A delegation of officials from San Bernardino—the city and the county—have just returned from a four-day trade mission to Mexico, and they can hear us rolling our eyes. In the wake of last summer’s grand jury report—which criticized San Bernardino County’s overseas trade missionaries for drastically under-reporting their cost and for taking trips to places that don’t really do much for local businesses—the leaders of the latest jaunt are describing it in very carefully chosen words. “This was not some kind of jaunt,” says San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris. “This was not some kind of vacation.” Instead, says Morris, the San Bernardino contingent conferred with Mexican corporate leaders and tried to market San Bernardino International Airport. Cool! So who’d they talk to? Morris won’t say. “It was a door-opener,” he says. “It was the first meet-and-greet with these folks.” Hmmm, okay. And that took four days? Morris doesn’t like our tone. “We worked our tails off with potential friends and investors,” he insists, “and came home quite exhausted.” We can relate. Lots of us have come home completely pooped after four days in Mexico.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 26
Turkeys receive call from the state; appeals denied; no stay of execution granted; gallows loom
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27
Gas drops below $2 a gallon for the first time since January 2005, and just in time to give me something to be thankful for—that is, a little less angst as I burn a bunch of it idling on the 91 and 15 freeways while creeping toward the big holiday dinner at my brother’s house in Jurupa. Cheap gas on a holiday weekend! What could go wrong? Struggling to keep my eyes open as I huff the sweet fumes of the highway, I slip into a reverie, remembering those glorious days when the service station signs last read $1.99 9/10. Ah . . . yes . . . January, 2005 . . . That was the month that George W. Bush was inaugurated for his second term, while election officials quibbled about hijinks in Ohio. That was the month that the Index of Economic Freedom reported that the United States had dropped from the top 10 free nations of the world for the very first time. That was the month that Johnny Carson died. I finally arrive at my brother’s house. We enjoy a massive dinner at a long table, laughing and loving one another. Then my sister-in-law tries to impose a new gift-giving scheme for Christmas, and my other brother objects, and my sister brings up an old resentment about how he disapproved of the Nerf guns she gave his kids last year, and her teenaged daughter tells me she never really appreciated the presents I’ve given her over the years, and I tell her not to worry, I won’t ever give her anything again, and she starts to cry, and my sister yells at me as I grab my coat and head for the door, and as I get into my car I hear a screaming match begin between her and my brother, and as I drive home I’m grateful that at least the trip to Thanksgiving Dinner didn’t cost me much, what with gas selling for under $2 a gallon.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28
Two men who are unfortunately not shopping for Nerf guns are shot and killed at a Toys R Us store in Palm Desert, outdoing the shoppers who trampled a Wal-Mart employee in New York for this year’s Blackest Friday award. Press-Enterprise reporters John Asbury and Dug Begley cover the ironitragedy, supplying quotes from cops and shoppers that capture pretty effectively their colliding sensibilities. “This confrontation was not over a toy,” emphasizes Riverside Sheriff Dept Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez. Sara Frahm, 25, of La Quinta vows, “I’m never coming on Black Friday again.” Andrew Marks, who pulls up to the store with his family in an SUV to take advantage of some sweet deals on video games, learns something from the whole experience. “Nothing is worth that,” he says.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 29
It’s the morning after the Hmong New Year, which was celebrated at Banning’s Repplier Park with traditional dancing, music, food and games, and naturally I woke up Hmong over.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 30
The race for the 44th district congressional seat ends as Democrat Bill Hedrick officially concedes to Republican Ken Calvert—and begins, as Hedrick announces he’ll challenge Calvert again in two years.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 1
High school newspapers in the Inland Empire are struggling to survive during an era of rising production costs, tightening education budgets and the shriveling ability of businesses to advertise during tough economic times. In other words, high school newspapers are going through pretty much the same problems as professional papers. And in still other words, that seems to show that they are still providing an up-to-date learning experience for aspiring young journalists—even if what those kids are learning is to pick a different profession.