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The unusual thing about Thanksgiving is that it's unusual. Sitting down with respectably-dressed family members at a well-furnished table and expressing gratitude for our blessings might just be a once- or twice-a-year event these days. I don't think the problem is that we've grown apart as families but that we've grown too close. Everyone's so comfortable and chummy around each other that our expectations are pretty minimal. We could eat together all the time, but we know what everyone else is doing anyways. We could dress for dinner like we would if we were heading out to dine with friends, but sweatpants are so much easier. It's not until extended family comes around at Thanksgiving that we bother putting out much effort.
When Apple opened a store at The Patios this July, it was greeted by literally hundreds of adoring fans and customers. People were eager to browse iPhones; the big iPhones, called iPads; or the iPhones that do everything but make calls, called iPods. But mostly, they were just there to geek out with fellow Apple devotees. And it's not just a morning spent waiting in line and hard-earned cash that people are willing to give up to Apple. In the Wall Street Journal's menacingly titled "What They Know" series, journalists describe how frequently and precisely location data is collected by companies like Microsoft, Google, and yes, even Apple.
National media exposure for Santa Clarita is rare. Most recently, it came with Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution." Oliver wanted to improve local school lunches as part of his reality-TV program. He discussed possibilities with SCV School Food Services Agency CAO, Pavel Matustik. Things didn't go so well for Oliver, who wasn't afforded access to Claritan schools. "My Board of Directors got scared of you... People are running scared, they worry about negative publicity," explained Matustik. And things didn't go so well for Matustik, either, whose appearance was later ridiculed on "The Soup."
The City of Santa Clarita is in the business of pleasing people. Pleased people make better residents - they're neighborly, don't commit crimes and choose to re-elect incumbents at local elections. When things are going well, when we're pleased with our lives, we don't rock the boat.
At some point we have to give up on the idea of a fresh start, understand we must make do when we can't have a do-over. It's not always a pleasant realization.
I have been searching out books to read for the I Heart SCV Book Club (total membership: one). I went after the low-hanging fruit first: John Boston's long-out-of-print novel, Naked Came the Sasquatch; John Boessenecker's Bandido, the biography of semi-legendary outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez; and Newhall, Maggi Perkins' contribution to the Images of America series. For some reason, there just aren't as many books written about Santa Clarita as, say, New York or Rome.
This is shaping up to be the year of four seasons. With actual snow in January (and almost-snow in late February!) to mark winter, spring seems all the springier. We look at the world with new eyes.
I stumbled across a photo from the late '80s. It's a sign proclaiming "Future Site of Canyon Country Park: The First Park Built in the City of Santa Clarita." Since then, it's as if Canyon Country has been punished, the park being pretty much the only "first" the area ever received. It was second to get a library, second to get a COC campus, even second to get a Target and a Wal-Mart. Canyon Country residents are an admirable lot, getting by on so little with their famous stoicism.
February, according to my sister, is the worst of all possible months. We spend the entire fall sedated by Halloween candy, Thanksgiving smorgasbord, leftovers, holiday cocktails, Christmas cookies and New Year's champagne. Work beckons less urgently than other times of the year. Family and friends not only surround us but shower us with gifts and warmth. Then, quite suddenly, we awaken on January second fat, alone and miserable. This desperation triggers New Year's resolutions, which last a few weeks but invariably amount to naught. Finally, we arrive at February and awaken not only fat, alone and miserable, but also depressed by the realization that we are utterly incapable of changing any of those realities.
Whenever I flew during college, my ticket was always flagged. I would try to do the self check-in and was invariably directed to the ticket counter, where people would have to type in codes or call supervisors. Being neither a drug runner, terrorist, felon - nor any combination thereof - I found this perplexing. I'm a pro-SCV extremist, but since when is that a crime?
Those of us who live in the 'burbs are rarely shown in our best light. Suburbanites on TV dramas or real-housewife-esque reality shows are usually portrayed as conformity-loving, materialistic, petty and superficial - as if the rest of humanity wasn't. But it's the conformity that people fixate on. Neighborhoods are a collection of the same houses filled with the same sorts of people who have the same interests and run in the same crowds.
We all have ideas about the way the world should work. But others have ideas, too, and they're different than ours, and thus, we have the world as we know it. For many, this is simply unacceptable. Political types especially are always pushing to make places, laws and society align more closely with their ideas of perfection. Witness the race for California senator or governor - any political race, for that matter. Each candidate is selling a vision for a brighter future; each wants a chance to make their ideals our reality. Though we don't have any major local races this Election Day, Santa Clarita's leaders are showing the same ambition and idealism found on the campaign trail. The trouble is that different, at times opposing, ideas for a more perfect SCV are now colliding.
"Trick or treat?" makes for a rather nasty greeting. It's an ultimatum. Either treats will be given by the homeowner or the snubbed children will get their revenge with trickery. But growing up, I was more worried about tricks that might be played on me. It probably had a lot to do with my mom's insistence on checking every piece of Halloween candy.
We are told that global warming threatens our notion of winter, turning ice to slush and menacing frosts to mere chills. At least winter's on notice, courtesy of climate scientists and environmentalists. Far more insidious are the threats to summer. Traditionally, summer ended on the Autumnal Equinox - September 23 this year, a date marked by few outside of Santa Clarita's pagan circles. Or it ended on Labor Day, which isn't too outrageous. Then schools began chipping away at summer's trailing edge, moving the first day of class from early September to early August.
Santa Clarita needs a little help. (A lot, some might say.) While the city is quite adept at wooing business, building parks and fixing potholes, it cannot do everything. To accomplish the really big stuff, Santa Clarita usually relies on the federal government.
Laws can be just as petty and irritating as the people who craft them. Since they're rarely repealed, normal people tend to just overlook those laws and rules that make life unnecessarily annoying. When that doesn't work, we stand ready to heap scorn and ridicule upon those who insist on following the letter of the law too closely with their frivolous lawsuits or enforcement of obscure codes.
I miss "goodbye." With great clarity, it signaled that two or more people were parting ways. It has fallen largely out of favor, replaced by "later" or "seeya," greetings that promise that things aren't yet over. Conversations sent via electronic channels also defy conclusion; the texts and comments will continue piling up whether you acknowledge them or not. The last holdouts are reality TV shows, where "pack your knives and go" or "you're fired" still impart a welcome sense of finality. But even here, the dismissals are just words, and the stars will be back for a reunion special, another season, or their own spin-off.
Santa Clarita should be a City utterly devoid of surprises. Everything is planned, usually about three years in advance by means of a series of spectacularly boring meetings. But lately, life and business in the SCV have been proceeding in defiance of what was planned for them. The trouble with getting more than we bargained for is that the "more" isn't often good.
Saving is a pastime favored by many Claritans. We have groups that are saving open space, some who are saving arts programs, while still others are saving historic places. There are even those who try to protect decidedly non-historic places, like the loose coalition that sprang up to not-so-successfully save Bristol Farms supermarket from closing. While the indigenous people and early settlers of Santa Clarita had little to save - there were no historic buildings, much less supermarkets - we moderns have ever more to worry about preserving and protecting.

This month, it's saving and safety that's on the agenda.
It's not hard to get noticed in Santa Clarita. Standing in the middle of McBean during rush hour, painting one's house a shade forbidden by the HOA, or driving a car made before 2007 are all viable options for those craving attention. Getting noticed is certainly something on the minds of the 11 candidates vying for election to City Council. The SCV Press Club will be giving notice to those worth talking about at the Newsmakers Awards Gala Dinner on March 19.
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