TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18
Santa Claus spends the morning in Lake Elsinore, walking back and forth across Lewis Street. About the same time comes a report from the California Highway Patrol about some weird-looking piece of metal equipment in the westbound lanes of the not-so-far-away 91 freeway—and of course I’m thinking: Dude lost his sleigh! Nope. The metal thing was a wheelchair, and like I said, the Santa in Elsinore is walking . . . a lot! He keeps up the back-and-forth across Lewis for three hours. Most motorists stop for him. Many don’t even slow down, however, and some even flip him the ol’ turtledove . . . or is that a partridge? It’s a bird, anyway. Finally, law enforcement shows up. Deputies don’t touch Santa, though . . . because it turns out he’s one of them! Santa is an undercover cop on traffic detail. His buddies issue 52 citations, impound seven vehicles of unlicensed or suspended drivers and even serve one arrest warrant. And so this is Christmas.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 19
Two teenage volunteers dressed as Rudolph and Frosty are roughed up by unidentified teens while dancing and singing for an audience of 300 in Murrieta. “Frosty never saw who grabbed her,” says the guy who dressed as Santa Claus. “They came back to the sleigh and Rudolph was crying.” That’s sad. But what’s spooky is that the guy dressed as Santa Claus turns out to be Murrieta police Sgt. Jim Ganley. Another cop dressed as Santa? Next thing you know, instead of reading you your rights they’ll be singing “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20
Happy Birthday, Laura Ann Williams of San Dimas, my favorite youngest sister—not that she needs any encouragement. No, she didn’t invent happy 41 years ago today, but she did a pretty wonderful job of re-inventing it.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21
The Foundation for the Retarded of the Desert in Palm Desert—founded in 1959, when the word “retarded” was a widely used clinical term instead of what it is now, which is . . . well, you know—changes its name to DesertArc, which is . . . well, what the hell is it, anyway? My suspicion is that the “r” in “Arc” has something to do with that formerly common clinical term. When I was a young kid in the mid-1960s and we used to visit my cousins in Kalamazoo, there was an organization called KARC, which stood for Kalamazoo Association of Retarded Children. By the way, my cousins used to insult each other by calling one another a KARC, so I don’t think that clinical term was ever limited to the clinic. Anyway, I’m fine with the name change and the upgrade in respect it signifies. Question: does this completely free the other term from the clinic, enabling all of us to use it, guilt-free, to describe—for example—that person who has been driving with a turn signal on for the last six miles? Or do we still call them “senior citizens”?
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23
Howard Markle officially becomes my favorite newspaper writer of 2007 with the publication of his Christmas Letter from Blythe, and I cannot recommend strongly enough that you go to the website of the Desert Independent (www.thedesertinde.com) to read it. Through his very own brave-and-cranky brand of brilliance, Markle lays out his love for the desert outpost by skewering those who take advantage of its isolation to use the town for their own gain. Christmas Letter from Blythe—a review of 2007 in the style of those always-upbeat mass mailings we get from friends and relatives this time of year—gives “inspirational Christmas story” a wicked name . . . which is as it should be. It’s impossible to excerpt the best part, but here is an example, near the end of Markle’s letter: “No, it’s not like Christmas on TV in Blythe, unless you want to recall that the first Christmas happened in a desert, with sheep and guys tending them, and no motel rooms available in town. Some of us will go to San Diego to see the art-deco boats go by, others will travel north to snow country where Christmas finally ended up as a winter celebration. We go where our children reside. We golf and ski. The colder climes population moves south to Florida and to the great southwest, all the while considering a permanent move to where old bones can finally warm up for good. Blythe should be on the map for those people, just as it’s on the map for persons coming from the south but for different reasons.”
MONDAY, DECEMBER 24
It’s been a week since a 28-year-old mother was arrested in Lake Elsinore on suspicion of providing her 13-year-old son and his friends with nitrous oxide—laughing gas—to get high, and I’ve finally confirmed that the arresting sherriff’s deputy was not—repeat: not—dressed as Santa Claus.