By Allen David
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 31
The Riverside County program that allows criminal offenders and traffic violators to pay their DUI fees and speeding fees at Wal-Mart isn’t just convenient, it’s an opportunity to experience a moment of gratitude during an experience that usually leaves you mired in the self pity of “Why me?” Sure, getting caught committing whatever legal infraction is always a bit of bad luck. It’s inevitably a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s always somebody else doing something else—usually somebody worse than you doing something much worse than you did—that could have caught the cops’ attention. But going to Wal-Mart to settle your debt to society . . . well, you can’t help but come out feeling better about your situation. From the greeters—those degraded that’s-somebody’s-grandparents who strap on a grinning game face and spend eight hours basically welcoming people to hell—to the put-the-ass-in associates who get theirs kicked in uncountable ways for slight recompense and thin benefits, a tour through Wal-Mart is an economic ode to life-ain’t-fair. It can be a spiritual experience . . . if your spirit is strong enough to take it. The retail payment service started in February and nearly 300 payments were made during the first month. That number increased to 417 transactions in July. The numbers are significant, but not huge, considering that the old system was such a time-suck. But not everybody can stand to see human beings working under the conditions imposed by Wal-Mart. Many people still wait in line at the courthouse, saying they do not have Internet access, credit cards or checking accounts to pay fines online at the court website or over the phone—or that they simply want to walk away with a receipt. Sure, they do.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 1
My ol’ doppelganger, Allen David, columnist for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and blogger on The David Allen Blog, has been vulturing the carcass of the Borders book store at Victoria Gardens. His spoils: Ask the Dust, John Fante; The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving; To the Land of the Electric Angel, William Rotsler; Middlemarch, George Eliot; The Big Book of Adventure Stories, Otto Penzler, ed.; Bob Dylan in America, Sean Wilentz. Hey, dude likes to read.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3
Tough financial times have reduced budget priorities at the Colton Joint Unified School District—yes, joint—down to what they used to call the Three R’s: Reading, ’Riting and ’Rithmatic. Of course, that assumes that the children get to school without becoming the Fourth R: Road kill. And that’s a bigger assumption than ever, since the district eliminated crossing guards to save $244,854 a year—and since parents from four elementary schools realized they can’t do the job themselves because they can’t afford the liability. Some people are pointing toward the partial solution exemplified by Kim Brooks, a parent at Sycamore Hills Elementary School in Fontana, who basically does what comes naturally. “I have to be like a mom, just take the kids by the hand and walk them across the street, basically. Sometimes I do put my hand up or blow a whistle (to stop a car).” Brooks tells the San Bernardino Sun. But Brooks doesn’t sound too thrilled with the possibilities. “I know there’s going to be an accident while I’m out there,” she said. “There have already been almost collisions.”
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 3
Brett Williams of Rancho Cucamonga hits the trifecta. He turns 21, gets married and enlists in the Army.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 4
Finally, the children known for more than 40 years as “Jerry’s Kids”—as in Jerry Lewis, as if having muscular dystrophy isn’t bad enough—are freed from the opportunistic aura of the most openly desperate comedian in history. And their cause makes a couple extra million in the bargain during the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon. The MDA announced Lewis’ retirement as the host of the telethon in May, then in August announced that the 85-year-old comedian was no longer its chairman. A bunch of never-were comics—seriously . . . Tom Dreesen—rallied around their fellow hack, but the public apparently likes Labor Day without the “Hey, Laaaaaayddeeeeee!” man. The show earns nearly $61.5 million—an increase of about $2.6 million over last year. I didn’t watch, and won’t until I get an answer to this question: When it became obvious that Jerry’s kids had muscular dystrophy, why didn’t he get a vasectomy?
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 5
One of two Norco fairs—this seems to be the new, good one; not the old, bad one that was brushed off as an embarrassment two years ago—wraps up this year’s run, which is named “Carnival Lights and Horsetown Nights and featured pie contests, lawnmower races, extreme bull riding, carnival rides, a Miss Horsetown USA Pageant, a livestock auction and new Blues Brothers and Neil Diamond impersonators. Wait, was this the good one or the bad one?
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6
Norco smells funny.