Come February 14, St. Valentine will be stealing attention from our valley's namesake, St. Clare. When it comes to saints, why is it that Santa Claritans spend so much more time fussing over Valentine's Day than Clare's Day, given that we live in a valley named after, well, Clare?
New Year's resolutions are the natural consequence of irrational, out-of-control holiday behavior. We drink, eat and spend too much during December, so we decide to push the pendulum the other direction upon ringing in the new year. We resolve to become trimmer, more responsible, better versions of who we are: Self 2.0 (a catch-phrase I'm sure some motivational speaker has already branded - sorry).
It has been a hard end of the year for everyone. Tragically, those of us who matter most in this valley - movers and shakers like myself - are especially struggling. If times weren't so tough, my mailbox would be full of invites to formal dinners and holiday parties with people who own car dealerships and real estate firms. But no one's putting on such events this year and in this economy.
It's natural to get defensive in November. Let your guard down for but an instant and this month will eat you alive. There are limitless opportunities for getting into fights over politics, the last remaining must-have toy at after-Thanksgiving sales, or the proper way to prepare cornbread stuffing. Then there are battles over whether to watch football or sitcoms, who's hosting Thanksgiving, whether Thanksgiving dinner is an appropriate time to tell your brother what the family really thinks about his trashy fiancee...
As Halloween nears, Santa Claritans will participate in the long, illustrious tradition of getting scared in the safest ways possible. We will go to Fright Fest at Six Flags, where we scream securely in the knowledge that the murderous clowns are really just harmless actors. We will go through haunted houses where the reassuring glow of exit signs offers us an easy out. We will watch scary movies from secure homes on well-lit streets in gated communities.
September has arrived to return order to the Santa Clarita Valley. Traditional rules and roles evaporated in August's incendiary air: bed times were gone; adults and kids alike loafed in pools and lazed around patios. Being useless, unproductive members of society was alright. Even the straight-laced City Council took off most of August, presumably to prank call Ken Pulskamp and go drinking at Doc's Inn.
A barbecue is meat and flame. That's it. The act of gathering around an outdoor fire to share food and company has remained essentially unchanged since caveman times. And though modern barbecues rely on meat from shrink-wrapped Styrofoam trays rather than something we clubbed ourselves, there's still no denying a barbecue's "shades of roasted mastodon," according to cookbook author Irma Rombauer.
Imagine legions of abandoned lapdogs roaming the street in packs, desperately seeking out meager scraps of food. Behind the hungry growls and yips of these hapless hounds, you hear the sound of glass shattering - more looting, probably. You try to escape but are confronted with endless rows of homes, their inhabitants living in squalor. Trash hasn't been collected for months, and decay is everywhere.
I'm a sucker for graduation speeches. No matter the year or the school, they're all so reassuringly the same. Some bright-eyed valedictorian comes to the podium and talks about how their class has come so far, accomplished so much, and is now oh so ready to take on life's challenges and succeed. "The future" is always the central concern of a graduation speech, and we're invited to meditate on just how unbearably bright and beautiful it promises to be.
Late last February, the Amgen Tour of California bike race brought Santa Claritans a vision they rarely get to see: people moving on streets at about 30 miles per hour. I know, I know; they were moving on vehicles powered by their own legs rather than gasoline and they were on two wheels instead of four. Still, the thing I like most about the race isn't seeing people ride bicycles at moderate rates of speed. No, it's watching my fellow Santa Claritans appreciate a sport and culture that most of us don't give a second-thought the other 364 days of the year. Indeed, when else do we get to say "peloton" or cheer on people who make their living by turning pedals?
I often wonder how much bigger Santa Clarita can grow and still feel like, well, Santa Clarita. My grandparents moved here in the early 1960s and they say the hometown they once knew has all but disappeared. We bade good riddance to onion fields for soccer fields, close-knit neighborhoods for interaction-phobic ones, and jokes about hokey small towns for much-beloved suburban cliches.
Red roses and dinner in a dimly-lit, over-priced restaurant don't work for everyone on Valentine's Day. No, V-day plans have to be made with the Claritan you're seeing in mind, and some are more difficult to please than others. Below, I offer tips for dealing with a few of the most challenging cases. Just call me Dr. Love and use one of these prescriptions to cure your case of lame Valentine's dates.
Winter is a season teeming with reasons to be depressed. Claritans are deprived of snow, gloomy about the passing of the winter holidays, and made anxious when New Year's comes around to remind us that we're growing ever older.
I never really believed in Santa Claus, but it wasn't until pre-school that I could confirm my suspicion as fact. Nearly two decades later, I'm still able to recall the December day of dream-crushing quite well. Let's revisit it, shall we?
This Thanksgiving, many former residents of the SCV will be returning here. Having forsaken our glorious valley for life elsewhere, I'm not all that sure we should be welcoming them back. But Santa Claritans are a forgiving people, and I suspect most will be only too happy to receive their kids, friends and relatives back home. When greeting former Claritans at the front door, however, I ask one small favor. Hold off on the hugs and "I love you's" till later; your first order of business is to ask them, "Why the heck did you leave?"