Time for some small town quiet

By John Pixley

Whew! It’s May. I can take a breath!

The colleges are wrapping up another year. Except for a single leftover concert and a frenzied weekend of commencements, complete with crowded streets, this month, things will be pretty much all quiet on the collegiate front.

It’s about time!

It seems crazy for me to say, but just in case it isn’t clear, I’m glad that the semester is over. Or, rather, I’m relieved that the semester is over. I’m relieved that all the concerts, performances and other presentations are over.

This really does sound crazy coming from me. I have always rhapsodized about how the colleges and their events — often free! — make Claremont all the more special, an all the more unique and wonderful community in which to live. I wrote a whole column a few months ago declaring that we don’t need LA, that there’s enough going on right here in Claremont, thanks largely to the colleges, not to bother with driving on the freeways.

There were many years when I bemoaned that Claremont was dead during the summer, declaring that the commencements were cause for literal mourning, with the ensuing months not only hot but devoid of the colleges’ activities. But things have changed, as I’ve been finding.

Yes, the town side of the town/gown equation has changed. Claremont isn’t quite the sleepy little town it used it be, where the sidewalks were said to roll up at 5. The Village has practically become a hot spot, especially on weekends. There is the Laemmle cinema. And there is a good amount of live music, whether in the Village on Friday evenings, in Memorial Park on Monday evenings and at a few other venues.

I suspect though that probably more significantly and importantly, more than Claremont has changed. There are no doubt plenty of teenagers and young adults who think that Claremont is dullsville, who think that nothing goes on here, especially during the summer, who put up with the freeway traffic to escape to LA and the beach and plot how to bust out of here someday. As I heard a student speaker say at the Pomona College commencement years ago, Claremont is “a nice place to live when you retire.”

Well, I’m about that age when I’m ready to retire. Yes, I’m older — or at least more disabled.  I am not able to do what I used to do, and I don’t have the energy to deal with getting to and especially from LA. And, frankly, I barely can keep up with all the concerts and performances, much less the talks, at the colleges, especially as they pile up in the last month of the school year.

It’s not that I don’t miss my adventures in LA. It’s not that I don’t look forward to spending a few days in Santa Barbara later this summer and that I don’t sometimes wish I had a house or apartment at the beach where I could spend weekends (or weeks) at least during the summer. I do. Sure I do! But I have come to appreciate how much we have in Claremont and how easy it is — not like dealing with the freeway traffic — and be thankful for and content with it. And every now and then we really see that Claremont isn’t such a sleepy little town. The colleges may not be big time like UCLA or Harvard (despite the “Harvard of the west” T-shirts), but there is indeed life on the campuses, for better and for worse.

I was reminded of this, to my amusement and, yes, irritation, this spring; in late April, as the media kept proclaiming that the wave of student protests over the horrendous war in Gaza devolving into ugly, heart-sickening, sometimes violent confrontations, sometimes culminating in arrests by city police, began at New York’s Columbia University. I was like, “Wait, didn’t this happen at Pomona College weeks earlier in early April?” Not that the fact that it did happen here, with multiple police agencies being called in and making arrests was something to be proud of. But apparently we were a small, sleepy town that didn’t count.

Well, I for one am ready for a few — just a few — months in our little, if not so sleepy, town.


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