Thursday, October 19, 2017

CSUB holds its annual alumni bash, millennials turn on Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan and Temblor Brewing Co. becomes known for comedy

 * ... CSUB ALUMNI: Did you know that CSUB now has more than 47,000 alumni? That's the word
from Sarah Hendrick, head of Alumni Engagement and one of the organizers of the Friday "Party in the Park" event to raise money for alumni scholarships. The idea: fully engage as many alumni as possible to give them an emotional ownership stake in their university. Consider the good that would come if each of those 47,000 alumni contributed $50 a year to the scholarship fund.

* ... CANNABIS: It must have come as a surprise to City Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan when she encountered a firestorm of criticism to a Facebook page she posted urging county supervisors to ban the legal sale of cannabis. The page, called "Kern County: Get off the Pot" triggered more than a thousand comments, and 90 plus percentage of them wanted marijuana to be regulated. From what I could tell, most of the comments came from the millennials, a generation that has grown up with cannabis in their lives much as past generations did with cigarettes. The war on cannabis is largely a generational issue, and eventually the young win those battles.

* ... DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It must be odd to be a prosecutor in the Kern County District Attorney's office, and not because the job is hard or crime is increasing. Rather, deputy DAs are lining up to support either assistant DA Scott Spielman or deputy DA Cynthia Zimmer in the race to succeed the retiring Lisa Green as District Attorney. In an office of some 80 prosecutors, one might expect some tension between co-workers as we head to the June 2018 primary election.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I'm not impressed by your looks, money, social status or job title. I'm impressed by the way you treat other human beings."

 * ... TEMBLOR: Temblor Brewing Co. was founded as a homage to craft beer, but the business off Buck Owens Boulevard is increasingly being known for something else: a home for live stand-up comedy. Among some of the comedians appearing soon at Temblor: Adam Carolla, Carlos Mencia, Pauly Shore and Kevin Hefferman. For dates and times, check out the Temblor Facebook page.

 * ... GOOD FORM: Bakersfield College instructor Olivia Garcia shared this bit of good form on Facebook: "I wish I could thank the stranger who passed on a little bit of kindness to me today: In a rush to meet up with one of my mentors today, my bright red scarf accidentally slipped off and fell somewhere near my car in a busy shopping mall parking lot. Upon my return, more than an hour later, I saw the scarf neatly wrapped into the handle of my driver's door, waiving through a nice breeze, as if it was greeting me. It was a small gesture, but it made me realize that there is such goodness in our Bako town. We should be proud of that. I will definitely pay it forward."

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

New restaurants and sports stores headed to Bakersfield, a reader rants about our City Council and some good form about town

 * ... RETAIL GROWTH: I sat down with retail broker Duane Keathley of Cushman Wakefield for a roundup of local development. Among other tidbits: it looks like there will be a Texas Roadhouse Grill and a
Victors Cantinia Grill at Valley Plaza near the spot where the Sears auto center was demolished. In addition, both the Yard House restaurant and Dave and Busters are scouting for locations in Bakersfield, and the deal to land the Bass Pro Shops at the northeast corner of the Hoskings exit off Highway 99 is still on. Stay tuned.

* ... MAILBAG: Kym Vliem dropped this note to me regarding our City Council's decision not to enjoy additional tax revenue by regulating marijuana. "Thank you so much for stating the obvious in your column today.  Once again the city has cut off their nose to spite their face by not considering the bigger picture. It's not like the ban will keep pot from coming in to the city's boundaries. I really don't want to hear them whining anymore about needing money after turning down a potential for millions. I also couldn't believe they were kicking around the idea of a 5 percent property tax increase - my bill was over $300 more than last year and the city maintenance district fee went up 248 percent from the prior year. I used to work for the city years ago and have friends retired from there, but it's time for the city to realize it's not their residents' job to finance debt left by the follies of CALPERS who assumed they were always going to get 7-8 percent on their investments but for the city to make the hard financial decisions of making employees pay even more into their retirement funds and medical plans or cut future retirement payouts. I also don't vote for school bonds anymore after seeing an almost $700 assessment for the Rosedale Union School District, in addition to the plethora of other school bonds on my tax bill."

* ... GOOD FORM: Susan Padilla submitted this bit of good form that should brighten your day. Padilla had picked up her grandson at school and was going to treat him to yogurt at Tutti Frutti on Gosford when she realized she had left her wallet elsewhere. "The girl at register said she would hold the yogurts while I went home to get money. I informed her I lived in northeast  and that was impossible. Then an angel walks up and gives the girl his credit card. Thank God. My grandson had this sad face until he realized what was happening. He walked out so happy with his reward. Thanks to this gentleman. His teen son was with him and watched. Lesson learned. Go Bakersfield."

 * ... BAD FORM: What is it about those people who view the public roadways as their personal toilet? Well they are at it again, dumping their soiled mattresses, appliances and ugly couches and easy chairs near the corner of Fairfax and Alfred Harrell Highway. As soon as the city cleans it up, more appears.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "Most people don't realize this, but you can eat gluten-free, non GMO, lactose tolerable foods without telling everyone."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "The ages 18-22 are a confusing time. I got friends getting married, some in prison, and some still have to ask their parents to stay out past curfew."

 * ... HALLOWEEN: My prediction for the most popular costume for Halloween this year: men in bathrobes posing as Henry Weinstein. In bad taste for sure, but expect it

 * ... CRYSTAL PALACE: If you ever get a chance to catch Chris Hillman in concert, don't pass up the opportunity. Hillman played with The Byrds, the Desert Rose Band and Souther Hillman Furay and his talent was on display at The Crystal Palace last week when he played with John Jorgenson and Herb Pederson, accomplished musicians themselves. The Crystal Palace, meantime, remains the best venue in town for live music and a hot steak. Hillman's new album, Bidin' My Time, was produced by the late Tom Petty.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Bakersfield City Council says no to millions in tax revenue from marijuana but then pleads poverty and floats the idea of a sales tax increase. Say what? Meanwhile Craft Tap House and Grill closes on Truxtun Avenue

 * ... OH THE IRONY: So how do you feel about the Bakersfield City Council considering a sales tax increase at the same time it is passing on earning potentially millions of dollars in new revenue by
regulating marijuana? And why do we need a sales tax? Well of course, to pay for pension-related decisions made by previous city councils that have left us all on the hook. The irony here is rich, and I for one will not support any potential sales tax increase while we are saying no to a richer, more dependable revenue stream because we have a 1950s mentality when it comes to cannabis.

* ... BURGER WARS: A Los Angeles-based restaurant company has entered the local burger wars. The company is opening a CaliBurger franchise on Olive Drive at State Road and is now interviewing prospective employees.

 * ... CRAFT BEER: It looks like the Craft Tap House and Grill has closed, a victim of the explosion of restaurants featuring specialty beers and bar food. Located off Truxtun in the home of a previous restaurant, the craft house opened in February of last year featuring more than 50 different types of beer. Meanwhile across town, another craft beer venue - Temblor Brewing Co. - is celebrating two years in business.

* ... GOOD FORM: Hats off to Sam Ames, the local woodworking craftsman who spotted a couple in distress on Highway 65, turned his car around and helped them fix their flat tire. The couple spoke little English but Ames, who lived in Spain as a young man when he raced bikes, helped them through and referred them to Country Tire and Wheel in Bakersfield.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "My wife asked me to load the dishwasher. So I poured her some shots and told her to start drinking. And that’s how the fight started."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "I spend an extraordinary amount of time counting other people's food items in the express line."

 * ... MEMORIES: A picture of a 50-year-old bottle of 7-Up in mint condition showed up on the Facebook page "Kern County of Old." The bottle, manufactured at the old 7-Up plant in east Bakersfield, was used by Laurie Smith's grandmother to dampen fabrics while she ironed. Said Smith: "I can recall my grandma using this 7-Up bottle with the little runner plug sprinkler top to dampen fabrics when she ironed. The 7 ounce bottle came from Bakersfield's own 7-Up bottling facility. It's in mint condition, even after 50 plus years! The little rubber sprinkling plug is a neat little piece of Americana too. Note the ingredients on the back of the bottle. No wonder 7-Up used to taste so much better years ago!"

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

RIP Pete Cattani and Bill Lee, our homeless population and former Mayor Mary K. Shell shows some resourcefulness at the Holy Smoke barbecue

 * ... RIP: Bakersfield lost a pair of local businessmen this past week. Sherman Lee, owner of Bill Lee's Bamboo Chopsticks and a major landowner downtown, died of pancreatic cancer and Pete Cattani,
owner of the Ammo Dump gun store, also passed away. Lee was 76 years old while Cattani was 84. Cattani was active in shooting competitions and his Easton Drive gun store was a must-stop among shooting enthusiasts. In June, we lost Gene Thome, owner of Bear Mountain Sports off Weedpatch Highway.

 * ... HOMELESSNESS: I moderated a panel on homelessness at CSUB recently and some of the statistics were just stunning. Some of what I heard: the homeless population is getting younger, particularly among women and their children. In addition fully 65 to 70 percent of the homeless veterans without combat experience have substance absue issues, and there is a clear distinction between panhandlers (many of whom have places to live) and the true homeless. Another worrying sign: their numbers are steadily increasing not only in Bakersfield but across the country.

 * ... DISNEYLAND: The oddest, and most stunning, photographs that appeared on Facebook this week were the pictures taken at Disneyland while the Anaheim Hills fires turned the skies an eerie blood orange. The amusement park remained open while just a few miles away the wind-whipped fire consumed a dozen expensive homes.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "The problem with drinking with people from work is they’re the ones I bitch about when I’m drunk."

 * ... PAT SAJAK: This tweet from Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak spoke volumes: "OK, let me explain this again: We're celebs. We're wiser and more empathetic than you. We are famous. Please take our opinions more seriously."

 * ... MARY K. SHELL: Former mayor Mary K. Shell has always been known for her resourcefulness and it was on display last week when she attended the Holy Smoke barbecue at Garces Memorial High School. Navy veteran Gene Bonas shared a table with the former mayor and reported this: "My wife noticed she was eating her steak with a plastic fork, so Robbie offered her one of the steak knives she always brings to BBQs for everyone to use. With a sly smile, Mary K. held up a Swiss Army knife and stated she was doing quite well. Mary K. was a totally delightful person to have dinner with."

 * ... BAD FORM: An odd sight along the bike path near North Chester this weekend when a group of riders headed west turned the corner to come upon two homeless men laughing hysterically as a muscular black pit bull was hanging from a rope tied to a tree, his sturdy jaw clenched tight to the end of the rope in an apparent show of strength.

 * ...REUNIONS: I was out and about this weekend and caught friends going to a couple of notable class reunions. The West High School class of 1987 were enjoying their 30th reunion at The Padre Hotel while Highland High class of 1977 was celebrating its 40th reunion.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Instead of rushing to "do something" about gun control, let's focus on something that works. The lessons from Las Vegas, more bobcats sighted in town and my verdict on the Santa Carota hamburger

 * ... GUN CONTROL: One of the difficulties in the debate over gun control is the definition of exactly what turns a semi-automatic weapon into an "assault rifle." Regulating (or outlawing) weapons by design or how lethal they "look" is foolhardy when the internal mechanisms are basically the same as a hunting rifle, which is why I found this piece in the Washington Post by Leah Libresco so interesting. Libresco works for FiveThirtyEight, a website  that focuses on opinion poll analysis, politics, economics, and sports blogging. Said Libresco: "When I looked at the other oft-praised policies, I found out that no gun owner walks into the store to buy an 'assault weapon.' It’s an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a
bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos. As for silencers — they deserve that name only in movies, where they reduce gunfire to a soft 'puick puick.' In real life, silencers limit hearing damage for shooters but don’t make gunfire dangerously quiet. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jackhammer. Magazine limits were a little more promising, but a practiced shooter could still change magazines so fast as to make the limit meaningless." If the Las Vegas shooting demands a national conversation on gun laws, and I for one think it is appropriate, then we need to spend less time focusing on "doing something" and more on doing something that works.

* ... BOBCATS: Remember those two bobcats that were seen off the bike path below the Panorama Bluffs? Doug White spotted two more, adult bobcats on the bike trail two to three miles east of Enos Lane in August. "The female had already crossed while the male just stood motionless at the path's shoulder while I rode by.  I wasn't about to stop to take a picture. Since they are so rare here, I wonder if they are the same pair."

 * ... CAROTA BURGER: I checked off the Santa Carota burger off my bucket list when I accompanied a group of friends to Temblor Brewing Co. to try the famous grass and carrot-fed beef. My verdict: a delicious half-pound burger but at almost $14 with a side of fries, perhaps a little too rich for my wallet. Still, it's worth a try.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "I'm having people over later to stare at their phones if you want to stop by."

 * ... GOOD FORM: Frances Quiroz gave a shoutout to local Dr. William Baker. "My 17-year-old son broke his fibula playing football. I couldn't get him into an orthopedic, because no one would see him. I was referred to Dr. Baker by the athletic director at my son's school. Within 30 minutes we were sitting in his waiting room... and he managed to get my son seen by an ortho within hours. After the day I had, dealing with the stress of my son having a broken leg, not knowing if he needed surgery to repair it and none of the ortho doctors the urgent care referred us to would see/access him.... the care Dr. Baker and his staff treated us with was so overwhelming that it literally brought me to tears. I would recommend Dr. Baker to anyone and everyone. I feel blessed to have him as my son's doctor. His kindness, care and generosity is not easily found."

 * ... MORE GOOD FORM: Hats off to Tony Martinez who is now volunteering his time with a non-profit that helps needy families renovate their homes and neighborhoods. Martinez, a retired Bakersfield police officer who ran for mayor this last go around, is working for Rebuilding Together/Kern County, a group formerly known as Christmas in April. The organization is helping homeowners in the "Carnation tract" of homes near McKinley Elementary School make basic repairs on their homes.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Can it be possible that the best of humanity was on display in the carnage of Las Vegas? Meanwhile back home, St. Vincent de Paul holds its fund raiser to help the needy

 * ... HOPE: Is it possible that something good can emerge from the tragedy of Las Vegas?
What I witnessed was incredible courage and bravery among so many at the concert, people putting their own lives in danger to rescue others, regardless of race or age or skin color, people called upon to do the right thing when the stakes were highest. It was the human condition at its best, putting to shame the partisan tactics of our ruling political class, the hurtful polemics of our Hollywood elite and the narcissistic behavior of our sports icons. The best of us was on display a night when it rained gunfire on the innocent.

 * ... LOCAL VICTIMS: The list of those killed with links to Kern County is now five: Jack Beaton died shielding his wife from gunfire, Bailey Schweitzer was just 20 years old and starting off in the workplace, 52-year-old Victor Link was originally from Shafter, Kelsey Meadows was a 27-year-old Taft resident and Melissa Ramirez was a recent graduate of CSUB.

* ... GARCES BBQ: Leave it to the folks at Garces Memorial High School to put on a steak barbecue for the ages. The annual Holy Smoke Barbecue was held last week on a perfect evening for steaks, twice baked potatoes and libations. Among those I spotted were Brian and Melissa Dignan, Joe Zeiman, Bruce Haupt, Tommy and Jenny Haupt, Scott Spielman, Gina Pearl, Dan and Katy Raytis, county CAO Ryan Alsop, David Jensen, Jeff and Shauna Rockwell and Victor Martin and Mariah Schultz. Thanks to my friends at Mission Bank, Samy Abiaoui, Lisa Boydstun and Bob Meadows among others, for asking me to attend.

 * ... MORE STEAKS: Yet another of my favorite fund raisers is coming up this Thursday when St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Center holds its annual barbecue to support its work feeding the homeless. The center now provides two hot meals a day to upwards of 400 homeless men, women and children in our community. They receive no federal funds, so they rely on the success of their annual fall barbecue which will be held this Thursday, October 5. Doors open at 5 p.m. and they start serving Harris Ranch New York  steaks and all the trimmings, grilled by Gary and Adam Icardo, at 5:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door - 318 Baker Street, or at the thrift store next door in advance. Tickets are $30. It may be the best $30 bucks you spend all year.

* ... SANTA CAROTA BEEF: And speaking of steaks add this to my bucket list: I see that Temblor Brewing Co. is now offering a specialty hamburger featuring Santa Carota beef, a locally produced grass and carrot fed steak that is unrivaled in taste. Sign me up for that.

 * ... SPOTTED: Two adult bobcats are seen off the bike path at the base of the Panorama bluffs.

 * ... DOWNTOWN: The Soul to Soul concert featuring the husband-wife team of Faith Hill and Tim McGraw was a huge success, not only on the stage before a packed house of adoring fans but in the downtown area where the restaurants were jammed wall to wall. There was a 90-minute wait for a table at Mama Roomba, Urhicchio's Trattoria was packed and we finally snagged a seat at the bar at Jin Sushi before the crowd melted away around 7:30 p.m.

 * ...KUZZ: Congratulations to Melissa Joy Dignan, the former local TV weather anchor who is returning to media to work as an on-air personality for KUZZ radio on the weekends. Dignan worked for KERO TV from 2008 until 2011 when her contract was not renewed. During her time off she spent time raising her three children. She is married to Brian Dignan, head basketball coach at Garces Memorial High School.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Phil and Daniel Rudnick hope to put Buttonwillow on the map by creating a world class concert and festival center, in praise of the Yeti cooler and correcting the record on the old Padre Hotel

 * ... MUSIC FESTIVAL: Is Kern County ready to host its own Coachella-style music festival? Phil and Daniel Rudnick believe so and are trying to push through a plan to build a world class music festival venue off 7th Standard Road and Interstate 5. The venue would house up to 65,000 concert
goers and provide shuttle buses, RV parking for 700 vehicles, camping areas for another 2,200 people as well as security, stages, toilets, showers and food booths. The best part of it all? It won't cost the taxpayers a penny because all costs are picked up by the Rudnicks. Stay tuned as this is headed for a a Nov. 7 hearing with the county. If you support this idea, and I do, contact your supervisor to let him or her know. For more information go to the projects website

 * ... REMEDIAL CLASSES: It looks like the California State University System isn't the only public university system to scrap the concept of remedial classes. Colorado, Indiana, Tennessee, West Virginia and Florida are also rethinking the concept, which has come under attack for being an ineffective way to gauge student preparedness. Consider this from The Wall Street Journal: "For the class of students who started in 2009, the six year graduation rate across the California State University System was 66 percent for students who didn't need any remedial classes. It was 45 percent for those who took remedial classes in both math and English."

 * ... YETI COOLERS: Have you heard of the Yeti cooler? It is a basic plastic cooler but is so popular in some parts of the country that people pay up to $1,300 for the top of the line Yeti Tundra 350. A country song has been written about the Yeti ('Buy Me a Boat' by Chris Janson) and Miranda Lambert swears by hers. Yeti coolers started off as favorites of hunters and anglers, but burst into widespread popularity a few years ago with the introduction a stylish soft cooler that goes for the princely fee of around $300.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Get a head start on preparing for winter by beginning your seasonal depression on the first day of fall."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "I just read that Hugh Hefner passed away, but I only read the obituary for the articles."

 * ... PADRE HOTEL: Memo to 23ABC KERO TV which erred in a story on earthquakes by saying the Padre Hotel was constructed of brick and would be at risk of collapsing during a quake. Said Brett Miller, whose company renovated the Padre and now owns and operates it: "The Padre survived the big one because of the reinforced concrete structure. They have done a disservice to us by not fact checking."

 * ... MEMORIES: Did you know that John Philip Sousa and his "distinguished band" arrived by train and performed at the old Bakersfield Operation House (the old Hill Theater) on Nov. 1, 1909? An advertisement in the Bakersfield Californian announced that "the March King is in excellent health and a thoroughly enjoyable concert is a firm expectation of the local lovers of the best in music." Thanks to the Facebook page Kern County of Old for posting this.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The wisdom of an NCAA basketball coach seeking peaceful dialogue in our country, it's time for fall soups and Critters without Litters gets some much deserved love

 * ... PROTESTS: CSUB basketball coach Rod Barnes grew up Mississippi, played for Ole Miss where students cheered while waving Confederate battle flags, and later coached Ole Miss to an
appearance in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. As an 51-year-old African-American coach from the Deep South, Barnes's take on the NFL protests is unique, a perspective formed through his own own life experiences and intertwined with his deep faith in God and his fellow man. Listen to Barnes as we chatted on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM this week: "My suggestion is if we just sit down at the table and we talk about the great country we live in, and (how great) the people around us are and we can talk about relationships then we can find some good, at least where there is no hatred. There is a place for protests but when you sit down you can find peace, and right now I don't find peace in our nation." Barnes went on to say the protests could migrate to the college level, and he views his role as a coach as "having these conversations every day" with his players to concentrate on what brings us together, not apart. To listen to my entire conversation with Barnes go to

 * ... MORE PROTESTS: Beth Espinoza added this about the protests: "We wouldn’t still be talking about the National Anthem and the American flag had the NFL done their job in the first place. Any other employer in America, would not allow an employee in uniform, during work hours to interject their personal beliefs or opinion while on the clock or in the workplace. Players need to do what they are getting paid to do and nothing more. When you want to complain about politics or talk about your boss, co-workers, etc., you go and meet your friends at happy hour after work just like the rest of us."

 * ... INSPIRATION: I spotted this bit of inspiration on social media that seems particularly relevant these days: "Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Why are you always complaining about us being unhappy? People would kill to be as unhappy as we are."

 * ... FALL SOUP: How nice are these mild days and evenings? Fall is upon us and in many households, that means it's time for seasonal soups. I mentioned earlier the albondigas (meatball) soup at Nuestro Mexico, and my friend Margaret Scrivano Patteson wrote to recommend the New Vintage Grill on Hageman and its vegan lentil soup.

 * ... CRITTERS WITHOUT LITTERS: I was glad to see The Californian and writer James Burger post the spotlight this week on Critters Without Litters, one of my favorite non-profits that does so much to offer spay and neutering for dogs and cats at discount prices. All great efforts start with a passion and an idea, and in this case it was Joann and Larry Keller who started the organization out of a deep concern for the most vulnerable pets in our community. In the five years of existence, Critters Without Litters has altered more than 43,000 animals. Well done.

 * ... HOLY SMOKE BBQ: Don't forget the Holy Smoke Barbecue up at Garces Memorial High School this Thursday, an annual steak and potato feed now in its 50th year to support the good work done at the school. This year Garces is introducing live music and replacing the New York steak with a Harris Ranch cut. This is always a can't miss networking opportunity to support a good cause.

 * ... MEMORIES: Ken Cornelius Sr. added this memory about the old Lebec Hotel: "In the late 1940s and early 1950s there was a radio station in the old Lebec Hotel. It broadcast the big band sound from early evening to midnight. The acts were Al Hart and Dixie Darling. It was loud and clear where I grew up in Arvin."