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I’d rather have the plagues of Egypt

I never thought I would be grateful for this ankle monitor. From today’s SF Chronicle:

First lady Michelle Obama’s commencement speech at UC Merced on Saturday is the biggest thing to happen in this sleepy Central Valley city since, well, ever.

“This is something that puts the UC Merced campus on an international stage and gives our city a chance to shine along with it,” said Merced city spokesman Mike Conway. “We couldn’t be happier.”

For her part, the president’s wife will experience two things the area is best known for – picturesque cow pastures and blistering 95-degree spring days.

And for everyone else, there will be more good ol’ family fun than this town has seen since, well, ever.

A two-day “Cap & Town” festival that begins downtown today is like a county fair on steroids, with everything from goofy human-bowling-ball games to kids flinging themselves against Velcro walls.

Obama’s 1:30 p.m. speech, for which no tickets remain, will be broadcast on JumboTrons around town for those who weren’t lucky enough to score a pass to hear it in person, and every restaurant will be pitching its cuisine late into the evening.

The festival and the A-list speaker are firsts for Merced – as are many things this weekend, most related in some way to Obama’s appearance.

And because of that, everyone – from the 80,608 souls who call Merced home to the 2,718 UC Merced students – is filled with something approaching giddiness.

“We’ve just never seen anything like this before,” said David Martinez, bartender at the Partisan pub downtown, which is bracing for overflow. “We did have Arnold Schwarzenegger drive through here once, and he stopped at a Starbucks. That was pretty big.

“But I think Michelle Obama is definitely going to blow him out of the water.”

Until now, Merced has been mainly known as “The Gateway to Yosemite,” where you gas up on your way to the national park via Highway 140, and the hometown of actress Janet Leigh and serial killer Cary Stayner. The snazziest event most local can remember is February’s Amgen Tour of California bike race, which drew star cyclist Lance Armstrong and 15,000 attendees.

This “sleepy Central Valley city” is my hometown. If you count the unincorporated suburbs Merced is well over 100,000 in population, which is about four times the size it was when I was growing up. These days Merced is probably better know for meth labs than cow pastures.

I happened to be downtown the day Arnold’s caravan stopped for coffee at one of our three Starbucks. I was so excited I went into the used bookstore across the street and scanned the shelves for books by my favorite authors while I waited for my heart to stop racing.

I went to school with Cary Stayner, which some of you might think explains a lot. His younger brother Steven was kidnapped by a pedophile and held for 7 years before being found and returned to his family. They made a television movie about that.

Michelle Obama isn’t the biggest celebrity to ever visit Merced. President Jimmy Carter, Vice-President George H.W. Bush, the late Senator Robert Kennedy and George McGovern all gave speeches in Merced.

Merced is also the hometown of game show hostess Summer Bartholomew, who won the 1975 Miss California and Miss USA pageants. (you didn’t see the “Miss California” thing coming, didja?)

Michelle Obama is far from being the “biggest thing to happen” in Merced. Back in the seventies Ike and Tina Turner gave a concert at the fairgrounds, and the Goodyear Blimp visited the airport several times. Heck, we even had Phyllis Diller perform at our county fair one year!

80 Responses

  1. I grew up in Dos Palos 60 miles south west of Merced. We used to spend hot summers fishing on the irrigation canal banks and dodging mosquitoes in the late dusk hours of summer. If you were very quiet you could hear a cow munching grass on the other of the meadow next to our house. Somehow all that still sounds better these many years later than attending a Michelle Obama speech.

  2. Just more slobbering by the MSM lapdogs. Yawn.

    • How can you yawn at the universal giddiness of 80,000 people? You just don’t understand world class journalism.

  3. Phyllis Diller, huh?

    Myiq, I’m afraid this explains a lot.

  4. Back in the day. I was moping around and my mom dared me to ask out the “June Bug Queen” pageant winner ( I come from a very small rural town in case you are wondering). I passed on that honor. She went on to star in several movies with Kevin Costner and I believe Tom Cruise. Now that is fame that MO can’t touch. When MO can claim JBQ in her resume we’ll talk.

    • June Bug Queen? June bugs are the most disgusting kind of insect ever. Worse than cockroaches. Those things used to get into my bed room in the summer and wake me up as they stupidly smashed into the walls.

      What was the actress’s name anyway? Did she go out on a date with you?

      • I never asked her out. Her name is Jeanne Tripplehorn. She was on a late night program here with Gaylord Sartain. My dad worked with Gaylords dad on the fire department. This is bringing back more and more old memories.

    • I like her a lot. She was in “The Firm” with Tom Cruise. She currently stars in “Big Love” on Showtime. She recently played Jackie Kennedy in “Grey Gardens” on HBO. I bet her IMDB page is long. You totally should have asked her out!

      • On the big screen she seems to always play serious roles which is a pity because she can be wickedly funny. I was never in her league, just a country boy. I wouldn’t trade the family I have for anything, although it would be neat to say I had gone out with her.

      • Big Love is on HBO. That’s where I know her from. The show is kinda quirky but interesting.

  5. If I leave Baltimore right now, drive above the speed limit, don’t stop and get when of those adult diapers that the ‘astronut’ made famous, can I get there in time to see Michelle???

  6. No mention of MO’s arms?
    What’s going on???

  7. Lots of small towns have famous people connections. It’s sad that some current members and the SF Comical think or assume MO will be the biggest thing ever. Whatever… I guess. At least she can speak coherently unlike her, uummm, husband.

    I only have one thing to say to the current residents of the Merced area: run away!!! It’s a cook book!!! 🙂

  8. Hey, I’ve been to Merced — you didn’t mention that!

    I can’t remember what I was doing there though. So maybe it doesn’t count.

  9. Now that you mention it, I’ve been through Merced many times on my way to Kings Canyon. Camping with the bears again.

  10. MO aint the biggest thing to happen anywhere…they had to beg me for hours when she came to gville I said sorry I have a root canal scheduled I had much more fun….

  11. Ike and Tina Turner are so much more exciting than Michelle Obama it isn’t even funny. I grew up in a town about that size in Indiana and guess who played there in 1967? Jimi Hendrix! Unfortunately I had moved to Boston a few months before the concert.

  12. hmmm – if a popultaion of 100,000 is a sleepy little town what is mine of 8,500?

  13. Someone added “Kool-Aid” to the towns water supply!

  14. Cary Stayner, eh! Was he convicted of those murders? I only remember the arrest, and remember well the story of Steven. Tragic.

  15. b>Do….. you….. know….. how….. hard….. it….. is….. for….. me….. to….. keep….. my….. big….. mouth….. shut….. after….. reading…… this…… post?

    I made a deal with my nephew that I can keep a civil tongue in my mouth for 24 hours. This isn’t helping……. He’s gonna win

    • If I was the judge, I would rule that one can “keep a civil tongue in (his) mouth” and still type mean things. Of course, I am not encouraging it, just making a ruling from the bench.

      • This may be the perfect time to teach him about appropriate exceptions, but i;m planning on manipulating him to speak nicely to his sister’s boyfriend this weekend (their engagement party), so I’m not budging.

        But on more a civil note, taking my cue from the video up top, she IS the biggest thing to happen in Merced. At least in hindsight.

    • Wow, let us know, if you manage it and please take a photo when it’s over…or at least tape the audio.

  16. The first lady coming to Merced IS A BIG DEAL.


    First Lady Michelle Obama’s Saturday commencement address at the University of California, Merced, will trigger an estimated $1.1 million in business for the hard pressed area.

    “Obviously, it’s a welcome windfall,” Merced Development Manager Frank Quintero told DailyFlotus at PoliticsDaily.com after tallying up the dollar impact of Mrs. Obama’s visit. Mrs. Obama’s daytrip is an anticipated bonanza for hotels, restaurants, gas stations and retail establishments. A local carwash is getting extra cash detailing three cars expected to be used in Mrs. Obama’s motorcade.

    Plus, as someone who worked at and attended the CSU and UC system (Davis,SFSU and CSU Hayward), the notoriety and revenue for Merced is good.

    Finally, how do you think that the first lady found her way to the sleepy town of Merced?

    the work of the students who attend the university…

    UC Merced spokesman Tonya Luiz said that before Mrs. Obama agreed to speak at graduation ceremonies, between 2,000 to 2,500 guests of 500 graduates were expected. After Mrs. Obama was persuaded by a group of students to keynote the commencement, the school opened the event to the public and now up to 12,000 will attend.

    “When else would the average person in Merced, California see or hear the First Lady?” Luiz said.

    While its always okay to joke, but joking about you would rather see a KNOWN WOMAN BEATER like Ike Turner is somewhat disingenuous with being a beacon for woman’s rights…

    • couldn’t she have just sent a cheque instead? and maybe some flowers?

      • Since admission is free there won’t be any revenue to offset the additional cost of security and maintenance. Then there is the carbon footprint the event will leave.

        If having FLOTUS pay a visit is such a boon to the local economy then we should send her on a cross-country speaking tour so she can single-handedly end the depression.

    • Were you born a dipshit or did you have to study?

      First of all, most of the people coming here for tomorrow’s event are doing so to watch their family members graduate, not to see MO. The rest already live locally.

      Since Merced is a freeway town the local motels are usually full to capacity on the weekends anyway. I doubt that the minimum wage employees at Barbour Car Wash will be that enthused over their windfall earnings from detailing three cars.

      The musical act was “The Ike and Tina Turner Revue” and all I said was that their concert was a bigger deal than MO’s visit. I’m surprised you didn’t call me a racist too, since Phyllis Diller is white.

      Don’t bother responding, you’ve worn out your welcome here.

      • In the spam filter no one can hear you whine.

      • You’re forgetting the windfall to commemorative plate makers. In 4 years, that will be the only engine driving the economy. Oh why must you mock efforts to singlehandedly rescue our childrens’ futures, WHY????????

        • And what about the gyms? You’re telling us that they won’t quintuple their business? Thanks, you’re consigning our daughters to a lifetime of subpar arms. Oh you’d like that, wouldn’t you, Ike lover?

    • It may be too late for you to get a sense of humor.

    • Yes, but he made the first real rock ‘n roll record, “Rocket 88.”

  17. Poor myiq. I’m sorry to hear that you have to suffer from a Visit. Ugh.

  18. OT but concerning 1st female 4-star general Ann E, Dunwoody

    Last night I attended a dinner given in her honor at SUNY Cortland of which she is a graduate. Talk about smoking women. She comes from a long line of military officers, has been the first female to lead a parachute battalion, and is now the Commander of the US Army Material Command. She has said that she and her family have never recognized the glass ceiling.

    Now Cortland is a small town, if we’re talking about small town’s welcoming dignataries (MO, not)

  19. Oh, come on, let’s keep and open mind and wait until she does the speech. She may hit a home run and inspire some young person there and that would be special.

    • Is Barack gonna let her bring the Teleprompter?

      • First Lady Michelle Obama At London School – 04/02/09

        Mischelle writes her own speeches…Teleprompter is Obama’s toy.

        • I don’t like Michelle , but I have to admit that she showed a lot in that clip. I am impressed. If only her husband was not so stiff.

        • For some youth, especially youth of color and those that grew up poor (not in Hawaii …surfing like Obama…in a security gate home, and private schooling) someone like Mischelle is a big event. Keep in mind they only know the story book, marketing, but still for me she is real and if she does good, some kid might take a different course.

          I recall a fella coming up to me, telling me he was a doctor at a clinic opening (all excited…beaming) and smiling to no end and then he just stood there. He then realized he had confused me with my sister. She gave him, those words that he needed as a kid, and would help with books and some math problems. She told him, he could be a doctor! That is why he was so thrilled to inform me, only I didn’t know him, but I did tell her and she did connect with him. See, kids need a kind word, a dream to hold onto. In his case it was someone that looked after books and told them (kids) to be ‘quiet’ and would give them a wink and would tutor them (not part of the job…we won’t tell). 🙂

      • Surely you jest!

  20. Comrade spamy must be tired.

  21. Holy cr@p, myiq! You grew up with Cary Stayner? Didn’t he commit those horrible murders?

  22. A debate?

    I’m not going to have a battle of wits with someone that is unarmed.

  23. Gawd I hate numberology:

    First Lady Michelle Obama’s Saturday commencement address at the University of California, Merced, will trigger an estimated $1.1 million in business for the hard pressed area.


    The university budget for the graduation has swelled from $100,000 to $700,000 because of the costs of preparing for the large crowd Mrs. Obama will draw. The commencement moved from the campus quad to an area called “the bowl,” quickly being transformed into an amphitheater for the graduation.

    So far, UC Merced has lined up some corporate sponsors to help foot the bills; the school has only raised about $130,000 to date.

    Luiz said she is not worried about the tab.

    So they’re gonna spend $700,000 they don’t have and it will provide an “estimated” $1.1 million boost to the local economy? That sounds like a net of $400,000 to me.

    Since the event is free and open to the public, how did they come up with an estimate for attendance? They have no prior history to use as a guide.

    What happens if nobody shows?

    • So they’re already $570,000 in the hole–let’s hope the mechanics remember to charge $400,000 for each of the three car. This community would be better off getting a Wal-mart, that’d only cost them $150,000/yr.

    • Since this is the first ever UCM graduation it’s a sure bet that if a big crowd does show it’s gonna be a major clusterf*ck.

  24. This sounds really cool:

    The city of Merced is organizing a street fair and festival to take advantage of the overflow crowd _ families and friends of graduates not lucky enough to get a ticket to hear Mrs. Obama speak. Large screen televisions will be set up in downtown Merced to beam Mrs. Obama’s speech live.

    Travel to Merced to watch FLOTUS give a speech

    on television

    from 10 miles away.

    • Why don’t you go? You could interview Obots and report back to us. It might be good for some laughs.

      On second thought, hide in your house for the day!

  25. Hee Haw FTW! :mrgreen:

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