So long Larry

Larry Tripp, writer, actor, director, teacher and longtime Chico resident, suffered a fatal heart attack Sunday, June 27, in his home in Las Vegas. Tripp’s 50th birthday would have been July Fourth. He was drama critic and prolific writer for the Chico News & Review. Twenty years ago he co-founded, with former CN&R writer Bob Stout, Theater Out of a Suitcase. For the last several years he taught American literature at The Meadows School in Las Vegas, where he was selected as a master teacher and had inspired his students to petition for a Faulkner course next semester. Tripp was a big Faulkner fan. Born in New Mexico, Tripp moved with his family to Paradise while still in high school.

Anyone who knew him more than likely has a Larry Tripp story to share. He looked to me like Randy Newman, with his great gray shock of wiry hair, glasses and ruddy round face. I met him in the late 1980s at LaSalles, where he staged a number of Suitcase plays. At the time he was also teaching at Butte College and working for Tower Books, where he later helped get me a job. I remember he was funny, and for a guy with so many anxieties invading his psyche, seemed pretty comfortable with himself. He was like a character out of a television sitcom. Once, he and I tried to drive a van full of unsold book inventory to a Tower warehouse in Sacramento. Unfortunately, there was no oil in the crankcase and the engine seized up on Highway 99 about a mile south of town. Larry told me not to worry, that he was sure a fellow Butte College instructor on his or her way to the school would stop and help us. Larry stood at the side of the highway looking for a familiar face driving by in the rushing stream of cars. A few times he said, “Here we go,” and waved his arms. But each time the driver would drive past, not only failing to slow down but in a few cases actually speeding up. “So you’re pretty popular with the staff out there at Butte, huh Larry?” I said. Finally a CHP officer stopped and called a tow truck for us and we ended up at The 99 Club on Park Avenue drinking pitchers of Budweiser. Tripp is survived by wife Robin Tripp and daughters Jennie and Amanda. A memorial celebration will be held at 10 a.m. July 7 at One-Mile near Sycamore Field.

There was a piece in the Sacto Bee last week about the state’s inability to account for the number of state-owned vehicles—CHP, Caltrans, Fish & Game and so forth—or the amount of taxpayer money spent on gasoline to power those cars, trucks and SUVs. Included in the story is our own Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico, who noted, “It seems to me that if you’re going to get a handle on your expenditures, you have to find out where the money is going.” Indeed. Fortunately the state Assembly does keep a handle on such numbers for its members. Last year Keene, who drives a GMC Yukon, pumped $3,462.99 (14th out of 80 members) worth of fuel into his vehicle and spent another $665.93 on vehicle maintenance. He also spent $3,850 of taxpayer money to lease his Yukon. Last year Keene racked up $5,109.18 for postage (earning him another 14th-place ranking in the Assembly) for things like his recent mailer warning constituents of the dangers posed by a state Senate bill to make certain undocumented workers eligible for driver’s licenses. (These unlicensed drivers account for about 20 percent of the drivers on California roads. Insurance is not an option for them.) Keene’s mailer says the bill aims to “give” the licenses away. Not true. Applicants have to pay and also provide an array of background information about themselves. Some Latino groups are against the bill because of what they see as an intrusion into privacy, and others complain that immigrants from Middle Eastern counties are excluded from the privilege. But Keene says it is dangerous to issue these licenses because doing so might lead to another Sept. 11. (In the sample license he shows on the mailer, the holder’s birthday is 9-11-71.) At the end of his dire message he says whether or not you support the bill you should let your legislative leaders know. On a reply card—no postage included—there’s a box to check that says “I oppose giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. It threatens national security and creates vast potential for fraud and identity theft.” But there’s no box to check if you don’t agree. That’s not going to allow for a very accurate survey.