TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20
Just when you can’t think of another way the Salton Sea could get any cooler, thousands upon thousands of fish that suddenly died last week—floating lifelessly to the surface, washing massively on shore—begin to decompose. The stench, exquisitely refined and awesomely overpowering, promises to be around through summer. Along the way, it will be exacerbated by a domino effect of other consequences, as the fish carcasses on shore attract legions of flies and mosquitoes, and as those that sink to the bottom of the sea create septic water conditions that pose potential health risks. The poisonous cocktail, which intensifies an existing soup of runoff pesticides and bird excrement, only makes the Salton Sea a bigger favorite for a peculiar kind of tourist—from existential art students to desert hermits to suicide hotline workers on their day off to anybody who just can’t wait for the Armageddon that awaits us all. Doing its part, as always, the Salton Sea Authority schedules a cleanup of the shore—for March 10, by which time the rotting and festering will be pretty much a fait accompli (French for “unshaven woman’s undeodorized armpit”)—but shrugs off the fish corpses that will have sunk to the bottom of the sea. “When the fish sink to the bottom, we can’t do anything about them,” says Rick Daniels, the Authority’s executive director, hastening to reassure everybody that the cleanup will not eliminate a long, stinking summer—when, by the way, another huge fish die-off is expected. And thus does nature’s perfect cycle continue.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21
Snow falls in Big Bear Lake, which the owners of Snow Summit and Bear Mountain ski resorts will tell you makes no difference at all to them—at least they’ll tell you that when snow isn’t falling—inasmuch as the issue of global warming and its effect on local skiing and snowboarding conditions is inconsequential because their slopes are peppered with huge water-draining, diesel-burning snow-making machines. [See last week’s cover story, “An Inconvenient Slope.”] But snow falls, anyway, and that reminds some of us that there is a Big Bear. And when we think Big Bear, we think . . . well, about skiing and snowboarding, yeah, but also about how fucked up the place is getting, because so many people who live there are, surprisingly, not environmentalists, and really couldn’t give a shit about things like global warming or crowding a Holiday Inn, a Big 5 Sporting Goods store and a Popeye’s onto 2.84 acres. So it kinda surprises us that on the same day that much-needed snow falls in Big Bear, the Big Bear Lake Planning Commission votes 3-2 against putting all that crap on such a small parcel of land. That decision makes us think that maybe Big Bear isn’t getting quite so fucked up after all. That, and the snow falling.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22
There’s nothing funny about the 100-year prison sentence dealt to Sgt. Paul E. Cortez of Barstow today after his conviction in the 2006 gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the subsequent killing of her parents and little sister—unless you count the fact that he’ll be eligible for parole in just 10 years.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23
On the morning after a town hall-style meeting at Vista Del Lago High School, where a panel of city and school officials unveiled its plan for reducing the violence and crime that are sweeping Moreno Valley—basically, it boiled down to asking people to knock it off, already, with all the assaulting and robbing—the city’s 174,565 residents begin planning their weekend. That’s not so easy. Several of the people at the town hall-style meeting—hey, when is somebody going to spring for a real town hall, so we don’t have to keep holding these things in a gym?—complain that there isn’t very much to do in Moreno Valley, and that boredom might be the reason for the uptick in crime. That sounds like a copout, until you go to the city’s own website, which can come up with only four things to do in Moreno Valley: 1)Go to the park; 2)Ride a bike; 3)Ride a horse; 4)Watch the planes take off and land at March Air Force Base. With violent crime up 26 percent in the past year—including a 20 percent rise in aggravated assaults and a 42 percent increase in robberies—it shouldn’t be long before they add a fifth: Attend a town hall-style meeting at Vista Del Lago High School to listen to a panel of city and school officials unveil its plan for reducing violence and crime. Good times.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24
About 150 teenagers attend the Youth Traffic Safety Summit at California Baptist University in Riverside, where they learn—from a woman who became a paraplegic when thrown from her car because she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and from man whose son was killed by a drunken driver—that operating a motor vehicle is more than just fun, more than just a game. Then some of them hurried off to watch the NASCAR race being held this weekend in Fontana.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25
A fiery crash brings traffic to a dead stop for a good quarter hour—naturally, just eight miles from home, after a long, taxing drive—and just when everything clears up, Kevin Harvick gets a flat tire, enabling Matt Kenseth to win the Auto Club 500. About 70,000 people pay top dollar for tickets and cram the California Speedway in Fontana to watch this incredibly frustrating drama unfold. Then, on the way home, lots of them live it themselves.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26
And then, on their way to work, they relive it again.