Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Song of the Week: for the Coastal Commission and its adversaries, Old 97's "The One"

This week's song honors the coast of California…you know, the one that the California Coastal Commission watches over…including Peter Douglas, the longtime executive director of that regulatory body. As we reported, he announced his retirement this week. Song of the week's by the Old 97's, one of my favorite bands. It's called "The One." The opening - shimmery guitar chords - give way to lyrics sung by Rhett Miller that imagine the band robbing a bank and running away up the coast.

Murray says we’re gonna take the money sometime

Well it might as well be this time

We’re gonna spend it all on ourselves

Ken picked this bank at random

I said, do we shoot them?

And he said, either way’s alright

Whistlin’ Boy, that’s Philip, he’s our drummer

He does the them from “Endless Summer”

You know he’s waiting out in our ride

Lots of people write songs about getting away with something and stealing away up the highway, especially highway 1. (Here I'm thinking of Sonic Youth and Hole, especially, but name your favorites if you've got them.) The word that comes to mind for this song is giddy. GIDDY. These guys are drunk on joy, and the sun, and the chorus tumbles quickly by until the last two lines, below:

Throw the money in the bag

It all worked out just like we planned

Now the good times have begun

That’s not a fire -- it’s just the sun

It’s like the old man said

Take the money and run

What’s the rush? 

Let’s take The One

The One, of course, is slow because it's a two lane highway for significant chunks of its existence. For 90 miles or so, from just below Monterey County to Carmel at the river, the vertiginous road dares you to lose your grip on it, over the rocks of Big Sur. The sense of freedom these guys have in the song corresponds to that, of course.

I like you California

Although I feel the urge to warn ya

We’re gonna rob you blind

Money and the coast are always intertwined, especially now, in a way that will only increase. That sense that someone's getting away with something? It's a common one, on both sides of regulation v. property rights disputes at the Coastal Commission. Property owners argue the commission's getting away with chest-thumping, overreaching, and taking. The commission - especially Douglas - says it's being vigilant against people with money - here I am remembering the most recent The Edge/Malibu development vote - stealing the natural environment entrusted to all citizens of California by state law. Everyone's been right on that more than once, fo sho.

Listen to all the songs of the week here…and try not to go insane.