Janey Way Memories #148 “A Good Walk Spoiled”

Mark Twain said that golf is “a good walk spoiled.” Contrary to that notion, I love to play golf. I didn’t always feel that way though.
I first played the game in the early 1960s when I still lived on Janey Way. Then, my dad, a Sacramento police officer, came home from working a special event one day carrying a well-used set of golf clubs.
The set came in a worn out leather golf bag and featured clubs which did not seem to match, along with a full bag of old golf balls.
My brother Terry and I could not wait to try the set out. So, we carried the bag down to the Phoebe Hearst School yard and started hitting balls. We were horrible. The game looked so easy on television. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicholas hit the ball a mile.
We, on the other hand, either topped the ball a few feet, or hit it wildly left or right. No one dare walk near where we were practicing, in fear being struck. But, like good Relles’, we persisted.
Soon after that, we scheduled a round of golf at the Perkins Golf Course on Jackson Highway. We played with Randy Puccetti and Bob Pesce. Randy played respectably because his uncle had given him some lessons. Bob and Terry and I were a danger on the golf course.
Our shots from the first tee went awry. Terry topped his shot 50 feet. I hit mine about 100 yards long and 50 yards off course. The whole round went that way. We were so bad, that at one point, two middle-aged golfers behind us tried to give us some tips, to no avail. After that fiasco, we quit playing golf.
I took the game back up though, in my early 40s. I did it the right way this time. I started out by buying a used set of clubs and a video entitled “Automatic Golf.” The video demonstrated an easy and effective way to hit the ball. It worked. I began to play, not well, buy respectably.
I played the game with friends from work. We had a great time. We all played at about the same level so the games were competitive, and nobody took them too seriously.
I even went out a played with my dad who was a very good golfer. I dearly enjoyed that time spent with him before he died.
These days I play golf with my friends in the Sons in Retirement (SIR) Branch 117. We play every Monday (9 holes) during March – October. I play with a regular foursome that includes my friends Hal, Jim and Bob. We always try hard to make a good score, but first and foremost, we have fun.
As far as Mark Twain’s saying that golf is “a good walk spoiled”, I have to say I disagree. Now, that first round of golf I played when I lived on Janey Way so long ago is just another frustrating, but funny, Janey Way memory.

Matias Bombal’s Hollywood “The Man from U.N.C.L.E”

The MPAA has rated this PG-13

Warner Bros. brings us a revamped 1960s TV classic ramped up to the speed of director Guy Ritchie’s style with “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” If you’ve wondered what those letters stand for, they represent: United Network Command for Law Enforcement. The characters from the original TV show of Napoleon Solo, Illia Kuryakin, and Alexander Waverly are embodied in this big screen version by actors Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Hugh Grant.

Set in the early 1960s, we find Solo with an assignment to extract beautiful Gabby (Alicia Vikander), from east Berlin. A big chase ensues, and after some stylish daring-do they escape with their lives just in time to be debriefed by U.N.C.L.E. operatives. One of them, Sanders, is played by Jared Harris, the son of actor Richard Harris. Jared Harris is one of my absolutely favorite actors working today. It is a pity that his character does not have longer scenes in the movie.

Sanders warns of more discomfort as Solo is about to be teamed with Illia Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), the KGB agent he’s just nearly been killed by. They are not looking forward to working together for the greater good, but must bite the bullet and try. It’s here that the two agents from opposite sides plan to move back undercover with Gaby to infiltrate a mysterious organization trying to proliferate nuclear weapons. Illia and Gaby are to pose as an engaged couple, whilst Solo lives up to his last name and runs interference.

Lovely Ms. Vikander certainly has been lighting up screens quite a bit since her big splash in “Ex-Machina.” This movie has excellent photography and the colors are lush and vivid, likely due to the skillful work of lensman John Mathieson. The repartee between Solo and Kuryakin has an overly simplified rivalry that seems comic book-like in nature, rather than a stylish tongue-in-cheek style which may have been intended.

Although entertaining to watch, this movie does not come near the excellence of the recently released “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”, a movie in a similar genre. Unlike some period productions that look like they capture a time and place, this has a sparseness to the overall look of the picture that makes it too clean and like a make-believe movie set to be realistic in bringing the period to life.

Henry Cavill’s character of Napoleon Solo has a stiffness in this that makes him seem more like the animated cartoon character “Archer” than the original Solo of the TV era who was played by Robert Vaughn. Granted, they are different people, and I do like Mr. Cavill as an actor. I think the fault here is the script and direction. Where there might have been camp or charm value, it falls flat. Of course there’s plenty of chase scenes on land and the sea around Naples, and the locations are the real places depicted.

Overall this movie is not a waste of your time, but it might have proved more exciting had it been released before the superior spy movie “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.” Director Guy Ritchie uses a lot of screen separations and clever editing of sequences; some very good, the rest too gimmicky. It happens frequently enough that you notice the device or optical effect and loose thread of the story, and that is a fatal error. The leads remind me of the comic book “Spy vs. Spy” more than the original TV series elements, thus “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is a “Spy vs. Spy” stylish adventure that is fun to watch but does not gel due to the script’s plastic dialogue and squeaky-clean look.

Over The Fence with Greg Brown

Track 7 Brewery held annual Chili Cook-Off
Band leader and trumpeter Harry James once said, “Next to music there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili.”

Mark and Toni Groth of WOW WOW Chili are awarded People's Choice at the Track 7 Chili Cook-off. Here they are posing with the trophy and owners/brewers Geoff Scott and Ryan Graham.
Mark and Toni Groth of WOW WOW Chili are awarded People's Choice at the Track 7 Chili Cook-off. Here they are posing with the trophy and owners/brewers Geoff Scott and Ryan Graham.

I think Harry may have been onto something, because spirits were lifted and souls were strengthened at the Third Annual Track 7 Chili Cook-off at the taproom in Curtis Park.
A lot of chili and beer were consumed too.
Local chili contestants were vying for the top spot and the golden chili spoon trophy. A colorful array of chili connoisseurs used a wide variety of chili ingredients. Spices and seasonings wafted through the air at the boisterous taproom.
One of the rules was contestants had to use Track 7 beer in the chili. Other than that, it was a free-wheelin’ chili cook-off.
I asked Track 7 brewer Geoff Scott what he looked for in a chili and he told me “It’s about consistency. A good base and good combo of meat and beans.” He added, “It’s gotta have spice!”
Mark and Toni Groth are the team of Wow Wow Chili. Mark wears the big chef’s hat and both of them don colorful yellow aprons.
I call it the Wow Wow factor.
The first year of the chili cook-off the WOW WOW chili crew were told their chili needed “more heat.”
Lots of delicious chili was served up at Track 7's Annual Cook-Off.
Lots of delicious chili was served up at Track 7's Annual Cook-Off.

They kicked it up a notch last year and won People’s Choice. I guess people like it when you turn up the heat.
While Mark stirred the chili in the big pot, he said with some confidence, “We’re here to defend our title today.”
I asked if he changed anything or “kicked it up another notch” and he told me “yes.” They smoked three kinds of meat and actually added a little bit more spice. He had nine pounds of tri-tip simmering in the big metal chili pot!
It worked. Wow Wow Chili won their second straight Track 7 chili spoon trophy in a row. Perhaps it was the added chorizo, or the crowd also liked their style.
The school teacher team of Derek Perkins and Amy Baldini were on hand serving up chili to the crowd hoping for a win. They called themselves “Backyard Barbeque.” It’s their second year gunning for the big prize and chili spoon trophy. “We’re both teachers, and we have the summer off, so we spend the summer working on our recipe,” Derek said.
I bet it’s better than the school cafeteria food.
Perkins added, “For the past month we’ve been really focused on the life of chili.”
Backyard Barbeque poured a growler of Panic IPA in the sauce and a not-so-secret ingredient…tequila! They added a block of aged Parmesan cheese to it, too. It smelled good! It had a lot of Track 7 in it.
Another chili cook-off contestant was Brian Guido who was tucked away inside the taproom with his pickle red onion relish and Soulman stout chili. He called it “Guido’s lamb and stout chili.”
“You know the great thing? I had a group of kids keep coming back and back for the chili. And it was lamb. I’ve gone through four gallons of chili!” Guido said.
Apparently, kids love lamb.
Guido told me, he loves the chili cook-off because he loves Track 7. “They make great beer. The place is family friendly and pet friendly, too.” He likes just cooking and hanging out at the taproom. He added, “What else am I gonna do on a Sunday afternoon?”
The guys over at Das Chili were really enthusiastic about the chili cook-off. One of the chili makers, Shawn Peter, wore lederhosen while he stirred the chili and gave out samples. The lederhosen was a salute to his German heritage.
Shawn Peter and Chad Seaburg were the team that makes up Das Chili.
Shawn said it’s a homemade recipe that he created for himself for the last 20 years – a tried and true recipe that his friends and family love.
All the vegetables were from his parent’s garden. The peppers, the tomatoes, the works.
Last year he got a bit exotic and used ground kangaroo sausage. I guess kangaroo gives it a real kick.
The guys of Underground Chef are all smiles after they take home the Brewer's Choice award for best chili at Track 7's Annual Chili Cook-off. They're going to use their $200 for a big party with friends at the taproom.
The guys of Underground Chef are all smiles after they take home the Brewer's Choice award for best chili at Track 7's Annual Chili Cook-off. They're going to use their $200 for a big party with friends at the taproom.

This year he went with ground lamb, pork, and a growler of Track 7’s Bee Line Blonde.
He caramelized onions, garlic, along with the Bee Line Blonde for three hours. Organic kidney beans, freshly shucked corn, and finely chopped white raisins along with a little maple syrup were also in the chili. A creative mix of ingredients earned Das Chili third place in the People’s Choice category.
I’m sure they got a few extra votes for the lederhosen.
The Brewer’s Choice for the best bowl of red went to Underground Chef.
Underground Chef is Nathan Frank, Brian Miller, and Steven Rice. Three friends, plenty of beer, and delicious chili.
“To go through five gallons of chili in one afternoon in little tiny cups…it’s insane!” Nathan said. It’s their first time entering the Track 7 Chili Cook-off and as a home chef Nathan thought, “I could do that.”
Beef brisket and fried pork belly were the key ingredient for Underground Chef. They also added three pints of Soulman Stout.
“It was cool to be able to use their product and make it taste good,” Nathan told me.
The team of Underground Chef had the right mix of consistency and spice because they won the top prize in the Brewers Choice category. They got a $200 gift certificate to use on craft beer, Track 7 gear, or rental use of the tap room. The Underground Chef guys have decided to throw a big party with friends at the Track 7 Tap Room.

editor@valcomnews.com

Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

SHAUN THE SHEEP
The MPAA has rated this PG

Lionsgate/StudioCanal/Aardman Animations bring us “Shaun the Sheep”, the adventures of a bold sheep that longs to break from the farm routine by taking a day off. In this age of computer generated animation, to find the artful type of animation that was popularized by George Pal in the 1930s with his famous “Puppetoons” is a rare handmade treat indeed. The genius behind Shaun is Nick Park, who has delighted many with lovable Wallace and Gromit, the stars of his first hit movie. “Chicken Run” followed that success in the year 2000. Cleverness makes this just as fun for adults as it does for children, and detail rich it is, so much so, you may have to return a few times to try and catch every subtle detail.

Shaun (the sheep), a small and rather cute diminutive ovine hatches a plot to go to town by having his fellow sheep lure their farmer to sleep in order to escape. The farmer’s dog gets wise to their plan, and tries to stop them. However, the dog inadvertently sets adventure in motion by a crazy domino effect that sends his master down the hill and away to town in an old trailer- totally asleep. The sheep enjoy liberty for one day, but without the farmer to feed them, things get edgy for the sheep by the second day. The farmer’s pigs, seizing a great chance, move right into the house.

Remorseful, Shaun takes it upon himself to find their farmer and bring him back so all will be right with the world. He takes a big bus to the city by himself, to try and find the master. Sheep, being what they are, naturally can’t allow that, it’s not their nature. They can’t help but follow. They’re all off to the big city to save the farmer in his runaway trailer. Moments after they got off the bus, they encounter Trumper, the sadistic Animal Control man… evil personified, and a good villain indeed. Shaken by the city, they devise a plan to rescue their farmer once they find him. Just one thing. He has suffered memory loss.

Shaun’s ovine adventures are “shear” fun, and after a while you are taken with the very human behaviors of these sheep, as the clever talents at Aardman animations bring these little characters to life on the big screen by millions of manipulations on a much smaller scale before the camera. The countless hours, days, and months of animation work result in just 85 minutes of screen time.

Although Nick Park has created this wonderful world, the writer-directors of this production are Mark Burton and Richard Starzak. The sheep and adults figures on screen don’t really speak, it’s gibberish that has human inflections. The joy of this artistic choice is the pleasant result that this movie may be universally understood by children and adults of all ages the world ’round with no need for subtitles. This is a clever and delightful way to spend some time at the movies, and you may have the inclination, after seeing it, as I do, to return again to catch many details you might have missed the first time.

For more information about “Matías Bombal’s Hollywood”, visit: www.mabhollywood.com for exclusive content.

editor@valcomnews.com

Janey Way Memories

The Perfect Cat

At our house, we have the perfect cat. When we got her at age six weeks, she was a puff of white cotton with brown feet and tail and a little dark face: perfect Siamese markings. We proudly named her Sophie.
As she aged though, she lost some of her luster.
Her tail began to reflect feint white rings. One foot remained brown while another turned black and the others mottled.
When I took her to the SPCA for spaying, they noted “short hair/Siamese mix” on her medical record. Oh well, maybe she wasn’t so perfect.
However, she did retain her piercing blue eyes. She is smart too.
When she cleans herself, she goes to her water dish, dips her foot in it, and rubs it on her face and body to take a bath. We leave the heavy metal door to the garage ajar so she can get to her litter box, and when she needs to go, she sticks her foot into the crack, swipes the door open and runs through. At day break, when she is ready for breakfast, she jumps on the bed and talks to me, until I feed her. She runs our house.
She reminds me of another perfect cat I once owned on Janey Way. He came as a gift too.
One day, I went with my big sister to the house of a married couple she knew. We sat in their living room, drinking coffee, surrounded by a little of seal point Siamese kittens. They were so beautiful that I walked over and picked one up. It surprised me. It didn’t squirm or scratch or cry. It just purred.
Then its owner asked me, “Would you like to have him.” I said, “for sure.”
So, I took a perfect little Siamese cat home that day, wondering out loud, what my father would say. He loved the little animal. We named him Sinbad.
Sinbad grew to be a sleek and shiny feline. He made Janey Way his kingdom. Other cats, indeed other animals, walked a wide birth around him. If I saw him perched down at the corner of the street, I would yell “Sinbad,” and he soon came running to me.
One time, he got into a fight with a squirrel behind Dom Costamagna’s house. It caused his leg to become infected. Dad took him to the vet, at no small cost, and he soon returned to perfect health. Dad loved Sinbad.
Sadly though, we ultimately lost Sinbad. We let him out to play one night, and he never returned. We hoped someone just took him home with them, but you never know. He just disappeared.
These days, Sophie is our “perfect cat,” and Sinbad is a long lost, but treasured Janey Way memory.

Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

Jake Gyllenhaal is down for the count until he meets Forest Whitaker in "Southpaw". / Photo Credit: The Weinstein Comapny
Jake Gyllenhaal is down for the count until he meets Forest Whitaker in "Southpaw". / Photo Credit: The Weinstein Comapny

Jake Gyllenhaal is down for the count until he meets Forest Whitaker in “Southpaw”

SOUTHPAW The MPAA has rated this R

The Weinstein Company throws another boxing movie into that cinema genre with “Southpaw”. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, it stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope, a boxer starting at the top of his game with a gigantic mansion, beautiful wife (Rachel McAdams), lovely daughter (Oona Laurence) and all the trappings of the nouveau riche, including a slimy business manager (Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson).

A series of events throws him down for the count as one blow after another in his own personal life destroys his surroundings and family. Following a charity event, he loses his wife in a tragic accident, and before he even begins to understand what is happening, his business manger Jordan Mains (Jackson) moves in to play on his confused state to take advantage of him, coercing him to sign a contract that will clearly do more for the manager than the fighter. The unscrupulous Mains thinks “If it makes money, it must be right.” He’s always the backer of the guy who’s on top.

It is only the beginning of misfortunes for boxer Billy, whose daughter is removed from his custody by court order. The daughter, Leila, has a chance to offer some of the movie’s most direct and honest dialogue, allowing for moments of humor in the downward trajectory of the fighter’s situation. Their separation is his biggest blow of all, and the very core of his motivation to climb out of his hell. His house and cars are repossessed, his assets frozen, and he is left on the street to begin again.

Motivated to avenge his wife’s death and be allowed to live again with his daughter, he seeks out a famous boxing coach, Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker), in a very humble and tough section of the inner city. There, at a small and careworn gymnasium that Wills runs, Billy takes the job of cleaning up the place at night to cover his membership. After a false start, he begins training for his return to greatness. Following a small exhibition fight for a charity, the slimy Jordan Mains returns, offering a contract to fight the man Billy holds responsible for the death of his wife, and the motivation to return to the glossy world of big time fighting proves too much to resist. But he does not want to do it alone; he insists that Wills be his trainer. Wills is not easy to win over at first, and the two characters are at opposite ends in many ways, but eventually, they bind together for the common goal.

Forest Whitaker is good in just about all he does. Here, he is the center of this movie, offering the foundation for Billy to begin again. This riches-to-rags bout with a fighter starting at the top of his game and spiraling downwards is nicely made to make audiences happy, with beautiful lighting and color design. It plays on the emotions, and there’s not a dry eye in the house when the father and daughter are separated by the judge.

When I asked Jake Gyllenhaal, in my online review (which you may see at www.mabhollywood.com), what was it about this movie story appealed to him the most, he replied: “The story about how to fight the system, having to be your best self; ask yourself questions internally, dig deep and say- how do I overcome situations where everything is telling me to fail.

“That idea, and seeing how this character fights through all that… was a beautiful idea, a beautiful part of the story and something I wanted to tell.” He continued: “The other idea that was really beautiful is this idea of family; everything that you sacrifice for your family to be a father and learn how to be a good father. That, to me, moved me more than everything, the relationship with father and daughter in this movie is incredibly powerful and incredibly moving; it moved me in the script and it moves me even now, when I watch the movie.”

In spite of excellent visuals, this picture reworks many old plot ideas that we have seen in boxing movies of the past, introduced again in this storyline perhaps for young people that may have never seen a boxing movie before. There were some surprising continuity errors here and there, but they will not affect the crowd pleasing emotional tugs well handled by the director.

Ms. Rachel McAdams, featured in the early part of the movie lights up the screen beautifully with her singular personality. I loved her in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and wish that her part may have lasted longer here. She’s memorable in her brief screen time.

The movie’s credit crawl begins with a title card in memory of the film’s composer, James Horner, who died in an airplane crash last June. Horner’s movie scores gave mood and advanced the plot of some of the best pictures in the last 20 years, including memorable scores for “Aliens”, “Field of Dreams”, “Braveheart”, “Apollo 13″ and “Titanic”. “Southpaw” is not the last of his scores that you may hear; he composed music for three more productions yet to be released. Overall, this movie is going do well with audiences, but I was not overly impressed. As always, I leave it to you to decide.

editor@valcomnews.com

Over The Fence with Greg Brown

Come-N-Go on Freeport Gets a Makeover
The Come-n-Go is back! It even has that new convenience store smell. The convenience store on the corner of Meer and Freeport had fallen on hard times the past several years. The outside of the store looked almost abandoned. Dry weeds and litter encircled the parking lot. The unsightly gas pumps have been Out Of Order for years. The flickering, intermittently working, fluorescent lights gave the front of the building a creepy horror movie vibe. The Come-n-Go was a neighborhood eyesore.
A convenience store that wasn’t very convenient.

New owner Pat Mulhall standing proud in front of the new and improved Come-n-Go Market in Land Park. / Photo by Greg Brown
New owner Pat Mulhall standing proud in front of the new and improved Come-n-Go Market in Land Park. / Photo by Greg Brown

Inside the store was much worse. Expired everything! Don’t even bother picking out some ketchup. The Icee machine was Out Of Order. The list of bad things goes on and on. The only thing safe to buy there were the Tic Tacs.
The former owner, Daniel Sun, got in trouble with the law a few times last year for selling alcohol to minors. He was arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and selling alcoholic beverages to a minor according to a story last October in The Sacramento Bee.
The Feds suspended his license for good. He wasn’t selling gas or alcohol at the Come-n-Go.
That’s when he came and went.
Pat Mulhall is the new owner and he’s come to the rescue. He’s really spruced up the place. They’ve installed a clean crisp new sign out front. The previous sign was yellowy and worn. It also had the 24 hours sign cut to say 21 hours.
It definitely brought janky to Freeport Boulevard in Land Park. And we don’t want janky in Land Park.
The one thing I noticed above all else is the big windows. Lots of natural light filtering into the store. Most liquor or convenient stores have all the cheap advertising covering up the windows. Tacky.
No pricing on the front of the building windows, nothing above the rail. It’s a very clean look. “We don’t want it to look like an average convenience store, we also want to be more of a neighborhood market,” Pat said.
The interior of the store has been cleaned up too. Where it used to have red disintegrating Formica above the register is now wood interior with neon beer signs of craft and import beers. Sorry Budweiser and Coors.
“I want to tell people more about our imports and craft beers,” Pat said.
They installed granite countertops, marble back-splashes, and brand new flooring. It’s really an impressive transformation. Convenience store crashers…On HGTV!
Pat’s already heard positive things from the neighbors. They’re “very happy to have the store back,” Pat said. A place they can walk to and buy milk, bread, or Doritos.
They’re going to have coffee and donut specials every morning. Pat said they’re going to offer Yum Yum donuts along with Boyd’s coffee.
The new Come-n-Go will also be a good place to grab local craft beer bombers, like Knee Deep Brewing, Drake’s Brewery, and Sacramento favorites, The Rubicon and Track 7.
And a convenience store staple…they will have a roller grill for hot dogs! Along with corn dogs, taquitos, egg rolls and food items like that.
They’ll also offer some healthy options like sandwiches and high end fruit drinks.
Bigger brighter and less dreary liquor store feel. “Everything we’ve done with this building is energy efficient,” Pat said.
Come-n-Go was like that dilapidated house on your street everybody hates. Now it’s the shiny new convenience store the neighborhood can enjoy.
Ford’s Real Hamburgers gets renovated
Another building that was a bit dilapidated and in desperate need of TLC is the old Ford’s Real Hamburgers building on Sutterville behind the former Blockbuster video store.
One of the men working on restoring the building said, “It used to look like a jailhouse café.” He was right. With the spiked metal fence to the scabbed on plastic yellowy awnings, this place was another black eye for the neighborhood.
Somebody had literally screwed sliding glass doors side by side and made a wall out of it.
All that spiked fencing and sliding glass door walls were not up to code. The tiny 3-foot by 5-foot bathroom was not ADA compliant. It actually wasn’t suitable for anybody to use. The building had been just sitting there vacant waiting for somebody to give it some renovation love.
Adair Construction was hired to bring the building back to life. They did a masterful job. Once they tore away all the unsightly scabbed-on additions you could tell there was a cool retro-looking building
I spoke with the contractor, Ryan Adair, of Adair Construction, on the final day of the restoration and he said, “Nobody would design and build this today, but look at it, it’s fantastic!”
It’s also nice to see a see a cool little building NOT torn down.
The original 1970s rock veneer and inverted roof-line give the building character. Adair said, “The original rock veneer? We decided to keep it. Why pull that away? It looks good.”
On the day the building restoration project was complete, a woman drove by, glanced over, and did a double take, like, “Oh wow, what a cool little building!”
There’s also plenty of space for outdoor dining. Lots of curb appeal to the space, too.
While I was at the site, Ryan Adair was busy pulling the last bit of stray Bermuda grass from the property when he said, “There’s a huge benefit to re-using an existing structure. It pulls a little bit of the past into the future.”
Now that the building restoration is complete what will be going into that spot? Another burger place? Ice cream shop? Barbecue joint? Whatever it becomes, I hope it’s not another Goodwill Express.
Summer of Service At Cal Middle School
There was a bake sale outside Cal Middle School, courtesy of the kids from Summer of Service, a summer school program at Cal Middle School. They were doing a project to serve the neighborhood of Land Park.
The bake sale was to fund an idea from 8th graders at the school.
The 8th graders have been having difficulties at physical education due to the dog waste scattered all over the field. It’s an ongoing problem for the children. Soccer and dog poop do not mix!
So they’re raising money to build a doggie cleanup station at the school hoping it will be utilized by nearby dog owners who don’t feel the need to clean up after their pooch.
They had some homemade cookies, cupcakes, apple turnovers, and all sorts of goodies at the one day bake sale. They actually raised more than $200 in a few hours. Sounds like a summer of success.
New Ride Named
And the new ride at Funderland has been named. Drum roll, please….They’re calling it the Squirrelly Whirl! Catchy. I like it. The ride is now open.
Got an item for Over The Fence? Greg@valcomnews.com

Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

“Self/Less”

Gramercy Pictures (A Comcast Company) offers an action thriller with a touch of the bizarre, “Self/Less” starring Ben Kingsley, Ryan Reynolds and Victor Garber. In present-day New York City, Damian, a man who “built New York” though his financial prowess, is dying from cancer. Through the suggestion of his attorney and adviser Martin (Victor Garber), he investigates a new possibility that his enormous wealth may provide for him, a new kind of second chance made possible by the advance technology of a very secret organization headed by a mysterious and mannered Doctor Albright (Matthew Goode).

Albright offers a radical procedure that will “offer humanity’s greatest minds more time to fulfill their potential,” or transfer Damian’s consciousness and memory to the body of a healthy young man (Ryan Reynolds) that has been supposedly “grown” in a lab synthetically. Thus, this would prolong Damian’s life, yet with a totally new identity. He would be forced to give up his old identity completely to preserve the secrecy of the organization that provides the service.

The remarkable temptation to live again as a healthy young man, rather than with a body riddled with cancer with few months to live is sufficiently attractive to Damian to forfeit his past life, as he’d be able to literally take much of his financial acumen with him. He makes the deal, and travels to New Orleans to “die” and assume the new body. There are adjustments getting used to his new vessel, as the essence of Damian’s memory will take some time to connect to the nerves of the new body. With training supervised by Dr. Albright, he adapts and remarksb “It has that new body smell.”

As he begins to feel comfortable in his newborn world, he is plagued by occasional psychotic episodes, which are only diminished by regular doses of medication to keep visions from occurring. Visions, which strangely are entirely new to his mind, and not from his own memory. Where could they have come from? In nightmarish distorted arrays, he sees a young woman (Natalie Martinez), a young girl (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). There are episodes of the point of view of a soldier in combat and weird and colorful objects. These visions begin to paint a picture that will lead him to a startling discovery, and eventually he will meet the women of his visions.

To reveal more would spoil the plot of this picture entirely, a movie which I thoroughly enjoyed. Director Tarsem Singh keeps things moving briskly, mounting tension and suspense most effectively. So much so, I had to avert my eyes from the screen out of fear of what might happen next on more than one occasion.

The movie’s editor, Robert Duffy, has done some splendid cutting here, in particular, a sequence in New Orleans. Duffy intercuts a basketball game and the young Damian’s exploration of his new body’s youth with sports and lovemaking cut to a musical rhythm that was very well done. The performances are all very good, and Ryan Reynolds is very likeable. Kingsley delivers as he always does, and Victor Garber has been a favorite of mine since his turn in “Titanic” where he played the tragic ship’s designer, Thomas Andrews.

All these good points make for a great night at the movies, and I really liked it, however, as neat and far-out as the concept sounds, it is not original. It is not possible that “Self/Less” writers David and Alex Pastor wrote this screenplay without having seen John Frankenheimer’s “Seconds” (1966). That film was based on a novel by David Ely, in which the movie poster’s tag line announced: A second chance to live. A second chance to die. The picture, which starred Rock Hudson against type in what was said to be his own favorite work on screen, has a creepiness that is just as chilling and disturbing today as when it first came out with its unusual and groundbreaking photography by the legendary James Wong Howe. In fact, it is much more scary and mysterious then this ramped up modern movie modification. If you have seen “Seconds” this will be self evident. If not, “Self-Less” will be a great time spent at the movies. If you like it as much as I did, I encourage you to seek out Frankenheimer’s “Seconds” (Paramount) to see a similar story told by some of the last master craftsmen of cinema’s golden age.

“AMY”
The MPAA has rated this R

A24 releases a documentary that relates the short and eventually tragic life of pop singer Amy Winehouse, directed by Asif Kapadia. This documentary is highly visual in style and non-traditional in that the many subjects interviewed, including friends, family and lovers are not seen as they talk about her. The visual element of this movie is entirely comprised of actual file video of the English songstress from television and home videos shot by the family and friends that had never before been made public.

As you hear the voice of one of those intimate with Ms. Winehouse, the name of that person appears in a graphic to alert you who is speaking since in most cases they are not seen, with the exception of the speaker being featured in the period footage. These graphics are cleverly and artistically designed and displayed throughout the picture, as are the lyrics of her songs as she is singing them. I found those lyrics on screen to be helpful and at a times Ms. Winehouse’s style of singing makes it hard to discern some of the words she is singing.

You travel through her life from the beauty of a simple Jewish/English childhood in Southgate, London, to her unfortunate death in July 2011, the result of alcohol poisoning and years of adult self-abuse. You learn that her life became marred by the separation of her parents, a wound that would torment the singer through her life.

You see that jazz music influences inspired her early style and sound, quite remarkable for a singer of her generation; yet her later alignment with bad influences started her spiral downward, fueled by an obsessive relationship with her boyfriend and later husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. It was he that introduced her to more serious illegal drugs, and they became quite co-dependent.

Along this history told through home videos, drone shots, and TV excerpts, Ms. Winehouse emerges a talent with remarkable potential, washed away in obsession and drug use. You are left angered and saddened by such a waste of human life, yet with a knowledge that we all must follow our own path, whichever that may be.

The contemporary look of this documentary, which has received much acclaim did not impress me; it was distracting. The song lyrics appearing on screen with cleverly engineered fonts and transitions as well as the names of the voices you were hearing drew attention to themselves and distracted from the footage. The fact that you could not see the interview subjects when they were talking robs you of the human element of facial expression, which is often more telling than just voice alone. A great missed opportunity, as it would have been more powerful to see the faces of those whilst being interviewed, adding value to how much Ms. Winehouse truly affected and contributed to their lives.

One of the best moments in the movie occurs when one of Winehouse’s great musical heroes, Tony Bennett, joins her for a recording session for a duet. You see that he genuinely thinks her talent is singular, comparing her with some of the great blues and jazz singers of all time. She is nervous and agog of her musical legend, who had been warned that she could be difficult. The eternal gentleman and kind soul, his generosity to her during the session sings volumes of his ongoing greatness. It was the most touching part of the picture for me.

The mystery of the theatrical and artistic temperament filled with unbridled emotion in search of expression is not exclusive to Ms. Winehouse; it occurs again and again in history. More often than not, these emotions and creative art impulses cascade into self abuse and self-destruction, as they are overwhelming for many. Here is a movie about such an unfortunate victim of depression, bad influences and public life that may destroy the soul. In Sacramento, “Amy” is at the Tower Theatre.

editor@valcomnews.com

Over The Fence with Greg Brown

Forrest works on the shed, as a pony looks on. / Photos by Greg Brown
Forrest works on the shed, as a pony looks on. / Photos by Greg Brown

There are always interesting things happening in William Land Park. If you look around, you’ll observe people doing stuff. I noticed a couple of guys with hammers and saws doing stuff over by the pony rides. They were building a brand new storage shed at the Land Park Ranch.
The pony lady was thrilled! The ponies even seemed to notice.
Who are those guys? Those guys are Forrest Neff and John Salido who are part of the Land Park Volunteer Corp. The LPVC! You’ll actually see their good deeds all over William Land Park. Just look for the LPVC signature. It’s carved all over the park. “We like to put our signature on things,” Forest said.
The idea for the new pony shed got started when Forrest was taking one of his many walks through the park. “I walk the park a lot and I noticed their cashier stand was a total wreck. I thought I’d fix it up and build them a new one.” Then, Forrest noticed the dilapidated storage shed in the pony ride area.
The old storage shed was dilapidated, small and housed lots of black widows.
“I got a hold of the park guy and I told him if you buy the materials for the shack we’ll build it.” The park guy agreed and the city of Sacramento “ponied up the dough” for the shed rebuild.
All they had to do was push the little shack down because it was totally rotted out. His partner on the project, John Salcido, piped up, “The thing was held together with spider webs and rusty nails.”
Forrest and John pose for the paparazzi in front of the new Land Park Ranch shed.
Forrest and John pose for the paparazzi in front of the new Land Park Ranch shed.

The shed looks really nice and sturdy. It’s dugout green and has a sloped roof with a gutter in the back for when it rains. The new Land Park Ranch pony shed even has a skylight.
I told Forrest it looked really nice.
“You like it huh? Well, we do things right,” he said. Forrest is no nonsense.
The volunteers worked diligently on the new storage shed, although the pony lady told me they “like to take a long lunch” over at Mulligan’s Café at William Land Park Golf Course.
Forrest sheepishly told me, “John said I gotta have a plan to see what you’re building. I told him, John I don’t have a plan.” Then he went home and drew a picture of a two-seater outhouse.
It’s a darn nice outhouse.
Forrest is an electrical contractor by trade. He didn’t need to Google “How to build a shed.” He just “learned by watching” over all these years. He told me, “anybody could do it.”
I’d like to have one of those storage sheds in my backyard. I got some bikes and lawn equipment taking up a lot of space in my garage.
The pony rides need reliable storage. They have to have somewhere to store the horsefly spray, Hooflex, and of course the tasty horse cookies.
The LPVC has done quite a few things Forrest and the crew are proud of. They put barbecue pits all over the park. They installed stone benches over by Swanson’s Pond, as well as the pergola over by the WPA Rock Garden. Just look for their autograph!
Over the saws and drills Forrest and John were listening to the soothing sounds of classical music. “It soothes our souls as we work,” Forrest said. The ponies didn’t seem to mind.
Chalk Talk In Land Park
Lets talk chalk. Chalktalk 916 is a new phenomenon sweeping Wentworth Avenue in Land Park. It even has its own hashtag. #Chalktalk916
What is Chalktalk?
Chalktalk is a daily message billboard for the neighborhood. Local talk with chalk. It covers pop culture, sports, inspirational messages, goofy sayings, holidays, music lyrics, topical stuff, the works!
The chalkboard greets you in front of the home of Rory Tira. She’s in charge of the chalkboard. The board sits on a chair next to a tomato plant, a white picket fence and a brick walkway that leads to the front door of the home. There’s even a cowbell to clang! This time of year there are American flags surrounding the chalkboard. It’s a free speech Americana thing.
Rory likes to keep the messages short and simple. Rory said, “The best messages are short and tight.”
Some messages give sage advice, “Never leave your wingman.” Another stated, “Time Cools All Jets.” Others are somber, “Oh Charleston, Oh America.” Quite a few are celebratory. “CKM Ladies all the way!”
On the day I dropped by Chalktalk it was all about USA Women’s soccer. “USA 4pm vs DEU #BELIEVE”
Chalktalk doesn’t delve into the “controversy of the week.” Chalktalk did, however, celebrate the recent Supreme Court decision over gay marriage. And why not? The deciding vote and majority decision was written by C.K. McClatchy grad Justice Anthony Kennedy. Chalktalk read,
“SCOTUS
Justice Kennedy
McClatchy ‘54
Go Lions”
The idea for Chalktalk was born at Track 7 Brewery, where a lot of good ideas spring to life. Last spring, Rory and a couple friends of hers came up with the idea. It’s been gaining momentum ever since.
And people are noticing.
Chalktalk has become a celebrity of sorts. Local residents are slowly driving by to read what the daily message is. Others have had their picture taken with the chalkboard.
Chalktalk recently celebrated its one year birthday. There have been three incarnations of the chalkboard. A friend of Rory’s actually made her a new big yellow board as a gift.
Another gift the chalkboard received was on Christmas Eve. A box of new chalk. I guess Santa likes Chalktalk.
Rory told me Chalktalk has three types of followers. Drive-by readers, walkers, and online followers as well. Rory said, “We have fans from London to Israel.” Chalktalk is International!
One woman told Rory that she “used to drive a different way to school and one day she went down Wentworth.” Now she always drives down Wentworth past the chalkboard to see what the message will be.
Chalktalk has stalkers!
And with good reason. Chalktalk has a feel-good vibe to it. Fun, lyrical quotes regularly pop up on the chalkboard. Beach Boys, Journey, and Bruce Springsteen are just some of the musical artists whose songs are quoted on the board.
Rory told me most of the ideas for Chalktalk pop into her head while driving around town. She jots the ideas down while driving. People also send her suggestions. She even takes requests!
Rory Tira of Land Park poses in front of the chalkboard with a daily message. It's Chalktalk on Wentworth.  / Photos by Greg Brown
Rory Tira of Land Park poses in front of the chalkboard with a daily message. It's Chalktalk on Wentworth. / Photos by Greg Brown

So next time you’re driving down Wentworth, slow down, look around and maybe you’ll stumble upon ChalkTalk916 in Land Park. It’s also on Instagram #Chalktalk916.
It’s the chalk talk of the town.
Got an item for Over The Fence? Greg@valcomnews.com

Janey Way Memories #145: Sleeping Out

When I logged onto my Facebook account a few weeks ago, I discovered a picture of my granddaughters, Gabrielle and Madeline, sitting in a tent, eating s’mores. I said to myself, “how cool, they’re camping out.” Sure enough, when I saw their mother next day, I said, “were the girls camping out?” She laughed and said, “Yes.”

This reminded me of the summer during the 1950s on Janey Way, when we slept out often. Back then, when the temperatures hit 100 or higher, we went running to mom and dad and asked to sleep out in our backyard. They rarely said no. We had no central air in our house at that time, so sleeping out offered a nice way to beat the heat.

So, by 9 p.m., as the sun set, you would see us lined up in sleeping bags across our backyard.

We never slept much though. We played cards by flashlight, told stories and jokes, and laughed infectiously. We made so much noise; I wonder how my parents ever slept. Every once in a while, my dad opened up the window and said, “You boys quiet down out there. That always kept us quiet for a while.”
Sometimes we snuck out of the yard to go down the street to scare the girls sleeping in another backyard. I am sure they expected us, so I doubt they were frightened.
Other times, we pooled our financial resources then walked over to Shakey’s Pizza on 56th and J to buy a large pepperoni pizza. Pizza always tasted so good, late at night.
Soon though, our eyelids got heavy and we settled into a peaceful sleep. With the Delta breeze blowing over our heads, we slept the night away.
When morning came, the sun shining down on our faces woke us up. Then after drinking a cup of hot chocolate, we were off and running for another carefree summer day. Maybe we would play basketball, maybe we would go to Glenn Hall Park pool to swim. It was summertime, and we had nothing to do but have fun.
Now, my granddaughters are sleeping out, and all I have left, is my lazy and hazy Janey Way memories.