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Hot Time, Summer in the Suburbs
August, 2007 - Issue #34
I got my introduction to summer 2007 in Santa Clarita at about 10 p.m. on a Thursday a few weeks ago... two introductions, actually.

The first came in the form of a group of junior highers who narrowly missed bouncing off the radiator of my car. I was on my way to Ralph's and they were jaywalking around a blind curve, wearing mostly dark clothes.

The second introduction came moments later in the Ralph's parking lot, when I almost bounced off a front radiator myself. The radiator in question was attached to the front of a Chevy Silverado, which was in turn attached to some reckless high school kid who, though he may have been old enough to hold a driver's license, wasn't exactly driving like he deserved one.

It wasn't as though he wasn't focused. He was, I'm sure, quite honed in on the group of high school girls leaving the grocery store.

With precise tunnel vision, the young driver whipped his jacked-up behemoth in front of the store to let the girls in. If he saw my flight onto a nearby island to avoid his grill, I don't know. He and his friends were busy laughing that "I don't have a care in the world" laughter that has always been a privilege of youth.

"School's out," I thought. "How lovely."

"They want what every teenager wants: To be GROWN UP."
Summer in Santa Clarita carries a trio of absolutes: Oppressive heat, aggressive ants and bored teenagers.

Against the first two, we have defenses. Air conditioners and ceiling fans, insecticides and lines of chalk.

But bored teenagers? What can we do against the hormonal horde, all pent up and nowhere to go? Seriously, I don't want to spend what's left of the summer dodging aimless night crawlers.

I've heard this complaint before, that there are no suitable hangouts for the budding adults of our town. We've slapped a curfew on them and we've sent security to chase them out of the mall if they loiter too long.

I wonder, though, have we given them any options?

Perhaps the better question to ask is, should we?

To answer that question we must do a little fact gathering. When SCV's teens complain that there is nothing for them to do here, what exactly are they looking for?

The poll I took is far from formal and even further from scientific. But here's what I learned: Nightclubs. Our teens want nightclubs.

They want a place to hear loud music and (I hope) pretend to drink adult drinks. They want dancing, neon lights, stiletto heels and a bartender.

In other words, they want what every teenager wants: To be grown up.

Opponents of local under-21 clubs make strong arguments. Such venues would attract trouble, they say. They would breed teen violence, promote teen drinking and all kinds of licentious behavior - the very reasons so many of us fled Los Angeles when we started having children in the first place.

"But we don't have anywhere to go," the teens counter.

On one level, I can see their point. I mean, how many summer nights can you spend sitting around the fountain in front of Borders Books before you'd start thinking about throwing yourself in? How many times can you watch "Spiderman III?"

This problem is nothing new. Nor is it simply a matter of geography. Our teens don't realize this, of course. If carefree laughter is one of youth's privileges, selective blindness is one of its poisons.

I grew up in the shadow of San Francisco in the '80s and felt just as bored as our youth do, growing up in the shadow of L.A. in 2007. The city was just a freeway's drive away. If I could get there, I believed, I'd find the action I craved.

Big cities offer only a little more for teens than the suburbs do, though. Trust me. I had access to San Francisco and yet still managed to watch "Rocky III" six times. That's desperate.

Besides, I don't believe a nightclub is what our teens are chasing, really.

What they are chasing we cannot build. There is only one bridge that can span the gap they are so desperate to cross, and that bridge is time. Time and experience.

"Wait" is a word teens hate to hear. But it's a word they hear most of all.

But waiting doesn't have to equal idleness. The most effective way to combat boredom, I've found, is to take your eyes off yourself. Invest your energies in a project or, better yet, in another person. You'll find there's more to accomplish than there are hours in a day or days in a summer.

The school year will begin again soon enough. Surely you want more to show for your summer than a tan and the memory of chasing after entertainment.

Build something. Serve someone. Commit to learning something new.

If it's adulthood you're after, those kinds of activities build bridges faster than anything else I know.
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