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(Taking) Time to find community

by John Pixley

“I think the lights are a bit slower here.” I never thought of it that way. The lights are slower in Claremont.

My friend was talking about the stoplights here. He made the comment when we sat waiting at a red light. He was here in Claremont for another weekend, and he was noticing that things aren’t the same as where he usually drives around in Los Angeles and Hollywood.

I have had a number of friends come out here from Los Angeles, and they have always noted that things are different here. One friend has said that it is like “having a house in the country,” and others have said that they sleep better here. I have friends in LA who say that Claremont is too far, but then, anything east of La Brea (the street, that is, not the city) is too far for them.

This was a first. I had never heard that Claremont’s stoplights are slower.

Are they?

Probably not. I doubt that the red lights in Claremont are timed to be slower than in other places. It probably just seems that they are slower to my friend. It’s probably because everything is a bit slower in Claremont compared to LA and Hollywood; even when we are speeding up; even when everything is going faster here.

Take the Fourth of July. I can’t believe it’s here. A couple weeks ago, it was a real jolt for me to realize not only that my next column would come out around July 4 but also that the year is half over. If things keep going on this way, the Fourth of July will be like Christmas, coming sooner and sooner each year, before I can possibly be ready.

That’s not all, though. To me, summer itself, if not the entire year, has changed because of the Fourth. The Fourth was, for most of my life, the start of a long, desperate summer. (Or maybe it was the beginning of the longest, most desperate part of the summer.) Now, the Fourth is the middle of the summer—or even the beginning of the end of summer. After all, the college students will be starting to come back in a bit more than a month, and school will be underway for everyone in Claremont in less than 2 months.

Sorry to bum people out, but this just goes to show that part of the shift is the way the calendar has changed. The Colleges have been starting weeks earlier than they did in the past, and Claremont schools now start significantly earlier than they did up until a few years ago. (At least we’re not in Montclair, where school starts in just over a month.)

And, yes, part of it is that I’m getting older. People are always saying that time goes by more and more quickly as we get older, and it has been many years since I have had to agree. I can only wish that things were like when I was a kid and it felt like Halloween and Christmas would never come.

Now, not only do Halloween and Christmas come in a crazy blur with the end of the year—yet another year—the Fourth of July comes all too quickly. Our sense of time changes as our lives progress, just as my friend sees the stoplights differently when he comes to Claremont.

There is another way in which, at least in Claremont, time changes, or the way we see time changes, on the Fourth of July.

In Claremont on July 4, in the middle of the year, time stops. Like the stoplight on Indian Hill during the parade, time doesn’t have a part in Claremont’s Fourth of July celebration. Time takes the day off here.

We see this in the parade, in which time dissolves and everyone, from babies in strollers to Pilgrim Place residents on the Mayflower float, passes by. The parade means something to all who see it, from a red, white and blue display of patriotism to a funky, colorful showcase of Claremont’s different neighborhoods and community groups.

It can even be someone’s birthday party. I have written before about when I was growing up and my friend Ewen McIntyre’s birthday was July 2. One year, his mother narrated a cassette tape at the parade as if the parade were in honor of Ewen’s birthday. When she sent the tape to family in Scotland, they were mighty impressed that the town would put on such a grand celebration for Ewen’s birthday.

And in the day-long fair in Memorial Park, the same phenomenon occurs, whether we’re seeing a friend we haven’t seen in years, trying to dunk someone or just sitting in the shade listening to a band playing. Time stops for a few hours, and, more than any phone or smart gadget we may have, the park shows us whatever we want to see, whatever we get out of, and cherish in this community.

The Fourth of July this summer reminds us, as it does every year, that things are a bit slower in Claremont, allowing us to see more things, even as the months rush by and our buildings get taller and the

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