Margo says, “First, Millie Punter wanted me to. She can’t run again and thinks the job is too important to be left to a man.” Ooh La La! I say, “So as mayor would you try again to make Weed the sister city of Cannes, France?” Oh contraire, she says. “It’s a great idea, but I’d be mixing ministering with politicking.”

I say, “So what is your candidacy about?” Margo says, “Beating Rutherford B. Hayes.” I say, “Yes, but why are you running?” And Margo says, “Because Rutherford called us feminist supremacists and said Magdalenese—a word he invented, not us—is a breed of dog. Not to mention Rutherford’s BFF, Forrest Pine, tried to trample us with goats.” I say, “Yes, but what I’m asking is: What would you do as mayor?” Margo says, “Dunno.” I say, “Dunno?” And Margo says, “I only became a politician this morning. Subtract my church duties and my hairstyling today, and I’ve only been a politician all of 30 minutes.” I say, “So your politician compartment is mostly vacant?” Margo says, “But not for long. Ask me again in a couple days.”

 

Copyright © 2022 by Randy Bechtel

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