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[whitespace] Ray Conti with Cigarette Butts
No Butts. Pack Your Trash's Ray Conti wants you to put those butts where they belong--in the trash.

Nüz

Trash Talk

"Pack it in, pack it out!" says a bearlike Ray Conti, plucking an errant cigarette butt off the beach and putting it where it belongs: in a trash can. As executive director of the nonprofit organization Pack Your Trash, Conti, whom friends call Big Ray, is on an anti-litter mission to preserve parks and streams, lakes and bike trails, as well as beaches and the coastal environment. Along the way, he's hell bent on educating local youth, California, the United States and the rest of the world.

"Global domination is our end goal," grins Conti, who admits he goes ape when he sees people flicking butts around. "Two hundred years from now those butts still won't have decomposed," says Conti, who's joined in his mission by Steve Smith, vice president of the Pleasure Point Night Fighters, a vigilante volunteer group established in the 1920s to keep the lid on trash of another flavor: vice in Pleasure Point.

As an unincorporated area without a police force, "Pleasure Point was where all the hooch came in from Canada, and a special knock could get you into a speakeasy or a brothel," says Smith, explaining that originally PPNF was formed to put out fires started by drunks who dropped cigarettes. "Our members were honorary deputies with regulatory powers like in the wild, wild West," recalls Smith, adding that Pack Your Trash began as an informal offshoot of PPNF in the 1960s, when a bunch of local surfers, including Jimmy Phillips, Rick Metzger, Davey Sultzer and Tom Kienholz, set out some trash cans and began policing Pleasure Point with the sheriff's cooperation.

Conti says Pack Your Trash officially came into being in 1978, when brother Harry Conti got 55 oil cans donated to the cause. "Jimmy Phillips, who's famous for his cartoonish work, especially at Santa Cruz Skateboards, came up with the black-and-white logo, and Pack Your Trash was born!" Conti says.

Admitting they used to be hard-core surfers with no laws, Smith and Conti say today they are part of a neighborhood watch that cares about the cliffs and beaches and what's going on. "We ride with the sheriffs, and we mentor younger surfers into not doing stupid things," says Conti.

Firm believers in the power of the next generation, Smith and Conti visit local junior highs, where they entertain the kids with anti-trash presentations, which include fun activities--like stenciling logos onto schoolyard cans. "We call ourselves the Steve and Ray show, because we bring passion to the cause," Conti says. "Kids listen to us because we surf, skate and snowboard."

Late big-wave rider Jay Moriarity was a PYT member. His wife, Kim, still is. So is outgoing Santa Cruz Mayor Tim Fitzmaurice--which proves Conti's point that "you don't have to be a big shot surfer to join our club, which has 300 members locally, 5,000 worldwide."

Not content with looking after their own backyard, PYT is helping Santa Cruz city clean up the San Lorenzo. In October, Smith, Conti and 16 volunteers did a river sweep in which they collected three tons of trash in four hours. "There aren't enough trash cans along the river for starters," says Conti, who found a shooting gallery of 30 needles, several shopping carts, lots of clothing and bedding, milk containers and beer cans, not to mention human excrement. "All this stuff floats down the river--and we have to surf in it during the first rains," says Conti. "We also found several homeless encampments, which PYT is instructed not to disturb, if someone is there."

Available to visit junior high schools, PYT needs volunteers for its river cleanup on Saturday (Nov. 17). Call 475.6171 or meet at Java Junction, 580 River St., Santa Cruz. For more information on this nonprofit, check out www.packyourtrash.com.

Living Herstory

As a member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), Tahmeena Faryal has something worse than a burka over her head: a Taliban-decreed death threat. That hasn't stopped the ballsy Afghan national from visiting the United States to talk about RAWA--and why we should stop bombing Afghanistan. On Oct. 29, Nüz underwent security pat-downs and bag checks--including an "absolutely no cameras!" edict--to hear Faryal and other radical feminists speak to a 750-plus crowd at a UCSC discussion titled "Race, Gender, and the Crisis."

Bettina Aptheker, UCSC Women's Studies chair, claimed the war on terrorism is a pretext, concealing the government's true agenda: Oil. Access to oil reserves, would requiring a pipeline through Afghanistan.

Powerful and petite, Faryal urged the United States to create a stable, secular, democratic government that respects women's rights in the repeatedly invaded and abandoned Afghanistan. Describing her sisters as "the most ill-fated and suffering women on the planet," Faryal said Taliban are "misogynistic fundamentalists," supported and raised "in all-male Pakistani religious schools."

Mostly war orphans, "brainwashed from a young age, especially in their behavior toward women," Faryal said Taliban assumed control in 1996, when Afghanistan had lost millions to death, disability and refugees, during the 10-year Russian occupation.

"The Afghan people fought Russia with empty hands, Taliban with empty stomachs. Now their main concern is to fight for a piece of bread," said Faryal, who emigrated at age 10 to Pakistan, where she attended one of RAWA's schools, "also clandestine because Pakistan is in bed with Taliban,"she said.

Pointing out that Taliban not only restrict women (who must wear burkas and quiet shoes, be escorted outdoors and paint over their windows at home) but also men, who must wear traditional beards and clothing, and pray five times daily, Faryal said Afghanistan in the 21st century lacks economic, political or social structures. "Music, films, and photography are banned. And Taliban hang TVs, VCRs and videos from trees and call them Satan's boxes," said Faryal, adding that 90 percent of women in urban areas have mental and psychological problems, especially those who used to work or have no means of earning a living.

"Their choice of survival ranges from beggary and prostitution to suicide or slow death," said Faryal, noting, "the smashing of the Buddhist statues got more attention, pre-Sept. 11, than people who'd endured two decades of war."

"But bombing Afghanistan will only plunge people into deeper misery, create thousands of refugees--and more Taliban," Faryal continued, warning that the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance has a history of violence against women and should not be part of any future government. "Amnesty International and the Red Cross have records of their atrocities and misogynist practices," she said. Instead, she urged people to write Congress to stop the bombing, because most of the casualties are civilians. Said Faryal, "The United Nations should send in peacekeeping forces to disarm warring factions." For more information, visit www.rawa.org.

Outbreak!

Remember that scene in the movie Outbreak where the Army decides to nuke a small town in California to prevent a deadly virus from creating a pandemic? Nüz always wondered what they'd do in real life if people were infected with Ebola or smallpox, both of them highly contagious and incurable.

Now we know: just bed 'em down in hospital rooms. That at least was the advice of the California Dept. of Health Services at the Bioterrorism Management Conference at the plush Chaminade conference center in Soquel Nov. 10, attended by doctors, nurses and Nüz.

We came up with this advice "by the seat of our pants, with not much help from CDC," said infection-control consultant Christine Cahill, while Monterey ER nurse Ken Metz had a saner idea: the Army should set up isolation tents, he told Nüz.

The conference was also short on specifics on diagnosing patients for the 100-plus possible bioweapons, although we did learn that if you've got sniffles or a sore throat, it's probably not anthrax. But doctors we spoke with afterward were left confused and said they've been overwhelmed with patients asking for hard-to-come-by anthrax tests.

The docs were also worried about how to get meds to local communities if there's a major chem/bio incident. Navy Captain Chris Jones of the federal Health and Human Services' Office of Emergency Preparedness in San Francisco assured them a federal "push package" would arrive within 12 hours but admitted there's no trained team to distribute the meds and supplies in California due to lack of funding.

Congressman Sam Farr stepped up to the plate, saying the House of Reps is pushing for a $7 billion Bioterrorism Protection Act, which includes $3.5 billion for health care, vaccines and antibiotics.

But Dr. Fred Tomlinson of Santa Cruz wasn't convinced. There are a lot of requirements, but they're not willing to provide the money," he told Nüz. "Show me the money!"

While we're waiting and seeing, there will be a statewide bioterrorism exercise on Nov. 15. Based on previous exercises like Dark Winter and TopOff, this could be another zoo. Where's Dustin Hoffman when you need him?

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From the November 14-21, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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