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Al Martinez

Alas, perversion is not a crime in Topanga, unlike less Gothic regions of Southern California. : War for Fun and Fitness

August 14, 1986|Al Martinez

The people who live in Topanga Canyon love a good fight. It has something to do with the effect of altitude on the pituitary glands.

They can get it on over barking dogs, horse manure in the streets, commercial development, loud sex, noisy children or the right of a neighbor to pray in the nude.

No matter how insignificant the issue, there is always someone for it and someone against it, and often a passer-by down at Joe Creek's market will take both sides just to keep the saliva flowing.

One reason there is such a willingness to fight is the existence of a vast diversity of life styles within the same small community, from the God-loving folks who live in Styrofoam houses on the hill to the grubby iconoclasts in the shacks along the highway.

They are worlds apart on almost everything.

To illustrate that dichotomy, the Styrofoam folks, for example, favor tuna casseroles, the Best of Phil Donahue and the collected works of Barry Manilow.

The shack tribes, on the other hand, lean toward live kills, holistic dream therapy and the recorded transcendental humming of the Maharishi Sant Thakar Singh.

A redeeming quality of the community battles is that no matter how humble their origin, they can quickly soar to heights of world-class absurdity.

For example, in the Fernwood section recently two neighbors went to war over a romantic tomcat that yowled at night.

When the cat owner ignored his neighbor's request to have the cat's tongue cut out, the neighbor bought an audio cassette of trumpeting elephants and played it full volume at 3 o'clock in the morning.

The cat owner countered by loading up on amphetamines to keep himself awake and then barked outside the neighbor's window for 23 hours straight.

I'm not sure how it ended, but most likely coyotes got the cat and everyone rested easier.

The most current controversy centers on bicyclists who pedal from valley to sea over Topanga Canyon Boulevard, a narrow and twisting thoroughfare through the Santa Monica Mountains.

A woman who signed herself Abby Normal wrote to the Topanga Messenger complaining that the bikers are a menace and an annoyance to those who drive on the two-lane road each day.

Nothing new there. But then, to the bikers:

"You don't ever seem to remember to stay to the right. . . , endangering my life and yours. I realize all the oxygen is going to your crotch, not your brain, but maybe you could write yourself a note and stick it on your handlebars."

Abby Normal went on to call the bikers perverts in tight pants, and:

"You weirdos huff and puff along the roads, waving your buns in the air at thousands of motorists and pedestrians like pathetic cats in heat."

The weirdos were not about to take this lying down.

Came a letter from someone signed Mary, Mother of Hailp:

"I'm one of those massive-buttocks-swaying-in-the-breeze biker-perverts you secretly love lookin' at.

"I can tell that you're a biker-pervert at heart yearning to be in tune with your body and spirit. . . . So slide into your tightest tights, jump on a bike and I'll be behind the wheel of a car tryin' to run you off the road just because you're out there."

So.

The debate has struck a chord in Topanga, elevating the usual animosity over barking dogs and public horse manure to a new and invigorating strata of enmity.

I sense the potential here for lunatic rage and group hatred, both of which I, of course, endorse as a practical means of solving neighborhood problems.

I therefore leap into the furor epilepticus by quite agreeing with Abby Normal that any man , at least, who appears in public wearing tight satiny pants and a nylon mesh tank top is without doubt a pervert.

It is different with women, of course, since God intended the female to wave her behind to the crowd. No such sacred dispensation, however, was granted men.

But, alas, perversion is not a crime in Topanga, unlike less Gothic regions of Southern California, and the word weirdo cannot be found in the local lexicon.

Canyon folk, like leprechauns in an Irish forest, are encouraged to hack out their own paths, a freedom that often leads to bizarre situations, of which bicycle-riding in tight pants is not one.

All things considered, it is among the lesser perversions in Topanga, and not among the subjects likely to be debated in the great halls of world parliament.

If, however, Abby Normal finds flashing buns on the highway offensive, perhaps she ought to move to, say, Culver City, where there are no buns, no perverts and no inclination by anyone over 12 to ride a bicycle.

But Abby's absence will not mean the end of community rancor in Topanga. They realize that war, for fun and fitness, has its own rewards, and they'll go on looking for a good fight wherever the search leads.

If nothing else, barking under a window for 23 consecutive hours is bound to stir something up.

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