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In between what was and will be, over there and farther

By John Pixley

It’s a common new year mistake. Everyone does it. In the first few days of a new year, who hasn’t accidentally put down the previous year when writing the date on a check or a letter? Who didn’t write 2013 instead of 2014 at least once this time around?

I found it hard a couple weeks ago to remember that it is 2014. Except that, when I was writing the first checks of the year, I didn’t want to write 2013. For a few seconds there, I wanted to write 2003.

I don’t know exactly what this means. Am I in a time warp, stuck in 2003, if not 1973 or earlier as some accuse me of being? Was I in a stupor, after having too much of the holidays? Or perhaps I don’t like being 53 and wish I was 43.

One thing is clear, though: time is passing and the years are going by more and more quickly.

Besides, who writes letters these days? With everyone and their auntie e-mailing, texting, Facebooking, instant messaging and whatever else they are doing, it’s certainly not 2003.

* * *

“Laemmle operates seven theaters with 34 screens in Beverly Hills, Claremont, Encino, North Hollywood, Pasadena, Santa Monica and West LA.”

There it was, right there on the front page of the business section in the Los Angeles Times just a few days into the new year. There’s no doubt that it isn’t 2003 in Claremont.

The article was about the 75th anniversary of the family-owned, Los Angeles-area cinema chain and its plans for the future. It was also, at least as I saw it, an acknowledgment for all to see that Claremont has definitely moved up in the world.

Something has changed—that’s for sure—when Claremont is mentioned in the same sentence, in the same breath, as Pasadena, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills.

There may be some in Claremont who are alarmed about this. They are no doubt the same folks who were upset when Starbucks set up shop in the Village and who may still be unhappy that there’s a Starbucks in the Village.

But Claremont being mentioned along with Pasadena, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills doesn’t mean that Claremont is the same as Pasadena, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. Claremont is still uniquely, funkily, academically, artistically, musically, botanically, quietly, elegantly Claremont—just all the more so, and all the more of a place to go to, with a Laemmle theater.

I think my dad, who spent a good part of his life in Claremont before retiring to the Bay Area up north, got it right. When I visited him and my mom over the holidays, he marveled that, “If we still lived in Claremont, we could walk across the street to Trader Joe’s and not have to drive to Pasadena to see a decent film.”

* * *

Claremont may be changing—not only is there the Claremont 5 Cinema, but check out all the new housing going up—and even going big-time, but, even with all the museums and galleries, I don’t know if I’d be able to see exhibits featuring works by film-maker David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive, the Twin Peaks television series) with works about Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. At least not for a while.

Which is why it’s nice to be able to get to Los Angeles easily, as I did on the first Saturday of the new year when I went to two galleries to see the now-closed shows. I liked seeing Lynch’s drawings and paintings, although I found them every bit as weird and irritating as his films and liked his photographs better (and who knew he has been exhibited in Paris?). I enjoyed the Sid Vicious show more, with its photographs and lithographs of the iconic English punk rocker, known for his nihilistic lifestyle, and a fascinating and fun recreation of a hotel room that he thrashed.

* * *

David Hockney may or may not have appreciated the David Lynch and Sid Vicious shows, but I suspect he would appreciate living in a town like Claremont and being able to go to Los Angeles for an afternoon to see them.

I suspect this about the well-known British artist, known for his vibrant portraits, landscapes and still-lifes in watercolor and oil as well as intriguing collages in various media, after seeing a major exhibit of his work—indeed, it was called “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibit”—at the DeYoung museum in San Francisco while on my recent trip north. It is obvious that he enjoys the best of two worlds.

There were some portraits in the DeYoung show, but most of the works depicted the English countryside. Many were made up of two or more panels, with the largest (including one of Yosemite, interestingly enough) consisting of something like 20, and some made up of videos. There were also paintings he did on an iPad. Clearly, Hockney likes trying new things, even as he gets older.

One room featured four large pieces, each made up of nine videos, showing the same stretch of a small, quiet English country road during the different seasons. Absolutely mesmerizing! I could have sat there for hours and remarked that I want to have one (the Winter one) in my house.

But Hockney spends a good deal of time in Los Angeles, and I kept thinking of a large exhibit of his work that I saw years ago at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. That exhibit featured lots of his LA works. There were portraits of Beverly Hills surgeons and Hollywood executives and paintings and photo collages of Mulholland Drive. There were also what I think of Hockney’s signature paintings of shimmering backyard swimming pools.

Funny that a British artist who roams the country roads would be known for his attraction to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Then again, is it any more odd than my enjoying the quiet, small-town life in Claremont, even as I cheer on the pick-up of activity and offerings here and escape to the big city lights of LA from time to time, all the while sometimes wishing it was still 2003, let alone 2013?

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