TUESDAY, MAY 22
Now that the Ramona Pageant is over, the people of Hemet turn to their other great romantic tragedy—Sam’s Club, the story of one town’s quest to bring a big-box, membership-only, virulently anti-union department store to the San Jacinto Valley. In last week’s episode (and pretty much every week for the past two years), the store that has been promised for the site of the old Wal-Mart store hasn’t even begun to be built. This week, the townsfolk begin to fear the worst—that the project has been killed—when city councilman Brian Christie suddenly appears to proclaim great news. “Sam’s is not dead!” Christie cries, setting off a joyful pandemonium. When calm is restored, vice-mayor Lori VanArsdale explains that Sam’s is still coming, but they may choose to refurbish the old Wal-Mart store rather than tearing it down to build new digs. Then, in something like a miracle, VanArsdale’s heartburn suddenly disappears. “I actually have a lot of heartburn when they have these big buildings torn down,” she explains, clearly stunned—as are the rest of us: I mean, how did Sam’s know? The show ends happily, with Wal-Mart spokesman Aaron Rios promising his company will continue to explore all options, and everybody else luckier than they know to live another day without the evil empire.
WEDNESDAY MAY 23
Speaking of huge distribution centers full of screaming kids, deputies called to a Rancho Cucamonga home to check on crying children discover 1,400 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of $1.5 million that was packaged and ready to be sold. This is not good news for the “Always Lower Prices” mission—especially not in conjunction with more than a dozen other raids on indoor pot farms across the IE in May, including a 1,700-pound haul in Norco.
THURSDAY, MAY 24
Two months and two days after Native American officials announced “Prez on the Rez”—their plan for a gathering of all Democratic presidential candidates at Morongo Reservation, the first-ever U.S. presidential campaign event on Indian land—only two candidates have RSVP’d. Not Hillary. Not Obama. Not even Dennis Kucinich or Charles Dodd. Are you ready for Bill Richardson vs. Mike Gravel? Neither are organizers. In fact, they’re considering the previously unthinkable: “We are fast approaching when we are going to have to invite the Republicans,” said Kalyn Free, director of the Indigenous Democratic Network, the sponsor of the event. “I’m sure they will be happy to come.”
FRIDAY, MAY 25
Guess we should be flattered that our favorite fishwrap, the Riverside Press-Enterprise, has resorted to stealing story ideas from little ol’ us, considering that the center spread in today’s weekend guide—creatively dubbed “The Guide”—is all about the best hamburgers in the IE, which the Weekly just scribbled about in our March 22 ish. Our list was not only way better and way bigger (22 burger pick write-ups vs. the P-E’s paltry 12), it was chain-free, geared towards both IE-based and mom-and-pop burger shops. So who loves the IE more? We do, we do! And what made the P-E’s reader-driven list? Cardboardy chainburgers like Red Robin and Mickey Effing D’s. Worse than this blatant act of theme-theft, though, is the dopey photo of wildly unfunny fast-food columnist Jeff Girod staring at us as we perused. Creepy!
SATURDAY, MAY 26
Jaime Pedroza scores the go-ahead run in the seventh inning on Mark Samuelson’s single to break a 2-2 tie and lead 13th-ranked UC Riverside to a 4-2 victory over 10th-ranked UC Irvine that clinches the Big West Conference title—and an automatic berth in the NCAA playoffs—for the Highlanders. Inspirational.
SUNDAY MAY 27
Inspired, I climb for miles, for hours, from 6,200-foot Manker Flats toward the 10,064-foot summit of Mt. Baldy—official name: Mt. San Antonio—in sunny, dry, windy conditions, carrying a heavily-laden backpack for the two nights of camping I’ll do afterward. It seems to me like the perfect personal challenge for the official start of summer. Judging by its popularity, it seems I’m right. When we arrive at the top of the mountain, there are perhaps 50 or 60 other people who did the same thing—and more arriving and heading back down all the time.
MONDAY, MAY 28
Memorial Day arrives again, and the occasion to remember our country’s war dead is always such a day of such mixed emotions—especially with our soldiers in harm’s way overseas, even as we honor their sacrifices with picnics, beach parties and sales on flat-screen TVs. This year, of course, Memorial Day arrives just four days after the U.S. Democrat-controlled Congress—voted into power by an electorate fed up with the war in Iraq—approved a war-funding bill that provides billions for the Iraq war and backed off troop withdrawal timelines opposed by President George W. Bush. Basically, they just ensured that we’ll have a lot more soldiers to honor come this time next year.