Sheriff’s Crime Report

First published in the Oct. 7 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

Several boxes of unknown items were taken from a house in the 2000 block of Tondolea Lane between 1:30 and 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 1. During his first day on the job, a caregiver allowed a man, who identified himself as the homeowner’s son, to enter the house and take the boxes to a vehicle that was described as a silver Honda Accord. The homeowner told authorities that he is estranged from his son and has not seen him in several years. The incident was being investigated as a possible burglary
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Erskine Offers Humor as Cure for Pandemic Perplexity

First published in the Nov. 26, 2020, print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

Chris Erskine

The man, the legend, the mustache.
For those who have followed local resident Chris Erskine and his nationally known humor columns over the years, it will come as no surprise that the author has released an endearing COVID-19 diary just in time for the next Safer at Home order, with handy “Quarantini” recipes at the ready: stiff on the gin, salty on the laughs.
Erskine, who just retired from the Los Angeles Times after 30 years, has engaged loyal readers for decades by sharing his personal tales of hilarity, sorrow, sweetness and everything in between, often combined together. His fourth book, “Lavender in Your Lemonade,” will not disappoint that audience, and arrives in the nick of time, when readers are just far enough into the pandemic they can laugh over the confounding disappearance of T.P. worldwide (“the Charmin virus,” he calls it), but so deep into the solitude of separation that people are desperate for an escape.
Because, as Erskine writes, nothing is off limits to being joked about:
“To laugh at this awful pandemic, the same way we mock despots and tyrants, is to make it a little less powerful, to rob it of its muscle and ability to push us around too much.
“Laughter is like porridge. Laughter is the best revenge.”
And then, as is vintage Erskine, a punch line, kind of — one of his delectable, idiosyncratic teasers: “My buddy Tom just told me a pretty good COVID-19 joke. I’d pass it along, but it takes two weeks to get.”
Sitting down with the Outlook Valley Sun via Zoom, Erskine explained his inspiration for the book, a collection of daily Facebook posts meant for devoted adherents, dear friends, friends you can laugh at and others, he wryly added.
Ahead of his retirement, his Times column running once every two weeks, Erskine found himself with time on his hands. And in the midst of a pandemic, what else is a writer to do? He took to Facebook, a newer medium for Erskine, who wasn’t always well versed in social media.
“I’m one of those old guys who’s awake at 5 or 5:30 a.m., and I would just tap out a Facebook post. I’d never done anything like this before, but it was in the early days of COVID and we’d never seen anything like it. Writing is kind of my therapy, and I had a lot to say,” he said. “I knew that I needed to laugh a little bit, and it turned into a little bit of a morning pep rally. We all needed to know that we were going to survive this, no matter what.”
The daily posts, which garnered hundreds of responses and comments (that “oftentimes, were so much funnier and bouncier than what I had originally posted,” Erskine said, in a likely overstatement), caught the attention of publisher Mike Sager of Esquire magazine.
When he reached out to ask about turning the odds and ends into a volume, the famously self-effacing Erskine responded, “A book? They are barely Facebook posts, Mike!”
After some convincing, Erskine was on board. Part of the endeavor felt like an ode to his Facebook group, which had gotten him through some dark days, and vice versa.
“I kind of think of it as a plate of warm cookies … you know, it’s not life changing or anything, it’s just kind of a nice gesture to my neighbors,” he said. “It’s kind of a compilation of all the things we took for granted, and you know, I don’t think we’ll ever take it for granted again. And in that way, we’ll be richer and remember that even in the darkest times, there are things that can make us smile and feel better.”
The rest, as he writes, is the “Lavender,” the giggle-inducing explanation of bizarre yet delicious items one might find at Trader Joe’s, a jest to chasing down eggs at Easter only to come up with an empty basket, the alarm at not being able to see people smile or the chagrin of trying to order at the deli counter through mask-muffled grunts and hand gestures.
It’s a trip worth taking, to laugh at the ludicrous, even as readers slide deeper into the pandemic.
“I think humor is really the great unifier — doesn’t humor bring us together?” mused Erskine, who is finally comfortable with social media in the time of COVID. “It gives us that communal back-and-forth that I think we all need in a time when we’re super isolated. You know, we’re pack creatures at the end of the day, we need each other.”
As always in his writings, La Cañada Flintridge plays in the background, like his silent movie partner. He never mentions the town by name (“Partly because of potential stalkers,” he said, only half joking), but the Chardonnay moms, the hiking pals, the local watering holes and his trusty steed, White Fang, all ring sweetly familiar.
Erskine considers moving, sometimes, especially since his youngest, Jack (aka “Smartacus”), will be off to college soon. But he’d miss La Cañada too much, he said.
“I mean, I would love to move sometimes, but then I’d have to take all my friends with me. And, you know, there’s a lot of places that wouldn’t take them.”

Les Tupper Awards Honor Volunteers

First published in the Sept. 30 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

After a months-long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the La Cañada Flintridge Coordinating Council held its 52nd annual Les Tupper Community Service Awards ceremony to honor individuals and organizations for their volunteer work.
The ceremony was held at Flintridge Preparatory School and the guest speaker for the evening was local resident Chris Erskine, a nationally known humor columnist and author.
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Flintridge Bookstore Hosts Halloween Book Signing

Flintridge Bookstore will host a meet-and-greet book signing for author
Antoinette Corley-Newman’s first children’s picture book, “Trick or Treat: The Story of How the Switch Witch Came To Be,” on Saturday, Oct. 16, from 1-3 p.m.
A portion of the sales will go to Grace Gives, the charitable organization founded by the author’s children.
Corley-Newman, a clinical psychologist, “has channeled her expertise and knowledge into a book that takes readers on a magical journey toward self-discovery,” the bookstore said in a statement. Continue reading “Flintridge Bookstore Hosts Halloween Book Signing”

Guild’s Autumn Classic Benefit Dinner Is Oct. 2

The Flintridge La Cañada Guild of Huntington Hospital will host the Autumn Classic Ringside Benefit Dinner, featuring the $25,000 Grand Prix Horse Show, at the Flintridge Riding Club on Saturday, Oct. 2. Dinner tickets can be purchased at FlintridgeHorseShow.com.
“As with 2020, the decision to postpone our annual Flintridge Horse Show last spring was very difficult, but the guild is excited for the opportunity to host a benefit dinner this fall and optimistic in planning for a robust return of the iconic Horse Show April 28-May 1, 2022, celebrating the 100th anniversary,” a spokesperson said. Continue reading “Guild’s Autumn Classic Benefit Dinner Is Oct. 2”

Council Acknowledges Complaint Against One of Its Own

First published in the Sept. 23 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council on Tuesday issued a statement regarding the formal complaint filed by a resident against Councilman Jonathan Curtis.
Scott Van Dellen filed a complaint to the state Fair Political Practices Commission — a nonpartisan, five-member panel that administers the Political Reform Act — on Sept. 13 alleging that Curtis violated the act by using his position to influence a government decision concerning a proposed three-story development at 600 Foothill Blvd. Continue reading “Council Acknowledges Complaint Against One of Its Own”

City Mayors Urge Newsom to Veto SB 9

First published in the Sept. 16 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments announced that the mayors of 27 cities — including that of La Cañada Flintridge — in the San Gabriel Valley signed a letter urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to veto a bill approved by the state legislature that would allow lots zones for single-family homes to have up to four units.
Senate Bill 9 was introduced by state Sen. Toni Atkins of San Diego. The bill would allow the lots to subdivide into two, with each having a two-unit building, essentially allowing two duplexes on properties that initially were only allowed to have single-family homes. Atkins has called it a “gentle density increase that respects the character of the neighborhoods,” but local governments in Los Angeles County, including the L.A. City Council, oppose the bill. Continue reading “City Mayors Urge Newsom to Veto SB 9”

Pasadena Symphony’s Moonlight Sonata Gala Is Sept. 25

First published in the Sept. 16 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The Pasadena Symphony Association will host its annual Moonlight Sonata Gala in-person at Pasadena City Hall on Saturday evening, Sept. 25.
The festivities will kick off with a courtyard reception, followed by dinner, auction and a music-filled program with dancing under a starry sky in Centennial Square.
Music from the Pasadena Youth Symphony Orchestras will usher guests in with a warm welcome as guests prepare to dine with meals from Parkway Grill.
To top off the event, talented songstress Melissa Manchester will perform an intimate set of standards in an exclusive performance befitting this enchanted night of music and community. Continue reading “Pasadena Symphony’s Moonlight Sonata Gala Is Sept. 25”

LCF Filled With Remembrance on 20th Year After 9/11

First published in the Sept. 16 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The local community rallied together last week to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the tragic Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when a series of hijacked airplanes crashed into U.S. targets, and to honor the sacrifices and heroism of emergency responders.
Spectators, including Palm Crest Elementary students and firefighters from Station 82, lined the sidewalk for the Patriot Day Motorcade making its way through La Cañada Flintridge as a sign of respect for the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the four coordinated terrorist attacks on U.S. targets in 2001. Continue reading “LCF Filled With Remembrance on 20th Year After 9/11”

LCUSD’s COVID Plan Staves Off Transmissions

First published in the Sept. 16 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

Planning a return to the classroom for in-person instruction in the era of COVID-19 was a daunting task for schools throughout the state during the summer, especially amid the rapid rise of the Delta variant this past month which complicated the matter.
Such concerns prompted Los Angeles and Culver City school districts to implement vaccine mandates that require students 12 and older to be inoculated. L.A. County health officials stated that children under 18 comprised about 27% of positive coronavirus cases from Sept. 2-9. Continue reading “LCUSD’s COVID Plan Staves Off Transmissions”