Around the Bend

A look ahead at the biggest stories of 2003.

We here at The Weekly used to do those predictable, year-end wrap-up things, but this year, we're taking a new tack. In an effort to stay ahead of the dailies (and exactly how hard could that be?), we're going to present the biggest stories of 2003 before they happen. Here are some of the biggest:

· Lott mistakes Grijalva for kitchen help.

In the latest of what seems to be an endless series of gaffes by the former majority leader of the U.S. Senate (and current four-years-and-counting lame duck senator from Mississippi), Trent Lott mistook freshman U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Tucson) for a member of the Capitol kitchen staff and asked the Arizona congressman to bus the senator's table.

After an indignant Grijalva identified himself, Lott turned to an associate and said, "If Black Jack Pershing had a' caught Pancho Villa 90 years ago, we wouldn't be in the trouble we're in today."

When word of the incident leaked out, Lott instructed his staff to "find the Guatemalan equivalent of BET and book me on it, quick."

· Peace comes to Middle East; Palestinians want to reconsider.

Peace finally came to Israel when both the Labor and Likud parties were swept aside in the spring election by a loose-knit group of political allies that went by the name The Big-Ass Fence Coalition. TBAFC (which, pronounced phonetically, is also the Albanian word for "cheesecake") called for the immediate building of a big-ass fence around the entire West Bank, except for Jerusalem. They also built another big-ass fence around the Gaza Strip and a giant semi-circular fence over the entire length of the highway that connects the two Palestinian areas.

The new government gave Israelis who had built homes in the occupied territories a week and a half to pack up all their stuff and move back to the real Israel. "They'd better hurry it up," said one official. "Once that gate is locked, it's going to stay locked."

The Gaza Strip-West Bank Highway effectively split Israel into southeast and northwest sectors. But that problem was fixed when Israel built an eight-lane superhighway overpass that carries traffic over the Palestinian Highway. There was a brief political scandal when the highway construction dragged on for three full days. Former big shot Ariel Sharon tried to regain the spotlight when he complained, "We fought an entire war in six days and then a puny highway takes half that long!"

Meanwhile, the Palestinians, who got just about everything they asked for, are now realizing that they have no economy to speak of. A gaunt Yasser Arafat, seen nibbling on the bottom left corner of his latest manifesto, lamented, "It has come to our attention that our entire economy was based on the disposable income of the infidels. Jews are usually such jovial people. When we said we wanted our own land, couldn't they tell we were just joking?"

While the Israelis are gone, the violence continues inside Palestine. The splinter group Ebony October (which had split off from Black September, which itself had split from Really Dark Gray August) continues to train suicide bombers. Unfortunately, they can't get outside the fence so they just target each other. "Religious leaders" have tried to put a stop to this by taking the standard offer of 72 virgins in Paradise off the table and replacing it with the promise of a blind date with a women's studies major from Wellesley.

· Cats win NCAA hoops title; cops avoid Fourth Avenue.

Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson added a second national title to his collection when his Wildcats obliterated Oregon in the championship game, 107-72. After the game, the entire Tucson Police Department was deployed in the area around the Tucson Mall to help protect the Krispy Kreme place.

Meanwhile, a huge throng of idiots, drunks, skinheads, thugs, pugs, buggers and Eminem clones gathered on Fourth Avenue in an attempt to get on national TV. They milled around for a while and tipped each other's cars over, but when police failed to appear, they all just went home disappointed. Estimates of property damage and personal injuries were down 90 percent from similar incidents in 1997 and 2001.

· Osama bin-Laden found, released.

The world's most notorious fugitive, Osama bin-Laden, was captured by U.S. military forces in a mountainous region of Pakistan, but then inexplicably released.

Said a befuddled Army colonel on the scene. "We had him in custody. We had a tip and so we followed this goat pimp who led us right to the cave where bin-Laden and his boys were ... well, partying, I guess you would say.

"But after we took him into custody, some suit from our government showed up and said, 'Are you nuts?! The Presidential election is still 16 months away. We won't need him until after Labor Day of next year.'

"So we implanted a chip in his neck and sent him away. We're pretty sure we'll be able to find him again."

· Walkup gets run down.

Former Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy returned to office after drubbing incumbent Bob Walkup in the general election. Walkup blamed his defeat on the intervention of "those darn NRA gun people." When reminded that he had sided with the NRA on the gun-show issue, Walkup said, "It's those darn anti-gun people."

In a related story, Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) was in town for an interview with the staff of the Amphi High School student newspaper. He used the interview to apologize to black people, Raul Grijalva, Guatemalans and everybody else he's offended or plans to offend in the near future.

While in town, he met Mayor-elect Volgy, whom he mistook for longtime stage actor Herschel Bernardi and asked if he and the mayor could do a duet of "If I Were A Rich Man."

Oh, what a year it will be.

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