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[whitespace] Columbus Statue
Photograph by Eric Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

Vexed by Columbus

By Eric A. Carlson

'A fanatic is a man that does what he thinks th' Lord wud do if He knew th' facts iv th' case.'

--Finley Peter Dunne

HOW MANY PLONKERS does it take to destroy a statue of Christopher Columbus? Apparently one ... if plonker is armed with sledgehammer and emboldened with historical propaganda that would gag a Brown University undergraduate. Beware the ides of March and the signs thereof: PG&E blackouts, statues ravaged by plonkers, being coerced into eating avocado pie--this happened to me--Jeanne came at me with a forkful and I had no recourse. March madness.

On the sweltering highway to Livermore, with Jeanne and Howard, I tried to make sense of zombies armed with sledgehammers, avocado pie and the grumpy little town of Bolinas. We were driving into the hinterlands to attend a musical production of Bye Bye Birdie, performed by Christensen Middle School. Trade magazines touted the presentation as one of the most significant middle school efforts of the year. Cast and crew did not disappoint. Ten-year-old thespians danced, acted and warbled with aplomb. Handsome set designs and spotless musical accompaniment complemented this effervescent diversion into 1950s Americana.

Just as ephemeral these days are San Jose statues. For 42 long years Christopher Columbus graced City Hall--a splendid life-size depiction comprised of five different flavors of marble. No more. A berserk Santa Cruzan decided we don't need the statue anymore and went to work on it with a sledgehammer--blows ringing out like gunshots, sending city officials scurrying for cover. A creepy pamphlet left at the scene provides insight as to what was bubbling around in the head of this berserker: "Wanted for Genocide--Christopher Columbus--Murder of 12 million Indians; kidnapping and illegal transport of African people; torture: severing of limbs, tongues, ears, breasts; theft and depopulation of 30 island nations in the Caribbean. Carries a bible and cross, always seen in a gang, begs for food and shelter and then tortures, rapes and murders his host." Arguing with folks who mangle history into this claptrap is like fighting Schmoos--you can't win, your fists go in deeper and deeper as the idiot grin of the Schmoo widens and your strength is sapped. There is a tiny bit of evidence to suggest Columbus was looking for China--and was less interested in severing breasts.

Also beyond fathoming is the town of Bolinas, located 12 miles to the north of San Francisco. I have brooded over Bolinas ever since reading an interview with television personality Doug McConnell in the Mercury News. He was asked if there was any place where Bay Area Backroads was not welcome. His response: "Bolinas, they don't like people going there." I looked up Bolinas on the web and found a site for Smiley's Schooner Saloon and Hotel. It states within, "Although the community doesn't promote tourism, there are a limited number of guest accommodations." Gosh, thanks. I emailed Smiley's asking if my family would be safe if we visited the town, and what places to avoid so as not to disturb the sensitive townsfolk. Still no response back.

Descend on Bolinas, brothers and sisters. Ride in on Harley-Davidson motorcycles brandishing long-necked bottles of Budweiser beer. Buy a home. Settle down. Build 90-foot tree fences as they do in Great Britain. The better to block the sun from your surly neighbors (described by Smiley's as artists, writers, musicians, fishermen and just plain folk).

Final note: San Jose City Hall is a fine place to meet people. While taking photos of mangled Christopher, I met Debbi on her first day of work at The Hall, Patt Curia stopped by to chat, as did Leonard McKay--who was there trying to prevent San Jose from blowing up his building--or something like that. Good place to hang out. Leave the hammer at home. And God bless Christopher Columbus.

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From the April 5-11, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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