Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Orleans may soon have all its school children in charter schools, I scored gold in two tickets to CrabFest and what is your rule on tipping in restaurants?

 * ... BETSY DEVOS: Newly minted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a strong supporter of charter schools, striking fear into teacher's unions and others who fear this could spell the demise of traditional education. But the future may already be here, in no place else than post Katrina New
Orleans where the percentage of children attending charter schools has reached 92 percent. I spotted this letter in Politico Magazine: "Soon, New Orleans may become the only big city in the country without a single traditional public school run by a central office; nearly all have been turned into charter schools—there are now more than 80 in all—and the five remaining holdouts may be converted in the next few months. A few thousand families take advantage of the state’s voucher program, enrolling in local Catholic schools. And overall, test scores here have improved markedly." In a report by The New York Times, there were surprising percentages for other urban school districts: Flint, Mich., stands at 52 percent; Kansas City is at 40 percent, Philadelphia 32 percent; Detroit is at 53 percent and the District of Columbia is at 45 percent. The lesson: give parents choice and in many cases they opt out of public schools in troubled urban districts.

* ... CRABFEST: Life is full of small surprises and mine came when I scored two tickets to this year's CrabFest out at the Fairgrounds this weekend. There are a lot of terrific fund raisers about town - West Rotary's Cioppino feed comes to mind - but I put CrabFest at the top of my list. It's a huge event featuring fresh crabs and ribs and proceeds go to help the folks at St. Francis School for the purchase of band instruments, art supplies and sports equipment and fees. It has also provided funds for construction of the school chapel, renovation of the cafeteria and the formation of popular extracurricular activities such as Academic Decathalon and Homework Club.

 * ... TYLER WILLIAMS: Congratulations to Tyler Williams, a 22-year-old Bakersfield lad who is living the dream as a professional cyclist in Europe. Williams, who attended Centennial High before being home school so he could compete, is riding for the Israeli-sponsored Cycling Academy team on the Pro Continental circuit. The team is currently based in Girona, Spain, and when back stateside he calls Santa Rosa home. Williams and his high school sweetheart, Brea Wanner, wed a few months ago.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I know you're supposed to eat three meals during the day, but how many do you eat at night?"

 * ... TIPPING: What is your policy on tipping? My standard is 15 percent but if the service is really good, and the waiter not too overbearing but at the same time attentive, I go 20 percent or higher. Jeramy Brown, general manager of The Mark Restaurant on 19th Street, appeared on my radio show on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM and approved my system, but also said some restaurants in bigger cities are now doing away with tipping altogether, choosing instead to simply raise the price of the meals. My take: allow me to retain the decision on how good (or bad) the service was.

 * ... TOWNHOMES: Some good news for downtown: the first tenants have moved into the 17th Place Luxury Townhomes, a major step in the further development of residential facilities east of Chester Avenue. Coming soon: a new downtown coffee shop and bakery called Cafe Smitten on 18th Street.

 * ... PUMPKIN CENTER: I am a sucker for almost anything that connects us to our past, and that's why I spend far too much time on a Facebook page called "Kern County of Old." This is a treasure trove of information on the history of Kern County, thanks to folks who post family pictures and memories. This is one that jumped out at me, posted by a woman who accompanied this post with a picture of her relatives early on in Pumpkin Center. "Thought it would be cool to share a little family history today......This is Taft Highway in 1932. My grandfather Mike Giminiani started the little town of Pumpkin Center with a fruit stand and grocery store. It was the last stop to Taft during the big oil boom. He also had a jitney service that drove loggers to and from Johnsondale up above Kernville with that car you see pictured here. He also bootlegged and made his own wine... To this day, the large wine barrels are still in the cellar of the house my mother grew up in. I have such fond memories there."

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Remembering a big boned neighborhood dog named Gennie, a star at the Fox Theater for the late Wendy Wayne and do we really want full dinner service in movie theaters?

 * ... RIP GENNIE: Pets are like friends, even if they didn't belong to you. So it was with a heavy heart that I read that Gennie, the big boned, 16-year-old white muzzled Lab mix that belonged to Herb and Sue Benham, had finally died. I got to know Gennie when I would feed her and her blind
companion, Poco, when the Benhams were out of town being doting grand parents. Even on those days when I didn't provide the occasional rib bones from Luigi's, Gennie was ever grateful for the attention and a fresh bowl of food and water. She was a big girl and I suppose imposing to a stranger with bad intentions, but to me she was sweet Gennie who embodied all that is good about Bakersfield: born of humble origins, a bit awkward for her size, yet grateful, loving and determined to make that last two block walk until the day she could not longer muster the strength. The selfless love of a dog or cat is unequalled in this world even if she doesn't happen to be yours. RIP Ms Gennie.

 * ... WENDY WAYNE: The next time you are at the Fox Theater downtown make sure you check out the new 'walk of fame' star honoring Wendy Wayne, the big hearted community activist who died of cancer in July of 2012. The star was uncovered on a beautiful Saturday morning by her husband Gene Tackett and a couple dozen friends and family members. Tackett read a poem by an unknown author called "I'm Free" that ends this way: "Perhaps my time seemed all good brief, don't lengthen it now with undue grief, lift up your hears and share with me .. I'm free." Wendy would be 69 today had she survived her cancer.

* ... SILVER FOX: Expect the renovated Silver Fox Starlite Lounge to reopen by the first of March. That's the word from the new owners Rod and Julie Crawford, who have pledged to bring the Silver Fox back to its old glory. The interior now sports a beautiful, classic black and silver wallpaper that beckons back to the hey day of old Bakersfield, a fresh new coat of paint has been added and expect to see new "Silver Fox" signage in the coming weeks.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Imagine how fun Pringles would be if the cans were spring-loaded."

 * ... HISTORY: Did you know that there used to be two elementary schools on the site where Bakersfield Fire Station No. 1 is now located at H and 21st streets? The first was called Bryant Grammar School until it burned in 1889 and the second was simply called the H Street grammar school. I learned this on the 'Kern County of Old' Facebook page, a wealth of information about our community.

 * ... MOVIE THEATERS: I have already weighed in on the idea of serving full meals and cocktails in movie theaters - that would be a resounding 'no' - but Carole Cohen told me about a better idea that she experienced in New Mexico recently. "I recently attended the movies in Santa Fe.  Lots of different food and beverages, including alcohol, served IN THE LOBBY, where tables and chairs were plentiful. Some items could be taken into the theater, but I didn't really see big food orders going in. I'm assuming this was mainly because, with reserved seating, no one was let into their individual theater until 10 mins before show time. (All seats were reserved, and tickets could be purchased by machine in the lobby, several days in advance, or through the usual means -
humans behind a counter.) The theater was always packed and their business model was obviously popular. It seemed much better suited to the Bakersfield market."