Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bakersfield enjoys an emerging arts scene with top musicians appearing about town, and more feedback on the death of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri

 * … MUSIC: I stopped by a free concert at Imbibe Wine and Spirits this weekend and was wowed by the vocals of Emily Danger, a band whose lead vocalist (Emily Nicholas) hails from
Bakersfield but now lives in Brooklyn. Her concert before a packed room is reflective of something special that is emerging in our community, especially if you are a fan of live music. Almost every day, in some venue across town, you can hear some terrific talent, whether it's hometown favorite Mento Buru (who showed up at the Alley Cat for an impromptu concert this weekend) or the house band at KC Steakhouse. If you are into master guitarists, Rick Kreiser hosts a regular "Guitar Masters" series while three friends are bringing new talent into town with the "Passing Through" series of concerts held either at The Metro Galleries or The Bakersfield Museum of Art. We're not Austin yet, but we have come a long way. (file photos of Emily Danger and Mento Buru)

 * … ACCIDENT: The traffic accident at the intersection of Old River Road and Ming Avenue that took the life of a 67-year-old woman triggered a flood of responses on social media. This response was typical: "People have just got to slow down in this town. Old River isn't a country road any more."

* … FERGUSON: I received a lot of feedback on my post talking about my father's advice about staying out of trouble with the police. Pamela Wildermuth was disappointed with me, noting that a "even though a black man in this country may be very successful, and may have followed ALL the advice you quoted, he is still more likely to have an unpleasant encounter with the police than is his white counterpart. Race is an inescapable issue in the complex relationship between citizens and law enforcement. It's too bad that you didn't address it."

 * … MORE FERGUSON: Kendall Moya Arthur agreed and added this: "Please reconsider your platitude of how any young man should behave. Your response reflected insensitivity to the immediate history of how young black men are treated, particularly at the hands of the police, who are entrusted to be super-heroes of justice and defenders of the weak and disenfranchised. If only it might have been so simple as young men following your father’s advice to remain unhurt." Note to both Pamela and Kendall: I did not mean to imply race was never an issue, but rather repeating some sound advice from my father about holding yourself accountable.

* … MORE FERGUSON: Tony Malon was a bit more agreeable with my post: "I agree with your father completely, sounds like mine. I am 77 years old , living in Bakersfield the past four years. I was born in St. Louis, then moved to a suburb called Overland , then to Cool Valley bordering Ferguson, for about 25 years. Ferguson and surrounding areas have alawys been a problem such as has been happening now even when times were good. I'm not taking sides as I have known many police officers in the area for years. Some good some not so good. I have a question, if the officer was a six year veteran with a clean record  why would he fire six bullets into an individual for no reason whatsoever?... When I was quite youn , and a police officer stopped me to ask me a question, I was told to obey officers or hell to be paid when I got home."

 * … REUNIONS: Royal Reynier will soon be attending his 60th East Bakersfield High School reunion, and he recommends touching base with long lost friends as frequently as possible. "The first reunion is attended to see if others have gone on to better lives and to mingle with the same people you did in high school... The sixtieth? Who knows. The only sure thing is that there will be a smaller group and the stories may be not quite right as memories fail. My advice is to attend a reunion. You have changed and so have they. You may have not have been in the so called 'in group.' but there is always
someone there that has a pleasant memory of you."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Monday Bako Bits: Kern County's unemployment rate improves, Bland Solar and Air gets some recognition and some bad form out in Seven Oaks

 * … SHOOTING: The shooting of an unarmed man in Ferguson, Mo., and the unrest and rioting that
followed has triggered a lot of soul searching about behavior by both the police and regular citizens. I found this advice about "how to avoid being shot by police" strikingly similar to what my own father cautioned me years ago. Here goes: "Don’t be in a gang. Don’t rob convenience stores. Don’t do or sell drugs. Don’t loiter on street corners or walk down the middle of the street. Don’t carouse at night. If you are stopped by a police officer, comply with his or her orders. If you don’t like what they are doing, record the incident and hire an attorney. Do not, under any circumstances, attack the officer, hit the officer, or try to take the officer’s gun away from the officer." Said the author: "These seem pretty simple to most people, but there are large segments of our society who seem to believe that you can do these things and then they are aghast when things spiral out of control and someone gets shot."

 * … JOBS: Good news on the local job front. The Kern Economic Development Corp says the Kern
County jobless rate dropped in July to 10.4 percent, compared to 11.6 percent the same month last year. Year-over-year, July also saw an increase in jobs across all industries.  California’s unadjusted July 2014 unemployment rate is 7.8 percent and the nation’s rate is 6.5 percent.

* … SPOTTED: A friend posted this on his Facebook page: "PG and E wished me Happy Birthday by making my power go on and off, over and over again, from 2:15 a.m. to 7 a.m."

 * … FOODIE BEST BET: KC Steakhouse, the popular downtown eatery know for its dark, vintage interior, has brought back its "buy one dinner (or lunch) and get one free" special. It also is offering 50 percent off select bottles of wine every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

 * … SOLAR: Congratulations to Bakersfield's Bland Solar and Air, which was ranked ninth on the list of the top 100 best residential solar companies in the country. Bland Solar and Air has been in business and installing solar since 1985 and is the largest local installer in the San Joaquin Valley. The top three were SolarCity, Vivint Solar and RGS Energy. The rankings were compiled by Solar Power World.

 * … GOOD FORM: Hats off to the Bakersfield police officer who went out of his way to make sure a woman made it to her car in the dark. From reader Gerald A. Starr: "Seen on Wednesday evening after 8:30 p.m. on 17th Place and 18th Street. A lady diner was returning to her car after the CASA graduation and dinner at Uricchio’s. Her car was parked north of 18th Street (it was quite dark). A BPD patrol car on 18th Street came to a stop while the lady crossed the street and then turned right to escort the lady to her parked car illuminating the sidewalk and the area with the patrol car’s spotlight. Thank you to that officer as one of Bakersfield’s finest to take 2-3 minutes for an act of human kindness!"

 * … BAD FORM: A reader was walking in Windsor Park in Seven Oaks this weekend she she spotted a man walking his two dogs, off the leash. "They I observed him go to two different drinking fountains and turn on the water while the larger dog stood on its hind legs and drank from the fountains." Yuck.

 * … RETAIL: Jay Stodder tipped me off that a new retail clothing store has moved into the old Gottchalk's at the East Hills Mall.  "They are called 'Sarah' and actually relocated from a smaller unit in that mall. Great to see any local business succeed as well as prosper."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Canadian motorist, hospitalized in Bakersfield, sends a love letter to Kern County, and Pam Fiorini leaves the Golden Empire Gleaners

 * … HOME: If you ever doubt the goodness that exists in this community, notes like the following should serve as a wakeup call. Amanda Vallette and her husband are from Edmonton, Alberta, and
were touring the United States on motorcycles when they suffered an unfortunate crash and ended up in a local hospital. Said Amanda: "We met what I would like to believe were real Americans right from the beginning, some of the finest people we have ever met. To the strangers that helped us on the road, thank you for taking time out of your day to help me as I lay on the highway. To the Highway Patrol who took control and managed the situation with compassion and efficiency. To the fire rescue, you offered so much comfort with your experience. To the sweet EMS staff that calmed me by telling me the damage to my bike was cosmetic. But most off all to the hospital staff. We were nervous about the U.S. medical system but that was soon dismissed as we got such wonderful care from the time we went through the doors. There are so many others that made a positive impression, the hotel staff where my husband stayed waiting for my discharge, the clerk at Rite Aid, the medical transport to LAX. The bottom line is that Bakersfield showed us just how wonderful a country the USA is. Here is a big thank you to one and all."

 * … GLEANERS: Pam Fiorini is resigning as executive director of the Golden Empire Gleaners. Fiorini has served as head of the charity for seven years and told me it was time to do something else. No word yet on who will succeed her. (photo of Pam Fiorini (right) with Judi McCarthy.)

 * … SPOTTED: A woman in an old green van casually tosses her fast food wrappers and soda cup out the driver's side window while driving down Mount Vernon. When she stops at a light, she empties her ashtray.

 * … OVERHEARD: In the Vons at The Marketplace a woman is telling a friend about her children going back to school. "God knows I love them but I can't wait to get them out of the house."

 * … FOODIE BEST BET: Cafe Med has brought back its half off appetizers during happy hour, as well as $3 beer, $4 wine and $5 martinis. Always a best bet for quality food and drink.

 * … DATE NIGHT: Looking for something fun to do this Saturday? Then you might consider Date Night at the Fox Theater which will be showing the 1980 film Somewhere in Time starring Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour. Admission, hot dogs and drinks are just $1 each. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. It's a chance to see all the work the Fox Theater Foundation has done on bringing the old girl back to glory.

 * … VILLAGEFEST: Get ready for another VillageFest, the always popular event that is expected to raise $160,000 for charity. The event, featuring craft beer, music and food, is set for Saturday, Sept. 6, at the Kern County Museum from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. There will be beer from more than 60 breweries, wine and plenty of food, not to mention 15 local brands. The attendance is expected to exceed 5,000. The event has always been a fundraiser for C.A.R.E. (Children’s Advocates Resource Endowment), a non-profit organization serving the needs of Kern County’s children since 1999. Tickets are $70 and may be purchased at Vallitix, Lengthwise and Frugatti's Italian Restaurant.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New study finds yoga alone is not enough to obtain overall fitness, the sadness of the death of comedian Robin Williams and locals express more disgust with panhandlers

 * … YOGA: This is for all you yoga fanatics out there: new research shows that yoga really doesn't do much for overall muscle strength or cardiovascular fitness. That's according to a study published in the New York Times that followed two groups of women for eight months, one that completed twice
weekly, hour-long yoga sessions and the other that continued with their normal activities. The result? "Yoga appears top be too gentle physically to be anyone's lone exercise. "Yoga will certainly strengthen your legs but you need to include other forms of exercise in your weekly routine to obtain more complete fitness.

 * … WILLIAMS: Let's hope the death of comic genius Robin Williams focuses more attention on depression and related illnesses that are near epidemic in our society. I know of very few people who have not dealt with severe depression in their own families, and it is long past time for an honest conversation about this national malady.

 * … PANHANDLERS: More feedback on the panhandlers across our community. This note from reader Terry Meier: "I understand there are needy people in our community, but being confronted by them at every turn is aggravating. I was even pinned down by one in the drive-through line at Starbucks!  My husband and I give generously to charities every year, so I have no guilt in turning them down. Furthermore, I’ve seen some of them work the same area telling the same story over and over.…  I’ve joked with my friends that I’m going to make a large sign and stand on a corner or median and beg for money to buy an iPad. Hey, I’m a part-time professor so I need the money!"

 * … RADIO WARS: The local radio group American General Media has acquired another FM signal in its battle to attract more listeners throughout the day. The new FM signal will simulcast the First Look with Scott Cox morning show that originates in the newsroom of The Californian and is video streamed live on Bakersfield.com. The show will be simulcast at 96.1 FM. The sale is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission and should be completed by Thanksgiving.

 * … BACKPACK: Kudos to the North Bakersfield Rotary Club whose members stuffed 675 backpacks for students of the Standard and Beardsley school districts. Chevron chipped in to help fund the program, called Kindergarten Roundup, and club President Sheri Horn Bunk tells me they will be distributed as soon as school starts.

 * … BAD FORM: Barbara Waggoner was at the Ramco gas station downtown recently when, to her surprise, a red haired woman walked to her car, started it up and began pumping gas while the car was idling. "Surprised that someone would do such a stupid thing, I asked if she realized she could start a fire. She gave me a 'really?' look. I told her a friend of mine had seen it happen. After I got the same look from her again, the back window rolled down and out popped a small child. I was thinking now not only does she want to take the chance of blowing all of us up but wants to blow up what I assume to be her grandchild."

 * … GOOD FORM: And then there was Dr. Randal Beeman who crashed on his bicycle at 18th and Chester the other day. No fewer than three different people stopped to help him. "When I go to other places and hear the standard blather about Bakersfield I remind myself that even though we live in one of the largest cities in California we still exhibit the small town values of cooperation and kindness towards others."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Monday Bako Bits: Outlets at Tejon enjoy a huge weekend, more scam alerts, free libraries and some really bad form at the Kern County Animal Shelter

 * … OUTLETS: I stopped by the Outlets of Tejon the other day and left impressed with the design, location, convenience and of course the retailers. These are outlet stores after all, but the Tejon Ranch Company did a remarkable job with the layout, seating and water features. If you haven't been, check it out.

 * … SCAM: Yet another scam alert, this one from reader Buddy Maltone. "I received a letter along with a check for $1,850 stating I was the winner of the USA/EU Departmental Sweepstakes Lottery held on Jan. 1, 2014. The letter and check were from Western States Mechanical from Springville, UT. The letter states I will receive the balance of the $50,000 owed to me after I contact the claims agent Peter Jones. The check was from a Wells Fargo account of which Wells Fargo has my banking relationship, so I contacted them. Not to my surprise, I was told the address on the check was an ATM location for Wells in UT. I then contacted the claims agent, Peter Jones, and he congratulated me on my 'winnings.' When I questioned the ATM location check he hung up on me. I fully recognized this as some type of scam and should have waited to expose this to the claims agent and see how much $$ they wanted me to send ,but I could not have waited to screw with them. I also contacted Western Mechanical to let them know what was going on because after research, they were a legit company and were aware of this scam."

 * … BAD FORM: Linda Boyance was at the Kern County Animal Shelter on Fruitvale recently when she witnessed what can only be described as a bit of bad form. With her was a man holding a very skinny Shiatsu which he had found in the street on a hot day. It was Wednesday and the shelter does not open until 2 p.m. "He went to a side door and found a lady behind a desk. The door was locked. Through the locked door he explained his concern for the dog. He said the lady pointed at her watch, told him they didn't open till 2, and to come back. He had told her he would have to release the dog back to the street. Another lady went to the same door and asked the lady if she realized the man was going to let the dog go? … What part of rescue did she not understand? The three of us were beside ourselves. A man in cut off jeans and no shirt came by and took the dog with him...I say shame on the part of that employee."

 * … FOODIE: My restaurant menu recommendation of the week: the seared scallops over risotto at the Wall Street Cafe on L Street downtown is excellent.

 * … FREE LIBRARIES: Austin Albert is at it again. The 17-year-old Eagle Scout, who is headed to BYU-Idaho in the fall, wrote me that he had just installed four Little Free Libraries in the South High School District area for the community to enjoy. Said Austin: "The libraries are all stocked with an assortment of books and open for all to enjoy.  They are located at: 1516 Belle Terrace; 912 Meredith Street; 900 San Vicente Drive and 5301 Lime Street.  Just want to thank you and all the residents supporting literacy in the community who supported this project. Locations for Little Free Libraries can be found anywhere in the world by visiting littlefreelibrary.org.

 * … GOOD FORM: Terry Meier wrote to thank the stranger who left a note on her car warning her that her car's towing wires were dragging on the ground. "It made my day!" she said. "If I hadn't been warned or noticed it myself, at best I would have had to replace the connector, and at worst, it could have sparked a fire.  There truly are Good Samaritans in good ol’ Bako. "

Friday, August 8, 2014

House Majority Leader McCarthy: "I support the air strikes" against the Islamic State and stand ready to confront this crisis

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Leader, weighs in with his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his words:

 "With each passing day, an unchecked ISIS grows more powerful, increasing in territory it occupies and continuing to target and kill religious minorities and moderate Muslims. These actions have
destabilized the entire Middle East region and have created the largest terrorist safe haven since September 11, 2001, posing a direct threat to the United States and our allies.

 "The threat to U.S. personnel in Erbil and the potential death of thousands of Christian and Yazidi minorities trapped on a mountaintop by ISIS militants in Iraq is but the latest example of ISIS' reign of terror.

 "I support the targeted air strikes authorized by the President.  Frankly the threat posed by ISIS requires a more fulsome response and a more comprehensive plan than has thus far been put forward by the Administration. We shouldn't wait until terrorists are at the doorstep of U.S. personnel or are threatening thousands of civilians with death on a mountaintop to confront this threat. I stand ready, as I know my colleagues on both sides of the aisle do, to work with the President and confront this crisis."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bakersfield loves a party, even if it's an invitation only sneak peek of the new outlets mall, and more scams involving the Kern County court system

 * … OVERHEARD:  The VIP opening of the Outlets of Tejon Wednesday evening was a huge success, at least judging from the crowd that paid $25 each to get a sneak peek. One friend
likened it to "a big party" even though she was stranded on Interstate 5 for 20 minutes exiting the freeway because of the traffic. But not everyone thought it was so special. A middle-aged man was overheard talking to a friend about the event. "How was it?" he was asked. "Horrible," he responds. "Typical Bakersfield trying too hard to get excited. A new Target is not to be celebrated. And outlet stores are just outlet stores."

 * … SCAMS: This must be the season for telephone scams, because I seem to hear about a new one almost every day. Judi House shared this one: "Two people I know have received phone calls in the past two days stating that the caller is a warrant officer for our court system, calling regarding a fine being due for not responding to a court order to appear as a witness for the Grand Jury. The courts or the Grand Jury would not call on the phone to collect money. My understanding is it would be delivered either by letter or in person with a subpoena and most likely from the District Attorney's Office. All fines then would be paid to the County of Kern – not on a pre-paid cash card as requested by the caller. Also, you would have to have a file number assigned to your case – which wasn’t even mentioned in the phone call. Just remember: if in doubt call the court house they would be happy to help you."

 * … DONUTS: Kelly Giblin helped clear up why someone was selling Krispy Kreme donuts in the parking lot across from Barnes and Noble the other day. "This was no panhandling pastry pariah, but was actually one of several locations set up around town selling Krispy Kreme donuts as a fundraiser for McKee Road Baptist Church, which is raising funds for a mission trip to Mexico.," she said. "I understand that this is a very successful fundraising program offered by Krispy Kreme, but given the fact that there is no longer a location in Bakersfield, the church members must drive to Los Angeles in the very early morning hours to bring the donuts back warm and fresh. I can vouch that they were delicious and all of us working at the AIS Cancer Center and Lemonade Locks Wig Boutique enjoyed the boxes that were delivered to us by the church."

 * … PARTY SCHOOLS: For all you parents getting ready to send a child off to college, here is this year's list of the top party schools as ranked by The Princeton Review. Syracuse University claimed the top spot, followed by the University of Iowa (last year's winner), the University of California-Santa Barbara, West Virginia University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (file photo of USCB party)

 * … BAD FORM: Becky Whitehead contributed this really odd thing that happened to her 80-year-old sister. "While turning right in her car off Bernard into the Home Depot parking lot my sister stopped for a pedestrian who was a dark-complected bearded giant of a man carrying two long  boards. My sister stopped for him to cross the street, and he stared at her with such hate that it in itself was very scary  He then proceeded to bang on her car with his boards. The car is badly dented, and my sister is still emotionally upset about it. Thank goodness she didn’t try to spray him with her pepper spray as she first thought of doing. He would definitely have over-powered her and who knows what would have happened. She just moved her car forward, and he got out of the way. She went on to Office Depot and called the police who took her report, but of course the guy was gone by the time they got there.  I must mention that my sister is 80 years old and weighs maybe 110 pounds."

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Two initiatives may go on the November ballot in Colorado to curtail fracking, and The New York Times accepts its first advertising for medical marijuana

 * … FRACKING: Keep an eye on a movement in Colorado to restrict hydraulic
fracturing, the oil and gas extraction method that has led to a boom in production across the country, including here in Kern County. There may be two initiatives on the November ballot there, one requiring all new oil and gas wells to be set back 2,000 feet from a school or home, and the other giving cities more control over drilling. Like here in Kern County, fracking has helped create thousands of jobs and doubled the number of active wells in the last decade and any local or statewide restrictions could have a serious negative impact on the local economy.

 * … MARIJUANA: A sure sign of the times appeared in the Sunday edition of The New York Times, when the paper ran its first advertising ever for medicinal marijuana. This comes after the state legalized marijuana to be prescribed for medical conditions. The ad was for a mobile app called Leafly, which bills itself as the “Yelp for marijuana” and allows users to browse a catalog of cannabis products and find and review medical marijuana dispensaries in their area. The newspaper made headlines earlier when it ran a series of editorials calling on the federal government to repeal its ban on cannabis.

 * … BRICKS: Smart move by the city of Bakersfield to reverse itself and say the donated bricks at Centennial Plaza will not be dug up and trashed. The reasoning for removing the bricks - that they might pose a hazard to walkers because they had worn unevenly - was always curious to me. If that were the case, where is the rush to replace or repair all the sidewalks around town that are in such disrepair?

* … SPOTTED: I loved this Facebook post from Californian writer Steven Mayer: "If Bakersfield were my wife, I would divorce her annually between June and September and run off with my mistresses, Avila, Pismo and Shelly."

 * … LA COSTA: One of my favorite restaurants in town, La Costa Mariscos on 21st Street, is moving to the iconic Ice House. Owner Maria Coward told me customers can expect the same intimate experience and quality food that the restaurant has been serving since 1992. The grand opening will happen at the end of this month.

* …. KUDOS: Jannie Helton wrote to commend Orchard Supply and Hardware (OSH) on their outstanding customer service. "It is very frustrating shopping at our local stores and not finding anyone on the floor to help in locating items. I recently shopped at OSH and was hit with a WELCOME to OSH just as I walked in the store, not to mention several employees on the floor asking if I needed help without my asking. The smiles and knowledge of their employees was outstanding. Good customer service is really rare. This store was outstanding. Thank you OSH for making my shopping experience a very pleasant one. You have a customer for life and I will certainly recommend you."

  * … SABRINA: Odd story out of Sacramento where a former KBAK (29) TV anchor has been arrested on shoplifting charges. Sabrina Rodriguez, who spent two years at KBAK and is now an anchor with Fox 40, was charged with helping shoplift more than $2,500 worth of purses from a Coach outlet. Her fiancĂ©, Nicholas Gray was also arrested on more serious arson and drug charges.