By Allen David
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 21
A new manager at Riverside National Cemetery decides to enforce long-standing—but long-relaxed—rules against bringing Christmas trees, balloons or other celebratory items to gravesites. For many people, the move suddenly squelches a holiday tradition—the only way they can share Christmas with deceased veterans who may be their family or friends. But it seems to be just as hard on people who will be spending their first Christmas without their daddy-turned-war-fatality. Joslyn and Arianna Henderson brought Merry Christmas balloons and personal notes to their father, Algiovanta Henderson, who died on June 21—exactly six months ago today. They didn’t know until they attempted to place the little gifts on the graves that they were illegal. Even so, I have a hard time understanding the big deal. “That’s the only thing we can give him,” one of them said. “We can’t buy presents anymore.” The cemetery manager comes from the perspective of military order and doesn’t appreciate the disheveled look of grief and celebration. “There’s a lot of food left on grave sites,” says Jim Ruester. “Alcoholic beverages. Grandpa’s favorite whiskey.” The removal of many items—many hand-crafted and meticulously made—has created quite a bit of animosity. Ruester acknowledges that there has been lots of name-calling.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 22
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 24
The De los Santos family spends Christmas Eve in their Riverside home—the one that was repossessed in a foreclosure earlier this year—after the head of the household, Art de los Santos, illegally re-inhabited it on Dec. 6 as part of National Occupy Homes Day, a spinoff of the Occupy Wall Street movement. De los Santos, a 46-year-old former Marine and longtime metal worker, is joined for the home-or-Christmas celebration by his wife, Magdalena, and their four children, the oldest of which is 11. The family lost the three-bedroom residence on Layton Court when Art De Los Santos suffered a severe cutback in the hours he was working. De Los Santos vows to remain and stay in it. Francisco Perpely with Alpha One Group, a Riverside brokerage firm that took possession of the property on behalf of mortgage underwriting giant Freddie Mac, doesn’t intend to take action for the time being. “We’re just waiting for the bank to make a decision on what they want to do,” Perpely said. “Everybody knows about the situation.”
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 25
Jesus would have been 2,011 years old today and, if I know the ol‘ Prince of Peace the way I believe I do, he would have been out of his freakin‘ Christmas tree about the results of the Lakers’ season debut against the Chicago Bulls. Not only the result—the 88-87 victory by the Bulls, but the way Chicago got the win. The Lakers were leading by 11 points with 3:44 to go, but Chicago rallied around a pair of great plays by Luol Deng at the expense of Kobe Bryant. Deng stole a pass by Bryant with 16.9 seconds to go to set up Derrick Rose’s game winner, then he blocked Bryant’s potentially winning shot as the buzzer sounded. Jesus, why can’t Christmas come every day?
MONDAY, DECEMBER 26
There is no room for them at the inn, and apparently no one can find a manger, so a group of people take shelter in an abandoned commercial building in the El Cerrito area. It’s cold on this early morning after Christmas, so one of them builds a small fire, and they gather around it . . . until, somehow, the fire gets out of control, quickly engulfing the 1,400-square building, and burning it down.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 27
At the end of the day, after experienced skydiver Michael Unger had jumped from an airplane and hit the ground with a deadened thunk to become the fifth person to die this year at Perris Valley Skydiving, activity at the facility is back to normal—and so is the level of denial, although it’s hard to call that “normal.” Cate Heneghan, who says she has made about 1,000 jumps in about six years, was rationalizing the so-called danger of the sport. “I don’t think it’s a safe sport, but it’s safer than others. I don’t think it’s an unsafe sport either,” Henneghan said. “I play soccer, and I’ve gotten many more injuries playing soccer than skydiving.” Question: Is being dead kinda like having an injury . . . I mean, like a pretty bad one?