I’m waiting for my clock to melt.

Somehow, as my flight soared back to Mother California at the end of summer, a “Twilight Zone”-like fracture of the logic of the universe sent my plane reeling across dimensions and into some surreal parody of my home universe. That’s how I’m explaining the utter monkey business that befell my home state during my absence.

Like many of my fellow UCSB students, I enjoyed a summer abroad. I took a course in London though UC Davis, our cow-tending cousin to the north, then poked about Europe, embracing various customs unknown to this uncouth American: public transportation, bidets, etiquette, the whole deal. And because travelling rarely afforded me the cash to snag a newspaper, I also enjoyed the entire summer completely deprived of news. Then I got back.

Never has the question “What the hell happened?” been so apt. It’s like California suffered the Attack of the Thousand Subleasers. Now we’re all left to vacuum up all the crazy remnants of this surreally sloppy summer.

Let’s look at what went down under the warm California sun.

Too many genuinely cool people died. It’s a sad world that has silenced both the woeful whippoorwill song of Johnny Cash and the “Three’s Company” guffaw of John Ritter. Also joining the summer dirt nap club are Barry White, Bob Hope, Charles Bronson, Warren Zevon and those incorrigible Hussein boys, the last of which were markedly uncool but died spectacularly enough to warrant mention.

Certain famous faces whom I would have traded in an instant for a breathing Cash or Ritter lurked unusually close to Isla Vista. Some underling of Jennifer Lopez announced the reception to her wedding to Ben Affleck would be held at the Bacara Resort and Spa, a swank establishment a mere five minute drive from the apartments and duplexes of I.V. Then Michael Jackson announced the opening of the Neverland Ranch amusement park to the public – or at least the public with $5000 to spare and no qualms about letting their children play with a baby-dangler.

Rolling Stone had even more cringeworthy news waiting for me upon my return. Slapped in the middle pages of an issue proclaiming Jimi Hendrix as the greatest guitarist of all time was a dreadful article about some I.V. residents who went to a party and took off their clothes. And then danced. And sucked each others’ floppy parts.

Parties sponsored by pornographers initially may seem like a good time, but the Rolling Stone article just further entrenched I.V.’s notorious reputation as a latter-day Gomorrah. Linking I.V. with words like “fuckfest” could frighten away prospective students as easily as past local boogeymen David Attias and Andrew Luster ever could.

But above this madness, however, presides the single craziest, most unbelievable mess surrounding the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. Except for freshmen unaware of Santa Barbara County’s political past, students at UCSB can remember how vicious and petty the factions on either side of a recall effort can get. Aside from giving Lammy Johnstone-Kockler, the fury driving last year’s failed campaign to recall 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall, a new reason to grace the local evening news, the looming gubernatorial recall threatens to further jumble Californian politics and economics.

However, the option to boot out a bad politician exists for a reason, and if enough Californians were truly upset with Davis, then I cannot begrudge their right to attempt a recall.

What really cements this recall in a solid foundation of idiocy is the parade of mutants scrambling for Davis’ still warm seat: Arnold, Gary Coleman, Larry Flynt, porn star Mary Carey and, apparently running on an anti-watermelon platform, Gallagher – again, all people I would trade for a living Cash or Ritter. That’s if the special election isn’t postponed, which it might be.

I ask again, “What the hell happened?” and California shrugs her shoulders.

If there’s one plus in my new life inside the Salvador Dali-verse, it would be the lush swamp that sprung up outside my office in Storke Plaza this summer. Sure, I have to deal with the prospect of having the robot who stalked Sarah Connor as my governor, but those deep greens and shimmery lights give me hope that all this just might work out.