Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cal State Bakersfield athletics raises a record $2 million for scholarships, weird happenings at the historic Fox Theater and KERO-TV gets a new news director

 * ... SCHOLARSHIPS: The success of any public university eventually comes down to the support it receives from its alumni base and the community it serves. So I was heartened to hear about the
success achieved by CSUB Athletic Director Kenneth "Ziggy" Siegfried and the Roadrunner Scholarship Fund. It turns out CSUB athletics fundraising reached nearly $2 million following the end of its annual scholarship drive. The Roadrunner Scholarship Fund raised an all-time high of $800,000 of the total $1.9 million raised this year in the department. The Roadrunner Scholarship Fund has now increased over 130 percent since the 2012-2013 fiscal year when the total amount was just under $350,000. Siegfried says the growth of the Roadrunner Scholarship Fund over the last few years has played a major role in the recent success of the athletics department and future growth of the fund will be critical in the department achieving lofty goals.

 * ... FOX THEATER: What in the world is happening with the historic Fox Theater and the foundation that runs it? The explosive and troubling story, first reported by Steve Mayer of The Californian, noted that $154,000 in ticket sales went missing in an apparent dispute between Bob Bender (Bender Entertainment) and the group that represented two comedians who appeared at the venue. The foundation, headed by Melanie Farmer of the Downtown Business Association, has washed its hands of responsibility but that falls far short of what is needed. Someone (hint: that would be you, Melanie) needs to go public to assure the public (many whom have given generously to save the iconic theater) that there is no danger of inflicting long term harm to the Fox. In addition, what is the foundation doing to make sure this doesn't happen again?

* ... KERO: KERO-TV has hired Nancy Bauer Gonzales as its news director and she will start at the Scripps-owned station later this month. She most recently was the news director for a Spectrum cable news channel in Palmdale. Prior to that she was the vice president of  news for the Los Angeles duopoly of KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KCAL-TV Channel 9 for a decade and before that was news director at KNBC-TV Channel 4 also in LA. She is married to KBAK/KBFX main anchor Dave Gonzales. Meanwhile, the station has hired six recent graduates from Arizona State University who will live in Bakersfield for the next year to learn the trade, doing everything from reporting to producing.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Happiness is using an ATM and finding a receipt left by someone with an account balance lower than yours."

 * ... CALIFORNIA: "My friend in Arizona just bought and registered a 2002 Tacoma there.
For title and two years registration cost $53. This state is screwed up worse than polio. I can't wait to leave here."

 * ... GOOD FORM: George and Agnes Plantenga celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary on June 28, accompanied by family and friends at the downtown Mexicali. "When it came time to pay to pay our bill, we found out it had been paid for," they wrote. "We want to say a big thank you to whoever paid for our dinner."

 * ... HAPPY HOUR: A few months ago I told you about the new expanded happy hour at The Padre Hotel, a full five hours from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Well, it turns out that may have been too much of a good thing and the happy hour has now been scaled back to 6 p.m. Meanwhile, the popular Firestone restaurant off California Avenue has a similar happy hour that ends at 6 p.m. but it also promotes $5 bloody Mary's and mimosas all day Sunday.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Five Guys cheeseburger is tasty but expensive, some history on the Big Indian in town, valley fever explodes after the wet winter and CSUB serves the first generation college student

 * ... FIVE GUYS: I stopped by the new Five Guys burger joint over on Calloway and Rosedale
Highway the other day. The verdict: a solid, good burger served by a friendly staff in a lively environment. The French fries were delicious, if a tad thick for my taste, and I enjoyed the free peanuts, a nice touch borrowed from the trend in the Deep South where free peanuts are a staple in many restaurants. The downside: my bacon cheeseburger, fries and a small drink cost $14 and change. That seems a tad pricey no matter how good the burger was. By my calculation, the best casual dining burger in town remains at In-N-Out while the Hudson burger at Muertos Kitchen  and Lounge eclipses the field as the best restaurant burger in Bakersfield.

 * ... BIG INDIAN: Marty Butt is the former superintendent of Standard School District (1990-1998) and she sheds this light on the "Big Indian" statue that now stands next to Ethel's Corral out off Alfred Harrell Highway. Said Butt: "The Indian mentioned by Ken Barnes spent some years as a mascot for the Standard Middle School before the school's mascot name was changed from Indians to Warriors. While I served the community, the Indian that is now at Ethel's was transferred to its current location. A plaque at the Indian's base mentions it's time in SSD."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "It's a good thing our bodies age slowly. It's so much easier to be horrified just a little bit each day."

 * ... CSUB: Did you know that between 60 and 70 percent of the students enrolled at Cal State Bakersfield are the first in their families to attend college? In an area with an alarmingly low percentage of adults with undergraduate degrees, that is good news.

 * ... VALLEY FEVER: Another (perhaps) unexpected outcome of our wet winter: a spike in valley fever cases. That is the word from Dr. Raj Patel of Preferred Family Care who said 2017 is on the verge of becoming the worst case for valley fever cases since 1992.

 * ... KERN RIVER: Ed Cadena has this to say about the drownings in our local Kern River: "I was in Morro Bay Saturday for the Morro Rock to Cayucas Beach Run. Saw this sign by the Rock 'Death from drowning happens once in a life time.' "Post signs like this along the river."

  * ... TRIBUTE: Ronal Reynier dropped me a note so he could congratulate, and "embarrass" his grand daughter Kristen Reynier. She graduated this June from Cal-Poly San Louis Obispo in
biomedical engineering with a minor in mathematics magna cum laude. She will soon be leaving for the University of Virginia to start her six year scholarship in biomedical engineering advance studies. Her goal is to have physically handicapped children walk again. Said Reynier: "Everyday I thank God her and her two siblings, Michelle and Patrick get their intelligence from their parents, Kevin and Pamela Reynier and not their grandfather."

 * ... MEMORIES: A letter to the editor in Saturday's Californian triggered this response from retired police officer Joe Moesta. "Wearing your hat was part of the required uniform of the day (in the 1970s). It didn't make any difference if you were out of your vehicle on a call or inside your vehicle on routine patrol. You were required to wear your hat. It might be 3:30 in the morning and you were the only car on the street, but if Sgt. Benfield saw you bare headed, you could expect to hear on your police radio, 'Able 1-4, put your hat on!' Those were also the days when the only difference in the winter and summer uniform shirt was 'wearing a tie.' The winter uniform shirt was the long sleeve navy blue wool shirt with a tie, and the summer uniform shirt was the long sleeve navy blue shirt without a tie. The temperature of the day made no difference. And those were the 'good old days.'"

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Rosedale Highway Lions Club launches blood drive to honor the late county supervisor Trice Harvey, the search for the missing Trout's sign continues and Jeep chooses Kern County for a national commercial

 * ... BLOOD DRIVE: Former county supervisor and Assemblyman Trice Harvey died in January but his legacy of wit and love for our community lives on. On Saturday the Rosedale Highway Lions Club, where Harvey was a member for 43 years, is sponsoring a blood drive in his honor at the
Houchin Blood Bank on Bolthouse Drive. If Saturday doesn't work, the Lions club said anyone can donate blood in Harvey's name at any of the blood bank locations during the month of July. The club is trying to match Harvey's lifetime donation of 26 gallons.

 * ... LOCAL CRIME: Mike Huston sounded a familiar lament about crime when he dropped me this note: "Living in the gated Bellagio community, across from Centennial High School, you'd think it's safe. This past weekend, someone broke into my friend's car and stole her gym bag and her dad's ashes! Yes, her dad's ashes. If you are the person, or know of those responsible, it would be a nice gesture to atone, by returning, at the very least, the ashes. It's the proper thing to do.":

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Scientists predict hipsters' man buns to fully evolve into beehive hairdos by mid 2017."

 * ... TROUT'S: Ken Barnes weighed in on the missing, iconic neon sign at Trout's with this missive: "Like everyone else, I am wondering where the Trout's fish sign might be. Back in the early 1970s after I sold my tire shop on the Garces Circle, the 'Big Indian' I had in front of the store went missing. One night in the late 1980s I received a call from my son Mike about one in the morning. At the time he was a Kern County deputy, and he said, 'Dad... you won't believe what I am looking at in the back yard of someone's house here in an alley in Oildale. It's the Big Indian. It was later restored and now stands proudly at Ethyl's Cafe on the way to Hart Park. So I would like to think there is still hope for the Trout's fish."

 * ... ASSISTANCE LEAGUE: The Assistance League of Bakersfield has awarded a new round of college scholarships to seven graduating high school seniors. Among those awarded $1,000 each were Yesenia Aguilar of Arvin High; Belen Bravo of Ridgeview High; Luisa Guzman Gomez of East High; Rosa Linda Lopez of McFarland High, Edgar Sanchez Jr. of North High; Ashleen Kaur Sodhi of Ridgeview High and Amy Tinoco of McFarland High.

 *... MOVING UP: Congratulations to a couple of young Bakersfield professionals on the move. Matt Munoz has been hired as the membership service and marketing coodinator for the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Meanwhile, Miranda Whitworth is leaving her job at Kern Federal Credit Union to take a position as manager of communications for Kern Medical.

 * ... SCENIC ROADS: Next time you are watching television pay attention to a new Jeep commercial that features a familiar stretch of road. The spot focuses in on the intersection of the Bena-Caliente Bodfish loop just off Highway 58, a favorite venue for local cyclists.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Round 2 of the summer heat is here, get ready for Grimmway's new colored carrots and Five Guys opens its new burger joint on Calloway Drive

* ... HEAT: Are you ready for round two of our summer heat? Well it's coming. In fact, forecasters
say we will be well above the 100 degree mark for the next two weeks, with the temperature expected to get as high as 108 before settling back down to around to a more reasonable low triple figures. We can expect to be in the 103 to 104 range as the normal for most of this month.

* ... COMMENTARY: Social commentator Chris Arnade, who quit his job on Wall Street to travel America to learn more about what divides us, had this to say about our world: "Opposition to Trump is like initial opposition to Hugo Chavez. So consumed with easy outrage it misses understanding why many voted for him."

* ... NEW NETWORK: If you haven't heard of One America News yet, chances are you will in the near future. OAN is a relatively new, but fast growing news network out of San Diego that is decidedly pro Trump and is finding a home on a growing number of cable providers. Said The Washington Post in a recent profile: "In a volatile TV news landscape where the longtime ratings leader, Fox News, is suffering through a period of internal turmoil, One America has tried to elbow itself into the big leagues, publicly wooing former Fox star Bill O’Reilly to join OAN. Although O’Reilly didn’t take the bait and the channel is available in only about 30 million homes, a far cry from Fox News’s 90 million, One America is growing — in viewer numbers, in influence in Republican circles, and as a potential alternative for conservatives and libertarians who believe Fox’s commitment to a right-wing perspective is weakening."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Before you get married ask yourself: is this the person you want to watch stare at their phone the rest of your life?"

 * ... POLITICAL HUMOR: From Facebook: "Went to Hobby Lobby to get a picture frame and came home with a piece of the one true cross, a couple of Dead Sea Scrolls and the Holy Grail."

 * ... CARROTS: Are you ready for colored carrots? That's the word from Jeff Huckaby, president of Grimmway Farms who told me the world's largest carrot producer is getting ready to market a new line of organic carrots coming in a variety of colors. Much like how beets and potatoes are available in different colors and varieties, Huckaby said the carrots would have different nutritional benefits and will allow salads to contain a different visual pop. Expect to see these carrots marketed via Grimmway's Cal-Organic division.

 * ... FIVE GUYS: The new Five Guys burger restaurant has opened on Calloway Drive and like any new eatery in town, it is a mad dash to get served. Based in Virginia, burger purists claim Five Guys is the east coast's answer to our In-N-Out. My view: it's an outstanding burger but comes up short of dethroning In-N-Out for freshness.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Bakersfield turns out for the July Fourth parades, the Lie-N-Den celebrates an anniversary with a burger special and the CEO of Valley Children's Hospital takes a swipe and those trying to derail Obamacare

 * ... TRASH: Hats off to former Mayor Harvey Hall, who may have left office but remains deeply involved in the community. Thanks partially to Harvey's efforts and funding, the Downtown Street
Ambassador program is continuing, giving day jobs to the homeless to keep our streets clean. Each month, the Bakersfield Homeless Center says hundreds of bags of trash are collected from our streets. That's a good start, but it is just a beginning. Meanwhile Ward 2 City Councilman Andres Gonzales said work is continuing on the idea of creating a self-taxing downtown business district to provide money for security, lighting, trash pickup and marketing.

 * ... HAPPY FOURTH: Bakersfield is at its best during the July Fourth holiday, and this week was no exception. Virtually every neighborhood in town has some form of a Independence Day parade featuring smiling children with wagon adorned red-white-and-blue bunting, a welcome respite from the vitriol in Washington. I attended the downtown Westchester parade where I spotted too many friends to count, but among them were Mayor Karen Goh, Louis Amestoy and daughter Alyson, Ward 2 Councilman Andres Gonzales, Carla Pearson, Lisa Boydstrun, Linda Sullenger, Rick and Lorie Kreiser, Jesse and Jeanine Kraybill, Don Martin, John and Katy Glentzer, Dustin Glentzer, Nate Hayden, Kyle and Kim Carter, Adam Belter, Meir Brown, Scott Spielman, Amy and Zane Smith, Jason Cater, Robert Austin Smith, Pat and Robin Paggi, Jenny and Joseph Andreotti, John and Ginette Brock, Tim and Erika Calahan and sisters Lillie and Ellie Martin.

 * ... LA CRESTA: Meanwhile up in La Cresta, local residents renewed a July Fourth tradition by going house to house to swim in all 27 private pools in the area.

 * ... VALLEY CHILDREN'S: The chief executive officer of Valley Children's Hospital, Todd Sundrapak, has little use for the Senate version of the bill to replace Obamacare. In an opinion piece submitted to the Sacramento Bee, Sundrapak said the House and Senate versions of a new healthcare bill would be a "disaster for America's children... Children account for the largest share of the Medicaid program - also half of enrollees. Yet they are the least expensive to cover, accounting for less than 20 percent of total costs. Moreover, research is clear that children who are covered by Medicaid have better health outcomes and miss school less than other children who have no access to health care. Slashing federal Medicaid support for children is short sighted." Suntrapak will be my guest on the Wednesday edition of The Richard Beene Show on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM.

* ... SPOTTED:A real Bakersfield moment happened recently when Derek Carr appeared at the old Montgomery Ward building on Golden State (now owned by Canyon Hills Assembly of God) to share the gospel, while across the street legions of Oakland Raider fans camped out at a tailgate party to show their appreciation.

* .. LIE-N-DEN: The Lie-N-Den, home to what many consider the best burger in town, is celebrating its 12th year of ownership to a local couple. To celebrate the anniversary they are offering a half chili size for $1 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on July 11. One per person and no take out.

 * ... CLINICA: Clinica Sierra Vista has appointed Jennifer Self as its new director of communications. Self spent more than 25 years at The Bakersfield Californian as editor of its feature Eye Street pages but left recently. Clinica started out in 1970 as a small, rural health program and has since grown to be one of the largest, comprehensive migrant health center systems in the state, offering medical, dental and behavioral health care in Kern, Fresno and Inyo counties.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

When a visitor comes to town, it's time for Wool Grower's, Uricchio's Trattoria, Pyrennes Cafe and other iconic Bakersfield haunts, and get ready for a new gelato introduced for Luigi's Delicatessen and Sully's

 * ... FAMILY VISIT: What do you do with a visiting relative when you want to show them the best of
our town? I spent a few days with my 90-year-old step-father visiting from Scottsdale and, as always, he insisted on eating at some of our "authentic" Bakersfield restaurants. My picks: dinners at Uricchio's Trattoria, Jin Sushi and Wool Grower's with libation stops at The Padre Hotel and the new Silver Fox Lounge across the street from Mexicali downtown. Some of his favorites: the fried calamari at Uricchio's. the pickled tongue and osso bucco at Wool Grower's, and the long cool bar at Pyrennes Cafe under the fans on a hot day.

 * ... GELATO: And speaking of summer treats, make sure you tune into KERO TV anchor Tim Calahan's "Made in Kern County" series next Thursday to see his report on a new gelato being introduced locally. It's called "Gino's Gelato" and will be available at Luigi's Delicatessen and various Sully's locations. Who doesn't think this will be a hit this summer?

 * ... STEAKHOUSE: For all you fans of KC Steakhouse, be advised the popular downtown eatery will be closed July 2-July 5 and will resume normal business hours on Thursday, July 6. On the following Friday the family-owned restaurant will hold a "re-grand opening party." 

* ... HEAT: In light of the death of 48-year-old attorney Benjamin Greene during a 5K run hosted by the Bakersfield Track Club (BTC), I spoke with Dr. Raj Patel of Preferred Family Care about the dangers of exercising in extreme heat. His tip: make sure you rehydrate with liquids that contain electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium). Simply downing more water made be counter-productive because it does not contain the electrolytes that combat cramping and fatigue. His recommendation: coconut water or Pedialyte.

* ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "I only eat tacos on days that end with a 'y.'"

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "When I see names carved into a tree I don’t think it’s cute, I just think it's strange how many people take knives on a date."

 * ... CONSTRUCTION: The folks who live in Oleander are complaining that the repaving of California Avenue between Oak and H street has them boxed in, and it's not getting any better. The rebuilding of that stretch of California will take all summer to complete, adding to the already tough bottleneck at California and the Oak Street bridge for those motorists trying to get to Highway 99. Stay away from this stretch at all costs.

* ... WESTEROS: Looking for a way to get out of the heat over the Fourth of July holiday? If you are a fan of the wildly popular HBO series "Game of Thrones' as I am, be advised HBO2 will air the entire previous six seasons beginning Saturday. This will catch you up wth the entire series leading into the seventh (and final?) year that airs on July 16.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A writer explores the barrios and neighborhoods of east Bakersfield, my search for the best watermelon margarita in town and Motel Radio will appear at Temblor Brewing Co.

 * ... CHRIS ARNADE: Chris Arnade is a former Wall Street investor who for the past year has been traveling the country visiting the poorer areas of our nation to learn more about the issues that divide us. After driving from the east coast he ended up in Kern County recently where he spent time in east
Bakersfield visiting his favorite haunts for the poor: small churches, the local McDonald's and neighborhoods. His reports appear via Twitter and his last two tweets were these: "The US right now is massively divided. The biggest division is race. Even after Obama. The next biggest division is education." And he added this: "I have rarely seen as large a homeless community, relative to town size, as here in Bakersfield."

* ... MARGARITAS: Here's a followup valentine to my friend Dee Rhodes, who challenged me to find the best watermelon margarita in town. One reader, Derek Vaughn, wrote that "the watermelon margarita at Nuestro Mexico is the best I have ever had. They ran out of watermelon one day and the owner went to the store and bought more so he could make them for all of us." Blair Budai, a lighting specialist, chimed in that Centro 18 "serves one that is amazing. I think the best include jalapeƱo." While having lunch at Eureka Burger in the Southwest this weekend, I ordered one off the menu and it too was outstanding.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Fish don’t seem that stupid to me. If a burrito dropped out of the sky and hung in mid-air I would probably eat it."

* ...MOTEL RADIO: Looking for some fresh and inspiring music this week? If so check out the New Orleans-based band Motel Radio that will be appearing at Temblor Brewing Co. on Thursday evening. Grab a bite in Temblor's restaurant and then enjoy this evolving group featuring Americana music. The music starts at 7:30 p.m. and get your tickets online at

 * ... GARTH BROOKS: How about this for popularity: The Garth Brooks concert scheduled for the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles sold out in just 30 seconds, breaking the fair's record for the fastest one-day sell out. Brooks added a second show that is now scheduled for 10:30 p.m. on July 27. Tickets will be on sale at noon on Thursday, June 29.

 * ... GOODWILL: Goodwill Industries is opening its sixth store in Bakersfield this week, going into the space of the old Orchard Supply building at Ming Avenue and Ashe Road. This new space occupies 18,000 square feet of the building and will employ 28 people.

 * ... DAN BLOCKER: John Rodenburg wrote to remember the time that Bonanza star Dan Blocker (Hoss Cartwright on the show) frequented Bakersfield. "Regarding your recent columns concerning Dan Blocker, my mother Johanna Rodenburg believes he was grand marshal of the Bakersfield Christmas Parade in 1960 rather than 1961. I have no reason to doubt her as her memory of such past events is both legendary and scary. She was at the parade that night, standing at the old Foster Freeze at Chester and 10th Street in extremely foggy conditions. She also noted that Lorne Greene of Bonanza fame was part of that same parade. "

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."