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So Cal Chronicles Suburban-Style

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I

I went to the CVS pharmacy down the road around 10:00 a.m. for vitamins, cosmetics, and cleaning supplies. (Hey, it's a recession and CVS is cheap. Cheap = good.) At the checkout in front of me was a frail, elderly lady in a gray sweat suit. She had thin, stringy gray hair and wore sunglasses despite the cloudy day. Her hands had papery skin with liver spots and shook as she put two heavy jugs of wine onto the counter. One red, one white. Her drugs of choice. The cashier took care of the transaction and wished her a good day. A good day? Drink red till you get there, then switch to white to keep the buzz going without getting sick, then back to red? I stepped up to the counter and asked the cashier if they had Pine Sol, because I couldn't find it. Then back home to my writing tasks.

II

Noise from the pool again? I was sitting on my porch reading this past Sunday afternoon and overheard loud voices coming from the pool area. I looked through the rails. There was a long-haired dude in a doo rag sans suntan (too early in the season) and any visible piercings or tats yelling at a middle-eastern middle-aged man. "You gotta take a shower, man. That's how we do things here," said the dude. The middle-aged man must have asked for the dude's ID. "No, no, I live here. See? I got a key," the dude replied and jangled his pool and house keys in front of the man's face. "Before you go into the Jacuzzi, you gotta take a shower." The middle-aged man took out his cell phone and spoke in what sounded like Arabic. The dude went to take a shower in the area near the rest rooms, flipped on the Jacuzzi jets, and lowered himself into the bubbles. The middle-aged man did the same. I went back to reading. After a few minutes, I heard a group of men speaking Arabic. There were about eight of them and two young boys. Sans a shower, they all went into the Jacuzzi, surrounding the dude. They spoke loudly in Arabic and laughed. The two boys dove into the pool, which is unheated and must have been pretty cold. The dude stared them down for a moment or two and left.

III

I went to see the 1215 Magna Carta at the Ronald Reagan Library. This is a recently unearthed copy found at England's Lincoln Cathedral after an earthquake. The Library was unusually crowded, and I parked a mile down the drive. They had shuttle buses that took you up the drive to the Library, but I opted to walk, as it was a beautiful day. Simi Valley is brown, always brown. I met my friend and we went in to see the Magna Carta. This great document of legal freedoms forced King John of England to limit his monarchy, respecting certain rights of his subjects. Our Declaration of Independence (1776), Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and the Preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996) use ideas set forth in the Magna Carta. I had known about the clauses that referred to Habeas Corpus, which is protection against imprisonment without cause. However, I did not know about the clauses that helped women. Specifically, these clauses deal with property and marriage rights for widows. The Magna Carta allows widows to remain unmarried as long as they wish and not be compelled to have a husband. (I didn't know it was an issue.) Also, a widow was to receive her dower, which was her part of her husband's property due upon his death, quickly and without trouble. And a widow could remain in her husband's house for forty days after his death. Women participated in the transmission of wealth mostly through marriage rather than through working, and the dower was their social security.

We've come a long way, baby?