The “Flat” Tax

There is a narrow passageway connecting Broad Street to Spring Street just to the left of Cirino’s Restaurant in Nevada City that most of us old timers fondly remember as Duffy’s Alley, from the name of the bar that used to occupy that space. If you happen to be wandering down that route, you may notice a sheet of plywood covering what used to be a doorway into the building. In a more enlightened era, this was the entrance to Taco Joe’s restaurant, a counter and small kitchen where most of us had our first encounter with Mexican cuisine.

This was during the time when grease was still an acceptable part of the daily diet, and Joe’s tacos and enchiladas were brimming with undrained fat. (That’s where all the flavor’s at!) If Joe knew you well enough, he might also take you out back and introduce you to Mexican “tobacco”. Like his food, his smoke was hot and harsh, and left you feeling a little dizzy.

After Duffy’s was sold to Jim Morales and became a full-on bar, Joe moved his business to Neal Street in Grass Valley, but over time he became more interested in spending his time at the bars instead of cooking. His wife used to hunt him down, cursing him in spanish and dragging him home to sleep off his indulgence.

Joe is gone now, but Mexican food is more popular than ever. There is an abundance of hispanic-themed restaurants in the area, and most of them serve excellent food. It should be noted that Jimboy’s Tacos got their start here, and who can forget Casa Gonzalez out on Gracie Road? But I digress…

One of my favorites is a little known lunch truck operated by my friend Carlos. He is a descendant of the first Spanish settlers, and has a little Native American sauce coursing through his menu as well. When he does show up in my neighborhood I make a beeline for his traditional hispanic fare, but yesterday I noticed something different in his demeanor, and his prices.

“Carlos,” I stammered, “when did you raise your prices? I mean, four dollars for a taco? Come on!”He muttered a few expletives in spanish before answering me.

“It’s these new government regulations,” he snarled. “They’re killing me! I’ve had to hire an accountant and an auditor to comply with CARB.”

“What is it? Are they after you because of the smoke coming off of your grill? Did your truck fail the smog test?”

“No,no…It’s the frijoles. They’re telling me that the flatulence they cause in my customers contributes to global warming, or something like that…And my beef providers are passing along the extra cost of their methane-producing cattle. It’s hitting everyone down the line. Then some cities are talking about a “sugar tax” on my soft drinks to combat obesity, and others just want to ban lunch trucks altogether.”

“To make matters worse, the corn shortage caused by the drought and ethanol requirements have doubled the cost of tortillas. I’m screwed, amigo.”

I shrugged and ponied up the four bucks for one of his tacos, but I don’t think I’ll be eating here much anymore. The recession has been hard on everyone’s wallet. There’s talk that CARB, realizing there could be a massive backlash by struggling consumers, is considering exempting many businesses from the bait-and-switch scheme. With a trio of tax increases on the November ballot, it’s no time to start unduly soaking the electorate, although the state is doing it not so subtly with everything from rural fire taxes, (how about an earthquake tax for the coast?) increased fees for everything, a rise in ticket-writing for minor driving infractions by the CHP, etc., etc…

Is it any wonder that us senior citizens pine for the good ol’ days when the air was stinky, but free?..When our representatives were even more crooked than today, but still managed to keep their budgets from causing intestinal bleeding? For many of us, the current trends don’t pass the smell test.


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23 Responses to The “Flat” Tax

  1. Russ Steele says:

    Some thoughts on CARB from the Cap and Trade Protest yesterday at

  2. Tony Waters says:

    You can get a good taco from a taco truck in Chico for $1 or $1.25!

  3. Echoing Russ 748am (I was his chauffeur), the CARB protest on the Capitol steps did draw a crowd of the usual suspects – small business owners, tea partiers, retireds, … – that I estimate numbered somewhat short of a thousand. But the point not made is that the people who will be screwed the most have no idea about what CARB is doing; and to double down on that, the idiots continue to faithfully pull the wrong levers in the voting booth.

  4. Ben Emery says:

    Well RL,
    Everything is connected and the sooner we realize it the better off we’ll be.

    What do Wall St, DC subsides, Monsanto, US Midwest farmers, Exxon, and NAFTA all have in common? It has to do with your corn tortilla’s.

  5. gregoryzaller says:

    I wonder if the methane threat is really the danger they are saying. It sounds credible.

  6. rl crabb says:

    George is right to point out that “the people” are the ones who keep electing the politicians who have sold us out, be they Democrat or Republican. Like Walt Kelly said; “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

    • Ryan Mount says:

      “Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history, mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass in the meadow about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.” ~P.J. O’Rourke

    • Ben Emery says:

      The enemy isn’t us as much as the legal bribery that politicians and political parties seek that is then used to manipulate the electorate for their vote. The people know what the problem is but the two parties in charge represent the retention of the duopoly and the special interests who fund it over the peoples interests. A Washington Post poll a few years ago showed that 92% of Americans say corruption is the biggest problem in DC. Congress earlier this year had a 9% approval rating and both D’s and R’s are under 20%. I don’t think it is us it is the choices we have between corrupt vs corrupt.
      The solution

      Instant Run Off Voting

      Public Financing of campaigns

        • Ryan Mount says:

          I liked it, but Aaron Sorkin can suck my left nut. Ok. that was a bit harsh. But I think his aim is true.

          I do agree with him, the USA ain’t that exceptional as our stories tell us. I mean we land can land a car on Mars and clean up at the Olympics. We also invented Ranch Dressing and Fender Telecasters. Come to think of it, we should get some extra credit for Ranch Dressing. My European and Indian friends have an unnatural love of it. (they sneak it back in their suitcases!)

          Anyhow, I hate America, I guess. But I certainly hate it less than other places. I’ve visited. (Have you seen the dental work on British citizens or Canada’s obsession with gravy and Quebec? Jeebus, and they way they drive in Hyderabad…they’re worse than Sacramento drivers. So no thanks.)

          • Michael Anderson says:

            Ryan, nice stream of consciousness. Yeah, I offer that video only as a different perspective, I don’t necessarily agree. But it does raise some important issues, and it’s gnarly and discomfiting, which is always a bonus.

          • Ryan Mount says:

            Hi Michael. Let’s drink some more. I’ll buy. Just so we’re clear on my positions:

            1) I hate America (for the reason Sorkin lists), but I hate it less that other places because despite their services and numerous bike lanes, they have bad teeth and dramatically fewer MRIs per capita*.

            2) I love Ranch Dressing as every warm-blooded American should lest s/he be thrown in a dipping sauce re-education camp.

            My issue with Sorkin is his sophistry. He’s like the DNC version of David Mamet. He tickles my Plato sensors when he presents opinion as truth for the purposes of profit. But I appreciate and enjoy his aesthetic and dramatic skill.

            * spurious blog footnote: **

            ** A footnote of a footnote. Even more spurious.

      • Ryan Mount says:

        >92% of Americans say corruption is the biggest problem in DC.

        I believe it. I bet most people do. But it’s always the other guy, ain’t it? Or some vague bogeyman corporation or welfare mom. We are completely capable of changing this situation if we want to, despite the oligarch’s efforts to do that. But we keep voting the bastards in.

        It’s largely a propaganda war now because in a republican democracy, well whatever the hell we are, you have to convince people to hand over their or others by force liberties. It’s kind of like passive-aggressive spouses who want to go on a $3000 Alaska cruise and they have convince their stingy partners that it was his/her idea to go. Yeah, that war is a good idea. Expanding SNAP is too. I’ll have the smoked salmon with capers, dear. Oh, look at that glacier! It looks almost as good as on the Discovery Channel.

        The solution is, and always has been, individual liberty and self-reliance. Secure your mask before securing those around you. If you want people to remain poor, perhaps dumb and unproductive make sure that they’re dependent on someone else, like the government. Teach a man to fish…

        • Todd juvinall says:

          Your rants are right on the mark. I watched a little of a get-together on CSPAN lat night called the 10th annual ATF party. Sponsored by held in Denver. It was all about what you just wrote about. The party was the antithesis to the real ATF and was about being able to “drink” “smoke” and “shoot” whatever the hell you want. They trashed Michael “nanny man” Bloomberg and his ilk. The hosts were a Democrat and a Republican. It was great.

      • Tony Waters says:

        Ben: You forgot to mention “just say no” to the two parties by voting for a third party!

  7. judith lowry says:

    As long as we are dreaming about food.
    The local Mexican restaurants are nice enough, but memories of Arcata’s popular “La Fiesta”, eclipse them all.
    Their home made corn strips, real chili salsa (no tomatoes) and their incomparable Chicken Fiesta Enchilada, simply unforgettable.
    They are gone now, too bad.
    I never did figure out what region of Mexico their recipes came from.

  8. tom odachi says:

    Thank goodness for the evolution of Mexican food AND Mexican tobacco.

  9. PeteK says:

    I bought some $3 tacos at the fair…oh you were talking good tacos…nevermind.

  10. TD Pittsford says:

    Taco Joe used to come into Duffy’s when I was tending bar there on the day shift. As sure as the sun comes up in the West, Joe’s wife would come into bar after working all day (which I’m sure improved her temper) and would haul Joe out by the ear. Once home she’d take all his money away from him so he couldn’t come back. Well Joe had a stash of cash his wife didn’t know about and more often than not he’d wait until she was distracted and bolt right back to the bar for a few more pops. I know he was paying for his cocktails from his own personal treasure because there were whole pockets-full of silver half dollars dated the early part of last century. I sure which I had those halves today but like Joe (and Jim Morales) they are gone. The memories linger on. Thanks for giving my befuddled old mind a jolt from the past. Oh yeah, the rest of the article was goo too.

  11. The biggest burrito at Maria’s is getting smaller. How tastefully you’ve all handled the “Flat Tax.”

  12. Don Baumgart says:

    Since the demise of the Grass Valley Amigos, Mexican food up here is now all OM. Overpriced, mediocre.

  13. Ken Jones says:

    I dunno Don I think Rico’s Tacos does a pretty good job of offering Mexican street tacos. Not quite the same as what we use to get at in TJ or Ensenada but pretty darn close. Nothing better than a mystery meat street taco off the streets of TJ! Use to buy them for 4 for a $1.00.

  14. Robert Lovejoy says:

    If you soak your own beans, add some baking soda to the mix. It will cut down on the breeze. Nothing will help though if you come across some mystery meat. First they said it was cockroach flatulence that was causing all this green house stuff in the air. Now they say cow flatulence is the culprit. I don’t know about cow flatulence, but I can tell you nothing smells worse than a goat’s rear end in a hot pepper patch. Add some dogs eating that new organic dog food, a few pigs wolfing down old cabbage, and some humans munching on purple kelp and I don’t think the planet can take much more. Then even say that dinosaur gas let to the destruction of just about everything in yonder days, which proves that cockroaches can survive anything. In the distant future I am pretty sure that the only things around will be the sound of a La Cucaracha flatulence in some dark warm corner.

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