Friday, February 27, 2009

Born free and caught near Havilah

Got an email from Ed Bolt, a retired county employee and avid sportsman, who passed along this picture of a mountain lion nabbed by Fish and Game wardens near Havilah. Seems the cat had been preying on a farmer's goat herd until he called in the authorities. Said Ed:

"My younger brother lives on east side of Breckenridge Mountain Northwest of Havilah. This Mountain Lion has been decimating the brother's herd of goats for the past six months. Fish and Game caught this mountain lion just last night...(and) the few remaining goats are celebrating."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bakersfield Museum of Art: steady as she goes

One can't help but wonder when this recession is going to start hurting some of our local non-profits and art groups that hang on by a thread in the best of times. And so it was at the Bakersfield Museum of Art tonight when it held its opening for the Ludvic painting and sculpture exhibit. It was good to see so many of the loyal supporters of the arts there: Bart and Napier Hill, Larry and Sandy Reider, Rogers and Esther Brandon, Barbara Reid, Claude and Shirley Fiddler, Milt Younger, Sheryl Barbich, Sue Jennings, Bobbie George, Cynthia Icardo, George and Marcia Giumarra among others. Museum executive director Bernie Herman tells me it's a tough year for the museum, with expected cutbacks in support from the city and county amid a general sense of recession-borne frugality. But everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, including the Reiders and Rog Brandon shown in the photo.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kern County: home of the drunk driver

Doesn't it seem we get more than our fair share of utterly horrific cases of drunk drivers in Kern County? Two cases made their way through the courts this week. The first involved Jose Hernandez, the 39-year-old multiple offender (seven drunken driving convictions) who was flying down Stockdale Highway at 90 mph (with his 2-year-old daughter no less) when he slammed into a sedan at Fairway Drive, killing Barbara Blair. Hernandez (pictured) was found guilty of second-degree murder and will be sentenced April 9. Hernandez apologized but it seems a tad late for that. The other case involved 18-year-old Noemi (Nemo) Perez, a promising young Cal State Bakersfield track athlete who was killed Feb. 8 near Arvin.(view earlier story here) She was doing nothing more than driving down Highway 223 when a vehicle driven by a drunk Francisco Nestor Santo, 22, crashed into Noemi's car and another one. He cut a plea deal and pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. He will be sentenced March 25. He's in the Lerdo Jail while on a U.S. Border Patrol hold.

Winescapes: better than a corn dog at the Fair?

Granted you have to look for it, but you can find events that pass the "cultural" sniff test in this town, and I don't mean a visit to the Kern County Fair and dining on a corn dog and chili fries. The First Friday events downtown (see previous post here) are fun and upbeat and attract a good crowd, and the Bakersfield Museum of Art is always a good venue for something different and uplifting. Now comes the second annual "Winescapes" at the museum that features wine bottles designed by local artists and auctioned off to support the museum education programs. This is the second year that Felix Adamo, a Californian photographer with a good artistic eye, has participated. Last year he designed a label featuring neon signs of various restaurants around town and this year he used a wildflower shot as the label with some text (see photo). As Felix said:

"I've been doing limited edition art photographs for a few years now so it was nice for the museum to invite me to participate ... besides it provides a nice break from the news photos .... like puking dogs ... that I usually do," Felix said. (He wasn't joking about puking dogs. Check it out here.)

Winescapes will be held at 6 p.m. at the museum on Thursday, March 12. Presale tickets are $40 per person and $75 per couple. Call the museum at 661-323-7219 to purchase.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Funeral set Thursday for beloved local attorney Stan Simrin

A funeral service for longtime defense attorney Stan Simrin will be held Thursday at Temple Beth El. Simrin died Tuesday two months after suffering a crippling stroke. The service will begin at 11 a.m. followed by internment at Greenlawn Cemetery around 12:30 p.m, according to Rabbi Cheryl Rosenstein. Simrin was a Bakersfield institution and one of the area's most highly regarded criminal defense attorneys. He will be remembered for his spirited defenses in some of the country's biggest cases, but those who knew him will miss his keen mind and his golden tongue. He was a devoted member of Temple Beth-El where he taught weekly classes in the Torah. He once told Steve Swenson, a reporter at The Californian who knew Stan for years, that he had devoted his life to Judaism. "I want to know more about it, study it, live it," he said. I was fortunate enough to hear Stan speak from time to time. He was an inspiring presence and he will be missed. I'll post more updates as they become available.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spc. Jordan Zoeller heads home from Iraq

Always good news when one of our own does their duty with the military and comes home safe. In this case it's Spc. Jordan Zoeller, son of Barry Zoeller, vice president and chief spokesman for the Tejon Ranch Co. and a former TV anchor in town. Barry is in my Rotary Club and he's kept us abreast of Jordan's stint in Iraq. The photo shows Jordan in front of a Mobile Gun System Stryker vehicle he was assigned to drive. The main gun is a 105mm cannon, the same gun found on an M-1 tank. Jordan served with the 2nd Stryker Battalion, 25th Infantry Division of the Army. The boy was supposed to come home this month but it's been pushed back to early April, but the good news is he is in Kuwait headed home via Hawaii. Welcome home, soldier.

Our kids: keeping up with where they are now

Nothing makes me feel better than to see our Bakersfield kids - from North and Stockdale and West and BHS and all the rest - succeeding and thriving. These are the same kids who gave us headaches and heartbreak in their teen years but now make our hearts swell with pride. Was sorry I missed the quick visit this past week of Robby McCarthy, son of Rob and Judi McCarthy. (Rob owns Lightspeed Systems and Judi is founder of the Women's and Girls' Fund of Kern County). Robby (pictured) now works in Washington, D.C. for Congressman Kevin McCarthy (no relation) and is having a ball. He was in the district helping with the annual Lincoln Day dinner and "working the district" to hear complaints and concerns from constituents. Robby graduated from Garces High School and later USC. He brought along a congressional intern named Freddy Barnes, son of Fred Barnes, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard and a regular on the Fox News network.
I also had lunch last week with Ray Dezember, the retired banker affectionately known as "Mr. Bakersfield" in recognition of his involvement in the community. Ray and wife Joan just returned from a long trip overseas that included a visit to Taipei where grand-daughter Suzy Dezember is now teaching English. One of Brent and Anna Dezember's girls, Suzy also graduated from Garces and later LMU. Ray was proud to say that Michelle, Suzy's sister and a graduate of Santa Clara, is working and living in Barcelona. Meanwhile, I hear Erica Smith (BHS and University of Arizona) is now in grad school at USC, which makes her father, retired endodontist and Trojan Bob Smith, happy. And finally, Leonard Bidart, owner of Bidart Brothers Farms, tells me his elder daughter Breanna (BHS and USC) is now living and working in Boston. So much talent and so much to be proud of.