by Robin Keehn
I’m in a mood. I’m driving with my teenage daughter through a parking lot in Encinitas, a rat maze of neat lines, past Best Buy and Stater Brothers and Sports Authority—smug stores sitting on land once covered in sage brush and coastal chaparral, once housing coyotes, rabbits, illegal immigrants and the occasional teenager. I’ve never been inside Best Buy, yet I doubt the claim. Sports Authority? Right, Last time I looked they didn’t have Nike Air Pegasus, the best running shoe ever made. I’m bitching to my kid about how Encinitas, once laid back, funky, and mellow, has become a white washed replica of any town, even Bakersfield, all the same strip malls, all the same chain stores. We used to be cool.
And back then you would never see Orange Country transplants with spray-on tans, polyester blond hair, implanted chests and lips like a flounder, driving all Mavericky in gas guzzling Escalades—their toddlers stroking I-Pads in the backseat, the moms with one hand cradling their cell phone the other a Starbucks—acting like they own the place. Well, that was before they did own the place. Before they drove housing prices up and native Encinitians out.
No, before this invasion of legal aliens, Encinitas was populated with real surfed out descendants of angel headed hipsters, not the verisimilitude you can buy at Urban Outfitters down the street. We bought our clothes at the Goodwill and the DAV. We recycled. We didn’t wear makeup or bras or underwear. We were cool.
I tell her that I protested the building of Home Depot that stands like a big fat embarrassment across the street. She reminds me that we buy stuff there all the time. Yeah, that’s true. So I’m a hypocrite. Still if they ever, and I mean ever, build a freaking Walmart I will not step foot in it. Ever. Even if Target catches on fire.
Then I see him. A man standing between Stater Bros (who are they? and are they really bros?) and Best Buy. Next to him towers a poster of President Obama sporting a Hitler mustache. Look at that idiot. I am slowing down, and opening my window when my daughter talks me down off the ledge. Mom, please don’t. Don’t do it. She has slid down the seat to the point where I know she can’t see out. I power the window up. I don’t want to be one of those mothers.
Two weeks later I’m alone driving through the same consumer carnival, wondering how these places stay in business without my business when I see the guy. I’m so mesmerized by the stupidity of his poster that I hardly notice him or what he looks like. He could be just about any guy in Encinitas: white, medium build, 25 to 50, mousy brown hair. I want to howl.
Instead, I pull the car slowly to the curb in front of him, roll down the window, and say, “Hi. Hey I couldn’t help but notice your very large poster of Obama looking a lot like Adolf Hitler.”
He inches toward my car as I lean out the window.
Then I say, “Finally someone with some sense.”
He smiles, nods his head and says, “Thank you.”
Then I launch into my well-rehearsed diatribe:
“As much as I love your poster, I do have one criticism. I don’t know if you know but I’m pretty sure Hitler hated black people. So Obama as Hitler may have pissed off Hitler. But he’s dead of course. Anyway, I love your poster. And I hope you send a copy to Obama to wake him up. I voted for him. Can you believe it? What a disappointment. And that’s why I love your poster because you have the guts to tell it like it is. You know what pisses me off about President Obama? He negotiates. He sits down he reaches across the freakin aisle and discusses stuff with the Republicans. He had a great health care plan and let the Republicans beat it into a plan that looks just like Romney’s. And now the Republicans bitch about their plan and even call it Obamacare. Jeez. Yes, he does care too much. About what they think. So right on! You nailed it. Obama needs to be more like Hitler, more of a fascist. More like Bush. There you go. How about a poster of Obama as Bush or better yet maybe we needed a poster of Bush as Obama. Keep up the good work.”
Robin Keehn lives in the beach community of Encinitas, California. She holds a PhD in English and American Literature from the University of California at San Diego. She currently teaches literature and writing at California State University, San Marcos.