Joseph D. Luyben (Joe Luyben), candidate for 5th District LB city council
Joseph D. Luyben (Joe Luyben), candidate for 5th District LB city council

CANDIDATES' SUMMIT: We walked into Grounds on Spring Street Wednesday morning and a woman stopped us to ask if we're really running for the 5th District council seat.

"We're running against that gentleman over there," we said, pointing to the table where Joseph D. Luyben, candidate for office, was sitting, waiting for us.

Luyben told us, "When I'm in a fistfight I like to throw the first punch," which isn't something you want to hear if you think a guy wants to sock you.

Turns out it was just a boxing metaphor for throwing one's hat in the ring, which is another boxing metaphor for his early entry into the heavyweight bout that is a campaign for public office.

Things got civil pretty quick. "Your columns about me have been hilarious," he said diplomatically. "But if you only write one thing about me, will you tell people I'm Catholic, not Jewish? I keep getting calls from people asking if I'm involved with the Jewish Defense League."

"You're involved with the Jewish Defense League? I thought your company name (JDL Packaging Systems Inc.) was your initials?"

"It is my initials. When I started my company I told my dad I was using my initials. He said, `Really? Jewish Defense League?' So you're not the first to make that connection."

Luyben is, unfortunately, a great guy. We talked about our common experiences growing up in the pioneer days in the east part of town, playing on dangerous park equipment in El Dorado (us) and Pan-Am (Luyben) parks.


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Getting liberated from Catholic schools at Bosco (us) and Sts. Cyprian and Anthony (Luyben). We talked about our plans for the 5th; we both intend to put a swing set in Rosie the Riveter Park.

We're basically the same guy. There's no reason for both of us to exist. We're redundant. Except Luyben is rich - turns out there's a ton of money in providing the JDL with cardboard cartons and packaging tape. And, even though he's five years younger than us, he already has more than twice as many kids as we have - plus grandkids.

The money difference is problematic for us. So far, we've been running on our Kennedy-esque good looks and charisma, and we're fairly confident that we'll bag the endorsements of the sainted unions in town, each of which we love more than all the others combined. We're also counting on the endorsements of everyone who's anyone in this city.

There are people who probably won't vote for us, for instance the guy who called two hours before our meeting with Luyben who told us we should change our last name to Garbage, a suggestion that sounded to us like poor campaign advice.

When Luyben pulled away from the parking lot in front of Grounds in a sparkling white non-C-class Mercedes, we knew we might be in trouble when it comes to campaign financing. That, plus he has a certain, if not Kennedy-esque, certainly a William Howard Taft-esque good looks and charisma.

BOOK REPORT: When books that we think might be of some interest to Long Beachers skitter across our desk, we at least take a moment to check out the index and see what the author has to say about the city of our birth. This week we got a nice-looking volume, "The Golden Shore: California's Love Affair with the Sea," by David Helvarg ($27.99; St. Martin's Press). Long Beach gets one entry in the index (as does "Hmong, fishing practices of"). We always blanch a bit at a single listing, because it typically means the author is going to sum up the town with a brace of adjectives before moving along to L.A.

Here, Helvarg, a man with some great bona fides, takes a drive up the state's coast. It's a pretty quick drive, as he drives from Newport Beach to Long Beach in just one sentence - "to Newport Beach (boats and money), Huntington Beach (surfers and money), Seal Beach (old Navy weapons bunkers and affordable housing), and on to the city of Long Beach, mostly poor except along its revived waterfront..."

Helvarg does exchange a couple of words with our Aquarium of the Pacific president and our pal Jerry Schubel, but he crippled his credibility with "affordable housing" in Seal Beach. Maybe it's because we're mostly poor, but we can't afford Seal Beach - at least not until we move to Leisure World.

tgrobaty@yahoo.com, 562-714-2116 or twitter.com/grobaty