To: California Quarter designers, who so thoughtfully sent me an invitation to participate in choosing designs for the California Quarter to be sent to the mint.>


Unfortunately, I don't feel the current designs paint a true picture of our Golden State 2003. I know it’s late, but may I modestly suggest consideration of the following proposed designs for the California Quarter?


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1. To honor the State’s only growth industry, imagine a simple, yet tasteful, design depicting a Hearstlike brick-mortar colossus, high walls topped with spikes, gun turrets (with tiny protruding Uzi, for numismatic connoisseurs to exclaim), rotating floodlights, overlighting harmonically patterned concertina wire. A full 33-prison (wait, 34! no, 35!) set from "San Quentin" to "Soledad II" could be featured, collect them all! Each design would be poignantly frontdropped with a tiny, collapsing UC Berkeley clock tower, over the motto: "Celebrating 30 years of Books to Bars!"


2. In the ever-popular "Modern California Heroes" theme, visualize a bipartisan image of Pete Wilson (pointing with the right finger) standing shoulder to shoulder with Gray Davis (displaying New Democrat middle-of-the-road finger) over a happy panoply of California’s dynamic, newly arrived young immigrants from around the globe! The heartening metaphor of established leadership welcoming the State’s diverse future would be captioned with an appropriately updated version of the state motto: "Eur Historeka!" Due to anticipated consumer resistance to such divisive theme, this Quarter may be split into its Republican (Dicky to Pete!) and Democrat (Moonbeam to Grayout!) editions.


3. What better symbol for traditional yet future California than our very own Baghdad by the Bay (okay, perhaps resurrecting Herb Caen’s phrasing at this particular juncture is not advisable)! And what more lovely and recognizable San Francisco linkage than the elegant, deodara-framed entrance to Golden Gate Park and its weathered sign stating: "No Dogs, Chinese (crossed out and replaced by) Homeless HIV-Positive Welfare Panhandlers Allowed!" Adjacent to this postmodern scene, neatly separated by a tazer-wielding officer, would be an ode to the City’s counterculture glories: "You’re Gonna Meet some Gentrified People Here!"


4. Sadly, there is an unconscionably neglected, segment of California society that cries for recognition in these millennial times. I’m referring to its Gated Communities! A full coin set might be too obscure for most consumers, but consider the potential of a limited "San Joaquin Tollway" impression for the Southland (fortified hillside villas overlooking an exquisite foreground frame of Rodney King beating video), and "Nob Hill Condo" edition for the Bay (nicely offset by miniature cable car mowing down street urchin in cardboard box).


5. How could any commemorative theme be complete without the commonality that unites every Californian, north to south, central valley to coast? Behold the "California Still Life" Quarter! Under a puffy nitrous oxide cloud the numismatist admires, etched in poetic synchronicity, a gridlock classic: 24-lane freeway choked with gigantic SUVs interspersed with tiny Camrys in breathtaking motionlessness. The fine detail reveals ONE person per vehicle, cellphone glued to ear, hammering on laptop with right hand as palm pilot adorns left. The collector’s set would include flanking signs variously emblazoned, "880," "405 South," "99," "Santa Ana (fines doubled in construction zone)," "Milpitas Next Right," "Benicia Bridge," and other locally loved inertialities!


6. To our boundless credit, California is too vast for every defining historical moment to win face time on the Quarter. In the name of global efficiency, we lead the way in downsizing, merging, reformatting. Voila! the transcendent genre. This would kick off with a somber gold (well, brass-tinted) coin juxtaposing the abandoned Sutter’s Mill ruin with First Street San Jose skyscrapers draped with aerially visible "Office Space for Rent" banners--and the speculative caption: "value: one tech option." Other timeless state unifiers in space and time are in the works--perhaps an Owens Valley/Hetch-Hetchy/Chavez Ravine Ode to the Unknown Screwed emblem? The possibilities for a never-ending series stagger!


7. Finally, California contrapuntalism begs recognition of this state’s epic interplay of tragedy and triumph. Eschewing, for now, the ultimate "post-commemorative" Big One Quarter (bad for long-term investment at this so-delicate time!), this special $35-billion-bazoola Budget Deficit Quarter updates Nathanael West’s timeless "Burning of Los Angeles" drama. Instead of Hollywood riots, the modern reinterpretation (memorializing the lovesick trucker who, dumped by girlfriend, bashed his 18-wheeler at 80 mph into south wing of the State Capitol), shows alabaster-planted Peterbilt wreckage, o’erarching flames illuminating four decades of Proposition-14/13/187/209/226/21 raging white mobs roving the live-oaken Sacramento grounds waving signs proclaiming, "California: If I Can’t Have You, No One Will!!"