Forget LA — we have Claremont  

By John Pixley

Who needs LA? I don’t. At least not anymore.

There was a time when I told myself the only reason I would stay in Claremont, where I grew up, was that it was relatively easy to get to Los Angeles. There was a time when I would drive to LA three or four times a month to see terrific and not so terrific plays in tiny theaters in Hollywood and wherever else, to see museum exhibitions, eat at favorite spots, or go to the beach and sit.

There was a time — this was before my spinal surgery seven years ago — when I would get on the Metrolink in my wheelchair on my own once a week and take it to Union Station and then, more likely than not, take the Red Line subway and the 320 bus to get to wherever I was going, whether it was to see a friend in Beverly Hills, to spend a couple hours on the Santa Monica Pier or, if I was feeling really adventurous, cruise down the boardwalk to Venice.

But not anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved LA I still do — and miss it. Indeed, I love LA, a la Randy Newman.

But now I can’t take the train, not to mention the subway and bus, on my own. And, more significantly, I hate the traffic. Or, let me clarify, I always hated the traffic, but now I can’t take it, and I pretty much won’t. Getting out to LA may not be so bad, it may even be a breeze, but there’s always, always, no matter the day or time of day or evening, traffic coming back, which exhausts me and nearly ruins the day — and I’m not the one driving.

Over the last two years or so I’ve ventured to the LA area twice: to have lunch with friends and then attend their wedding. I’ve been to Pasadena a couple times, but there’s still the return traffic problem.

Besides, I’m finding that I don’t need LA. Literally.

There’s plenty going on here.

On almost every weekend during the school year there’s at least one concert happening at the Claremont Colleges. There are impressive faculty and guest artist recitals and performances by rigorously trained student ensembles, not to mention offerings here and there by student groups. No, these may not be the Los Angeles Philharmonic or Master Chorale, but, hey, almost all are free (a rarity at colleges, I’ve come to discover).

There’s also lots of music presented in town, whether it be concerts in the park or in the Village on summer evenings, well known artists playing at the Folk Music Center and various artists and local bands performing in a variety of venues, from churches to bars.

As for theater, we have Ophelia’s Jump, just over the border in Upland. I say “we” because this production company is based in Claremont. Even when it was an orphan outfit looking for a home, performing in whatever venue would take it in, I was saying that Ophelia’s Jump is like seeing a play in LA without the drive and traffic. There are also plays and dance performances, including by student groups, at the colleges, more often impressive than not, and at Claremont High. Yes, CHS puts on some pretty good productions.

Speaking of artists, there are also lots of exhibits at the colleges and around town. Add in the numerous talks at the colleges and other events there and around town, not to mention the Laemmle Theatre, and there’s more than enough to do.

I don’t know if this is because Claremont and the colleges have changed or if I have changed. I thought Claremont was pretty boring when I was younger — it wasn’t so lively then — and a teen and young adult may well feel the same today. But Claremont and the colleges are now a pretty good deal, a boon, in fact, for those of us who are older and can’t get around like we used to.

So, forget LA. Those who can put up with the traffic and the hassle can have it. The rest of us have plenty to enjoy and love right here in Claremont.


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