Thursday, December 29, 2011

Time to bust out those New Year's resolutions and Michael Rubio makes the right call

* ... NEW YEAR'S: It's time to consider those New Year's resolutions, but instead of the usual suspects (I will exercise more, eat healthier and write thank you notes ) how about if each of us adopted a charity and contributed a little something every month? Can you imagine the impact  if we all dug a little deeper and gave to the charity of our choice?

 * ... RUBIO: My heart goes out to state Sen. Michael Rubio, who dropped out of a race for Congress to put his family first. This came after his second daughter was born with Down syndrome. The local Democrat was an early favorite to win this race, and it's refreshing to see politicians look into their hearts and do the right thing.
 * ... DIAPERS: It has been a while since I mentioned the nasty habit of people casually discarding their diapers just about anywhere (including - yuck - a new shoe box at Target). But Scott A. McMillan, who owns several Sonic Drive Thru restaurants in the South Valley, reminded me the habit is alive and well. He discovered this Christmas Eve morning when he helped open his Sonic in Hanford. He cleaned the outside area and as he was  leaving - after only one customer had come through - he glanced back and found a used diaper sitting under the drive thru window. "My first thought was 'Are you kidding me?' We've only had one guest! But right then a picture of you from the Californian flashed into my head and I started laughing out loud. After a few minutes of hearty laughter I removed the unwanted item and went on my way."

* ... SMOKE POLICE: Molly Mac has only lived here a few years but opted to weigh in on our area's air pollution rules. Recently she found herself driving behind three school  buses. "Whew,  the exhaust fumes were overwhelming. I read that at least 60 percent pollution is due to vehicle emissions. It would seem to me that it would benefit the air if these vehicles were converted to natural gas as are the GET buses....and no I don't want to hear about the cost. Where are our vaunted representatives on this issue? Perhaps we could utilize the farm subsidies to syndicated farms and business (which are no more than corporate welfare).....and no, I don't own natural gas stock or know T. Boone Pickens."

 * ... SPOTTED: A woman driving on Ming Avenue in the afternoon rush hour trying to merge into the left lane with her right  blinker on while talking on her cell phone with her left hand and  smoking a cigarette with her right hand. As reader Marlene Morales said:  "This is an accident waiting to happen. And by the appearance of her vehicle, I'm sure she didn't have insurance."

 * ... CONVENANT: Vince Romero wrote to recommend buying coffee from Convenant Community Services, the local non-profit that does so much to help foster youth. "Our company uses Convenant coffee for all of our coffee and coffee accessories and condiments.  Spread the word about this great service." Covenant is located in an old bank building at 1700 North Chester Avenue.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wendy Wayne returns home after undergoing chemotherapy and kudos to Judge David Lampe

 * ... JUDGE LAMPE: My mention of Superior Court Judge David Lampe drew this note from reader Brian K. Wohlgemuth. "A few years ago I was a jury member on a trial in his courtroom. About a week after the case was over, Judge Lampe recognized me in a local Starbucks. He approached me and called me by name. Once I figured out who he was (he wasn't wearing the black robe in Starbucks, so it took me a few seconds) he said he wanted to thank me for my service. The fact that Judge Lampe remembered my face, my name, and took the time to come and thank me really meant a lot to me. By the way, he handled the trial in a very professional, efficient manner. Kern County is fortunate to have Judge David Lampe."

 * ... WENDY: Welcome home to Wendy Wayne, the former First Five Commission chairperson who underwent another round of chemotherapy in Los Angeles for a recurring case of non Hodgkins lymphoma. I ran into Wendy over the weekend when she and political consultant husband Gene Tackett were visiting friends downtown. Wendy is one of our more remarkable neighbors who has done so much for our community. Welcome home, friend.

 * ... SMOKE POLICE: C.J. Mason is among the readers who took me to task for criticizing the ban on burning fireplaces. "As long as others continue to foul the air on no-burn days (when we have an inversion layer of brown gunk in the air), I vote for more 'smoke police.' And here’s a novel idea; people can continue to enjoy a warming fire by buying and using gas logs! I’m a native of Bakersfield and I’m dismayed that my town is ranked No. 1 as having the most polluted air in the nation. How poor does our air quality have to become before aggressive action is taken to try and improve it? My greatest is hope is that my grand kids will be able to move from this area (as soon as their parents can find jobs in this poor economy) before their lungs become permanently damaged from the bad air."

 * ... JAVA: I don't consider myself a coffee snob but the "Full City" blend of Mexican grown coffee I purchased recently from Covenant Community Services may be some of the best I've ever had. Plus, I have the satisfaction of knowing that my money went to support local foster kids. Covenant is a local non-profit devoted to helping foster youth, and its coffee roasting operation (located at 1700 North Chester) is one way it raises money. They are also seeking 1,000 donations of $83 to complete its renovation of an old bank building to house its offices. Stop by and try some java and support a good cause.

 * ... CAL BAPTIST: Kudos to Caleb Hill, who was home for the holidays after graduating with honors from California Baptist University in Riverside. He is the grandson of Richard and Beverly Laughman, a graduate of Bakersfield Christian High School and the son of Kurt and Joy Hill. He is also the grandson of Ada Mae Hill, a retired Bakersfield school teacher.

 * ... VOLUNTEER: And a final hats off to 13-year-old Katy Rodriguez, a seventh grader at Norris Middle School who is in her fourth year of sponsoring a gift drive for the Jamison Children's Center. Proud grand mother Pat Snelling told me that Katy passes out fliers in her neighborhood to collect gifts. Last year she delivered 175 gifts to the center and this year another 100.  Now that is impressive.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Covenant Community Services reaches out to help foster youth

 * ... COVENANT: Would you write a check for $83 to help save a life? That's what the folks over at Covenant Community Services are asking as they try to get 1,000 people to write a check for $83 to cover the costs of renovating its offices in an old bank building in Oildale. Covenant, if you don't know, works with foster children to put them on the path to productive lives. I visited their office at 1700 Chester Avenue and chatted with Randy Martin, the energetic founder who is devoting his life to helping those in need. Covenant also imports top qualify coffee from around the world and when construction is complete, the Chester Avenue office will feature a coffee bar staffed by former foster children. I'm writing them a check, and I hope you will do so as well. Stop by and meet Randy or send your check to 1700 North Chester Avenue, Bakersfield, 93308.

 * ... SQUATTERS: A family of squatters has been evicted from a house they took over on Elm Street downtown recently, yet another sign of the difficult times we are all in. When I mentioned this to a local Realtor, he shrugged and said "it's happening all over town."

 * ... SHOP LOCAL: Local attorney Matt Clark submitted this as another reason why we all should shop locally. "I went into a prominent department store in Los Angeles yesterday to buy a sport coat.  Ultimately, I pick one out, buy it and leave - no problem.  When I get home, Molly notices that the ink-filled security tag is still on the coat.  Of course, I made it out of the store without the tag going off, and the store is in Los Angeles, not here.  After calling the store to figure out how to remove the tag, and remaining on hold for 20 minutes, we were told to just bring the garment back.  What
a pain.

* ... SPOTTED: The following gas miser cars and trucks were spotted in the parking lot of Action Sports: two Toyota Priuses, two Honda Elements, one Toyota Rav4, a small Nissan pickup, a Honda CR-V and one Subaru Outback. Has America finally embraced the small car?

 * ... FEEDBACK: Local Realtor Patsy Sadler came to my defense following an anonymous reader who called this blog a waste of ink and newsprint. "I would like to say to you, like I say to the people who praying or saying Merry Christmas offends you, go somewhere else or don't read the column.  You didn't print your name because you knew your opinion is not that of the majority who read and enjoy this column. I love this column and it brings back lots of memories that I have forgotten especially being born & raised her for 62 years. If I am in a hurry & don't have time to read the paper in full, I read the obits and Bakersfield Observed, thank you Richard and keep up the good memories.  Speaking of memories (anonymous it's time for you to turn the page) you know you're from Bakersfield if you remember riding a horse for 50 cents an hour at Ragsdale stables on Edison Hwy and Quantico.  I used to ride every Saturday and Sunday for years, leaving there on my bicycle riding to Thrifty's on Niles and having a double scoop for 10 cents and my very protective mother didn't have to worry about me being abducted or involved in a drive by shooting. Now those were the days, 1961. "

Friday, December 23, 2011

McCarthy: Small business is the engine of growth, and we need to free it from regulations

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, gives us his view from Capitol Hill.

 "Christmas is just two days away and the New Year is right around the corner. I know many of us are gathering with our families and loved ones to celebrate the holiday season, to reflect on the past year and
to look forward to the hope of a new one. This Wednesday, I had the honor to meet with Elmer Wielenga and his family to present him with a long overdue award that he deserves: a Purple Heart for his valor
during the Korean War. We are truly grateful to have heroes like him in our community.
 Members of our community don’t have to be reminded that 2011 has had its challenges, but we have fought throughout this year to fundamentally change the culture of Washington and make it more responsive and transparent to the American public. We have taken action to cut spending and reduce our debt and to repeal onerous regulations so small businesses can create jobs for people looking to get back to work.

 "Right now, there are more than 25 House-passed bills that would have a significant impact on job creation and economic growth that are stalled in the Senate. These bills, among other things, would boost America’s energy security and foster job creation, put EPA regulations in check to ensure industries would not be crippled by overzealous rules, and open new doors for small business owners and entrepreneurs to access the funding they need to expand, innovate and hire. It is also important to note that every single one of these bills passed the House with bipartisan support. Getting them passed was the first step and compelling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring them to the Senate floor will continue to be a top priority in the new year.

 "I have often said that it is the private sector – the innovators, the risk-takers and the small business owners – that will bring our country and economy back stronger than ever. That remains the case. We all saw that the government spending nearly $1 trillion on a stimulus did not result in the employment changes that were promised. That’s because the government doesn’t create jobs, the private sector does.
That is why empowering the private sector to start investing and hiring by increasing certainty that new taxes and unnecessary regulations won’t be waiting around every corner is more important than ever. My colleagues and I have taken real action to try and do just that, and in 2012, I will continue to fight to get our nation on the road to prosperity.
 "I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bakersfield Observed sends out a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all

 * ... MERRY CHRISTMAS: In this special time of the year, make sure you reach out to all those folks who are struggling with emotional, family or physical issues. There is no better present than the gift of friendship and a soft place to land.

 * ... KIND WORDS: My thanks to Superior Court Judge David Lampe, who dropped me an encouraging note the other day. "The First Amendment is the most profound embodiment of rights we enjoy as citizens. News organizations are absolutely essential to a good society. They are the little angel on our shoulder. I remember the first day on the job as a judge I thought about jaywalking across L Street to the Metro Courthouse. I stopped and went to the light. It will help all of us in our public lives if we stop and think for one minute-- how would this look printed in The Bakersfield Californian?"

* ... BAKERSFIELD OPTICAL: Hats off to Jack and Sharon McGee, owners of Bakersfield Optical who are celebrating 30 years in business. Locally owned family businesses are the backbone of our local economy, and Bakersfield Optical specializes in intimate customer service and value. The store is located at the corner of Oak and 19th streets. And speaking of Jack, he still has the picture, circa 1956, of him sitting on Santa's lap along with twin brother John at Brock's Department store.

 * ... HICKORY FARMS: It's never too late to say 'thank you,' as Vicki Utt reminded me. "At Christmastime in 1969 my husband was a combat infantryman serving in Vietnam and I was waiting at home with our newborn son (Dennis shipped out when our first-born was 2 1/2 weeks old), and Hickory Farms was in Valley Plaza. There was scant public support for our troops at that time, but lots of war protestors. I'll always have a soft place in my heart for Hickory Farms as they had a promotion that the first 100 people who provided an APO address for a soldier in a combat zone would get a free Hickory Farms gift pack shipped directly to the loved one free of charge. I was No. 5 in line early that morning. These days the troops are receiving the respect they so greatly deserve, and the Vietnam veterans are beginning to get their just due as well - but Hickory Farms was the ONLY merchant who reached out in 1969."

 * ... THE DOORS: Charlie Wilmot wrote to correct an earlier post on when the rock band The Doors visited Bakersfield. "Just reading your blog in the Californian this morning, as I religiously do, and the reference to The Doors in 1968 is incorrect.  The correct date was August 21, 1970.  I was back from Vietnam and enrolled at Bakersfield College at the time.  It was a GREAT show. Also of note, you know you are from Bakersfield if you saw The Rolling Stones at the Civic Auditorium July 24, 1966. They performed two shows, a matinee and evening. Totally awesome!"

* ... SEQUOIA: If you're one of the thousands of college students home for the holidays, chances are you are broke, hungry or both. If that's the case, head over to your closest Sequoia Sandwich shop for a free fountain drink and cookie, courtesy of the owners. With so many kids home, the manager of the southwest store on Ming Avenue, Valerie Damron, had the idea to treat the students to a drink and cookie if they wear their college sweatshirts and shirts. Hats off to Sequoia for the nice gesture. The offer is good for Friday, December 23, only.

 * ... DID YOU KNOW? Did you know that the original Cal State Bakersfield offices were located in a state-owned building on Kentucky Street?


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Former county Fire Chief Nick Dunn holds a retirement party at $55 a head and more blowback on the 'smoke police'

 * ... NICK DUNN: Kern County Fire Chief Nick Dunn, who abruptly resigned following a criminal investigation that turned up no wrongdoing, is having a retirement party at Seven Oaks Country Club. Nothing wrong with that, except it will cost you $55 a head to join in the celebration. And this from a retiree who could earn a public pension as much about $175,000 a year for the rest of his life. The invitation promises a lot of "eating, laughing, reminiscing and dancing" and no host cocktails. I wonder if also includes parking? By the way, if you can't make it, the invitation allows you the option to write a check to "contribute to the gift for Chief Dunn."

 * ... OVERHEARD: This comes from Chuck Wall, founder of the "random act of kindness" movement. "My wife was standing in line at the mailing center at the Country Club Liquor Store.  A lady came up behind her carrying a beautifully wrapped gift with a large red bow on top. My wife asked her how she was going to mail her beautiful gift without wrapping. She replied, I'm not mailing this package, I'm just carrying it with me because if I left it in my car it would be stolen!"

 * ... SMOKE POLICE: reader J.R. Lewis shared my dismay over the "smoke police," those employees of the Valley Air Pollution Control District who drive around neighborhoods trying to find those who dare have a fire on a no burn day. "I share your dismay over the smoke police, but also have to shake my head at the thought of individuals driving around handing tickets out the front while spewing exhaust out the back. Or did the state also pony the money for electric cars? Do they actually curb enough fireplace pollution to mitigate their own carbon footprint?"

 * ... RIP: Mary Anne M. Beesley wrote to note the passing of Jeri Schwocho, a perennial club champion at Stockdale Country Club. "She loved golf. She didn't care to what handicap you played, she just wanted a game. She will be missed by her many friends and by the golfing community. She leaves her husband Kenneth, her son Eric and her two daughters Lisa and Jill, as well as grandchildren Whitney, Maria and Jarrod and too many friends to count."

 * ... FAN CLUB: An anonymous reader wrote to criticize this column as "a waste of ink and newsprint. The tidbits regarding 'you know you're from Bakersfield' border on the ridiculous. An example is: you know you are from Bakersfield if you saw The Doors in 1968. Huh?" Note to anonymous: The Doors were a rock 'n roll band featuring the late Jim Morrison. You missed a good show.

 * ... MEMORY: Kathy Scott wanted to share some of the businesses that her husband’s grandfather, Ralph (Raphael) Parenti, owned after he moved her from Italy when he was just 13. "In the late teens or early 1920s he owned the Country Fair Market located on the corner of K and19th streets (where the old Sears and Roebuck’s was later on). Then in the early 1920s he owned the Parenti Atlantic Richfield gas station on Wible and Stockdale. In the 1930s he owned the Parenti Bar on Wible and Stockdale that later became Tommie and Joe’s when he sold it to them. From 1952 until 1962 he owned the property (a poultry shop) on Wible Road. In 1962 the new freeway (99) purchased the vast land that Ralph owned and along with the business on that property they got three homes on the Wible Road plus three other properties on Parenti Lane which now is an off  ramp!"


Sunday, December 18, 2011

A daughter of Bakersfield pens a valentine to our sometimes quirky hometown

* ... HOME SWEET HOME: A beautiful tribute to Bakersfield showed up on the online forum Zocalo Public Square, written by Bakersfield High graduate Paige Hill, who now lives and works in Washington, D.C. A graduate of the University of North Carolina and the daughter of Bart and Napier Hill, Paige penned a moving valentine to our sometimes quirky and always endearing community. In her words: "The fog is something I can try to describe in a series of corny colloquialisms, but I ultimately fail to capture it. Bakersfield is like that, too. It's a city where in the same breath its residents will knowingly laugh and admit it is no cultural rival of San Francisco - and then fiercely defend it for what it is. It is ours."

 * ... SMOKE POLICE: Call me cranky, but was anyone else appalled at the story in Sunday's Californian about people from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District driving around town looking for people using their fireplaces on no burn days? Say what? California is broke, the educational system is in crisis, Sacramento is a dysfunctional mess and yet somehow we can still afford to have people on the public payroll driving around town  looking for people enjoying a warming fire. Sheesh.

* ... CAL STATE: The California state university system just seems to suffer blow after the blow, the latest coming last week when Gov. Jerry Brown announced it would absorb another $100 million in cuts. And that's on top of the $650 million in cuts the system lost earlier. CSUB President Horace Mitchell will join me Monday at 9 a.m. on KERN 1180 to talk about the effect on our local campus, and what we can expect in the future.  Tune it to learn how all this mess will affect our Cal State Bakersfield.

  * ... PADRE: Robert Bunker has returned to Bakersfield to become one of the general managers of the Padre Hotel downtown. Bunker worked at Seven Oaks Country Club as assistant clubhouse manager, left a few years ago and was recruited to return to our community to help run the Padre. He joins Jon Stephens who is the hotel's general manager for food and beverage service.

 * ... HICKORY FARMS: Bev Hayden wrote that she also remembers the Hickory Farms Store in the Valley Plaza.  "In the 1970s my husband Rod and his friend and partner George Thornburgh were constructing pre-fab housing on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru. The native food wasn't exactly what they were used to so we would buy beef stick and crackers from Hickory Farms and ship it to them in cargo containers along with adult beverages. These packages were gratefully received."

 * ... FIELD OF DREAMS: Here's a fund raiser that is worthy of your attention: it's the League of Dreams gala that will raise money to to build playing fields for physically and emotionally challenged children. It's all part of physical therapist Tim Terrio's Field of Dreams project to give these youngsters the same opportunities as others. The event is set for Friday, January 20, at Monsignor Leddy Hall at Garces Memorial High School. Tickets are $125 per person or $200 a couple. Contact Nathan Gutierrez at (661) 377-1700.

Friday, December 16, 2011

McCarthy: California high-speed rail is a $100 billion bad bet

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a Bakersfield Republican and House Majority Whip, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his words:

 "California’s high-speed rail project was in the spotlight in both Washington D.C. and Bakersfield this week. On Thursday, I testified at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in opposition to the HSR project as currently planned. This followed Wednesday’s action by the Bakersfield City Council, which voted to oppose the HSR project as well.
 "Like many members of our community, I have had long-standing concerns about this project and am glad that from the local level to the federal level, we’re taking a stand to demand more answers. From the costly impacts the rail line would have on our community to the enormous price tag and questionable ridership estimates, I simply do not have confidence that this project is even viable. And clearly the private sector doesn’t either.

 "To date, not a single dollar of private money has been committed. And while the California High-Speed Rail Authority has admitted private dollars won’t be forthcoming anytime soon, it does assume about $11 billion in private funding once they start building. This “if we build it, they will come” scenario is nice in theory, but it is not something I want to gamble $100 billion on. And that’s why I introduced legislation (H.R. 3143) to freeze all unspent federal dollars on this project.

 "Contrast California’s HSR project with this week’s announcement of Stratolaunch Systems, a new space travel venture spearheaded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and aerospace designer Burt Rutan. This is fully financed by private investors willing to take a risk on an idea they believe will be profitable. And that risk will mean new jobs and revenues for our local economies, as the first plane for this new venture will be constructed at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Speaking of Mojave, December 14 marked the 25th Anniversary of the historic Voyager Aircraft flight; the first aircraft in history to fly around the world without stopping or refueling. On Saturday, there will be a celebration at the Mojave Air & Space Port and I encourage folks to turn out to reflect on how our communities have made history and visit with some of the people behind it, including the Rutan brothers.

 "Earlier this week, the House passed legislation with bipartisan support to extend middle class tax relief, reform our unemployment insurance system to make it more accountable and compel the President to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which can create tens of thousands of jobs now if it were not blocked by federal bureaucrats. The legislation also included a provision that ensures our seniors continue to have access to doctors by preventing a massive payment cut to physicians who treat Medicare beneficiaries. And we did it all without raising taxes or adding to our debt.
 "I remain optimistic that we can bring our nation back stronger than ever, and I will continue to fight for policies that empower the families and small business owners in our communities.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Christmas spirit alive and well in Bakersfield, but what happened by my old black Crocs?

 * ... CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: If you are not in the Christmas spirit, you will be after reading this note from reader Janet Fishburn.  "I just learned that people in California and Michigan have started going into K-Mart stores to act as 'Layaway Angels'.....which means someone would pay off a stranger's layaway bill so that the children in that family would be sure to have the Christmas gifts their family intended for them. We went to the Wilson Road K-Mart yesterday and were able to pay off a bill for a single mother with three children. (the gifts were still in the shopping cart so we could see them, but were ready to go back onto the shelves, because she had missed some payments).  The store manager, Patrick, was most helpful in getting this set up, and it only took us 10 minutes in the store to take care of this and write her a quick Merry Christmas note. And then Patrick called her to inform her that a 'Layaway Angel' had taken care of her bill. Hopefully, she was very happy about certainly made us feel good!

 * ... THEFT: It's easy to get jaded about petty theft, but sometimes (like when a pair of old black Crocs was snatched off my porch) it just makes you shake your head and wonder. For Olivia Garcia, editor of BakersfieldLife magazine, her surprise came when her double jogging stroller disappeared from her front porch in a desirable northeast neighborhood. "It's a sad state when you have to worry about leaving a stroller out by your front door and risk it being stolen," she said. "Really. Who steals a stroller?" Well, someone does and it may just show up at some yard sale next to my tattered old black Crocs. And now that we're on it, this is a good reminder to be vigilant about UPS or FedEx deliveries. The thieves are out there in force.

 * ... KAPPA SIGMA: An earlier blog post mentioning the Kappa Sigma fraternity drew this response from Joseph Gianquinto: "Brother Beene, fortuitous as it may seem, when I provided the information regarding the return of my sons to Bakersfield to make their lives, I did not mention their fraternal memberships, nor mine for that matter.  I became acquainted with the Five Friends and Brothers .... in 1960 at the then Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, Beta Chi Chapter.  My older son took the walk at Northern Arizona University, and my younger at Colorado University.  We are all three proud Kappa Sigma brothers, and now we know you as a brother as well."

 * ... SPOTTED: A young mother with three very small children is spotted jaywalking amid afternoon rush hour traffic on Ming Avenue near Toys 'r Us.

 * ... DUSTIN'S DINER: If you are out seeing the Christmas lights of Bakersfield make sure you swing by Haggin Oaks to visit Dustin's Diner, the hot cocoa and cookie stand that has raised thousands of dollars for the homeless over the past decade. The original Dustin - Dustin Kilpatrick - is now long gone, having graduated from USC in engineering, but his cocoa stand remains staffed by energetic neighborhood kids. It will be open until Friday, December 23.

* ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You might be a Bakersfield old timer if you remember the "Chubby Steak at Tiny's on the Northeast corner of 18th and Chester, the 25-cent burgers at Burger Haven at 34th and Union, and Axelrod the Basset hound mascot of the old Flying A gas station on the same corner!" Thanks to Craig Holland for submitting this memory.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The oil patch is booming and a group of 30-somethings create a shadow group to promote good government

 * ... ENERGY: There is a lot of good news on the local energy front. Oil and gas production is booming, good jobs are being created and now I read that U.S. petroleum imports are down to just 46 percent of total consumption, compared to 60 percent just a few years ago. That's according to the Wall Street Journal which says U.S. crude oil production has risen by 18 percent since 2008. "The reason is the appearance of a new source," the paper said, "'tight oil' which is extracted from dense rocks. In 2000 it was only about 200,000 barrels per day, 3 percent of total output. Today is is about a million barrels per day." All good news for our local companies and suppliers.

 * ... GOOD GOVERNMENT: Keep your eye on a new organization in town that is supporting responsible and sustainable government. It was created by three 30-something local businessmen - John Paul Lake, Patrick Wade and Chad Hathaway - and it promises to be an important new group to hold our local politicians accountable. It's called "Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government" and no doubt you will be hearing more from these guys in the days and weeks to come. They've got the smarts, the money and the connections to make things happen. Lake works at his family's business Rain for Rent, Wade owns Precision Pharmacy and is a member of the city Planning Commission and Hathaway is in the oil business.

 * ... OVERHEARD: A young woman at a Starbucks orders two iced green teas, one with three packets of sugar and the other with 20. That's right, 20 packets of sugar.

* ... ONCE A DRILLER: Jean Park wrote to congratulate Bakersfield High School on its undefeated season and Valley Championship. "My husband, Carl Park, played on the 1951 Valley Championship team. That game was 60 years ago almost to the day. Game was in Fresno, not sure if same school, but same town. It was a good game for Carl and good day for me. First time we met and still going strong 56 years later!" (Driller photo by Henry Barrios)

 * ... LIGHTS ON: I stopped by a neighborhood gathering in La Cresta recently to watch the lighting of a huge Christmas tree outside and join in the revelry. For the past 20 years, folks in La Cresta gather along a stretch of Hermosa Drive to light the tree and enjoy the Christmas spirit. Cindy Anspach and Kathy McDermott organized the event with That's Amore Pizza supplying dinner via a portable pizza oven mounted on a trailer. Neighbors brought appetizers and desserts and it was a remarkable way to usher in the season. Other neighbors involved included Jane and Bruce Haupt, Frankie Villani, Greg McDermott, and Reed Adamson.

 * ... SPOTTED: From reader Harry Love: "At the corner of Merle Haggard Drive and Highway 65 next to the Choco Taco stand at the Shell station. Two signs: 'Now Open Unit 7 PM,' with one underneath 'Obama Bin Lyin.' Apparently tacos are political or not liked by Democrats."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Californian digital edition marketing plan rolls out with new bus wraps

 The Bakersfield Californian rolled out a new marketing campaign to focus attention on its new digital edition of the newspaper, an exact replica of the print edition. Company artist Billy Simkins designed the bus wraps.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Local Bakersfield businessman spents eight days in an adventure race across Tasmania and lives to tell about it

 * ... EXTREME SPORTS: By day Glenn Bland runs a successful solar company (Bland Solar) but the 46-year-old Bakersfield native spends his off hours testing his body in extreme athletic events. Bland just returned from eight days in Tasmania, where he completed in the World Championship Expedition Race that drew 80 of the best four-man teams in the world. It included 130 miles of hiking, 200 miles of mountain biking, 100 miles of kayaking, navigation, and sleep deprivation. The Tasmanian government granted special permission to allow the teams to traverse some incredibly rugged - and beautiful - terrain, a true wilderness adventure. Bland previously competed in a similar race in Australia.

 * ... HART PARK: I stopped by Hart Park Sunday (is there a more beautiful setting in town than Hart Park this time of year?) to catch a cyclocross race put on by Sam Ames of Action Sports. This was a warm up race before the cyclocross state championships set for January 21 at Hart Park. Pete "the voice" Wonderly provided the sound stage to announce the action and the hills were teeming with cyclists. Spotted on the course were local riders Mike Noel, David Rous, Leo Hinds, Adam Hensley, Carl Crawford, Wayne Rosenthal, Matt Clark, Anthony Finocchiaro, Jim Pappe and Gareth Feldstein.

* ... MEA CULPA: Several readers reprimanded me for omitting Wasco High in my post about local schools vying for football Valley Championships. Though the Tigers fell short Friday night, they had a stellar year and deserve some recognition. Well done, lads.

 * ... WINNER: Hats off to Chris Laramy over at Culligan Water of Bakersfield for winning last week's Pig Skin Pick 'em contest in The Californian. He is now a two-time winner and certainly seems to know his football.

* ... FOX HISTORY: Phil Foster wrote with an interesting bit of history about his family and the Fox Theater. Turns out his father and two brothers came to Bakersfield in 1929 and all were musicians. His uncle, Roy Foster, played the organ in the orchestra pit at the Fox during the 1930s and 1940s. "The orchestra pit was on a hydraulic lift and came up during the intermissions and Roy would play for the entertainment." His father, Les Foster, taught the piano and accordion and his other uncle, Lawrence, taught the brass instruments."

 * ... MORE FOX: Emily Shapiro reminded me that St. Louis, where she lived most of her life, also has a Fox Theater that was built a year earlier than our own Fox.

 * ... SPCA: Local Realtor Patsy Sadler wrote with a well deserved pitch for our local SPCA. "When I dropped off some blankets at the SPCA I found out they operate solely on donations.... no government help!  I bet a lot of people don't realize that, so I just thought I'd drop a line and maybe people would be more giving to that organization that always need more dollars. They will keep a dog or cat until it dies no matter how old it is."

* ... BOY SCOUTS: Tom and Jack Saba asked that I give a plug to a fund raiser for Boy Scout Troop 147, and who is going to say no to the Scouts? The troop is holding its "Great American Bowl Off Junior and Adult Tournament" on Saturday, January 28, at AMF Southwest Lanes on Wible Road. It's only $20 to enter and that includes a slice of pizza, soda and bowling shoes. You need to be signed up no later than January 3. Call Tom or Jack at (661) 304-1993 or contact them at

Friday, December 9, 2011

McCarthy: President Obama's over regulation a burden to business, and now comes the farm dust ruling

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) gives us his view from Capitol Hill. In his words"

 "Did you know that the Obama Administration has 4,257 new regulations in the works, 219 of which will each cost over $100 million annually? When a rule or regulation tops the $100 million mark, it’s considered a ‘major rule’ – and there have been a lot of them proposed under the current Administration. Federal regulations cost our economy an estimated $1.75 trillion every year, and the worst part is all of them come from unelected federal bureaucrats. I have heard countless stories from local job creators about the massive costs of complying with regulations – and my colleagues and I have been listening.

"This week, Republicans and Democrats in the House passed the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which requires a congressional up-or-down vote on any ‘major rule.' Voters across the nation have loaned Congress the power to make laws, and with this legislation, the people you elected will decide whether or not major regulations get implemented.

 "One rule that could be considered ‘major’ and would particularly impact Kern County is an EPA proposed regulation on farm dust. Earlier this week, the House passed the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, which prohibits EPA from implementing tighter standards on dust for one year and bans the agency from regulating dust that is kicked up in general rural activities (nuisance dust) if it is already regulated by a state or local entity. EPA already regulates farm dust under the Clean Air Act, and our farmers and ranchers are in compliance with the current standard.  But complying with the current rules already costs money. One Arizona cattle operation paid $400,000 in 2009 just to comply with the current standard. As one of the state’s top producers of agricultural commodities, Kern businesses, farmers and ranchers would be significantly impacted by stricter standards.

"President Obama has said that where ‘we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them.’ We’re giving the President an opportunity to do just that, and I hope he takes it.

 "This week, I had the great pleasure to spend time with “Cooks from the Valley,” founded by local attorney Tom Anton and includes a group of dedicated Kern County residents who volunteer both their time and resources to cook steak dinners at military installations here at home and across the world. They came to Washington, D.C. this week to cook a steak dinner for midshipmen and cadets before the Army-Navy Football Game, serving over 10,500 people in Annapolis and West Point. These selfless men and women epitomize what the holiday season is all about.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A CSUB fraternity pitches it to help a non-profit and a big weekend for hometown sports

* ... KAPPA SIG: The Assistance League of Bakersfield held its annual Chez Noel home tour last week and volunteer Dona Chertok said it was another success. Dona also wanted to thank members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity at CSUB for lending their brawn to help set up the group's chapter room to accommodate vendors. "Some of these young men also staffed as docents at the homes on the tour and the ladies loved them!" she said. Fraternities are not often portrayed so well in the press, so I am happy to share Dona's note. And being a Kappa Sig myself from another university in the South, it makes me proud to see these young men doing well.

* ... FOOTBALL: This is a big week for high school football with Ridgeview, Garces and Bakersfield High all going for Valley Championships on their home fields. BHS plays Bullard, Garces goes up against Clovis North and Ridgeview takes on Kingsburg. As reader Susan Chaidez  reminded me: "We have hundreds of local boys aiming for the top spot with countless hours of dedication on the field and in the classroom; blood, sweat and tears being poured into this amazing show of athletic ability and coaches who do this for the love of the game and the development of the kids!"

 * ... SCHNAUZERS: Gil Nolasco read my blog post about the small dog sipping out of its owner's Starbucks cup and recalled the time with his own mini Schnauzer did the same thing. "Too young to know about hot items that humans drink he slams his face into the cup to lap up the pungent liquid  ... (and) he immediately jerks up and shakes his now coffee covered beard to spray coffee all over me and the floor. Needless to say he learned his lesson!"

 * ... BROCK'S: Twilla Klassen was in Santa Barbara recently and dropped by a consignment store on State Street. "And what did I see but a fur coat with a Brock's label and it looked really good too!"

 * ... SABA'S: Larry Tiller wrote to send kudos to one of our community's great local businesses. "Mr. Beene, you have listed some very fine men's stores but leave off a truly great one.  Saba's Men Store was opened at 916 Baker St. in 1934 and remained at the same location until closing in 2008.  Saba's was run entirely by the Saba family during this time. As a lifetime customer of Saba's I was made to feel like family when entering the store. With their own tailor shop in the store, Saba's was a throwback to a time when customer service was a priority. We will never see the likes of this great men's store again."

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: Regular contributor Patsy Sadler says you might be from Bakersfield "if you remember watching the five o'clock news with Burleigh Smith, Marge Stiles and Hazel Allen advertising her face cream stating it's so pure you can eat it, swallowing a spoonful.  Was probably just mayonnaise!"

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One woman's testimony to the Christmas spirit and more bad form involving cell phones at the Post Office

 * ... CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: Many thanks to reader Alice Brown for dropping me a note that brightened my day. She returned home last Sunday to find a plate of cookies left at her house with a note attached. "It said I had been RACK’ed," she said. "The card also said, this Christmas season, we are counting down the 25 days of Christmas by performing 'Random Acts of Kindness' each day. So often we get caught up in the shopping and forget the real reason for Christmas.  I just want to say thank you to the wonderful and caring person who shared this with me and I will be sure and continue this 'random act of Christmas kindness.'  Merry Christmas to everyone!"

 * ... STINSON'S: I stopped by the annual Customer Appreciation Party over at Stinson's Stationers to touch base with owner Ben Stinson. Every year he opens his warehouse to 800 customers, treating them to a barbecue lunch and drawings for dozens of prizes, including flat screen televisions. Ben takes to a microphone like a Southern minister at a tent revival, regaling the crowd with stories while promoting his business. Stinson's is just another example of a locally owned, family business that has weathered the downturn well.

* ... BAD FORM: This from former local TV anchor and now manners columnist Lisa Kimble Edmonston. She pulled up behind the downtown Post Office to mail a letter and sat there until she realized the woman parked in front of her was on her cell phone. "I got out of my car, walked my letter to the mailbox, tapped on her window to alert her that she had a line of six cars deep behind her ... and she was totally unfazed!"

* ... WHO KNEW? Did you know that the television  series “Pan Am” co-stars Bakersfield native Kelli Garner? She’s also had a number of film roles with actors like Drew Barrymore and Leonardo DiCaprio.

 * ... CROSS COUNTRY: East Bakersfield High School cross country teams of the 1960s will be honored at the "Run for the Dream" indoor track and field invitational meet, January 21, 2012.  Bob Farley, former cross country and track coach at Fresno State, researched and found East Bakersfield High School was the most successful cross country program in the valley through the 1960s. The guest speaker will be Billy Mills, Olympic gold medalist of the 1964 Olympics (documented in the movie "Running Brave"). The meet will be held at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, starting time 1:30 p.m. Thanks to  Richard Villalovos for sharing this.

* ... BAKERSFIELDISM: Dennis Horack writes that you may be from Bakersfield if "you remember all the great men's stores we had when shopping for a sport coat or suit: Coffees, Caspers, Harris and Franks, Richmond Brothers, Seilers and Robert Hall. Back when dressing up for church or the office was the norm, my closet was full of sport coats and suits from the above retailers. I say out with today's casual manner of dress and back to the dress-up mode. My opinion is probably in the minority, but I am old school."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bakersfield listed among the top unhappy cities in America, but here's a dissenting view

* ... SAY WHAT? Men's Health, the magazine that loves to compile "best" and "worst" lists, is at it again. This time it rates the top 20 "Frown Towns" across the country, places where folks are just plain unhappy about everything from unemployment to foreclosures. And sure enough, Bakersfield made the list along with Sacramento.  Florida cities led the list (no doubt because of the housing crisis) with St. Petersburg, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville and Orlando near the top. Pardon me, but my view is Bakersfield has shown real resilience in this long recession. Memo to Men's Health: personal happiness is not determined by one's Zip Code.

 * ... OUR TOWN: To that point, here's a valentine to our fair city. Twilla Klassen wrote that she was in a grocery store when she and another shopper allowed a man with one item to cut in line. "He paid and left but when we checked out he had purchased a holly plant for each of us. What a great way to start the Christmas season. Blessings on him and his family."

 * ... TV ANTENNA: Bill Deaver wrote with this nugget about the old television antennas. "The item about the woman turning the TV antenna reminded me of a time back on the 1960s when my wife and I moved to a home on Mojave's west side. By the time we were moved in it was raining cats and coyotes (desert weather!). So I hooked the TV lead to a pair of metal pants-stretchers (remember them?), and we got a great signal until I could get up on the roof and install an antenna. It helped that the LA TV antennas were on top of Mt. Wilson which was visible from Mojave!"

 * ... SPOTTED: Woman driving a black Mercedes SUV pulls through a Starbucks drive through lane with coffee in hand, but offers her dog the first sip before moving on.

 * ... AIDS QUILT: Eight panels of the national AIDS quilt will be on display Tuesday at The Metro Galleries on 19th Street. The public is invited to view the exhibit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. At 6 p.m. there will be a fund raising reception - hors d'oeuvres, no host bar and live music - to benefit Bakersfield's AIDS Project and Ricky's Retreat. The cost is $20 a person.

 * ... BOYS AND GIRLS: Another worthy fund raiser will be held Tuesday, December 5, at the Stockdale Boys and Girls Club behind Sam's Club on Gosford Road. It's the club's Bunco Night to benefit children living in homeless shelters. The cost is $35 per ticket and the fun gets under way at 6 p.m. For more information call Carole Cohen at (661) 496-4882.

 * ... WHO KNEW?: Did you know that the Fox Theater opened downtown on Christmas day in 1930, when movies were still called “talkies?” Other cities with Fox Theaters include Atlanta, Brooklyn and Detroit.

Friday, December 2, 2011

McCarthy: battling for water rights and measures to create jobs

Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill.
 "I want to congratulate Bakersfield High School senior Amelia Egland for winning the 2011 Earl Warren Cup competition Wednesday night. 32 students competed in the 6th annual competition, and I want to say a job well done to all the participants and also to Principal David Reese, whose impressive entrance from the ceiling kicked things off. This is exactly the kind of competition that can get students excited about government, politics and civic responsibility, and I want to thank Jeremy Adams, Pam and Kevin Reynier and Craig Holliday for making it such a successful competition. When I reached out to First Lady Laura Bush, Diane Sawyer, Speaker Boehner and others to ask them to record a question for the competition, they were all happy to participate. Knowing our community is full of so many bright, passionate and driven young people makes me confident that America’s best days are still ahead.
"But we must do our part to ensure that the America our children inherit is still a strong one. There are more than 20 bipartisan jobs bills passed by the House lingering in the Senate waiting to be voted on, and we added three more this week. The Workforce Democracy & Fairness Act (H.R. 3094) protects employers and employees from partisan overreach by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2011 (H.R. 527) modernizes regulations that haven’t been changed in fifteen years and the Regulatory Accountability Act (H.R. 3010) establishes a rational system of cost-benefit analysis and increases the transparency of rulemaking and public hearings of proposed rules. These common-sense bills could help increase the confidence of our job creators to grow jobs at a time when millions of Americans are seeking work, and I will continue to push Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring them to the Senate floor.
Increasing certainty about our water supply is also vital, especially here in the Central Valley. Next week, I will be sending a letter to Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar demanding that his Department use the best available science when they begin work on the new Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta delta smelt biological opinion. Recently, a Federal court struck down the existing opinion, which is cutting off vital water supplies to California’s Central Valley, as unlawful and not based on the best science. The court ordered it to be redone. The court also discredited some of the scientists who wrote the existing opinion, but unfortunately the Interior Department continues to stand behind them. In order to ensure the best available science is used, the letter also calls on the Secretary to replace the discredited scientists.
"Water is the lifeblood of our community and economy. When a Federal court throws out a Federal agency biological opinion because of shoddy science, it is incumbent upon that agency to improve the science behind it – both for its own credibility and for the millions of Californians who depend on water coming through the delta.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rumors of Billy Cowan's death are premature and remembering the Blackboard and other local icons

 * ... ALIVE AND HEALTHY: Billy Cowan, one of Bakersfield's premier athletes who went from Bakersfield College to the Chicago Cubs, is alive and well, thank you. Apparently there is a well traveled rumor that Cowan had died, but Californian sports reporter Jeff Evans says it couldn't be further from the truth. Apparently the rumor is so strong that Cowan's family has been inundated with calls offering their sympathies. Now 73, Cowan graduated from East High and played baseball and basketball at Bakersfield College before going to Utah on a basketball scholarship. He went on to become the starting center fielder for the Cubs in 1964 when he hit 19 home runs and was ranked ninth in the National League with 12 stolen bases. He played in the majors from 1963-72 and was once traded by the Braves back to the Cubs in 1966 for a utility infielder named Bobby Cox (the same Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves who will be a Hall of Fame manager one day). He will be inducted into the East High Hall of Fame in February.

.... THE BLOG: Risa Bletcher to wrote to say she enjoys this blog but thinks it has become too "clubby," mentioning places like Luigi's where some folks have not visited. She'd like to hear more about these places: the old Blackboard, Maison Jaussauds, the Coachlight Inn, Andre's, Stan's, the Tam O'Shanter, East Bakersfield High, Jefferson and Beale parks and "my all time favorite and neglected, Hart Park. Let's hear about all those wonderful places!"

* ... WHO KNEW? Did you know that in the 1980s Valley Plaza had a Hickory Farms store approximately where ladies' undergarments are now sold at Victoria's Secret?

 * ... MEMORY: Linda Welch wrote to remember "those wonderful rooftop antennas. You had to go outside and rotate them and you might have to put a clothes pen on them" to clear the signal. "Thank God these are not the good old days!"

 * ... SPOTTED: Woman driving a new, white Lexus 570 SUV blows through a red light at Oak and 24th streets, one of our city's most dangerous intersections. Memo to the driver: let's hope it's not your son or daughter driving the car you plow into.

 * ... CHEZ NOEL: Don't forget the 21st annual Chez Noel Home Tour sponsored by the Assistance League of Bakersfield. It will run Friday and Saturday between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. with tickets going for just $35. This is a great chance to see some of our community's lovely homes, so make sure you check this out. Call the Assistance League at (661) 861-9223 for more information on tickets.

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: Donna James says you may really be a Bakersfield old timer if you remember when "the location of St. Francis School was the pasture for Dr. Christopher Stockton's milk cow!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two local athletes shine at the district cyclocross championships and prepare for another First Friday

 * ... FOG SEASON: I am a sun rat who actually enjoys our Bakersfield summers, but fog season also has a special allure for me. This is the time of year when we break out our sweaters, boots, overcoats and scarves. The fog hangs low and at night our community wears a magical glow. Which is why I am looking forward to First Friday this week when all the downtown shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants will be open to usher in a chilly December evening. The arts district will be alive with horse drawn carriages and carolers, so make sure you bundle up and join us downtown to support our local businesses.

 * ... METRO: Bakersfield native son Keith Wicks returns for another exhibit at The Metro Galleries on 19th Street, opening this Friday. Wicks, who is Congressman Kevin McCarthy's cousin, taught at the Academy of Art in San Francisco and now lives in Sonoma. His work is simply stunning. Also being displayed at Metro Galleries are works by former CBS news correspondent Bill Lagattuta, whose art includes abstract portraits and recycled metal. Gallery owner Don Martin is also featuring works by local artists, all priced below $400.  (works below by Wicks and Lagattuta)

* ... CHAMPS: Kudos to a pair of local uber athletes who brought home a couple of district state championships in cyclo cross racing. Sam Ames, the manager of Action Sports off Brimhall Road, won first in the master's division ages 40 to 44 and Chevron employee Gareth Feldstein took top honors in the Category 3 division. The race was held at Verdugo Park in Glendale. The state cyclocross championships are set for January 22 here at Hart Park in Bakersfield.

 * ... SIMON WIBLE: This tidbit comes courtesy of longtime Bakersfield oilman F. Lynn Blystone, who just returned from the meeting of the Alaska Miners Association in Anchorage. He learned that Simon Wible, for whom Wible Road is named, was inducted into the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame in 2003. "In the late 19th century he mined gold and built canals and water systems in California," Blystone said. "He built the Kern Valley Water Company canals, founded the Bank of Bakersfield and was considered one of our leading citizens." Wible later went to Alaska in 1898 at the age of 67 and mined for 13 years before his death in 1911." His mine at Girdwood, about 45 miles from Anchorage, still produces today."

 * ... RABBI CHERYL: Hats off to Rabbi Cheryl Rosenstein who will celebrate her "chai anniversary" at Temple Beth El this Saturday. I am told that "chai" means "life" and is a symbol that captures an important aspect of Judaism. The event starts at the Temple at 4 p.m. with a program at 5:30 p.m.

 * ... WHO KNEW? Did you know that the logo graphic used by Pyrenees French Bakery is actually a copy of a photograph taken by the famous French photographer Elliott Erwitt in 1955?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bako Bits: giving thanks and remembering days gone by

 * ... GIVING THANKS: While you are giving thanks this week, keep in mind all those who are struggling with illness and other challenges. My thoughts go to Wendy Wayne, one of our community's great leaders who is down at City of Hope Hospital in Los Angeles undergoing chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. 

* ... BAD FORM: Harry Love wrote to lament some of the bad driving habits seen around our town. "It is time to remind Bakersfield drivers about California law that requires driving to have headlights on even during the day. Today while driving on Rosedale Highway only one out of ten cars had the headlights on. Please spread the word." Will do, Harry, and I'll also issue a polite remind that using turn signals is also a good idea.

 * ... SPOTTED: And speaking of suspect driving, a pit pull is spotted hanging by its leash off the side of a yellow pickup truck getting on east-bound Highway 178 at Fairfax Road, its feet scrambling on the pavement to keep up with the accelerating vehicle. Alerted by the honking of others, the driver pulled to the side of the on-ramp and put the dog back in the bed of the truck.

 * ... PIES: This seasonal tidbit from reader Ken Barnes: "Never a better time to remember my long-gone friend and hunting partner Leroy Fontana. He and his whole family would produce hundreds of pumpkin and pecan pies Thanksgiving week at their shop on Niles Street. And, not just to sell but to give to local shelters around town. Best piece ever made in the city, bar none!"

 * ... IRONMAN: Hats off to John Zaninovich, who at 41 completed his first Ironman triathlon. Proud mother Priscilla Kelly said family and friends where there in Tempe, Arizona, when John competed with 2,600 other triathletes in the grueling event. "We are all proud of him and feel he sets a great example for all of us when we have to talk ourselves into our daily exercise regime!"

 * ... MORE THANKS: Gordon Wickersham wrote to thank the folks over at The Rehabilitation Center of Bakersfield for their kindness in helping his wife Betty, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease. He said the center sponsored a day trip to Eagle Mountain Casino for more than  30 patients "and it was precision at its finest. The smiles will last forever."

 * ... FLOUROSCOPE: Remember the old Flouroscope machines that X-rayed your feet at local shoe stores? Shirley Essman believes the first in town was at Leed's Shoes at 19th Street and Chester Avenue.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Heading into a day of giving thanks and reeling from the idea that Bakersfield is a top "sex happy" city

 * ... THANKS: Thanksgiving is a time to acknowledge the blessings in our lives, so here's my list of some of the things for which I am thankful.
 - I am thankful for a job that keeps me motivated and feeling appreciated.
  - I am thankful for my family and all the women in my life, including two wonderful daughters and a gray tabby named Latte who welcomes me home each and every night.
  - I am thankful for my health and for Dr. Raj Patel and all the good folks over at Preferred Family Physicians who take a genuine interest in my well being.
  -  I am thankful to live in a vibrant and free nation that, despite our challenges, remains the most dynamic country in the world.
 - I am blessed to have a cadre of wonderful friends who never cease to amaze me with their kindness and understanding.
 - And finally, I am lucky to live in a community like Bakersfield that - while quirky at times - is a wonderful place to call home.

 * ... FIRST FRIDAY: I'm looking forward to next week's First Friday when our downtown arts district will once again come alive. I'm particularly keen to see the new Keith Wicks exhibit at The Metro Galleries on 19th Street. Wicks is one of my favorite artists  (I own two of his paintings) and he's worth checking out if you are not familiar with his work. Wicks lives in Sonoma but has strong local ties, including many cousins who live in Bakersfield.

 * ... FOUNDATION: Yet another wonderful thing about our community is its generosity, in ways small and large. I am fortunate to work for a family that believes in giving back, which it did last week via the family's Bakersfield Californian Foundation. The Foundation gave away $111,748.22 in its fall grant cycle, which concentrated on beautifying downtown. Among the recipients were the Arts Council of Kern, the Bakersfield Museum of Art, the Tree Foundation of Kern County, the Fox Theater Foundation, the Spotlight Theater, the Boy Scouts of Kern County, the Boys and Girls Club and the Kern County Museum Foundation.

 * ... SEX HAPPY: Bakersfield made the top ten among American cities deemed to be the most "sex happy." That's right, at least according to Men's Health magazine which based the survey on condom sales, birth rates and STD rates. The top five? Austin, Dallas, Columbus, Ohio, Durham, N.C., and Denver.

 * ... PIE RUN: Remember the annual Pie Run at Hart Park Thanksgiving morning. The fun starts at sun up when more than a 100 runners and walkers head into the hills for a chilly start to the day. Follow the cars to the bonfire and make sure you bring a pie or something to share.

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're from Bakersfield when the two most common bumper stickers deal with Jesus Christ or the Oakland Raiders.

If it's Thanksgiving week, it's time for the annual Pie Run and to welcome the returning college kids

 * ... JOE GOTTLIEB: Long-time Bakersfield businessman and pilot Joe Gottlieb passed away recently, prompting this note from reader Kathy Scott. "Not only did he own 'Gottlieb's Seat Cover City' for many years b ut he was once thought to be dead after not being seen for several days (or perhaps it was weeks, I am not sure) and then he remarkably showed up in Mexico after surviving an accident that put him, his airplane and a friend underwater. Then there is the fact that he had his own private airstrip in his back yard in northwest Bakersfield." 

* ... PIE RUN: One of Bakersfield's great traditions will happen at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving out at Hart Park. It's the annual "Pie Run" where a hundred or so runners and walkers brave the early morning chill and run through the hills and return to a fire and freshly cooked trip-tip and plenty of pies, cookies and breads. It's the brain child of John Rous and has grown into one of our community's signature events, a can't miss way to start the holiday. It starts at dawn and make sure you bring warm gloves, the pie of your choice and your favorite dog.

 * ... COLLEGE KIDS: If it's Thanksgiving week then prepare for the annual influx of college kids home for the holiday. You'll spot them at Luigi's, Uricchio's, Woolgrowers and all the other favorite haunts that serve up Bakersfield home cooking. 

 * ... SPOTTED: Thirty-something mother screaming at her young daughter in the shoe department at a local Target, loudly berating her in front of others. Said one reader: "I could hear this mother clear across the store. She's screaming at this poor little girl,  'You're rude and an embarrassing child!'"

 * ... FEDWAY: Reader Patti Imes remembers her first real job as a Santa's helper at the old Fedway where she helped with the photos. "This was long before digital cameras and I had to remove the exposed film from the camera box under a zipped black bag with arm holes for your hands to go through. Then the film was placed in a mail bag, all while still not looking at what you are doing so you did not get light on the exposed film. Then the package was mailed every night and the families would get the pictures of their kids with Santa in the mail a week later. And who cannot forget the red pixie elf jacket I had to wear every night."

* ... BROCK'S: Kym Vliem wrote to recall the Campus Debs at Brock's Department Store. "In the mid 1960s I participated in Operation Quick Stitch: Brock's 7th Annual Spring Fashion show with Anne Meyers as the Campus Deb director. We were required to sew our own outfits (mine was a mini dress with matching shorts) and write a little bit of dialogue to be read as we did our runway walk."

 * ... LOIS HENRY: Californian columnist Lois Henry will join me Monday at 9 a.m. on Californian Radio (KERN 1180) to talk about investigative journalism and what drives her. Have something you want her to look into? Call the show. We'll be on until 10 a.m.

Friday, November 18, 2011

House moved into digital era allowing constituents to follow activities in real time

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield and House Majority Whip, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill.
 "This week, the House was launched into a new era of transparency with a ground-breaking government application called WhipCast. With this first-of-its-kind government app that you can download on your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry or Android mobile device, you can receive updates on legislation, what the House is considering on the Floor, press releases and more, as it happens. This is a truly revolutionary app – a one-stop-shop to get all the information on what’s going on in Washington.

"For example, this week in Washington was a busy one, the House passed bipartisan legislation to repeal a cumbersome tax withholding requirement to help create jobs and increase certainty for businesses and also ensure our veterans have the resources they need to find employment in this difficult economy. This bill is now on its way to the President’s desk to be signed into law. In addition, we took up a Balanced Budget Amendment to our Constitution to finally force the government to live within its means.

"If you are one of the over 25,000 people who have already downloaded WhipCast, you probably already knew about the action we took this week. If you haven’t downloaded WhipCast yet, I hope you do. Downloading is fast, easy and free. All you have to do is go to the app store on your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry or Android mobile device and type in ‘WhipCast.’ Or, just click on one of the following links to go directly to the store on your device: iPhone/iPad, Blackberry, Android. If you need a little more encouragement to download the app, I put together a lighthearted video to promote it. And while I think I’ll stick with my day job for the time being, I hope you enjoy it. To watch it, click here. 

"There are a number of exciting things happening here in Bakersfield. This weekend, Bakersfield High School will host the Kern Region Forensics League's final tournament, which I’m proud that my son Connor will be participating in. I also want to congratulate the CSU Bakersfield men’s soccer team on a great effort in my alma mater’s first time competing in a NCAA Division I Tournament. These young men are exceptional athletes and were strong competitors and I am so proud that they got so far. 

"Like many of you, I am looking forward to Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season in general. But this time of year also gives us fresh reminder that there are many less fortunate in our community, especially in our current economy. I know I have often said that the members of our community are the most thoughtful and generous I’ve ever known, and I encourage everyone who is able to find a way to give back to those in need this Holiday Season. Whether it is donating turkeys or clothing and blankets, every little bit helps and I know it is appreciated by those in our community going through tough times.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bakersfield is No. 1 in dirty air and Wendy Wayne faces a new setback in her fight with cancer

 * ... POLLUTION: Bakersfield ranked No. 1 on another list of dubious distinction, this time winning the title of the American city with the dirtiest air.  In fairness to us, the Forbes story noted that our air is actually cleaner than it has been in years, but we're still stuck with the title of the dirtiest city in the country. Following Bakersfield were Los Angeles, Visalia, Fresno, Pittsburgh, Modesto, Birmingham, Phoenix, San Diego and Sacramento.  Forbes had this to say about Bakersfield: "Hot, dusty, adjacent to California’s biggest oil fields, Bakersfield has 60 days a year of unhealthy air, 10 times a level considered acceptable. Its ozone levels are better than at any time in the past 15 years, but still unhealthy for 100 days out of the year."

 * ... SICK BAY: I was saddened to hear that Wendy Wayne has suffered a setback in her long battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Wendy underwent a stem cell transplant two years ago at City of Hope and had bounced back to her old self, but apparently the cancer has returned and she is back at City of Hope for another round of chemotherapy. Wendy is one of our community's most generous and giving citizens, a former member of the First Five Commission, an inductee into the CSUB Alumni Hall of Fame and a former Peace Corps volunteer. Keep this special woman and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

 * ... GREEN FROG: The closing of the Green Frog Market on Columbus prompted this memory from reader Mark Thompson. "I am reminded of the time in 2001 when the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) came to town to tape their weekly Smackdown television show. During the episode heated rivals Stone Cold Steve Austin and Booker T wound up at the Green Frog and promptly destroyed the store as well as each other. It was one of the funniest moments ever in wrestling" and you can see the clip on YouTube.

 * ... OVERHEARD: At the downtown Starbucks on 24th Street a woman tells her companion: "I just gave that parolee outside two bucks because he looks so scary I was afraid to say no!"

 * ... BOOK SIGNING: Make sure you head over to Russo's Books at the Marketplace Saturday where author Richard Mallard will be signing his new book "Convict Lake," the tragic story of the death of several teenagers and would-be rescuers in 1990. I've read this book and it is a real page turner, as well as shedding new light on the troubled billion-dollar industry dealing with troubled teens. Mallard will be at Russo's from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

 * ... LA CRESTA: Another memory of old La Cresta, this time from life-long Bakersfield resident Matt Koelzer. "Two of the best memories are Sullivan's Miniature Golf north of Green Frog and west of the old Shakey's Pizza building and Alta Vista Drugs between Tam O'Shanter Liquors and the old Spin 'N Span Market. My family always referred to the drug store as 'Bert and Orville's' for the couple that owned it. If we were well behaved at the doctor or while running errands with mom, we could go in and get a soda or float from the old fashioned fountain where they still mixed you a Coca-Cola by hand."