December 2016

By Andrew Tonkovich


Ever notice how on canyon social media somebody identifies a crazy driver, loose dog, missing cat, suspicious activity or mysterious flora or fauna, but fails to mention where man, woman, beast or flower is speeding, running, hiding, menacing or blooming?  Indeed, canyon residents sometimes need reminding of exactly where we are, perhaps especially after curious political developments, “development” (surely a perverse euphemism) of surrounding open space, yet another motorcycle death on Santiago Canyon, the passing of a cherished Modjeska eccentric and, finally, the retirement of our library cat.  Sure, our eclectic community includes paranoiacs concerned with “surveillance” by county road-safety cameras, but also voters who elected two new SMRPD board members committed to good governance and, as the state and county did, rejected the climate-change denier, our canyons precinct going 47 percent to 44 percent for Clinton or, at least, against You-Know-Who. 


SMRPD election and ICL, too


Pronounced “smurrpid” at our house, the closest thing to an official governance entity in these parts, swears in two new board members on Dec. 20.  Anticipated frontrunner Steve Duff ran almost no campaign, yet fulfilled expectations, with 38 percent of the vote; Tara Saraya earned 34 percent.  In a race asking voters to choose two of three candidates, Heidi Murphy-Grande made a strong showing, with 27 percent.   


Two Inter-Canyon League board seats are open, with nominations for the January election on the agenda at the ICL’s December meeting.  Geoff Sarkissian, past president and in-house one-man band, will not run again.  No doubt spoiled voters will insist new officers play a musical instrument.


Big brother


Yes, three cameras were installed by the ominous (to some) sounding operations and Maintenance group of OC Public Works.  Located at the end of Silverado, Modjeska Grade and Santiago Canyon Road, and on Modjeska Grade, the official line is that they’ll assist staff in determining road conditions during storms.  The county says (!) OCPW doesn’t monitor cameras continuously, reports liaison Joanne Hubble, but some residents, adjusting their tin-foil hats, suspect otherwise.  OCPW staff informed owners of adjacent properties, all recently abducted by aliens.


“Bad” Billy RIP


The sad topic of a recent chat with long-time canyon local Roger Seemann, sun setting, wild turkeys gathering on Modjeska Canyon Road, was lightened by the birds’ antics and a review of the best of canyon life: geography,

friendship, shared resistance to perverse euphemisms.  Seemann’s canyon pal of 20 years, William “Bad Billy” Griffith died recently at age 69, exactly the canyon character you’d dream up, or be lucky to find here for real.  Born in Syracuse, Griffith attended college in Iowa, had been married and was the father of two.  His canyon persona, including nickname, seemingly gruff indifference, and devotion to his German shepherd Kahlua made him a reliably intriguing presence.  His passing deprived another resident of a devoted caretaker, and ceramicist Seemann of a collaborator in woodworking projects.  The bearded, gorgeously unkempt Billy was not hostile, says Seemann, just “not particularly friendly,” thus the hyperbolic nickname meant to distinguish him from other area Williams, including a local “Wild” Bill and a regular Bill. 


In a name


Designed with supervision by canyon stalwart and art teacher Judy Myers, the mural created by the Santa Ana Mountains Artists group will soon be unveiled on two 20-by-12-foot formerly blank “ball walls” at the community center.  Facing west, the careful representation of the local ecosystem blends in to the actual landscape, a panoramic-meets-perspective-provoking celebration of place.  In conversation with Myers, I was reminded of many locals’ proud embrace of uniquely precise, colorful descriptors of their neighborhoods, toward either confusing flatlanders or celebrating local history or, yes, reminding themselves of the uniqueness of their turf.  Modjeskans first explain where they don’t live --- a mythical “Majestic (sic) Canyon” --- further pinpointing their location as Harding Canyon, Grade Road, Olive Grove, Wilkinson or Olive Hill (mostly surveillance camera-free!).  In between, there’s Williams and Blackstar, but localism gets competitively fun in Silverado, which brags Ladd, Wildcat, Anderson, Sweetheart and White’s Canyons, Mine Track, Cabinlands, Shady Brook and more. 


Creature comforts


Megan the Library Cat ends her heroic, record-setting tenure of 16 years in one location, the happily lethargic feline bibliophile not only residing in the stacks, but physically moving little at all.  She retires to the care of a loving family, one esteeming literate pets and suffering no allergies to our magnificently hirsute (fur suit?) mascot and champion of two favorite causes, reading and purring.
 Finally, naturalist Joel Robinson observes from his own hillside perch:   “Many migrants are here now:  yellow-rumped warblers, white-crowned sparrows and American white pelicans.  It’s acorn, walnut, prickly pear and mushroom harvest season.  And time to apply native seed and plant native plants, if anyone is considering restoring their property.”
Here’s to restoring, celebrating, and for peace and justice in the new year.  

Canyon Beat:

​In no particular (dis)order!