Life in a Small Town

6 10 2008

With a population of over 200,000 and people like Karl Rove declaring my town to be bigger than Richmond, VA you may think it’s not small. And, technically? You would be right. But it feels small. Far more than half of the city is fairly new and what we refer to with just a little condescension as “East”. Those of us in the northwestern portion are Old School, fairly well connected by the infamous Six Degrees, and generally have deep roots in the community.

Section A. Just the facts, ma’am.
Hard, unarguable, numbers-based evidence to argue my case.

Article I. Local politics.
~The current mayor of the town happened to be the principal of my elementary school. At the time her husband was the mayor. Once, we saw then at the Vons on Telegraph. It may not have been called Vons back then. I think this is all just twisted enough to count as small-towny, no?
~I sat behind Rudy Ramirez in church yesterday. That must count for something, right?

Article II. People who my mom knew in high school.
~I don’t know if this is a common thing around the world, but here in CV, we often hire people to own big dogs and live on school campuses in little trailers. We call this “Nighttime Security.” The man who lived in my junior high campus went to school with my mom. And they went on a date, I think.
~Tom Waits. I don’t know if that contributes to the small town factor, but I like name-dropping when possible.
~When I was in 8th grade a man murdered some family friends of his and then ran from the cops across my school campus and held up the urgent care center next door for three days. My mom knew this man when they were teenagers. And he lived around the corner from my friend, Rene. Imagine THAT happening in a big city? HA. See? I win.
~Speaking of my friend? Her grandparents lived exactly one block from mine. Her mom and mine knew each other – or at least knew of each other – while growing up. Her cousin and I went to kindergarten together where he threatened to take me to an airport and tie me up and leave me there. I didn’t meet her until five years later.

Article III. Six Degrees.
~The Mortuary Family. I went to elementary school with Arthur Humphrey whose family owned the Humphrey and Community Mortuaries. For all I know, he’s an undertaker now. I would not at all be surprised. Very Six Feet Under. I think he would be Nate.
~Bum. One of those small town characters, Bum was beloved by all. His real last name was Baumgartner, hence the nickname. He had a black VW Bus with vanity plates that said “BUM” which made recognizing him around town easy. He hung around with POD and other music scenes. I recently attened a La Leche League meeting and ran into a young mother there who shared his last name, I wonder if they are related. As far as I know there aren’t a ton of Baumgartner’s running around.
~Possibly the most famous (around the county) CV instution is La Bella’s Pizza Garden. It’s been located on 3rd Avenue for about 50 years now, the family is local and much beloved – the town mourned the passing of Papa Razzo in 2005. They used to have a slogan which stated they’d deliver anywhere in the US South of Division (Division being a street in the town north of us) and there was a saying that you didn’t live here in CV if you didn’t work at La Bella’s at some point. That was not true for me. However, one of my favorite friends from high school did end up dating one of the Razzo family and, around here, that is better than saying you dated Mario Lopez (only partly because Chula Vistans have a deep dislike for that man).
~My college drama professor is – for God only knows what reason – a respected member of the community. Personally, I found him to be a pompous ass – and not just because he accused me of being racist, or because he hung out with Mario Lopez, or because he wrestles. He appears in the media quite often and last year was, unfortunately, the Grand Marshall of the Yule Parade.
~My cousin, Leon. He was quite a bit older than me and I didn’t know him very well since that part of our family wasn’t very close to us as I grew older (technically he was my third cousin or some shit like that), but he was, like Bum, loved by all. In fact, he was probably friends with Bum as he was quite well known in the local music scene as well. Towards the end of my junior year in high school, a classmate of mine was crying and when asked why she told me her friend Lonnie had died. I thought, “That’s funny, I have a cousin named Lonnie (his childhood nickname).” A few days later, my friend Hanna was talking to a girl who told her that her friend Leon had overdosed on drugs – only Hanna thought she had said “Neon” for some reason. It wasn’t until the next morning that my mom’s sister called to say she read his obit in the paper. Although I didn’t know him well anymore, I was grief-stricken. While my mom left to attend to Lonnie’s mom, I went to Hanna’s house that morning. But yet another coincidence, my future husband was at Tony’s house which was two houses away. Turns out The Future Husband knew about Lonnie’s death even before we, his family, did. Small town or screwed-up family? You be the judge.

Article IV. Running into people I know.
~I have this friend, Robin, who I have known since second grade. She and I parted ways in junior high when we went to different schools, but we keep in touch on the basis of running into each other around town. It’s a good method and we happen to see her often enough that my kids know who she is when I talk about her.
~Speaking of my friend Rene – she moved earlier in this year and in doing so had to leave her e-mail behind so I had no way to contact her. I didn’t panic, though, because I knew she had moved within city limits (and by that I mean the better and westerner portion of the city) so it would only be a matter of time before I saw her somewhere and would be able to get her phone number. Not even two weeks later? We saw her walking through the park while my kids played on the playground! I think a “boo-yah” would apply here.
~On the flip side, it’s quite odd that I never run into my mother or my cousin since they live/have lived within a block of me.

Section B. We’re goofy like Stars Hollow.
Oh, we may have more than one stoplight and we might not be able to fit the entire cast town into one room for a town meeting, but we have our quirks as well.

Article I. Glarves.
That word alone may very well be my strongest piece of evidence in this case, but it gets better. Back in the day, a teenage boy living in Bonita (which is part of our town but snobbier and with more horses) made his parents an anniversary gift of dinosaur-like creatures. Which makes no sense at all, but his parents kept the Glarves (or possibly Glarfs) outside their home for many years and Bonita residents fell in love with them. The boy died a few years later and eventually the parents moved to CV, but somehow the sculptures ended up on display in Bonita a few years ago. The town of Bonita loves them so much that they have performed a musical about them at the festival. Someone wrote a children’s book about them.
The kicker? My mom went to school with the Glarf-creator’s sister.

Article II. Tastless booths at the Street Fair.
Remember Humphrey Mortuary? ‘Nuff said.

Article III. The Yule Parade.
Apparently, our parade is infamous and cheesy. I had no idea seeing as how it’s the only parade I’ve ever been to, but at a recent church meeting everyone was roaring over how “small-town” it is (see?!). And I can’t really argue when I think over some of the participants I’ve seen through the years. For one thing, they decorate city buses and roll them down the street between various high school marching bands. But the best ghetto entry ever was the year they tossed some garland on the local grocery store’s work truck and entered it in the parade. Classic. Classic. Awesome.

Article IV. The Downfall of Papa Dave’s
When I was in high school, my town was a great place for coffee shops. Now the only good place is Starbucks or maybe Cafe Tazza if they could just learn to understand what “dairy-free” means. I want to clarify that it’s not through any fault of Starbucks that we lost all local flavor in this area, that was all because of poor business decisions long before we had five Starbucks within walking distance. Possibly our favorite place was Papa Dave’s. Little shop, live music, everyone you knew hung out there. Sadly, in 1995, Papa Dave sold the place and it crashed and burned. Because, you see, our high school principal, Mr. Perondi, bought the place. I always liked him, but I guess owning the place where 90% of your customer base are your students is maybe not such a wise decision. Now it is a Mexican food place with the best beans in town.

Article V. The Museum.
We have what we lovingly refer to as a “museum” here in town, but really it just consists of one small room where they throw various themed posters on the wall and declare them “exhibits”. One such exhibit intended to showcase our rich citrus history, but all they could come up with were copies of old citrus company posters and random bottles of lemon-scented household cleaners. In the words of the great Dave Barry, I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

In closing, I believe I have brought forth sufficient evidence today to support my claim of living in a small town. (I may add to this from time to time as needed.)

In short, I love my town. It’s quirky and weird, and it’s my home.




One response

7 10 2008

LMAO @ lemon-scented cleaners!

The sort of things that you described in this entry are like what goes on in my STATE. Since we are so teeny and all.

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