EDITOR'S DESK: The end of the barbecue

       It's not easy to give up something that has been fun. For the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), that thing for many years has been an annual barbecue to which all the Westside was invited.
       The issue of being overwhelmed by numbers did not arise in the first few years when hardly anybody knew about it. But in the last few years at Bancroft Park, after combining its picnic with the West Intergenerational Center's previously separate summer "block party," OWN's volunteer board members have seen attendance steadily increase. Even in pouring rain in 2003 and 2004, the numbers exceeded 300 people. What had been a casual cook-out evolved into a major mobilization. The OWN folks, whose day jobs as a rule are non-culinary, were forced to guesstimate beforehand how many burgers or hot dogs would be needed, then find to their dismay in the middle of the event that they had under-guessed and have to race to the store - sometimes paying out of pocket - to pick up more entrees for the masses.
       The ketchup hit the fan, so to speak, last year, when it became obvious that the Westside families that were the original reason for OWN's largesse were being elbowed out (literally and figuratively) by homeless people looking for a free meal. This even carried over to the pie-eating contest. I did not see the incident myself, but what I've been told is that some adult (reportedly a transient) entered and beat out a child for first place.
       The fallout from such developments can be seen this year, when OWN's July 29 "Picnic in the Park" will essentially be a bring-your-own affair. Now, OWN is by definition a political group (city-funded) so you won't hear any sermonizing from its members about the utter uselessness of single-male homeless bums and how every one of them should be put on a bus out of town. But somebody ought to say something like that. Hey, it looks like I just did!

- K.J.