Merry Christmas (for many)

The Nativity displays outside Claremont United Methodist Church always offer food for thought and a social message. This year’s highlights refugees. Artist John Zachary’s purpose is always to make us remember those in want in a time of plenty. I couldn’t get the banner in view while also the bright sign, but as you might guess, it reads “…Turn swords into plowshares!” The “Immigrants and Refugees Welcome” banner repeats to the left of the main sign in Spanish.

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Column: Soup Night couple became base for Sue Grafton scene

A scene in Sue Grafton’s first alphabet series novel, 1982’s “A is for Alibi,” is set in Claremont. But it turns out the scene, about a couple who lived on Baughman and made soup, was based on a real couple with whom she was friends. I tell the story of Lin and Ted Humphrey and their once-locally famous Soup Night parties in my Wednesday column.

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Microbus’ microburn

A few hundred people gathered Saturday night at Claremont’s Bixby Plaza to watch a replica microbus (made of papier-mache) burn as part of Pomona College’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA art show.

The bus was pulled into place, then fireworks began going off at ground level. Recorded sounds of gunfire, breaking glass and shouted Spanish were played, the better to replicate the chaos of drug cartel violence in Mexico. It was eerie and slightly disturbing.

At the end, the “It’s a Small World After All” song played, perhaps to puncture the tension, perhaps to remind us that such scenes take place in our hemisphere, or perhaps to stick that song in our heads and drive us up the wall. (I was still catching myself humming it the next day.)

The bus was largely still intact, which I don’t think was the plan. We were all directed to repair to Frary Dining Hall for refreshments and a look at the “Prometheus” mural. When we left Frary, the bus was down to a skeletal frame. Hmm, what did we miss?

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Column: Writer Junot Diaz says the kids are all right

I attended an author talk at Scripps College Tuesday night for Junot Diaz, who won a Pulitzer for his debut novel, and he had enough interesting things to say that I decided to write about it in Friday’s column. That’s followed by items about my own book talk, a dismaying reaction to my shirt (!) and a Valley Vignette.

Above, Diaz multitasks by signing a book for me while mugging for the camera.

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Ray Collins remembered at bakery

Ray Collins, the Mothers of Invention co-founder, lived out his last years in Claremont and was a familiar presence in the Village. He also started his days with coffee at Some Crust Bakery, as captured in a Google panorama photo not long before his 2012 death.

Now, Some Crust is paying permanent homage to Collins through a beautiful and elaborate memorial, a sort of altarpiece, with many little filigrees, like the 45 rpm adapters at each corner. It hangs at the end of the hallway that leads to the restrooms and kitchen entrance. It’s one of those little things that did not need to be done, but the fact that it was done speaks volumes.

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Column: Joan Baez’s Claremont ties involve folk(s), famous cover

Photo of Baez performing in 1973 via Wikimedia Commons

In a way, Sunday’s column on Joan Baez has been 15 years in the making, if you count that in 2002, a list in the Courier of celebrities with a Claremont connection began this way: “Joan Baez — folk musician, lived in Claremont with family for a year.” That was vague, and as it turns out inaccurate, but it piqued my curiosity.

A few other pieces of information came my way slowly, including a mention in a book I read last October, “Another Side of Bob Dylan.” In May, though, after being reminded via an interview that Baez was inducted a month earlier into the Rock Hall, a light bulb went off and I realized this would be the perfect time to delve into the topic.

What followed was a month of research in between other columns: contact with various Claremont Colleges officials and a Honnold-Mudd librarian, two interviews, a few dead-ends, the purchase of an album at Rhino Records, internet searches, a query to a Claremont nostalgia Facebook group, a scroll through Courier microfilm for 1960 and 1991 at the Claremont Public Library, a never-answered email to Baez’s publicist (oh well) and maybe a couple of things I’ve forgotten.

Here it is, the definitive account of Baez’s connection to Claremont. Also, the only account of Baez’s connection to Claremont. But if I was going to do it, I wanted to try to do it right.┬áHope you find this extra-long column of interest.

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