Chipmunk-cheeked Mayor O’Connor and her moral shill, Tribuneer Allison DaRosa, achieved a landmark of sorts with their grotesque burlesque of human suffering in a richly detailed front page story in the paper’s Labor Day edition — “Mayor samples lifestyle of the homeless (!!!). See the shameless millionairess schlep bottles of Evian and tubes of heavy-gauge sunscreen through this, The City without Pity. See her sycophantic cohort DaRosa brazenly prostitute sacred journalistic values to record the mayor’s exquisite horror slavishly. See them: Sisters in Suffering. Chip and Dale chez the Dispossessed.
The heat. Perhaps a fever dream? A midsummer night’s fever dream? Another avant-garde performance adding to O’Connor’s increasingly Dadaist mayoral style? A Communist Plot?? Right-wing conspiracy theorists have long alleged that wealthy individuals in high places (often Jesuit indoctrinated) are intimately involved in a global strategy to overthrow democracy and install a one-world Stalinist-Leninist dictatorship. Is Maureen’s Poor-Like-Me experience an attempt to shake our city’s faith in the virtues of late-stage capitalism (her recent trip in a Stalinist-Leninist police state is in itself cause for speculation)? Or is this adventure an expression of sham pity turbocharged by mere hideous self-promotion?
How do we know? Again and again we must return to the text. DaRosa’s stylistic virtuosity, her painstaking rendering of O’Connor’s insights into poverty — “… she learned why the homeless shuffle. Their feet ache. Hers are swollen today …” — lend themselves to the structural scrutiny employed by literary technicians at the Ecote Normale Superieure in Paris and at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. DaRosa’s deconstructed text sheds/surrenders layer after layer of meaning — what at first seems a vulgar display of exploitative media hype is, in reality, an allegory: a troubled woman’s wrestling match with the feminist/sexual/religio-socio-economic issues that batter the contemporary soul (see below: sole, dark night of).
Examine first the story’s page-one placement: beneath the headline “It’s as hot here as the desert,” is a large, full-color photo of tomboyishly-clad O’Connor and DaRosa parading past a half-naked, black homeless. Their attire’s distinct sexual ambiguity is a disturbing visual cue — it unsettles the reader/viewer with its implicit theme of gender confusion: are these male or female homeless? Directly below the photo rests the headline for DaRosa’s chronicle — Mayor Samples LIfestyle of the Homeless. And beneath the headline is yet another photo op/visual cue. It's cutline reads, “Mayor O’Connor catches some sleep on her backpack in Balboa Park.” Sleep, its corollary — dreams. Dreams: the subconscious, wish fulfillment, censored lusts.
Careful attention should be paid to the location of DaRosa’s text vis a vis other stories: examination reveals that the Tribune’s Powers-that-be arranged other page-one articles so as to appear as footnotes to the mayor’s story. The “record-setting heat wave” item indicates to us that O’Connor has indeed suffered, abandoned climate-controlled office for the stench and sweat of the streets. The “Record floods spark panic in Bangladesh” story details the deaths of 1200 and the homelessness of 25 million.
These facts signify our mayor’s proximity to, in fact, a participation in, the human condition: We are being told that DaRosa’s is more than a simple account of San Diego’s megabucks mayor posing as a homeless. Hers is a vastly important tale fighting to be told. Allegory upon allegory, the text cannot bear the weight; it cracks apart – fissures form through which meaning flows.
“Why all the fuss? What are Maureen’s demons?” are the obvious questions to follow. Again, turn to the text: Communism; Roman Catholicism; female royalty; and an obsession with machismo and male homosexuality.
“She (O’Connor) wandered the streets till her feet blistered [see above: swollen feet; see below: “click-click-click”], was rousted from resting spots, slept a night in a seamy [read: semen] section of Balboa Park …”
“The mayor was startled when she saw her first drug transaction two blocks from the St. Vincent de Paul Center, where she started on Friday …”
Saint Vincent de Paul Center — actually, the Joan Kroc/ St. Vincent de Paul Center. Joan Kroc — millionaires, world peace advocate (“World Peace” is held by many right-wing conspiracy theorists to be a Communist-front ideology – emerging pattern or red herring?” we ask). Saint Vincent de Paul — eighteenth-century Catholic figure (see above: Jesuit indoctrination; global conspiracy) who was kidnapped as a child and sent to North Africa — a notorious center for male prostitution (see: L’ Immoraliste, Andre Gide, Nobel laureate).
“O’Connor was no sissy. She scaled the steep ivy- embankments of Highway 163 to get into Balboa Park the way homeless do … the mayor and her shadows investigated … under a Highway 163 bridge, they laughed at the paperback reading choice at one campsite, ‘Pagan Land.’”
“… the mayor ended up back in the park, in a palm-sheltered dirt alcove just south of the lawn bowling green .. she and the others [her photographers, two undercover police officer, channel 39 reporter Dave Owen, his cameraman, and DaRosa] strained their eyes to make out the shadowy forms in the surrounding brush …”
O’Connor was no sissy unlike the “shadowy forms” whose goatish wickedness (see above: paperback Pagan Land ; see below: satyrs in bushes, threat of libido-gone-amok) and all it represents were soon made manifest:
“They [Mayor & Co.] hardly slept at all. They didn’t know they’d camped just off ‘Queens Circle,’ a busy thoroughfare for homosexuals …” [as always, the italics are all mine].
“… camped just off ‘Queens Circle’ … DaRosa broadsides the reader with a pun so obvious as to appear unintentional. “Camp” is, as the educated reader well knows, an adjective used to typify male homosexual humor – “to camp” is to indulge in such humor. The “Queens Circle” referent is clearly Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (see above: satyrs, mythological fertility icons), specifically, its dream sequence in which Titania, the “Imperious Queen of the Fairies” (“fairy” American sland for male homosexual) figures prominently.
“Queens Circle,” is also perhaps an oblique but skilfull play upon O’Connor’s obsession with her self-perceived role as Queen of San Diego. Obscure. Elusive.