Monday, March 20, 2006

Sierra Madre: The Insolvent Village That Could


Sierra Madre: The Insolvent Village That Could
Diamonds and Dust Redefine The Future

By Beville P. Flexworth

SIERRA MADRE, CA [AP] The unincorporated village of Sierra Madre, CA declared itself insolvent February 1, 2007. This was a chastening development for this seemingly prosperous enclave nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, immediately below the majestic bulk of Mt Wilson.

The insolvency was first announced at the City Council meeting January 15, 2007. Rumors had been swirling like Santa Anas through the famed wisteria vines for many weeks prior, and fiercely competing lawn signs had been cropping up like Algerian ivy in the bucolic tree-shaded neighborhoods. Residents were bitterly divided as to how this unfortunate turn came to pass.

Municipal debts totaled $18m against available assets of $4m. Immediate cuts were made in fire services, the police department was virtually shuttered as all law enforcement duties were assumed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. All of this would have gone unnoticed in larger picture of life in the San Gabriel Valley were it not for surprising subsequent developments.

The first move towards fiscal equilibrium was taken by the City Council in a closed-door meeting on February 17, 2007. By a contentious vote of 4-3 the Council agreed to sell all building rights to the Sierra Madre Spreading Facility, adjacent to Dapper Field for $20m. The rights were sold to the Verga Larga Band of Gabrieleno Indians, a previously obscure and hitherto Federally unrecognized band. The mood in the Council was of guarded optimism, given that the Spreading Facility was generally regarded as being unable to support any structure larger than a pup-tent without sagging. In a word, they thought they’d sold the Brooklyn Bridge to a rube.

When the sale details became public there was a considerable outcry from an unusual coalition of radical vegans and heavily-armed nativist militia groups who protested the sale with displays of large animated zucchini puppets and tractor-pulled floats featuring home-built Pershing II missiles, with Lee Greenwood accompanied by 9’ PVC didgeridoos.

Excavations began at the spreading facility on April 1, 2007 as the Verga Largas brought in contractors to begin work on the gargantuan We-Attax-Um Kasino Resort which included a 3000 room hotel and Konvention Center. Work was progressing at a brisk pace as the Verga Largas kept to a 24/7 work schedule. Neither public or the village was prepared for the shock when at 200’ below grade, backhoe operator Manuel Pupusa brought up eighteen perfect diamonds in his steel bucket, ranging in size from a melon down to a golfball. His backhoe had struck the upper cap of the largest undiscovered diamond reef in North America. All work stopped as geologists came in and confirmed that the pipe extended more than 3 miles northwesterly and 4000’ down into the depths of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Work resumed on the diamond mine, and now on the casino. The Sierra Madre City Council realized that they had been gamed, and scrambled to curry favor with Chief Ho-Hum and the Verga Largas. Delegations made the humbling journey from Kersting Court to the Yee-Haw Travel-Trailer Court on the banks of the Santa Ana River where Chief Ho-Hum held court.

Village life that had been completely disrupted by the non-stop rumble of triple-bobtail trucks hauling supplies up to the construction site, and dirt fill away continued anew. The excavations had also disrupted groundwater supplies to the famed mega-Wisteria Vine that was the centerpiece of Sierra Madre’s identity. The Vine expired on June 22, 2007. This loss was mourned by a solemn service at the garden, accompanied by an interpretive dance by the St Rita’s Catholic Parish Nude Tai-Chi Dancers.

The disruption and upset was not confined to Sierra Madre. The neighboring cities of Arcadia, Monrovia, Pasadena, and South Pasadena joined in the Grand Coalition against Sierra Madre. Altadena initially chose to remain neutral, but was brought to heel by stern-faced, portly polyester-coated enforcers dispatched from The Hat in Pasadena.

The Grand Coalition had been protesting the long and winding parades of trucks, dust, air-pollution, and general disturbances caused by swarms of unruly Caucasians seeking work in the telemarketing boilerrooms. Getting no satisfaction, the Coalition struck back by sending work crews to erect cinderblock walls topped with concertina wire blocking all the offramps from the 210 Freeway into Sierra Madre. Governator-For-Life Schwartzenegger was notified while he was in Mexico negotiating the California ‘Mi Casa No Es Su Casa’ Free Trade Agreement. Vice President Bush was notified only on June 15 after his nap at the Bernard Kerik Mountainbike Resort in New Jersey.

Sierra Madre doggedly stayed the course to fiscal certitude. The now-renamed Mariah Carey Diamond Pipe Mine was put into full production bringing forth 400,000 carats a year. The output was enough to draw protests from DeBeers, the Russians and the Congolese diamond interests as it blew a hole in their profits.

The We-Attax-Umm Kasino was opened to blazing media coverage, complete with the red-carpet and Joan Rivers providing needling commentary. Astonished visitors to the Kasino were treated to an staggering animated sculpture court of 13 animatronic Indians, each over 14’ high, that were seated in a circle, mechanically spooning “cereal” from colorful bowls, each over 4’ in diameter. The ‘cereal’ was really nickels piped in from the slots. Everytime there was a winner in the slots, one or more of the “Indians” would stand up (depending on the jackpot), his feather would light up, and pasty-faced minimum-wage white kids would charge out of a hidden door waving rubber tomahawks and do a congratulatory war-dance.

All of the previous big-money players in Sierra Madre’s political life were upended in the mad scramble for the diamond and casino money. Even after-dark visits by the village solons with their nubile daughters in tow to the Verga Largas did little to alter the placement and disposition of overburden from the diamond mine. Some of the previously omnipotent village policemen found employment as parking lot vacuum operators.

Eventually the Grand Coalition acknowledged defeat, and sued for peace at the Historic Peace Council in the Grand Richard Simmons Ballroom at the Kasino. They were to send their Rose Bowl Queen candidates to Sierra Madre, and pay tribute for fifty years.

Meanwhile the Vergas Largas El Supremo, Chief Ho-Hum, speaking through his SpokesBetty at his singlewide trailer on the banks of the Santa Ana River, made a series of colorful and not-safe-for-family-newspaper announcements regarding the future of the diamond reef, the We-Attax-Umm Kasino and remote controls everywhere.

“I’ll fish for minnows in the river, eat Costco cereal, buy Walmart 24pak tighty-whiteys, peer up at the stars on a hot summer night, and generally tell all of you palefaces to go fuck yourselves!”

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