Opportunity is knocking again

The 31-year search for missing – and presumed dead – labor leader Jimmy Hoffa recently provided some unexpected side benefits for a tiny Michigan town.

According to a New York Times report, the FBI’s latest effort to unearth Hoffa in the community of Milford, Mich., has not only made the small town less boring, but it also has spawned a cottage industry in souvenirs and funky foodstuffs.

When federal agents, acting on a tip from a prison inmate in Kentucky, began digging at Hidden Dreams Farm outside Milford, townsfolk began cashing in on the excitement with everything from commemorative cupcakes to T-shirts.

The Jimmy Hoffa cupcake – who woulda thought it?

All good things must come to an end, though, and when the FBI failed to locate Hoffa’s body, daily life in Milford was destined to return to humdrum normality.And that’s when opportunity once again came knocking for Vacaville.

Think about it – if Jimmy Hoffa isn’t buried in Milford, he’s gotta be buried someplace else.

Why not Vacaville?

Let’s be realistic, amigos, if we don’t turn up the excitement around Vacaville soon, ennui will sweep over the town like a gray wave of yesterday’s mushroom gravy. You can only counter abject community boredom with jalapeno pepper-eating contests for so long.

Then everybody falls asleep.

We need to take a lesson from Milford. Now that the FBI has again given up the search for Jimmy Hoffa, we need to embrace the mysterious labor icon and invite investigators to search for his body in Vacaville.

Hey, if the FBI acts on random tips from convicts in Kentucky, they certainly ought to listen to a thoughtful, well-spoken Vacaville prison inmate. How hard can it be to find a fun-loving felon at CMF or California State Prison, Solano, who’ll loudly speculate on the possibility of Jimmy Hoffa being buried in Vacaville – possibly beneath the site of the old Wooz amusement park or under the CreekWalk?

And once the FBI shows up with shovels and backhoes, Vacaville can take full advantage of its newfound notoriety.

Jimmy Hoffa cupcakes and T-shirts will be only the beginning. If Vacaville really gets behind this random exhumation, we can make a permanent impact that will stretch far beyond the day that the FBI packs up and leaves.

In addition to “Jimmy Hoffa Days” (with, perhaps, a Little Miss and Mister Jimmy Contest), Vacaville’s business community could be radically transformed. We could be home to the Take Ya For a Ride Limousine Service, An Omelette You Can’t Refuse Restaurant and the Sleep with the Fishes Pool Service.

If we play this right, it’s going to be a win-win situation for everybody (except, perhaps, Mr. Hoffa…). All we’ll have to do is occasionally move a little dirt and keep relatively straight faces for the tourists.

And, just to be on the safe side, let’s keep this to ourselves – eat this column after you read it. We don’t want to be giving Fairfield or Dixon any bright ideas…

Originally published June 11, 2006

This could be our last chance …

A little over three years ago I modestly proposed a surefire way to put Vacaville back on the map and keep it there for all eternity (or at least through the following July).

The plan was simple: Form a limited partnership, amass a war chest of, say, $500, and split the funds to make down payments on both the weed-choked Nut Tree property and the mediocrity-choked Oakland Raiders.

Voila! With a little work and some creative financing we’d have had the Nut Tree Raiders and Vacaville’s future would have been shining brighter than a Suisun City saloon siphon.

Unfortunately, we were only able to raise $3.79 from Vacaville’s notoriously tight-fisted investors and the rest is history. The Nut Tree became the Fish Bowl and the Oakland Raiders marched proudly into the playoffs again. Our window of opportunity slammed shut with great finality.

Bitter but unbowed, I’m willing to give Vacaville one last chance for glory. We may no longer have the world’s biggest Wooz. We may no longer have the world’s biggest Safeway. And we no longer have the world’s largest pumpkin, but we may be able to lay claim to the world’s biggest squid if we move quickly and decisively.

Go ahead, say it: S-Q-U-I-D. It sounds like victory. Now try saying B-I-G S-Q-U-I-D. Sounds even better, doesn’t it?

And Vacaville’s newest symbol of success is just waiting for us to scoop it up and bring it home. All it will take is guts, brains and plenty of salt water.

Perhaps I should explain.

(Sure, why not?)

According to the Associated Press, a new, bigger-than-the-average-Toyota species of mystery squid has recently been discovered “in the cold, inky black three miles below the surface of the ocean.”

Hey, this already sounds like fun, but there’s more. It’s goofy-looking, has bizarre, 20-foot spidery legs and a little pin head. Best of all, there are plenty of them down there and they’re not an endangered species.

And, they’re everywhere. These colorful and collectible cephalopods have been sighted in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico and nobody, but nobody, has laid claim to them yet.

All we need to do to capitalize on this truly unique and obviously adaptable ocean life is to dredge a 15,000-foot-deep lagoon adjacent to downtown Vacaville’s celebrated CreekWalk, fill it with fresh seawater and then go squid hunting.

Sure, it’ll cost a little more than the Oakland Raiders would have three or four years ago, but it’ll be well worth the initial outlay.

We’ll have the SquidWalk, Calamari Corners and the Tentacle Festival – a triple crown of deep-sea fun right in our own back yard.

Remember Squidley’s, the fabled Vacaville restaurant that was far, far ahead of its time? It could be back, bigger and better than ever (more cocktail sauce, garcon!).

Don’t let this chance slip by.

Weigh anchor and hoist the mainsail – all we need do is dare to be great …

Originally published February 3, 2002