Clinging to Moments of Joy in Year of Disruption

Photo courtesy Andy Lippman
After the passing of his dog Atticus in 2020, longtime South Pasadena Review columnist Andy Lippman recently got a new companion — Scout (above).

Some things never change.
Every morning, about 6:30, the parrots fly over my home on their way to spend the day eating and screeching in the trees around South Pasadena.
It has been that way ever since I moved here 28 years ago. And though the pandemic caused humans to suffer, you could not tell it from the parrots.
Those screeching birds are, to me, a reminder that the more things change, the more some things have stayed the same.
What will never be the same are the people who either caught COVID-19 or died of it. I checked on Dec. 24, and 28 people here had died of the disease and 698 people in South Pasadena had contracted it since March.
A friend who keeps up with these statistics told me that South Pas had to be considered “doing great,” since his hometown of Glendale had 231 deaths and 9,666 cases during the same period.

People compare this pandemic with the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-20, when 28% of the U.S. population became infected and an estimated 675,000 people died.
There isn’t a memorial to that horror in South Pasadena.
The memorial to this pandemic will surely be written in the hearts of those relatives and friends the victims left behind.
Tributes also need to be written to the hours spent by those doctors, nurses, first responders, essential workers and volunteers who made a difference in saving and improving our lives. Maybe this coming Veterans Day we should say “thank you” to those people who are helping us make it through this horror.
I’ve still got two volunteers — Per and Leanne Annell — who every week go to the grocery store to help me because I have rheumatoid arthritis. And the Fair Oaks Pharmacy regularly delivers my medicines to keep me from having to leave home.
How many of you thought at the beginning of 2020 that you would be using the word “zoom,” and not only using it but in such a peculiar way — as in “I’m going to be Zooming with my family this weekend”?
The pandemic has brought all sorts of changes and stresses for local businesses also.
Remember how when the governor first announced the shutdown, you couldn’t find toilet paper, hand sanitizers or cleaning agents for weeks? I had people sending me toilet paper from various locations.
OK. You can stop now.
Most businesses around town have felt the pinch at the cash register — apply for and trying to get federal relief money and then trying to get customers to order remotely and then pick up merchandise curbside. Amazon has become a four-letter word for local merchants.
Restaurant operators thought they had figured things out after they were allowed to serve outside. The city accommodated them by putting barriers along Mission Street so restaurants would have more space to put tables outdoors. Some of the places were really elaborate — and costly.
An increase in COVID cases after Thanksgiving knocked out all that creativity and all that increased spending when restaurants were ordered to go back to ONLY carryout or delivery.
This also might be the first year when students are looking forward to going to school.
Last year’s seniors had to forgo their prom and be satisfied with a drive-thru graduation. Signs on lawns had to be a substitute for celebrating with classmates and signing yearbooks in school.
Most senior citizens heeded warnings from Dr. Anthony Fauci, or their children, and stayed home except when they had to do otherwise. (Define “had to do otherwise.” I never could.) They longed to get back to the Senior Center. When they do get back, their dear Lili — Liliana Torres — will have turned in her resignation after 33 years at the center.
Something as reliable as a church service became a new adventure. Masses were on websites, and the Rev. Millicent Dailey of Calvary Presbyterian Church mixed sharing portions from the Bible with mixing recipes in her kitchen.
Many South Pasadena traditions fell this past year:
• The July 4 Festival of Balloons and fireworks
• Building the Rose Bowl float — not to mention the cancellation of the Rose Bowl parade and the moving of the Rose Bowl game
• The annual presentation of the Messiah at Calvary Presbyterian Church after 19 straight years.
• Tiger Bingo
• All those beautiful Christmas trees decorating the Fair Oaks Pharmacy
• The Restoration Concert series sponsored by the Friends of the Library
• Fundraising activities canceled included a gala and Moon Festival sponsored by the Chinese-American Club and programs by the Woman’s Club and Vecinos.
And talk about change at the top in local government.
After years of stability, there were three new City Council members. Richard Schneider retired after 13 years on the council, and outgoing Mayor Bob Joe was defeated in his bid for another term. Joe had served 10 years on the council.
Both get a big salute for all they have done for the city. Diana Mahmud takes over as mayor.
Former Mayor Marina Khubesrian resigned from the council in August; she was replaced by Stephen Rossi for the remainder of her term, and Jack Donovan was elected to that seat in November.
City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe, who had served since 2017, was ousted by the council. Finance Director Karen Aceves resigned in the midst of challenges to the financial state of the city. South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Ortiz also announced his retirement after 1½ years on the job.
Meanwhile, I had some joy in the past few months.
Many people commented on my column about the death of my dog, Atticus. About two months ago, I rescued a 3-year-old cocker spaniel mix from the Inland Valley Shelter. I’ve named him Scout.
So with Scout in my lap, I look at the morning skies and take comfort in the parrots.
I’ll grab any little bit of joy I can get.
Let’s hope those little bits of happiness multiply until they overwhelm the bad in 2021.