The following is an open letter to the Los Angeles Times:
For many years, I have stood perplexed as to why your newspaper has long refused to cover events in the Inland Empire. True, we are a simple people out here in the wilderness, and perhaps not as worthy of comment as the highbrow Westside Angelenos of who you devote the lion’s share of your reportage. But as you print your paper here under the banner, “Inland Empire Edition,” one would expect at least a paragraph or two on the goings-on in our humble communities. But excepting the occasional footnote, usually regarding some vast regional catastrophe and typically in the form of “oh, and San Bernardino burned, too,” we have seen nothing.
This is why I was so elated yesterday to receive a communication from one of your paper’s esteemed telemarketers, imploring me to subscribe to the Times because, and I quote, “We are about to step up our great coverage of your community with an Inland Empire edition!” As I think it unlikely the telemarketer was unaware your paper already has an Inland Empire edition, I can only conclude you have at last taken note of the great hardships we have suffered out here on the Eastern Frontier and now wish to add us to your editorial purview.
It is with this in mind that I set pen to paper to chronicle my family’s experiences in this harsh and unforgiving land. Further, it is my hope that this tale of survival will serve both as a trailhead for those who would come after, and an admonition to the weak and foolhardy never to attempt such a perilous endeavor.
May 12, in the Year of Our Lord 2007:
Lured by promises of cheap land east of the San Bernardino passes, the family set out this day upon the snaking trail known as the eastbound Foothill Freeway. We re-provisioned at Fort Azuza on salt tack and water, the lack of which would bring our great adventure to a quick end.
“But, Papa,” little Sally cried, being first to give voice to our misgivings, “surely no one can survive in that terrible wilderness!”
Sally’s words, echoing as they did upon the dusty trail, carried with them a note of prophecy. But Papa would not be dissuaded.
“Out East,” he declared, “away from the distractions of so-called civilized society, a man might make his fortune solely on the strength of his sinews and the courage of his character. Do not worry, little Sally. Our sustenance will be the oranges and lemons we pick from the trees like manna from heaven. Out east we will make our homestead, and out east we will surely prosper.”
Yesterday, Papa died of the flux. Mama fashioned a crude grave marker out of dry pine, which little Sally adorned with a garland of wildflowers and Jerusalem pears. I can only hope that God in his Provenance has some reason for the sorrows we continue to endure.
Today was a great day. While scrambling over a tangle of thorn bushes to escape marauding bears, Junior happened upon a glorious patch of pond water. It was brackish and foul; nonetheless, Mama used it to make a thin gruel of dried crickets and field mice. It was our first real meal since eating Rusty, may God rest his furry soul.
After finishing our blessed feast, I walked alone the borders of our encampment keeping a watchful eye out for predators. The natural beauty of this untamed land never fails to take my breath away. We came here to make our stand so that no man might ever call us his inferiors. And with the advent of both water and gruel, I feel we now have at least a fighting chance at survival.
At dawn, the Indians attacked. Mama held them off with the family deer rifle while Junior slapped hot iron to little Sally’s wounds and I searched franticly through Papa’s hunting pouch. At last I found it, the delicate device Papa called his “cell phone,” and with a titanic effort managed to recall the magic cipher Papa had insisted I memorize for just this eventuality. With trembling fingers, I depressed the numbers, “9-1-1,” exhaled and awaited the rescue that would surely come.
When none did, Mama raised the white flag above our camp, and in the ensuing pause treated with the Indian chief, whose unconditional demand was that we turn over to his care our young Sally. This we did, with great sorrow and not a few tears, but as Sally vanished wailing over the plains we comforted ourselves with the knowledge that at least she’d always have employment opportunities at the Morongo casino.
Yesterday, a writer for the Times Real Estate section called us his inferiors. With the stroke of a pen, we passed from hearty pioneers to backwater hicks. For Mama, it was the final straw. “If we’re to be someone’s inferiors, we might as well at least have central air for our troubles,” she said. And with that, Mama used Papa’s last remaining cell phone minutes to secure lodging at an apartment complex in western Pasadena.
We hurriedly packed our meager possessions into the wagon, determined to reach the San Bernardinos before the first snows closed the passes for winter.
Sincerly Pat Ponderosa