Thursday, June 22, 2017

It's time to ban fireworks in Bakersfield, Chick-fil-A is ranked as the best limited service restaurant in the nation and I launch a search for the best watermelon margarita in town

 * ... FIREWORKS: Count me among those who agree with Californian columnist Lois Henry that it's time to ban the personal use of fireworks. For years, much of the resistance has come from non-
profits who argue the sale of fireworks is an important source of funding. Well then how about this idea from my friend Mary Hellen Barro: "Why not publish the names of those non-profit organizations that depend on fireworks sales for their funding? That way, people could donate to those organizations directly, bypassing the fireworks vendors who make a profit off their good will." Sounds reasonable to me. It's time for the non-profits to put the risks to the community over their own needs.

 * ... FOOD: For the first time in 10 years Americans prefer limited service restaurants like Chick-fil-A to the traditional full service establishments. That's the word from the American Customer Satisfaction Index which ranked Chick-fil-A as the top rated limited service restaurant in the country. McDonald's was the worse. In the full service category, Cracker Barrel was ranked highest followed by Texas Roadhouse.

 * ... MARGARITA: And speaking of food,  at the request of a friend I am looking for the best watermelon margarita in town. If you know of a good one, email me at

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Remember that no matter how much somebody loves you, there is a dog somewhere that loves you more."

 * ... PICKLEBALL: Heads up to all you pickleball players out there: Greenacres Park, part of the North of the River Recreation District, has restriped its tennis courts to create four new pickleball courts for this fast growing sport. Meanwhile, the Bakersfield Racquet Club is hosting a big pickleball tournament this weekend, drawing almost 100 players. The tournament runs from Friday to Sunday.

 * ... ORGANIC: Some good news for the folks who live in the Tehachapi area: the annual opening of the Cal-Organic Farms produce stand is opening this Saturday. Cal-Organic, part of Grimmway Farms, opened its Tehachapi stand in 2007 in response to requests from local residents for fresh organic produce like arugula, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, cilantro, collard greens, green onions, parsley and much more. The stand, located at 23968 Bear Valley Road in Tehachapi, will be open every Saturday, June 24 through Sept. 2. Operating hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and cash and checks are accepted (no credit or debit cards).

 * ... BILL LEE'S: Art Moore is a local history buff who shared this memory on the "Kern County of Old" Facebook page. "With $600, Bill Lee founded 'Bill Lee's Bamboo Chopsticks' in September of 1938 on 18th Street in Bakersfield. Born in 1910 in Canton, China, he came with his mother to Bakersfield in the 1920s where he worked in his father's restaurant on 20th Street. He disliked the business and left back to China in 1928 for his education where he began his interest in cooking. Returning to Bakersfield in 1932 he engaged in the grocery business. Urged by his cousin in New York, he entered with him into a partnership to open a Cantonese restaurant. Bill gained sole control of the business shortly after opening when his cousin lost interest. One of the first 'home deliver' food services in Bakersfield came about in 1955 when Bill commissioned his 'Flying Chopsticks' delivery truck. Today, Bill Lee's Bamboo Chopsticks remains one of the more popular Chinese restaurants in Bakersfield. William Chong (Bill) Lee died on June 11, 1990, and is buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bakersfield flirts with setting a new record for heat as we welcome the season of rolling blackouts, professional cyclist Tyler Williams returns to California for a break and some good form around town

 * ... HEAT WAVE: Welcome to the season of excessive heat, rolling blackouts, faulty air conditioning units and the general resignation that we are in for a long summer of temperatures well above 100 degrees. The folks who live in the Haggin Oaks area got their first nasty taste of summer Monday
when some 450 homes lost power, and other blackouts were reported in the Northwest as well. Will we break any records? The website says the hottest day on record for this month was set June, 29, 1976, when the mercury hit 113.9 degrees, and the hottest month on record was July 1988 when we averaged 102.7 degrees. According to another weather website, Bakersfield averages 33 days a year with temperatures over 100 degrees. But hey, it's a dry heat, right?

* ... WELCOME HOME: Welcome home Tyler Williams, the Bakersfield lad and professional cyclist for the Israeli Cycling Academy team who just wrapped up a race in South Korea. Williams took to Instagram to say he is headed back to California after more than five months abroad (he is based in Spain) and is looking forward to being reunited with his wife, Brea Williams.

* ... RAAM: And speaking of cycling, good luck to a crew of local cyclists who are participating in the Race Across America, but this time riding fixed gear bikes. Among those racing are local fitness instructor Joe Peterson, Bill Elrich, Albert 'Vegas' Vasquez, Misha Tyler, Bo Bohannan, along with two riders from Los Angeles. The eight-man team is crossing the country headed to a finish line in Annapolis, Maryland.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Amazon is buying Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. That's about a  year's worth of groceries at that store."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "It's so hot a Tennessee Williams play just broke out in my room."

 * ... GOOD FORM: Here's an example of some good form compliments of King Door sales consultant Michael Whitmore: "I just wanted to send you a note about the great folks at Stockdale tile. Remember the disabled vet that had his donation jar ripped off a week or two ago in front of Walmart? Well the owner and staff at Stockdale Tile presented a $1,000 check to that gentleman this week to replace the money that was taken. It’s great to know that there are still kind hearted people around."

 * ... BAD FORM: Here's a good reason to avoid California Avenue between H Street and Oak Street while it is being repaved. I was on H Street headed south at the bottled up California Avenue intersection when the driver of a silver pickup tried to cut in front of a woman driving a black SUV. A verbal argument broke out, complete with heads popping out the windows hurling insults, and it ended when the man driving the silver truck threw a soda can at the woman, bouncing off her window.

 * ... MEMORIES: Karene Williams wrote to say she enjoyed "your short piece about the old Sears store in downtown Bakersfield. My mother, Winifred Williams, was auditing supervisor at that location from 1955 until it moved into the new store at Valley Plaza. She continued as auditing supervisor at the new store until she accepted a position in the headquarters offices in Alhambra. After she retired from Sears many years later, she moved to Lake Isabella and worked at the catalogue store until Sears closed their catalogue businesses. Our family has fond memories of Sears and are sad to see it go downhill."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Lamenting the loss of civility in our country, dining tips when the temperature reaches 112 degrees and keeping up with the campaign to become our new Kern County District Attorney

* ... SHOOTING: What has become of a civil dialogue in our country? In the aftermath of the
horrific shooting in Virginia, it took just hours before people opened up on social media with the blame game. One consultant in North Carolina, identified as Donna Porter, fired off a tweet saying she wished the injuries to Majority Whip Steve Scalise had been "worse" because he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The tweet read: "Too bad he's not hurt worse He and GOP trying to hurt, kill, strip health care from millions of us presently. It's unfortunately deserved." Surely we can do better than this.

* ... REDNECKS: Yet another "list" is out that seeks to identify the most "redneck" cities in California. The criteria: the number of white residents, the high school dropout rate, poverty, drugs, the number of Payday Loan outlets and violence. Here is the top 10 starting with the "most redneck" city in California: Hemet, Barstow, Hesperia, Stockton, Bakersfield, Riverside, Antioch, Livermore, Fresno and Lakeside."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "If a guy said he’ll fix it, he will. There is no need to remind him every six months about it."

  * ... DINING TIPS: So now it begins. Local weather forecasters say we can expect a week of temperatures well above 100 degrees, and some think we could hit 112 or higher sometime early next week. My tip: head over to Rosemary's Family Creamery for its famous banana split, or if you are into more healthier choices, order the "Tri Salad" at Uricchio's Trattoria (tuna, shrimp, lettuce and eggs) for a perfect summer lunch.

 * ... STINSON'S: Hats off to Ben Stinson III and Stinson's Stationers for celebrating 70 years in business by donating $70,000 in merchandise to deserving local non profits. This week is the deadline for non-profits to apply for the Stinson grants, which will be announced on my radio show on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 over the summer. Stay tuned.

 * ... DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The race to succeed Lisa Green as Kern County District Attorney is one worth watching. So far there are two candidates -- assistant DA Scott Spielman and deputy DA Cynthia Zimmer -- and they are both hard on the campaign trail even though the election will not be held until next year. This promises to be a slugfest between two well qualified (and well funded) candidates. Keep an eye on this one.

 * ... MEMORIES: Did you know the location of the original Sears department store was at 19th and K streets across from the Kress Building? An old picture posted on the Kern County of Old Facebook page shows Sears, the Kress Building and the Padre Hotel in the background.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Facebook is flooded with warnings the Lake Isabella dam is about to fail, triggering a huge flood, TigerFight Casino Night is a huge success and some really good form up on the Panorama Bluffs

 * ... ISABELLA DAM: Facebook is good for many things, but distributing unfounded and alarming "news" should not be one of them. One of the posts making the rounds these days concerns Lake
Isabella Dam, which is nearing its recommended capacity after a season of heavy rains. The post warns the dam could fail, and inundate downtown Bakersfield under a wall of 20 feet of water. Not so fast, say the experts, who told KGET the dam is far from capacity and well within its recommended limit. Regarding a Facebook post that says the dam will pose an "unacceptably high risk of failure as soon as next week," Kern River Watermaster Dana Munn told 17 News this is "altogether wrong," adding the only thing that could cause the dam to fail at this point would be a "super earthquake."

 * ... FATHER'S DAY: Americans will spend about $12.7 billion on Father's Day this Sunday, but that pales in comparison to the $21 billion we spend on Mother's Day. The average person spends about $115 on presents for dad, about $2 million more than last year, according to the National Retail Federation. The most popular presents for dad come in three categories: eating (grilling, food etc) drinking (whiskey, wine or beer) or casual wear (t-shirts, sports shirts etc).

* ... TIGERFIGHT: Hats off to Chris Wilson and the folks who organized the annual TigerFight Casino Night gala to help fight childhood leukemia. Now in its ninth year, TigerFight has grown into a huge, elaborate fund raiser that takes control of the second floor of the iconic Padre Hotel with food, beer, wine, dancing and silent auctions. Since its humble beginnings at Luigi's, the event now raises north of $60,000 for research and to aid families who have a son or daughter fighting leukemia.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "So a baby crawls across the floor to its bottle and it's cute but when I do it I'm in need of an intervention?

* ... GOOD FORM: If you regularly walk the Panorama Bluffs, you know it is often littered and marked by graffiti. Which is why Jerry Evelyn, who just turned 97, is doing his part to clean up the place. His son dropped me this note last week: "My mother and father have been walking the Panorama Bluff park daily for more than 30 years. His 97th birthday is Saturday and he wants to  give back to the place and the people that have given them so much joy these 30 plus years. After applying to the Kern County Parks Department for approval he will restore a graffiti filled bench and will plant a tree in a weedy area."

* ... YOUNG ACHIEVER: Hats off to Andrew Tibbetts, a 2012 Frontier High School graduate, who was recently named to the Dean's List at Briar Cliff University, Sioux City, Iowa. Andrew also received an award for Outstanding and Scholarly Achievement by the Elementary Education Department and was named to the NAIA Academic All America baseball team. Andrew will be working as a camp counselor In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, this summer before returning to Briar Cliff to complete his student teaching.

 * ... MEMORIES: Someone posted a picture of a menu from the old Bakersfield Inn on Union Avenue from the summer of 1956. Among the entrees: Spring lamb for $1.50, Yankee pot roast for $1.65, filet of Alaskan halibut, $1.50, and the chef's special- barbecued prime beef ribs, $1.10

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The high cost of running for office in Bakersfield, Luigi's gets an honor, Wood-Dale Market to open a second location near Seven Oaks and check out some authentic Mexican food at Iguanas off White Lane

 * ... POLITICS: Would you be surprised if I told you it takes $500,000 to run for mayor of Bakersfield? That's what I heard from Kyle Carter, the former home builder who ran a close second to Karen Goh in the recent mayoral election. And it doesn't get much better running for one of our city
council wards; city councilman-elect Bruce Freeman told me it took a cool $150,000 and change to mount his successful campaign for the Ward 5 seat.

 * ... SCAMS: An old scam is making a comeback and it can happen to you if you pay for your gas at the pump using a credit or debit card. Consider this note from my friend Pam Binns, who was a victim recently at a local Fastrip. "They got my debit numbers and pin, transferred money from savings to checking at an ATM then went to two different post offices in LA and used the card- they made- for money orders. Bank won't refund my money for a week. I know it was Fastrip because that was the only place I had to use my pin. And, there was a guy in his tan truck in front of me just sitting there and not pumping gas. He would not move. I had to back out to leave. I'm sure he was waiting to get the skimmer from my machine. That Fastrip has no cameras outside, apparently, so if you see me on a stakeout there, you'll know why."

 * ... TIP GABRIELA: I was saddened to learn of the death of Gabriela Soto, a popular Wasco teacher who was killed in a car crash earlier this week in Shafter. Soto, 40, was seven months pregnant when she died at Kern Medical. Her unborn baby girl also died. Soto was a teacher at Independence High School in Wasco.

 * ... LUIGIS: Hats off to our very own Luigi's Restaurant Delicatessen which was recognized as the California Small Business of the year in 2017. The extended Valpredo and Lemucchi family spent a day in Sacramento to celebrate with state Sen. Andy Vidak, who recognized Luigi's as his Senate District 14's small business of the year.

 * ... WOOD-DALE: It looks like the venerable Wood-Dale Market, by my standards the best butcher shop in town, is in the final phase of negotiating a deal to open a second location in the Grand Island Shopping Center at Ming Avenue and Buena Vista. This is a smart move by the family owned Wood-Dale, and it secures a second location in the Bolthouse Properties' shopping center that also features some of the hottest businesses in town, including Sully's, Wiki's Wine Dive and Grill, Sol y Luna and In-Shape Health Club.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: Just tried to kill a roach with Axe Body Spray but now his name is Brett and he won't shut up about cross fit."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing."

 * ... FOODIE: A friend treated me to dinner recently at Iguanas, a Mexican restaurant that breaks out of the predictable mold and leaves you both surprised, and delighted. Owned by Sergio Olivares, Iguanas is located on White Lane near Ashe Road and is a showcase for authentic, creative dishes. Try the gorditas as an appetizer.

 * ... ACHIEVER: I chatted with my friend Dave Ewert recently and he brought me up to date on his oldest daughter, Carolyn. A graduate of Centennial High School and later the Naval Academy at Annapolis, she was recently promoted to the rank of lieutenant and is working as a navigator and legal officer on the LCS Independence based in San Diego.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco and other California cities make the list of the costliest places to live, but here at home we celebrate the humble margarita, Wood-Dale Market and Juicy Burger

 * ... COSTLIEST CITIES: Would it surprise you that California consistently shows up as one of the costliest places to live in America.?Check out this list from Forbes on the 20 costliest places to
live, starting with the most expensive: Kings County, NY; Marin County; Santa Cruz; San Francisco; Maui; San Luis Obispo; Napa; Monterey, Queens County, NY; Sonoma, San Mateo County; Orange County; Honolulu; Alameda County; New York City; Ventura; Santa Barbara; Los Angeles, El Dorado and San Diego.

* ... TRASH AND THE POST OFFICE: Dan Flores had this to say about the condition of our local post offices: "My recent travels to various city post offices paints a picture of 'we don't care.'
The Stockdale post office should be a gem - and maybe it is after you get past the weeds and trash. This is a public building. Why should it look so shabby and poor? The self image is bad.
The post office on Planz and Larson lane is actually worse. After a time, the  general population might start to believe that this is who we are - just a piece of the great Central Valley SuperGhetto."

 * ... INSECT EXPLOSION: Have you ever seen so many moths, flies, ants and bugs this time of year? We can thank the record wet winter.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I heard you like bad boys, so I brought 11 items to a 10 items or less checkout lane."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "Life is short. Summer is shorter. Tan your legs."

 * ... RANDOM FOOD THOUGHTS: The most underrated hamburger in town can be found at Juicy Burger; if there a better margarita than the one sold at Mexicali downtown, somebody needs to tell me about it; and word on the street is that the best butcher shop in town - Wood-Dale Market over on Stine Road - may be looking for a second location.

 * ... WIND WOLVES: The Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce nailed it by giving its Chairman's Award during the Beautiful Bakersfield Awards to the Wildlands Conservancy and its spectacular Wind Wolves Preserve. If you haven't visited this 93,000 acre treasure, you need to do so.

 * ... CONSTRUCTION: I would avoid California Avenue between Oak and South H streets this week until city work crews finish repaving that stretch in front of Bakersfield High School. Expect the roadwork to continue for at least another month.

 * ... BAD FORM: Nancy Bryant shared this bit of bad form: "This morning my husband was T-boned by a Dodge pickup while riding his bicycle through the Graces traffic circle. Yes, he was wearing a helmet, neon green cycling shirt, and following the rules of the road. The pickup driver decided to blow through the yield sign after the slightest of hesitation, and plowed into my husband.   My husband said the driver didn't look before he pulled into traffic, and he was unable to stop. He only saw my husband after he bounced off the drivers side of the truck. Luckily, BPD was flagged down, and reports taken.  He just suffered some scrapes, and the bike almost totaled.  I would like to thank the driver of the Dodge truck for stopping.  Now, my question is, what was so important that he had to blow the yield sign?  Clear day, no other traffic, and obviously distracted.  You could have killed or maimed my husband because of your inattention.  I hope next time, you are not distracted, and you pay attention to the rules of the road.  The life you save may be your own."

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Austin sets an example of how to keep its downtown clean, Carol Ferguson retires at KBAK TV, more retail closings and Stockdale Principal Ramon Hendrix gets a promotion

 * ... RETAIL: If you don't think this is a tough time for retailers as they try to compete with online
shopping, check out this list of companies and the number of stores they have been forced to close:
Sears and Kmart 150 stores; JC Penny 138 stores, Macy’s 68 stores Abercrombie and Fitch 60 stores, Guess 60 stores, Crocs 160 stores, American Apparel 110 stores, Payless 400 stores, RadioShack 552 stores, Staples 70 stores and CVS 70 stores.

* ... ADIOS: One of our most prominent and longest serving local TV reporters, Carol Ferguson, has retired from KBAK after a distinguished career. Ferguson spent 25 of her 37-year career with KBAK and served as a role model for dozens of young reporters who used Bakersfield as a stepping stone to move on to larger markets. Prior to working in local TV, she also worked as the news director at KERN-AM as well as news director and anchor at KKXX.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Which vitamins work best for fighting a cold or the urge to hit my ex boyfriend with my car?"

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "Surround yourself with tacos, not negativity."

 * ... TRASH: Mayor Karen Goh's recent litter survey that seemed to downplay our trash problem prompted a flurry of emails, virtually all of them reflecting comments like the one from this reader: "Thanks for keeping this trash issue alive... (Mayor Goh's) results were laughable. It brought to mind another survey a while back that failed miserably: homeless population. Their count determined the homeless numbers had dropped by 50 percent.  But buried in their information was the comment they’d reduced the census taking hours from a 24-hour day to only 12. Duh!"

* ... DOWNTOWN: And speaking of trash I spent a few days in Austin recently and had the opportunity to see how a progressive city takes on litter. Historic downtown Austin is beautiful, but like Bakersfield it has a serious homeless problem. So how does it handle trash? There is a group called the Downtown Austin Alliance (a more focused, ambitious and strategic version of our Downtown Business Association) in which dozens of red shirted workers with push carts loaded with cleaning liquids go block by block picking up trash. I witnessed workers picking up litter as small as cigarette butts and on the day after Memorial Day one worker was busy cleaning up sidewalk vomit and urine on the side of a high rise - seriously. The idea? Downtown is the Austin's welcome mat to the world and it deserves to look as clean as possible. Is there a cost to it? Certainly. But this is a city that takes its welcome mat seriously.

 * ... RAMON: Congratulations to longtime Stockdale High School principal Ramon Hendrix, who is moving on to become the superintendent of the Greenfield Union school district. Hendrix led Stockdale with a steady hand, and while my daughter was there I witnessed his deep commitment to the students and their parents. Stockdale's loss is Greenfield's gain.

 * ... GOOD FORM: Here's yet another example of how some local companies feel it is important to give back to our community. Some 150 Grimmway Farms employees are volunteering to help restore the Greenfield Baseball Park this weekend. They will be sanding and repainting backstops, bleachers and dugouts, restrooms and storage facilities They will be joined by 25 Greenfield Baseball Association volunteers. The local little league, adult intramural teams and others will benefit from a refurbished baseball field and facilities to enhance their recreation activities.

* ... CSUB WRESTLING: The CSUB wrestling program is a civic treasure, and its success well documented. But (like litter) it doesn't happen without public support. That's why I purchased a $100 ticket in hopes of winning an Infiniti QX30 to support the program, which lives year by year via the generosity of all of us. Only 1,000 tickets will be sold and the drawing will be held on June 29. Call (661) 654-2343 for more information, or mail a check paid to CSUB Wrestling to 9001 Stockdale Highway, 8 GYM, Bakersfield, 93311.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Expedia ranks the most annoying things about flying (seat kickers, crying children, arm rest hogs etc), Stinson's celebrates its anniversary by giving away $70,000 and lamenting our trash filled streets

 * ... FLYING ETIQUETTE: Would you pay extra for a seat on an airplane in a designated "quiet zone?" It turns out a lot of folks would, anything to get away from pesky young children to seat mates who talk too much. That is one of the conclusions of Expedia's annual survey of plane travel, which
ranked the most annoying things about flying. The top things that bug us about flying include rear seat kickers, inattentive parents, aromatic (smelly or overly perfumed) passengers, the audio insensitive, the boozer, the chatty Cathy, the queue jumper, the seat back guy and finally the arm rest hog.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "How to get a woman mad in two easy steps: Take a picture of her and don't show it to her."

 * ... VAN KOPP: Welcome back to town 29-year-old Samuel Van Kopp, the Bakersfield High graduate who went on to West Point only to be gravely injured in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in 2012. Van Kopp was a platoon leader when a suicide bomber approached and blew himself up, killing two soldiers and leaving Van Kopp with serious brain trauma. My interview with him, in which he questioned the politically driven rules of engagement for troops on the ground, is posted on Van Kopp has finished his first year of law school at Georgetown and his working this summer at the law firm of Klein Denatale and Goldner.

 * ... FOODIE: The new QwikCafe on 18th Street, brought to you by the owners of Sequoia Sandwich Co., is off to a good start and is starting to expand its offerings. A few of my favorites: a new "protein box" featuring hardboiled eggs, roast turkey, gouda or brie cheese, humus, veggies and grapes, or the "lite lunch premium" with half a roast turkey sandwich with a beet or kale-quinoa salad. Two of the more popular new offerings include the beef dip on baguette and a tuna melt panini.

 * ... GOOD FORM: Hats off to Stinson Stationers, the long-time office and furniture retailer that is celebrating 70 years in business. And in true Stinson's style, owner Ben Stinson III says the company will give away $70,000 in merchandise to needy local non-profits. To apply, go to and click on the non-profit link. Applications are due June 15.

 * ... MORE GOOD FORM: And here is some more good form compliments of reader Denise Watson: "One of the best things about shopping at the new Grocery Outlet Store on Brimhall is the veteran parking spot…nothing is better than seeing the surprise and pride on the face of a veteran when they pull into the parking lot and see that there is a parking spot reserved especially for them.  Even better when another customer notices them and says, 'Thank you for your service.' Pride, gratitude, appreciation and honor in the parking lot of a grocery store – now that is fantastic!"

 * ... TRASH: I was driving through the littered streets of downtown Bakersfield on Sunday when I thought about the "trash survey" that Mayor Karen Goh conducted in which she scored us between 1 and 2, ratings that assume our community is only slightly littered. I am all for the aspirational, but our city is a mess, and a casual drive through town reveals a culture that views our streets as its personal trash cans. How about a public campaign to take pride in our community?