Looking ahead, can I give up my town?

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

The view from the top of Eagle Scout Trail is quite surreal.

To the east you can see Cal Poly Pomona and its Classroom, Laboratory and Administration building — the university’s landmark “pointy building” — and to the west you can see the hustle and bustle of busy Pomona streets.

Further to the north is a clear view of where the 10, 57 and 71 freeways intersect, and to the south, hundreds of feet away, sits the little suburb known as Phillips Ranch, the place this reporter calls home.

It’s a quiet 1,800-acre slice of Pomona with about 70,000 residents. We’re known as District 5 according to the city, Steve Lustro is our councilmember representative, and you cross our beloved area each time you pass Temple Avenue along the 57.

We’re not known for much and don’t have as many amenities as, say, downtown Pomona or the Claremont Village. We don’t have any art museums or train station stops like our big city neighbors, but we do have and love our one strip mall, the Mission Hills Plaza.

We also have two Starbucks locations, two elementary schools, and a high school. Phillips Ranch is also home to Los Angeles County fire station 188. It’s also where my favorite sandwich shop and deli, Country Kwik, stakes it claim.

Albeit small, you can see Phillips Ranch in its entirety from the top of Eagle Scout Trail. For me, it’s like I’m looking down at my childhood, the nest where I’ve spent 23 years, going on 24 as of Monday.

The first time I looked out at the view atop from the trail, it was at the end of a long hike in 2018. I remember my jaw dropping at the end as I saw my little town from above, a perspective I had never seen before.

The second time I made the trek was more thought-provoking however. It November 2020, a day after I had a Zoom interview for a sports reporting job with the Times Standard newspaper.

The paper is located up in Eureka, California near Humboldt County, and working remotely, especially for journalists, I knew was not going to last forever. So, I asked my interviewers, once the pandemic subsided, was I to pack up and move up there to continue working.

“Yes, that would be the case,” was their answer.

The answer seemed obvious since it was a journalism job and it definitely helps your reporting when you live in the city you’re covering. But since this would have been a huge move for me away from home, I asked if it was okay for me to take time to think about whether I wanted this job or not. I thought that would have disqualified me, but they obliged and interviewed other applicants over two days.

The day after the interview, I made the trek up Eagle Scout and took it all in. I thought about whether I could I actually leave my little town, my life, my parents, sisters and my girlfriend? Could I give up everything to launch my career so early?

At 22, was I ready to take a leap of faith?

I got a call back the following evening from the paper’s editor offering me the position, but I turned down the job for a number of reasons. The main one being that I couldn’t leave the nest just yet, this little bit of Pomona was still my home and I wasn’t ready to upend everything in a few months’ time even if the pandemic ended.

Plus, living in this state is very expensive and I didn’t want a majority of my income going to rent.

In January 2021, I was submitting more applications and sending clips to papers when I came across the Claremont Courier. Peter Weinberger called me in for an interview for a reporting position.

After the first February interview, they assigned me a steady stream of stories to see if I could get the job done. I did all right I guess since they offered me a full-time position in March of 2021.

Close to home and similar to the production days working on the University of La Verne’s newspaper, Campus Times, I felt confident when deciding I wanted to sign on with the COURIER. There was no doubt in my mind when taking the job because this was what I wanted; and I did not feel the need to go back up Eagle Scout Trail for further thought — until this column.

It’s nearing May of 2022 and I’ve been a COURIER journalist for a little over a year now. While my home and heart are still in Phillips Ranch, since taking the job, part of me now resides Claremont.

For example, when the January windstorm devastated the city, a part of me was also devastated. But when the city came together to clean up, that part of me was uplifted along with the piles of debris.

I don’t know, something about interviewing sources regularly in the city, getting food from holes in the wall I had never been to and driving down Indian Hill Boulevard every day left a lasting impression on me.

Every time I drive through the town, my work place, my love for Claremont grows a little deeper.

Claremont reminds me of my little hometown. It is one of the most tightknit communities I know, and has some of the friendliest and most passionate residents I’ve ever come across.

Claremont also has some of the things I’m looking for in a city come time for me to leave the nest. Along with residents who are always showing up en masse to city council and commission meetings, you folks are always helping out local businesses and each other in times of need.

The City of Trees also has a dedicated police and fire department, mental health services for those in need, a bustling downtown life, numerous schools and great colleges, a weekly farmers market and, most importantly, you guys have a couple of Starbucks locations.

My mind wonders here and again to the question, is this where I see myself living in the future? Can I settle down here in the City of Trees, just minutes away from the place I call home?

Well, the short answer is probably not, because I can’t afford it on my own. As beautiful as this city is, I think it will take a while for me to gather enough funds on a journalist’s wages to be able to put a down payment on a house in this lovely city.

I think the better question is, would I want to live in Claremont at any point in my life?

And that answer is: you bet I would.

As I looked over to the east atop Eagle Scout Trail recently, I no longer saw just Pomona, I also saw Claremont much more clearly.

I don’t know where this journalism career will take me, hopefully around the world. But I do know at some point, maybe when I’m retired and have flat fingertips from all those decades of typing, I’d like to be able to settle down in or around Claremont again, my second city away from home.


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