Never a Bad Time to Rip California

Dick Enberg, the Valley State teacher turned network sportscaster, has turned out a book called "Humorous Quotes for All Occasions."

If it's an occasion to rip California--and what occasion isn't?--you can choose from these wisecracks:

* "Hollywood is a place where people from Iowa mistake each other for movie stars." (comic Fred Allen)

* "There's nothing wrong with Southern California that a rise in the ocean level wouldn't cure." (author Ross McDonald)

* "Living in California adds 10 years to a man's life. And those extra 10 years I'd like to spend in New York." (comic Harry Ruby)

Does this state deserve such abuse?

Well, as Jack Benny used to say when accepting an award:

"I don't deserve this, but I have arthritis, and I don't deserve that, either."

FROM JOKES TO HA-HA: I'm still receiving mail about the St. Louis du Ha!-Ha! sign outside the town of that name in Quebec.

You may recall that the town's Web site gives two theories about the name: (1) It is an Indian term for "unexpected place" or (2) When French explorers first saw the area, they exclaimed, "Ah! Ah!" but it was recorded as "Ha! Ha!"

Explanation No. 2 made me wonder whether the townsfolk were having a bit of fun with outsiders, including people from Iowa.

Anyway, Mary Bess Grimes, Susan Walters and several other readers have since informed me that "ha-ha" is defined in the dictionary as "a fence, wall, etc., set in a ditch around a garden or park so as not to hide the view from within."

That wouldn't explain the exclamation marks in the sign, but at this point I'm willing to forget about them if you are.

ECONOMIC INDICATOR: How shaky has the stock market been lately? Well, Monika Tanhill of Sherman Oaks noticed an ad on one Web site that indicated that a well-known broker has begun dealing in footwear (see accompanying).

SPEAKING OF THINGS THAT GO UP AND DOWN: I think the mystery involving the lower two elevator signs in a Havana elevator (see photo) has been partially solved.

Peggy Norman, Bart Russell, Susan Tellem and a reader named Walt came to my aid by writing that the bottom-most sign likely warns children not to jump in the elevator while it's in motion.

The middle sign is more perplexing. Walt, who identifies himself as an artist "who employs iconographic language in my work," says that the middle sign--and its arrows--seems to ban "shaking the elevator up and down. Any college-dorm resident could probably confirm this activity."

Perhaps. Then there's Peggy Norman's theory: "It tells you not to wear wrinkled clothes in the elevator."

YOU KNEW IT HAD TO HAPPEN: Luisa Ramos writes that her son Anthony Chanrasmi finished seventh out of 151 entrants in a spelling bee in Orange County. His church bulletin paid tribute to him and another boy thusly, misspelling a word along the way:

"Congratulations to Anthony Chanrasmi and Bryan Davis hwo placed in the County Department of Education Spelling Bee."

AT ONE WITH NATURE: Joke books poke fun at Southern California. (Ha ha.) The stock market is jittery. But what about those beautiful skies the last couple of days?

Marvin Petal writes: "My wife, who is a facilitator at Riverside Elementary School in Sherman Oaks, was on the playground, observing a little first-grade boy who was staring up at the sky, mouth open, transfixed on a cloud formation. After a bit, he dropped his gaze and uttered to no one in particular, 'I forgot I was alive.' "

miscelLAny:

Shocking title for a Saturday event at the Long Beach Aquarium: "Seafood Lovers Lecture."

Actually, it refers to a talk about conserving food resources in the ocean. No one will be allowed inside the aquarium with a fishing pole.

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Steve Harvey can be reached at (800) LATIMES, Ext. 77083, by fax at (213) 237-4712, by mail at Metro, L.A. Times, 202 W. 1st St., L.A., 90012 and by e-mail at steve.harvey@latimes.com.

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