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3 Sunny San Diego Places Your Tour Guide Won't Take You: A Political Scandal Cruise on Mel's Twisted Tour Bus
I have to be honest with you that times have been tough lately. Not only is the economy still lagging, but my hub pages site is also lagging a little. I think it's obvious I won't be able to quit my day job just yet. I did the math folks, and I figured out that a seamstress working in a Bangladesh sweat shop brings home three times more than I do from writing these hubs. I try to tell myself that I do it for the love of writing, not for the money, but who am I kidding? I need cash!
Luckily, recent events here in San Diego have been on my side. As you might be aware of if you read the papers or watch the news, our masher Mayor Bob Filner has been causing headlines due to his rakish behavior with women, and even now refuses to accept responsibility for acts of sexual harassment he has apparently committed against multiple women. But Bob's not the only one who has been caught with his hands in the cookie jar in our fair city. In spite of its reputation as the sunny capital of summer fun, San Diego also has a long history of political corruption. Old butt-pinching Bob is not the first San Diego Mayor to abuse his elected office for personal gain; there are other elected officials in this town and its immediate environs who have cast a gloomy, gray marine layer across our nearly perpetually sunny sky with their shadowy acts of political malfeasance.
Taking these events into consideration, and balancing it together with my dire,abject poverty, I came up with a plan. Scraping together what little money I had after I cashed my Hub Pages check for four dollars and seventy one cents, I bought a beat up old Volkswagen bus and started a tour line. I'm already up and rolling, and ready to take reservations! So hop on board and let's get going.
One word of warning before we begin. If you think we're going to stop by Sea World, La Jolla, the San Diego Zoo or any of those other well traveled places that San Diego is famous for, I'm afraid you'll have to pick another tour line. No, we're taking this bus off road to places you won't see on any posters in your local travel office. We're going to explore the darker side of San Diego and go to the sites that the buffed out tour guide pulling the rickshaw in Balboa Park definitely will not speak of. The name of this rolling wreck of a travel line is Mel's Twisted Tours, and I intend to make it live up to its name! So what are you waiting for?
Randy "Duke" Cunningham
Off to the races folks! Another place San Diego is famous for is the Del Mar race tracks. Bing Crosby crooned about the spot where the surf meets the turf, and many an immortal horse such as the fabled Seabiscuit has raced here. But wait a minute, we're not going to the tracks, are we? Instead of exiting at Via de la Valle like any self respecting tour guide would do, our slightly unstable driver is weaving dangerously between cars to make a hasty exit at Del Mar Heights Rd, About a quarter mile up he turns onto Mercado drive and proceeds toward the former home of disgraced Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
There is no doubt that Randall Cunningham deserves our respect as a war hero. His dog fights over the skies of Vietnam were literally record breaking and his stint as an instructor in the famous Miramar "Top Gun" school was responsible for the creation of future generations of Naval flying aces that keep the seas safe and the commerce moving across the water. But unfortunately Duke Cunningham did not rest on his flying ace laurels. He decided to throw his hat into the messy, seedy ring of politics, and that was his undoing, as it is with so many others.
Duke Cunningham was elected Congressman in 1990. Despite some outrageous outbursts on the House floor, he seemed to be generally liked and respected in the San Diego community. As a predominantly Naval town, San Diego tends to cut a lot of slack to its distinguished Naval veterans. So Cunningham enjoyed tremendous popularity until 2005, when it was discovered that a bogus holding company under the control of defense contracting firm MZM inc. had purchased his home here on Mercado Drive for approximately 1.7 million dollars, about 700,000 over its market value at the time. When in Washington, Duke Cunningham also lived for free on a yacht that was owned by the founder of MZM. As an influential member of the Appropriations and Intelligence committees, Cunningham returned these favors by using his influence to win big money Pentagon contracts for this company and its associates.
After a federal investigation, Cunningham was able to plea bargain the charges leveled against him. The acts of bribery he engaged in were so extensive and serious that he could have potentially faced a life sentence, but instead he was sentenced to 8 years and 4 months. If you are a politician and you actually go to jail for the crimes you commit you must have really been in deep! Anyway, Cunningham served his time at minimum security boy scout camps in Arizona and Louisiana and was released in February 2013. I doubt we'll see old Duke back here on Mercado Drive, folks, but keep your cameras ready just in case!
Your tour guide swings southward down the 5 freeway and just for a minute you think you are making your way toward La Jolla to take pictures of the Harbor Seals slumbering in the sand by the Children's pool. At last some fun by the beach, just what we drove all the way from Dubuque, Iowa for! But then, whoops! he instead swings east down the 52 and right into the heart of the Golden Triangle. Instead of hearing the crash of waves against the cliffs we look up to see a multitude of ugly strip mall buildings housing car lots and Asian restaurants. Nestled in their midst we find the radio station KFMB, where talk show host Roger Hedgecock holds court on weekdays.
About thirty years ago Roger Hedgecock paved the way for future disgraced San Diego mayors by getting charged with taking illegal campaign funds, to the tune of 350,000 dollars. He was convicted of 12 counts of perjury, later reduced on appeal to one count of conspiracy, and forced from office. But boy did he ever land on his feet! Four days after resigning the office of mayor he landed a sweet radio talk show gig and has never looked back. San Diegans quickly forgave him and his show is now standard afternoon fare. Although his program has a decidedly conservative tilt it is none the less popular with Democrat voters as well, who listen with a sympathetic ear to the never ending line of diatribe he spews against illegal immigrants; a popular topic here in the southern part of the Golden State and a sure ratings grabber.
Ratings he has grabbed, and despite his shady start as a politician Hedgecock has reached the pinnacle of talk radio success by lashing out against the very same sort of sketchy office holders he once was. Roger now has his own nationally syndicated show, and in the past has been a regular fill in for Rush Limbaugh. Let's face it; crime does not pay when you are poor and your best friends buy their clothes at the 99 cent store, but when you have the kind of powerful surfing buddies that good old Roger does then you might as well grab it while you can and let your friends get you off on a technicality later.
Okay, so after visiting the fabulously scenic KFMB studios we scurry on over to the 805 and head due south. By now you have given up any hope of seeing anything fun or interesting on this tour and are just trying to inconspicuously inch away from the driver, who seems to have some kind of weird rash. You grab onto the seat, bite your fingernails and silently pray this will be over soon. Your anxiety only increases as the 805 bridge takes us across Mission Valley; where in the distance you hearken upon the photogenic Spanish style spire of the old Mission (where you won't be going either). All of the sudden it occurs to you that the tour bus is getting closer to Mexico by the minute. You begin to wonder whether or not your driver is planning to dump you off in some dark, dusty Tijuana back alley where you'll never be heard from again. Then, much to your relief he finally leaves the freeway at the E Street exit in Chula Vista and hangs a sharp right.
We work our way around to F street, the administrative heart of the bedroom community of Chula Vista. Here we find the library, city offices, police station, and the former Congressional office of Bob Filner, now occupied by Juan Vargas. Across the street from the Congressional Office is the Marie Calender's restaurant in which Bob Filner's most publicized alleged sexual harassment incident took place.
Your driver unloads the bus and we go in to see the sights and have a piece of pie and coffee. In case you haven't noticed this is a low budget tour line, so the snacks are on you. Your bus driver warns you to wipe down the cushion before you take a seat in the booth, because Bob got a little sloppy in here. Wisely you packed plenty of hand sanitizer, which you are going to want to bathe in after this little tour is over.
As an 11 term US Congressman, Filner got used to getting what he wanted, and apparently he came to the conclusion that one of the perks of his House of Representatives seat was being able to beat up luggage handlers at the airport and to pick and choose the women he wanted to have a liaison with; regardless of their permission. Such was his attitude when he entered this same Marie Calenders with Morgan Rose, the founder of a non profit agency who was trying to use Filner's influence to get her organization's message to the attention of First Lady Michelle Obama. The encounter began innocently enough, with then Congressman Filner politely looking over her resume and assuring her that he had already spoken to Michelle Obama about her charity. After that things quickly got weird.
Bob told Morgan she had bewitching eyes, got up and moved to her side of the booth, then pinned her to the wall and attempted to kiss her. He continued with these unwanted advances until his cell phone rang and he got up to answer it. This distracted the Congressman long enough for Rose to bolt out of the booth.
This was the third alleged incident of sexual harassment involving Filner to go public, but since these initial cracks in the dyke appeared the dam has since busted. As of the morning of August 10, 2013 there are now fourteen women making accusations against Mayor Filner, but even so he stubbornly remains in his Mayor's chair, refusing to budge. Instead of gracefully stepping down, as even his most ardent supporters have urged him to do, he has enrolled in a behavior counseling clinic.
The tour stops here
All of a sudden I've lost my appetite for pie. I'm feeling a little slimy, remembering that I've eaten here with my family before, maybe in the same seat where old Sloppy Bob allegedly tried to land a lip lock on his unsuspecting victims. Why don't you go pay the bill and let's get out of here? The tour is officially over. If you want I'll drop you off at the beach on the way back. In the meantime, I'm closing down the tour lines. There has to be a more respectable way to make some extra bucks.
Will counseling change Bob Filner's behavior, or should he step down?
Another "sleazy" San Diego based politician
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