Thursday, January 21, 2016

The new year ushers in some tough economic worries, ammunition sales take off and a dark comedy starring Zach Galifianakis is set in the "garbage dump" that is Bakersfield

* ... LOCAL ECONOMY: It's hard to be optimistic about the local economy when we start the year with $26 a barrel oil, a stock market in full retreat and local Realtors warning the housing market will stall or even reverse. "It's going to be a tough year," one local businessman told me. "It's tough now
and it is going to get tougher." Still, as reported by John Cox in The Californian, several notable retailers are scouting the Bakersfield market for possible locations, including Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Cafe Rio Mexican Grill and Yard House and two national entertainment companies, Cinemark Theatres and Harkins Theatres.

* ... AMMUNITION: Lost in the recent series of stories about surging gun sales is the fact that ammunition sales are also going through the roof. Local gun store owners tell me that customers are routinely buying as much ammunition as they can for two reasons: the price of ammo is going up and there are fears the government will start requiring background checks for ammunition in addition to handguns and long guns. Said Gene Thome of Bear Mountain Sports: "Every time a politicians starts talking gun control, I can't keep anything in stock."

* ... BASKETS: A new dark comedy starring Zach Galifianakis is set in Bakersfield, and to no one's surprise it doesn't put us in a good light. Called "Baskets," the new FX series has Galifianakis as a rodeo clown who is forced to move back to Bakersfield to make ends meet. Here is how The New Yorker views it: "The show is set in California, though not a sun-kissed Apatovian Los Angeles, but instead a sun-blasted Bakersfield, where the most coveted job around appears to be behind the counter at Arby’s, and where one character remarks that the town is pretty, like a 'garbage dump.'" Should we care? Probably not, but you would think the script writers could find similar 'garbage dumps' much closer to home.

* ... OCSARS: The New York Post, the always irreverent tabloid, ran this headline combining the east coast snowstorm with the controversy over a possible Oscar boycott: "This weekend will be Whiter Than The Oscars."

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "The difference between in-laws and outlaws? Outlaws are wanted."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "OMG......was almost just killed by a lady driving the wrong way on 24th Street."

 * ... MEDIA MOVES: Meteorologist Colin Jackson has left KERO TV to take a job as chief meteorologist for  the NBC affiliate in in Reno. No word yet from KERO who will be Jackson's permanent successor.

* ... ACHIEVER: Hats off to Malcolm Rivera of Arvin who is now serving as chief justice of the Associated Students at the University of California at Davis. Rivera graduated from Arvin High School in 2013 and and is attending UC Davis as a Gates Millennium Scholar. Said his proud mother Regina Rivera: "We, his family, are so very proud of him and he is making a name for himself as a leader."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Drunk driving cases are down in cities where Uber operates, Sheri Horn-Bunk is recognized by the Taft Chamber and here's to a new U.S. citizen

 * ... UBER: It looks like ride-sharing services like Uber are helping reduce the number of drunk driving cases. That's the word from Mothers Against Drunk Driving which noted that cities that  allow Uber are showing a marked decline in driving while intoxicated.  As a report noted: "In California, drunk-driving crashes fell 6.5 percent among drivers under 30 in the markets where Uber operates following the launch of uberX in the state. That represents potentially 60 fewer drunk
driving crashes each month -- a total of 1,800 crashes avoided -- since July 2012. California is Uber’s home state and longest-running market and demonstrates for a possible similar reduction in other Uber markets." If you haven't downloaded the Uber app and tried it, you should. It is cheaper, faster and as reliable (or more so, some would argue) than traditional taxi cabs.

* ... CAFE MED: Cafe Med is one of our signature restaurants known for its unique Mediterranean cuisine, quality of service and lively happy hour. And this year it is celebrating its 25th year in business by offering customers a series of specials along with a grand celebration in June. According to owner Meir Brown, there will be specials on the 25th of every month thought the year. Said Brown: "It has been an amazing 25 years and we look forward to serving Bakersfield for many more!"

 * ... BURGERS: And speaking of food, a reader wrote to complain about the quality - and size - of the custom hamburgers at The Padre Hotel bar. "They are half the size they used to be," he told me. So I took it upon myself to check out the complaint and I can assure you the Padre burger is as delicious - and as large - as ever. Maybe the cook had a bad day when the reader dined there, but I list the hotel's Blue Truffle burger as one of the best burgers in town, along with the Hudson burger from Muertos Kitchen and Lounge and the Sonny burger from downtown Mexicali. (file photo of the Hudson and the Sonny burger)

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: This quote was attributed to Will Rogers: "When I die, I want to die like my grandfather who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in his car.”

 * ... GOOD FORM: Congratulations to my friend Juan Ventimiglia, a local substitute teacher soon to be credentialed in English, who last week became a U.S. citizen. With all the debate and controversy over immigration, it's heart warming to see someone like Ventimiglia talk with youthful wonder about the legal process he went through to become a citizen. The 29-year-old was born in Argentina but came to the United States with his mother, Monica Ayuso, who was pursuing a Ph.D. in English, at the age of two. He is a graduate of CSUB. In this case, Argentina's loss in our gain.

 * ... MORE GOOD FORM: It was good to hear that the Taft Chamber of Commerce is recognizing Sheri Horn-Bunk as its Woman of the Year for 2016. The ever energetic Horn-Bunk is director of the Taft College Foundation and is one of the brains behind the successful West Kern Petroleum Summit that is held on the college campus. Kudos also go to Bob Colton for being named Businessman of the Year and Tanner Melton who will be given the Youth Leadership Award.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The unstoppable development keeps pushing our boundaries west, another trip to the Wind Wolves Preserve and lamenting some folks who have left us

 * .... WESTWARD HO: The westward march of our town continues without pause, and Sunday I passed yet more development in areas that once were pristine agricultural fields. Headed out for a
hike in the Wind Wolves Preserve off Highway 166, I spotted a new Rite-Aid being built at the corner of Old River Road and Panama Lane, and new housing tracts are sure to follow. It doesn't seem that long ago when you couldn't find a home west of White Lane, but the march toward Interstate 5 continues.

 * ... WIND WOLVES: Speaking of Wind Wolves, the word is apparently out on the 93,000 acre preserve. On Sunday, the parking lot was full as parents with their children and dogs arrived early eager to hike the trials.The good news: Wind Wolves is so incredibly large, with so many diverse trails, some more steep and technical than others, that it never feels crowded. One tip: If you are doing the 10-mile hike to the "Reflection Pond," be advised it is dry as a bone, but still well worth the extra miles.

* ... ATTORNEYS: With apologies to my attorney friends, I lifted this from a tongue-in-cheek memo outlining rules for hunting attorneys in Montana. Among the guidelines: "It is unlawful to chase, herd, or harvest attorneys from a snow machine, helicopter or aircraft. It is also unlawful to shout 'whiplash,' 'ambulance' or 'free Perrier' for the purpose of trapping attorneys."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Politeness has become so rare that some people mistake it for flirtation."

 * ... FAREWELL: Local attorney Tom Anton spoke for many of us when he dropped me this note:  “Last week was a sad week. Jim Murray, Brad Singleton, Lou Etcheverry, Steve Starbuck and my cousin Doris Banducci-Walker all died.  I will miss all of them because they were all wonderful folks with terrific personalities. God was lucky last week with all these great people coming to live with him.”

 * ... POWERBALL: Like a lot of us, Ruth Raney bought some Powerball tickets for the big draw last week. And like most of us, she lost. "We had the number 4," she said. "Our Wednesday Bakersfield Racquet Club bridge club had bought Powerball tickets and when we won we were going to include in our generosity BRC. They need so many improvements and we were going to be in a position to really help. Maybe next time. Or better yet, maybe Chino Hills will feel like a good neighbor and remember us, the BRC. One of them could be a tennis player or a bridge player."

 * ... ADAKC: Catherine Pitcher wrote to commend all the folks who participated in a recent fund raiser for the Alzheimers Disease Association of Kern County. "I attended the fundraiser they held across from Channel 17.  They were selling tasty cinnamon rolls made by Hode'ls. This fund raiser was so organized from the start of the line to end of the line. What I observed were some of the friendliest volunteers. They were energetic, happy, and most of all very thankful for the community attending this fundraiser.  I am thankful for the volunteers who run this organization."