Coming up with tricks in this bag of treats

by John Pixley


Oh, Horror of Horrors! Oh, Terror of Terrors! It is that time! Oh, yes, it is that time of year again, when your night of nights approaches, when you rise up in all your ghastly glory to once again claim the heinous, hideous realm that is yours. Once again, it is nearly that night, the darkest of all nights, All Hallow’s Eve, when all the evil that you embody is rightfully celebrated.

And, once again, it is my great honor and privilege to greet you, as your ever-loyal and humble minion, on this most auspicious of occasions. As always during these most precious moments with you, I take particular pride in reporting to you the doings of the mortals in the all-too-fair town of Claremont.

Yes, these few moments with you are more precious than ever, as there are many, many others greeting you and reporting to you on all the perfectly sorry and ugly doings of the mortals in not only this country but indeed in all the world. It is with considerable joy that I tell you, oh, Master of Mayhem, that, while Claremont takes great pride in being oh-so-nice, it not only goes hog wild in celebrating Halloween—with decorations, a costume parade, noisy college parties and even guided tours of haunted venues—there are indeed some unfortunate and nasty goings-on here.

You probably have already heard that California’s drought is still going on, now in something like its fifth year, if not really its twentieth or thirtieth year. Yes, last year’s big El Niño fizzled out, at least in these parts, with only one or two not-so-big storms over the winter. There was a notable amount or rain and, most critically, snow in the northern part of the state, but there are plenty of nasty, brown, dead lawns around town. Although, some people insist on calling them “golden brown,” with many people being quite creative by using drought-tolerant plants and rocks in their gardens. To make matters wonderfully worse, water restrictions have been loosened around the state, leading to confusion and griping, with some saying this is a foolish move. Water consumption has gone up, although, at least at this point, not to previous high levels.

Speaking of water, oh, Captain of the Confused, the city is still trying to take over the water system, literally in a tug-o-war with the Golden State Water Company. There was a delightfully contentious and litigious court hearing, and a judge is now deciding if the city can continue the process of taking over the water company. Even so, there are those insisting that this is an unnecessary expense and that the city is getting in over its head (pun very much intended!).

Water isn’t the only thing that has this town all in a dither. The way Claremont is contorting itself over trains would tickle you pink, even in all your blackness.

That’s right, oh, Viceroy of the Vexed—trains. You remember the old train Depot, which was reopened with such pride, seen as a key to making the Village a lively, hip place? It is now closed and is no longer used as a transit store that offers information and passes to those using public transportation. No, as signs point out, the Depot will one day be the Claremont Museum of Art (yes, go figure—after it had a perfectly nice space in the renovated Packing House.) Public transit users can find passes and information at city hall and, of course, restrooms at a park, both a few blocks away.

But that’s just the beginning. That’s just the welcoming, if you want to call it that. For some years, Claremont has been quite proud to have Metrolink commuter trains stop here, recognizing this as a terrific, environmentally-friendly way to draw people to the Village. But there are mixed feelings about this now, prompted, it seems, by the coming of the Gold Line from Pasadena bringing more trains here.

This means that crossing gates will be coming down even more, holding up automobile traffic in the Village. In an attempt to relieve this, the train station will be moved a block east. Supposedly, this means the crossing gates won’t be down for so long, like they are currently while trains are picking up riders at the station. (Why the gates can’t go down after leaving the station is a puzzle you would love.) A wonderfully awful railway bridge over Indian Hill Boulevard, seen as a way to ease traffic congestion in the Village, was proposed and rejected. Some said a bridge would ruin the Village and further divide the town—a rejection that came too quickly, according to some.

Then there’s the noise from the train horns. I wish you could hear them, oh, Baron of the Bothered. You would love them, as they are sometimes loud enough, yes, to wake the dead. City officials have been doing everything, including traveling to Washington, DC, to see if Claremont can get special treatment with quieter train horns, just like it got when people complained about noise from the 210 freeway.

There’s another big argument going on about the Village and it has to do with, all things, an art museum that Pomona College plans to build behind the library on the west side, instead of the east side, of College Avenue. To hear some talk, you’d think WalMart is bringing in a superstore. Not only that, but it seems that an old house, which the college is not razing but carefully moving just across the street, is more worthy of the site than a new art museum in the Village, which is another exciting bridge between town and gown.

This is not just talk. Although it has been all but forgotten with the ongoing planning by the college and approvals by city commissions, a group of Claremonters have filed a lawsuit against Pomona College over its plans. I know the irony of this will warm the cockles of whatever heart you have, oh, Sultan of the Sulky, as Pomona College is held in such high regard (Harvard is “the other Pomona, as the t-shirt proclaims) and they pretty much put Claremont on the map.    

This isn’t the only conflict going on at the Colleges. Although the brouhaha caused when a dean at Claremont McKenna College said that minority students don’t “fit the CMC mold” has really died down,  there was headline-generating angst when former Secretary of State Madeline Albright gave the commencement address at Scripps College. And the Claremont School of Theology has squabbled with the Claremont University Consortium over land and buildings it wants to sell, including—go figure—the Mudd Theater. Also, as the city scrambles to find required land for affordable housing, the Colleges refuse to give up the land where the golf course was.

Maybe this all doesn’t reach the level of nastiness and gloom and doom seen in the presidential campaign—what could possibly reach that level, so appropriate in this season of awfulness we celebrate with you?—but I’m glad to report that even Claremont doesn’t go unscathed.


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