Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rep. Kevin McCarthy holding "listening sessions" to gauge support in the House for immigration reform, and car thieves love older Honda Accords

 * ... IMMIGRATION: The chances appear about even that we will see real immigration reform this year. The "gang of eight" in the Senate have agreed on reforms, but conservatives in the House are threatening to block any legislation that does not contain real teeth that secures our borders. According to the Wall Street Journal, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) is holding "listening sessions" with House members to gauge interest in a reform bill, while Rep. David Valadao is arguing the Central Valley would benefit from immigration reform.

* ... HOT WHEELS: Just because you drive a fancy car doesn't mean it is more likely to be stolen. In fact, according to the insurance giant GEICO, thieves are more likely to go for older, more reliable cars and trucks. The top 10 stolen vehicles, according to GEICO, are the 1994 Nissan Sentra, the 2002 Ford Explorer, the 2004 Dodge Ram pickup, the 1999 Chevy Silverado pickup, the 1994 Acura Integra, the 2002 Dodge Caravan, the 1991 Toyota Camry, the 2006 Ford F-150 pickup, the 1998 Honda Civic, and the most stolen car: a 1994 Honda Accord.

 * ... SPOTTED: From reader Jon Crawford, who spotted this driving near Truxtun lake the other day. "I noticed a large truck in front of me that paper would fly up out of its bed; not too many pieces, maybe 10 or 12 by the time we turned onto Coffee Road. As I passed it, I recognized the seal of our great city best noted as having the most polluted air in the nation. Perhaps the city is doing its best to also be recognized as the city with the most trash pollution in the nation."

 * ... MORE TRASH: But before we single Bakersfield out for being trashier than most, consider this post from reader Susan St. Laurent, in which quoted David Sedaris in a piece on National Public Radio about living in England: "Hugh and I got this house in West Sussex... and it's in an area called the South Downs. And the Downs are these massive, chalk-speckled hills that run for a hundred miles between East and West Sussex, and we're just at the base of one of them, and our house is on a one-lane winding road that's tree-lined, and it's my idea of beauty. There are forests, and it's just what beauty means to me. But English people throw everything out their car window, and the roadsides are carpeted with rubbish, so that's what I do with my life now: I pick up rubbish on the side of the road. I do it on my bike. I do it on foot. The local council has given me an outfit and a grabber."

 * ... JAZZ FESTIVAL: Don't forget to secure your tickets for the upcoming Bakersfield Jazz Festival, one of our community's signature events. It is planned at CSUB for May 10-11 will kick off with  a Friday lineup including Bakersfield bass groove artist Robin Bramlett, the Billy Vera Big Band, and headliner Roy Ayers. Then on Saturday, six groups lead to fireworks followed by the chart-topping saxophonist Euge Groove to close the festival. The central goal of this event continues to be the support of CSUB students with scholarships. Last year over $30,000 in scholarships were allocated to 42 students, 35 in music and 7 from other academic disciplines.

* ... BAKERSFIELDISM: Kenny Barnes says you may be an Oildale old timer if you "remember going to the River Theatre on Friday nights and the Beardsley kids sat on the left side of the theatre and the Standard kids on the right."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

RIP Graham Downes, an architect whose vision helped restore Bakersfield's Padre Hotel, and here comes the Kern County Nut Festival

 * ... RIP: I was devastated to learn of the death of Graham Downes, one of the original investors and chief architect of the recently renovated Padre Hotel downtown. Downes died in San Diego after he suffered a severe beating in front of his historic Bankers Hill home. Police have arrested a 31-year-old man who worked for Graham in connection with the death. I met Graham more than three years ago
when he and partner Brett Miller were refurbishing The Padre, now one of the jewels of our downtown. He was South African by birth and was a visionary architect, known for projects like The Padre where historic old buildings are brought back to life. I remember asking him if there was any doubt the Padre could get a second chance at greatness. He gave me an incredulous look, motioned his hands toward the then-gutted interior and said - if I remember his words correctly - "Are you kidding? This is the type of project I live for." He was 55 years old. (photo of Graham Downes (right) along with Brett Miller, owner of The Padre Hotel)

 * ... NUT FESTIVAL: The inaugural Kern County Nut Festival is just two months away, and I am a bit surprised there hasn't been more chatter about it. Organizers have high hopes that the June 15 event will put Bakersfield on the map, in a positive way. The idea: a full day celebrating local food products (centered on nuts) that will brand Kern County as a nut capital in the way that Gilroy has its garlic. Among the more than 40 food vendors are Valentien's, Village Grill, Cafe Med, Chef's Choice Noodle Bar and the Delano Elks Club. Tickets are available at the Kern County Museum, Valley Republic Bank, Farm Credit Bank and Vallitix locations.

 * .... FATHER CRAIG: Monsignor Craig Harrison won some praise recently when he offered the invocation and blessing at a recent meeting of the Kern County Bar Association's charitable foundation. Said local attorney Patrick Jennison: "In addition to the uplifting comments, invocation and blessing from Father Craig, he challenged those there to help our foundation fulfill its mission to encourage, assist and educate students with an appreciation and respect for the legal and judicial system. Without fanfare, Craig wrote a check to our foundation for five hundred dollars, and encouraged all those judges, attorneys and others in attendance to contribute for the good work of our foundation. What a terrific example he is for all of us."

 * ... GOOD FORM: This happy note from local food critic Pete Tittl: "This morning while driving to work on Jewetta Avenue I saw an older couple walking south from Brimhall who had plastic bags. They were picking up trash as they went along, trying to clean up the neighborhood. Didn’t get their names, but it’s another cool way of citizens taking action to keep Bakersfield clean."

 * ... FAN MAIL: Occasionally I receive a nice hand written note from a reader, sharing some memory or concern about our community. And occasionally I receive an embittered anonymous mail like the letter from a woman who only identified herself as a "vintage wife of a career Navy pilot." Clearly no fan of this blog, she described me as a "toofy-faced doofus, and a peculiar male yenta." Yikes. Apparently she felt that I was angling for a free meal when I mentioned how delightful Luigi's Restaurant and Delicatessen is on a spring Saturday. Sorry "vintage wife," but my late departed mother frowned on that kind of behavior, and I suspect Gino and Tonia do as well.

* ... MEMORIES: Reader Sigrid Peasha wrote that she grew up in Bakersfield in the early 1970s and fondly remembers shopping with her mother at Dunlap's department store in the College Center Shopping Center on Columbus Street. "Dunlap's was a wonderful department store, and had a beautiful bridal section, which was very impressive to a little girl!  My mom has since passed away, but I have very fond memories of our shopping trips there together."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Graham Downes, architect of the renovated Padre Hotel, dies after a San Diego beating

 Tragic news from San Diego: Graham Downes, the visionary architect who helped refurbish The Padre Hotel in downtown Bakersfield three years ago, has died after taking a severe beating. Police
found Downes outside his historic 103-year-old Bankers Hill home unconscious. A 31-year-old man who worked for Graham Downes Architecture was arrested.
 There is no motive for what started the fight.
 Downes teamed up with San Diego developer Brett Miller five years ago to buy the run down Padre Hotel in Bakersfield. It was his vision that led to the restoration of both the interior and exterior of the building.
 Downes was originally from Durban, South Africa, where he was a prominent rugby player. He has helped restore and build dozens of hotels and offices, including the Hard Rock Cafe and Tower23 in Pacific Beach.
 He was 55 years old.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

One person finds a way to deal with our trash and litter problem, and the CSUB wrestling boosters plan another evening with Stephen Neal to save the storied program

 * ... TRASH: I was heartened to receive this note from reader Lynn Bailey, who submitted a shout-out to an unidentified neighbor who is single handedly trying to tackle our litter problem. Someone, she said, put a small trash can next to the community mail boxes, leaving it a handy receptacle to dispose of community trash. "Everyday when I walk down Jenkins with my dogs I collect trash and dash across the street to dump in the can," she said. "I also try and collect some on my return to dump again in the can. I wish I knew who put it out so I could thank them! I also wish we had a concrete pad to put another one on the opposite side of the street where the kids wait for the buses. There is a ton of wrappings, baggies, cans, cups etc. laying about. Maybe the city could start a program like adopt a street only this could be buy a can and individuals would adopt the 'can' to dump. Just some ideas and a big shout out to the creative person who put that trash can out on Jenkins!"

* ... TRANSITION: From Randy Martin, the Covenant Coffee director: "In the 1950s the Junior Baseball Association was located on west Columbus. The site was a collaboration between the county and city. Now, the Residences at West Columbus, an affordable housing project serving transition age youth and low income families occupies the site. Another partnership to bless the community."

*... WRESTLING: The CSUB wrestling program has been cut off by the university and only exists because of a group of committed boosters who raise $250,000 annually to keep the program alive. On Tuesday, May 7,  the boosters will host an "Evening with Stephen Neal" to raise money for the wrestling program. Tickets are going for $75 and sponsorship opportunities are available. Call (661) 302-4455 for more information. The dinner will be held at Stockdale Country Club. If you have ever dealt with a former wrestler, you know that these people never give up, and they approach every challenge with the same grit they did when their faces were flat on the mats. I'm not betting against them to keep this program alive.

* ... EAST ROTARY: Hats off to the folks over at the East Rotary Club, who put on upscale five-course dinner Saturday to raise money for three local charities. The event was held at Garces Memorial High School and featured a meal by T.L. Maxwell's, wine and a live and silent auction. Word is they raised some $50,000 for Valley Fever Americas, the local Ronald McDonald House and the East Rotary Foundation.

* ... MEMORIES: One final memory about the old Brundage Variety store, where the family of reader Debby Rodrigues shopped. "West on Brundage was Fiddler's Variety, which became Southwest Variety, where birthday presents were purchased for friend's birthday parties. Young's Market, El Tejon Pharmacy and the Belvedere as Brundage Lane met Stockdale Highway. Piggot's Bar stood where the Highway 99 now is. The highway was two lanes with dirt shoulders on either side.  No traffic to speak of. We could walk to Stockdale Liquors or the Oaken Bucket Liquor Store for candy or in the mid 1960s, Foster's Freeze to enjoy a 10 cent soft serve ice cream cone. Carefree days, except of course the Cold War bomb drills! We did think nothing of being out and about, taking our safety for granted. Lots of changes since then.  Kids on the street now! Oh my, what are their parents thinking!"

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You may be a Bakersfield old timer if you attended the Saturday morning movie matinees at the Granada Theater.