TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4
Another 10 million or so gallons of water below Rialto are contaminated with perchlorate today, and those are apparently the 10 million or so last straws for the City Council. It finally votes to petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for help in cleaning up its supply of the nectar of life. The plume of perchlorate was discovered in 1997 and is estimated to be contaminating underground water supplies at a rate of 360 million gallons a month. The city has been trying to fight a legal battle against companies like Goodrich, Black & Decker and Pyro Spectaculars on its own, rather than seeking designation as an EPA Superfund site. Among other reasons, city leaders thought it would be bad publicity. Instead, they chose bad fiscal policy (their legal bills are $13.5 million and counting) and bad health policy (perchlorate can interfere with the thyroid gland, which is necessary for regulating metabolism and development of the central nervous system). Of course, none of that compares with the choices of the companies, who have used their high-powered lawyers to avoid responsibility for the cleanup. They’re just bad, period. It may take about a year for Rialto to qualify for the Superfund list. Meanwhile, every month another 360 million gallons of water turn to poison.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5
Officially, the penalty for the crime of impersonating an FBI agent is not death by speeding Peterbilt, but that’s the way it shakes down early this morning on Interstate 15 in Victorville. Kyle Gavin Barry, 24, of Hesperia—who had just pulled over a motorist, claimed he was an FBI agent and punched that motorist in the face (breaking his glasses) when the guy got suspicious and asked for ID—had just gotten back into the Dodge Caravan he’d left idling in the slow lane when the huge truck hit him from behind. Reminds me of the time some buddies and I were smoking pot while driving to a concert at the Swing Auditorium. A couple of guys drove up alongside, flashed a badge, pulled us over and had taken our dope before we figured out they were fakes. Where was a speeding Peterbilt then?
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6
They say it’s going to rain.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7
The horribly enormous and wasteful federal government that politicians—such as, just for example, Corona’s Republican Congressman Ken Calvert—are always criticizing while they’re running for office is being very careful how it spends $15.8 million allocated to study the feasibility of drilling a transportation tunnel under the Santa Ana Mountains. Of course, those same politicians are outraged about it. “They have the cart before the horse here,” snorts Calvert. Specifically, the Federal Highway Administration is requiring that Riverside and Orange counties prove they have the money—between $3 billion and $8 billion—it would cost to build the tunnel before the feds will let them blow $15.8 million on soil and groundwater tests. “This is the height of nonsense,” Tustin Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Amante, a member of the Orange County Transportation Authority, tells the Press-Enterprise. And Hemet City Councilwoman Robin Low, a member of the Riverside County Transportation Commission, asks in frustration, “Who’s got all that money sitting around?” Good question. Glad the feds are asking.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8
An ex-girlfriend who broke my heart many years ago surprises me with a phone call and the news that she’s in Indio for a business conference—would I like to get together? I would. We go to dinner at the Fantasy Springs casino, she plays a little video poker, I catch the big boxing match, somebody comps us a couple of tickets to the Improv and we share a few laughs. In between, we catch up. She’s a realtor now, but in the current market hasn’t made a sale since July. The guy she married two months ago is impotent—they still haven’t had sex. One of her sons is hooked on meth and the other dropped out of high school to become a pro snowboarder. She smokes cigarettes and drinks Southern Comfort-and-Coke all evening. All that’s left of my pretty girl are her pretty eyes. It breaks my heart again.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9
MONDAY, DECEMBER 10
Waste Management, Inc., which sounds like a hipper—and quite profitable—version of the Betty Ford Center, is of course actually the company that picks up trash. But now it’s also becoming a company that helps solve crime—in Banning and Beaumont, anyway. Garbage collectors in those cities are being trained by police to be on the lookout for suspicious or criminal activity. The program is called “Waste Watch,” which sounds like what my pothead neighbor used to call his job as a night-shift security guard.