Random box of rocks defies explanation

Newspapers are, by their very nature, responsible for explaining day-to-day life in these United States, whether the phenomenon in question has to do with runaway brides in Georgia or runaway governors in California.

(Yes, there is correlation between the two. We just haven’t figured out exactly what it is yet…).

On any given day, newspaper people ask tough questions, crunch numbers (not one of our strong points), and demand explanations from people who’d rather not explain anything without first receiving a grand jury subpoena.

Shady politicos? We eat ’em up. Questionable business practices? We’re all over them. Scandalous celebrity antics? You read it here first – and probably second, third, fourth and fifth, too.

When it comes to solving mysteries in our own back yards, however, we members of the Fourth Estate are sometimes baffled.

Take, for example, the Curious Case of the Box of Rocks.

Events began to unfold two weeks ago when one of our editors woozily returned from a vacation in the Sierra and noticed a medium-sized cardboard box filled with rocks on the sidewalk in front of the newspaper office.”Hmmmmmmm, box of rocks…” he observed.

That was about as far as our initial inquiry went. It had been a long weekend and the editor felt no immediate threat emanating from the stationary box of grayish stones.”

On the sidewalk…” he added before trundling into the newsroom and once again assuming command of his office cubicle.

Although the editor later admitted to some generalized curiosity about the box, his interest faded as morning slipped away.

And the box of rocks, being a box of rocks, simply sat there.

But as the days passed, the questions mounted. As trained observers, we noted the location – and persistence – of the 13-by-11-by-12 cardboard box and its half-dozen quite unremarkable gray rocks.

Answers, however, were remarkably scarce.

“Box of rocks is still out there. Been there about a week,” one observer observed observantly.

“Looks like that box of rocks is still out on the sidewalk. Wonder why…” pointed out another sharp-eyed staff writer.

“Yup,” explained a third.

Seven days went by and the box remained. Some staffers became rather apprehensive about the puzzling package.

“Wonder what that box of rocks is still doing out there. Those rocks aren’t from around here. They’re from somewhere else. I know the rocks around here and those aren’t natural,” another editor remarked with ill-concealed dread.

“They’re quiet – too quiet.”

Hard to believe, but it became clear after a week of speculation that one of the most efficient news gathering organizations in Solano County had been thoroughly stumped by an itinerant box of rocks.

And then, just as mysteriously as it had arrived, our puzzling parcel disappeared. One minute it was there, the next minute – poof! Curiouser and curiouser…

Needless to say, we’ve put our best minds to work on the puzzle and it won’t be long before we have all the answers. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I’ve already identified the mastermind behind the mystery box.

Now, if I can just get Arnold Schwarzenegger to admit it…

Originally published June 12, 2005

An idea whose time has not yet come…

Word has reached me from our nation’s northernmost state that at least some Alaskan politicos are once again mulling over the possibility of relocating the capital from Juneau to some place a little more accessible to the state’s general populace (as well as to a select number of Canadians).

This is an idea that’s been roundly kicked around the state of Alaska for decades.

Proponents for the relocation point out that Juneau’s even more off the beaten track than most other Alaskan cities, many of which haven’t been seen for years. Juneau, they claim, is too far away from bustling population centers, is practically inaccessible by land and reportedly has fewer sushi restaurants per capita than, say, Cupertino.

It’s pretty obvious – at least to those of us with even a modicum of political savvy – that only an idiot would consider moving state government from a prime location such as Juneau.

Sure, Anchorage and Fairbanks are metropolitan hot spots when it comes to population, industry and culture, but Juneau has got to be a paradise for politicians.

Inaccessible by land?

Bonus points right there, amigos.

When your capital is hard to reach, there’s considerably much less chance that pesky do-gooders will be able to insinuate their way into your legislative strongholds to make a lot of silly demands and generally become nuisances.

On the other hand, serious constituents – lobbyists, for example – can usually afford to fly in or arrive on a luxury cruise ship.

When it comes to politics, being a little off the beaten path is always preferable to being in places such as Sacramento or Salt Lake City, where hordes of constituents can easily find you when they break out the ax handles and storm the capitol grounds.

If you don’t believe me, just ask California Governor Arnold “Now What?!” Schwarzenegger. If he’s feeling particularly candid – or harried – when you pose your question, I’m sure the governor will tell you that there are days when “inaccessible” sounds like heaven.

(Or he’ll simply boot you down the Capitol steps and then head out for a secluded bunker near Hayfork…).

Having a state capital that’s, like, 157 miles from everywhere, also eases relations with the federal government.

In general, when nosy federal bureaucrats or special select committees from Washington, D.C., decide to go plodding through state government business in great gum boots, they prefer to do it in places like Miami, Lake Havasu or Atlantic City. They tend to shy away from places where men are men, women are adept with harpoons and frostbite is considered an everyday occurrence.

So the congressional investigators stay away from Juneau and opt, instead, to periodically ship in snowplows, large crates of cash and the occasional freighterload of avocados.

Is this a politician’s paradise or what, amigos?

Now if they could just hustle up some sushi restaurants…

Originally published March 20, 2005