Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

Óscar Jaenada is "Cantinflas"  Image: Lionsgate
The MPAA has rated this PG

Loinsgate’s Pantelion Films’ “Cantinflas” is a dramatic biography of Latin America’s comic of the people, Mario Moreno Cantinflas. Director Sebastian del Amo offers us a view of the famous icon’s life from his first break in show business in 1931 Vera Cruz, where he started by sweeping up in tent auditorium shows. He had his first break there, and then garnered fame in Mexico, the world, and even in the United States with the release of Michael Todd’s “Around the World in 80 Days” in 1956.

The movie is in Spanish and English. Framing the great moments of Cantinflas’ life, told in flashbacks, is the second story of “Around the World in 80 Days” produced by Mike Todd (Michael Imperioli) who tries to get the movie off the ground but has trouble finding established actors to play the famous cameo roles in that film classic for free in 1955. He’s banking on Cantinflas’ participation at a press conference to secure the investors and keep the ones he has.

Óscar Jaenada has masterfully captured the essence of the real legend that he’s playing. Not only in movements, but in the timber and vocal delivery, which is brilliantly close to the performer known by millions worldwide, even today. The original theater program from “Around the World in 80 Days” notes that his stage name of Cantinflas, which had no meaning when he conceived it, has become, because of his overwhelming popularity, a part of the Mexican language. As a verb, “Cantinflear” means talk much, say little and indulge in frenetic non sequiturs similar to his patter.

I enjoyed this movie very much, and although there were some art direction elements that were slightly incorrect, the overall effect and performances show you intimately the gifted and fabulous man that won the hearts of the world.

The title sequence is fun, featuring a Mexican “Hedda Hopper” style female voice over in Spanish that was worded so accurately and phrased so perfectly in the movie publicity parlance of 1956, it almost brought me to tears. This female voice sets up the era and Mike Todd frame story of this film.

Also represented by actors in this movie are some of the truly greatest artists of Mexican cinema, music, photography and art, such as cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, musician and pianist Augustin Lara, Dolores Del Rio, Maria Felix, Pedro Infante, Gloria Marin, Lupita Tovar, Diego Rivera, and countless others. The production is quite good.

According to Charlie Chaplin in 1956, “Cantiflas is the world’s greatest comedian.” You’ll see that here, and how respectfully and beautifully this production is mounted. Scenes from Cantinflas’ movies are recreated in perfect detail. You’ll want to stay through the credits at the end, too, as the left side of the frame features a recreation of Cantinflas’ legendary dance to Ravel’s Bolero. This is a wonderful time at the movies and I encourage you not to miss it.

Janey Way Memories: The Downtown Dealer’s Association

After finishing my two-year tour of duty in the U. S Army, I returned home to Janey Way in October 1971. The old neighborhood seemed really different. Almost all of my friends had moved away. However, my friend Randy Puccetti, who still lived at home, soon came by. He told me that the Janey Way boys had formed a slow-pitch softball team and encouraged me to join.

So, despite the fact I had not played baseball since Little League, I showed up, mitt in hand and prepared to play in the next game. My good friend, Jim Ducray, who coached the team, said I can only play you three innings Mart, we have too many players tonight.

Then he handed me the team jersey, a T-shirt emblazoned front and back with the following: “Downtown Dealer’s Association.” I laughed. This was a veiled reference to the plethora of pot dealers now living in the downtown area. Then, out I ran to my new position: Right field (where the weakest player on the team goes). No problem. I would soon rectify that assignment.

I got off to a bad start though. In the third inning a guy hit a towering pop fly at me. In my rush to catch the ball, I overran it, and the ball trickled off the end of my glove, allowing a run to score. After that, I ran to the dugout where I remained for the rest of the game. So much for good starts. Fortunately, we won the game.

The next game turned out better for me. Our team fielded just enough players that evening, so I got to play the whole game. It proved a tight game with the lead seesawing back and forth. But, by the fifth inning we led 8 to 6, as we ran out to the field.

Randy, our pitcher, fielded a weak grounder for the first out. But then, he got into trouble. He walked one batter, then another, putting men on first and second base. The next hitter popped out. With two outs, Randy walked the next batter. The bases were loaded. A hit would likely empty the bases, erasing our lead. The situation grew tense.

With a right handed batter up, I edged over toward Bill Jones, our center fielder. In high school, he had played on the varsity team at Sacramento High School. Randy threw the next pitch, a ball. Then he proceeded to fill the count at 3 and 2. The next pitch was critical. We were on the tips of our feet. Randy hurled the pitch: a strike. The batter swung, cracking a hard line drive to center field. I broke toward the ball. Bill Jones held his ground preparing to field the ball on one bounce. I kept running. As the ball hurtled toward the ground, I bent down, arm extended, and the ball popped into my mitt. I immediately stood straight up extending my arm to show the ump I had caught the ball, and he yelled, “You’re out.”

I looked back and Jones. His eyes were as big as silver dollars. Then I ran in toward the dugout past the flabbergasted Puccetti. As I passed him, I said, “Come on bud, it’s time for us to hit.”

We won the game, 12 to 4.

Needless to say, I started every game from that day forward at my new position, left field. The team had a good season, finishing in second place. One of the teams with sponsorship and full baseball uniforms won the league.

The Downtown Dealer’s Association never played again after that year; I went on to play soccer, a sport I truly loved. Now my days of playing on that storied team are just another hard hitting Janey Way memory.

Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

“If I Stay”

The MPAA has given this a PG-13 rating.

Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and New Line all got together to bring you “If I Stay”, based on Gayle Forman’s book which relates the experience of a young lady in a terrible car crash who has an out-of-body experience. Whilst in a coma, following the accident, she recalls the joys and pains in her life. She must come to terms with herself: should she choose to live or die.

Miss Chloe Grace Moretz is Mia, an applicant to the Julliard School waiting to find out if she has been accepted for advanced cello studies. Her parents are played by Mireille Enos who you might have seen in “World War Z”, and Joshua Leonard of “The Blair Witch Project”.

As Mia goes over the key points in her life, good and bad, much time is spent on the love of her life, a rocker played by Jamie Blackley. They come from diametrically opposite musical passions, yet share an attraction that blossoms as we experience Mia’s memories.

John de Borman’s composition, lighting, and photography are exquisite. The shots are held for maximum effectiveness, without unsettling quick cutting. I liked very much that this movie took its time to tell its story, and that the shots were held for long, lingering lengths allowing for you to fully comprehend the content of the images. There was one plot flaw that haunted me throughout, but it did not take away my overall appreciation for this good movie.

“The Expendables 3”

The MPAA has given this a PG-13 rating

Loinsgate brings us more major film stars in one movie than it is easy to count with “The Expendables 3,” another story of macho daring-do penned by the lead in the movie, Sylvester Stallone. In this new installment, Barney Ross (Stallone) recruits a young, fresh, new team to go into a special operation after putting the old guard out to pasture. He’s up against Conrad Stonebanks, played by Mel Gibson, the co-founder of the Expendables who apparently did not die previously, and now is an arms dealer ready to take out Barney and his crew, old or new.

The rest of the cast is impressive: Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Terry Crews, Kelsey Grammer, Kellan Lutz, Jet Li, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz, Glen Powell, Randy Couture, Antonio Banderas, and Dolph Lundgren!

I was brought back to a fun time in my childhood when I played with green army men, and knocking over 40 at once, which did not kill anyone in real life. This movie has this feel; you just check reality at the door and latch on for the ride. Mel Gibson is fantastic in his cool hatred. You may even actually understand Stallone when he speaks.

The photography of Peter Menzies, Jr, (No relation to famous production designer William Cameron Menzies) is quite good with some nice compositions for the wide screen. Happy this was not in 3-D. So nice to see the aging A-list action heroes have fun laughing with themselves and kudos to them for still working.

They write the songs in Land Park

Ted Bazarnik, a Land Park resident, is part of the Nashville Songwriters Association. He's trying to get one of his songs recorded by an artist. Photo by Greg Brown

Ted Bazarnik, a Land Park resident, is part of the Nashville Songwriters Association. He's trying to get one of his songs recorded by an artist. Photo by Greg Brown

An artist can’t record a song without the words and music of a songwriter, but a catchy ditty with a good hook line can catapult an artist to the top.

The recording artist is always on the lookout for THAT BIG HIT.

That’s where the Nashville Songwriters Association International comes into play. NSAI is the world’s largest not-for-profit songwriters’ trade association. Established in 1967, the membership of more than 5,000 active and pro members spans the United States and six other countries. NSAI is dedicated to protecting the rights of and serving aspiring and professional songwriters in all musical genres.

The Northern California chapter is located right here in Sacramento and has more than 450 members.

The Northern California Chapter of the NSAI gathers at the Sierra 2 Center in Curtis Park on the second Wednesday night of each month. They get together to discuss and share their songs, bouncing ideas off of one another in a supportive and collaborative way. It’s a great way for them to inspire each other and have fun too.

I spoke with Gabrielle Kennedy, who is the Northern California coordinator for the NSAI and she told me, “We have pros, people that make their living being songwriters and musicians, come to Sacramento from Nashville quite often.”

A wide range of music industry professionals travel from Nashville several times a year to visit the local chapter of the NSAI. Last month, Rick Beresford, best known as the writer of the George Jones hit “If the Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me Her Memory Will,” hosted an all day workshop and gave feedback to folks attending. In September, Dan Hodges, a prominent music publisher, will be looking for songs to pitch to today’s country stars in a special event being held at Sidedoor Studios in Fair Oaks.

Another special event that will be held in late September is a workshop called “Arranging The Hits,” where writers can find out how to write and record their songs to sound like commercial hits. Larry Beaird from Nashville-based Beaird Music Group will be hosting the workshop. He’s one of Nashville’s top musicians who has played on the recordings of stars like Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill and Trace Adkins.

Members of the NSAI get feedback based on what their goals are. “Not everybody’s goal is to be on the radio, but if your goal is to be on the radio, then there is a certain type of structure that’s more common. You want it to be catchy and have a good hook,” Gabrielle said.

Most country music artists do not write their own songs, but there’s actually a greater opportunity in country versus pop to be a songwriter because your chances of getting something commercially cut are greater. “But it’s really tough,” Gabrielle told me.

If you are a member of the NSAI, you can send a song in once a month and they’ll have a pro critique it for you and send it back. You get professional guidance.

Members are also supporting one of the only organizations that go to Congress and lobby for the rights of songwriters. “That’s what NSAI’s primary purpose is,” Gabrielle said.

You’re paying a yearly due to fight legislation and to make sure your rights as a songwriter are protected. Right now they’re trying to get the royalty rate for songwriters increased for digital music. Currently the songwriters get 9 cents, and if they collaborate, they have to divvy that up.

NSAI is more important than ever due to the digital world like streaming music through Pandora. Pandora is a little “loosey goosey” when it comes to reporting which songs and artists are being listened to. It’s very difficult to keep track.

Gabrielle, who worked for CBS/Sacramento radio 10 years ago, set her radio career aside and decided to pursue her music dreams. She initially started a band with her sister called Gabscourt. Her sister got married and had two children and that left Gabrielle to continue to pursue her singer-songwriting career alone.

Gabrielle excitedly told me it looks as though she may get her first label cut soon. An artist named Canaan Smith signed to Mercury Records and he’s going to be coming out with his first album after the first of the year. They wrote a song five years ago with “some guy from Bermuda named Richard” as they like to refer to him.

Richard Bassett and Gabrielle actually met at an NSAI event in Lake Tahoe and began to collaborate. A Nashville publisher came to Sacramento at an NSAI event and she pitched the song to him and he loved it! He thought they both had a lot of talent so he invited them to come to Nashville to write with some seasoned Nashville writers.

“That was my first introduction about how Nashville does its songwriting. From that initial trip, I met Caanan and we all started writing songs together. One of those songs we wrote with him is looking like it’s gonna be a part of his first album,” Gabrielle said.

I mentioned to her “I bet that’s exciting,” and she told me, “Until it’s at Target or I can go to iTunes to buy it, I’m not gonna believe it til I see it.”

The song titled, “This Cigarette,” is about how a love, or person you’re in a relationship with, can treat you like their cigarette. “It’s kind of gritty country,” Gabrielle told me.

Shown here are local members of the Nashville Songwriters Association. The local chapter meets at Sierra 2. Photo by Greg Brown

Shown here are local members of the Nashville Songwriters Association. The local chapter meets at Sierra 2. Photo by Greg Brown

In a matter of time

You’re gonna burn me again
Light me up just long enough
For me to feel like it’s something
You’ll give me what I want
Pressing me to your lips
But you’ll put me out again
Like the end of this cigarette

She sent me the demo and I have a feeling the song will be headed to iTunes and the Target on Broadway next year!

You also may run into Gabrielle in the aisles at Target too, since she’s a Land Park resident.

Another member of the local chapter of the NSAI is Ted Bazarnik. He also lives in Land Park. He’s 72 years old and he’s not satisfied sitting around watching Matlock reruns, although he did quip, “I sometimes do that too.”

“When I was young, I was a musician,” Ted said. He started making music when he was about 16 years old in Auburn, New York. Mainly rock and roll and R&B. They performed on the college circuit: Syracuse University, Cornell, Colgate, and all those places back in the 1950s into the 1960s.

His band was called “Chuck Rubberlegs Shady and the Esquires,” which is quite a mouthful.

He decided to get out of the music business and go into law enforcement. He has a degree in Criminal Justice and worked for the University of California Police Department for 20 years. When he retired, he went to Utah and worked for the State Department Of Public Safety for 17 years and while he was in Utah he became interested in country music.

Ted went from fighting crime to writing country songs.

“I dated a cowgirl for awhile and she loved country music.” It kind of rubbed off on Ted. “She loved to sing along to all the country songs in the car.” He thought the music had great storytelling.

Ted was inspired to write her a song and everybody loved it. It was called “A Girl Named Tracey.” They still keep in touch to this day.

He got serious about song-writing once he moved back to California. Ted thought to himself, “I need something to do. I’m too old to get out on the road and play clubs and stuff…I’m 72 and have bad knees. But my brain still works!”

He started surfing the web and found NSAI. He went down to Nashville to visit a friend and he “fell in love with the place. I absolutely went crazy. I stopped by the NSAI office and told them, ‘sign me up.’”

When he got back to Sacramento, he contacted Gabrielle Kennedy, who headed up the Sacramento chapter, and that’s how it all started.

Ted isn’t afraid of technology either. He uses Facebook regularly and even pitched his first demo via Skype. He pitched it to Curb Records and they loved so much they added it to their catalog. He also pitched the demo at a local NSAI workshop. Steve Bloch, who has a publishing company in Nashville, liked it and took it with him back to Nashville. It’s a big deal having a music publisher put a song in their catalog. The song is called, “Wish I May.” The idea came to Ted while he was sitting on his deck and he had the TV going at the same time. As Ted tells it, “I heard the Disney ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ that comes on before the movie…and I thought I’ll write a song about wishes.”

“Wish I May” is about a guy who’s been searching for somebody special and he knows that somebody special is out there for him.

Ted regularly collaborates with the other members of the NSAI including Chris Burrows of Sacramento and singer-songwriter Andrea Stray who lives in San Francisco. He appreciates the collaborations and thinks it makes the songs much better when there are different voices and talents contributing. He’s definitely not a one-man band.

Ted stays really active and gets out and goes to local concerts. He went to the Palms Playhouse in Winters to see singer-songwiter Holly Williams, who is Hank’s granddaughter. He also recently saw Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. He also hasn’t forgotten his rock roots. Ted attended the Kiss concert with one of his sons when they came to town. It was on his bucket list.

Ted really doesn’t date, he says, because he’s “having too much fun.” He told me his wife passed away from cancer back in 1997 and he would do anything to have her back. “I’ll never find anybody like her. When you find a jewel, it’s pretty difficult to find another one.”

After his wife passed, he did meet a couple of women, like the cowgirl in Utah, but he pretty much focuses on his songwriting, friends, and family these days.

“I fell in love with this songwriting thing and we have a great group of people. This group has brought me more happiness than you’ll ever know.”

Ted loves the songwriting process, heading to Nashville, going to the meetings, and the studio, and meeting all the artists. Ted said, “For me, it’s a brand new world.”

Ted’s ultimate goal is to get one of his songs recorded by an artist, which is very difficult because in Nashville alone there’s over 45, 000 writers. “The thing is if you don’t try, nothing will ever happen. I’m having a hell of a good time trying,” Ted said.

To learn more about the Sacramento chapter of the NSAI call 476-5073 or e-mail Gabrielle Kennedy at They’re also on Facebook.

Over The Fence

Dog Problems at da Vinci
Hollywood Park has gone to the dogs. Well sort of. Unlike Land Park, Tahoe Park and Curtis Park, Hollywood Park technically doesn’t have a park. There is, however, a large green field area at Leonardo da Vinci School that neighbors use when school is not in session.
Call it Hollywood da Vinci Park School Field. Hollywood Park Field School?
Whatever you want to call it, it’s a nice local neighborhood gathering spot for children, parents, as well as dog owners to enjoy. Families and friends get know each other at the school playground. Lately the talk has been about the issues at the neighborhood gathering spot. Mainly, is Hollywood Park going to the dogs?
Unfortunately, there have been some irresponsible dog owners wrecking the fun for the majority of the neighbors who gather at the Leonardo da Vinci School area. Some of the dog owners are letting their four-legged creatures run rampant all over the school and creating tension among parents and other dog owners. As soon as some dog owners reach the school, they unleash their dogs and off they go to confront leashed dogs, run after children, and poop all over the soccer field and school playground. It’s a minority of dog owners ruining things for the rest of the neighbors. A few bad apples.
There was a recent dog confrontation when Hollywood Park resident Gina Knepp, who runs the Front Street Animal Shelter, walked her dog over to the school. Before she could even enter the gate with her leashed dog, four unleashed dogs came charging at her. She asked the women to “please leash their dogs.” Gina said, “I got some lip, I gave some lip.” Obviously it’s a volatile situation and folks lose their cool in a tense situation like that.
Another dog confrontation that occurred at the school earlier in the year was equally as nasty.
Nearby City Farms resident Jennifer Souza was walking her Russell Terrier mix when two unleashed border collies darted right towards her and her dog. She asked the two owners if they could leash their dogs and one of the women called her the “B word” and the other woman said, “No, we like to use the soccer field as an off-leash dog park.” More unpleasantries were exchanged and the women basically said, “We can do what we want.”
The off leash dogs are also terrorizing children who visit the school, including my 5-year-old son. He was innocently riding his bike on the school blacktop area when a large Boxer started chasing him. My wife was able to shoo the dog away to get my son off his bike and slowly walk to the gate to exit the school grounds.
You don’t know what’s going on in the mind of a dog. That’s what scares some parents. You just don’t know.
HP resident Mike Lasker who was at the school with his small children is a surgery resident at the UC Davis trauma unit and he told me, “We see a lot of dog maulings and attacks at the trauma unit. A lot of the victims of these dog attacks are children”. Sobering statistics.
The dogs aren’t just on the field. They’re running amok at the playground, they’re slurping out of the drinking fountain, they’re at the basketball courts.
Some neighborhood dog owners are treating the entire Elementary school like a dog park.
There is a dog park a few minutes from Hollywood Park on Fruitridge and South Land Park. There’s also the hardly used Mangan Park just across Fruitridge Boulevard where there’s a signal and crossing lane. Lots of choices.
Another big problem at the Leonardo da Vinci Field is the unleashed dogs are pooping all over the school and the owners aren’t cleaning up after them. It could be nicknamed Fecal Field! The school custodian told me it’s a real problem. They even poop in the playground sandbox area and the kids step in it. Dave the custodian added, “People aren’t supervising their dogs.”
There are some evenings when the LdV Field is full of harmony. Kids kicking the soccer ball around with their mom, a family playing baseball on the other end of the field and parents watching their children frolic around the school playground. There are definitely some responsible dog owners who pick up after their dogs and keep them leashed at Leonardo da Vinci School. Local resident Mike Carroll was enjoying the Leonardo da Vinci school grounds with his two well-behaved leashed Greyhounds.
Mike Lee and his wife Alisha were at the school with their children and small pit bull mix, although Mike said, “We don’t come here as much as we’d like because of the dogs off-leash.”
His wife Elisha added, “It all boils down to responsible dog ownership.”
The entire topic of the dog problems at the school were discussed on the Hollywood Park Facebook Group. The online conversation got a little heated when some dog owners felt they were being singled out.
The good thing to come out of all the back and forth on social media was outgoing school board member Patrick Kennedy, a Hollywood park resident and member of the Facebook Group, saw all the hubbub and decided to do something. He took action. That’s when new colorful signs were placed all around the school that say, “Kids First, keep this in mind while walking dogs.” There’s a little drawing of a man walking a dog on a leash as well as picking up after the dog. There is also a city code listed which refers to the dog poop ordinance. It’s a gentle reminder to dog owners who visit the school.
At first there was even controversy about the signs, which was surprising. Someone actually said, “Who put those signs up? Is that even legal?” That’s when the mystery do-gooder was revealed. It was the work of Sacramento City School Board member Kennedy. Patrick mentioned on the Hollywood Park Facebook Group, “Consider the signs one of my last official acts! And know they came from comments on this FB page.”
Will the sign curtail all the bad behavior of the irresponsible dog owners? I’ll keep you posted.

Starbucks/Noah’s Rumored to be coming to Land Park…or Not
Capital Power Equipment on Freeport Boulevard, which was in business for more than 50 years in Land Park, recently shut its doors and serviced their last lawn mower. The owners are retiring.
Since the lawn mower shop closed, rumors have been rampant about what and who will take-over the old building next to Taylor’s Kitchen and across the street from Marie’s Donuts.
The latest rumor is Starbucks Coffee and a Noah’s Bagels could be moving in.
Uh oh. Get ready for a huge traffic jam of Venti proportions!
Dave Hunter over at Taylor’s Market told me he had heard of a Starbucks/Noah’s Bagels combo “similar to the development across from The (Old) Spaghetti Factory on J Street.”
Dave said he met the mystery buyer about three times and he “has a vision how he wants things done. We have not seen or heard from the guy who is purchasing the property in about two months.” But that’s how they heard about the Starbucks/Noah’s Bagels rumor.
A Starbucks/Noah’s Bagels doesn’t really fit the neighborhood businesses in that small section across from Marie’s Donuts. Starbucks can be a real in-and-out sort of business…grab and go and that would wreak even more havoc on that busy intersection that’s already a bit of a traffic nightmare.
Dave said, “I’m not against a Starbucks or Noah’s Bagel’s,” but he’d like to see a different business going in there.
He mentioned the brand new development in Curtis Park, Curtis Park Village, would be a great location for a Starbucks or a Noah’s bagels to go in.
Dave added, “We have Freeport Bakery, Marie’s Donuts sells coffee, Vic’s Coffee Shop, La Bou by the Zoo and a Starbucks a mile down the Boulevard.” Plenty of coffee choices for residents to get their caffeine fix.
Marlene Goetzer, who owns Freeport Bakery told me, “I’m not worried about it business-wise because they’re a different business model. I would like to see something independent go in there because our little strip is pretty independent rather than a chain. I’m also a little concerned about parking. That’s a major issue. Seems like a bad fit for that spot. She added, “I’m not against people opening up businesses I just think there’s a better fit.”
Then she declared, “I’m pro-business. I’m a capitalist.”
Starbucks is actually looking for a site in the area. Maybe that is how the speculation got started.
I spoke to the commercial broker, Fred Springer, and he said, “It’s always interesting where these rumors come from because I think that would have been a perfect Starbucks and Noah’s Bagels location”.
Tri Commercial actually approached the broker for Starbucks as well as the real estate rep for Starbucks and they never even replied to Mr. Springer
So straight from the broker, “At this point in time, to the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of any deal with either Starbucks or Noah’s Bagels”.
Although Fred wasn’t exactly under oath.

Jade Fountain Café Gets a Remodel
The Jade Fountain Café has been closed for remodeling since March. There have been quite a few hungry diners dropping by only to find a sign saying, “Closed for remodeling.” The management also thanked their valuable customers for their patronage over the years.
There is a slew of Chinese restaurants in the little strip mall, but Jade Fountain Café seems to be a local favorite. Folks love the porridge!
There has been an old storage pod in front of the restaurant since the middle of March with no activity, until recently.
When I dropped by the family owned restaurant the jovial owner, Randy Lee, told me they were making some upgrades to the place. Keeping some old, adding some new. Lee told me they’ll have more comfortable seating for diners; they’re opening up the kitchen area and making the restaurant brighter with new paint and interior.
Lee added, “It’s gonna look nice!”
He also told me they’re replacing the worn, faded, sign in front of the restaurant. Look for the grand re-opening at the end of August.
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THE POCKET WATCH: Local entomologist continues his string of discoveries in web of intrigue

Terry Allen, local renown entomologist posed on May 21, 2014 for a photo in his home laboratory where he houses about 50,000 insects and a “couple thousand fossils.”  Photo by Don Meuchel

Terry Allen, local renown entomologist posed on May 21, 2014 for a photo in his home laboratory where he houses about 50,000 insects and a “couple thousand fossils.” Photo by Don Meuchel

It’s difficult to talk to Terry Allen—even if you’ve known and loved him for 20 years plus, as I have—without occasionally stopping as he speaks and thinking to yourself, “There is no way that is true!” But then he pulls out one of his meticulously kept scrapbooks, and you read a clipping from the Sacramento Bee or from Time Magazine and realize that he really was involved in every one of those crazy adventures that he references in the course of nearly every story he tells. Spend an hour with Terry, and you leave convinced that the guy in the Dos Equis commercials has pretty much led a milquetoast life by comparison.

Nationally recognized and fully-accredited entomologist, longtime Pocket neighborhood supporter and activist, dinosaur expert, cancer survivor, humane trapper, man of intrigue, overall hard luck guy, and friend to all, Terry recently contacted me with a claim that was no less difficult to believe than any of his other impossible-but-true stories: “I know what’s killing the bees!” he declared. With that information, I knew that I would soon be visiting the epicenter of every arachnophobe’s worst nightmare, Terry Allen’s home laboratory in the River Village neighborhood.

I’m not particularly afraid of spiders (snakes and rats, on the other hand… let’s just say that I’m glad that my friend isn’t a herpetologist), but stepping into his lab, the first thing that greets you—other than the pungent scent of mothballs or acetate or formaldehyde or whatever chemicals he uses to kill and/or preserve his specimens; they hit you in the face as with a baseball bat, while Terry appears not even to notice the scent at all—are walls and tables filled with the wildest, hairiest, and, in some cases, biggest, bugs you could never possibly have imagined being concentrated in one room. It is amazing to behold the intricate care that obviously went into each mounting, each exhibit.

Terry is ready to talk Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (just identified for the first time ever in the Pocket Area by Terry, bad news!), the fate of the European Honey Bees, and a new species of bee discovered here by Terry, the European Wool Carder Bee (or the “Butcher Bee”, Terry’s fitting appellation for the new species), and he enthusiastically launches into his presentation. 

“—Before we get started,” I interrupt politely, still taking in the sheer numbers of creatures well within arm’s reach as I start to sit down, “Is there anything alive in this room?”

“Just that Black Widow behind you,” says Terry. I leap, but only slightly. I don’t think he notices. He is surveying the room to respond to my question. I turn and see a Black Widow in a small cylindrical jar with a stick in it.

“Oh, there is this! I found him yesterday in my garden. I saved him for you!” he beams, as he hands me a stout oversized plastic jar containing a sprig of leaves whose base pierces a small jar of water covered with saran wrap sealed with a rubber band. “Do you see him?”

I raise the jar up to eye level and peer into what looks EXACTLY like the cover of Steely Dan’s fourth album, “Katy Lied.”

“It’s a Katydid!” says Terry. “It looks just like a leaf! I heard him singing the night before…”

Suddenly, the whole mystery of the 1975 album’s cover art, a 40-year play on words by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker that had previously existed well over my head, clears up for me, “Katydid – Katy lied.” The song “Doctor Wu” from the album provides the mental soundtrack of the rest of my time with Terry this day.

Terry explains how the recent discovery of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in the backyard of his neighbor, Roger Sava, himself a retired biologist, could spell trouble for fruit harvests in the Delta, just across the river from the Pocket. Native to Asia, this particular stink bug (there are several other stink bug relatives, Terry points out) is a voracious eater known to attack a variety of fruit trees. With very few natural predators and an abundance of food sources, this invasive insect is currently classified only as a nuisance threat in California because of its limited presence here. Terry’s identification is just one of a few in Northern California. But in 2010, it caused catastrophic damage in some mid-Atlantic states, where some growers of sweet corn, peppers, tomatoes, apples, and peaches reported total losses. “This could develop into a major threat to the local pear and wine grape industry,” warns Terry, “just to name a few.”

Remnants of another major threat, this to humankind, itself, according to Terry, was recently discovered in a flowerbed in his own front yard, in the form of the European Wool Carder Bee, a nasty little cousin from the Leafcutter bee family that Terry refers to as the “Butcher Bee.” Terry witnessed the very specimen he has mounted on a pin in his lab attack a typical Honey Bee, precious pollinator of 80 percent of all flowering crops, which represent a full third of everything we eat, not to mention pollinating crops like alfalfa, a staple for the cattle that provide our beef and dairy. The demise of this little bee would result in a lot of empty cases at Bel Air and Nugget.

“A lot of speculation has surrounded the mass death of bee colonies across the country,” explains Terry. “Everything from fungicides to insecticides to cell phone radiation has been blames for these deaths, but this new species I’ve discovered, the Butcher Bee, attacks European Honey Bees and maims them, ripping off their wings, cutting off their legs, stabbing them. I’ve found maimed Honey Bee carcasses everywhere, and it’s no coincidence that this crisis occurs at the same time as the discovery of the Butcher Bee.”

Terry says he’s reported his findings to all appropriate agencies, including the Sacramento County Department of Agriculture, the State Beekeepers Association, the California Farm Bureau, and researchers at UC Davis. Interest was enthusiastically received initially, but it has since cooled. Terry wonders if, perhaps, his reputation has preceded him.

In the early 1980s, Terry’s position as an Entomologist with the State of California, put him at the eye of the storm that was the Mediterranean Fruit Fly crisis, a wild episode in state history that sent Terry’s life in an uncontrollable spiral, putting him at odds with state officials all the way up to the Governor, himself, and leading to multimillion-dollar lawsuits, physical attacks, and, unbelievably, to Terry’s arrest and alleged forced retirement. Since that time, he has lived, well, in undeserved infamy in the view of the establishment, as an erstwhile whistleblower.

Terry has countless wild, wild, stories about the kind of intrigue that swirled around him at the time, stories that are virtually impossible to believe of this kind and unassuming man, whose slight stature and bookish appearance belie his claims involvement, albeit as a victim, of chicanery of this level. Yet, each story is has been carefully documented in a way that, really, only a fastidious scientist could document. Doubt him, and he’ll hand you a binder filled with clippings and reports that confirm his claims. You imagine that the movie rights to his story could be worth a fortune, a cross between The Rainmaker and Arachnophobia just waiting to appear in theaters everywhere.

Then there are the bees. It’s such an important scientific issue. Why aren’t people paying attention? Terry just shrugs his shoulders and keeps researching. Every day, seven days a week. “That’s all I can do—it’s what gives my life meaning,” he says.

“Are you with me, Doctor Wu?
Are you merely just a shadow
of the man who I once knew?
Are you crazy? Are you high,
or just an ordinary guy?
Have you done all you can do?
Have they finally got to you?
Are you with me, doctor?
Can you hear me, doctor?
~Steely Dan, “Doctor Wu” from the album “Katy Lied”, 1975.

The Pocket Watch appears in every issue of The Pocket News. Jeff Dominguez can be reached at

Janey Way Memories: World Cup Soccer Brings Back Memories

One Sunday last month, along with 26 million other Americans, I watched the Federated International Football Association World Cup of soccer championship game on television. The game lived up to its hype. After 120 minutes of hard fought play, my favorite team, from Germany, triumphed 1 to 0.

The game brought back wonderful memories of my time abroad and my own experience on the soccer pitch.

Back to 1969, after completing my U. S. Army training in Fort Lewis, Washington, I received orders to serve a tour of duty in the Republic of West Germany.

Weeks later, I boarded a plane for Frankfurt, Germany. Ultimately, I landed in the small town of Gunzburg in Southern Germany, where I served with 510th Ordinance Company at a German military base called Prinz Eugan Kaserne. There, I had many great experiences. I ate wonderful German food; drank good beer and wine, met many gregarious and friendly people.

However, my most lasting and exhilarating memory of Germany is of soccer. I remember walking along the fringe of Gunzburg one Sunday in spring and stumbling upon a soccer game in progress. The fans cheered wildly for the home team as players moved the ball back and forth on the field with speed and grace.

At one point, one of the home team players kicked the ball 30 yards to the front of the net and another leaped high into the air and headed the ball right into the net. It blew my mind. I asked a German standing next to me. How does he do that? He replied, “We play football from the time we are 5 years old and over time we learn these skills.”

I said to myself, then and there, “I have to play this game.” Thanks to my friend, Bill Sontag, I did learn how to play “the beautiful game.”

When I returned home to the states, I began looking for an opportunity to play soccer, and eventually I found it. One day, I engaged in a conversation with my friend Bill, and he mentioned that he coached youth soccer.

I told him that I wanted to play the game. Bill told me that he was starting a team composed of youth soccer coaches and asked me to join.

Weeks later, I arrived at Glenbrook Park, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, ready to play. Bill assigned me to play goal keeper. He figured that with my size, 6 feet, one inch, 210 pounds, as well as my experience playing wide receiver in football, I could play that position well. He was right; I fit the position like a glove.

Playing in the net, I saw the whole field of play in front of me. That taught me the strategy of soccer. Learning the skills took lots of time and practice. But, we played 35 games per year, and eventually my skills matched my desire and love of the game.

I played soccer for nearly 15 years. Age ultimately caught up with me and I quit in my mid-40s. Soccer is a game for the young and hearty.

Now, I watch the game on television, and I watch my grandson, Angelo, play it. I yell at him, “pass the ball to Ryan, now run to the open space, shoot.” He rarely listens. He is too busy playing “the beautiful game.”

These days all that is left are my Janey Way memories of Germany, and soccer and my dearly departed friend, Bill Sontag.

Over the Fence

Cowboy Jerky At The State Fair

Jerry “Crawdaddy” MaloneI’m a fiend for beef jerky, a beef jerky connoisseur if you will. Every year I attend the California State Fair and one of my regular stops is Jerry’s Cowboy Jerky Stand. Some of the best beef jerky I’ve chewed on is Jerry’s Cowboy Jerky. Jerry’s has been at the California State Fair for 25 years, according to Andrew Osbourne, who now runs the show at the jerky stand.

The cowboy jerky compound is located on 24th and Fruitridge Road in South Sacramento. It’s a local family-owned business. It all started when Andrew’s father-in-law, Jerry “Crawdaddy” Malone, retired from the Los Angeles Police Department and became a commercial pitchman. One day, Jerry saw a beef jerky booth and thought to himself: “You know what? That’s the way to go.”

It was as simple as that.

So, that’s what he did, as Andrew told it. Cowboy Jerry Malone passed away back in 2012, but his jerky booth lives on.
They only employ friends and family at Jerry’s jerky stand. “We try to take care of the people who take care of us. They volunteer and come to the fair for free and we make sure they don’t go hungry.” Andrew quipped, “They work for jerky.”

I was thinking of filling out an application.

As I tore into the flat hickory stick, Andrew helped customers and told me about his beef jerky empire. My head was sweating from the spices while I doused my tastebuds with ice cold water after a few bites.

The jalapeno shooters are their spiciest jerky. They used to sell something called the 911 Jerky. It was so hot that his father-in-law was afraid of a lawsuit. Andrew remembers one time this girl was “probably 100 pounds, soaking wet and she ordered the 911 jerky, ate it, and never batted an eye. Then there was the guy who looked like he could probably bench press a house try the 911 jerky and he turned to tears,” Andrew said.

They have a large variety of protein-packed jerky to choose from at Jerry’s. From sweet to spicy. The Cowboy slab to the steak jerky. The teriyaki jerky is the most popular. They sell about 1,200 pounds of jerky each year at the State Fair.

They also sell churros, caramel corn, pretzels, and giant dill pickles. One woman was looking at the big jar of pickles in water and said: “That’s the biggest pickle I’ve ever seen.” Andrew called them the Double Dills.

Then he asked me, “Do you like nachos?” I joked, “Only the gluten free nachos.” He called them “Dirty” nachos…I was intrigued.

He brought back a huge pile of nacho chips, smothered with cheese, and shredded beef jerky. Dee, who’s worked with Andrew for 10 years, came up with the idea for “Dee’s Dirty Nachos” – catchy name, tasty snack. I really could not stop eating them. I was taking notes with my nacho-tainted fingers. I was making a pig of myself. I’m glad my wife wasn’t around to see it.

Beef jerky is pure Americana. It’s not just for cowboys. Since 1996, jerky has been selected by astronauts as space food several times for space flight due to its light weight and high level of nutrition. I guess the beef jerky pairs well with Tang.

I personally like it for fishin’ trips and road trips. It’s a handy snack.

Jerky is also commonly included in military field rations. It is particularly attractive to militaries because of its light weight, high level of nutrition, and long shelf life.

Every year they have servicemen that come to the jerky stand and stock up on the Cowboy jerky as they’re getting ready to go overseas. They better have lots of water in the canteen!

One year they had some leftover jerky. Two of Andrew’s nephews were stationed over in Iraq and he sent them each two or three pounds of jerky. “They were the heroes of their unit, everybody loved it,” Andrew said.

You can find Jerry’s Cowboy Jerky stand in Buildings A and C. Don’t forget the toothpicks!

Curtis Park Caramels Enter The Cookies and Confections Competition

Curtis Park resident Brenda Alexander Mitchell started entering the State Fair contests in 2008 because she wanted a blue ribbon.

Her first entry was a craft competition – a toe-sock chicken. It made honorable mention in Arts And Crafts. That just wet her appetite for more State Fair contesting. She was hooked. “I just love the Fair,” she said.

This year Brenda, who’s nickname is “Bee,” is making Earl Grey Caramels for the California Kitchen’s Cookies and Confections competition. She had tasted some chocolate infused with Earl Grey tea and that’s where the idea for the Earl Grey Caramels came from.

She’s dipping the bottom of the caramels in chocolate and sprinkling some salt on top. Instead of See’s Candies, it’s Bee’s Candy!

She’ll have some stiff competition at the California Kitchen Cookies and Confections contest. They don’t want just a hunk of brown caramel. “It’s gotta look pretty.” The judges are looking at taste, texture, consistency and appearance. None of the judges are Oompa Loompas, but one is a culinary teacher at American River College.

This is the first time Brenda has made candy for a State Fair competition. The last time she entered a competition for the Fair it was in cookies. She made Mexican chocolate chip cookies. In 2012, she won her division and won best in show. It was fun because she got a really big ribbon.

She took a year off from competing in the State Fair contests in 2013 because she says, “I was busy dieting.” She actually lost 70 pounds last year. Hopefully she won’t gain anything back from all the caramel and chocolate taste testing. “There’s lots of sampling, you gotta get it right,” Brenda told me.

She gave me a sample of the caramel, dipped in chocolate with a sprinkle of salt on top. It gave it a little crunch. I could also taste a small hint of the Earl Gray tea. She was still perfecting it while I spoke to her in the decadent smelling kitchen. She was perfecting the caramels all day and into the night.

She updates her progress on her Facebook page and posts photos of the caramels. One of her Facebook friends commented: “I would love to try them!!!! Can I just subscribe to your dessert of the month club???? YUMMMMMMM!”

I’m sure Brenda hopes the judges are as wildly enthusiastic about the caramels as her Facebook pals.

Brenda said one of the reasons she loves caramel so much is she used to wear braces and could never have the chewy candy.

Tempering is the key to good chocolate. If you properly temper your chocolate, it realigns the crystals in the chocolate to give it a shiny look and also gives it that snap like when you bite into a Hershey’s chocolate candy bar. It also keeps it from melting in your hand.

Brenda added, “and you need a good thermometer.”

She used an oiled sterling silver knife to cut the caramels into squares. “You don’t want to just squish the candy,” Brenda said.

She also added the best ingredients. The Earl Grey tea was from Teavana in the Arden Fair Mall and the caramel ingredients were from Corti Bros.

Brenda just does it for fun and every year she’s won something. “I can’t imagine that my luck might hold out but I’m hoping that I can get some attention with this”. I’m rooting for Bee’s candy to win Best In Show.

Iron Steaks on 13th and Broadway is now being called “Iron Grill” or simply “Iron.” Even their website address has changed

The owner of Iron Grill, Bill Taylor, told Land Park News his reasoning, “With beef prices moving up almost 30 percent, we are looking at what we can do with other food. We still do steaks and do them well, but we want to provide people with options and our chef is passionate and loves being creative. People want value and it’s not enough to be static. Keeping the menu simple allows us to be flexible.”

Executive Chef Keith Swiryn and the chefs at Iron not only grill some of the best steaks in town, they also offer jambalaya, fried chicken, and pasta primavera. Numerous new entres to choose from. Iron Grill…they’re more than just steaks.

If you have an item for Over the Fence, email

The Pocket Watch: Soccer in Greenhaven functions “for the good of the game”

I was reminded, while watching the World Cup these past couple of weeks, of what a fun and thrilling sport soccer can be. It wasn’t so long ago that I was swearing that no child of mine would ever be allowed to play this confusing Eurosport. It would be (American) football like his old man, or nothing! By the time my first kid was six years old, he was not only playing, but I was also coaching, and I found myself desperate to learn everything possible that I could about the sport as expeditiously as possible.

Fortunately for me, and for anyone who would like their children to play this great sport, we have an incredible organization in our community, run by a band of dedicated volunteers who give their time and considerable effort to ensuring that our children are able to get a great start in soccer, the Greenhaven Soccer Club. And they do it for a price that won’t bring you to your knees. My son spent several years in the club before branching off into competitive soccer (the cost of which can very well bring you to your knees, depending on the club), and he has his Greenhaven coaches to thank for providing him the foundation he would use to compete at the higher levels of the sport as he got older.

There was much talk during the World Cup among the various analysts, regarding youth soccer in the respective countries, and the differences in how it is administrated, and what the children are taught. The guy from Holland seemed to prefer his country’s method over whatever it is they do in Brazil. The guys from England always comport themselves with an air of soccer superiority over everyone, never mind that their national team never seems to make it out of the Group Stage.

I’m no expert, but I can’t imagine a better system than the one innovated at Greenhaven for their youngest players. According to the club’s Director of Coaching, Wayne Novoa, the program was transformed under former President Mark Bearor, and with the close consultation of board members Tom Bistline, Steve Larson, and current president, Shane Singh. This group developed and implemented the program from what appeared to be a miniature version of the real sport into an innovative configuration designed to get each child as many touches on the ball as possible under competitive circumstances.

Greenhaven’s U6 Division is now comprised of teams that compete only among themselves, rather than against other clubs, such as East Sacramento or Land Park. Every Saturday, the U6 teams are divided into two very small sides of three players each, and they play against their assigned opponents at the same time on two separate fields. The goals aren’t the massive white pipes we normally see on soccer fields, tended by goalkeepers. Instead, our U6 players shoot at “Pugs” little fold out arches that stand untended on the field.

“Our system allows everyone on the field a chance to gain more touches on the ball,” says Coach Wayne. “With increased repetition comes mastery… the kids improve their decision making and their fitness. Perhaps most importantly, they have more fun, because they’re more involved. In the regular system, which is still used by many of the other clubs, it’s easy for the more deferential kids to go an entire game without ever touching the ball. That does no one any good.”

The only way to get the full benefit of speeding the learning curve for our youngest players is to identify potential as soon as possible and funnel it to the national team program immediately. In 1979, US Soccer introduced the Olympic Development Program, which established a pipeline between youth soccer clubs throughout the country and the United States national soccer program. Any player can try out for his or her state Olympic Development Team and the standouts are absorbed upward by the regional and national teams. What’s great is that the kids can still compete with their clubs, as the Olympic Development functions as an ancillary program to the player’s club experience.

We really are at a great point in the proliferation of soccer in America. It’s a sport that has been predicted to sweep the nation ever since the great Pelé peeled off his Brazilian national team jersey and pulled the New York Cosmos jersey over his head in the 1970s. Yet, somehow, it just hasn’t happened. But now soccer really has become woven into the adolescence of the majority of Americans under the age of 30 who played youth soccer. As that generation ages, and as new generations of soccer playing Americans become adults, the tide has turned. This World Cup season, we were swimming in soccer to the point of drowning.

Could anyone ever have foreseen a time when we have not one, but two viable professional and semi-professional soccer franchises in Sacramento? Not only do we have the Sacramento Republic killing it in the USL Pro League, sort of the incubator league for franchises desiring to enter Major League Soccer (the MLS), the most successful professional soccer league ever in the US, but we also have the Sacramento Gold, a highly successful franchise in the semipro National Premiere Soccer League, the incubator for the incubator, if you will.

The bottom line is that our country is definitely becoming a force in this sport that is religiously followed by the rest of the civilized—and uncivilized—world. Our draw in the World Cup was about as bad as could be expected. We wound up in what became known as this year’s “Group of Death”, but we made it out of the group stage to the Knockout Round, where we were ultimately knocked out by Belgium, a country roughly the size, physically and populously, as the State of Maryland, but I digress. A lot of perennial world powerhouses were knocked out at that stage. And many others didn’t even make it to that level, including the land of soccer snobs, England. It should not pass unnoticed that we lost to eventual World Champions Germany by a score of 0-1, but mighty Brazil lost to them by a humiliating score of 1-7.

The US is rising, and we can trace the ascension back to our communities four- and five-year olds. Thanks to local clubs like Greenhaven Soccer Club, we can not only monitor our country’s progress, but we can be a part of it, as well. Now if we could just do something about the diving…

The Pocket Watch appears in each issue of the Pocket News. Jeff Dominguez can be reached at

Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

The Immigrant- Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard

The Immigrant- Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard

The Immigrant (2014)

The MPAA has rated this R
The Weinstein Company, the distributor of “The Immigrant,” has not effectively booked this movie into theatres since it was released, and it is a big injustice to the cinema-going public, for this is nothing less than a masterpiece of movie craftsmanship. It has not opened at all in Sacramento, and I encourage you to ask your nearest theatre to bring it.

It is the best dramatic picture I’ve seen this year.

Set in 1921, a Polish immigrant arrives to Ellis Island with her sister with hope for the future after the Great War, were she had witnessed her parents massacred by soldiers. On the ship, her sister became ill in the squalor of steerage and was separated from her by the immigration authorities to be confined in the hospital on the island. With her family gone, her bond with her sister is vital. Remarkable and strong Ewa, played by Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard, must find a way to find her sister and not be deported herself.

Ewa’s life changes at an encounter with Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix) who considers doing what he can for the lovely Polish girl. In a worn tenement area of the city we find that Bruno manages the girls in a burlesque theatre, who work in the world’s oldest profession as well.

He initially set Ewa apart, and as often happens in great drama, things go from bad to worse. Yet through it all, Ewa’s instinct to survive and reunite with her sister shows her inner strength in a majestic and powerful way.

She’s forced into a life of prostitution and develops a complex and volatile relationship with two men: Bruno, and his romantic cousin, Emil, who is also “Orlando the Magician,” played actor Jeremy Renner. Emil brings a ray of hope to the dingy world in which Ewa struggles on to survive. Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely remarkable here. Marion Cotillard transcends time and place.

As we have just celebrated our Independence Day, I find it poignant that this movie has, at its heart, the very contemporary issue of immigration to the United States seen through the eyes of another time. As distant as director James Gray makes 1921 look, these are many of the same issues facing those trying to hopefully reach the Unites States since its very founding.

This movie has captured the Ellis Island experience vividly and is beautifully mounted. The music is lush and appropriate, never intrusive, but highly melodic, both in Christopher Spelman’s original music, and the other well known orchestral pieces selected. Darius Khondji’s photography in wide screen has a sepia air about it with remarkable images that remain in my mind weeks later. The performances are exceptional and show us the zenith of what the acting craft should be.

You MUST experience “The Immigrant” in person on a big theatre screen. Director James Gray has made a masterpiece that you’ll not forget. Now, go find it!

Until next time, this is your pal, Matías Bombal, bidding you a fond farewell.

For more in-depth, complete reviews of these same movies and many more in theatres now, with scenes shown from the movie reviewed, you may see and hear “Matías Bombal’s Hollywood” at: Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter: @MABHollywood