Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Happenings: I Scream, You Scream...(Henry Mayo & Ice Cream)

If you'd like some background on the plan to cram too many buildings into too little space for the benefit of G & L Realty, just type "HMNMH" in the search box--I've written lots.

Ice cream given out by a hospital? Delicious irony! Of course, the real irony is that Roger Seaver is using the quintessentially small-town “ice cream social” to win favor for a hospital expansion that’s anything but. Indeed, stop by Henry Mayo on Saturday, August 9th from 2-4 to get re-introduced to the same old mega-expansion ideas…but this time with ICE CREAM.

Perhaps Roger Seaver and Andie Bogdan (HMNMH Director of Planning, Marketing, & Public Relations) are hoping for a reaction like this:

Eddie Murphy, Delirious, circa 1983

Then again, maybe things will play thusly:

RESIDENT: I heard you guys are giving out ice cream?
SEAVER: [brandishing frozen confection] We sure are! But first, I have a question for you.
RESIDENT: [quizzically] OK…
SEAVER: [sing-songy] What would you do for a Klondike bar?
RESIDENT: Uh, seriously?
SEAVER: Would you let me build some office buildings and parking structures?
RESIDENT: Yeah. OK. [takes bar]
CHORUS: For that chocolaty coated, ice-cream loaded, big and thick, no room for a stick, what would you do-o-o… [motions for cement truck to come in]

The folks at HMNMH aren't counting on the ice cream social alone, though, to earn the approval of the community. There's also a brand new website[1] crafted to extol the virtues of a plan to expand the Henry Mayo campus.

The welcome page is absurd. Some designer had the brilliant notion of shoving an enormous face directly in our faces–literally a third of the web page is devoted to facial real estate. The comely giantess to whom the over-sized visage belongs is Charanjet Saroa, M.D., and she tells us that "Supporting this master plan will help ensure more services in a quality oriented, first class environment."[2]

The comely giantess.

After the introduction, there are five more important pages to explore!

1. "Interactive Map"

The interactivity consists of having text bubbles appear when you hover the mouse over various parts of the master plan. It looks almost identical to the last incarnation of the hospital plan we saw. I've laid out three selections below, the most recent on the right.

[sing-songy, again] All of these things are just like the others...

My favorite part is how they dealt with Parking Structure 4. This is the lot that would require the felling of our Community Holiday Tree, a conifer with whom I've conducted several interviews on the topic of hospital expansion. The sneaky artist barely outlined where lot 4 would go so you think it's been removed from the plan. But hover your mouse over the hatch-mark outline and they begrudgingly offer the truth: "If needed, this is the last parking improvement in the 15-year plan, with two subterranean levels and one on the surface. 316 spaces. This preserves the traditional 'community tree.'"

I am unappeased. The tree needs to stay, or I may just have to phone John Quigley.

2. "Environmental Impact"

Directs one here.

3. "FAQ"

This was actually fairer than I expected. There were no questions like “Why does the cruel David Gauny want to keep sick little children from getting treated in nice, clean new medical office buildings?” or “Which will be more beautiful and beloved by the community: the luxuriant, expansive healing-garden-with-bench or the alluringly boxy office buildings?”. Rather, they posed and answered some questions that I have no doubt are frequently asked.

There is still evasion, though. The site says that the medical staff has formally supported the expansion, but we know of several prominent dissenters (e.g., Dr. Gene Dorio). Happily, one knows that spin is about to happen after reading the words "in fact." Case-in-point:

"Will that cause the removal of some trees?
Unfortunately, yes. But we will then be adding trees throughout the new campus, which will actually result in a net gain of trees. The entire campus, in fact, is being designed to not only meet all required environmental impact studies but to balance our need for growth with neighborhood quality of life issues such as noise, traffic and lighting..."

Yes, this project is nothing if not "balanced."

I also found this question/response rather amusing:

"Won't the enlarged campus mean additional traffic on McBean Parkway?
McBean Parkway is a major street connecting the freeway with local houses, the mall, the hospital and other businesses. As a result, traffic on McBean will likely continue to increase as our community grows regardless of what happens with the hospital..."

4. "Top 10 Reasons"

This page offers more of the same sales pitch, David Letterman style. One wonders how sincere they are about reason #1:

"The overwhelming majority of community leaders along with the medical staff of the hospital itself supports this project because they know that it is good for the community and will enhance both quality and accessibility of care."

5. "How to Support Us"

Here, the now Master-Plan-lovin' Claritan is instructed on how to give the appearance of support for the Master Plan. The tactics advocated are certainly on track--write The Signal, speak before the City Council, email Kellar et al... Remember that these avenues may also be used to oppose the project.

Thoroughly Unbiased Summary:
The Master Plan map flaunts a sequencing of improvements. For example, Medical Office Building 3 could not be occupied until construction on the new Inpatient Building has begun. We've been here before.

Being presented the same plan is tiresome.

I think we need an alternate event on August 9th. Instead of an ice cream social, let's have a tour. We could begin by asking everyone parked in HMNMH to drive on McBean at once to simulate increased traffic; Seaver could then hack down one of the dozens of stately sycamores that will have to make way for parking; next we'd walk to one of the houses just across the street and visualize what a few million more cubic-feet of concrete will look like. Last, we could leave imagining how such an over-built campus would change the feel of this part of Valencia forever.

One frightfully simple solution remains: get serious about building a second hospital in SCV.

[1]Start your exploration here
[2]Methinks they're missing a hyphen or two.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happenings: Duff, Chase et al. in SCV

I know I ought to get around to writing something political, but I can’t quite stomach delving into the to-grow-or-not-to-grow/to-urbanize-or-not-to-urbanize debate just now.

Besides, there are more important things to worry about: celebrities in SCV. We have the following actors coming to film some scenes at a local school:

~Hillary Duff (20 y.o. singer, actress, idol for good girls who their like starlets squeaky clean rather than in rehab)
~Chevy Chase (64 y.o. host/comedian/comic actor who I thought had retired)
~Josh Holloway (Kind of star of Lost, which is the undisputed greatest show on television; does best delivering short lines like “Hello”)
~Sean Astin (The lesser hobbit from The Lord of the Rings who has had several not-so-visible projects since)
~Winona Ryder (2-time Oscar nominee and recovered shop-lifter; local store owners, be sure to pat her down if she tries to sneak out of your shop with pilfered merch)

I know, it looks like a list that should be preceded by the instructions “Arrange the following B-List celebrities from most relevant to least.” (It would go H.D., W.R., J.H., C.C., S.A., right? And I guess some of these people might verge on B+…but I digress)

Well, all of them are in Santa Clarita filming the new comedy Stay Cool. According to its still developing page on IMDB[1], the film will be about an author who goes home to deliver a graduation speech and meet up with the girl he left behind. Stop yawning! They're filming a school whose name I withhold in deference to my alma mater, Valencia. Incidentally, I think V.H.S. is still ahead of all other local learning institutions in terms of movie credits with Pleasantville, Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, and BioDome.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for these famous folks as you go about your business in SCV. I will pay $1.04 for any photos of them in front of Claritan landmarks.

[1]IMDB page

Monday, July 21, 2008


Russian critic Vissarion Belinsky said of his country “We have no literature,” but he still managed to find stuff to read[1]. A similar approach is required for Santa Clarita. While we may lack a literature somewhat more profoundly than 19thC Russia, there has most certainly been stuff written about SCV and stuff written by people who live in SCV. And by my reckoning, the time to read all that stuff is now. We need the I Heart SCV Book Club.

It is with some trepidation that I propose a book club. The institution is widely caricatured as an excuse for (peri)menopausal women to gather, guzzle wine, and spew gossip. Then there are the unfortunate associations of book clubs with Oprah. This book club, however, will be different. You may join whether or not you have the anatomical prerequisites for menopause and/or are experiencing it. And we will not be bound to the books deemed readable by O. Winfrey.

Furthermore, I don’t think we’ll be meeting in person since I presume I am the only one who will actually be reading the literature. I guess that makes the exercise more of a book report than a book club...but I’ll be delighted if I’m proved wrong and some other Claritans actually join in the fun. Most likely, I will post my take on the book and people can comment, but this “synthesis/discussion” part will remain flexible.

Finally, rather than Freudian readings or Neo-post-deconstructionalist readings or whatever those crazy English kids are doing with their books nowadays, our books will be read with an eye out for Clarita’s soul. If the book is by a Claritan author, for example, we will pay attention to how life in SCV has shaped that author's work.

We begin with John Boston’s[3] Naked Came the Sasquatch.
Read the first chapter by clicking here.

It may be purchased in “web novel” format for a mere $2.99[3] or as a more traditional set of printed pages if you do a bit of searching online.

Planned “discussion” is for September 6, 2008.

Future books will include William S. Hart’s My Life East and West, John Boston’s other books, Gail Ortiz and Diana Sevanian’s (and various contributing authors') The City of Santa Clarita: Celebrating Twenty Years of Success, The Santa Clarita Food Pantry Cookbook (no, really--OK, probably not), Jerry Reynolds’ Santa Clarita, Valley of the Golden Dream, and Grace Norwich’s Ashley Tisdale: Life is Sweet!, An Unauthorized Biography (no, really…and I won't back down on this one—she’s our most famous former resident and inquiring minds want to know how time in Valencia made her who she is today). If you have further suggestions, please let me know.

Happy reading!

[1]At least in Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia, which I read for a real life book club I’m in.
[2]SCV's own best known, most awarded author, should you not have known. His website is the Boston Report.
[3]Click on the link in footnote No. 2 and you'll see opportunities to buy.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Only in SCV: insideSCV Writings

I done gone and wrote some stuff about Santa Clarita.

My July inside SCV article may be read by clicking Putting the $ Back in $CV.

And my August article may be read by clicking Barbecuing Our Way to a Better SCV.

Both are worth reading not only because of my dazzling prose but because of two delightful notes-from-the-editor (I heart the editors, by the way, for letting me write what I do). That's all.

Happenings: Mixed Signals (Interview with a Goose)

This ground-breaking interview has been a long time coming. I conducted the interview two weeks ago (when some youths were installing the gold B-R-I-D-G-E-P-O-R-T letters in front of the newer, lesser lake) but didn't get around to putting it up because I couldn't find my camera USB cord. Then I found it and got busy working on other things... Thus, it is now that I present to you the no-longer hot but still immensely important story of the geese at the corner of McBean and Newhall Ranch. To refresh your memory, these are the birds that cross(ed) the street much to the horror of animal lovers (and people in a hurry) as they move(d) from one attractive water feature to the other. Their other function was as a litmus test for writers. Those who fell into the trap of calling them "Canadian Geese" versus the correct "Canada Geese" were exposed as bird frauds, tarred and feathered, and paraded through the streets of Valencia.

In any case, I now present to you my interview with Grunhilda the Goose.

Grunhilda, interviewee (left), and one of her children eating the newly planted geraniums, one of the perks of the north pond (right).

Hello, Grunhilda.


Tell me how it is you came to raise a family in Bridgeport.

Well, Harold—that’s my husband—and I thought it looked like a safe place to live. Our kids can easily get away from dogs, cats, and ravenous children by fleeing to the water while we honk emphatically and posture menacingly at said dogs, cats, and ravenous children. Since our diet is primarily grass, we have plenty to eat.

Did the lighthouse play any part in the decision?

How do you mean?

Well, you said Bridgeport looked like a safe place to live. The traditional function of a lighthouse, like the ersatz lighthouse on the corner or McBean and Newhall Ranch, is to keep ships from crashing into reefs and rocks. The lighthouse might well be interpreted as a symbol of safety.

But there are neither reefs nor rocks in Bridgeport.

True. The lighthouse in Bridgeport is there more to evoke a sense of maritime romanticism than operate in a legitimate protective capacity.

I see. Hmmm…I’m afraid the lighthouse played no role in our decision whatsoever. I’m rather preoccupied with stuffing my face full of food, breeding vigorously, and evading predators. That gives me precious little time to contemplate lighthouses.

We did, however, decide to cross the street to get a better look at the bird sculpture. You know, the one that looks like a hundred gulls all glimpsed a new-age Medusa at once, instantly petrifying into metallic-composite, abstracted versions of themselves.

Yes, I know the sculpture. What did you think of it upon closer inspection?

I rather liked it. It’s much nicer to look at than those decoys that hunters put out, which represented the only other art I’ve seen prior to the Medusa birds.

Tell me, when crossing the street from one pond to the other, what were you thinking?

I thought I was hungry and there was more grass on the other side of the street.

Why not wait for the right-of-way before crossing the very busy road? If you and your family moved when the little white man light was shining, there’d be know trouble with motorists.

I see your point. Unfortunately, attaching meaning to a light remains frustratingly beyond my mental grasp.

But that's interesting with the lighthouse and lake and walking man and bird sculpture all suggesting safety when, really, it's a very bad idea to live next to a road. It’s something of a case of mixed signals, then, isn’t it? Well, I suppose it would have been if geese were able to interpret symbols. Perhaps you should entitle this piece "Mixed Signals"--kind of catchy. Makes me a sympathetic victim of poor human-bird communication.

[Nods at suggestion, jots it down]. Weren’t you scared crossing the street?

Not so much. I’m quite good at flying, and was a car to get too close, I would have flown.

But what about your children?

Yes, they were incapable of flight for the first two months or so of life. That’s typical of my species. But I’ve been rather expecting some of them to die anyways. Don’t get me wrong; Harold and I protect the goslings all we can. Still, we’re realists. Some of them are going to die. We haven’t even bothered naming them yet because of that assumption…does that make me a bad mother?

A bit, yes.

Oh dear. I don't think I was prepared to hear that. [honks resignedly]

Well, apart from causing traffic nightmares, how do you feel about raising kids, or goslings, in Santa Clarita? Do you think you fit in?

We do have seven offspring, which definitely makes me identify with certain religious and ethnic groups that are well-represented in this valley.

Care to be more explicit about these particularly fruitful groups?

I may cross roads with speeding vehicles, but I’m not that foolish.

Alright then. Is there anything else you’d like to say before ending this interview?

Yes. I mean no…it’s getting to be near nine and I can see Project Runway if I sit at a particular angle next to a particular lakeside house. I must be off. [waddles away]

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Happenings: Not Happenings...

The City Council Meeting tonight did not come through; I saw nothing but a black screen. Thus, I can offer no recap. :(

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happenings: Fourth of July Parade

NOTE: July 5th is the first birthday of the IHeartSCV blog, though not the blogger. While not the only blog in or about Santa Clarita, I take solace in the fact that it is the very best one, at least according to a City Councilmember whose compromising pictures I have in my possession. [Is he kidding? Gosh, I hope so!] Thanks to the people who take time to read this site's sundry ramblings, alert me to stories, and link here. I have some new stuff planned (a version of a Tour de SCV and an SCV eBook Club) that I'll be getting around to later on this month. But for now, let's turn to the part of the Claritan Calendar I heart most.

When it comes to the Santa Clarita Fourth of July Parade, I refuse to sit anywhere but the sidewalk of Lyons Avenue. It’s never crowded, the few people around are much more tolerable than the McBean masses, and should Armageddon come, I’m just a block away from Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

The Lyons locale is also close to Egg Plantation. And by my reckoning, if one is going to force oneself to endure the stomach-turning sights of the parade, the least one can do is enjoy a stomach-pleasing omelet first. Almost incomprehensibly, though, Egg Plantation[1] was serving an entirely eggless menu on the Fourth. No Benedicts or scrambles or sunny side-ups were to be had—just muffins, potatoes, and waffles. I was so jarred by the experience that I didn’t even have the presence of mind to ask why there were no eggs. I just ate my waffle and trembled, contemplating feelings of loss and betrayal.

After breakfasting, we walked to a shady spot from which to spectate. This is the other good part of watching the parade on Lyons: you experience a mild sense of camaraderie with your neighbors without having to be so close as to smell their sunscreen or partake in forced conversation. I was with four parade virgins (and one parade veteran) who were largely oblivious of the care I had taken in selecting our spot on the sidewalk. Still, I was happy they came to watch the parade. Some of them had never attended despite more than two decades in the SCV.

After a mere 50 minutes of agonizing anticipation, the parade began.

This year’s theme was “sights and sounds of Santa Clarita”[2]. The first of these sights and sounds were fire trucks blaring their horns and sirens. Given our valley’s proclivity for burning, I’d say it was a pretty accurate start. I trust that the procession of fire trucks and firefighters went straight to one of the many nearby blazes after driving by the adoring public.

Deafening toddlers with 120-decibel sirens never felt so patriotic. But perhaps there were ear plugs…

Next came John Boston, a man who has never been reluctant to offer clauses as complete sentences in his quest to write that which is Santa Clarita. As Grand Marshall, he wore a red and white-checked shirt (think picnic cloth writ small) and a vest sporting stars, bison, and Indian-inspired diamonds in black, red, and blue on white. It was western, patriotic, and Claritan all at once; we expected nothing less of our G.M.

Both of these men claim to be Mr. SCV, one for years of residence, observation, and writing and the other for winning a beauty pageant. So who is the real Mr. SCV, John Boston or Paul de la Cerda?[3]

After that, I believe I blacked out. Leon Worden's (who has many job titles and feathers in his cap, none as important as enthusiastic-over-estimator of parade attendance) website promised Kellar and Pulskamp after Boston[4]. I just didn’t see them. I did get to see the she-councilmembers, however, who were pulled in a white carriage like a trio of Disney Princesses some decades into “ever after”. Prince Ferry, however, was nowhere to be found.

After the Claritans of Consequence puttered by, the rest of the parade followed. There were flatbed trucks masquerading as floats, ponies, and old cars punctuated by a few memorable groups. The largest by far was, again, NorthPark Community Church[5]—which I have rechristened NorthPark Community Empire. Literally hundreds of members of the congregation marched on the streets, pulled mini-floats, kept massive helium stars from floating to the heavens, and promoted their church and school like none other. All the while, they danced to “We’re All in This Together” from High School Musical[6]. The only thing missing was...religion. The other main religious float (by The Village Church) paled in comparison. Their mere dozens sang “I am a Friend of God” and waved.

All of the photos above are from the same NorthPark entry. The glossy ad posters, matching shirts, and web-savvy approach clearly signal that we have entered the era of Worship 2.0.

Several less spectacular entries followed. Some SCValleyMommies[7] minivans drove by, pomising a website that is "Where all the cool moms go." They were decorated with hand-painted monstrosities by the mommies’ decidedly non-gifted children. Later on, a tractor pulled the senior float, invigorating 80-year old lungs with diesel particulate. The Signal[8], too, joined in the parade march. Just as some floats distributed flags and flyers, I thought The Signal could have given away papers. It's not as though anyone would have bought them, after all, but it was not to be. Later, all 22 (I counted) of Santa Clarita’s democrats came out to march for Obama and precede cars for the soon-to-be-failed campaigns of Carole Lutness and Bruce McFarland[9]. There were many other entries, but they had a mercifully brief stint in my short-term memory.

Daddy drives a Mommies Van (left), and a tractor pulls a group of seniors and the senior-friendly.

Somewhereabouts the middle of the parade, there were literally TEN convertibles for Santa Clarita pageant winners[10]. My invention of Little Miss Corner of McBean and Old Orchard had gone from mocking to prophetic! Indeed, there was a Little Miss Santa Clarita, Saugus princesses, even a Mrs. SCV and Mr. SCV. No, I'm being quite serious.

Per usual, the parade’s closing division included the Masons and other SCV social groups. If you have read anything along the lines of The Da Vinci Code or listened to Coast To Coast AM, you know that these are the people who run SCV...and the world. Mayor Kellar and City Manager Ken Pulskamp are little more than a puppets pulled by strings that are the whims and wishes of the Masonic Order. Let not their fringy hats and absurd ceremonies fool you; these are Clarita’s true power players.

The Keepers of Clarita.

When the parade concluded, I turned to my first-time-parade-watcher friends and asked them what they thought. One said “I’ve never been more sure that I want to move.” I tried to sympathize. As always, the parade is about endurance, not enjoyment, and that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. There are some who would prefer to live in a city where participation isn’t so painful. But had we learned nothing from the suffering? Had we not caught a glimpse of the sights or heard a snippet of the sounds that typify life in Santa Clarita? I believe we had. We saw a community that is young and growing, the next generation being reared on a diet of extracurricular activities, Ritalin, and self-esteem. We saw an outward demonstration of our valley’s spiritual side. We realized that while the City is big, it’s still possible to find faces of people we know personally riding on a parade float. People everywhere in Santa Clarita were doing stuff--whether leading Boy Scouts, serving in the armed forces, or running a business--and it was stuff they felt proud enough of doing to put on display. Somewhere in this mélange, I think, lies Santa Clarita and, more importantly, something worth hearting. We may be just one small piece of the United States, whose independence we so joyously celebrated, but...well yeah, actually I'll stop there.
We really do.

[1]Their website claims that 6000 eggs are broken a week in-house. They failed to mention that none of these are broken on the Fourth. Last year, I had an omelet; this year, devastation.
[2]From Leon Worden's website (linked below), here is an FAQ on the parade theme:
Q: What is the theme — "Sights and Sounds of Santa Clarita" — supposed to mean?
A: It means that the parade celebrates everything that makes the Santa Clarita Valley a great place to live, work, shop and play. It also means the judges will be looking for you to incorporate MUSIC in your entry. In addition to the specific theme for 2008, there is a second and equally important "permanent" theme: Celebrating America's Independence. Ideally, your entry should reflect your own interpretation of one or both of these themes.
[3]Here's more on de la Cerda's win.
[4]The lineup. I understand they were on horseback, but I completely missed them. I am filled with shame and regret, in that order.
[5]Not that they need more advertising, but here is the NorthPark website.
[6]If you’re a good Claritan, you know that film co-starred Ashley Tisdale, who lived in SCV for some time and went to Valencia High. God bless NorthPark’s music director for the nod to SCV-based stardom!
[8]The Signal's coverage of the parade can be found here. It's by Tammy Marashlian.
[9]Here are links to the Lutness and McFarland websites in case you're curious.
[10]All about pageants! Is anyone else bothered by the fact that they write "Meet our girls on our Myspace page!"?

Only in SCV: 4th of July Photo Supplement

A single Blogger post can fit only so many photos. Thus, some additional pictures from the Santa Clarita Fourth of July Parade are included below.

The full narrative of the parade will be posted shortly with even more eye candy(or medicine, as the case may be).

Masses thronged the sidewalks of Lyons Avenue. (This picture was taken four minutes before the parade began.)

Councilmembers Laurie Ender and Laurene Weste. Of the two, it was clearly Weste that demonstrated mastery of the photo opp. Notice how effortlessly she found the camera, screened out Concilmember Marsha McLean, and flashed a sincere but practiced smile. Magnificent!

Congressman Buck McKeon and family. The expression on the grandson's face perfectly mirrored those worn by the crowd.

State Assemblyman Smyth, wife, and spawn.

Tragically, this entry made it only 6 blocks before needing to refuel.

Ditto above.

Republicans, large painted bear, and asphault.

Here is a flatbed trailer that actually looks like a float. I appreciate the effort, Friends of Hart Park.

An audible gasp of amazement escaped the crowd when this vision of patriotic spirit and artistic mastery passed by.

Fin. If you're feeling underwhelmed or annoyed, try sitting through 2 hours of every variation on these entries imaginable.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happenings: Parade Grows Nigh

Hey Y'all--make sure you get out to the Santa Clarita Fourth of July Parade in Newhall. Appropriately enough, it's on July 4(!) at 9:45 am. By attending, you will be fulfilling your duty as a Santa Claritan and proving that you are worthy of living in our glorious valley.

If you don't know how to get there, just drive towards Lyons Avenue and park as close as you can manage. Look for annoyed adults and restless kids and you'll know you've arrived.

To review last year's parade, which happened to be the subject of my first ever IHeartSCV post--and a damn fine one at that, if I do say so myself--go HERE!