Certain there’s got to be a better way, we head for the mountains, vowing not to stop until we’ve topped the smog line.
Up on the rim of the world, the mountain people—well, a dude named Buzzy and his girlfriend, anyway—speak in legendary tones of something that sounds like chocolate lab maple. They tell the story of a new type of sticky-dark marijuana grown in these local mountains . . . a strain so potent that a drug-sniffing dog became a pothead. Naturally, I go in search of the chocolate lab maple, and find it on the front page of the local paper. It’s a picture of a dog—a chocolate Labrador retriever named Maple—and the accompanying story tells how the pooch somehow ate a brick of pot grown by a guy in the local mountain district of Cedarpines Park. The foolish animal came home all wobbly, prompting its owner to take it to the vet, where the dog puked up the pot. The overreacting owner went to the cops, who are searching for a neighbor, hoping to bust him for cultivation. In other words, this wasn’t a legend, it was a tragedy. That dog was definitely a pothead, though.
All questions beg to be asked, but it takes a mountain person to pose some of them. Tessa B. Dick is a mountain person, and here is what she wants to know in a letter to the Crestline Courier-News: "When did it become the fashion for the Highway Patrol to decide that all Crestline residents are drug-addicted criminals? When did it become OK for them to decide that a driver was at fault in an accident, simply because she wasn’t wearing her false teeth?"
FRIDAY, AUGUST 10
Just because we are vacationing in the mountains doesn’t mean we have lost total touch with the people far below. This morning I awake wondering what the desert people—for example, the people out in the Morongo Valley—are saying this summer. Turns out it’s pretty much what they say every summer: "It sure is hot!" Others put it this way: "Can you believe how hot it is?" And then there are those who fall back on the perennial favorite, "W-w-w-water!" What they seem to most definitely not be saying is, "Let’s hop aboard this air-conditioned, natural-gas-burning, public-transportation vehicle of the Morongo Basin Transit Authority." Not when the Hi-Desert Star poses this man-on-the-scorching-street question to five randomly encountered people: With gas prices so high, do you or anyone you know take advantage of the MBTA? Irene Niznik of Landers said: "No, I drive. The bus takes too long." Angel Ross of Landers said: "No, I’ve got four kids!" Leonard Ritchie of Landers said: "I don’t." Amanda Overbay of Yucca Valley said: "No, I used to. Not anymore." Corey Garcia of Yucca Valley said: "No."
SATURDAY, AUGUST 11
A newspaper war breaks out in Crestline, where The Alpenhorn News publisher Dennis H. Labadie takes issue with the Mountain News touting itself as "your local paper." Labadie writes: "Now, if they mean ‘local’ because their corporate office is in Southern California, then yes, they are local. But if they mean ‘local’ as being owned and operated in these mountains, then NO, they are not local . . . The Mountain News should really read, ‘Your corporate-owned, profit-driven paper that includes news as a necessary evil.’" The Mountain News had no response, which kind of ruined the war, but maybe not so much as Labadie’s column last week, in which he revealed he is thinking of selling The Alpenhorn News.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 12
She wants to go to church, but I respond, "The beauty of nature in these higher elevations is so intense that, you know, aren’t we already in the most-profound house of worship?" And it works! She goes without me! But after I finish the sports page and a couple cups of coffee, I happen upon a Q&A feature on the artist, Lawrence Noble, whose sculptures are scattered all over the Inland Empire. About three-quarters of the way through the interview, Noble’s words really make me feel something. "Women are very, very powerful when they least know it; in their teens and 20s they are more beautiful and powerful than you can imagine . . . It’s the mystique. When you look at the figure, the female figure, you are seeing the hand of God. You are seeing an amazing structure that has mystery all over it. Men are logical and reasonable to an extent, but it’s not the same." And as I consider what Noble has said, as I look at his old, bearded face, wire-rimmed glasses and the hint of a smile, I feel creeped out.
MONDAY, AUGUST 13
Back home, and we’d really be bummed about that if we hadn’t come down the mountain just in time for Illegal Dumping Awareness Week. For example, San Bernardino County is observing the occasion by installing more than 90 surveillance cameras at known illegal-dumping sites, hoping to catch dumpers in the act. Didn’t Chuck Berry go to jail for something like that?