Last Tuesday, very early in the morning, some locals spent
considerable time and effort to toilet paper (TP) more than 60 trees
on the median of Mesa Verde Drive West. Farther down the street after
it turns into Placentia Avenue, words were TP'd on the hillside at
Fairview Park. There are conflicting reports about what was written.
I have heard that what appeared was a combination of "freshman die,"
"'03," "sailors" or "Dad -- please buy more TP."
It's all part of a back-to-school tradition.
Bright and early the next day, the city cleanup crew was on foot
and in cherry-pickers pulling the TP off of the trees.
But wait -- there's more! The next morning, the TP bandits struck
again. This time, they TP'd not only the median of Mesa Verde West,
they also decorated the trees on both sides of the street. The total
amount of TP'd trees could easily have topped 100.
And later that morning, the cleanup crew was out pulling down the
I know that there are a lot of folks who believe that TP bandits
should be sentenced to a year in line at the DMV, but I'm not one of
them. Any teenager will tell you that TPing a house, for example, is
not a random act of violence but a carefully planned and executed
mission perpetrated on someone they like.
Kirsten Miller, 14, is the daughter of good friends Kathy and Dave
Miller. Kirsten may or may not have ever TP'd a house but either way,
she is qualified to discuss the matter. So, I asked her how some kids
might choose the victim's house.
According to Kirsten, the process is not rocket science.
"Sometimes, it's a matter of who has a good house to TP," she said.
Kirsten reported that one group of kids once went to TP a house only
to find that someone else had beaten them to the punch.
My friend and colleague Marisa Luiso told me that when she was a
teenager and her friends had a slumber party, anyone who was invited
but did not appear was subject to a TP party.
It may come as no surprise that parents are often in on the plans.
Kathy Miller, who would never, ever condone such behavior -- no way,
no how -- said that she knows of moms and at least one dad who have
driven the getaway car.
Miller doesn't see TPing as vandalism and neither do I. "It's not
malicious. It's a normal step for teenagers."
Vandalism is the kind of act that is mean and which has the
possibility of permanently altering or destroying the object(s) of
the action. That's not a legal definition, that's my take on it.
I will grant you that maybe TPing 100 trees is over the top and I
don't really like the thought of my tax dollars being spent to remove
TP from trees, but it's also important to take the long view on these
matters. On the list of potential acts of vandalism, whether it's one
tree or 100, TPing does not make the cut. Besides, there are better
ways of dealing with TP'd trees than to send a crew and equipment out
to remove the paper.
City muckety-mucks will disagree and they'll do their best to find
out who is responsible for these acts. But before they go questioning
the usual suspects in high schools, I'd research whether there are
any Navy Seals or Army Rangers living in the area because I believe
these amazing, premeditated acts of hilarity in the wee hours of the
morning could only be executed by people with top-notch military
I don't know who TP'd the trees but the feat was remarkable. It
ranks right up there with the Cal Tech football game stunts of years
ago when they substituted cards for the card stunts or sent a rocket
blasting out of midfield at halftime.
I don't think we should pin medals on the members of the TP party.
But honestly, I am in awe of how much they accomplished two mornings
in a row without being detected.
Finally, I must admit to one lingering thought. Why, I wonder, if
this act has been performed in the past on the same trees at the same
time of year, was there no one posted near the trees that morning?
That person not only would have caught the bandits, the cost of his
or her wages for a day would have been far less than that of the
I may be out there next year waiting for them. But don't expect me
to make a citizen's arrest -- I'm bringing my camcorder.
* STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and freelance writer.
Readers may leave a message for him on the Daily Pilot hotline at