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The sheer number of numbers these days is, well, numbing. Countdown to election. Polling percentage points. COVID-19 cases. Days since shutdown or re-opening. Unemployment rates. Policing statistics. Dow Jones Industrial Average. Magnitudes of all those little California earthquakes that seem to be hinting at something larger on the way. Acres burned in wildfires. New school schedules and hours. Cost of a Zoom subscription. It all begs the questions: Which numbers actually "count?" (Pardon the cuteness.) That's what we've been grappling with as a community, and it's more important than ever that we get the answer right.
There's nothing like a natural disaster to make you realize that only Southern Californians know SoCal geography. Do you remember those earthquakes in July of last year? Concerned calls and texts came pouring in from thoughtful friends who didn't quite grasp how far Ridgecrest was from Santa Clarita. The same thing happens anytime there's a fire in LA or a mudslide on the coast (you're kind of close to the beach, aren't you?). Even Santa Clarita is big enough that, for most every event, there's some particular hotspot where the real news is being made.
The primary effects of COVID-19 are now well known: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath. The secondary effects on us and our world are much more varied. For example, "Bad Boys for Life" might end up being the top film of the year based on global box office receipts. This inexplicable distinction is owed to the movie's release date: It was in theaters when going to the movies was still a thing. It's just one of the surprising consequences of the pandemic, and there are plenty more close to home.
There's really only one story that matters these dark days, and of course, it's who is going to win the Little Miss SCV 2020 Pageant. Oops, wrong timeline. Rather, all we have to talk about these days is the confusing, widespread, deadly COVID-19 coronavirus. Usually, crime and politics are the bread and butter of the local news, but lately, arrests have been down and political campaigns have been muted. Everyone is focused on our rapidly changing world and what it means for them, their loved ones and their livelihood. When you're in a pandemic, that's what you talk about.
We're all a bit like a 16-year-old, blind and deaf, six-and-a-half pound poodle named Porschia. This winter, helpless little Porschia was attacked by a hawk in her Pennsylvania yard. Her owner searched frantically after the bird swooped in and carried the pup off, but to no avail. Miraculously, Porschia was later found alive, dropped some four blocks away. She was reunited with her overjoyed owner after surviving an attacker she neither saw nor heard coming. The moral of the story? We're oblivious to so many threats around us, often just getting by thanks to sheer luck and cosmic grace.
One of the most efficient ways to get to know your fellow Claritans is by noticing what they count. The friend who counts reps and personal records is in a very different place than the friend who counts calories and daily steps. Likewise, the friend who counts each penny and budgets every purchase is a very different person than the friend who pulls out a credit card and hopes for the best. This March, amid counting clover leaves and pints of green beer, you'll find plenty of other reasons to think about counting all the things that really count for us.
Measured precisely, a year is not 365 days long. Rather, it takes 365 and a quarter days to complete one orbit around the sun. That's why every four years, including 2020, we have a February 29. We are given the day's worth of time that we've been banking. Should we use Leap Day to accomplish all of the things we said we'd get done but never did? That seems logical, but it's hard to write a novel and learn conversational Italian in a single day. Maybe it's better to devote those 24 hours to more recreational pursuits. Many Claritans have already gotten a head-start in finding fun.
Thinking about the passage of time as we enter the new year is about as corny and predictable as a Hallmark Christmas movie. Luckily, we Claritans are so sentimental this time of year that there's room in our hearts for all of the seasonal cliches. The calendar is on its last page, the days are short and cold and time is on our minds. How does that carol go? "For I've grown a little leaner, grown a little colder, grown a little sadder, grown a little older..." Yes, sounds about right, though maybe not the leaner part (Even my jokes are corny and predictable this time of year.). Time keeps passing, so we might as well stop and take a look.
On December 17, 2019, the City of Santa Clarita will turn 32 years old. She's really grown up. Her population is approaching a quarter-million people and her most recent budget approached a quarter-billion dollars. That's a lot more dependents and a lot more cashflow than most 30-somethings have. Unfortunately, not everyone here has their act so together. And there's no reminder quite like the impending holidays, when we have to decide which of Santa's lists we belong on. A lot make the nice list, but the news seems to be filled with more than a little naughtiness lately.
Thanksgiving is approaching and every bit of advice insists that we keep it simple. Simple table settings. Simply buying a pie instead of baking one. The simplest way to cook a turkey. Frankly, it's all nonsense. Thanksgiving is a time for many things, but simplicity is not one of them. One's love of family is directly proportional to the number of side dishes offered, and travel/sleeping arrangements should be sufficiently inefficient and complicated to show that you really care. We should realize that simple goals for this fall, like having a nice Thanksgiving, often aren't simple in execution - the details matter.
Halloween is one of the great economics lessons of childhood. After trick-or-treating is through, siblings and friends trade candy in a fiercely-unapologetic open market.
If you took a road trip this summer, you know firsthand how quickly fate can change. Freeways go 80 mph - or 20. There's very little in between, and a semi-truck in the wrong lane is all that's needed to tip the balance. The road trip itself can suddenly go from fun and full of endless potential to exhausting and full of endless bickering. There's very little in between, and your co-pilot's sixth bag of salt-and-vinegar chips is all that's needed to tip the balance. Life is usually shades of gray, but tipping points remind us it can also be black and white.
Summer reigns unrivaled as Santa Clarita's grossest season. At the end of each day, Claritans one and all are covered in a film of sweat, smog and varying parts barbecue and wildfire ash. Even worse, this is the time of year when we are expected to assemble in crowds for a host of ungodly reasons. Tourists throng SoCal destinations and locals mass at park concerts and pools. It's no wonder that tempers flare and tensions boil over. All that friction, both literal and figurative, makes trouble in summer crowds. Where people gather, you're bound to feel the heat.
Being human, a big part of the day-to-day job description is watching other humans do stuff. We watch our kids to make sure they're safe, our co-workers to make sure they're accountable and our exes to make sure they're not too happy. With all of this real-life watching, it's a wonder that one of our favorite things to do with our free time is yet more watching. Sure, there are great fictional shows to binge, but there's an undeniable appeal to watching video of even more real life - sports, news, what have you. Cameras are everywhere, we are capturing everything. The question isn't availability, but whether we want to watch what all those cameras capture.
Santa Clarita's elementary school teachers may be the only force keeping the sticker industry alive. The coming summer months exist mostly for them to re-stock their supply of happy faces and gold stars. There's a particular sticker I've seen only used for math tests, but it's one that should be plastered everywhere. It says "Show your work!" Don't just give an answer, but explain the steps that got you there. If only we could slap that sticker on current events that left us scratching our head in want of some explanation.
Spring fever isn't something we Claritans usually get to experience. This year was different. As rain, cold and wind intruded on weekends, many started to feel antsy and anxious to get out and enjoy the sunshine. (How lucky we've been to grow tired of rain.). Now, everyone seems to be making up for lost time, synthesizing vitamin D and de-pastifying in short sleeves. Why fight it? In the spirit of springtime, this month's local news roundup is all of the outdoors variety. Outdoor reading is recommended, though a sunny window will suffice.
Everyone knows about "Which Rachel?" situations. Santa Clarita, like America at large, is so saturated with 20- and 30-something Rachels that you need to ask which Rachel is the Rachel being talked about to preserve some sense of order in the universe. Based on contemporary child-naming practices, this will soon become a "Which Emma?" problem, but for now, we need clarity on Rachels. The same phenomenon has been playing out in the news, too. There's a strange sense of having seen the headline before, even though the timestamp shows it's mere hours old. Amidst all the overlap and deja vu, let's sort out which news story is which.
The annoying forward-march of time continues: Santa Clarita, meet 2019. If I've learned one thing about this time of year, it's that we're supposed to pause, take stock and reflect. Subjecting yourself to such an examination sounds terrible. Instead, let's focus Santa Clarita. The City turned 31 on December 15. True to form, the lines are beginning to show and life decisions are starting to be questioned. A lot has changed over the last year, but it's not clear if we're seeing the "new normal" or merely normal wobbles from the status quo.
Many people hold centuries-old, deeply-rooted religious beliefs that instill Christmas, Hanukah and other holidays with a profound sense of meaning. But even the most thoughtful and devout of these often have holiday traditions that just don't make sense if you start asking too many questions.
Election season has finally arrived. I hear that there are races involving districts and counties and states, but for many Claritans, there is no more glorious office than the Santa Clarita City Council. How else can we explain why Mayor Laurene Weste - who first served in 1998 - is running yet again? How else can we explain why TimBen Boydston - who has been variously appointed, victorious and defeated in past bids for a seat - is trying to make a comeback? It's always the same handful of people in local politics, but their convoluted journeys and relationships typify how complicated life can get in Santa Clarita.
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