Sunday, July 15, 2018

The hottest place in Bakersfield is the emerging "Eastchester" district of 18th Street, a local couple run into Billy Bob Thornton on the road and the telephone scammers are out in full force

Monday, July 16, 2018

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this such a special place. Email your news and notes to 

 * ... EASTCHESTER: The hottest area in town these days is the corridor of 18 Street east of
Chester, dubbed "Eastchester" by the downtown crowd. This new, emerging arts and restaurant district extends from Chester all the way east to Mexicali, and it includes such iconic mainstays as Bill Lee's, the Rice Bowl, Sequoia Sandwich Co. and Goose Loonies. What has made the area so hot? Well it isn't because of government incentives or planning but rather business people who have a vision and passion and the capital to make their dreams come true. People like city councilman Bob Smith and his investors who built the 17th Place Townhomes and the adjacent Cafe Smitten, where Smith's daughter Stasie and her husband Shai have created something unique and special. A few blocks farther east you have the renovated Silver Fox Starlite Lounge, where serial entrepreneurs Rod and Julie Crawford (Pyrenee's Cafe) have laid their claims to part of Eastchester's charm. More changes are coming, so stay tuned.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Yawning is your body’s way of saying 20 percent of battery remaining."

 * ... BILLY BOB: So what do you do when you are out of town bowling and in the lane next to you is actor Billy Bob Thornton? If you are Doc and Joyce Victor of Bakersfield, you strike up a conversation. Doc, president of Summit Bible College and Joyce, a retired teacher, were in Nevada when Thornton complimented Doc on his bowling game (he had thrown five straight strikes). Turns out the Victor's daughter, Selah, is an actor as well and played in "Bad Santa" with Thornton. And it also turns out that Doc Victor is an accomplished singer and he left Thornton with a CD of his new songs.

 * ... SCAM: There seems to be no end to those telephone scams. There are scammers who pose as Internal Revenue Service agents, and others who claim to have kidnapped your son or daughter. And now comes this: scammers who say they are from the Kern County Sheriff's Office. Listen to local Watson Realtor Mary Christenson on what happened to her: "Just had the scariest phone call: supposedly from the Bakersfield sheriff's office (blocked caller ID). He told me I had missed jury duty on July 9th and I was under electronic arrest, quoted me two counts of criminal citations-failure to appear, etc., and I must post a $1,000 bail bond. I must stay on the phone while I go to my bank and withdraw $1,000 cash, then he will be on the phone with me while I come straight to the sheriff's office to post this bail bond. I said I have never heard of this before. I demanded his name and ID and he got very angry and said he was sending deputies out to arrest me! I hung up and called 911 and the dispatcher said it is a scam.
That's okay, my dog would tear him apart if he came to arrest me. Charlie would make him into pulp!"

 * ... MORE SCAMS: And did you hear about the latest scam hitting people who have Medicare insurance? This one involves the new Medicare identity cards that are being issued to some 60 million Americans. The reason: the new cards will no longer display your Social Security number, replacing it instead with a new Medicare ID number. Seizing on this change, scammers are calling Medicare members and demanding payment, threatening steep fines or even jail time if people do not comply. It's all a scam, the latest example of people trying to take your hard earned money.

* ... MEMORIES: Check out this classic photo of Bakersfield circa 1958.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Chaos at Valley Plaza as thousands jostle to get a deal, RIP Lonnie Shelton and some great news coming out of Meadows Field for air travelers

Friday, July 13, 2018

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this such a special place. Email your news and notes to 

 * ... MALL CHAOS: I am always surprised how far some people will go to save a buck. How about
standing in line with a couple thousand people, under a hot sun, with your toddler in tow to save money on a stuffed bear? Well it happened at the Build-A-Bear franchise at Valley Plaza where a couple thousand people showed up to take advantage of a "pay your age" deal. (If your child is two years old, the bear would cost $2) It was a nationwide marketing campaign that was so successful the company was forced to shut down company stores across the country, including the one at Valley Plaza and even one in London. And get this: in a scene reminiscent of Black Friday, fist fights broke out as people jostled for position at Valley Plaza. But in true American spirit, someone found a way to profit off the mess. A local Mexican restaurant, seeing the chaos at the mall, offered a "pay your age margarita special (if you were 21 years old, the drink cost $2.10).

 * ... MEADOWS FIELD: There is some good news coming out of Meadows Field. Thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Department of Transportation (arranged by House Majority Leader Kevin  McCarthy), it looks like we may get daily flight to Dallas, likely via American Airlines. According to county CAO Ryan Alsop, the county will use the money to create a package to incentivize a major airline to provide daily service. And the second bit of good news from CAO Ryan? Ryan said he is on the verge of striking a deal with Uber (and then Lyft) to service Meadows Field.

 * ... PICKLEBALL: Pickleball has taken Bakersfield by storm, and it now has eight new dedicated courts built by the North of the River Recreation district at Greenacres Park. And we are not alone: Bakersfield resident Adam Kahler sent me this poster he spotted in Driggs, Idaho.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "It’s not a successful weekend unless I’m bringing shame and dishonor to my family."

 * ... MORE TWITTER: "They say couples should never go to bed angry. That’s why married people always look so tired."

 * ... RIP LONNIE SHELTON: Football High graduate Lonnie Hill, possibly the greatest basketball player ever to come out of Kern County, dies in Los Angeles at the age of 62. This Facebook post from a friend pretty much says it all: "Tonight one of the most wonderful men you could ever meet, Lonnie Shelton, passed away in Los Angeles after being in a medically induced coma for weeks suffering from high blood pressure. Lonnie was a best friend, college roommate at OSU, and an amazing college and professional basketball star. He won an NBA championship with the Seattle Sonics in 1978. There is so much more that could be said but I struggle for words. Tonight is truly one of saddest days in my life. He always finished our phone calls with 'Love you man.' I am blessed to know such a great kind man. My heart goes out to his family."

 * ... MEMORIES: How about this old picture from the Kern County of Old Facebook page?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

No Uber or Lyft service at Meadows Field in Bakersfield, Greenacres Park unveils eight new pickle ball courts and more on the medicinal benefits of CBD oil made from hemp and marijuana

Monday, July 9, 2018

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this such a special place. Email your news and notes to 

 * ... MEADOWS FIELD: Flying out of Bakersfield is tough enough these days: very few airlines serve us, the flights are ridiculously expensive and to get anywhere you have to fly through Phoenix. But thanks to our wise local leaders, you can't even use Uber to get a ride to or from the airport.
Why? Because two local cab  companies (and don't get me started on our inefficient, chronically tardy Third World local cabbies and their run-down cabs) have an exclusive franchise to serve the airport. And how ridiculous is that? Is it any wonder that some folks make the half mile walk from the terminal to Merle Haggard Drive, luggage in tow, so they can connect with Uber? This is not a nationwide problem as The Californian called it; I cannot name a major airport in the country that does not allow Uber or Lyft to service their airports. Wake up Bakersfield, we can do better.

 * ... CBD OIL: Cannabidiol oil is an extract from the hemp plant, and legions of people across the world swear by its medicinal value. The Food and Drug Administration last week approved the first CBD oil based medicine to treat epilepsy, but CBD fans claim it can help alleviate aches and pains, anxiety, reduce inflammation and even help with nicotine craving. CBD oil is safe and legal, yet some people avoid it because it can also be produced from the marijuana plant. (Note CBD oil does not trigger a "high" like marijuana). There is one CBD oil shop in Bakersfield, on F Street near KC's Steakhouse, and owner Ted Sisco will appear with me on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM to talk about its benefits. Don't miss this important show airing at 1:30 p.m. this Tuesday, July 10.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Licking someone's face is a quick and 100 percent foolproof way of ending a conversation."

 * ... PICKLEBALL: If you haven't heard of pickle ball, the fastest growing sport in America, you will soon. A combination of tennis and ping pong played on a smaller court using a wiffle ball, the sport has exploded in Kern County, and now there are eight new pickle ball courts available for play at Greenacres Park thanks to the North of the River Parks and Recreation District. New courts are going in at Seven Oaks and Stockdale Country Club, and the members only Bakersfield Racquet Club also has four dedicated courts.

 * ... MEMORIES: So who remembers a gas station at the base of the Grapevine called Holland's? I spotted this on the Kern County of Old Facebook page, which read: "From the 1937 Official San Joaquin Valley- Sierra Visitors Guide, an ad for Holland's Cafe and Garage on the Ridge Route Summit. From SCVHistory. com: "Originally located on the Ridge Route just south of Caswell's on what is now the Gorman Post Road, Holland's Summit Cafe started as a truck stop devoid of tourists. The site featured a Standard Oil gas station, garage, and cafe. When the Ridge Route alternate was opened in 1933, Holland's was relocated from its original location to the new highway."

Friday, July 6, 2018

Copper thieves strip the AC units at the Gleaners, Sheriff Donny Youngblood wants new tax to hire more deputies and the new CSUB presidents makes the rounds about town

Friday, July 6, 2018

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this such a special place. Email your news and notes to 

 * ... COPPER THEFT: There has been a rash of copper wire thefts around town, and the favorite target for thieves are air conditioning units. Across town, business people are showing up for work
only to find their AC units disassembled and stripped of all copper wire. It happened this week at the Golden Empire Gleaners, an organization dedicated to providing food for the most needy among us. The Gleaners posted this on their Facebook page: "Sometime during the Independence Day holiday, unknown person(s) entered the Gleaners property through a hole in the chain link fence. They then scaled an eight foot wall at the rear (north) of the building and stripped our seven ton commercial HVAC unit of its copper. It is a total loss and can not be repaired."

 * ... NEW TAXES: Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood is going to ask the Board of Supervisors to place a sales tax increase on the November ballot to fund public safety. The city of Bakersfield already has a similar proposal that would raise $50 million for public safety initiatives. Youngblood argues, convincingly, that his deputies already make less money that their counterparts in Bakersfield and Shafter and that any new positions in Bakersfield would likely be filled by deputies eager to earn more money.

 * ... CSUB PRESIDENT: This is the first week of work for new CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny, and she spent the time introducing herself to students, faculty and newsmakers about town. She appeared on virtually every local television station, on KERN NewsTalk as my guest and she also appeared in the pages of The Bakersfield Californian. I spotted Zelezny having dinner at Uricchio's Trattoria with Mayor Karen Goh and CSUB marketing specialist Michael Lukens.

 * ... OPIODS: There is a growing body of evidence that medicinal marijuana can help those suffering from opiod addictions. One study found that in states that allow the sale of medicinal marijuana, opiod addiction dropped an average of 24 percent as addicts turned from harder drugs to medicinal pot for relief.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I’ll call it a “smart phone” the day I yell, “Where’s my phone?!” and it answers."

 * ... MORE TWITTER: :"I’m at that stage in life where my bladder is at its weakest and my phobia of public toilets is at its strongest."

 * ... RIP THE DOME: So did you hear The Dome, that iconic east Bakersfield building that once hosted wrestling and boxing matches, has been sold and will likely be torn down? That's the word from reports that say the building, dating from the 1940s, has been sold to a private company that has an immigration detention center next door. The list price of The Dome was $2.2 million but no official word yet on the exact sales price.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this photo of the Haberfelde Building under construction in 1913.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Is Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola the most hated man on campus because of his opposition to oil and gas drilling? And more on those initiatives heading to the ballot box in November

Monday, July 2, 2018

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this such a special place. Email your news and notes to 

 * ... SALES TAX: How do you feel about the proposed 1 percent increase in the local sales tax? The city promotes it as a way to beef up public safety, but others see it as a way to meet pension obligations for legions of retirees. I spoke with City Manager Alan Tandy recently and he said it
would allow the city to hire 100 more police officers, plus about 60 civilians to support those officers on the streets. In addition, he said it would allow the city fire department to get back to old levels with the addition of some 15 firemen. That is a powerful argument for those of us who believe we need more boots on the ground so to speak, but will it be enough to convince residents to vote yes? Time will tell.

 * ... NOVEMBER BALLOT: The local sales tax question is just one of a number of important initiatives that will be on the November ballot. Prop 6 will ask voters if they want to repeal the huge state gas tax that went into effect a few months ago, there will be two and possibly three marijuana initiatives on the ballot in Kern County (all would allow the sale of medicinal marijuana) and Californians will also be asked if they want to break the state up into three separate states. Even if that last one passes, it only has the slightest chance to become law, but it will be fun to watch.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "My husband got barbecue sauce on my mom’s favorite white tablecloth. For five whole minutes I wasn’t the biggest disappointment in her life."

 * ... MOST HATED MAN ON CAMPUS: Who is the most hated man in Bakersfield? If you are in the oil industry, it must be Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola who joined with several other liberal mayors in demanding that California end oil and gas production. That's right, a mayor from one of the most productive oil and gas regions in the country goes to Sacramento to tell Gov. Jerry Brown that we need to shutter an industry that provides tens of thousands of jobs to people in Kern County. So is this political naivete or simply grand standing by a 20ish politician who should know better? Take your pick but you can bet he is in the political crosshairs of the very people he is trying to destroy.

 * ... CRIME: Want to know how bad crime has gotten around here? Then listen to the latest scam, which apparently has already send one young man to the hospital. It happened a few days ago at the Park at RiverWalk where a young women approached two college aged men late in the evening. The woman appeared distressed and needing help. When the men stopped to help, they were viciously attacked by two other masked men wielding baseball bats. One of the joggers was left seriously injured and the attackers made off with the cell phones of the victims. Apparently this scam is going on around town, and police are telling people to be wary of women "in distress." This has happened at least twice, once in at RiverWalk and a second time off the bike trail near Manor.

 * ... MEMORIES: Who remembers The Plunge off Union Avenue? Take a trip down memory lane and enjoy this photo.

Monday, June 25, 2018

California makes the list of "worst states" to own a home, Valley Children's clinic set to open in October and Alissa Carlson is crowned "Mrs. California"

Monday, June 25, 2018

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this such a special place. Email your news and notes to 

 * ... HOMEOWNERSHIP: A new survey on home ownership is out, and as you may have guessed, it is not kind to us here in California. In fact California was ranked in the top ten of the "worst" states
to be a homeowner, based on the strength of the housing market, the high costs of maintaining a home and the propensity of crime. Joining California in the "worst" list were Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, New Mexico, Alabama, Missouri, Texas, New Jersey and Georgia. The best states to be a homeowner, according tho ValuePenguin, were Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Maine, Minnesota, West Virginia, Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

 * ... GOOD NEWS: If you are looking for some good news, head west on Stockdale Highway and check out the new Valley Children's clinic scheduled to open in October. The building, located across the street from Bakersfield Christian High School, is an important step in our community's evolution to providing a whole range of pediatric services to prevent parents from taking ailing children out of town. There will be 32 new pediatric specialists in 16 different disciplines.

 * ... MORE GOOD NEWS: And hats off to David Collins and the South Oswell Neighborhood Watch, an organization of residents who consistently give back to their community. This weekend the group dropped off dry food and other supplies at the Bakersfield Homeless Center. It was the group's 12th drive for the organization with donations totaling some 1,025 pounds.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I should not be this chubby considering the amount of food that misses my mouth when I eat."

 * ... MORE TWITTER: "It’s a good thing not everyone has a smartphone. Someone has to honk when the light turns green."

 * ... ALISSA CARLSON: Our own Alissa Carlson, chief meteorologist for KGET TV, was crowned "Mrs. California" over the weekend at the state pageant in Palm Springs. The Mrs. America pageant has been "celebrating the uniqueness of the married woman, her family, and community" for the past 39 years, according to organizers. KGET's website said Carlson is now slated to compete with 50 other representatives, from every state and Washington, D.C., Aug. 25 at the Westgate Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

 * ... MEMORIES: This old picture, taken in 1923, shows a swarm of motorcyclists on the Panorama Bluffs with the Kern River oil field in the background. Photo courtesy of the Kern County of Old Facebook page.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The city moves forward with a sales tax initiative, CBD oil is the hot new product and lots of changes coming to the local restaurant scene

Friday, June 22, 2018

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed, now online only. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this such a special place. Email your news and notes to 

 * ... SALES TAX: The Bakersfield City Council has voted to place a proposed 1 percent sales tax increase on the November ballot. The idea is pitched as a public safety measure, but City Manager
Alan Tandy says some of it will go to pay for pension obligations. Of the $50 million it will generate, Tandy said about 13 percent of it will go to pay for pensions, and that will only increase as the years go by. With crime and homelessness rampant, city officials are hoping the voters will put their own safety over concerns about bad pension decisions.

 * ... CBD PRODUCTS: CBD oil, a derivative of cannabis marketed as a dietary supplement, is one of the hottest products in the country. But is it a true miracle elixir that can alleviate a host of ailments or an overhyped new product that will prove to be a flash in the pan? It certainly has a growing audience of supporters who claim it can help alleviate everything from arthritis, to joint and back pain to acne and insomnia. Bakersfield now has its first CBD shop located on F Street next to KC's Steakhouse, owned and operated by Ted Sisco. Because CBD does not contain THC, the ingredient in cannabis that produces the high, it can be sold legally throughout the country. So if you have arthritis or another ailment, could it hurt to try it?

* ... FOSTER PARENTS: Hats off to Anthony and Ali Davis, a local couple who has fostered more than 50 young boys and girls over the years, and adopted three of them. Anthony, a South High graduate who went on earn an undergraduate degree, and Ali, a BHS grad who did a stint teaching, migrated to foster parenting out of a sense of fulfillment and a calling to do something special for those in need. Over the years they adopted Mathew, Emma and Nathan, the last of whom was a safe surrender baby at Memorial Hospital.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I’m no bully but if I see a guy wearing a bow tie I’ll give him a wedgie and take his lunch money because honestly, he’s just asking for it, isn’t he?"

 * ... JAZZ WORKSHOP: Temblor Brewing Co. is at it again. The popular local brew pub, which has long featured live music and comedy acts, has added jazz to its resume of weekly events. That's the word from the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop, which is ending its two-year run at The Mark restaurant and is heading over to Temblor for a change of scenery. The workshop features local jazz musicians and ensembles and regularly features some outstanding acts. Starting this Tuesday, the acts will appear at Temblor starting at 6:30 p.m.

 * ... EATERIES: Speaking of The Mark, word is the restaurant is in escrow and about to be sold. The previous owners, a group of doctors, upgraded and improved the property and opened an impressive outdoor venue next door called The Park at The Mark. The building and business are for sale, as is T.L. Maxwell's, yet another longtime downtown restaurant just a few blocks away. Stay tuned.

 * ... BAR CLOSES: The Happy Hour Bar and Tapas has closed just a year after it opened at the corner of Chester Avenue and 18th Street. The bar was an interesting experiment for Bakersfield, offering some tasty new twists on traditional dishes, but in the end it never gained traction downtown. No word on who might move into the space.

 * ... MEMORIES: Who remembers the old Fike's Market?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Will California voters decided to split the state into three states? Sugarland and Jerry Seinfeld help pack the downtown restaurants and tune in to hear the story of a "safe surrender" baby

Monday, June 18, 2018

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed, now online only. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this such a special place. Email your news and notes to 

 * ... FAREWELL CALIFORNIA?: So what do you make of the attempt to divide California into
three different states? Under the proposal by millionaire Tim Draper, which will be decided by voters in November, California would be split into three states: A "Northern California" encompassing San Francisco and Sacramento north, a "Southern California" covering Fresno down to San Diego, and a "California" covering the populated coastal areas including Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and the parts of the central coast. The idea has been floated before and before you get too excited, it would have to be approved by the state legislature and even on the federal level. That means, simply, it isn't going to happen.

 * ...  DOWNTOWN: If you were looking for a spot to eat downtown last Friday, chances are you were out of luck. Thanks to two big shows at Rabobank Arena and convention center (Sugarland and Jerry Seinfeld), virtually every restaurant downtown was booked solid, from Uricchio's Trattoria to Mexicali to Muertos and to Chef's Choice Noodle lounge. Oldtimers told me they had never seen Mexicali so crowded as it was Friday.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "The problem with the world is that intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence.'

* ... NUESTRO MEXICO: When the wildly popular restaurant La Costa Mariscos moved to the Ice House a few years ago, a few of the employees stayed behind to make a go of it in the small but cozy original location on 21st Street. On Tuesday, I will have owner Francisco Martin join me on The Richard Beene Show (KERN NewsTalk) 96.1 FM to talk about his secret to success, as well as the opening of a new Nuestro Mexico lounge in the northwest.

 * ... SAFE SURRENDER BABIES: Also on Tuesday tune in to hear the uplifting story of Ali and Anthony Davis, a couple who have adopted three children including one who was a "safe surrender" baby left at a local fire station just hours or days old. Nathan is now a healthy and rambunctious lad who loves cowboy and rodeos. Tune in to hear this heart warming story of a couple whose love knows no bounds.

 * ... MEMORIES: This old photo is courtesy of the Facebook page Kern County of Old. Its caption reads: