It’s hard for me to come to grips with the fact that 2016 will be a year that everybody will look back on in disgust.
Or at least until the next bad year comes along, and everybody forgets the sheer magnitude of famous and prolific musicians, actors and entertainers that passed away during the last 12 months.
And there were some doozies.
Prince reminded us that drugs, regardless of our name or our stature or even our image, can take any of us without warning.
David Bowie taught us that regardless of how alien we may appear – and no, I’m not referring to his looks, but his outrageous persona that changed with the tide – we’re all mere mortals walking around this spinning rock.
Arguably the best bad guy in the history of bad guys, Alan Rickman, died this year, but not before turning in a dynamic performance as a hawkish British General in “Eye in the Sky” – a cautionary tale about the impact that military drone strikes, while surgical and without the element of danger to coalition troops on the ground, can take on those who must carry them out.
I mean, in what other calendar year does a cinematic icon like Carrie Fisher die, only for her mother – a legend in her own right – to pass away the following day?
While it was Donald Trump that stole the headlines this year and rightfully earned the distinction of Time’s “Person of the Year” I saw a hilarious fan piece that cast The Grim Reaper as the rightful owner of that title.
It was morbid, yes, but hasn’t the news this year – from when Bowie died in January until today – just been one morbid romp?
I know that these people have no bearing on my life whatsoever – I’ve never met any of them, never got to know the real person behind the mask that they crafted for themselves in the bright lights of Hollywood, and their passing doesn’t affect me or my plethora of problems in the slightest.
But I’ll never be able to explain to my son that the man in the sharp suit wrote one of the best rock duets of all-time, or about how the man in purple that’s dancing in the pouring rain during the Super Bowl halftime show is the perfect example of how eccentricities don’t define you.
My world couldn’t be shining any brighter with the addition of that bundle of joy to our family, but the world is a little bit less strange and a little bit less funky and a little bit less flashy than it was before the calendar turned almost 12 months ago.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a shame.
Tales from the streets of Manteca
On Wednesday I was driving down Main Street when I observed a woman, who appeared to be homeless, standing in the middle of the southbound lane with her bag on the ground – screaming at the top of her lungs and throwing up her hands at the exasperated drivers who had piled up through three traffic signal changes because of her antics.
My first thought was “there but for the grace of God go I” but then I realized that stories like this are becoming the new normal in Manteca.
I know that social media is to blame for most the fear – I saw one person on Facebook trying to organize a lawsuit against the Manteca Police Department for “not protecting us” well enough – but there are some growing pains that the council is going to need to figure out how to address as the city enters another period of extended growth and brings with it the problems of a midsized American city.
But this question must be asked – are we not safer than we were, say, 10 years ago because of the number of seemingly random occurrences involving what appears to be a seedy element, or has that always been there and we’re just more acutely aware of it than we were before the advent of Facebook?
The well-meaning people of the California Legislature and the crafty folks who come up with the wording for ballot propositions have made it tougher for local police, but outside of property crime – which most the comments on Facebook groups appear to be about – things aren’t really the Wild West out there.
No, it’s not typical behavior for somebody to be standing in the middle of the street screaming at the top of their lungs and holding up traffic for three city blocks. But in Berkeley they call that “ambiance” so maybe we’re just finally starting to come into our own?
Last week I incorrectly stated in this column that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power purchased islands in the Delta – presumably for water rights and possibly even groundwater access to feed the growth going on South of the Grapevine.
And I acknowledge that.
But in a way, they’re still getting the same benefit.
The Metropolitan Water District – a consortium of 26 Southern California cities -- that made the purchase includes the City of Los Angeles as one of its stakeholders, which means that while LADWP didn’t make the purchase, they’ll certain reap the rewards in some fashion.
However you slice it, that’s still Delta water – or Central Valley groundwater – that will end up going to the huge metropolis in the desert (yes, Los Angeles is a desert).