Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
Gov, thanks for ruining my weekend on the river.
– John Dickinson

Dear really old Skinny item thoughtfully dug up and forwarded to me by the editors because I wanted to write about this topic this week in response to new legislation I just read about,

When I came to Sacramento, it was to fight for the little guy. And I don't just mean my, uh, chief of staff from the lower house. No, I really do mean the masses, huddled and otherwise.

And the little guy is still the little guy, even when he's 250 pounds of beer gut and body hair floating by in a black rubber inner tube with a six-pack tied to it. Sure, he doesn't make as good of a visual aid for pushing legislation as, say, puppies from Darfur. But stick him next to a big ol' yacht out on the river, and he'll look pretty small indeed.

Because that guy in the yacht could be getting what the founding fathers could only dream of: no taxation and lots of representation. I'm not so much bothered that the Leg has been cracking down on drinking on the river. Even my low brows couldn't do that limbo. But as a guy who grew up looking for a second stick to rub together, it bugs me that my representatives are going after the folks riding part of a vehicle while exempting the guys who can afford a whole boat – and then they're not even taxing the yacht-owning fellow who gets to drink. It may not count for much, but if you go to a tire store and buy an inner tube, I guarantee they charge you sales tax. Here's hoping someone creates an outboard for inner tubes, just to make a sloophole for the little guy.

Yes, the yacht tax would only bring the state $21 million a year – do you know how many Darfur puppy shelters that could support? A pause here to salute GOP Senators Ashburn, Denham and Maldonado, who all realized that a "sloophole" sounds like something available in Amsterdam that you shouldn't be able to mention in public without being met by nervous laughter followed by awkward silence (i.e., they voted against it). I'm not the only media calling for an end to this tax break. The best-known journalist currently working in Sacramento – columnist and yacht owner Dan Walters – has called for a repeal.

So what is it that they're trying to prevent by banning drunken fun on the river? Littering gets mentioned. So prosecute that. Besides, anyone who's ever been in a yacht (or better yet, behind one) knows they leave a rainbow wake of Cosco Busanity everywhere they go. Then there's those two kids who died in a car accident after floating down the river last year. Yes, that is truly sad. But I'll point out, they died in an SUV, not in their slow-floating bumper cars. If we want to ban all activities that could lead to drunken driving, there go bars, barbecues, baseball, softball, pingpong, State of the State speeches, this whole March Madness business and you get the idea.

What tubers need is a political movement (and to be clear, when I say tubers, I don't mean potatoes). By nature, this group of folks may not by "joiners" in the way many of you political types reading this column are. Heck, they may not be shirt and shoe wearers, high school finishers or frequent bathers (all the more reason to get them in the water occasionally).

But one could unite them around their chosen activity. The obvious example here is bicyclists. A few years ago, they were just a bunch of athletes, anarchists, vegans and death wishers all riding along separately for their different reasons. Then someone had the bright idea of putting a few dozen to a few thousand of them together at one time, in cities all across the country. Suddenly, with too many to arrest all at once, they got noticed. You started to see things like new bike lanes, attorneys who specialize in suing drivers who hit cyclists, and politicians throwing some pander their way for the first time.

What I'm proposing is a Critical Mass for tubers. I'll just call it Drunken Soggy Mass until somebody thinks of something better (shouldn't take long). Imagine it, five thousand dudes and chicks, meandering in anger, five thousand Budweisers (cans, no glass) raised in defiance, beer bellies blazing in all their sunburned glory. Five thousand voices burping out a cry for freedom you'll be able to smell from the legislative chambers.

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