Friday, December 21, 2012

Reaching for Christmas

I think it’s Lily who, as a teenaged girl, greets her family in John Irving’s The Hotel New Hampshire with “Merry Fucking Christmas!”

It is hard not to be bitter and cynical about Christmas, with its message of peace and hope and good will to all, this year when...

...there are plenty of people like the man who recently wrote in a letter in the Claremont Courier, “They obviously enjoy living under the Obama administration and in an entitlement state. No longer is it necessary for individuals to plan for and cope with tough times and take responsibility for their own lives. It’s one thing for the state to provide assistance for infrastructure or low-income people whose lives were wrecked as a result of Katrina. But it’s quite another for upper-income people on Long Island to be standing there after Sandy with their hands out to the Obama administration rather than sacrifice the buying of a new car or toys such as boats, instead of purchasing insurance for unforseen calamities.” (No wonder the healthcare law was/is such a long, hard slog.)

...not only is Newtown, Connecticut, along with the rest of us, reeling and mourning after the brutal mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and burying twenty 6-and-7-year-olds and nine others, including the shy, troubled shooter and his gun-keeping mother, but gun control is still a dicey proposition - although now, finally, after a number of these uniquely American shootings, it just may be a possibility. the same vein, on Black Friday, the biggest day for Christmas shopping, there was an all-time-high number of people asking to buy guns; there are people who say that, if we can’t have guns, there is no telling what the government will do to us and the N.R.A has just called for every school in the nation to have an armed guard - in other words, more guns!

I can go on with a bitter, bah-humbug list - the “fiscal cliff,” polio vaccinators killed in and driven out of Africa - but the world is about so much more. As Christmas reminds us and as I riffed on in my latest column in the Claremont Column below, the world is also full of hope and happiness and things seen in the best (or humorous) light. (Hey, if you’re reading this, that means the world didn’t end - and that’s a good thing!)


“Make a left at the light up here and we’ll go to Pomona.”

We were out running a few errands. We were heading north toward Foothill Boulevard when my friend, who was out from L.A, mentioned that he wanted to pick up some fast food. I had to explain to my friend that there are no drive-through fast food restaurants in Claremont. I had to tell him that we had to go to Pomona if he wanted to grab a burger or get a burrito from Hell Taco, as I call it.

I’m always having to explain to him that this is Claremont and that things are not quite the same as they are in Los Angeles and West Hollywood where he works. I have to explain that things are a bit different here in Claremont. Like how he might get a ticket if he parks on the street overnight, or like how there are hardly any tall signs.

It is also like how, as I wrote about some time ago, he noticed that the red lights seem to take a little longer out here.

I like having to explain to my friend that Claremont is a bit different. I think he likes it too.

My friend ended up stopping at Sprouts Market, at the light on Foothill, and getting a Salisbury steak dinner in the deli department. I don’t know if it was the best, healthiest thing, but it was definitely better than a Whopper and a large order of fries.

My friend would agree that he eats better out here in Claremont.
* *
It’s a good thing, though, that Pomona isn’t far, that it’s easy to get to Pomona. Not so that we can get fast food, but so that we can see Raul Pizarro’s paintings.

Raul’s paintings shine. Literally. They glow. I don’t know how he does it - no, he doesn’t use neon paint - but his works appear to have an inner light. The colors - especially the blues and white - are so rich and deep, they are iridescent. Magic.

This is what got me when I first saw the paintings when I first went to see Raul at his home in Pomona. Never mind that he has Muscular Dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. I don’t know which I like better: the large paintings that are like classic Disney films (I’m talking Fantasia, Pinochio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) on the big screen or his small pieces, many featuring bear-like creatures and stars, that are like jewel boxes.

Like I said, Raul’s paintings are magical. Which makes this exhibit nearby in Pomona a special treat for the holidays.

The exhibit, entitled Theatro Del Mundo, is up right through the holidays, until January 8, at the Bunny Gunner Gallery, 266 W. Second St., in the Pomona Arts Colony. I find many of the places there have weird hours or aren’t open when they say they are, so it may be a good idea to call before going. The number is 858-2808.
* *
Meanwhile, at Pomona College back here in Claremont, it looks like, as always, the kids are alright.

More than alright, actually. I went by Lyman Hall two weeks ago to hear the Pomona College Jazz Ensemble in an end-of-semester performance, and I was, as they say, blown away by the students, including a vocalist, Anna Miller, who sounded like a much older, seasoned pro. Not only did the kids sound great - cool and hot and swinging - but many of the pieces they played were pieces they had brought into practice sessions and “tweaked” themselves.

This was explained by Barb Catlin, who was directing the ensemble for the first time. She was clearly quite pleased and impressed and chatted up the audience between numbers with tid-bits about the L.A jazz scene and how this ensemble fits right in. She made the classroom-like hall feel like her living room.

All the more so when it turned out that the guest trumpet player, Wayne Bergeron, who has played in a bunch of places with a bunch of people and is big in L.A and Hollywood, is her fiancé.
* *
Sometimes, I wonder if these kids are completely sane. Another friend and I were laughing about these guys at the colleges who walk around on these cold, damp nights barefoot in sandals. And when I say sandals, I mean flip-flops.

They might be bundled up in sweat shirts and wool caps - except for the completely insane ones in shorts and tees - but they always have flip-flops. No doubt, to a kid from Pennsylvania or New Hampshire, flip-flops are obligatory in Southern California and make perfect sense - just grab and go - an long as it’s not snowing and Mom is a thousand miles away.
* *
I wonder if a few of the students are heading down to the Mayan pyramids this week after finals. At the very least, flip-flops may make more sense, and, in any case, Mom will be even further away.

Earlier this year, Ed Krupp, who runs the Griffith Park Observatory and who now and then enthusiastically pops up on T.V, gave a lecture at Pomona College, saying that the Mayan calendar 12/21/12 end-of-the-world prediction is bunk, based on a faulty miscalculation. Nevertheless, the Peruvians are cashing in on the date, expecting quite a crowd.

Another friend reports that a guy he knows with dreads down to at least his knees is on his way to the pyramids. He’ll be joining something called the Rainbow Gathering. My friend, who isn’t as young as he used to be, suggested that it is probably worthwhile to avoid this crowd.
Assuming we get through 12/21/12 and make it into the new year, we’ll be smack dab in a political campaign, complete with yard signs, coffees and debates, with Michael Keenan signing up at literally the last hour to run in the March 5 City Council election.

For a few days, it looked like there wouldn’t be more than the two incumbents, Larry Schroeder and Corey Calaycay, in the two-seat race, and, with the two simply being reappointed, we would have had a breather after the marathon of campaigning last year.

Oh, well. As usual after New Year’s Day, life - and the democratic process - goes on.

That is, if Ed Krupp is right.

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