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To keep an eye on the pulse of Santa Clarita, one must, at least occasionally, visit the r/SantaClarita subreddit. It skews liberal, male, Millennial-ish and mildly conspiratorial. Some of its top posts of all time make fun of SCV Karens or warn about an apparent skinwalker demon on "Serria" Highway. Lately, though, there's been a focus on how expensive things are. Someone complains about alleged gastrointestinal issues from $14 strawberries at the farmers market. Another talks high HOA fees. Yet another bemoans the new Six Flags surcharge on food. Even Redditors, who aren't famous for leaving their homes, are noticing that nothing in Santa Clarita is free these days.
One of the best parts about living in Santa Clarita is that no one expects it to be the best. Everything is pretty good, but there's usually something better; we're the Kirkland Signature of SoCal living. This takes an immense amount of pressure off us. Without sky-high expectations, Claritans and visitors alike can take real pleasure when they do find the occasional amazing restaurant or stunning hike or fun community group. There's no shame in coming in second, and we're often in good company when we do.
Most of Santa Clarita's high school seniors will be graduating this May. The whole ceremony is full of tradition: the march to Pomp and Circumstance, gowns and tassels and speeches about reaching such an important milestone. It's comfortingly formulaic. The discomforting part comes a little after all those well-deserved celebrations. There's still a whole lot more living to do. That may be with the parents in Santa Clarita, at a dorm at some fancy East Coast college or in a first apartment somewhere exciting and new, say... Pacoima. Reaching a milestone is a graduation cliche, but it's one worth taking to heart. For all a milestone really means is a fresh new mile ahead.
Of all the great big names that permeate Santa Clarita, I submit that Clare, Newhall and Hart are each owed at least a century. Saint Clare gets the 1700s - a party of Spanish explorers named our river after her in 1769, and she's why we're Santa Clarita today. Henry Newhall gets the 1800s, for that's when he got the ball rolling on developing the valley and established his enormous legacy. William Hart gets the 1900s. The star of gritty Westerns lived here, somehow legitimizing Santa Clarita as equal parts cowboy and Hollywood. As for the 2000s, it's too early to say whose name will claim it. In the meantime, the spirit of Hart and the West remain relevant even now.
March 19 marks the first day of spring, and thereafter the days only grow longer, brighter and sunnier. The light stirs up all kinds of trouble. Sunshine reveals dust and clutter in previously dark corners of our homes. Time for spring cleaning. "It's too cold" no longer works as an excuse. Time to re-enter society. There's a quiet panic as we realize that pool days and beach trips are around the corner. Time for that Ozempic appointment. The energy seems to be contagious, because everywhere you look in Santa Clarita, it seems to be time for a change.
It's easy to feel uneasy after the holidays. There was so much time for self-reflection, questions and comparisons. Why aren't you a jet-setting, happily-married, philanthropic brain surgeon who shares funny memes with Taylor Swift? Rules help calm this panic. New Year's resolutions will make us better versions of ourselves, following rules for love will assure a great relationship for Valentine's Day and, by this time next year, everything will have come together. It may be tempting to be cynical about such optimism, but who knows? Let's think about getting this year underway with an eye on the rules.
If you're reading this, home for the holidays most likely means staying in Santa Clarita. And with 8 percent mortgage rates for the foreseeable future, it's probably going to remain home for a very long time. Everything is expensive. Inflation has slowed substantially, but prices for everything from a festive peppermint mocha to a festive holiday divorce are up. Perhaps that's why so many headlines relating to all things money have been popping up. Everyone is watching their spending as we welcome the most wonderful, most expensive, time of the year.
I'd venture that Santa Clarita has more Thanksgiving guests coming than going - a net importer, if you will. With nearly perfect November weather, a couple of nearby airports and many homes built for hosting, we've got plenty of things going for us. Unfortunately, hospitality isn't one of them. Your guests will probably be tail-gated, brake-checked, and/or flipped-off while driving to your home. We could all do with a little more civility. Keep a watchful eye on our local news and you'll see that it's full of reminders about hospitality dos and don'ts for the fall.
Santa Clarita doesn't need to wait for Halloween to have horror stories. Since the last column, there was an attempted pitchfork attack at a Home Depot. An arrest followed, and luckily, injuries weren't reported. A Valencia woman was arrested in connection with suspected human trafficking that involved her massage parlor. The very unpleasant smells from Chiquita Canyon Landfill continued long enough to prompt over 1,000 complaints from the public. Plenty of great stuff has happened over the same period - football games, community charity events and the return of pumpkin spice lattes. But there's no denying that beyond our front doors, troubling stories have unfolded.
If we set aside all the business about apparent UFO disclosure in Congress, the rancor of American politics and artificial intelligence poised to change everything, there's really not a whole lot going on in the world. Such is summer. Santa Claritans are busy doing nothing. Even the city council nixes some meetings. It's a good time for us to catch up on the goings-on in the outskirts of the Santa Clarita Valley, those out-of-the-way spots that are a little bit city and a little bit country. Where neighborhoods meet wilderness, it can be hard to tell who's pushing whom.
If you want to know who has ever seen "Midsommar," wear a flower crown for the summer solstice. The people running away are the ones who watched it. I'm not proposing grim pagan rituals for Santa Clarita this summer; far from it. But I think the film was onto something in acknowledging that people get all kinds of weird, primal, frenzied energy in this sunniest season. Even if the chaos can't be contained, at least traditions can help channel it. This is why humanity invented summer camp. As Santa Clarita settles in for a long summer, the familiar rites reappear.
At the SCV's farmers markets, it's easy to look at the mounds of vegetables and think, "Hmm, I could do that." You are wrong, especially at this time of year. Apart from some cherry tomatoes and citrus, Clarita's homeowners rarely succeed in the endeavor of urban farming. The sun annihilates life, or your dog tramples your veggies or the HOA fines you $300 for an unauthorized eggplant. Luckily, we have found other ways to feed ourselves. And with all of the summer barbecues, weddings and long lazy dinners that lie ahead, it's worth thinking about what we'll be putting into our collective stomachs.
What you think of Santa Clarita depends on where you live. Outside of Southern California, Santa Clarita's reputation hinges on knowledge of Magic Mountain or Drew Barrymore's short-lived zombie series. If popular SCV-based Insta accounts are to be believed, Santa Clarita's self-determined reputation is a valley subsisting entirely on fast food chicken chains and Starbucks. Fair enough. Lately, though, some of the SCV's reputations may be coming into question.
I've been impressed with ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence app that lets you ask almost anything. Naturally, I asked Chat GPT what Santa Clarita would be like if it were personified into a 35-year-old woman named Clare. The first answer sounded like something from City spokesperson Carrie Lujan: Clare would be a business woman who loved her family and hiking. After five minutes' further coaching and cajoling, though, ChatGPT revealed that Clare was exhausted and screamed into her pillow when life got tough. Better. Clearly, the app's character-building functions are imperfect, but building technology or anything else is always tough. The lesson is borne out by many of the SCV's recent headlines.
Hear the words "March," "gold" and "luck," and you'll probably think of St. Patrick's Day. But you'd be mistaken. True Claritans will think of their hometown origin story. That's because on March 9 some 181 years ago, in our very own Placerita Canyon, Francisco Lopez had the luck to dig up wild onions with gold clinging to their roots. This started a mini gold rush and spawned who-knows-how-many dreams of striking it rich. Of course, most gold miners didn't share his good fortune. More often than not, a rich reward only comes after a lot of effort and struggle.
Though we've only had a few weeks to try it on for size, 2023 is different than 2022. Keenly observant astronomers note that the moon moves almost two inches farther away from the Earth with each passing year. Keenly observant
demographers estimate that 2023 is the first year to begin with over 8 billion people on Earth. And keenly observant Santa Claritans have noticed that new restaurant down the street that's been open for months now; maybe it's time to try it. We all notice different things. Between the picture that was 2022 and the picture that is 2023, here's what has shifted.   
People who are able to genuinely relax and enjoy the holidays may be oblivious to a cruel truth. The reason they can unwrap thoughtful gifts, mingle casually at parties, marvel at decorated neighborhoods and eat delicious food is because someone else has stressed and suffered to make those experiences possible. "Holiday magic" is just a euphemism for "somebody else did it." And that somebody was often doing their day job in addition to their holiday jobs. As the year draws to a close, there's still a lot of work to be done.
The best part about Election Day is knowing that all the calls, all the requests for money, all the signs, all the mailers, all the self-righteous social media posts, all of it, really, is coming to an end. Unfortunately, the reprieve is short-lived. Mere weeks later comes Thanksgiving, when politics at the dinner table can be even more heated than on Election Day - and more high-stakes, too. Do you still get pumpkin pie if you disagree with Aunt Olivia's opinions about the president? Like it or not, November is inescapably political.
There's a very specific moment on the Claritan calendar between summer and fall. For some, it happens at Green Thumb Nursery in Old Town Newhall. You're buying mulch to reduce the impacts of the newest drought on your landscaping - and then you see the Halloween stuff. For others, it happens at Refined Vintage Boutique. You're buying a giant platter to showcase your corn-tomato-basil "it's all from the farmers' market" salad. And then you see, yes, the Halloween stuff. Whatever the venue, the realization that the year is mostly over hits like a knockout punch. But after reeling from the initial shock, there's a great chance to reflect. What can and needs to get done before 2022 is over?
Scientists say that, if you were approaching a black hole, the immense gravity would make time seem to slow down, stretching on and on. A similar phenomenon can be experienced while driving from Santa Clarita to the beach. It doesn't matter the beach or the day or the time. The quintessential summer drive takes forever, plus or minus an hour, even though we objectively know the great Pacific really isn't that far away. Maybe it's not such a bad thing. At this time of year, as summer is rapidly coming to an end, it's nice to have moments where summer seems to linger on.
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