Thursday, February 13, 2014

Husband of a Bakersfield native dies in an avalanche in eastern Oregon, and The Padre Hotel refinances its debt

  * … AVALANCHE: It turns out there was a local connection to a terrible avalanche in eastern
Oregon that killed two people and injured two others. According to reader Nelda Oldham, it was the husband of her grand daughter Laurel Coulter who died in the mishap. Authorities said Shane Coulter, an aeronautical engineer, was cross country skiing in the Wallowa Mountains when he was killed. Laurel, who was born in Bakersfield, is also an aeronautical engineer with Boeing in Seattle. "He was an expert skier," Oldham said. "Shane was a wonderful ,modest young man and our family is devastated."

 * ... PADRE: The Padre Hotel has successfully refinanced much of its debt with a $10.7 million loan from Fresno-based United Security Bank. The loan refinances the debt the Padre incurred during the acquisition process and construction, but leaves in place a loan made by the City of Bakersfield. The bank's local vice president, Bart Hill, negotiated the deal and says this is one of the biggest real estate loans in downtown Bakersfield in the last five years. It is also a sign, Hill said, of the vitality of downtown Bakersfield and the local economy in general. United Security Bank is headquartered in Fresno with a dozen branches mostly located in the San Joaquin Valley. The bank purchased Taft National Bank eight years ago. The refinancing leaves San Diego developer Brett Miller as the sole owner of The Padre.

 * … CAFE: There's a beautiful new addition to our downtown restaurant scene over on L Street near the Sequoia sandwich shop. It's called Cafe Wall Street and it is owned by the couple that runs the successful sushi restaurants Enso and Toro at The Marketplace. The interior is stunning, featuring soft lighting, wide distressed wood floors and vintage iron light fixtures. I stopped by the other day and was told the official grand opening will not come until next month, but it is now serving customers in its soft opening.

 * … EATERY: And speaking of restaurants, congratulations to the folks over at the Little Italy restaurant in the Town and Country shopping center who are celebrating 10 years in business. To celebrate, the owners are offering $10 lunch specials all year.

 * … TWITTER: This humorous thought was posted on Twitter: "When life knocks me down, instead of getting back up I usually just lie there and take a nap."

* … MEMORIES: Judi Anderson Gahagan wrote with this question about Valley Plaza: "We would like to know what year the Valley Plaza mall opened, and we want to know if any readers remember a 'drug' type store being across from Wyatt's Cafeteria, and the name of this store. At a family dinner we could not come up with a name for this store… one member in our family could remember his mom buying donut holes inside this store." Judi: Valley Plaza opened in 1967 but I am not familiar with the store in question. Maybe other readers can help.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

CSUB president Horace Mitchell appointed to NCAA Division 1 executive committee and the late Spartacus Miller finally finds his place at The Padre Hotel

 * … MITCHELL:  CSUB President Horace Mitchell has been appointed to the executive committee of the NCAA Division 1 board of directors. This is an important appointment and puts Mitchell on the committee that will deal with issues such as the effort to unionize and pay college
football players. Mitchell told me during a wide-ranging discussion on First Look with Scott Cox that he opposes any form of payment for college students. In an opinion piece for the online U.S. News and World Report he said this: "Students are not professional athletes who are paid salaries and incentives for a career in sports. They are students receiving access to a college education through their participation in sports, for which they earn scholarships to pay tuition, fees, room and board, and other allowable expenses.
Collegiate sports is not a career or profession. It is the students’ vehicle to a higher education degree."

* … OLYMPICS: There is another Bakersfield connection to the Winter Olympics: Travis Ganong, a U.S. skier in the downhill competition. His father, Rick, was raised here and attended Bakersfield High School before heading off to college and eventually medical school. Ganong's grandmother and uncle are still living in Bakersfield.

 * … GOOD FORM: Lois Sabaloni took her husband, Joe, to the Elephant Bar the other day to celebrate his 93rd birthday. What happened next was an unexpected, delightful surprise. It turned out a man at the counter overheard the couple talking to their waitress and he paid for their entire bill, "writing a note of thanks and inspiration to us at the bottom, not knowing that Joe had served three years in the Navy during World War II." The waitress also refused to take a tip from Lois and Joe. "We'd like them to know how much their kindness touched our hearts," Lois said.

 * … MILLER: It took a couple of years but The Padre Hotel has finally installed a painting in honor the the hotel's former owner, the colorful Spartacus Miller. The image of Miller is installed in a light fixture above the pool table in the ground floor bar area with the words "gladiator against all forces of oppression." (photo by Don Martin)

 * … TRASH: From reader Ginny Espinoza: "I want to cry every time I see the commercial about covering up the green waste in your truck bed…. ending with: 'It’s the right thing to do - and – it’s the law!' Really? Shouldn’t it be: 'It’s the law – and – that makes it the right thing to do?'"

 * … TWITTER: My favorite Twitter feed of the day: "In about 20 years, the hardest thing our kids will have to do is find a username that isn’t taken."

 * … RAFFLE: The Our Lady of Guadalupe School will celebrate its 28th Annual Reverse Raffle and Dinner this Saturday. The event will be held on the new church grounds at 4600 E. Brundage Lane. Cocktails will begin at 5 p.m, followed  by dinner and a raffle. The grand prize is $8,000. Also this year, the school will present the Monsignor Craig Harrison Award to the Berchtold and Puente families. For event and ticket information, call the school office at (661) 323-6059.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Stanford historian takes California to task for its man-made role in our drought, and a British newspaper puts the spotlight on Crisp and Cole

 * … DROUGHT: The Fresno Bee ran an interesting opinion piece on our drought from Victor Hanson, a historian at Stanford University. In it he lamented our "two droughts," one of nature's
making the second of our own making in which we divert millions of acre feet of water to protect an ailing, small fish. Said Hanson: "Instead of an adult state with millions of acre-feet stored in new reservoirs, California is an adolescent culture that believes that it has the right to live as if it were the age of the romantic 19th-century naturalist John Muir — amid a teeming 40-million-person 21st-century megalopolis. The California disease is characteristic of comfortable postmodern societies that forget the sources of their original wealth. The state may have the most extensive reserves of gas and oil in the nation, the largest number of cars on the road — and the greatest resistance to drilling for fuel beneath its collective feet. After last summer's forest fires wiped out a billion board feet of timber, we are still arguing over whether loggers will be allowed to salvage such precious lumber, or instead should let it rot to enhance beetle and woodpecker populations. In 2014, nature yet again reminded California just how fragile — and often pretentious — a place it has become."

 * … COLE: The Financial Times, a respected London-based newspaper, put the spotlight on the housing and mortgage crisis recently with a long interview with Carl Cole, one half of the now disgraced Crisp and Cole mortgage empire. The story traces how Cole became partners with the
younger Crisp, and it follows Cole through the rapid rise and catastrophic fall of their company and his eventual guilty plea to mortgage fraud. The author noted that "Bakersfield was a fitting place for Cole to start over. It has been giving Americans second chances since the Joad family came to the Weedpatch work camp, a few miles south of the city, in John Steinbeck’s Great Depression novel, The Grapes of Wrath… People came to Bakersfield because it was the kind of place where they could make a living with their hands – in oilfields and farms and the businesses that grew up around them." (photo by 23ABC News Bakersfield)

 * … NORIEGA'S: I was the guest at a birthday party this weekend held at Noriega's, the award winning Basque restaurant that serves some of the best garlic fried chicken you will find anywhere. Everytime I stop by Noriega's I leave thinking: I need to do this more often.

* … BENTZ: It was nice to see more than 60 cyclists show up for a memorial ride Saturday to honor the late Doug Bentz, the ski chalet owner who died last week at the age of 70. The group retraced the route that Bentz and his son would take every week, a fitting tribute to the popular local retailer.

 * … TWITTER: My favorite tweet of the week comes from the Twitter feed of actress Jennifer Lawrence: "Some people are like clouds. When they go away it's a beautiful day."