Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The coming spectacular solar eclipse, discovering a killer superfood salad and celebrating the perfect down-home simplicity of the 24th Street Cafe

 * ... SOLAR ECLIPSE: Where will you be for the solar eclipse on Monday? This rare event will happen at 10:15 a.m. Pacific time and will end at 2:50 p.m. Easter time. We won't get a total blackout in this part of California, but it will be spectacular nonetheless. (If you want to get the full 100
percent blackout, fly to Salem, Oregon on the west coast or Charleston, S.C. on the east.) Folks are already stocking up on "eclipse glasses" or building their own pinhole projectors. Binoculars can be used but only if you have slide-on filters to protect your eyes.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "Amazing things will happen today if you choose not to be a miserable cow."

* ... STEAK: The most popular local image on Facebook last week was a 33-ounce tomahawk ribeye steak being served at Luigi's Delicatessen. Enough to feed four or more people, the tomahawk is a stunning  culinary masterpiece that that costs the princely sum of $75. When Luigi's served it Friday, Facebook exploded with posts showing folks consuming this meat lover's special. KC Steakhouse also serves the tomahawk and given its popularity, expect to see it served elsewhere.

 * ... GOOD EATS: And speaking of our iconic local eateries, I dropped into the 24th Street Cafe on Saturday for a post exercise caloric experience. There are few more entertaining places in town to eat than at the cafe's friendly counter enjoying a deep menu and crisp service while watching the world go by.

 * ... MORE EATS: As long as I am talking about food, I would be remiss if I didn't mention  an impressive "superfood" salad available at BJ's Restaurant off Stockdale Highway in the Southwest. Perhaps one of the best and healthiest salads I have had in a long time, it features baby kale, Romaine lettuce, Peruvian quinoa, sliced apples, fresh blueberries, diced cucumbers and tomatoes, jicama, sweet corn and asparagus.

* ... GOOD FORM: Congratulations to Dr. Tom Gordon and Bakersfield West Rotary for sponsoring 30 needy children for a 'back to school' shopping spree. Vija Turjanis of Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services said Rotary West has been doing this since 2005. The kids were given $100 each to shop at Kohl's.

 * ... GRAPEVINE: John Kelley added this note to my recent piece about how the Grapevine was named:  "Richard to add to your blog on the community of Grapevine, as you printed Grapevine Canyon was named by Don Pedro Fages, ( La Canada de Las Uvas ) which translates to 'The Canyon of the Grapes.' The grapes are Cimarron Grapes, they grew so profusely the soldiers under Fages had to hack their way through them. Don Pedro Fages was chasing army deserters. Also Don Pedro named Buena Lake, and the area he viewed was a labyrinth of lakes and tulares. Many people believe that Father Francisco Garces was the first white man to enter the San Joaquin Valley; not so Don Pedro Fages was there four years ahead of Garces."


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Remembering the famous studio musicians called "The Wrecking Crew" and a young bass guitarist named Carol Kaye, Happy Jack's gives back to the Ronald McDonald House and Taft College gets a big donation from a supporter

 * ... WRECKING CREW: Before he rose to fame, the late Glenn Campbell was an accomplished studio musician and a member of a famous group of musicians in Los Angeles called "The Wrecking Crew." Active in the 1960s and 1970s, the Wrecking Crew became the most requested session
musicians of their time, playing with artists such as Frank Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, the Beach Boys, the Monkees and even the Byrds. In addition to Campbell, other members included keyboardist Leon Russell, guitarist Tommy Tedesco and saxophonist Steve Douglas. And, not to be forgotten, the crew also included a talented young bass guitarist named Carol Kaye, who at 84 now lives in Rosamond.
Kaye was the bassist on Phil Spector and Brian Wilson productions and recorded guitar on Ritchie Valens' huge hit "La Bamba." The story of the Wrecking Crew was made into a documentary now available on Netflix.

 * ... HAPPY JACK'S: My friend Gene Bonas, a proud Navy veteran, reminded me of an important event this weekend that is worthy of note. Said Bonas: "Stopped in at my favorite diner to have a delicious hamburger and spoke with the owners of Happy Jack's, Frances and Ruben Rosales. They said they're sponsoring another fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House this coming Sunday, August 13, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. All money collected will go to Ronald McDonald House, and workers are donating their time, wages and tips. Last year Happy Jack's presented Ronald McDonald House $8,000. The goal this year is $10,000. So, for a delicious breakfast or lunch please support this worthwhile fundraiser."

 * ... RIP HARRY: Taft College lost a friend and community role model last year with the death of Harry Wilson, who graduated from the school in 1942. Wilson, who died last September at the age of 96, served in both World War II and the Korean war and later worked at ARCO for 30 years before retiring. The college has now announced that Wilson left the college $1.6 million, which will help fund  student support services along with starting the Opal Smith and Harry Wilson Endowment for Taft College.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Sometimes I'm good at eating healthy, but other times I have to change into bigger clothes in the middle of a meal."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "Unfortunately, I don't have the type of rage that makes you want to clean house."

 * ... NUESTRO MEXICO: Congratulations to the folks who own Nuestro Mexico, the intimate eatery on 21st Street that consistently serves up quality food at affordable prices. (They also happen to offer an awesome margarita). According to the Californian's Dorothy Mills-Gregg, the restaurant is looking to open a lounge at the corner of Calloway Drive and Hageman Road to serve the fast growing Northwest area.

 * ... MEMORIES: Did you know that the Grapevine is actually a community located at the foot of what we now know as the 'Grapevine grade" headed to Los Angeles? According to the Facebook page Kern County of old, "The village and grade are named, not for the once-winding road known as the Grapevine that used to climb the steep mountain canyon, but for the canyon it passed through with its wild grapes that still grow along the original road. Its Spanish name was La CaƱada de las Uvas, i.e. Grapevine ravine." Wikipedia added: "The top of the Grapevine is registered as California Historical Landmark #283, where Don Pedro Fages passed through in 1772 during his explorations through California."

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

One woman's story of struggle, loss, drugs, homelessness, jail and redemption and Clinics Sierra Vista joins the campaign to keep the Kern River safe

 * ... REDEMPTION: Do you believe in second chances, fate and redemption? Do you believe there is hope for someone who went to jail 10 times for everything from drug use to grand theft and spent
years living on the street? Those are long odds for sure, but 35-year-old Tara Hunt is an example of why we should never give up. Hunt has lived a life not for the faint of heart: her mother was murdered, her father died of AIDS and she fell into a life of crime, drugs, deceit and denial. But she refused to quit and today, drug free, sober and determined, is working for county Supervisor Leticia Perez as she climbs the ladder of redemption. I will be chatting with Hunt today (Wednesday) on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM as she shares her story of failure, despair and later - success.

 * ... KERN RIVER: Hats off to Clinica Sierra Vista which has stepped forward to take an aggressive approach to warning people about the dangers of swimming in the Kern River. Clinica, a non-profit that serves 150,000 people in Kern, Fresno and Inyo counties, has launched a multimedia campaign to keep people out of the river, whose raging waters have claimed at least a dozen lives this summer alone. The health-care organization has embarked on a blitz of radio PSAs, print ads, social media posts and perhaps the most high-profile outreach of all: five billboards – three in English, two in Spanish – that remind valley residents that there’s only one sane way to approach the Kern River: by appreciating its beauty from the riverbank. The campaign isn’t cheap; Clinica is spending $23,000 to get the word out. But the only cost Clinica CEO Steve Schilling is worried about is the human one. “Keeping our patients and our fellow neighbors healthy and safe is a public health obligation we take very seriously. This is just another way we can help make that happen."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Sorry I used a 3D printer to make an exact replica of your mom and we're dating now."

 * ... THE MARK: The popular downtown restaurant The Mark, known for its live music and Tuesday night jazz sessions, has parted ways with manager Jeramy Brown. Meanwhile Meir Brown, owner of Cafe Med, has been brought in as interim general manager to build a new management team.

 * ... OVERHEARD: A local hair stylist is telling a customer about why she left her old salon: "I found out the owner put up cameras inside the building, with audio, so she could listen in on all of our private conversations."

 * ... TRASH: A big "thank you" to the woman who was spotted picking up trash on the Panorama Bluffs at 6:30 a.m. this week.

 * ... GREEN ENERGY: Chris Padham contributed this to our morning: "An interesting read yesterday about energy costs during the summer months. Just paid my PGE bill. I used .06 kilo watt more than last years period. It cost an additional  $35 for this year. I now understand why it's called green energy. The whole point is to take as much green from your wallet as they can."

 * ... MEMORIES: The old American Jewelry Co. used to be located at the corner of 20th and Eye streets downtown, and outside was an elegant street clock. According to the Facebook page Kern County of Old (an endless source of fascinating historical footnotes) that clock is now in Illinois. One reader noted: "The American Jewelry Co., Bakersfield  purchased a Joseph Mayer street clock in 1922. It remained in Bakersfield until Jasper San Filippo purchased it. It is now restored as part of the San Filippo collection in East Barrington, IL at 'Place de la Musique.'"

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The ugly mixture of politics and social media spill over to Facebook, Sheriff Donny Youngblood weighs in on marijuana and lamenting the growing hopelessness in our society

 * ... MCCARTHY: If there are two things that don't mix, they are politics and social media. That ugly recipe was on rare display this week when a Kern County teacher, Shannon M. Barnes, posted a picture of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy having lunch in Santa Monica and implying he was "toasted" drunk. That triggered a flurry of reactions, with Kevin's wife Judy Wages McCarthy
weighing in to defend her husband. "Whether done by a child or an adult, bullying is wrong," she wrote, adding her husband doesn't even drink.  "I didn't post a lie about someone being drunk in public. Instead this person posted a lie about my husband being drunk in public. Why? Divisive politics. Stop. Please. Take responsibility." Barnes later took down the original post (only after the Democratic Women of Kern asked its members to come to her aid because of "a lot of hate from little Kevin's fan base," but the responses didn't stop there. Even Connor McCarthy, Kevin and Judy's son, weighed in, posting a long and thoughtful response and saying the picture was taken while his father was celebrating his daughter's 21st birthday party. He added: "In all honesty I found the first post pretty hilarious. I've only seen him drink alcohol three times in my entire life.

* ... MARIJUANA: Nobody is watching the county debate over marijuana closer than Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, who has not hid his distaste for the idea of legalizing the drug. "I will follow the law," he told me on KERN NewsTalk this week. Youngblood's fear: even if the state and county impose regulations on pot shops, an underground market with even more powerful cannabis may flourish. Meanwhile, Youngblood said the mountains of Kern County remain hotspots for illegal marijuana farms cultivated illegally on private property.

 * ... ROAD CONSTRUCTION: Here's some good news for local drivers: the city has completed its renovation and repaving of California Avenue between H and Oak streets. The project, a major headache for folks who live in Oleander, was thankfully completed before students returned to Bakersfield High School.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: Coffee does a good job of waking you up but accidentally dropping your phone on your face does an even better job."

 * ... OVERHEARD: At Cafe Med recently a young married woman is confiding in her girlfriend: "We get along great. I just tell him what he wants to hear and most of the times he isn't listening anyway."

 * ... SPOTTED: A local teacher expressed this lament on social media: "I prefer the homeless downtown to any jerk in a lifted truck. They are friendly, more interesting, and don't look at you like you're a freak.:"

 * ... CHRIS ARNADE: Chris Arnade is a former Wall Street banker who spent the past two years traveling the country and spending time with the least fortunate among us. His last stop on his cross country sojourn: east Bakersfield. Some of his observations include these: "If you are at the bottom of a system that those at the top claim is fair/just... well their claim is pretty much intended to be humiliating.... The word I keep coming back to, what I see in so many 'back-row' communities, is humiliation. And as a result, a desire for respect... If that small chance is missed it means a lifetime of feeling looked down on. Because America is a meritocracy, so it was clearly your fault... For many getting out requires threading narrow needle of opportunities starting from an early age. You must do everything right. No mistakes."

 * ... OUR COUNTRY: And Jim Milledge added this about the economic disparity in our country: "I am not homeless, but I can give you an example or two of why we are in financial trouble. The haves are growing by leaps and bounds. Example: I am retired from ATT. I have not received an increase in my pension for almost 20 years. At the same time, the CEO for ATT has a total compensation package that exceeds 25 million a year. The haves have forgotten the have nots. Second, we need to give people a hand up, not a hand out. Many of the poor are generation poor. They need to help themselves or we will have to carry them for eternity."

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A decade of wage stagnation and the Great Recession are leaving a long tail of homelessness and despair, celebrating the mighty sycamore tree and the benefits of owning a dog

 * ... OUR COUNTRY: What is coming of our country? Are you troubled like me when you witness the explosion of homelessness across our nation, the opioid crisis, the deterioration of our great cities and legions of Americans simply giving up and checking out of the
system? We have seen a decade of wage stagnation, the death of many programs aimed at the poor, the great recession and now we are paying the price. And check this out: according to Supervisor Leticia Perez, 25 percent of all the homeless in the United States live in California. We see it on our streets, in the tent camps along the freeways, along our river and in the alleys of our neighborhoods.

 * ... SYCAMORE: My favorite tree is the mighty sycamore that graces so many yards in the downtown and northeast areas of town. I have a tall one in my back yard, and it provides shade and a lovely backdrop to my small space where I entertain. But did you know that sometimes the
sycamores give off a distinctive odor? Answering a reader question about the scent, the New York Times reported: "The sycamore is also called the buttonwood tree or American planeteree. Perhaps you're thinking of an unrelated old world tree, Ficus sycomordus, or sycamore fig, which is far better known to perfume makers. Chanel once used an extract of its leaves in its famous fragrance. In both trees, and in many other odoriferous species, the chemical source of the scent may be the same. Their leaves, bark and sometimes wood are rich in organic chemicals called terpenes and terpenoids, volatile oils that are a major component of the essential oils used in perfumes."

 * ... DOGS: Meanwhile, the Times also reported this about one of the many benefits of owning a dog: "Older dog owners who walked their dogs at least once a day got 20 percent more physical activity than people without dogs ... and spent 30 fewer minutes a day being sedentary, on average."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I prefer not to think before I speak. I like being just as surprised as everyone else by what comes out of my mouth."

* ... KERN RIVER: Here's a note from reader John Bertolucci, who like many of us is clearly frustrated with folks from out of town ignoring warnings about the dangers of swimming in the Kern River. In his words, dripping with a healthy dose of sarcasm: "How about a word from the realists and contrarians: Those that are going to get in the river had better do it, and decrease the surplus population of California. We are all dying as we walk through life, why not die nobly in the mighty Kern just outside the hicksville town Bakersfield. Donald Trump should build a wall around the river to keep those people IN it!"

 * ... MEMORIES: Ronal Reynier added this to the conversation about Bakersfield police officer Sgt. Chitwood. "In my school days when we still used clay tablets: Tom Kelly, of the Bakersfield Police Department, came to school classrooms to give talks. This was many years before Sgt. Chitwood. Tom Kelly was a favorite with students who went home and told their parents what a great guy he was. I seem to remember he came to the school on a motorcycle. He parlayed these stories and a great smile in running and becoming sheriff from 1951 to 1955. I am sure there are those out there who have better memories than I. I may even have my facts turned around."

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And lastly, Lynn LeBeau had this to say: "I have often thought about Sgt. Chitwood when driving around town. He was my behind-the-wheel driver's ed teacher during East High's summer school program in 1968. He was authoritative but patient - and added a twinkle of humor to ease a nervous teen's jitters. His lessons have kept me (and others) safe these many years!"

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Kern River through Bakersfield expected to dry up by October, Willie Rivera says he won't run for reelection to the City Council and Dignity Health steps up to sponsor the Bakersfield Marathon

 * ... KERN RIVER: Next time you drive through town make sure you appreciate the fast flowing current of the Kern River. Though still highly dangerous, the current has slowed considerably (at least
from its peak) and experts are now saying the riverbed may be completely dry by October. When that happens, we can all break out our tee-shirts that read: "Bakersfield: a riverbed runs through it."

* ... RIVERA: Willie Rivera, the youngest person ever elected to the Bakersfield City Council, has announced he will not seek reelection. Rivera, now 26, is in his second term serving Ward 1 but told me on my radio program that he is ready to move on. Rivera says he is not sure what the next step is, but he will remain in Bakersfield.

 * ... MCCARTHY: Did you catch House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy being interviewed on The Today Show by Jenna Bush Hagar? He was promoting the merits of a bill he sponsored that would provide free training in high tech careers to veterans.

* ... MARATHON: Hats off to Dignity Health which has stepped up to become the new title sponsor for the Nov. 12 Bakersfield Marathon. The title sponsorship of the marathon represents a robust partnership between Dignity Health and the Active Bakersfield Alliance, a privately-funded nonprofit organization that has managed the Bakersfield Marathon since its inception.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Being an adult means going to the grocery store and paying a ton of money and still having nothing to eat."

* ... MEMORIES: Tom Walker wrote to answer a question about a Sgt. Chitwood who used to visit local elementary schools. Said Walker: "He is my father-in-law. I married his daughter Cheryl Chitwood in 1966 and have been happily married to her for 51 years. Sgt. Carl Chitwood was a wonderful man and a member of the Bakersfield motorcycle drill team and retired from the police department after 25 years. He would go to the area elementary schools and teach bicycle safety to all the kids."

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And Phyllis (Hicks) Smith added this: "In your memories section of your column Gary Fong has mentioned Sgt. Chitwood visiting the schools many years ago. His mother was my dad’s sister Mollie. I am sorry I really didn’t get to know the sons as they were somewhat older than I.  I do not remember which one was the officer, but I think it was Carl. There was Carl, Russell and Wallace. Thank you Mr. Fong for remembering this."

 * ... AND MORE: Lastly, reader Vickie Shallock chimed in with this memory: "He came to the elementary schools and talked to us about the police department and, specifically, bicycle safety. I even came across my BPD Bicycle Riders License that Sgt. Chitwood issued to me in sixth grade (1961-1962). My dad, who was CHP, knew Sgt. Chitwood as well and always spoke favorably about him."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

More Americans than ever are living well past 100, another case of impaired driving takes the lives of a Taft mother and daughter and Cynthia Zimmer holds a successful fund raiser

 * ... LONGEVITY: Here is some good news: thanks to advances in science and healthcare, the number of folks
living beyond the age of 100 continues to grow. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, there are now 53,364 centenarians in the United States compared to just 37,306 in 1990. The winners in all this: businesses related to the care and housing of healthy seniors and healthcare providers.

 * ... DRUNK DRIVING: My heart goes out to the family of Raeleen and Raegan Sorensen, a mother and daughter from Taft who are the latest victims of string of drunk driving incidents. The Sorensens were driving on Taft Highway when they were struck by a car driven by 34-year-old Vincent Moroyoqui, who now faces two counts of murder and two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. And yes, you guessed it, this is not the first time Moroyoqui has driven while impaired. According to reports, he was arrested for DUI three different times in the past 15 years.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Paid for something at Whole Foods with a card that didn't have a chip in it and a 7-year-old in a Ramones shirt hit me with a sock full of kale."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "My wife's signature move is asking me a question then turning on the faucet when I answer."

* ... ZIMMER: A big crowd turned out this past Saturday to raise money for the campaign of Cynthia Zimmer, the longtime prosecutor running to succeed Lisa Green as District Attorney. The event was held at the southwest offices of Bolthouse Properties, where company president Tony Leggio rolled out the red carpet to garner support for Zimmer. Among those attending were Mayor Karen Goh, former Kern County Sheriff Carl Sparks, state Sen. Jean Fuller and Mark Abernathy, her campaign consultant. The only other announced candidate in the race so far is assistant district attorney Scott Spielman.

 * ... DUELING PIANOS: Who says there is nothing to do in Bakersfield? One of the best deals in town is being hosted by The Padre Hotel in the Prospect Lounge every Friday and Saturday night, featuring an energetic version of "dueling pianos" that has no equal in town. The best feature: there is no cover charge but management advises everyone to arrive early to secure seating.

 * ... GOOD FORM: Once again the employees out at Grimmway Farms are showing their commitment to the communities they serve. This past weekend, Grimmway volunteers joined the Lamont business community in distributing backpacks and school supplies to some 500 school-bound children. Its was all part of the Back to School Supply Drive led by the Greater Lamont Chamber of Commerce.

* ... MEMORIES: Gary Fong wrote in with this query: "In grade school we used to get visits from a Sgt. Chitwood (or maybe it was Chickwood) of the Bakersfield Police Department. He would give short talks or demonstrations about safety or good PR with the police. I was just wondering if anyone remembers him." Anyone?

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.