Flashback: I Like Mike

June 15, 2012

The following column ran in the St. Helena Star on May 12, 2011.  It is one of the three national award winners.  As long as I’m bashing the Administration in this week’s column, I thought I might as well post this one too.  Hope I don’t end up on a terrorist watch list…

It’s amazing how a person’s appearance can cause a visceral reaction. Take Timothy Geithner, secretary of the Treasury. He seems calm and tidy, and certainly lots of people like him, and by people I mean large multinational corporations and global financial institutions. But for me, he will always suffer from being a dead ringer for a namesake boy who sat behind me in elementary school.

Timmy always smelled like sour milk, was an accomplished nose-picker, and whined incessantly. So even if Timothy Geithner did not ignore small business, negotiate sweetheart deals for financial institutions, and fail to pay his own taxes, I would still feel an almost irrepressible urge to take him out behind the auditorium and smack him around.

Many Americans who share my feelings toward Mr. Geithner are now looking for a presidential candidate who can not only run the country, but who can also outrun a Wall Street coup d’état. Desperate Americans seek a leader who combines Warren Buffet’s strategic savvy and Tony Soprano’s crime boss bravado with hair every bit as high as Ronald Reagan’s. Quite naturally, they have turned to Donald Trump.

Much as I relish the image of The Donald sitting across the desk from Geithner, pointing his finger and saying: “You’re Fired,” I’m not quite prepared to see the White House columns plated in gold and the Capital Rotunda repurposed as the new home of the Miss Universe Pageant (unless he decides to put that global event in the hands of Hillary Clinton, who would allow chunky contestants with glasses, add pop quizzes about the Treaty of Versailles, and employ Bill as an enthusiastic judge.)

But honestly, haven’t we had enough of financial insiders in government for a while? Is there any difference, other than stylistic, between the Wall Street Bulls and the Trump Tower Toucan? I’m sure we could come up with a leader to challenge a Trump presidency with less East Coast flatulence and more West Coast flair.

So who can we get to challenge a world-famous, competitive, ambitious, self-promoting, media-savvy, empire-building, TV-hosting, bestselling book–writing, ornate taste–leaning, winery, vineyard and landmark restaurant–owning entrepreneur from New York? How about our own world-famous, competitive, ambitious, self-promoting, media-savvy, empire-building, TV-hosting, bestselling book–writing, ornate taste–leaning, winery, vineyard and landmark restaurant–owning, entrepreneur from Napa Valley? That’s right, let’s dump The Donald and vote for The Michael — Chiarello, that is.

The Michael has a leg up on The Donald in a number of respects: First, The Michael is more attractive than The Donald, and I say this having seen The Michael not only in person, but from behind while he was wearing bicycle shorts. Between Fifth Avenue, Yountville and my mailbox, I have observed countless photos of them both, not to mention the live specimens, and I can categorically state that we must avoid a Trump visage on Mount Rushmore at all costs.

The Michael’s photos are not only less frightening for the children, they almost always include some kind of food — a subliminal message that a vote for The Michael means the Bolognese will be flowing across America.

And The Michael is not going to have a “birther” problem, as I understand him to hail from Turlock, which I am informed is a city somewhere in California and not, as I originally thought, a device The Michael sells in his NapaStyle catalog to keep rival chefs from boosting the best Thanksgiving turkeys from the freezer.

His election would be historic, as it would make him the first Italian-American to occupy the White House, since Rudy Giuliani’s attempt to achieve that distinction fell short when he declared himself a candidate in 2008 then forgot to actually run for office.

The Michael would prove a formidable adversary for foreign leaders, as he could manipulate their blood sugar levels during negotiations, achieving peace in the Middle East through strategic application of cannoli. And to ensure America’s world domination, he could appoint Padma Lakshmi as Ambassador to the U.N., since she can get any man, and probably many women, to do whatever she wants.

And he comes equipped with his own body doubles just like Saddam Hussein (he cannot possibly be in New York, Hollywood, Positano and Yountville simultaneously).

Best of all, the Oval Office would boast the first presidential desk made entirely out of wine barrel staves, lovingly made to Nonna’s specifications and available for purchase at NapaStyle.com.

And that’s capitalism Americans can believe in.

Advertisements

Despite the seemingly endless election coverage, little attention has been paid to what is perhaps St. Helena’s most time-sensitive initiative on the local ballot: MEASURE TM. Here’s an analysis that I hope my fellow St. Helena voters will find helpful on Election Day:

yes-on-tmAbout MEASURE TM:

MEASURE TM would levy a 1% sales tax to be used to fund the development and construction of a city-owned Time Machine. This Time Machine would allow St. Helena locals to collectively travel back to a happier, simpler time before the tourists came, before certain hiring, compensation, contractual, zoning and permit commitments were made, and before we ever agreed to become an incorporated city within the county of Napa. The tax would apply to all purchases made within the city limits, construed as including: V Sattui, Meadowood, and Dean & Deluca because, seriously, we’ve got to have some source of tax revenue here. It applies to purchases of all prescription, non-prescription, legal and illegal drugs, to groceries, fireworks and pantyhose, and to otherwise tax-free swap-a-doo’s of cases of cabernet exchanged by winking locals gainfully employed in the wine industry (and you know who you are).

Argument In Favor of MEASURE TM:

St. Helena faces serious problems that only a working Time Machine can solve. We must seize this opportunity for a municipal “do-over” to ensure that we never again grant anyone a permit to do anything, ever. We can then buy up all the available houses and rent them exclusively to (a) people we like and (b) people who work here, which we admit comprise two very different groups. We can design a more classic City Hall that won’t soon resemble the set from a re-run episode of Starsky & Hutch shot on location in Glendale during a particularly dusty summer. We will interview people who bequeathed land to the city to confirm their future wishes, and we will remember to write down what they tell us (and where we put the piece of paper we wrote it on). Plus — if we travel back 100 years — we can elect a precocious teenage Alan Galbraith to start negotiating savvy water contracts, flood control grants, and favorable easements on our behalf. Sure, we will miss our cellphones and laptops for a while, but the ability to afford our water bills, fix potholes and borrow library books in the new millennium will more than compensate. Vote Yes on MEASURE TM.

Argument In Opposition to MEASURE TM:

Let’s get real – the chance of our actually developing this Time Machine is about as likely as our achieving consensus on a General Plan, extending the Vine Trail through St. Helena, or identifying the meat inside the pot stickers at Golden Harvest. We all know that Mr. Peabody has been working on his invention of a WABAC machine since 1960, but neither he, nor Sherman, nor H.G. Wells, nor any Shark Tank contestant, nor that guy who invented the super-sucking-vacuum, have brought such a product to market. A 1% sales tax will disproportionately impact certain already disadvantaged locals, although those who are purchasing large amounts of prescription or non-prescription and illegal drugs won’t care as much. We urge our neighbors not to dwell in the past but to instead embrace change, both societal and technological, with the possible exception of those new chipped credit cards. And we fear the risk posed by certain members of our community (and you know who you are), who might set the dial for the year 1950, then sabotage our Time Machine and strand us all there, in an effort to make time stand still forever and consign St. Helena to the modern-day equivalent of Brigadoon. Vote No on MEASURE TM.

In related legislation, a group of locals is gathering signatures to add MEASURE B2F to the 2018 ballot. MEASURE B2F would levy a .50% sales tax to fund construction of a DeLorean, with Flux Capacitor, for travelling back to the future. They can’t wait to find out how it all turns out for the citizens of our timeless city of St. Helena.

– Laura Rafaty, lrafaty@yahoo.com, http://www.laurarafaty.com
(for another blast from the past, read the author’s Up the Valley column on Donald Trump from 2011 in the Star: Up the Valley: I Like Mike).

Published in the St Helena Star Newspaper, October 26, 2016

Honor Roll

May 6, 2012

♠1st place: 2013 national association of newspaper columnists, humor columns: dumb & dumber, eat your feelings and semi-pro

♥1st place: 2012 national association of newspaper columnists, humor columns: far out, most alarming and i like mike

♦1st place: 2012 california newspaper publishers association, best columns: far out and most alarming

♣winner by default, 1966 brookview elementary school hula hoop championship, 3rd grader’s division

Up the Valley: Far out

Laura Rafaty | Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 10:52 am

One of the downsides for single women moving to the Napa Valley is that it renders them suddenly geographically undesirable as potential dates for the majority of available single men living in the Bay Area (of which there are currently two dozen or so).

Women here wishing to date men in, say, San Francisco, must cope with a Geographic Undesirability Index (GUI) rating of at least 6, spiking to 8 in the summer (when there’s traffic). This compares favorably to Sacramento and Santa Cruz women, who have a GUI closer to 10, which is the highest number there is, because any farther and why bother.

Other than Christopher Reeve, who used a time machine to travel back 60 years to date Jane Seymour in a movie, men as a rule are unwilling to drive more than 50 miles to date any woman, 25 if there’s a toll bridge involved.

Whenever I hear about gas prices rising, I worry first about the impact on tourism as it impacts my shop, and then quickly shift my sympathies to those who would seek to lure a man up for a quiet home-cooked dinner when the guy has to pay $3.80 a gallon. I truly believe that many men will choose celibacy, or switch teams entirely, rather than pay $4 a gallon to drive to a woman’s house.

This is why you often observe summer dates involving bicycling. I always wonder how much fun a woman is having as she pedals exhausted 25 feet behind her man in the 100-degree heat, knowing that she’s going to have to pull off that helmet in the near future and let him see her hair. Men, of course, look great all sweaty with their hair sticking to their heads, and if they don’t they simply shave it off so that the sweat literally beads off their domes like waxed apples in the rain.

But to reach the Sweaty Bicycle Date stage, or even the Dutch Treat at Tra Vigne stage with the hope of eventually reaching the mythic Dinner at the French Laundry Where He Pays stage, a man has to be lured up to the Napa Valley in the first place.

Of course, local women could date local available single men, but I know him and he’s pretty booked up these days. So the GUI issue must be tackled head on, and the only way for a woman to overcome a negative GUI rating is to be exceptionally rich or hot, preferably both, with a cellar full of fine wine, access to ungettable restaurant reservations, and a set of balloons that would be the envy of Yountville’s Adventures Aloft.

Incidentally, there is no corresponding GUI index for Napa Valley men, because it is a proven fact that women will travel any distance to date. Incarcerated for life, conjoined to a Siamese twin, still living with mother in Antioch, it’s all workable if the guy is unmarried, mostly straight and not a certifiable lunatic (this last one is negotiable).

And if you’re a single woman living in the Napa Valley, you should prepare yourself to be rejected by the lunatic, conjoined, jailbird whose mother lives in Antioch on the grounds that you are just too darn far from San Quentin for a quick one should he temporarily escape, at least until gas prices go down closer to $3.

It makes me wonder whether St. Helena isn’t having the same problem. As opposed to conveniently-located, reconstructed, unconstrained, open-after-8 p.m. Napa; and lotioned-up, aromatherapied, way-to-a-man’s-heart-is-through-his-stomach Yountville; is St. Helena looking at a GUI rating of 6, spiking to 8 in the summer (due to traffic)?

Could the City overcome this GUI rating by demonstrating that it is already both hot and rich? Perhaps it’s time for our City to tart itself up a bit, show a little leg, and pass out gas coupons. The Chamber could market St. Helena and its single women simultaneously, publishing a Hot Women Winemakers Pinup Calendar, or the St. Helena Hospital Guide to Women Who’ve Recently Undergone Successful Augmentation Surgery.

Meanwhile we can hope that the first female president makes it tax deductible to buy gas for dates in excess of 100 miles from one’s principal residence, and urge President Obama to implement his gas tax holiday to promote local tourism and to encourage treating a girl to dinner and a movie once in a while.

And that’s a stimulus package guaranteed to make the single ladies of St. Helena smile.

Up The Valley: Most alarming

Laura Rafaty | Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011 12:00 am

Just before Christmas, I tried to reach City Hall but was informed that the government employees had been furloughed.

From a pure public relations standpoint, I think this looks bad in front of the holiday visitors because it might lead the uninformed to conclude that the city of St. Helena has no money. Instead of calling them furloughs, why not call them Extended Lunchbreaks Without Pay, or better yet, Congés Non Payés, since everything sounds better in French.

We can then create a list of dubious municipal holidays to invoke whenever we’re worried that the payroll checks might bounce, like Bank President’s Birthday or St. Mondavi Day.

The city will need to keep the citizenry apprised of this fluid holiday schedule, but unfortunately, local government is slightly clumsy at the dissemination of information. Officials mail out nondescript white envelopes or undersized beige postcards whispering in tiny typeface that something big is about to happen, which we ignore as junk mail.

If the city really wants our attention, it should print notices on bubble-gum-scented, neon-colored paper including valuable coupons people will read and save, like: “We’re considering raising local sales taxes, meanwhile please enjoy a free scoop of ice cream at the Big Dipper” or “You are being fined for excessive water usage, so take 10 percent off dry-cleaning at Klass Cleaners.”

I always chuckle when the City Council suggests that the full text of its abbreviated communications can be viewed online, not realizing that a significant percentage of local residents who received a computer from their grandkids for Christmas have tossed the electronics in a closet and utilized the box it came in as a nice new litter pan for the cat.

Let’s face it: We need to get this communication thing sorted, because local, county and state governments have much critical information to share with us, what with the water rationing days, the Spare the Air days, the homeland security levels, the government slow-downs and shut-downs, the pollen levels, the pesticide sprayings, the heat and frost warnings, the power outages, the leafy sharpshooter spotting, the food recalls, the Caltrans road improvement delays, the public hearings in anticipation of tree removal, and the public hearings in anticipation of faux Tuscan villas being constructed next door.

We could activate our police department telephone emergency warning system, which has proven so effective in alerting residents to the color the police department is thinking of repainting its squad cars. Or we could distribute updates on television during daily tests of the emergency broadcast system, although this might increase the frequency of citizens punching their fists through the screen as they miss the last 10 seconds of whatever sporting event they were watching or Erica’s latest wedding on “All My Children.”

I was going to suggest that we somehow piggyback onto that eardrum-splitting volunteer firefighter alarm, which sounds with such frequency, but I am informed that this is one of those local sacred cows I’m not supposed to tip over.

I certainly cannot deny the twisted pleasure residents derive from observing visitors’ reactions to hearing the siren for the first time. Hapless day-trippers run toward nonexistent bomb shelters, assume the duck-and-cover position, or stand stricken like deer in the headlights shrieking: “Is it the Big One?”

But seriously, is it good business to scare the tourists like this? I know we want to drive them to drink, but couldn’t we rally the volunteers with a sound that’s more conducive to being on vacation, like the blowing of Hawaiian conch shells or perhaps a chorus of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace”?

My dream warning system would be our own 24-hour radio station called Radio Free St. Helena. An alternative to the Spanish-language and religious stations currently holding a monopoly on my radio antenna, our city station could provide entertainment for visitors while conveying essential messages to the locals.

Imagine families huddled together around their tuners, like resistance fighters awaiting the signal that allied paratroopers have landed in the shrubbery. Alerts could be tucked in between local programs like Jazz from Vineyard Valley with Mike & Wesla, or Craig Bond’s Hour of Many Choirs.

Chilly winter evenings that do not fall on Spare the Air Days would be signaled by the Doors’ “Light My Fire,” unsafe summer temperatures announced by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas singing “Heat Wave,” and of course, government furloughs heralded by the tune “Take This Job and Shove It.”

And that’s a message we can all hear loud and clear.

Up The Valley: I Like Mike

Laura Rafaty | Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011 9:57 am

It’s amazing how a person’s appearance can cause a visceral reaction. Take Timothy Geithner, secretary of the Treasury. He seems calm and tidy, and certainly lots of people like him, and by people I mean large multinational corporations and global financial institutions. But for me, he will always suffer from being a dead ringer for a namesake boy who sat behind me in elementary school.

Timmy always smelled like sour milk, was an accomplished nose-picker, and whined incessantly. So even if Timothy Geithner did not ignore small business, negotiate sweetheart deals for financial institutions, and fail to pay his own taxes, I would still feel an almost irrepressible urge to take him out behind the auditorium and smack him around.

Many Americans who share my feelings toward Mr. Geithner are now looking for a presidential candidate who can not only run the country, but who can also outrun a Wall Street coup d’état. Desperate Americans seek a leader who combines Warren Buffet’s strategic savvy and Tony Soprano’s crime boss bravado with hair every bit as high as Ronald Reagan’s. Quite naturally, they have turned to Donald Trump.

Much as I relish the image of The Donald sitting across the desk from Geithner, pointing his finger and saying: “You’re Fired,” I’m not quite prepared to see the White House columns plated in gold and the Capital Rotunda repurposed as the new home of the Miss Universe Pageant (unless he decides to put that global event in the hands of Hillary Clinton, who would allow chunky contestants with glasses, add pop quizzes about the Treaty of Versailles, and employ Bill as an enthusiastic judge.)

But honestly, haven’t we had enough of financial insiders in government for a while? Is there any difference, other than stylistic, between the Wall Street Bulls and the Trump Tower Toucan? I’m sure we could come up with a leader to challenge a Trump presidency with less East Coast flatulence and more West Coast flair.

So who can we get to challenge a world-famous, competitive, ambitious, self-promoting, media-savvy, empire-building, TV-hosting, bestselling book–writing, ornate taste–leaning, winery, vineyard and landmark restaurant–owning entrepreneur from New York? How about our own world-famous, competitive, ambitious, self-promoting, media-savvy, empire-building, TV-hosting, bestselling book–writing, ornate taste–leaning, winery, vineyard and landmark restaurant–owning, entrepreneur from Napa Valley? That’s right, let’s dump The Donald and vote for The Michael — Chiarello, that is.

The Michael has a leg up on The Donald in a number of respects: First, The Michael is more attractive than The Donald, and I say this having seen The Michael not only in person, but from behind while he was wearing bicycle shorts. Between Fifth Avenue, Yountville and my mailbox, I have observed countless photos of them both, not to mention the live specimens, and I can categorically state that we must avoid a Trump visage on Mount Rushmore at all costs.

The Michael’s photos are not only less frightening for the children, they almost always include some kind of food — a subliminal message that a vote for The Michael means the Bolognese will be flowing across America.

And The Michael is not going to have a “birther” problem, as I understand him to hail from Turlock, which I am informed is a city somewhere in California and not, as I originally thought, a device The Michael sells in his NapaStyle catalog to keep rival chefs from boosting the best Thanksgiving turkeys from the freezer.

His election would be historic, as it would make him the first Italian-American to occupy the White House, since Rudy Giuliani’s attempt to achieve that distinction fell short when he declared himself a candidate in 2008 then forgot to actually run for office.

The Michael would prove a formidable adversary for foreign leaders, as he could manipulate their blood sugar levels during negotiations, achieving peace in the Middle East through strategic application of cannoli. And to ensure America’s world domination, he could appoint Padma Lakshmi as Ambassador to the U.N., since she can get any man, and probably many women, to do whatever she wants.

He comes equipped with his own body doubles just like Saddam Hussein (he cannot possibly be in New York, Hollywood, Positano and Yountville simultaneously).  Plus, the Oval Office would boast the first presidential desk made entirely out of wine barrel staves, lovingly made to Nonna’s specifications and available for purchase at napastyle.com.

And that’s capitalism Americans can believe in.

 

As if Yountville doesn’t look enough like a theme park already, its latest winery will be staffed by dwarves. Really. Today’s column in the Star newspaper.

When I am not stoking my schadenfreude by deconstructing wedding announcements in the Sunday New York Times, or sharpening my math skills by tallying factual errors in the Napa Register, I often expand my social horizons by reading Paul Franson’s NapaLife, a newsletter describing the full spectrum of happenings in the Napa Valley.

In a recent issue, NapaLife confirmed a story that had been rumored for months:

The Del Dotto Family is opening a new winery called Ca’Nani, meaning “house of the dwarves.” Franson quotes Desirée del Dotto as saying: “We do plan on having some little people working there,” and describes the project as “an Italian country-style winery with caves, being built across from Mustards in the Yountville Hills” featuring “a fairy-tale theme with various characters for each wine produced.”

The Ca’Nani Facebook Page displays a dwarf carrying an outsize bunch of grapes, and a winery design that looks like a fantasy Italian stone castle courtyard, but without the gritty realism of Castello di Amorosa. The owners explain: “We chose this theme for our new label because dwarves are jovial and light hearted, and perhaps magical.”

This project raises several obvious questions, including: Doesn’t Yountville look enough like a theme park already? Who are these jovial dwarves (the few I’ve met were decidedly cranky)? Will there be a “Dwarf Wanted” posting on WineJobs.com? And doesn’t this give delightful new meaning to the phrase “short pour”?

This story should become a Napa Valley epic fantasy novel:

Once upon a time, there was a brave planning director and disciple of Saint Helena, who ventured into the forbidden village of Yountville to observe its legendary wonders: wide pothole-free streets, clean branded awnings, and certain mythic buildings kept for the use of “visitors” who are reputed to “check in” and “stay the night.”

An enchanted place where faux-Italy and faux-France peacefully co-exist, there is supposedly no school system in Yountville; just a fairy princess who reads fables to young children before stuffing them into the oven at Bouchon Bakery. Overwhelmed by its beauty, the planner wanders into Hurley’s for a restorative lager, and accidentally leaves behind his precious Golden Drafting Compass.

This Golden Compass, essential for making planning decisions on Saint Helena’s behalf, is placed in a box behind Hurley’s bar and lost for what feels like 1,000 years. Without it, no one can assess the square footage of a hotel site, or calculate the city’s water needs, or determine the number of staff required to run a municipal department. Thus the Upper Kingdom of Saint Helena, unable to pass even the most General of Plans, cedes its dominance to the Middle Kingdom.

Fortunately, the People’s Prince, Lord Dario of Sattui, during a late-night rendezvous at Hurley’s, retrieves the Compass and conveys it to his Upper Kingdom Castello for safekeeping. There it is locked in a dungeon guarded by an irascible Croatian gargoyle answering to the nickname of “Mike.” Access to the treasure requires enthusiastically chanting the word “Cheers” 50 times to a troll at the gate.

Meanwhile, the Lords of the Middle Kingdom plot to recapture Saint Helena’s Golden Compass and usurp her town’s exhaustively-market-researched-and-branded position as “Napa Valley’s Main Street.” And so they erect a fantasy kingdom of their own deep in the Yountville hills, and cunningly lie in wait for the day when they might deploy an army of dwarves to seize the talismanic Compass.

The epic battle unfolds as the diminutive warriors commandeer the Wine Train, venture Upvalley, and storm the Castello. But wily Prince Dario, who maintains a second, less-lofty castle on the side, summons its army to advance from the south, and routs the would-be usurpers. The small-stature survivors scatter to hide in the Petrified Forest, followed by a long and perilous journey to the Safari West wildlife preserve. There they will mount flying unicorns and journey back to the Middle Kingdom. (How do you know there aren’t unicorns at Safari West? You haven’t been there.)

A peace conference is convened by the Lower Kingdom’s Tax Assessor and Registrar of Voters, but he betrays both parties and steals the Golden Compass for himself. Lacking any compass of his own, he has been unable to certify election results for what feels like 1,000 years.

(Lest you feel that my fear of impending invasion rings false, remember that the Town of Yountville recently announced plans to annex Domaine Chandon, which is much like the time Henry V decided to annex France, except that instead of resulting in the acquisition of another country, it will result in the acquisition of another Michelin star.)

Meanwhile, back in the Middle Kingdom, will the Lords of Kellerville and Chiarelloland, and Sir Richard of Reddington, sit idly by, or will their publicists force them into the fray? Will Ca’Nani’s promised fairy-tale characters include dwarves named Swirly, Sippy and Spitty? And will the ultimate victors be the lawyers of would-be winery workers over 4 feet 10 inches in height? You’ll have to read another chapter in the “Lord of the Wrongs” cycle to find out.

Flashback: Most Alarming

June 12, 2012

The following Up the Valley column first appeared in the St. Helena Star newspaper on February 3, 2011.  This is one of three winners of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists first place award for humor, and the California Better Newspaper Contest for Best Column.  Excuse my repeating myself!  A new one is coming Thursday in the Star…

Just before Christmas, I tried to reach City Hall but was informed that the government employees had been furloughed.

From a pure public relations standpoint, I think this looks bad in front of the holiday visitors because it might lead the uninformed to conclude that the city of St. Helena has no money. Instead of calling them furloughs, why not call them Extended Lunchbreaks Without Pay, or better yet, Congés Non Payés, since everything sounds better in French.

We can then create a list of dubious municipal holidays to invoke whenever we’re worried that the payroll checks might bounce, like Bank President’s Birthday or St. Mondavi Day.

The city will need to keep the citizenry apprised of this fluid holiday schedule, but unfortunately, local government is slightly clumsy at the dissemination of information. Officials mail out nondescript white envelopes or undersized beige postcards whispering in tiny typeface that something big is about to happen, which we ignore as junk mail.

If the city really wants our attention, it should print notices on bubble-gum-scented, neon-colored paper including valuable coupons people will read and save, like: “We’re considering raising local sales taxes, meanwhile please enjoy a free scoop of ice cream at the Big Dipper” or “You are being fined for excessive water usage, so take 10 percent off dry-cleaning at Klass Cleaners.”

I always chuckle when the City Council suggests that the full text of its abbreviated communications can be viewed online, not realizing that a significant percentage of local residents who received a computer from their grandkids for Christmas have tossed the electronics in a closet and utilized the box it came in as a nice new litter pan for the cat.

Let’s face it: We need to get this communication thing sorted, because local, county and state governments have much critical information to share with us, what with the water rationing days, the Spare the Air days, the homeland security levels, the government slow-downs and shut-downs, the pollen levels, the pesticide sprayings, the heat and frost warnings, the power outages, the leafy sharpshooter spotting, the food recalls, the Caltrans road improvement delays, the public hearings in anticipation of tree removal, and the public hearings in anticipation of faux Tuscan villas being constructed next door.

We could activate our police department telephone emergency warning system, which has proven so effective in alerting residents to the color the police department is thinking of repainting its squad cars. Or we could distribute updates on television during daily tests of the emergency broadcast system, although this might increase the frequency of citizens punching their fists through the screen as they miss the last 10 seconds of whatever sporting event they were watching or Erica’s latest wedding on “All My Children.”

I was going to suggest that we somehow piggyback onto that eardrum-splitting volunteer firefighter alarm, which sounds with such frequency, but I am informed that this is one of those local sacred cows I’m not supposed to tip over.

I certainly cannot deny the twisted pleasure residents derive from observing visitors’ reactions to hearing the siren for the first time. Hapless day-trippers run toward nonexistent bomb shelters, assume the duck-and-cover position, or stand stricken like deer in the headlights shrieking: “Is it the Big One?”

But seriously, is it good business to scare the tourists like this? I know we want to drive them to drink, but couldn’t we rally the volunteers with a sound that’s more conducive to being on vacation, like the blowing of Hawaiian conch shells or perhaps a chorus of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace”?

My dream warning system would be our own 24-hour radio station called Radio Free St. Helena. An alternative to the Spanish-language and religious stations currently holding a monopoly on my radio antenna, our city station could provide entertainment for visitors while conveying essential messages to the locals.

Imagine families huddled together around their tuners, like resistance fighters awaiting the signal that allied paratroopers have landed in the shrubbery. Alerts could be tucked in between local programs like Jazz from Vineyard Valley with Mike & Wesla, or Craig Bond’s Hour of Many Choirs.

Chilly winter evenings that do not fall on Spare the Air Days would be signaled by the Doors’ “Light My Fire,” unsafe summer temperatures announced by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas singing “Heat Wave,” and of course, government furloughs heralded by the tune “Take This Job and Shove It.”

And that’s a message we can all hear loud and clear.