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It Ain’t Yellowstone, But It’s Home 

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Photo by Christine Pelisek

Standing at what will soon be his living-room window, park ranger Luke McJimpson surveys the rolling hills, streams and winding paths he has sworn to maintain and protect. But McJimpson isn’t in some mountain aerie, contemplating fires to quash or brush to clear. He is in South-Central Los Angeles, organizing nature trips for kids and teaching them about wild animals and bugs.

“Some of these kids haven’t seen anything outside of a dog,” said McJimpson.

McJimpson, his wife and two kids will move next month into a two-bedroom apartment located on the periphery of the new 8.5-acre Augustus F. Hawkins Natural Park. He’s there at the request of residents, who wanted high security at their first-ever nature park. An 8-foot fence protects the 30-foot oak trees, transplanted from Ramona, California, and the 3,000 cubic yards of dirt, imported from Malibu. The former Department of Water and Power storage yard, named for the retired Los Angeles congressman, also has a stand of pecans and walnuts, a large avocado tree, an orange, tangerine and lemon orchard, and a 100-year-old cereus cactus.

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“The community wanted it fenced,” said Joseph Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which developed the $5 million project. “It was a requirement. They wanted it to be a safe park.”

McJimpson was raised on 69th Street at Broadway Avenue, which makes him a good pick for the first park ranger assigned to the conservancy’s maiden foray into urban parks.

“Guns weren’t a big issue back then,” McJimpson recalled. “If someone wanted to start something, they used their fists. Nowadays, you have to watch out for bullets.” Slauson Recreation Center two blocks away is a hub for nighttime gang activity, he noted.

McJimpson prefers to focus on the good side of his job.

“It is nice to actually see the difference you are making in the community,” said McJimpson. Dozens of children from the neighborhood lined up Saturday for the weekly bus trip to the Santa Monica Mountains. “We had to turn kids away,” he smiled.

—Christine Pelisek

OMNIVOROUS BUSH REPORTAGE

As part of its honeymoon coverage of George W. Bush’s ascension to the White House, the Los Angeles Times last Sunday faithfully disseminated the suppurating spin oozing out of Pennsylvania Avenue. Bush the Sequel, the “self-styled ‘compassionate conservative’ . . . seems to be a man of his word,” reported Edwin Chen of the Times Washington bureau. “For three straight days, there by the new president’s side was none other than America’s longest serving Senate liberal: Edward M. Kennedy. The Massachusetts Democrat’s omnipotence,” Chen went on, “revealed several important traits about the 43rd president.”

Did Chen’s choice of the word “omnipotence” carry a coded message? Is he telling us that the selected one realizes the limits of his power — itself a sign of intelligence that may equal Chen’s multisyllabic vocabulary? Or has Edwin Chen solved the Dubya riddle? Is the least, and last, of the Kennedy clan the almighty puppeteer pulling Bush’s strings? Or did Chen intend to write “omnipresence,” as in ubiquitous, as in occasionally obsequious, as in fawning, as in the Los Angeles Times’ coverage of George W. Bush? Sadly, OffBeat is not omniscient.

—Greg Goldin

W.’s MO-FO MOJO

“Type in ‘dumb motherfucker.’ You’ll get George Bush!” For much of the past week, OffBeat fielded calls and e-mails alerting us to this latest stupid pet trick on the Internet. The site, georgewbushstore.com, popped up as the first “hit” on the Google and Yahoo search engines if you typed “dumb mo-fo . . .” The store — purveyor of such president-elect trinkets as T-shirts, coffee cups and limited edition “Maker’s Mark” cigars (exploding, we hope) — denied that such language had ever appeared on its site or in its meta-tags. Hacker mischief, we thought. Wired.news, however, looked into the matter and determined that the renegade connection may have been forged inadvertently by HugeDisk online magazine. HugeDisk, a lighthearted satire on the Maxim-led über-male magazine trend (slogan: “The Men’s Magazine So Manly It Sweats”), once published an article linking the words “dumb motherfucker” to the Bush store. “We at HugeDisk Men’s Magazine are proud to report that, although entirely unwittingly, we have done our part to cement Texas Governor George W. Bush’s on-line reputation as that of a ‘dumb motherfucker.’” Case closed, we thought — again.

But, no. Over the weekend, georgewbushstore.com declared the link an act of sabotage. “What happened was the result of a malicious act and we are pursuing remedies through the efforts of our staff and attorneys,” an irate message on the home screen stated. Turns out there is a problem with the HugeDisk hypothesis. The men’s rag appeared to have made only a single “dumb motherfucker” link. Google’s page-ranking protocol should have demanded multiple links before pushing Bush to head of the dumb-motherfucker class. Wired.news totted the anomaly up to a Google technical snafu. Such mistakes have cropped up before, the classic case being keywords “Satan” and “evil” = Bill Gates. We’re still waiting for Dubya’s merchandising wizards to name a culprit. Yahoo and Google have removed the dumb motherfucker link. In the meantime, we prefer to think the whole thing was a tiny bit of karmic payback.

ROCKETDYNE’S RADIOACTIVE ROCK & ROLL

Protesters gathered last week at the gates of Rocketdyne’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory as trucks rolled out, hauling 14,000 tons of radioactivity-contaminated soil from the military contractor’s site above the San Fernando Valley to a dump in Kern County. Over residents’ objections, the Department of Health Services had approved dumping the hot soil at a landfill near Buttonwillow, a town heavily populated by migrant workers. Two years ago, Health Services objected when Buttonwillow received radioactive waste from an old Manhattan Project bomb facility in New York state, saying the gunk should go to a licensed facility. Now the department has reversed position, declaring that radioactive waste can go anywhere — a municipal trash dump, a chemical-waste facility — as long as its radiation dosage is calculated at less than 25 millirem per year, the equivalent of 170 additional chest X-rays over a lifetime. That level is estimated to increase the cancer risk to one death for every 1,000 people exposed — a standard about 1,000 times more lax than is permitted for other carcinogens, the nuclear-watchdog group Committee To Bridge the Gap says. The Kettleman city dump refused the Rocketdyne shipment, but Buttonwillow let it through.

Rocketdyne’s own tests showed that seven out of eight radionuclides in the Rocketdyne soil emitted radiation above normal background levels. One radionuclide, plutonium 238, was measured at 13.5 times the background level. Health officials and Rocketdyne portrayed the radiation as negligible.

“We live, whether we like it or not, in a sea of radiation,” Health Services official Robert Gregor said.

The soil also contains PCBs, dioxin, mercury and the highly toxic rocket-fuel oxidizer perchlorate. The dumping is expected to continue for up to five months.

“The trucks have started rolling out of Rocketdyne, creating the precedent for free release of radioactive material throughout the state,” said Dan Hirsch, president of Committee To Bridge the Gap. “If you thought deregulation of electricity hurt California, just wait until you see the consequences of deregulating radioactive waste.”

—Michael Collins

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