Friday, September 23, 2011

A September come true

I could have told you. In fact, I did tell you.

At the end of last month, I wrote here that I was happy that September was on the way. I wrote about how I really like September here, about how things really pick up at this time in this college town, even though it can be awfully hot. And I wrote that I liked knowing that everyone else is here, at work, even in the horrible heat, like me - and not off on some vacation.

Yes, I shouldn’t be surprised. It always happens. Just when I’m ready for the cooler weather, just when I’m set for my favorite season of Fall, which starts today, it gets really hot.

Then why was I surprised yesterday when it got really, really hot and really, really humid, leaving me again with no energy? Why am I shocked today to be starting another Fall shirtless in my cut-off overalls?

I really can imagine a poor freshman kid from Vermont or somewhere at one of the colleges here calling home in tears and saying he had made a terrible mistake.

Like I said, along with many other things, in my Claremont Courier column earlier this month.


Random thoughts - like the leaves that will start falling soon enough:

*A grunt is not like a cobbler. Instead of a topping, a grunt has little dumplings.

*It’s amazing what can be learned - like what a grunt is - on-line. (I was looking for a recipe with blueberries.)

*The hand-painted signs on the buildings at Pomona College for freshman orientation this year were very clean-cut and straight-forward. No crazy curves and tie-dyed rainbow colors.

*Speaking of tie-dyed rainbow colors, I found out this summer that Spensers has way cooler shoelaces - and lots of other way cooler stuff - than Hot Topic. In fact, I don’t know how Hot Topic gets by with Spensers two doors down in the Montclair Plaza.

*I didn’t find this out on-line. The guy at Hot Topic told me to check out Spensers when I couldn’t find my usual rainbow shoelaces at Hot Topic. I wonder if he tells this to a lot of people.

*Hey, if I could buy rainbow shoelaces in Claremont, I would. I certainly wouldn’t go to the mall.

*In Claremont, September might just as well be January. With Claremont being a college town and with all the students settled back in school, it really feels like a new year here.

*Or let’s just say it’s a turn in the year. A big turn.

*Unfortunately, the weather in September isn’t like the weather in January. It may be cool at times, but September has been known as the hottest month here. After all, it’s “Fair time.”

*Why can’t the Los Angers County Fairgrounds be pretty - that’s right, pretty, with grass and pine trees - like the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley?

*I wonder why The Help came out last month instead of in the Fall, when the better, more prestigious movies come out. It is an old-fashioned good movie. Too bad it also has an old-fashioned Hollywood view of a white person coming to the rescue of the blacks.

*Am I the only one who looks forward to the end of Daylight Savings Time?

*The Hodads, who played at Memorial Park last month, give the Ravelers a run for their money in my book. As for the Answer, please - it’s so old-hat.

*Speaking of books, it’s not too late for a good, crazy, trashy read. Mark Haskell Smith’s Baked, which I happened upon at Barnes and Noble after buying the rainbow shoelaces, fits the bill quite nicely. The blurb on the back - “murder, mayhem, marijuana and Mormans” - pretty much sums it up. And Smith, by the way, is a damn good writer.

*It’s also not too late for one last trip to the beach. Or two or three.

*Lots of times, I wish there was only one band playing in the Village on Friday evenings. Maybe they is just the obsessive compulsive in me, who wants to respect both acts, speaking. At least have the two acts be completely different.

*I’m actually glad that Sunset Junction, the annual two-day street fair in the Silverlake neighborhood in Los Angeles, was denied permits due to not paying thousands in fees and had to cancel at the last minute. It got too big for its britches with its big-name acts. I remember getting in with a $3 voluntary donation, in contrast to the $25 charge in recent years.

*And I get cranky when the Village Venture - yep, another thing that’s coming up - takes over our downtown for one day. Imagine having to pay $25 just to go to the Village, before shopping or anything. That’s just wrong!

*Actually, I was on-line looking for a recipe for blueberry glop, but I couldn’t find one. Was blueberry glop - a very loose cobbler with lots and lots of blueberries - something we made up when I was a kid?

*I have written a lot about how Claremont in recent years has gotten to be not quite so dead in the summer, with the street fair and all the music in the Village. But it’s still nice to have the colleges back in session and having all those talks and performances going on.

*Okay, I have a confession: Another reason I like September is that, even if it gets really hot, everyone is back at work and back at school. I don’t feel like I’m stuck here working while others are off on fabulous, cool vacations. We’re all in the same boat.

*I wonder how many students from back east call home during a heat wave saying they made a horrible mistake after taking a campus tour on a bright, crisp February day.

*I’m also looking forward to those falling leaves, so brilliantly colored.

*And apple crisp, speaking of crisp.

*Apple is the best crisp, but what about making a crisp with blueberries? It’s not bad with peaches and raspberries.

*It’s sad to see Borders book store closed down.

*Shame on trying to get away with not collecting state taxes so that it can look more like a bargain, driving stores like Borders and especially smaller book shops out of business. And more shame for trying to do this by having us vote on it.

* - the new Walmart.

*With apologies to the Claremont Forum’s used book store benefitting its wonderful prison library project, the Village needs a good, big book store. And somewhere to buy tie-dyed rainbow shoelaces.

*Spensers. For such a hip store, it sounds so old-fashioned. Like a five-and-dime. Or a grunt.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Living on fear

There he was, advocating torture, pure and simple, in no uncertain terms. He said he would use water-boarding in a heartbeat (if it would lead to any terrorist information).

I never did like Dick Cheney, and I didn’t expect to like him when I saw him interviewed on television last month. The man widely believed to be the force - the force for evil, many say - behind President George W. Bush was making a very rare appearance to promote his recently published memoir, and, not surprisingly perhaps, he didn’t pull any punches.

What was surprising was that, even as he was spewing awful things, I found myself having feeling, having heart, for Dick Cheney. That’s because he literally doesn’t have a heart.

In the interview, Cheney sat in a room and walked around his Wyoming ranch wearing a bulky vest loaded with batteries and wires. Quite eerily, he looked like a suicide bomber, but these batteries and wires keep his heart going after so many heart attacks. The interviewer panicked when, at one point, he disconnected the batteries and it beeped.

This may make Cheney look even more like Darth Vader, with powered breathing, but it occurred to me, as I watched all this, that this is a scared man, a man living in fear. His life is based on fear. To Cheney, death - never mind illness and disability - is imminent, and he has done everything, to the extent possible, to shield, if not arm, himself against it.

Unfortunately, perhaps because he is not good at dealing with this fear, he made everyone else feel it and the need for shielding and arming. And unfortunately, this fear was all too evident in many of the wall-to-wall commentaries and events marking Sunday’s tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.