HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIF.
Far from Iraq turmoil, rising oil prices, and London bombings - and admittedly petty by all such comparisons - there's a new battle being waged in America's end-of-the-rainbow state.
Mirroring other longstanding rifts that divide California north and south, the issue is about identity and basic values, cultural world views, and capitalism.
Or, to be a bit more specific ... surfing.
City officials here in Huntington Beach last week announced a new worldwide advertising offensive marketing the town as "Surf City, USA." It comes complete with government-registered trademarks and signed deals with merchandisers of everything from snorkels-and-fins to furniture. The move could bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into town coffers.
The only trouble is, officials in coastal Santa Cruz, several hundred miles north, say their town is the true "Surf City, USA." They have filed a formal complaint with the US Commerce Department, challenged Huntington Beach city council members to a surf-off, and opened a propaganda campaign - albeit a friendly one - of their own. At stake, they say, beyond the royalties paid by such agreements, is their very tangible identity as a worldwide tourist destination.
"I know that on one level, this isn't the most important thing in the world, with famine, and terror and war going on elsewhere," says Santa Cruz Mayor Mike Rotkin. "But to tell you the truth, there are a lot of angry people up here. We have long had a better claim to that title and we're not going to just sit idly by and let them have it."
The mayor has written his own lyrics to the famous 1960s pop hit, "Surf City":
"Well, Huntington Beach, we'd like to be pals now/But when you steal our name, you're acting like Vals now ... We'll shred the Lane and you will say/That we're Surf City, USA."
By both towns, by some independent accounts, have solid claims to such a title.