Sunday, December 21, 2014

If it is Christmas week it's time to look back on the year, to give some thanks for all the blessing we have, to call out some great service about town

 * … GIVING THANKS: As we wrap up 2014, there is a lot to be thankful for in this community of
ours. Here's to all those who volunteer their time for others, who give generously to the charity of their choice and who awake every day committed to making this a better place to live. In that spirit, here are some of the people, organizations, businesses and stories that caught my attention this year. Enjoy.

 * … HONOR FLIGHT: Hats off to all the volunteers, sponsors and escorts who have made Kern County's Honor Flight such a success this year. As the ranks of the Greatest Generation shrink, it's terrific to see these veterans given the respect they so richly deserve.

  * … TRENDS: And speaking of veterans, one of promising trends of the year has been the generosity of so many Bakersfield residents in picking up the tabs for veterans at local restaurants. Wear baseball cap identifying yourself as a veteran, and someone is likely to do something nice for you. This is surprisingly common and a touching way for one generation to say thanks to another.

 * … BAD NEWS: One of the biggest disappointments came late in the year when we learned plans for a "great park" in the canyons near Hart Park had fallen through over a dispute on mineral rights. The loss of a 800-acre park on some incredibly beautiful terrain is nothing less than heart breaking. This town needs more amenities like this.

 * … VIDEO: Was there a better video this year than the one showing a tabby cat named Tara saving a young boy from being mauled by a neighbor's dog? The video went viral and Tara the Hero Cat put Bakersfield on the map, this time in a good way.

 * … SERVICE: Few restaurants provide the kind of personal, white-gloved service as Uricchio's Trattoria, thanks to owner Claire Uricchio and her attentive staff. The food is always top notch, but it is the friendliness and attentiveness of the staff that sets this Italian eatery apart. As a friend said, "It's like Cheers in there. You always see someone you know."

 * … LUNCH: If there is a better place for lunch than Luigi's Delicatessan on a spring day, someone needs to take me there. It is the quintessential Bakersfield bistro to meet and greet, and I dare you to find more consistent food anywhere in town. I'll have the spinach salad with a scoop of tuna, please.

 * … GAS STATION: I have a fondness for the two partners who own the Ramco Express gas station downtown off 23rd Street. They offer competitive prices and they always greet you with a smile. And congratulations to co-owner Rami, whose wife just gave birth to twin boys.

 * … BURGERS: I am on a quest to find delicious new burgers in town, and we have plenty. Some of my new favorites include Eureka Burger, The Padre Hotel bar, Narducci's and Juicy Burger. New restaurants? Try Krush in the Northwest, Wiki's Wine Dive and Grill in the Southwest and Wall Street Cafe downtown.

 * … HEALTH CARE: Your health can't be in better hands than with Dr. Raj Patel and his incredible staff over at Preferred Family Care Physicians on Truxtun Avenue across from the lake. Patel and his crew provide the kind of old fashioned family doctor experience that is no longer common these days.

 * … BUTCHER: This one is easy: the Wood-Dale market is a modest little place off Stine Road, but you won't find better meat, chicken and sausage in town. And for Basque food? My favorite is Noriega's, perhaps my favorite since eating experience especially with a large group of friends.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: At this time of the year, let us never forget those in uniform at home and abroad …

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Leader, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill and his Christmas message. In his words:

 "Merry Christmas! During the rush to get and wrap last-minute gifts and see extended family, let us not forget the true meaning of the Christmas season – the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and the blessings of God’s love for all of us.

 "We celebrate Christmas not just for the time to be with our families and spread a little joy in the world, but we also remember that our truest opportunity for happiness and peace comes through Jesus Christ, whose birth we will celebrate in just a few days. He is the reason why this season is so joyful.

  "In our daily lives, we strive to mimic the example that Jesus taught us and the Christmas season marks the start of a new year to renew this commitment to others. As Jesus teaches, we are meant to serve others and let us continue to help those in need in our community.

  "Few emulate this more than the men and women in uniform home and abroad, and the intelligence professionals and diplomats who are spending this Christmas season away from their families in defense of our country and the freedoms we enjoy.  We thank them and their families every day for your sacrifice. They may not be home for Christmas, but their service gives the rest of America the opportunity to celebrate this season in peace and security. We should continue to keep these individuals and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

Judy and I and our entire family wish everyone the merriest Christmas, and a happy New Year.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Instead of caving to the North Korean cyber bullies, let's show The Interview at Rabobank Arena and see if we can fill the house, and New York moves to ban hydraulic fracturing

 * … THE INTERVIEW: The idea that threats from a rogue North Korean state could force Sony Pictures to cancel the release of the Seth Rogan comedy The Interview should concern us all. Who
cares about the quality of the movie - early reviews have not been kind - but Americans hate the idea of caving to any dictator, much less the erratic Kim Jong Un. Here's an idea: screen the movie locally at Rabobank Arena, charge $5 a ticket and give the proceeds to local charities. Trust me, we could pack the house.

 * … FRACKING: The state of New York is on the verge of banning hydraulic fracturing, making Gov. Andrew Cuomo one of the first major politicians to come down on the side of environmentalist on the issue. All this comes as yet another federal study found fracking relatively safe. Still, those opposed to the process continue to argue that the process is dangerous and should be banned or highly regulated.

* … BREAK-INS: Over the course of a recent lunch I learned of: United Parcel Service packages being stolen in Seven Oaks, two smashed windows of cars in Rivera Westchester (in one case someone smoked a cigarette in the car after breaking its window), a home burglary in the Northwest near Riverlakes and a ransacked car in the Northeast near Lowe's. It's that time of year.

 * … GOOD FORM: Edith Lyon called and left a message for me commending two women who rescued an elderly dog out of a busy road recently. The dog, who turned out to be 15 years old, was eventually reunited with its owner despite the fact it had no collar and was not micro chipped. "She was only wearing a bandana and was very sweet," she said. "This should be a lesson that we all need to micro-chip our pets."

 * … SPOTTED: Hats off to the middle aged woman who regularly walks the bluffs off Panorama Drive picking up the discarded fast food wrappers that so many people carelessly leave behind.

 * … OVERHEARD: In a local restaurant a young mother is talking to a friend about Christmas: "She wants an iTouch for Christmas. That's $200! She is 7 years old! What happened to Barbies?"

 * … BAD FORM: My life flashed before my eyes in a split second this week when a late model black sedan came within a few feet of broadsiding my Subaru at the intersection of 19th Street and Chester Avenue. The driver was not speeding but apparently was distracted  (talking on the cell phone? texting?) as he/she blew through the stop light. It's time we all put the cell phones down and pay attention.

 * … BRITISH: Did you know that there was an organization in town called the Sir Edward Elgar Chapter of the Daughters of the British Empire? I am told the ladies held their final meeting on December 17. Said Constance Corbell: "The Bakersfield chapter was started in 1965 with approximately 100 members.  At the closing meeting we had eight members left, oldest being 97 and youngest 78. The Daughters of the British Empire, a philanthropic organization, was founded in 1909 for women of British or British Commonwealth birth. Over the years the local chapter has donated funds to the British Retirement Home in Sierra Madre near Los Angeles and also to local charities."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The top reasons people hate flying: rear seat kickers, misbehaving children, body odor and people who take off their shoes and socks. And will cyber threats keep you from viewing the new Seth Rogan comedy The Interview?

 * … AIR TRAVEL: What do you think is the most annoying thing about air travel? There is plenty to complain about (cramped seats, delays, high prices, baggage fees) but according to a new national
survey, the most annoying travelers are the "rear seat kickers" followed by parents who allow their children the run of the cabin. In third place were passengers with horrific body odor. My personal beef: folks who take off their shoes and socks while they sit next to you.

 * … THREAT: The people who hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment are threatening an attack on movie theaters that show the Seth Rogan comedy The Interview, based on a screenplay revolving around a scheme to kill North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un. The hackers have already released a boatload of embarrassing personal emails and are promising a "Christmas surprise" with even more data. This is cyber bullying at its worst and - however good or bad the movie is - I hope this doesn't intimidate people from attending.

* … ACHIEVER: Hats off to Malcolm Rivera, a 2013 graduate of Arvin High School and a recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which will enable him to double major in medieval studies and political science with a minor in Latin. Malcolm was among the students who represented California at the 2013 National 'We The People competition' in Washington, DC. and he now attends UC Davis.

 * … EAST HIGH: Many people aren't aware that East High School is home to an impressive collection of art, donated to the school over the years. Mike Warner, the school's archiving teacher, reached out to explain what happened to the art.  "The paintings were always in the library," he said. "Their significance and background had been lost over time. Several of them were in a storage closet in the library, while others were on display (but neglected.) Thanks to the efforts of librarian Dawn Dobie and Principal John Gibson the paintings were appraised and cleaned up. We discovered that we do indeed have a valuable collection of original artwork. Once the paintings were cleaned they were warehoused for a few years by the Kern High School District. Now all of the paintings are once again on display in the EBHS library. The public is invited to check in at the front office and visit the library during regular school hours. Since our library is frequently reserved for school activities, it is a good idea to call ahead. The school’s number is (661) 871-7221."

 * … SPOTTED: On a friend's Twitter feed: "Teens, you should not being getting drunk. You’re annoying enough as it is."

* … KINDNESS: This act of kindness was shared by Cherryl Biggar: "A FedEx truck happened to be driving down our street as we were attempting to load a large chair into our SUV this morning.  The driver stopped, jumped out of truck, ran over to assist, wished us a Merry Christmas, jumped back into his truck and took off. I want to thank the driver, Frank, for the very nice gesture!"

 * … KIWANIS: John and Judy Henderson gave a shout-out to Westchester Kiwanis which recently "took forty-one needy kids shopping at East Hills Walmart. These children came from six different charitable organizations. Chaperones were Kiwanis members, their families and friends. One chaperone came from Aberdeen, Scotland…Yes, good things happen during the holidays."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Despite attempts to save energy, the average American household using the same about of power as it did 40 years ago, and scam artists posing as debt collectors for utilities call on a restaurant owner

 * … ENERGY: I picked up this interesting tidbit in my weekend reading: Despite energy efficient appliances, better windows and an overall focus on reducing our energy consumption, the American
household is using about the same amount of energy it did 40 years ago. Why? It appears that all those savings via energy efficient homes and appliances are being offset by our fondness with power consuming electronics, larger homes and higher ceilings. Said the Wall Street Journal: "Twenty-eight percent of homes built in the 1980s have ceilings higher than eight feed. Now, more than half of new homes have high or vaulted ceilings."

 * … SCAM: The scam artists posting as debt collectors for various utilities are at it again, this time calling local Sonic Drive Ins to intimidate the local managers. Scott A. McMillan is a franchise owner and told me he was out mountain biking when he got a call from his 23rd Street location. "The text stated that a 'Stacey' from Edison had just called and that they were coming to turn off power unless we paid our account current immediately. The amount was $900. I knew intstantly that it was a scam as PGE is our power supplier in Bakersfield, not Edison. I texted her back and told her it was a scam and to not pay anybody even if they came by." Later, McMillan thought he'd have some fun with the scammers so he called Stacey back. "When Stacey answered, she asked how she could help. I thought that was nice that someone was trying to help me. I told her that my store (Sonic name NOT given) had just been called and that I owed some money immediately or my power was going to be shut off. She then proceeded to tell me the name of my restaurant, the phone number and the address…. impressive, I thought. I then asked her if she could look at my account without my account number, as I was not in my office. She confirmed that I had a $900 balance due. I told her that I was sure my account was current and was suprised the balance due was only $900 as my monthly bills this time of year for power are closer to $3,000 per month. She didn't budge from the $900. Well, at this point, I was getting bored with Stacey, so I told her, 'You know Stacey, it's funny. My energy supplier at this location is PGE." Instantly, the phone disconnected and I mean instantly! I was rather bummed with that as I wanted to tell Stacey a few more things."

* … SPOTTED: On Facebook: "Sometimes it’s just better to buy new Tupperware than to risk opening the leftovers."

 * … KINDNESS: Sometimes it is the smallest of gestures that restore our faith in mankind. Angela Barbero shared this:  "The other evening my husband and I purchased lumber at Home Depot on Gosford. We wheeled it to the car and a total stranger came over and said I'll help you with that and he helped my husband load it into the car. We moved to Bakersfield in 2000 and I have always said this town has the nicest people. Thank you again to this kind gentleman."

* … GOOD FORM: Laurie Green wrote to give props to the FFA group over at Frontier High School, where she lives. "Last night the Frontier FFA were Christmas caroling in our neighborhood. They had a truck pulling a flatbed trailer decorated with lots of lights, music playing, and carolers singing. Other students were going door to door, asking for canned goods to donate to the homeless shelter. Even Santa and his helper were walking around greeting people. I was babysitting my little granddaughter and took her outside to enjoy the music and lights. A big thank you to the FFA students for bringing Christmas joy to our neighborhood, as well as doing it to help the homeless. I also want to thank the Frontier students who live in our neighborhood for being very respectful of our yards as they walk to and from school. I live on a corner and have never seen any of them cut across our yard or any other yard, and they never drop any kind of litter. I can't say that about other neighborhoods I have lived in, so their courtesy and respect are very much appreciated."

 * … MEMORIES: This memory of a simpler time comes courtesy of reader Linda Brammer: "Another fond memory of the Bakersfield that is no more:  remember the Christmas decorations that most of the homes on Panorama would put up?  Then the procession of cars would start at about north Union Ave and Columbus Ave to drive slowly by all the homes and view the decorations.  Sadly, that had to be discontinued due to vandalism, but it’s still a fond memory of Christmas in Bakersfield."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Local radio group adds an FM simulcast for First Look with Scott Cox and The Ralph Bailey show, heating up the local radio wars …

 * … RADIO WARS: The local radio wars heated up this week when American General Media
accounced it had added a new FM station to its broadcast of News-Talk 1180 KERN. The station will simulcast KERN-AM on 96.1 FM, giving local hosts Scott Cox and Ralph Bailey new reach on the FM dial. AGM president Rogers Brandon said the simulcast will "allow KERN-AM and the excellent talent that we have on the station to be discovered by the vastly larger FM audience."

* … BIRTH: Did you hear about the woman who gave birth on a Southwest Airlines flight from San Francisco to Phoenix? Lind Brammer wondered: "Who issues the birth certificate? Which county?  I think it would be an interesting item for that baby to put on his/her resume, that he/she was born inflight, somewhere over the San Joaquin Valley."

* … PANDHANLDERS: Sandra Hurtado witnessed something the other day that is worth sharing. In her words: "We were exiting freeway at White Lane and a young girl in her 20s was standing at the median with her cardboard sign asking for money. My daughter made a comment that it was so sad because she is so young. We all felt bad for her. I proceeded to my destination at Urner's to pick up my order. I'm standing in the back and I see the young lady walking through the parking lot and get in a car. She sat in the car for awhile … counting her money. She left in a shiny red SUV, a really nice car.  It's so hard to judge now when giving money."

 * … RIP NANCY: Nancy Sherman spent 30 years working as a nurse at Kern Medical Center, and over that time became almost legendary in her commitment to her patients. This note from my friend Gordon Westhoff speaks volumes: "I just read the obituary today for Nancy Sherman and wanted to say a few words regarding her. I had the privilege as a sales rep in healthcare to call on Nancy for over twenty years at KMC. She was the best and most dedicated clinical nurse I ever knew - her patients were all that mattered to her. Doctors and sales reps both feared and respected her  As a rep you better NEVER try and sell her a product that was not the best for her patients  I was terrified of her when I first met her becasue she let me know in VERY clear terms to not ever waste her time with salesman bull! Her nurses all respected her and her patient's families loved her. She was a true legend at KMC."

 * … FOODIE: If you are a fan of anchovies, make sure to order the Ceasar salad at The Padre Hotel which comes with lightly and delicately fried anchovies. Highly recommended.

 * … SPOTTED: A man waiting in line at the downtown Sequoia Sandwich Shop is wearing a T-shirt that reads: "Bakersfield. It's really not that bad."

 * … GOOD FORM: Hats off to Shirley Cody who recently completed 1,000 miles of water walking at the McMurtry Aquatic Center. Not a bad feat for an 80-year-old woman who devoted five years of her life to achieving this goal.

 * … BAD FORM: Kern County sheriff's deputies have arrested two teenage boys for allegedly feeding a cat to two large dogs and vide taping the grusome act. According to KGET, the video surfaced on social media and the teenagers were tracked down and arrested for animal cruelty. This kind of behavior defies all logic. In the video, the teenagers could be heard encouraging the dogs to attack the cat. No word on if the cat survived.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bakersfield lags the state in well being and socio-economics and local oil producers slow down production and begin laying off workers to respond to a global oil glut

 * … RANKINGS: Bakersfield posted some low rankings in a new survey by the Social Science Research Council that measures well-being and access to socio-economic upward mobility based on race, ethnicity, gender and geographic location. Some key findings about Bakersfield: Our index score of 3.69 is 30 percent below the California average and the median
earnings range from $36,031 for whites to $18,865 for Latinos, a spread of over $17,000. And, almost half of all Latino adults in the Bakersfield metro area did not complete high school. "This is more than twice the rate for African Americans in the Bakersfield metro area, and the highest rate of any group in any of the ten biggest metro areas," according to the report.

* … OIL: With the benchmark price of Kern County crude oil now under $60 a barrel, more producers are laying off service workers until the price stabilizes. All this may be good for consumers as the price of gas drops, but lower oil prices will have a devastating impact on county tax revenue, 40 percent of which comes from the energy sector. The price of oil has plummeted more than 40 percent since July, one of the sharpest drops in memory.

* … SCAM: A local restaurant was the target of a familiar scam the other day. A "very professional" man called the manager posing as a collector for the utility PGE, demanding $900 on a cash card or the power would be cut off later that day. The manager "almost fell for it," the owner told me, but at the last minute called the utility and learned it was a hoax.

 * … RAIN: A huge storm is headed to the Bay Area, where meteorologists expect as much as 7.5 inches of rain. That's terrific news for the drought and northern California, and let's hope some of it trickles down to the Central Valley. One thing is for certain: we are a long way from recovering from the drought.

 * … SPOTTED: Posted on Facebook was this: "Fatherhood is accidentally turning your daughter's white blouse pink because you're being 'economical' with the wash, then washing it by itself with bleach to turn it back to white before anyone notices."

 * … BURGLARY: Another house - this one downtown near Jastro Park - was burglarized this week when someone kicked the door open in broad daylight. This is the time of year when these kinds of burglaries and break-ins spike, so watch out for your neighbors.

 * … GOOD FORM: I received a nice hand written note from a friend the other day, thanking me for something I considered almost inconsequential. It serves as a reminder of the power of a personal note, not in text or in email, but offered in a way that speaks to sincerity and thought.

 * … BAD FORM: Miriam Martin called to share a story of someone who broke into her car the other night. "They saw my straw bag and must have thought it was my purse," she said. "It contained my scriptures, my Bible and my hymnal. They weren't homeless because they left two blankets I had in the back seat!"

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Local oil producer Chad Hathaway to appear as my guest on First Look with Scott Cox this Tuesday, and a couple of former NFL stars are spotted downtown dining on Chinese Food

 * … OIL INDUSTRY: After years of soaring energy prices and new drilling, the oil and gas industry has found itself in an unfamiliar position: the price of oil has dropped to a five-year low and environmentalists continue their attacks on hydraulic fracturing. We will talk about these issues when Chad Hathaway comes into the First Look studios to discuss the challenges facing the energy sector. Hathaway is a fourth generation oil producer who founded a company bearing his name in 2001. He also has been active in the Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government, an organization that has quickly evolved into an influential player on public policy. He will appear on the show at 9 a.m. Tuesday, broadcast live on KERN NewsTalk 1180 and videostreamed live on

  * … SPOTTED: Bakersfield has a long and storied history of producing great athletes in virtually every sport, and I spotted a few of them the other night while dining at Bill Lee's downtown. While chatting with local caterer Mike Ariey (former offensive tackle with the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants) he pointed out Rodney Leisle in the bar. Leisle graduated from Ridgeview High School and UCLA before spending five years with the New Orleans Saints. And yes, he was sporting a rock of a Super Bowl ring bearing the Saints emblem. Leisle is now an energy consultant with Vivint Solar.

* … THEFTS: Here is a cautionary tale: A homeowner downtown woke to find her car burglarized. Apparently the thieves used her garage door opener in the car to open her garage and make off with bicycles and other items.

* … SCAM: Yet another telephone scam, this one compliments of Patricia Kelley: "They just keep coming. This morning I received a call, 'Congrats your application for a PayPal loan has been reevaluated and you have been approved for a $1,300 loan. Call this number (631) 406-4695, Smithtown N.Y. within 24 hours for your acceptance and funds will be transferred to your bank account.' Watch out people, you are instructed to push #1 for a live operator, which I did not do. If you call the number, which I verified on my phone, it is disconnected. Nothing is free! I am now going to check my credit reports to see if there is any mischief there.

 * … MEMORIES: Some random memories from reader Ronal Reynier: "I graduated from East Bakersfield High School in 1954 and at that time an arts teacher by the name of Lois Smith could tell you the history of each painting in the school library. They said in the 'Kern's Past' article that the paintings in 2004 were worth $250,000. A William Wendt painting now would be worth almost that much. My question is were are they now? Some years ago a lady bequeathed her art collection to the County of Kern that had an estimated value at the time of one $1 million to $5 million dollars.
They were housed in the vault of the late Great Western Savings and Loan while the county checked if it was legal for them to except the collection. I have the same question, where are they now? Will these enter into the other great mysteries of the county as to where and what happened to the lion statues of the old jail building; and the neon 'Weather-Bird' sign above the Sill Building? At the time it was the largest neon sign west of the Rockies." Royal: I believe the lion statues were moved to a fraternity house at the University of Nevada at Reno.