Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bako Bits: Looking for a $2 million mansion? Plenty to choose from in Bakersfield, and more on stray dogs and cats and those young gun skeet shooters about town

 * … REAL ESTATE: How many homes do you think are for sale in Bakersfield for $2 million or
more? A simple search of the Trulia real estate website found five in that range, starting at $2.3 million and soaring to a $2.9 million mansion boasting seven bedrooms, eight baths and 16,000 square feet of
living space. Meanwhile, an old home I have admired downtown that sold for $220,000 in 2010 is back on the market listed at $775,000. What is this, 2006?

* … STRAYS: The throw-away culture that exists in our society unfortunately extends to pets, and Kern County seems ground zero for stray animals. Recently an emaciated, but very sweet, female gray cat showed up on my porch. She was hungry, for food, for water and most of all, for attention. I later learned that she had been spayed and walked with a limp because of an injury that no one bothered to attend to. A friend took her in, nourished her and heard the soft purr of a cat that only wanted to be loved. By the time she was taken to a veterinarian, it was too late. Someone out there unceremoniously dumped this cat in my neighborhood, an act so cruel that it defies logic. At least "Honey," as she was named over a 72-hour period, had love at the end.

 * … OVERHEARD: A friend coming back from the beach this week remarked: "What moron at Caltrans decided to reduce Highway 46 to one lane during Spring break week for minor road work?"

 * … SPOTTED: Former Gov. Pete Wilson was in town this week and was spotted in the lobby of the Padre Hotel chatting with KEDC director Richard Chapman and county counsel Teri Goldner.

 * … YOUNG GUNS: One of Bakersfield's best kept secrets is that each year it produces some of the best young skeet shooters in the nation. And that tradition continued this weekend at the Ken Barnes Open Skeet Tournament at the Kern County Gun Club. Miles Ramsey, the 13-year-old Stockdale Christian seventh grader and son of Mark and Betsy Ramsey, came away as the class champion in both the 28 gauge and 410 bore and as High Overall Champion in his class. And Jenna Bouni, 16-year-old daughter of Frank and Lori Bouni, shot a perfect 100 X 100 in the 12 gauge and also claimed the lady's championship with an overall score of 388 X 400. She is a freshman at Grand Canyon College in Phoenix. Both kids represent a long line of local teens who have had outstanding careers shooting skeet.

   * … MEMORIES: Jack Kelley posed this question:  "Good morning Richard. I was wondering if any of the old timers in Bakersfield remember the police motorcycles painted red and black. They were painted black and white after a lawsuit forced all vehicles issuing traffic tickets had to be painted black and white. I don’t think this applies anymore."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bako Bits: Bakersfield turns out for an annual clean up day, bad form at Starbucks and good form to honor city firemen

 * … CLEAN UP: Hats off to all the local people who scanned out around town Saturday for the Keep Bakersfield Beautiful and the Great American Cleanup. I spotted hundreds of folks about town
participating, and city crews were busy on the bike path between Beach Park and Manor Drive picking up discarded grocery carts and other trash.

 * … SPOTTED: At the Starbucks on Oswell a young mother is sitting in a brown leather chair cuddling with her young son. The problem: her shoes are off and her dirty feet are lounging on the surface of the round table where people place their food.

 * … GOOD FORM: A group of city firemen from the No. 15 station in Seven Oaks are at Jersey Mike's restaurant when they learned a patron has picked up their bill. "We were all surprised and so thankful," fireman Stephen Elrod told me. "All we know was that his name was Walk and we wanted to thank him."

 * … THE MARK: It looks like The Mark will be the latest restaurant it town to cash in on the popularity of outside dining. The eatery has leased a parking lot next to its building on 19th Street and is planning on outside dining with a bar, modeled after what Luigi's Delicatessan did a few years ago when it expanded its garden seating.

 * … TRASH: Karen DeWalt submitted this bit of good news: "I recently submitted an article about Caltrans cleaning up the corner of Golden State frontage road and F Street and trimming the Oleanders.  Last Wednesday the corner was getting cleaned up, not by Caltrans but someone who saw the article. Not only cleaned up the corner but the road as well. This group is called Retiree Pickup.  The corner is cleaned up and now waiting for Caltrans to pick up the weeds. Thank you so much for the Retirees Pickup Group which goes out every Wednesday where needed."

 * … FUND RAISER: There are still tickets left to this year's Vino Amore 2014, the fund raiser put on by Bakersfield East Rotary. It's on for Saturday, April 26, at Monsignor Leddy Hall at Garces Memorial High School. Chef Gino Valpredo and Luigi's will provide dinner paired with wines from Croad Vineyards. Tickets are $75 each and can be purchased by calling Scarlett Sabin at (661) 900-8995.

  * … MEMORIES: My recent blog post about the old Toohey's restaurant triggered this response from Virginia Ratzlaff Pool. "The article about Toohey's brought about memories of the first shopping center outside of downtown. Toohey's was only a small part of the village. I lived across the street from Reimer's Spic-N-Span Market and only half block from Toohey's. I ran around with the Toohey girls who lived on Jeffrey Street. The neighborhood was really nice back then. Mr. Toohey would let us girls come into the restaurant with our roller skates on during closed hours and skate around the counter.  It was quite something. Those were the good old days."

Friday, April 11, 2014

McCarthy: One budget is the typical tax and spend Democratic plan, while the House plan calls for pro-growth tax reform and a plan to pay down the national debt

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip, brings us up to date on Capitol Hill. In his words:

 "This week was budget week in the House of Representatives. Just as budgets are an important tool for American families and businesses, my colleagues and I believe it is important for elected Representatives to present our constituents with a plan for the future. I would like to highlight two
budgets, in particular, and let you decide which plan you prefer.

 "The first is President Obama’s proposed budget. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid described this plan as 'a powerful statement of Democratic principles,' and I couldn’t agree more. The Administration’s plan for America consists of raising taxes by $1.8 trillion to pay for $6.1 trillion in new spending. It cuts national defense by $283 billion, and leaves our future generations with $3.8 trillion in increased debt. Moreover, the President’s budget never comes to balance—ever. In short, it is the same tax-and-spend policy that Washington Democrats have prescribed for years.

  "The other plan was drafted by my good friend House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and supported by House Republicans. It addresses Washington’s out-of-control spending and comes to balance in 10 years. It expands opportunity for all by calling for pro-growth tax reform and increased domestic energy production. It increases spending on national defense, so our men and women in harm’s way can have the training and tools they need. It repeals Obamacare and calls for patient-centered reforms. It protects Medicare so we can keep the promise to our seniors. And it strengthens the safety net for those among us who have fallen on hard times.

 "The President’s budget was given a vote on the House Floor this week.  Out of 415 votes, it received only two “aye” votes. Yes – only two.

  "Meanwhile, I worked to help pass the only budget in Washington that balances and takes the necessary steps to pay down our debt and get our economy back on track. The budgets described here present very distinct paths and I believe our budget provides the only real path to prosperity.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Neighbors square off against each other in the Bakersfield Country Club area over a proposal to gate off parts of the community, and David Gordon takes over the Arts Council

 * … GATES: There is a mini-storm brewing up in the Bakersfield County Club area where some residents are asking the county for permission to gate off parts of the neighborhood. The gates would be installed at Dalehurst Drive and Wingfoot, Wingfoot and Country Club and at Pinehurst and Country
Club, even though a number of homes in that area are already behind their own private gates  I am told a spike in home burglaries has led to this proposal, but opponents say it will only divide the neighborhood and funnel traffic down non-gated streets, not to mention close off streets to folks who like to take a morning walk. I have a feeling this topic will make the installation of cul-de-sacs in Westchester look like walk in the park.

 * … ARTS COUNCIL: I was happy to hear that David Gordon has been appointed director of the Arts Council of Kern. Gordon is an accomplished artist himself and a former employee of the Bakersfield Museum of Art. His experience will no doubt be an asset to the Arts Council, which has struggled in recent years to remain relevant.

 * … OLD SALT: My pal and Navy veteran Gene Bonas provided this shout out to all his fellow submariners: "Thought you'd like to know that on April 11, 1900, the Holland VI was acquired by the U.S. Navy. Although not actually commissioned as a warship until October 12, 1900, April 11th is celebrated as the birthday of the U.S. submarine fleet.  The U.S.S. Holland was considered to be the world's first truly successful submarine. In honor of our special day, this Friday all submariners are encouraged to wear their 'dolphins' to work or play.  Happy birthday, fellow bubbleheads!

* … SPOTTED: Talk about bad form. Cheryle DeMarco was at the Target store on Mall View Road a few months ago when she spotted this:  "I was getting in my car which was parked about three spaces down from the entrence. I looked at the car parked in front of me and a little girl (about 8 or 9) was unloading quite a bit of trash right onto the parking lot. Her mother stood at the opened car door on the other side looking all around the lot like pretending to not see what she probably told her daughter to do, throw all the trash from the car out. We were only about 40 feet from a trash can. I thought this is one reason we have a litter problem. Parents teach their kids this bad habit. I always made my kids throw their trash out, even in places like the movie theater. You clean up after yourself, simple as that!"

 * … MORE TRASH: Deanna Haulman extended props to the Just Johnson Park Work Center. "These young men and women are faithfully out at Hart Park Monday through Friday cleaning rest rooms and picking up trash that people are too lazy to do.  I think even if large trash bags were provided it still wouldn't help because these are the same people who can't walk 20 steps to a large trash can. There are those that leave their trash bags but do not realize or don't care that the park critters get into those bags at night."

 * … GRANT: Hats off to the Kern Economic Development Corp. and the East Bakersfield High Health Careers Academy for winning a $15,000 grant to prepare the local workforce to fill healthcare positions in Kern County. The grant will support the purchase of medical equipment for Academy students to practice treatment solutions as well as job shadowing at Kern Medical Center. The grant came from the Office of Statewide Planning and Development.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A veterinarian gives props to a local animal rescue group and remembering Tooey's Steak House in lower La Cresta in the Northeast

 * … PETS: The way some people treat their pets, like disposable diapers, is beyond disheartening, but every once in a while we hear something that gives us hope. Over at the City of Bakersfield Animal Care Center, veterinarian Robert Duquette sent me this note: "We are always appreciative of the many rescues that help us rehome our furry friends but The Kern Project recently adopted 37 animals in one day. These pets were then transferred to shelters in Marin County that have a shortage of adoptable shelter animals (obviously our long term goal!).  This was organized locally by Tammy Folino who works with Grace Stauffer from Novato. We are also very extremely grateful to Cori Mincher, Jeff Cross and Bill Murray from the Double Tree Hotel for making a substantial donation of towels and linens that can be used for bedding. Our shelter is always in need of any bedding donation and their single contribution almost doubled our stock!"

 * … DINING: Last week I mentioned some of the new restaurants that have sprung up downtown over the last few years. A reader chastised me for not mentioning The Mark, a stunning eatery on 19th Street. Said the writer: "They have a great atmosphere food and a full bar music on weekends. The food is fresh and great quality." I could not agree more.

 * … BURGER: And on the subject of food, I am shameless in my devotion to the Hudson burger at Muertos downtown (who doesn't like a fresh burger with egg and bacon on top?) A friend told me that Bill Lee's and Mexicali downtown also make a good burger. What is your favorite burger in town?

 * … HONOR FLIGHT: Hats off to KERN radio host Ralph Bailey, who raised more than $10,000 on his Monday show to help fund the Honor Flight program. Bailey accompanied some of the veterans back to Washington, D.C., and promptly returned the favor by asking his listeners to support the program. Among those who chipped in were Rep. Kevin McCarthy, state Sen. Jean Fuller and state Rep. Shannon Grove.

 * … TOOEY'S: Margaret Lemucchi solved the puzzle about a long-gone restaurant in La Cresta: "Tooey's steak house was the restaurant where the Tam O'Shanter restaurant sits now. It had a stainless steel half-circle counter where the broiler is now located plus several tables. Jack and Hazel Ewing operated a Scottish/golf-themed bar next door called The Shillelagh. The Ewings acquired Tooey's and then operated the bar and restaurant for many years as Ewing's Tam O'Shanter. Timothy and I bought the business from the Ewings in 1971, called it Lemucchi's Tam O'Shanter, then bought the building, and then expanded the bar to the south where the second bar, stage, and dance floor are now.  Manny Mendez became the proprietor in 1988 and calls the establishment Manny's Tam O'Shanter. "

 * … MEMORIES: Added reader Connie Allen Frasch: "You brought back memories for me. I  grew up in La Cresta just blocks from Tooey's steak house in the 1940s, a small cafe with a counter and stools. I always wanted to go there and have one of Mr. Tooey's famous hamburgers but my dad said it was too expensive!"

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Here's one for the books: Who remembers the Great Kern County Mouse War of 1926? And another oil town in Texas has the lowest unemployment rate in the country

* … MOUSE WAR: John Pryor sent me a note tipping me off to the great Kern County "mouse war" of 1926. It's such an odd story I simply must share it. Turns out Kern County had experienced several years of drought and by 1926 the Buena Vista Lake was dry. Two men then planted 11,000 acres of barley and maize in the dry lake bed, which proved to be an ideal breeding ground for mice. Then, it began to rain and the water level started rising, sending mice scurrying for higher ground. Pryor said more than 50,000 mice were killed in one day by the use of poisoned barley. On Taft
Highway, thousands of mice were ground to deal under car wheels. A man was then hired to poison the mice and - according to legend - some 44 million mice were killed. Sea gulls, ravens and hawks then moved in and the "war" was over. And that, as they say, is the rest of the story.

* … OIL TOWNS: I read with interest a story the other day saying that the U.S. metro area with the lowest unemployment rate is a shale oil boomtown: Midland, Texas. Midland's jobless rate is just 2.9 percent and the city is one of the fastest growing metro areas in the nation thanks to Permian Basin Shale. Kern County, of course, is also experiencing a boom in oil production yet our unemployment rate is well north of 10 percent.

 * … SERVICE: Memo to Damon Culbertson, general manager of Subaru of Bakersfield: not only is your product first class, but your service representative Amanda David is a gem.

 * … PAINTER: And speaking of white glove service, I ran into my favorite house painter Rich Johnson the other day. There are a lot of good painters in town, but few are as meticulous - not to mention just plain nice and cheerful - as Rich. Johnson Painting can be reached at (661) 706-1077.

 * … KENNY BARNES: The 32nd annual Ken Barnes Open Skeet Championship is coming up this weekend out at the Kern County Gun Club. This is an excellent chance to catch some of the top All-American shooters from across the country. The tournament is named in honor of Bakersfield's own Ken Barnes, known as the "father of the 400 X 400." For the uninitiated, that means he hit all 400 targets without so much as one miss. The tournament runs Friday through Sunday.

 * … MEMORIES: I was at Chalet Basque this weekend when a reader asked me a question I couldn't answer. He wanted to know the name of a small cafe that occupied the space where Tam O'Shanter now sits. He thought it was "Touey's" but he wasn't sure of the spelling. Ideas?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bako Bits: hot new art shows highlight Friday downtown, the downtown Rotary Club awards $40,000 in grants and a reader recalls the glory days of the Bakersfield Racquet Club

* … DOWNTOWN: Not sure about you but I plan to spend this Friday downtown for the first First Friday of Spring. Among the attractions, both Uricchio's Trattoria and the Wall Street  Cafe have
new appetizers, The Padre has revamped its menu, Chef's Noodle bar is always a good choice and in my opinion, Muertos has the best burger in town. Over at The Metro Galleries on 19th Street, a new show titled "Echoes and Whispers-Listening to Nature" showcases the creative passion of artist Linda Brown. Ceramic works by Mark Ahlstrand will also be on display.

* … SPELLING: Dave Kettler told me a story that I simply must share. He was in the drive through lane at a downtown eatery recently when he saw a sign in the window saying, 'Thank you for your contentious business.' (Obviously they meant to thank the patrons for 'continuous' business.) When he came to the window, with his tongue planted firmly in cheek, he said 'Your prices are too high, the wait was ridiculous, the food cold and yes, you're welcome!'"

 * … GRANTS: Hats off to the Rotary Club of Bakersfield (the downtown club) whose foundation just awarded more than $40,000 in grants to local non-profit organizations. Among those receiving money were the Boys and Girls Club, Garden Pathways, Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, BARC, Friends of Mercy Foundation, Greater Bakersfield Chamber Vision 2020, Boy Scouts of America, Golden Empire Gleaners, Buena Vista Museum of Natural History and the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

  * … ART: Thursday morning members of the Bakersfield Museum of Art's Blue Ribbon Committee toured the art and sculpture-filled Bakersfield Country Club home of Milt and Betty Younger and were treated to a surprise gift for one of the visiting members. At the end of the tour, Betty surprised them by giving a framed watercolor she painted in 1965 of the Oleander home of W.B. Camp home to committee member Karrie Kirschenmann Camp, who is married to W.B.'s grandson, Clayton. Betty recalled sitting on the curb when she painted it almost 50 years ago. She said she had entered it in the Kern County fair and took first place.

* … MEMORIES: This memory courtesy of reader Michael Perry: "The recent USTA tennis matches at Bakersfield Racquet Club reminded me that my grandfather, Earl Cook, one of the founding members of BRC, once hosted the Ozzie and Harriet Nelson family (including David and Ricky) at his home on Baldwin Road during a tennis tournament at BRC in the early 1950's. Ozzie and Harriet were a tennis family before they were the perfect TV family. Lake and Edith Lovelace often joined Earl and Eva ['Feathers' and 'Mimi' Cook for a spirited game of bridge on Baldwin. Lake, the real founder of the Bakersfield Racquet Club, allowed me to take my first swimming lessons there even though I was way too short. (He proved it by measuring the depth of the pool with his cane and showing me even the shallow end was over my head!) My teacher was Tommy Gallon. I kid you not! "

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The nation marks the birthday of Cesar Chavez, but years after his death the United Farm Workers has become an insulated, irrelevant force, say critics

* … CHAVEZ: The legacy of Cesar Chavez has been in the spotlight this week - a new biopic movie on his life opened along with National Cesar Chavez Day - but is the union he founded still 
relevant? Some critics say no, and they say his foundation now exists to run radio stations, attract grants and employ a few people. Miriam Powell, who wrote an unflinching portrait of Chavez and the United Farm Workers in the book 'The Union of Their Dreams: Power, Hope, and Struggle in Cesar Chavez’s Farm Worker Movement,' said this in an opinion piece for Fox Latino News:  "The man born 87 years ago today worked with a single-minded intensity few could ever match. For a time, that zeal produced unprecedented gains for California farmworkers. But the union he founded failed to thrive and has become irrelevant; farmworkers today know Cesar Chavez only as the name of a famous Mexican boxer. In the end, Chavez’s legacy is far from the fields, in cities across the country where his name evokes pride and his life serves as an example of what community organizing can accomplish."

 * … HEART HEALTH: Margaret Scrivano Patteson is the seeming picture of perfect health: an avid runner and cyclist, she rarely goes a day without a vigorous workout and watches what she eats. Yet while cycling recently the 51-year-old pharmaceutical sales rep suffered a heart attack, and her story is a cautionary tale for all of us who think we are doing the right thing but are unaware of the silent killers within us. Patteson appeared with me on First Look with Scott Cox to talk about her family history of heart disease and to thank her cardiologist, Dr. Brijesh Bambi, the folks at Bakersfield Heart Hospital and her personal physician, Dr. Raj Patel. Go to bakersfield.com to view the entire interview.

 * … GOOD FORM: Julie Calvin submitted this bit of news to make your day. Last Sunday she went to PetStyling Co. on Coffee Road to pick up her dogs after being groomed. "As I hurried to get them safely into my vehicle, I apparently dropped my wallet in the parking lot. Not realizing that I had dropped it, I continued home.  About five minutes later I received a call from the manager at PetStyling and they had found my wallet (I didn’t even realize yet that I had dropped it!).  I went back to retrieve my wallet and everything was still in it. It’s nice to know that there are still honest people in the world!

* … CIOPPINO: Congratulations to Bakersfield West Rotary for another spectacular Cioppino Feed over at Monsignor Leddy Hall this past weekend. The proceeds from the event - it raised some $100,000 -  will help fund the club's foundation as well as Memorial Hospital's pediatric unit.

  * … WRESTLING: I ran into Vernon Varner at the Cioppino Feed and he reminded me of another upcoming fund raiser to support the storied CSUB wrestling program. The event, planned for Tuesday, May 6, will feature former world wrestling champion and ex New England Patriots player Stephen Neal. Tickets are $75 each. Call Janis Varner at (661) 587-8157. CSUB wrestling could not exist with the help from the Varners and the Coyote Club, and it's worth your consideration to support this effort.