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2014 - "Become Ocean" by John Luther Adams (CalArts BFA 1973) named winner of 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music [story]
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Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Sunday, Oct 6, 2013
Darryl Manzer

Darryl Manzer

I once wrote that I didn’t know how far it was to Acton from Newhall. I knew it was about a 30-minute drive, but the actual distance I didn’t know. I do now. About 22 miles if one takes the fast route.

Anyway, since Billy-Bob, Betty Boop, Mr. Renly and I are living in Acton, my trips to downtown Newhall can take up an entire day.  Living as I do at the extreme northeastern end of the SCV for now, I’ve come to appreciate the size and diversity of our valley. Of course, a drive to Acton is a lot easier today compared to the 1960s when the only roads here were Soledad Canyon Road or Sierra Highway.

In the lower part of the SCV around the mall, I can almost feel the vibes from that lesser valley to the south. You know, the San Fernando Valley. Like really, y’know, in Awesometown. Totally. I still hear young girls talk that way.

Now there are a lot more words that we seldom used in mixed company. Those words are in common usage now. Makes me sick. I used those words and learned to like the taste of a bar of soap. Those kids could use the same.

Funny, I only hear that “Valley-speak” near the mall or the shopping centers near Stevenson Ranch. I don’t hear it in Saugus or Newhall or Castaic. Curious. I’ve no logical explanation. It is like when the kids get near the mall they suddenly think they are a character in the movie, “Mall Rats.”

Acton '49er | Photos: Darryl Manzer

Acton ’49er | Photos: Darryl Manzer

As I travel up the canyon toward Acton, I hear standard American English a little more with each passing mile. And when I get to beautiful downtown Acton, I’m in a different world altogether. Folks say “howdy” and “please” and “thank you.” They smile and greet you like an old friend the first time they see you. Sort of like how downtown Newhall was back then (and is becoming again).

Friday last, I had dinner at the ‘49er Grill in Acton. Good Mexican and American food. They even had something for my new dietary requirements, grilled chicken with shrimp salad. Delicious. Friday night is karaoke night, and the locals came dressed for the occasion. It looked like an afternoon at the Cowboy Music Festival, only these folks wear the hats, boots and belts of Western attire every day.

They were having a great time. I did, too. Good food and good company. Seems to be just how the folks in this part of our valley like it. The singing was from “OK” to fantastic. It seemed normal for a man dressed like a cowboy to sing a Neil Diamond song. I was sure the lady who sang “Crazy” was an incarnation of Patsy Cline.

We laughed and sang along. A gentleman was celebrating his 79th birthday. We all sang him good wishes. Just good, old-fashioned good times.

Did I mention that when music wasn’t playing and folks were just talking over dinner you could hear each other at a normal conversational volume? That is something the restaurants down-valley could learn. Mostly those chain restaurants that have the same menu here and anyplace else. Poorly cooked food at inflated prices, served by someone who can’t read the menu and wants a tip for poor service. You know those places. The ones that when you leave after a meal your throat feels like you’ve been at a football game yelling for your favorite team.

acton49er100213dmanzer2Not so here in Acton. Sure, the food is not spectacular, but it is good. Service at all of the restaurants up here is very good. The locals are friendly and welcoming. Not having to yell in conversation to the person sitting next to you is even better.

I kind of like it. A lot.

Oh, I’d best explain those companions I said I lived with here. Billy-Bob is my 40-foot RV, also known as “The Beast.” Betty Boop is my Jeep Wrangler, and of course Mr. Renly is the bestest Basset hound in California. Mix all that with the little town of Acton, and life doesn’t get much better.

Come on up the hill and see what I mean. Just be sure you don’t tie your horse to the railings at the ‘49er Grill. That is what the signs say. It might be the only strict rule they have. Common sense and civility are the other rules. Comes natural up here on the hill.

Until I write again, be good … or good at it.

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com and his commentaries, published on Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. DennyO says:

    Sounds like a place I’d enjoy a long visit to. I know, “don’t end with a preposition,” although it sounds as if I would not be judged too harshly for it in Acton.

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