Thursday, May 29, 2014

Remembering the great poet and thinker Maya Angelou, Uricchio's Trattoria gets a facelift and some random acts of good form break out about town

 * … GOOD FORM: Here's your pick-me-up story for a Friday. Debbie Lewis was downtown last weekend, celebrating her birthday, when she lost her wallet while getting out a cab. She called the cab company who could not locate it. "Fast forward to Sunday morning, my mom sent a text explaining that a young man named Colton had driven across town to my parents' house and had returned my
wallet to their address, which was listed on my driver's license. Not a single credit card or cash dollar was out of place. Whomever you are, sympathetic mystery person, THANK YOU and I will be happy to buy you lunch at Moo Creamery. You made my birthday weekend wrap up with a heart hug and smile."

* … FACELIFT: I dropped by one of my favorite locally owned restaurants the other day - Uricchio's Trattoria - and was pleased to see the family has given it a fresh new facelift. New paint, new trim and striking new carpeting has spruced the place up, and of course its food, service and wine remain some of the best in town.

* … ANGELOU: I was saddened to hear of the death of Maya Angelou, one of our nation's outstanding poets and thinkers. One of her poems - Still I Rise - is a powerful poem that I shared with students when I read at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School where my daughters attended. The opening phrases: "You may write me down in history … With your bitter, twisted lies… You may tread me in the very dirt… But still, like dust, I'll rise."

 * … SCHOOL: Benny de la Cruz wrote to wonder if anyone remembers St. Joseph's School,across the street from Washington School on Baker. "It would be nice to have a school reunion, but I'm afraid there are only a few of us alumni left," he said.

* … MORE GOOD FORM: Joan Muller submitted this bit of good form after a 30-foot tree fell on her house last week. Neighbors alerted her and in the 20 minutes "it took me to get there my fantastic neighbors (on Redwood Meadow Drive in Oildale) had used their hand saws to cut away some branches so I could at least get my vehicle into the garage as the front door was completely blocked. My gardener, Tino Olvera of Olvera's Trimming (661-444-9992), came by that night to make sure I was okay and assess the situation. He returned bright and early on Friday morning and worked all day to clear the tree. He had the whole yard cleaned up by the time I got home from work. He even took pictures of the damage to the roof for me. I am beyond blessed to have all these extraordinary people in my life and am now trying to think of an appropriate way to thank them for all their support. "

 * … VIETNAM: In keeping with the spirit of Memorial Day, Charlie Wilmot updated me on some statistics on the Vietnam War Memorial: Originally the Wall had 57,939 names on it when dedicated in 1982… Since then 361 names have been added, with the latest 14 additions being dedicated May 11, 2014; 1,642 names on the wall are missing in action; one soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was only 15 years old.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Overrun with panhandlers, Bakersfield residents start to express charity fatigue, and more bad form as stoners litter the streets

 * … PANHANDLERS: Remember the woman who noted that vans pull up each morning at the shopping center at California Avenue and Stockdale Highway and drop off panhandlers? Well here is an update. Said Kathy Scott:  "When I went to my weekly meeting, a few days after you published my letter, I was told that the whole shopping center was talking about my letter and
appreciative of letting others know about the big van that drops the panhandlers off in the mornings and picks them up late that day. But they said it seems that they must not read the paper since the day after it printed they dropped them off in a big brand new Lexus or BMW! Shameful that when we as a nation of giving to those in need, those that obviously are NOT in need, found a way to deceive and take advantage of us. I believe if we truly want to help those in need we need to stop giving money to anyone panhandling and instead give money to charities or a food bank or a homeless shelter ... Just my opinion."

* … MEMORIAL DAY: Did you catch the planting of 1,000 flags at The Park at River Walk this weekend? It was a beautiful scene, but some folks questioned the timing of it. Said Mary Webb: "With all due respect to military servicemen and women's organizations, it was a well-intentioned, but ill-conceived idea. On a popular three-day holiday weekend, when parks see maximum usage, the flags disallowed usage of much of this park to families. The flags were erected in an area where permanent grills are installed for picnicking, and where children are usually running about playing tag and other games, and families have blankets spread out for relaxing. Next year, why not use the very large lot across from the park that has been vacant for at least 20 years? Bring in a watering truck two days beforehand, and have volunteers erect the flags. There's ample space available for concessionaires, canopies for promotional activities, etc. The patriotic display would be just as showy, and would leave our parks for their original intention: family recreation." (Photo by Karen Goh)

* …. MAD AS HELL: Doug Winston says perhaps he was inspired by Tara the super cat, but over Memorial Day he took matters into his own hands. It began on Friday at the Ride Aid at Brimhall and Calloway when he spotted a couple tossing candy wrappers out of their car window. "I'm not sure if I should be proud of what happened next," he told me. "I picked up all of the wrappers and threw them back in their car right in front of my wife and told them not to litter and don't be a**holes. This is when I noticed that they were stoned out of their minds. Staring back at me were watery, red eyes in disbelief. This only made me more angry so I left. Maybe I should've called the police or something. I figured I'd done enough for one day. But wait there's more. This Memorial day morning two German shepherd mix dogs were roaming around our front yard. No collar, no tags and no microchip for identification. We found out there was no microchip from the Easton Drive emergency veterinarian hospital. We also found out that these were the sweetest dogs we ever met riding in the car to the hospital and back. Of course everybody is closed on Memorial Day so we had to call the non-emergency Bakersfield police dispatch to get the animal control vehicle to come pick up the dogs and take them to the city shelter.  The driver was a bright spot in the day, an awesome guy and clearly asset to the BPD. Somebody who really seemed to care for these dogs." To end the day, Doug spotted a couple walking their Husky on the hot bike path while it was 95 degrees. He let them know this was not wise. He continued: "Apparently I need anger management but I feel much better now that I've written this, thanks for being my outlet." You are welcome Doug!

  * … HONOR: Hats off to Ogden Kiesel, a dedicated teacher for the Kern Superintendent of Schools – he is a science teacher at CLC Tech Community School --who has named 2014 Teacher of the Year by the Juvenile Court, Community, and Alternative School Administrators of California.

 * … MEMORIES: Joe Scott was born in Bakersfield in 1945 and has a fond memory of a man standing on the corner of 19th and Chester selling newspapers. "He wasn't operating a newspaper stand. He just stood there with a canvas bag filled with folded newspapers over his shoulder. And he would sing out in a rather beseeching manner, 'Get your Bakersfeeel Califorrrnyun.'  I remember the paper being sold in downtown Bakersfield in that fashion into the 1950s.  Even though the man is gone, it's comforting to know the 'Bakersfeeel Califorrrnyun' is still here." Thanks Joe, I second that notion!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Saluting all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice on this Memorial Day weekend and looking back at the war in Vietnam

 * … MEMORIAL DAY: On this Memorial Day, we honor all of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country. In my family, I salute my late mother's brother, Harold Swysgood, an Army medic, who died in the Battle of Anzio in February of 1944. He was just 22 years old.

 * … VIETNAM: Some interesting statistics on the Vietnam War: 2,709,918 Americans served in uniform in Vietnam; Vietnam veterans represented 9.7% of their generation; 240 men were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 58,148 were killed in Vietnam, 75,000 were severely disabled, 23,214 were 100% disabled, 5,283 lost limbs, 1,081 sustained multiple amputations;  of those killed, 61% were younger than 21, 11,465 of those killed were younger than 20 years old, of those killed, 17,539 were married, average age of men killed was 23.1 years, five men killed in Vietnam were only 16 years old, and the oldest man killed was 62 years old.

 * … GREENLAWN: A special Memorial Day observance will be held today at Greenlawn Funeral Home on Panama Lane. It starts at 11 a.m. and will feature a patriotic motorcycle even, a military vehicle display and a cookout following a tribute to veterans. At the River Boulevard location, there will be a 2 p.m. event featuring American Legion Post 26 and special music.

* … SPOTTED: Best T-shirt spotted on Memorial Day has this inscription on the back: "If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran."

* … ACCIDENT: Manuel D. Fuderanan is a city traffic engineer who was conducting a traffic study at the intersection of 23 and L streets on Tuesday when a "traffic accident happened right before our very eyes. A pick-up truck with a trailer sideswiped a man on a wheel chair at the southeast corner. Both had the green light ---the northbound vehicle on L Street to make a right turn to eastbound 23rd and the man on the wheelchair to go northbound on the crosswalk across 23rd. We are quick to vilify police personnel and accuse them of alleged 'abuses' in the performance of their jobs, but this time around I was much impressed by the quick response of a couple of Police Technicians. They were the first to arrive and secure the scene in less than two minutes. I have to doff my hat in admiration to these Police Technicians and the fire truck paramedics and ambulance personnel who arrived later. Their swift, competent and efficient response is reassuring."

 * … PANHANDLERS: More testimony from local folks on the explosion of panhandling in Bakersfield: From Mary Louise Durham: "Richard, I went to a very popular fast food place on Stockdale Highway Tuesday and as I entered a man ask me if I could help him out. He needed more money to buy food and he showed me he only had two ones and some change. I said I would give him 35 cents and he could buy himself a cheese burger and he told me he wanted more than that. I smiled and moved on. When I left the same thing happened outside on the patio. This was an older man and I did give him my French fries. What would this type of panhandling be called?"