Travel experts predict a downturn in Christmas-season travel in Southern California this year—that is, if you can call handing out this information two days before Christmas a “prediction.” The 1.9 percent dip in automobile travel is a bit of a surprise, inasmuch as gas prices are about $1.50 per-gallon lower than they were at this time last year. But the drop in air travel wasn’t hard to “predict”—particularly not at Ontario International Airport, which is being served by two fewer airlines. Remember how ExpressJet went bankrupt and JetBlue pulled out? That’s going to translate into 29 percent fewer passengers. Sad. For everybody who is staying home, anyway. But as someone who will be traveling this holiday season—by car to the airport, by plane to Chicago—this sizes up as a much-less-crowded and much-more-pleasant day on the roads and in the sky. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and predict it.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 24
Phil Lundquist of Kingman, Arizona, is still kinda ticked off about the ticket he got last April in Blythe for not wearing his seatbelt. He’s written a couple letters to the Desert Independent. “I have seen the monstrous side of the criminal justice system,” Lunquist writes. “Such as the man with whom I spoke yesterday, who was arrested at the New Mexico-Arizona border while simply hitchhiking. A warrant check determined that he had an unpaid ticket from years ago for an open container. He was arrested, placed on a Government-chartered plane, and flown here to Kingman, to spend the requisite two days in jail! I gave him a ride to the Greyhound bus station for a ticket back to where he was going at the time, near the New Mexico state line. Well, anyway, I paid my seatbelt violation and generally resist temptations to act theatrically at the age of 58 over my background with this criminal Government. But, with reference to their habitual home break-ins, wiretaps, and other features of their evil which have been done to me over the years, I haven’t the slightest reluctance to write, as you can see.”
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 25
Riverside Press-Enterprise entertainment reporter Vanessa Franko takes another cruel backhanded swipe at the Inland Empire by compiling her list of “Top Moments of Pop Culture Wackiness for 2008.” Billed as a playful epitaph for the year gone by, the thing reads like a suicide note. Would anybody really want to live in the Inland Empire that Franko portrays in her list? A place where she says the crazy-kookiest thing to happen during the past year was a local dog’s starring role in a two-bit comedy like Beverly Hills Chihuahua? Franko specializes in these sweet assassinations. Remember her vicious review of Carrie Underwood’s show at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in November? Among other insults, Franko said Underwood “was at her best when she talked to the 7,500 fans in the audience between songs.” Ouch! Today’s list characterizes life in the Inland Empire as so dull that its top moments of wackiness includes the pig-shaped helium balloon that got loose after Pink Floyd’s set at Coachella, Etta James being portrayed by Beyoncé in Cadillac Records, and Metallica selling out its show at Citizens Bank Arena. Somebody, please, help this woman before she strikes again.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 26
Too late. Franko writes another column. This time, with no basis in fact or possibility, Franko simply slaps away at the computer keyboard, compiling some fantastical wish list of superstar recording artists who she hopes to summon to Citizens Bank Arena. Some of the saddest examples of her wild yearning and disconnected reasoning: AC/DC: “The Aussie rockers played the Forum in Inglewood, but one of those dates could have easily sold out Ontario.” Garth Brooks: “If the country superstar comes out of retirement, I think he’d be right at home in Ontario.” Led Zeppelin: “Even without John Bonham rising from the grave, a Led Zeppelin reunion would sell out anywhere, especially here.” C’mon, Vanessa. It’s obvious that you’re hurting. Get help.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 27
The results of the Great Southern California Shakeout—the Nov. 13 inter-agency earthquake drill—are in, and the numbers are startling . . . well, unless you are among the people who already pretty much assumed that a 7.8-magnitude temblor would f*ck things up majorly. Otherwise, they were merely fascinating. For example, did you know that the East Valley Water District in San Bernardino County would spring about 1,000 leaks because about 40 percent of its 450 miles of pipes are made from a material that is particularly brittle in earthquakes? And that all 78,000 of its customers would lose water for some period because all of the agency’s reservoirs are on one side of the fault and all of its wells and distribution systems are on the other? That’s what the agency’s safety manager says. His name is Gary Sturdivan. Did you know that? Gary. Do people still name their kids Gary? And what kind of a name is Sturdivan? Fascinating.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 28
San Diego Chargers in the playoffs. Wonder if Mike Shanahan read Chuck Palahniuk’s book Choke?
MONDAY, DECEMBER 29
Republican Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack describes the mood of her political party as its era of rule in Washington, D.C., winds out its last few days: “It’s been like a washing machine of soul searching.”