By Allen David
Huell Howser is dead, which you know, of course. We all know—have known for well over a week. But still. Dead? Yep, since January 7—already more than a week—although we had to wait a few days to learn the cause was pancreatic cancer, which the blabbermouthiest host on public television apparently kept secret from nearly all his friends. The announcement of Howser’s death arrived like a fast-fading echo, triggering the disorienting hope that we’d either misheard the words or had heard them before and now were confusing them as new. Only a few weeks before, Howser had pulled a similar vanishing act—it was just as sudden and he was just as tight-lipped—by retiring from the public television shows he’d hosted for decades. If you’ve ever seen old shows from those years—and of course you have—we all have—you’ll recognize how far Huell Howser had drifted into a silence that made him nearly unrecognizable. But almost nobody saw it coming. What can anybody say about something like that? Well, as a matter of fact—OK, everybody . . . one last time for Huell . . . on the count of 1 . . . 2 . . . 3: “That’s ahhh-MAAAY-zing!
THURSDAY, JANUARY 17
Yes, as a matter of fact, I did steal that bit from pop-culture humorist Charles Phoenix, who used it to excellent effect Tuesday at the Griffith Observatory while presiding over a one-hour public tribute to Huell Howser. “Huell you are ahhh-MAAAY-zing!” Phoenix shouted toward the sky—I think that’s where he was shouting; that’s what it looked like on the TV news clip I saw. “Thank you, Huell, for sharing the stories and the glories of the greatest state in the country like nobody else.”
FRIDAY, JANUARY 18
Signs on the locked entrances to YMCA facilities in Riverside and Hemet claim the places are closed for maintenance and repair. Yeeeeaaaahhhh, I guess that could be described as the truth—I mean, in the sense that untangling the organization’s hairball of a financial flow chart might be categorized as maintenance, and that there probably wouldn’t be much resistance to lobotomies for YMCA officials who have exhibited a predisposition to hare-brained schemes. A prime candidate for such corrective surgery would be whichever Bugs Bunny decided that it would be a good idea to spend $4.8 million to build a new YMCA facility in Temecula. The Y’s financial circumstances were already dire—no reserves and borrowing money for operating expenses. About the time the new Temecula facility was completed, somebody realized it was too small. Potential donors and members realized it, too. In short order, a brand-new complex that was supposed to drive donations and attract members was closed. Because the Riverside facility was used as collateral, there was nothing more against which to borrow. Eventually, this problem may be solved. Meanwhile, some of the damage may never be undone. The YMCA’s nearly 130-year record of service to the people of Riverside County? Gone. And what of the people—the cowboy, the biker, the Indian chief, the construction worker, the police officer, the military man—for whom the YMCA has been an integral and identifying part of life since . . . well, back in the 1970s, at least? Where do these people go now? And please don’t say “Back to their village.”
SATURDAY, JANUARY 19
Planned my whole day around the NFL playoffs, sat down in front of the TV, and . . . nothing. They are tomorrow.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 20
Temecula . . . Temecula . . . Temecula . . . I thought about Temecula all weekend (including Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday—mostly wondering why I couldn’t get the name out of my mind. For awhile I decided that it’s because “Temecula” is the Spanish word for “toilet.” But no. Today I remembered that Temecula is the city that a few weeks ago gave its employees more money. Yessirree! In an era when we’re constantly hearing about cities enacting furlough days for employees and the state cutting its contribution to employee benefits, the Temecula City Council voted unanimously to increase the City’s monthly pension payment by $150 per month, per employee. Oh, and the Council has also voted to sell some city land to a developer who plans to build a water park—Wild Rivers Temecula.
MONDAY, JANUARY 21
Happy belated birthday, Martin!
TUESDAY, JANUARY 22
Thinkin‘ Temecula again: Maybe its council could offer discount tickets to former members of the Riverside YMCA. Just a thought.