Small Wonders: Predictions that the groundhog missed

On Wednesday, a 7-pound rodent climbed out of a hollowed tree stump, coerced and cajoled by men in top hats, while the masses looked on expectantly.

Some call him Marmota monax, others a woodchuck, others a land-beaver. Still others a groundhog. Most call him Phil, and Phil failed to see his shadow. So they say. And it was proclaimed, spring shall come early.

Then the hearty men and women of Punxsutawney, Pa., swiftly ran back indoors to bear down for the goliath snowstorm sweeping every part of the nation but ours, and to begin making brisket and buffalo wings for Sunday's big game. Go Steelers!

Or Packers!

Or whoever you root for in the absence of a pro football team in Los Angeles due to the city's backbiting, infighting and ineptitude at landing a franchise in the second-largest TV market in the nation.

Every year, Thing 1 and Thing 2 ask why, if it is such an auspicious day, don't they get Groundhog Day off from school like the 14 other holidays honoring our presidents. And we tell them honestly: state-mandated testing. Or preparation for state-mandated testing. Either of which seems to consume fully 75% of the school calendar.

The other 25% are “pupil-free” (i.e. furlough) days and assemblies instructing students how to sell chocolate, cookie dough or gift-wrapping paper to their parents' co-workers to keep the lights on at school — and keep chocolate, cookie dough and wrapping paper manufacturers in the black.

Halliburton is in the wrong business.

But I digress.

We have our own rodent tradition here in the land where weather is predicted by long-legged, chesty ingénues in tight-fitting sweaters rather than fur-laden, four-legged mammals. His name is Nutty Boy. He's our neighborhood squirrel.

And on the day after Phil makes his prognostication, or whenever he's recovered from his hangover from the after-party, Nutty Boy climbs down from his perch, unfiltered cigarette dangling from his mouth. I give him a cup of TJ's Dark French Roast, and we sit in the Adirondack chairs enjoying the almonds he buried in the recesses of my lawn last summer. And he tells me what he thinks is going to happen this coming year:

It's a little cold now. But it will get warmer. Might get colder too. Probably rain at some point. But people will still be able to surf in the morning, ski in the evening and be home in time to watch “Celebrity Rehab.”

When the “snowstorm of the century” (but such a young century) departs the rest of the nation, SoCal will get seven straight days of rain. There will be pile-ups on Interstate 5 because Angelenos don’t know how to drive when that mysterious moisture falls from the sky.

During heat waves, blue state ark-builders will cry global warming. During inclement weather, red state ark-builders will decry global warming. And in between they'll all shudder whenever Sarah Palin makes a proclamation.

Thanks to the ridiculous planning of our school boards, kids will end school while the weather is perfect; then return again in mid August to record heat, smog alerts and dehydration. They'll spend the first three weeks of the school year in their air-conditioned classrooms; school electrical bills will soar while teachers' patience and paychecks will dwindle.

A privately owned hotel in Glendale will fall to Caruso's well-funded wrecking ball “for the good of the people,” and eminent domain will continue to be bastardized into a reverse Robin Hood campaign.

Shopping choices in Glendale's Galleria and Americana at Brand will continue to improve, while parking gets worse. Parking in Burbank's Town Center will continue to get better, while the shopping choices tank. Seriously, outside of Sport Chalet and Old Navy, the first floor at Town Center is the elephant graveyard of tacky clothing and houseware stores. And Old Navy is borderline.

Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen will fall off the wagon.

“Black Swan” will win the Oscar for Best Picture, Natalie Portman for Best Actress, Jesse Eisenberg Best Actor, Geoffrey Rush Best Supporting Actor, and Amy Adams will be America’s Official New Sweetheart.

A Big Boy hamburger will taste exactly the same as it did last year and 30 years ago.

Neither Lohan, Sheen nor any other celebrity will spend a full sentence behind bars for any infraction previously or subsequently committed.

Gas prices will rise, and more people will walk, ride bikes or buses.

Gas prices will ebb, and we'll all drive again.

A Kardashian will wed. A Kardashian with give birth. A Kardashian will divorce. Probably the same Kardashian, but not necessarily in that order.

Jobs will begin to pick up, but too many will still be unemployed.

And finally, I will not spend $600 to take my family of four to see all the pretty horses in Cavalia when I can drive through the Rancho District and see them for free.

PATRICK CANEDAY is author of the upcoming book “Crooked Little Birdhouse.” Check it out at He may be reached on Facebook and at

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