Janey Way Memories #133: You Can’t Go Back

They say you can’t go back, and I believe that is true. My wife Barbara and I recently returned from a 10-day whirlwind trip to Europe.
We spent three days in Budapest, Hungary, and five days in Prague, Czech Republic, We also took a 2-day side trip to Gunzburg, Germany, my U.S. Army duty station more than 40 years ago. Wow, what blast from the past. The side-trip turned into quite an adventure.
We took the train from Prague to Regensburg, Germany, near the Czech border. Unfortunately, our train was late so we missed our connection, causing a one-hour delay. So, we wandered into the station to have a coffee. Unfortunately, we had no euro’s so we asked a waitress where we could find an ATM. She shook her head no. So, we sat out to find a machine. Fortunately, a nice fellow who had been sitting at the counter followed us, and pointed us down stairs. So we went down, acquired some cash, then had coffee. Overall, our experience in the Regensburg train station was not friendly.
Finally our train came, and we headed off to Gunzburg. What a trip. We caught one of those trains that stop frequently. We must have hit 15 stops between Regensburg and Gunzburg. By the time we arrived, night had fallen.
There, we disembarked at the station, and headed into town. Even in the dark, I could see how much Gunzburg had changed. When I lived there in 1969, Gunzburg was a farm town with a train station (Banhof) on one side, farms on the other side and the Markplatz, or central plaza, in the middle. At the end of the Markplatz, stood a hundreds-year-old clock tower with an arch through its middle where cars drove through. The clock tower still stands proudly at the end of the square, but not much else remains, as it was 40 years ago.
The Markplatz has seemingly been re-constructed, turned into an out-door mall, smaller, but not unlike our K Street. Virtually all the businesses that once stood there have been replaced by up-scale shops, even a cell-phone store. None of that existed in 1969. Worse, my old haunt, the Lowenbrau Steube (a sort of bar and grill) has long since disappeared. Even the street it stood on had been replaced by walkways covered with paving stones.
Fortunately, we found our hotel located right on the Markplatz, then walked right up the street to have a wonderful, traditional German dinner with wiener schnitzel, kartofel salad (potato salad), and a hearty German beer.
We left Gunzburg the next day, after taking a picture of me standing in the Markplatz. I doubt that I will ever return there again.
It is true, you can’t go back. Things will never be the same, not even in little Gunzburg, Germany.

THE POCKET WATCH: Six-foot elf takes up residence at Greenhaven Plaza

The Christmas tree lot on the corner of Riverside Boulevard and Florin Road is currently operated by new folks this year, Pocket native Gregg Jones (whose father owns Ace Hardware) and his friend Chad. They enjoy the comforts of home inside their trailer. Photo by Monica Stark

The Christmas tree lot on the corner of Riverside Boulevard and Florin Road is currently operated by new folks this year, Pocket native Gregg Jones (whose father owns Ace Hardware) and his friend Chad. They enjoy the comforts of home inside their trailer. Photo by Monica Stark

I always imagine the life of the average Christmas tree lot attendant to be kind of a bitter winter mix of cold and loneliness and backbreaking labor, but if that’s the stereotype, Gregg Jones doesn’t fit the profile. I stand with Gregg in the rain, both of us as upright as a couple of soggy meerkats among all the felled evergreens in his lot, intentionally laid down in an orderly manner to avoid the potential chaos that would ensue if they were left upright for the storms to do the job, and he does not once convey a single note of resentment about the avocation he has adopted for the holiday season.

Much to the contrary, with a wide smile and a bit of an elvish twinkle in his eye, Gregg talks about his venture with his good friend, Chad, who has run a lot in West Sacramento for several years, with an enthusiasm that belied the gloom of this winter’s first big storm. Although Greenhaven Plaza, the shopping center at Riverside and Florin, has rented space to a Christmas tree lot for the past several years, this is Gregg’s and Chad’s first year of operation at this location.

For my part, I want him to skip ahead to the bitter cold and loneliness, the theme I anticipated for this week’s Pocket Watch: “Poor soul sacrifices his own happiness so that others can partake in the joy of the season.” But there is no bitterness to be had. Gregg points to the 30-foot travel trailer in the back of his lot. “Sure, someone has to be here 24/7,” he grins, “but we have all the comforts of home here, heat, television, restroom, a warm bed… It’s really kind of nice.”

“But it must get lonely,” I insist, “being away from your family during the holidays.” Turns out Gregg was born and raised in the Pocket area. “This is home for me!” he beams. In fact, this particular parking lot is actually home for Gregg. His dad owns the Ace Hardware store in the shopping center, where Gregg grew up working. “It’s fun seeing all my old friends and customers when they drop by to pick up a tree.”

As the subject turns to the operation of the lot, it becomes obvious that Gregg has much more than just a financial interest in this particular business. He begins to discuss the initial vision that prompted him to approach his buddy about opening in this particular location. “I wanted to provide a lot where people could come for exceptional trees,” he explains. “I wanted to provide the best service possible. This is my home. These are my friends and neighbors. I wanted to make sure that our customers to have a great experience selecting their trees.”

Soon, I begin to feel like I’m talking shrimp with Bubba in Forest Gump. “Of course, we have Noble Firs, which go up to 11 feet,” he says, “and we have the Silvertips, which people refer to as the “Charlie Brown trees”; we have the smaller Nordmans, which are four- to five-feet tall, and they’re really similar to the Nobles, with just a little heavier needle, kind of a two-tone sheen, with silver underneath, dark green on top…” Gregg points out that the lot will receive multiple shipments regularly to ensure that the outgoing stock is replenished and that the selection is always optimal.

In retrospect, it was probably a tad rude of me to mention this to Gregg, but I tell him that, personally, I own an immense artificial tree that I have Ruben schlep out of the garage rafters every year after Thanksgiving. It’s so convenient, maybe not for Ruben, but it certainly is for me, and I wonder if there’s any kind of perceptible trend in that direction that might affect the live Christmas tree industry. I concede that I do kind of miss the smell of a fresh tree.

“Well, you hit the nail right on the head there,” he replies. “Artificial trees are nice and convenient, but one thing they don’t provide for is the fresh smell of the tree and I think just the spirit of getting a real tree that goes back a long way. You have your folks who like the convenience of pulling their own tree out of the attic every year, but then there are those diehards who—whether it’s cutting one down at Apple Hill or coming down to the lot and having the kids run around the tree lot, picking one out and hauling it home on the roofs of their cars—feel like that’s what it’s all about every year. I don’t think that’s going to go away anytime soon”.
Not as long as there’s a place like Gregg’s and Chad’s to shop, my brother. No way.

The Pocket Watch appears in every issue of the Pocket News. Jeff Dominguez can be reached at jeff.dominguez@yahoo.com

Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

“Interstellar”
The MPAA has rated this PG-13
Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. bring us “Interstellar,” an epic science fiction event movie that rivals the classic era of showmanship’s great road shows in its IMAX and 70mm film presentations in the United States.

Under the direction of Christopher Nolan, “Interstellar” stars Matthew McConaughey. In the not too distant future, McConaughey, a farmer with two kids, once an engineer, pilot, and astronaut, uses technology to bring down a drone flying over his farm.

The information he finds will lead him to set his course for adventure. This future world is plagued by great climate change devastated by famine and drought. He’s recruited by NASA into action to find hope for mankind’s future in the stars.

Michael Caine, a key NASA scientist, offers the discovery of a rip in the space/time continuum as a chance to look for life on a planet in another solar system.

This is indeed a most handsome production, which even at a lengthy running time of 169 minutes without intermission, offers good performances from Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, Anne Hathaway, John Lithgow, and one of my favorite young actors of today, Casey Affleck. In small scenes, you’ll see Topher Grace and Ellen Burstyn.

The director’s choice for IMAX film shots of incredible size give you the impression of the vastness of space much better than you saw in “Gravity”, and in fact I liked this so much more than that movie for many reasons.

The best part: I felt like I was a kid again with the wonder of adventurous space travel, pushing the limits of science and imagination. The “2001: A Space Odyssey” influence may be felt here, as you get a sense of the unknown and mysterious with a longing to know more. It’s a fun ride.

One of the notable aspects of this film release is the very fact that it is on film, and will be projected that way in IMAX theaters across the nation on IMAX 15 perf/70mm prints.

I found that “Interstellar’s” musical score by Hans Zimmer offers a tip of the hat to the “2001: A Space Odyssey” score while remaining different than the standard action scores of today with that nasty boom crash sound that I find so detestable. This is a great way to spend time at the movies, it made science-fiction fun for me again. (Note for our readers: Matías’ online review for this movie shows the inside of the Esquire IMAX theater and just how the film print is assembled and shown for these special showings on actual IMAX film: http://youtu.be/lbUHfMYyZP4)

Over The Fence

Bring us your Tootsie Pops

Dr. Jill Whitney is a dentist on Freeport Boulevard who is also good deed doer. Every year, she and her staff have a Halloween Candy Buyback Program. The program encourages kids to bring in their leftover Halloween candy they begged all night for in exchange for cold hard cash.

They better not buy candy with it!

This year, Dr. Whitney’s office collected 84 pounds of candy. They gave a dollar for every pound. Not to mention the 16 pounds her husband collected at his work.

It’s for a good cause, too. All the candy they collect gets sent to Operation Gratitude along with lots of toothbrushes. Operation Gratitude sends it to U.S. soldiers overseas in holiday care packages. I bet it’s a nice treat for our men and women in uniform. Tootsie Rolls, Snickers, and Smarties probably remind them of home.

Another benefit of the Candy buyback is saving the kid’s teeth from high sugar exposure for an extended period of time. I remember when I was a kid we covered a large swath of trick-or-treating ground, which meant a pillowcase full of sugar-filled Halloween candy. I had leftovers ’til Christmas! I also made quite a few unpleasant trips to the dentist.

Debbie Podesta, the office manager, told me “Dr. Whitney does things she likes to do. Little charities. She’s just that way.”

BBQ and new bikes
Sutterville Bicycle Company recently had a big grand opening and barbecue with all the fixin’s. There were hotdogs, hamburgers, even some turkey burgers. They also were playing some groovy funky tunes that complemented some of the groovy bikes the shop had for sale. The new owner, Jeff Dzurinko, took over ownership of the bike shop about six weeks ago from the initial owner, so it was more like an Open House than a Grand Opening. Jeff said, “I can’t wait to get to know some of the neighbors.”

He’s already getting some local love from the neighborhood. (See posts on the Facebook page.)

“The people in the neighborhood have been nothing but supportive to me and I’m happy to help them out with their bicycling needs,” Jeff said, referring to it as “a grassroots kind of bike shop.”

“I think having this sized shop allows me to be more personable and allows me to give that one on one experience that customers can appreciate,” he added. And Jeff definitely has that. He was greeting the folks who came to the grand opening with handshakes and a friendly “hello.”

One thing Jeff wants to put a big emphasis on is service and repairs. Jeff is a very experienced technician and is capable of working on all sorts of bikes. Does your bike chain keep slipping? Need a tune-up? Head on over to see Jeff. He also does custom-built bikes and custom orders.

He had some cool old school used bikes in the shop, a wide array of different style bikes. He’s got vintage bikes from the pre-war era along with accessories and parts to those old bikes. He’s also got a lot of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s era BMX bikes. It kind of reminded me of being a kid hanging around the bike shop.

Jeff said, “The BMX bikes are cool, and not only are kids buying them, but adults that had them when they were kids want to buy them for their kids now.”

They also have comfortable, efficient, modern bikes that are perfect for a work commute.

The Sutterville Bicycle Company is located in a tricky area. Sutterville and Attawa right next to the Sutterville Bypass. That hill will get your quads in shape once you get your bike in perfect working condition at the new bike shop on the block.

The Safeway Gas Station at Natomas Town Center on Del Paso Road is very busy. Photo by Greg Brown

The Safeway Gas Station at Natomas Town Center on Del Paso Road is very busy. Photo by Greg Brown

Curtis Park Village voices say ‘no’ to proposed gas station

A fight’s a brewin’ in the Curtis Park Village development. Developer Paul Petrovich and members of the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association are duking it out again – this time over a Safeway gas station, err, make that the Curtis Park Village Neighborhood Fuel Center as the project is being called.

Wordy. They’re gonna need a giant glowing sign for that.

The Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association has come out against the fueling station and kiosk that would be part of the Safeway Supermarket being proposed.

The Curtis Park Village Neighborhood Fuel Center, or the Safeway Gas Station, would be open 24 hours a day. There will also be a large kiosk where busy commuters can get their Redbull, snacks, beer, cigarettes and anything else they need at 3 in the morning.

The proposed gas station will have eight pumping stations, including 16 gas pumps and will be open 24 hours a day.

I spoke with Curtis Park resident Nancy McKeever over the phone and she really did her homework on the proposed friendly neighborhood fueling station. She is very much opposed to any gas station in Curtis Park Village. She’s uber opposed.

When I asked her about it, she sarcastically said, “We didn’t know we needed one.”

Nancy told me about how the Curtis Park neighborhood has worked hard for a high quality urban infill project. Every step of the way they have fought tooth and nail for this infill development to be the kind of project the neighborhood could be proud of. They’ve worked to increase densities of housing, to make streets punch through so the old neighborhood is connected, to get a bridge over the railroad to connect the neighborhood with the transit station. They’ve also butted heads with Paul Petrovich over park space.

Now they’re going toe to toe over the Safeway gas station and kiosk.

The grocery store is not the problem. It’s the gas station. Nancy said, “It’s not transit serving. It does not honor multi-million dollar public investment; it degrades it. Not only does it not provide transit riders and value to that investment and the bridge that’s going over it, it greatly detracts because of the amount of traffic it’s going to pull in to get gas at the fueling station.”

I drove on out to the Natomas Town Center on Del Paso Road and the Safeway gas station was doing brisk business. This gas station on Del Paso Road has six pumps, the one proposed for Curtis Park Village is eight pumps so it would be larger. A lot of Safeway gas was being guzzled up, so much in fact there was also a huge gasoline truck parked at the gas station. They can’t keep the gas tanks filled! The truck driver was taking a smoke break along the sidewalk before he hit the road to the next Safeway gas station to fill ’er up.

In their letter to the Sacramento City Planning Division, the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association states, “The overall purpose of this PUD’s development guidelines is to ensure that the proposed uses of this infill development blend with and enhance the quality of life and charm of the existing Curtis Park neighborhood. Compatibility with the existing neighborhood has been the watchword for a very long time. The proposed gas station works against this general purpose. One of the objectives for this goal is to encourage the use of public transportation and to develop appropriate linkages to surrounding neighborhoods including pedestrian, bicycle, vehicle and alternative transportation modes. A gas station in this location frustrates this goal.”

I reached out to Paul Petrovich via email and he referred me to former City Council member Rob Fong. I guess Paul is handling some media matters for Petrovich Development. I wanted to know what Petrovich thought of the neighborhood’s opposition to the fuel station and the rumor that Safeway won’t move in without a gas station. Fong said via email, “As part of the final executed lease, Safeway required that its lease be contingent upon the Landlord obtaining the necessary approvals to build the fuel center. Vice Mayor Jay Schenirer will be organizing a community meeting in early January to discuss all of the retail options for Curtis Park Village and to receive input from the neighborhood.”

No fuel center? No Safeway?

The Curtis Park Village Neighborhood Fueling Station Battle Royale continues in January at the Sierra 2 Center.

If you have an item for Over The Fence, email Greg@valcomnews.com

THE POCKET WATCH: What I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving, Greenhaven/Pocket edition

Shown here are students from the John F. Kennedy marching band taken during the homecoming parade, which was held on Friday, Oct. 17. The sounds of the band practicing in the evenings often provide neighbors with free concert music. Photo by Monica Stark

Shown here are students from the John F. Kennedy marching band taken during the homecoming parade, which was held on Friday, Oct. 17. The sounds of the band practicing in the evenings often provide neighbors with free concert music. Photo by Monica Stark

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve poured my heart out plenty of times in this column. Maybe too many times. I didn’t want my Thanksgiving edition to be too personal and sappy—I mean, obviously, I’m thankful for my wife and kids, but I always write about that—so I thought I would confine my discussion of the things for which I’m most thankful to items with which most of us are familiar, items that are strictly related to life here in the Pocket/Greenhaven community.

For example, I’m thankful for the John F. Kennedy High School Marching Band. My wife used to joke that the marching band at Kennedy practices more than the football team. But her joke might just be true. We live close enough to the school that, most every clear-weather evening, if we open the windows, we can hear faint echoes of the wonderful music they make. There is some sort of electronic metronome that the band uses to help keep time. It makes a steady “ping-ping-pinging” sound that’s very distinctive and uniquely audible, I suppose, so that it can be heard above the instruments. When we hear that pinging sound, we slide open the patio doors. We know we’re in for a concert.

I’m also thankful for the new Z Pizza. Actually, I’ve never been there, but I hear it’s a very nice place. My son, who has somehow become a beer connoisseur since his college graduation (as opposed to the chugger his old man was during his college days) says they have great pizza and lots of tasty beers, along with a unique system for serving it. He and his friends love to meet there to watch sporting events and just be together. I’m thankful for Ruben’s circle of friends, but I’m also thankful that they a nice, upscale, place to meet that doesn’t require a trip downtown.

I’m thankful for the Taco Bell in the shopping center at Florin and Riverside, particularly for their “Happy Hour.” After picking up Gabby from school, I can usually be found making a “run for the border” to pick up a freeze for the bargain price of $1 and, sometimes, a snack to accompany it. Before gabby started school, I used to do the same with Ruben. We’d sit at the bar in Rainbow’s End and have a milkshake and a piece of cake or pie and just chat. It’s just a little thing we do, but I’ve learned that the little, ordinary, things make for the best memories. Incidentally, if you ever stop at Taco Bell for a happy hour freeze, I recommend the “Baja Blast.”

The strangest thing happens to me most nights at around 11 p.m. I somehow get a craving for a particular snack, or I somehow remember this or that thing I forgot to pick up for use the next day. When this happens, I usually talk Ruben into joining me for a late-night dash over to the Walgreens on the corner, across from the Shell station. They seem to have everything I tend to need, from flash drives to fingernail clippers, posterboard to pistachios, Band-aids to batteries. I’m thankful to have this kind of store nearby and for the cashiers who somehow manage to remain cheery at an hour when I know they’d rather be home fast asleep.

Here’s a quick(er) list of additional Greenhaven/Pocket-related items that have earned my gratitude at Thanksgiving: 

Sunsets over the river. I was raised on this river. In fact, I could throw a rock from my bedroom window directly into the Sacramento River. I’m thankful for the enduring beauty of the sunsets here, and for the many warm memories of my youth that they always conjure.

I’m thankful for the Machaca Dinner at Rosalinda’s. When I find myself missing my grandma’s cooking, I can always wander in and order this meal. Of course, it’s not exactly like Grandma used to make, but it’s darn close.

I’m also thankful for all the beautiful parkways and bike and walking paths that weave around the exact spot where I live. Unfortunately, I don’t use them nearly enough, and I’ve got to resolve to do something about that. New Year’s Day is coming… maybe then!

I’m thankful for Gary at Ace Hardware. For years, Don Weathers was my go-to guy there, but since Don retired, I’ve come to enjoy chatting with Gary. He probably doesn’t even know my name, but he’s the most helpful, cheerful, hardware clerk you could ask for. And he also knows a thing or two about college sports.

Once we decided that the logistical challenge involved with getting to the only church where we felt truly comfortable (in Rancho Cordova) was preventing us from attending consistently, Lisa and I began a long and exhaustive search to find a church here that we could call home. I am absolutely positive that there are many, many, wonderful churches nearby, but finding the right fit is such a highly subjective thing. Like Goldilocks, we found just the right spot for our family at Faith Presbyterian. I grew up in a fire and brimstone, holy rolling, family. My present preferences are a bit more dialed back. Thoughtful, intelligent, understated, and funny, Pastor Jeff Chapman simply strikes the right chord with me. It’s so important for a family to have a spiritual base, and I’m thankful that we were able to find one so close and so apropos.

I’m thankful for everyone who has worked so diligently to keep the tradition of the Pocket 4th of July Parade running. In 1995, I got the idea to hold a parade here so that I wouldn’t have to drag my son down to the Delta every year, where they do the 4th up right. Together with some dear friends and neighbors, we kept it going until a variety of factors compelled me to step away. Linda Pohl and another great group of volunteers have managed to carry the torch since then, and no one knows as well as I how much work is involved in keeping this labor of love going.

Realizing that I have failed miserably at making my list quicker, there are a few other things I just have to mention, so I’ll do so with a level of brevity that most people would think impossible for me.

I’m thankful for: the fertile Earth literally in our backyard; Pocket Next Door, a website that allows me to be Gladys Kravitz without so much as having to peek through the living room window curtain; the safety of our neighborhood; the firefighter from Station 11 who hugged me when my grandfather died—thanks, I needed that; my dear buddy Wayne Novoa, a local treasure whom I met through youth sports here in the Pocket. Anyone who knows Wayne knows that there is no one in the world like him. He has been a source of endless fun and positivity for me, personally, and his sense of community is unparalleled; the Freeport Water Tower. I just like it. It’s such a unique landmark, and when I see it, I know that I’m home; the Delta breeze in the summertime. E.E. Cummings once wrote a poem about rain “bouncing off of the burned Earth” and “wandering deeply through the God-thanking ground.” That’s how my face feels on a hot summer day when the Delta breeze finally hits it in the evening.

There’s no feeling quite like that, and no sentiment quite as satisfying as gratitude. My fondest hope for all my friends and neighbors is that they, too, have an exhaustive list for which to be thankful this holiday season.

The Pocket Watch appears in every issue of the Pocket News. Jeff Dominguez can be reached at jeff.dominguez@yahoo.com

Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
The MPAA has given this a PG-13 rating
Clever Katniss continues to captivate! From Lionsgate, the Hunger Games screen saga continues with the usual suspects: Ms. Jennifer Lawrence, of course, resumes her role as Katniss Everdeen; Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, and Stanley Tucci are back again.
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee) photographed this screen chapter of the story with all of the previous movies at the same time. Seeing him now is particularly noticeable after his unfortunate passing and is an odd feeling.
This chapter, almost like classic serial chapters of the golden age of the movies with the necessary cliffhanger ending, follows Katniss’ destruction of the games. She meets the President of District 13 (Julianne Moore) who convinces her to become the poster girl for the rebel cause against the Capitol. Katniss steps up to the challenge and ends up leading the rebels against an unknown future. She still holds a flame for Peeta Mellark (played by Josh Hutcherson, recapping his role), who is a prisoner of the Capitol.
In one scene, Katniss goes to a hospital in the war zone. The shots were very reminiscent of Scarlett O’Hara visiting the wounded soldiers in “Gone with the Wind”. I found this to be an entertaining movie, and less loud and fast than the previous installments, and that’s good. Donald Sutherland savors his role and it’s great to see him on screen. Jeffrey Wright (Boardwalk Empire) returns and is good in this as Beetee. Ms. Lawrence is always fun to watch and will not disappoint in this offering of Hunger Games adventure.

Janey Way Memories: Returning Home – Part 1

In April 1969, I was drafted for service in the U.S. Army. Then, after five months of intensive training, and with my brother Terry already serving in Viet Nam, I received orders to report for duty in West Germany.
After a short leave, I flew out of San Francisco to Fort Dix in New Jersey, and then to Rhine –Main Air Base in Frankfurt, Germany. There, I received my permanent military assignment to the 510th Ordinance Company in Gunzburg, Germany.
I served 19 months in Gunzburg, traveling whenever I could. I remember taking one 10-day leave to Spain with my friend Jack Broadbent. We had a great time. After that, I swore that when my discharge day came in 1971, I would take a European out and continue my travels abroad.
True to my promise, I took my discharge in Europe and set off with my buddy Sergeant Jeff Lucas to see the world.
We traveled to Austria, Yugoslavia and then Italy. However, after about three months, Jeff had to return home for a job interview, so I kept touring by myself.
Eventually I met up with three Australian guys at the Laughing Whale camp ground just west of Barcelona, Spain. They were headed to Pamplona, Spain for the annual running of the bulls. That sounded like an adventure to me so off I went with the Aussies.
We ran with the bulls in Pamplona, and then took our traveling party to Torremolinos on the south west coast of Spain. However, after staying several weeks in Torremolinos, I realized that my financial resources had dwindled to a perilous level. It was time to return home. So, I wished the Aussie boy’s good bye, and headed back toward Germany.
First, I hitchhiked to up the coast to Valencia and caught a bus to Barcelona. Once in Barcelona, I took a train to the Spanish/French border. There, I hitched a ride with a French couple headed home to Strasburg on the French/German border. They spoke German, so we had a nice conversation as we traveled. They were surprised at how well I spoke German. Eventually, they dropped me at a rest stop in Dijon, France. There, I stood with a sign that said, Brussels, Belgium.
Amazingly, a Dutch fellow pulled up almost immediately and offered a ride. He was headed for Holland, but promised to drop me in Brussels, at the Rue Du Dahlia, where my friend Guy Muzzi lived. Then, after an all-day ride, we pulled up to a building in Brussel’s that said: Frere Muzzi Vin Distribution. That was my friends wine business. So I stepped outside of the car, thanked my Dutch friend, and walked up to the entrance to the building. Just then, a workman came out, and I asked him if I could see Guy. He told me to wait, and went back inside. Soon Guy came out, and his jaw dropped. We had met in Torremolinos where he enjoyed my company so much, he told me to stop and see him when I came back through Belgium. He was really happy to see me. He took me across the street to his flat and then returned to his work to shut down for the day.
Later, when he returned, we went out for dinner at a café owned by his friend Claude who took an immediate liking to me. He loved California: the Golden Gate Bridge, Yosemite Falls and Disneyland. We spent a wonderful evening drinking wine, playing cards and talking about my home on Janey Way.
I had made a good start on my journey home. I was in a nice place now with my friend Guy. Rhine Main Air Base in Frankfurt Germany waited – the next big step on my way home to Sacramento.

OVER THE FENCE: Patio expansion at Land Park Golf Course

The outside of Mulligan's Café before the plaza expansion. Photo by Greg Brown

The outside of Mulligan's Café before the plaza expansion. Photo by Greg Brown

The Land Park Golf Course is planning to expand the clubhouse patio area outside Mulligan’s Café. They’re going to open things. They’ll add 10 additional tables with colorful sun-shade umbrellas. The added tables would be used by golfers as well as soccer parents and other park users. One park user, Hollywood Park resident Kerry Herd-Babich, was getting a hot cup of coffee at the café while her husband David practiced his short game on the putting green. She told me “Every morning we walk around the park, it’s wonderful.” Then they relax and hang out on the patio outside of Mulligan’s Café.
The $42,500 expansion is being done thanks to retiring County Supervisor Jimmie Yee. Jimmie has always been a huge supporter of The First Tee, their core values, and what they do for the kids.
Jimmie told me over the phone he likes to visit William Land to relax, sit around the clubhouse, and watch golfers enjoy the putting green. Jimmie is also an avid golfer and hopes to play once a week in retirement.
The golf course put a new cart barn near the putting green a few years ago and that got Jimmie thinking, “that’s nice to have the cart barn there but they need something between the two…there’s just nothing there.”
He told this to Tom Morton, the head of Morton Golf, which operates quite a few golf courses in the Sacramento area. That’s when they came up with the idea of expanding the plaza between the cart barn and Mulligan’s Café.
Jimmie had some leftover tobacco litigation funds from the County and was able to use the money to help fund the new plaza expansion. Jimmie also generously donated money from his campaign fund to the Land Park Volunteer Corps that does a lot of work to keep Land Park clean.
The Land Park Volunteer Corp gets to have lunch on Jimmie!
Jimmie told me, “I’m winding down. The only way to donate my remaining funds is to give it to charitable organizations.”
Jimmie added, “That’s the big story, in a little nutshell.”

The Elvis and AC/DC pinball machines were getting a good workout at Phono Select Records. Photo by Greg Brown

The Elvis and AC/DC pinball machines were getting a good workout at Phono Select Records. Photo by Greg Brown

Pinball At Phono Select
Phono Select Records in Hollywood Park recently had a fun pinball and toy event. The clacks and dings of the pinball machines wafted through the Phono Select building while music played in conjunction. Free pinball! The machines were some of the coolest, too. Metallica, AC/DC, Elvis and Medieval Madness were all lined up in a row for folks to “play the silver ball.”
Phono Select Records plans on more pinball parties as well as having pinball and other video games permanently at the shop. And this should make your day…The Dirty Harry pinball machine is coming soon!

Purple Fox Takes Over Trezhers
The Purple Fox is a new arts and crafts store on Riverside Boulevard in Land Park. It is taking over the old Trezhers Gift Shop location in the strip mall across from Vic’s Ice Cream.
The Purple Fox features arts and crafts from a variety of local artists. The store is part consignment, part retail, according to the new owner Linda Cobarruvies. Linda told me, “I’ve been wanting to open a shop for a long time and I thought, now’s the time.”
Linda, a former teacher, was eager to show me around her little shop. There was a smorgasbord of handcrafted decorative items, jewelry, and one-of-a-kind gifts. I mentioned I had a 5-year-old son and she went over to the display of handmade animal plushies, chose the light blue kitty and said, “Please give this to your boy to cuddle with.” He loved it when I brought it home and immediately squeezed and cuddled with the soft Bellzi Plush toy.
One of the products on display I noticed immediately were the Dammit Dolls. When you get frustrated or irritated instead of pounding the desk, you slam the doll against something and yell, “Dammit!” It’s the perfect thing to own when the in-laws visit for the holidays.
The Purple Fox will be a convenient place for teachers in the area to pick up craft supplies for the classroom. They also offer classes on crafts, card-making, knitting, quilting and more.
I asked Linda where she came up with the name Purple Fox and she told me, “Purple is my favorite color, and a fox is very crafty. I sent the idea to my friends and they all loved it!”
The Purple Fox is located at 3214 Riverside Blvd. They’re on the web at www.purplefoxgifts.com

New Porcelain Neon Sign at Freeport Bakery. Photo by Greg Brown

New Porcelain Neon Sign at Freeport Bakery. Photo by Greg Brown

Freeport Bakery gets neon signage
Next time you drive past Freeport Bakery in the evening take a look at the classic porcelain neon sign they just installed. It gives off a nice warmish glow. The sign with pink neon flowers is patterned after the decadent Freeport Bakery cakes.
Owner Marlene Goetzeler said, “I’ve been wanting to do an iconic sign for a while. I wanted our logo, but with some style, old school signs with a modern flair.”
Marlene talked to quite a few sign makers, even one from Austin, Texas, but couldn’t find the right fit.
Then she met Ben Kenealey of “Light In The Night Neon.” It was a perfect match. “From the minute we met, I knew he was the right person,” Marlene said.
“That was a fun sign to do,” Ben told me. “I started telling Marlene my ideas and she kept getting more and more excited, even to the point to where she was giddy about it. She was a great person to work with.”
They actually had to send the signs out of state for the porcelain work. No one really makes them much anymore because other materials are less expensive. Ben said, “The porcelain has an old nostalgic feel you’re not gonna get anywhere else. If you watch American Pickers and that kind of thing they’ll pull out these old porcelain signs they always rave about.”
Ben, who is one of the few glass benders left in the Sacramento area, bent the glass used for the signs at his shop on Keifer Boulevard. It was then assembled at Pacific West Signs and installed on the North and South ends of the Freeport Bakery building.
Marlene said, “Finally after all these years Freeport Bakery has some great signage!”
Got an item for Over The Fence? Greg@valcomnews.com

Janey Way Memories: Fifty Years

On September 27, 2014, I attended my 50-year high school reunion.
It turned out to be quite an experience. I saw some friends I had not seen since high school. The night was almost surreal.
We had begun our reunion weekend with a cocktail party the night before. That proved a good starter for a great weekend. One hundred fifty people filled a small room adjacent to the Club 56 Sport Bar.
As soon as I entered, I saw Tony Stratton, a fellow hurdler from the track team. We had lots of good memories to share. Later, I met a girl who I had asked out on a date back then, but she turned me down. She seemed to regret her decision now. How time changes our perspective of things.
Next, I met some of my friends from the junior varsity football team. We recalled how our team came together as the season progressed and how it ended with a great victory in our final game.
Then we talked about our coaches, our teachers, and our great principal at Sacramento High School: Albert Sessarago. We are so proud and thankful we attended this fine school.
The next night, 300 of us attended the reunion dinner/dance at the Dante Club. We literally filled the place up. We had the whole facility to ourselves. As I sat down for dinner, I looked around our table and saw both new and old friends. On my left sat Kathy and Dave Bristol who worked with me on the reunion committee. Across the table, I saw Wayne Alamo who grew up in River Park. We laughed when we recalled all the characters who grew up in that enclave: Tom Watson, Richard Carroll, Vince Angell and others. Back then we all hung out at Paradise Beach on the American River. Those days seem like such a long time ago.
After dinner, we all gathered for a group photo, just like we did for our senior ball. Then the DJ began playing the old songs—our songs. That brought back memories of attending concerts at the Memorial Auditorium. I almost always got in free then because my dad was a Sacramento police officer. We just went around to the back door, and the officers working the event would let us in. We saw the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, James Brown and others that way. How could we forget those good old days?
As the evening progressed, I wandered out to the bar for a beverage and just surveyed the whole scene. There, I noticed a couple of guys who were the “big men on campus” back then. They looked a little funny to me now. They strutted the same way they did back then, but now they are bald on top and paunchy in the middle. Time, it seems, is a great equalizer.
As I sat there checking things out, I thought about my best friends from high school, both deceased now: Albert Wilson and Mike Gilson.
I used to drive around with Al in his 1950 Chrysler sedan. We cruised K Street, and ate pizza at Shakey’s Pizza Parlor on 56th and J streets. Those were good times.
I went to St. Mary’s School with Mike Gilson. Our teacher, Mother Carmela, gave him a hard time. He just did not have the patience for school. Later, we swam at the river, played football and basketball at the school, and slept out on warm summer nights. Sadly, he lost his life in Viet Nam.
Now, the good times we had then are just a bittersweet Janey Way memory.

Over the Fence: Look, up in the sky, it’s a drone in Land Park!

Some drone videos showcase remote Alaskan ice caves, cascading waterfalls in Costa Rica, even earthquake damage in Napa. Sacramento resident Tim Pantle showcases the beauty of the Sacramento area with his aerial photos and drone videos on his blog “Love Where You Live”.

I hung out with Tim while he was getting aerial views of the Urban Cow Half Marathon that was held in William Land Park recently. He also filmed some nice shots of the golf course, Fairytale Town and the Sacramento Zoo.

We spoke about the good, the bad, and the ugly of quadcopters. Drone videos have been somewhat controversial but Tim is the “Mister Rogers of drone video operators.” He does nothing nefarious — just good, wholesome, fun videos of the Sacramento area.

What spurred Tim’s quadcopter hobby is he wanted to start a blog of some kind. One day, he saw a picturesque drone video of the old Fair Oaks Bridge and he was hooked. “I’ve always been that tech-geek and used to be really into photography,” Tim said. He loves the challenge of “getting the good shot.”

He was getting plenty of good shots of the Urban Cow Half Marathon and William Land Park the day we got together.

At the start of the half marathon, the announcer told runners to “wave to teh drone,” as Tim’s Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter was filming over head.

When Tim was filming on the fifth hole at Land Park Golf Course, a golfer took a practice swing from the fairway then turned around to smile and wave. The drone makes a loud buzzing, swarm-of-bees sound, so I was surprised the golfer let the quadcopter bother him. Most golfers demand complete silence before hitting a fairway wood on a par 4 hole.

The Phantom 2 Vision reminds me of the Starship Enterprise from the old Star Trek series. It has a similar look. If you can operate a joystick, you can certainly operate a quadcopter. Tim syncs it up with GPS. It’s the ultimate in tech gadgetry for a photographer. If the battery goes dead, or it loses connection with his remote it’ll fly back to where it started and land. It has a brain! The controller has a WiFi extender that allows the drone to send a signal to his phone so he can see what the camera sees.

The Phantom 2 Vison has quite a few different names, including an aerial drone, quadcopter, UAV or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The term drone came about because the vehicles sounded like worker bees known as “drones.”

Tim’s a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker and he thought the quadcopter or drone would be a great aspect of selling real estate. “Unfortunately I can’t use it for real estate because of FAA rules of no commercial, at the time that I bought it that rule wasn’t in place.”

There are a few rules when it comes to the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The laws are still trying to catch up with the technology.

You cannot use it for commercial purposes. You can’t go above 400 feet. It’s also a big “no no” in national parks. Yosemite National Park has banned drones after they became a nuisance to vistors of the park. Another rule is you can’t fly within three miles of an airport.

Whereas Tim uses his drone for good, clean, wholesome fun, other drone operators aren’t as level headed and responsible as Tim.

There have been many publicized incidents of aerial drones causing problems. One drone operator flew over a nude beach in Hawaii that created an online stir.

Technically, there’s nothing illegal about being a “creepy pest” because it was a public beach. When the operator was confronted by one of the sunbathers he accused him of breaking the law by being nude in public, which is technically illegal in Hawaii.

Got that? Being nude illegal, filming people nude, legal.

One man actually shot down a New Jersey man’s drone after it hovered near his home. He blew it out of the sky with his shotgun. Kaboom! The guy who shot down the drone was arrested and charged with Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose and Criminal Mischief. Oops.

Then there is the case of a 17-year-old teen who was innocently filming the shoreline of a beach in Florida. A woman became enraged and assaulted him because she thought he was filming bikini-baring beach goers. The video of the confrontation is quite disturbing. The woman called the police; but, after they viewed the I-Phone video from the teen’s camera, she was arrested for assault.

Tim told me he thinks “some of the news coverage is overblown.”

I spoke with Rob Watkins at RC Country Hobby on Folsom Boulevard and he said, “I’m more concerned in the type of person and how they’re flying them than the quadcopters themselves.”

Rob mentioned an incident where a guy was flying his drone over the Sand Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It caused the grounding firefighting aircraft.

“We sell a lot of them here and they’re fun to fly. It just concerns me what people are doing with them,” Rob said.

What Tim is doing with his drone videos is making people feel good. The feedback Tim gets is all positive. His most popular drone video is the Del Campo High School campus. He’s actually from the graduating class of ’86. His quadcopter gives an aerial documentation of the campus as it slowly glides over the mighty oak tree that is at the center of the campus. The aerial video ends on the newly build Cougar football stadium. He also has an ethereal soundtrack that plays during the video. It elicited quite a few emotional responses on a Del Campo High School reunion page. Gregory Hansel, a class of 1984 alumni said, “Am I the only one who got a bit emotional seeing that? School hasn’t changed much. A lot of memories.”

Tim also has an enchanting drone video of the Sacramento River at the Tower Bridge. The quadcopter glides right over the golden bridge to reveal an aerial shot not many people have seen — the tip top of the Tower Bridge. It’s accompanied by some Joe Satriani-style guitar riffs. He also filmed a video of the American River near the Fair Oaks bluffs and bridge, another picturesque drone video of the area Tim calls home.

If you search You Tube, there are numerous beautiful, edgy, and just plain magical videos of nature’s beauty. These drone videos, by far, outnumber the irresponsible and innocuous ones that tend to get headlines. Waterfalls, cliff diving, and amazing Alaskan glacier views are just some of the subjects drone videos have beautifully captured.

Drone videos are also publicizing social justice like the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong. There is an aerial drone video of hundreds of thousands of people in the street peacefully protesting.

There’s also aerial drone videos by The Swandiri Institute, an organization focusing its research on the political-ecology and social-ecological analysis of environmental change happening in Indonesia.

Drones are even helping to save the whales. The Ocean Alliance is a group that uses aerial drones to collect a broad spectrum of data from the whales without disturbing them. From the data, they advise scientists and policy makers on pollution and how to prevent the collapse of marine mammals and other sea life.

See? Aerial Drones are being used for good.

Which brings me back to Sacramento’s drone video photographer, Tim Pantle. He takes great pleasure in making drone videos that people have an emotional connection to. Tim also uses his common sense. “I don’t fly over people’s houses and if somebody shows any inkling they’re upset, I just leave. I’m not looking for any trouble.”

Tim is very careful and cautious with his quadcopter. When we were together, his plan was to fly over the Sacramento Zoo, but he was also a bit hesitant. Tim said, “I don’t know if I could fly over the zoo because it might disturb the animals. Common sense says, don’t bug the animals.”

He did manage to get some aerial footage of the zoo and no animals were disturbed.

Whether it’s Sacramento parks, historic bridges or our beautiful waterways Tim only uses his quadcopter for good. He also takes pride in giving Sacramento a bird’s eye view of the city he loves.

To check out all of Tim’s videos go to www.LoveSacramento.Blogspot.com

Got an item for Over The Fence? Greg@valcomnews.com