A Rare Breed

     We needed to hire a reporter in San Luis Obispo.
     I have always liked that beautiful little town. The 200-mile drive from Los Angeles winds up the coast and cuts inland through the transverse Santa Ynez range. This time of year, it is a lovely undulating terrain of green hills, stands of oak and valleys filled with chaparral.
     We arrive during the San Luis Obispo farmer’s market, where the produce disappoints but the barbecue amazes. The aroma and smoke of burning meat is all around, with huge chunks of tri-tip, stacks of ribs and strings of sausage.
     One of the stands clearly has a rep, as the line waiting for its particularly magical combination of sauce and searing is easily 50 people in length. It turns out to be the stall for McClintock’s Saloon.
     But we don’t have the time to wait, so we duck into Mother’s Tavern for a brew.
     Our bureau chief is a beer aficionado and orders a Trumer pilsner, brewed in Salzburg and now in Berkeley. It is light, flavorful and strong.
     The town is without a doubt influenced by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the ratio of taverns to boutiques, sandwich shops and coffee houses is high. There is also a prevalence of bicycle riders.
     Chris Marshall, our California bureau chief, tells me that he considered graduate studies at Cal Poly. But after acceptance, he visited the English Department which, as he recalls it, was little bigger than a closet.
     As he talked with a couple members of the department, he was looking out the window. “The Ag building is this just humongous building and the people in the department were saying how unimportant English was and how important the Ag Department was.”
     He wound up deciding to study in Hayward at Cal State East Bay.
     San Luis Obispo is not far from the coast and a small, out-of-the-way but crowded Japanese restaurant called Goshi provides an excellent sushi meal. On the walk back to the kind of motel the folks in my family’s earlier generation always liked – where you can drive up to the front door of your room – we run across milling bike riders.
     They are riding in a circle through a small park and gathering strength as others arrive. It reminds me of a school of fish as they circle at a rapid rate, dressed in carnival clothes, shouting and talking excitedly, before setting off down Higuera Street, the main drag in San Luis Obispo. The event is one of 70 planned for Bike Month.
     The region’s longstanding paper, the San Luis Obispo Tribune, reminds me of why I wanted to get into journalism in the first place. There were stories on tragic display of orcas hunting a gray whale’s calf in Morro Bay, a local defense attorney jumping in the DA’s race against two prosecutors, a foal’s birth at Hearst Ranch and a meeting in a packed auditorium where locals are trying to take over a private water company through eminent domain.
     In keeping with the overall environment, the bureaucrats at the courthouse are really nice and helpful. The clerk and her deputy have excellent relations with the press and – this I have never experienced – were brainstorming with us and making practical suggestions on how to make press coverage of new civil actions more timely and complete.
     The ideas included a grace period after the doors close to the public for review of late-filed actions, opening the drop box at the end of the day, and helping us track major cases by alerting us to each new subsequent filing.
     I am so used the spirit-sapping grind of battling with the dug-in court administrators who follow the anti-press line of California’s Administrative Office of the Courts that I walked out of that meeting a little light-headed, in a state of some confusion, with a bit of exhilaration and a sense of wonder, in discovering that such creatures still exist.
     The drive back to Pasadena went easily, on a sunny, late-spring day.

%d bloggers like this: