TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5
The people of Barstow awake in a town that somehow feels a little bit freer—stranger, but freer—after last night’s meeting of the city council reaffirmed a citizen’s right to address the council while wearing a hat. The issue wasn’t on the agenda, but cropped up during the public comment segment of the meeting when indefatigable council critic Pat Aleman stepped to the podium sporting headwear. Mayor Lawrence Dale objected and demanded that Aleman remove his hat. Of course, Aleman refused. Of course, the mayor insisted. Of course, they both went back and forth until the voice of freedom –or was it just the voice of sanity … in any case, it was the voice of city attorney Yvette Abich – interceded to remind the mayor that Barstow fired all its fashion police in the last round of budget cuts. Oh, and about the First Amendment. That, too.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 6
Anybody who doubted the practical value of saving and reviving the nearly forgotten Native American language of Serrano gets a convincing illustration of its use at the groundbreaking for the tribe’s big retail and hotel development in Highland. Vincent Duro, vice chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians—and handsome star of its TV commercials–speaks a few words in Serrano as he stands before an audience that includes tribal members and public officials. To us, whatever he says sounds sort like, “Gentlemen, start your engines,” especially since gigantic earth-moving machines almost immediately roar to life and start crawling over the land that the San Manuels plan to turn into a commercial complex with a 110-room hotel, offices and retail space. But we don’t speak Serrano. Actually, the last person to speak it fluently, Dorothy Ramon, died in 2002. The only living person with any real experience with Serrano is her nephew, Ernest Silva. Everybody else is learning from the 15 or 20 hours of recorded tapes. But Duro was saying something out there. He reveals it was a prayer asking “for a little bit of forgiveness” for using big, yellow machines to dig into the earth. If so, the Serrano language is going to become more and more important as the San Manuels pursue a vigorous development plan. “We’re going to be going hard and fast,” David Manzano of the tribe’s business committee said … in English.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7
New San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzalez retells the joke – she said it was a joke, anyway – that she sprang on sheriff’s deputies during a Wednesday meeting of county employees. Speaking to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Gonzalez recounted: “After I said, Get home safe, get home alive,’ I said, ‘Shoot first, ask questions later. I will take care of the lawsuits.’” Not funny? Maybe you had to be there.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8
Bob Hope made the mistake of living too long – like, by about a century – and the golf tournament that still bears his name (well, his name and the name of a car company) looks like it’s headed for the same long, degrading demise. How else can you interpret the decision to hire George Lopez as host of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic? Honestly, if there were ever a person less funny than Bob Hope, it would have to be … no, no, forget it – what was I saying? – there will never be anybody less funny than Bob Hope, whose absence of comedic talent was compounded by the terribly opportunistic way he simultaneously promoted himself as a super patriot and profited from the USO shows he repackaged as network TV specials back home. But George Lopez does suck, and maybe not coincidentally so does the early list of “celebrities” he has convinced to participate in the “Classic” on Jan. 17-21 in Palm Desert—“stars” like Huey Lewis, Kurt Russell and Andy Garcia. Fittingly, Bill Murray turned him down, and you can almost feel Lopez’ desperation as he talks about landing … Jimmy Kimmel? “Jimmy Kimmel isn’t very good,” Lopez concedes, “but he will talk about it every day.” Somewhere in hell, Bob Hope is having even a worse day than usual.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9
An atmosphere simultaneously beautiful and sad permeates the Inlandia Festival at the Riverside Public Library, where a lot of people—and a lot of kinds of people –gather to celebrate the publication of a book that reminds them of what lies beyond, beneath and behind our housing tracts, retail developments, Indian development projects and 909 jokes. The book, “Inlandia: A Literary Journey through California’s Inland Empire,” (Heyday Books) features the work of 14 writers—among them John Steinbeck, Joan Didion, Raymond Chandler, Joan Baez and Susan Straight–and through their perspectives provides a rich, sweeping look at the essence of a home we may not know or appreciate as ours. That’s beautiful. And sad. But at least I finished my Christmas shopping.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10
The results of last year’s survey of 3,967 adolescents in Pomona schools are remarkable. Almost half of the high school seniors admitted they’d used alcohol in the month before the survey. Nearly 10 percent of 10th-graders said they’d been arrested during the previous year. Almost 3 percent of eighth-graders said they had brought a gun to school. Who knew they were paying such close attention to adults?
MONDAY, DECEMBER 11
Turns out I’m not the only guy who got a notice from the Department of Motor Vehicles giving me a few weeks to get my car insured or have my registration suspended. More than 28,000 other drivers in San Bernardino and Riverside counties received these little holiday greetings—the first of them were sent out just before Thanksgiving–too. It’s part of a new program that according to DMV mouthpiece Mike Marando will “give extra teeth” to California’s 40-year-old law requiring motorists to insure their vehicles. That sounds like a good thing, although what would sound even better is a little more oversight of the slimy, scamming, gouging insurance-industry racket. Or how about improved record-keeping among the people who are threatening to suspend people’s car registration? Because while Marando has been jawboning about more regulatory toothiness, his agency has been gumming up my paperwork. My insurance happens to be paid up to date, which means I’ve got to go to go to the DMV to sort out this crap before my registration is suspended on Dec. 20. Can you imagine a worse place to spend a big chunk of the holiday season? Besides the mall, I mean?