Thursday, August 24, 2017

Kern County's grape harvest is in full swing, more heat in the 106-degree range is in the forecast, a new manager takes over at The Mark restaurant downtown and a fond farewell to Lois Henry

 * ... GRAPES: If you are lucky, this is the time of year when it's good to count a local grape farmer as one of your close friends. The grape harvest is in full swing, and I watch with envy as a neighbor unloads a case of delicious, red seedless grapes from his car, courtesy of his buddy whose family
owns a vineyard in Delano. Kern County specializes in the classic plump, seedless table grape, but vineyards like The Grapery in Shafter have also brought to market exciting new varieties like the Moon Drops, Tear Drops and Cotton Candy variety. This is the season. Enjoy the harvest.

* ... HEAT: You know you are from Bakersfield when you realize summer is never over until the Kern County Fair ends in October. An example: temperatures are heading back to the 105-106 degree range this weekend and into early next week. Hang tight because winter is coming. Just not tomorrow.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "If you scan the barcode tattoo on my neck, it tells you I scored very poorly on my SATs."

 * ... ROBERT LEE: The award for the overreaction of the week goes to ESPN, which told an Asian-American sports broadcaster named Robert Lee that he could not provide the play-by-play for a University of Virginia football game because his name was too similar to the Conferdate war general Robert E. Lee. To which someone tweeted: "From 1862 until his surrender in 1865, ESPN college football announcer Robert Lee commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia." And so it goes.

 * ... STATUES: And speaking of Gen. Lee, it is important to note the distinction between history and heritage in the argument over removing statues of Confederate soldiers. History is the study of exactly what happened in the past while heritage is the celebration of local and regional life via traditions, buildings, statutes etc. As one website put it: "History is the study of the past and heritage refers to valued objects and qualities such as historic buildings and traditions that have been passed down from previous generations."

 *... THE MARK: There is a familiar face hanging around The Mark as the downtown eatery's new  food and beverage manager: George Valencia, who spent six years working in a similar position at The Padre Hotel. The Mark has struggled with a series of short tenured managers who were shown the door (Terry Maxwell and Jeramy Brown were the latest) and are hoping Valencia brings some much needed stability to the popular restaurant. Meir Brown, the Cafe Med owner who was brought it to stabilize the place, said he hopes his temporary assignment ends by late December.

 * ... FAREWELL LOIS HENRY: And finally, a farewell and good luck to Californian columnist Lois Henry, who ends a remarkable 30-year run at the newspaper today (Friday) to explore new opportunities. Her courage, doggedness, honesty and occasional snarkiness (what would a Lois column be without a dose of that?) will be missed on the pages of our local daily newspaper.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The eclipse was Mother Nature's gift, a rare moment of positivity and wonder in a world awash in negativity, terror and vitriol, and USC comes in at No. 4 in the AP preseason college football poll

 * ... MOTHER NATURE: Wasn't the solar eclipse spectacular? Even here in Kern County where it didn't totally block out the sun, the event provided a rare and welcome respite from the tsunami of
negativity and bad news that have consumed us recently: Charlottesville, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Barcelona, Islamic terrorism, the rush to erase history by tearing down statues, to name just a few. In less than three minutes Mother Nature brought us together in positivity, wonder and hope.

 * ... SPORTS: Is there a better time for sports than fall: College football returns, we head to the World Series and the Los Angeles Dodgers are on top of the baseball world. And now this: the USC Trojans are ranked fourth in the AP preseason college football poll right behind perennial powerhouses Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State. Rounding out the top ten are Clemson, Penn State, Oklahoma, Washington, Wisconsin and Oklahoma State.

* ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "You ever get a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach and then look down and realize you're impaled on a spear?"

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Much like the moon, I also like to stand in front of my hotter friends and dramatically become the center of attention.

 * ... SUMMER TREAT: Here in the waning days of summer, the best dessert around is mango mocha ice cream from Jin Sushi downtown, topped with whipped cream, chocolate and cherries.

 * ... REALLY BAD FORM: Ginny Espinoza is a volunteer at the Rags to Rescue store on H Street that supports the HALT (Helping Animals Live Tomorrow) dog rescue operation. This past week, someone stole an old red wooden telephone booth in front of their store. "The telephone booth was going to open in October as a Little Neighborhood Library, with books to help kids learn about their pets and how to better care for them. We had plans for Pumpkin Carving for children, Kids’ Painting Sessions, and Dogs Best Costume Contests at Halloween around the library in front of our shop.
To say that we are heart-broken is putting it mildly! Hoping you can help us spread the word for return of the booth!"

 * ... MORE BAD FORM: My neighbor Bernadette Root was in Denver recently dining at the newly remodeled Union Station when she noticed a diner changing her baby's diaper at her table. "Then she left it there on top of the table," she said. Looks like bad form knows no geographic boundaries.

  * ... FRANKLIN: Kathy Kozlowski is a second grade teacher at Franklin Elementary and sent me this note to set the record straight. "On Friday morning, you had a blurb in your blog about parents at Franklin not being allowed to walk their kids to the front gate on Truxtun as being a 'sign of the times.' This is really misleading. I don't know who emailed you, but most of the parents affected are not walking their kids to school; most of them are driving them.  I have been teaching at Franklin for 28 years. When I started there in 1989, no one was allowed to drop or pick up their kids off on Truxtun Avenue because the traffic made it too dangerous. It remained that way for years. However, recently, more and more parents decided to break the rule and drop off their kids on Truxtun because it was more convenient. The traffic on Truxtun is really fast in front of the school, even though it's supposed to be 25 mph. Most cars are going much faster than that. Some parents were even double parking on Truxtun to pick up or drop off their kids. To avoid potential accidents, this year, we decided to start the new year off with going back to enforcing the rule that had been in place for years. Eighteenth Street has a crossing guard, and the traffic is not as bad as Truxtun Avenue."