Over the Fence

Cowboy Jerky At The State Fair

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

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

It was as simple as that.

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

I was thinking of filling out an application.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curtis Park Caramels Enter The Cookies and Confections Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you have an item for Over the Fence, email greg@valcomnews.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over the Fence

Classic Ford Thunderbird at the DIY Car Club

Classic Ford Thunderbird at the DIY Car Club

Tucked away off Fruitridge Road, east of the railroad tracks, is a cool, do-it-yourself auto club where people can meet, mingle and work on their vintage automobiles.

It’s the Sacramento DIY Classic Car Club. Robert Mitchell, a self-described car nut, runs the auto club.

If you have a vintage or classic vehicle, you can come to the shop and do anything from a tune-up or a complete restoration. Robert formed the car club because the city, homeowners associations, and some neighbors don’t want you tinkering with your car on your driveway.

According to Robert, there’s a backlash against auto do-it-yourselfers. “It’s actually become epidemic,” he said.

The car club is a good place to work on your hot rod or classic car without the neighbor worrying about the “eyesore” on the driveway.

The idea of the DIY Auto Club started when Dwayne Zajic of Zajic Appliances had a vacant building that needed a lot of work and he gave Robert a deal on the rent if he fixed the place up. Dwayne told him, “Turn it into a toy box.” And that’s what Robert did. It’s a giant toy box full of vintage cars in the middle of restoration.

Classic cars are in Robert’s blood. He actually grew up in a machine shop near the Indianapolis 500 Motor Speedway. That’s where his love of the automobile began.

He’s currently working on a 1959 F-100 truck. He’s taken her all the way down to the bare frame, sandblasted it, and now he’s putting it back together. It’s his lifelong hobby.

The folks at the car club are trying to keep young people involved in the automotive and restoration hobby. “There are a lot of young people out there that love old cars,” Robert said, pointing out that there are no auto shops in the schools anymore and kids are discouraged to work on the newer cars unless they’re an electronics genius. “When the young folks come in, we try to hold their hands and help them,” Robert said.

Robert’s face lighted up and his voice became animated when he led me over to a classic, black Ford Thunderbird. “This is one of the most beloved classic auto mobiles in the country, the Ford Thunderbird,” he said. According to Robert, the Thunderbird and Corvette were the two most beloved classic automobiles in the country. These cars have their own clubs internationally and they’re very rare and hard to find.

The club member’s Ford Thunderbird had been sitting in the garage for 12 years collecting cobwebs. The owner got it started the other day and decided to bring it in. He’s been working on it day by day after work. “He tinkers with it a little bit and we’ve got this thing running beautifully now. It purrs like a kitten,” Robert said. There are still a few things that need to be done to the jet-black classic Ford Thunderbird, but when he’s done with it, he’ll be able to take it out on the street and drive it every day. It’s the perfect car to cruise on over to the Westwind Drive-In and watch a double-feature under the stars.

Trying to find parts for the vintage automobiles is like searching for buried treasure, which is part of the fun of vintage car restoration. Robert scours the Internet for car parts, and other times, he checks out local salvage yards. In Northern California, there are a few old salvage yards that are dedicated to vintage automobiles, including in Winters, Williams, and Colfax. There, he rummages through the parts, looking for the ones he needs.

There’s a fee charged to become a car club member and it has to be a classic car “from the muscle car era back.”

I joked, “So no AMC Pacers?”

Robert paused and told me, “If somebody had an AMC Pacer, they would be very welcome. Believe it or not that has become a classic car,” Robert said.

He added that he was at a car show in Lincoln and somebody had completely restored an AMC Gremlin. The Gremlin was the laughing stock of the auto world back in the 1980s and now it’s considered a classic car.

The young AND the old partake in the DIY Auto Club. One member of the club is 87 years old. He has a collection of 23 classic cars and he still comes in and tinkers. There’s a father and son who are restoring a 1965 Mustang. They live in San Francisco and there’s nowhere they can work on their car. They are coming up on weekends for a father and son restoration project.

I told Robert, “I wish I knew how to work on cars.”

And he told me, “That’s what we’re here for.”

So, even if you have a low IQ for working on cars, you can learn by joining the DIY Car Club. They provide all the tools and know-how that you need. You may even end up a greasy-monkeying car nut!

If you’re interested in learning more about the DIY Auto Club, they’re located at 2700 Fruitridge Road, and, on the web, at www.sacdiyccc.com. Their phone number is 916-202-3649.

The Pocket Watch: Back off, Thomas Wolfe

It should come as no surprise that, as of yet, I haven’t been able to find a viable way to make a living exclusively as a writer. So, for the better part of the last 20 years of my life, I’ve been a licensed Realtor, and I’ve represented clients in the sale and/or purchase of homes in the Sacramento area, an avocation which has its frustrations, yes, but which can also be sufficiently fun and exciting.

Sometimes, I think those of us who have owned homes for several years often forget what an incredible feeling it is when you become a homeowner for the first time. It makes you feel like you’ve carved out your own place in the world, a refuge with all of your possessions, where you decide how the furniture is going to be arranged and what color the walls are going to be. There’s really no other feeling like it in the spectrum of human emotion. There’s nothing that provides as much relief and comfort as coming home.

It’s widely understood that the real estate market, like the national economy, is cyclical. Values go up, and they come back down. Interest rates go up, and they come back down. I’ve seen two or three of these full cycles in my time as a Realtor. I remember how I told myself if I lived through the first cycle, next time, when the economy got rough and prices took that invariably precipitous dip, I was going to buy five houses!

What I failed to factor into my planning was that, because my own income relies directly on the real estate market, when business is bad, and prices take a tumble, I don’t have the extra money to buy any houses. In fact, not only could I not afford any additional homes, I start sweating out making the payments on my own note.

This last recession was as bad as I’ve ever seen it. In fact, I believe that it was, statistically, every bit as bad as the Great Depression of the 1930s. This time, it wasn’t just the folks who are directly dependent on the real estate market, usually the first industry to bear the brunt of the initial wave of an economic crisis. Seemingly every industry across the board was affected by this crisis, and it wasn’t just a “squeeze” that was felt. It was a rear-naked choke that tapped out a lot of families.

Sacramento, capital of California and, thus, state worker capital of California, is filled with people who, because of the plunge in the economy, had their hours at work reduced dramatically, and many who lost their jobs altogether. Such a grave reduction in income meant that heads of households everywhere were compelled to make difficult choices each month. Forget new cars or boats or trips. It was more likely a matter of, food or mortgage? Utilities or mortgage? Soon, many folks found themselves behind on their mortgage payments and making that difficult call to their lender’s customer service department.

The lucky ones were those who were somehow able to convince whichever bank was holding their mortgage to modify the terms of their loan. In general, this meant either a reduction in their interest rates (an 8 percent loan became a 4 percent loan) or an extension in their terms (a 30-year loan became a 40-year loan). My albeit unscientific analysis of modifications was that the banks were only granting modifications to borrowers who weren’t really in terribly bad shape. The more dire cases were soon compelled to leave their homes, via either short sale or, unfortunately, foreclosure.

For the millions of displaced families across the country, gone was that aforementioned elation that came with the purchase of their home, and, in its place, for many, came a sense of shame at having to admit that they were unable to live up to their end of the terms of their loans, a sense of humiliation at having to pack up their children and remove them from the only home they’d ever known, a sense of failure at their shot at what has widely become known as the American Dream, home ownership.

Three and four years removed from the loss of their homes, these neighbors are now being allowed back into the market, as some lenders have relaxed their qualifying standards to include those who were party to a foreclosure as little as two years ago. In the interim, these former homeowners have watched their own homes be sold for a price that translated into payments that they could have easily afforded. And they’ve seen prices and, amazingly, interest rates, dip to unprecedented lows at the same time.

Usually, when we see low interest rates, we have high values. And when prices fall significantly, banks are generally charging high interest rates. To see both low rates and low prices, together, is almost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That opportunity passed overhead at exactly the same time that the people in America most in need of such a break were powerless to take advantage. Imagine how difficult it would be to see homes selling for prices that would be less than your monthly rent while being unable to capitalize. This was the plight of many of our friends and neighbors.

But now it’s time for them to get back under a roof of their own, and I take enormous satisfaction at my role in facilitating that redemption. The only challenge now is the waning inventory in the market. For a variety of reasons, we just don’t have the volume or the selection that we’ve recently seen. Home buying, now, requires diligence and persistence. The right property is the needle in the haystack.

And that’s maybe as it should be. Sure, it makes my job much more challenging, but the payoff is sweeter than it has ever been, given the circumstances under which we’re working. You CAN go home again, friends. Welcome.

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

Janey Way Memories: The Last Father

Last Friday night, my wife and I attended the Music Circus production of “A Chorus Line.” We loved the show.

One of the most compelling stories in the production was the story of Paul, a young, gay, Puerto Rican dancer trying to earn a part in the chorus line.

During his interview for the part, the choreographer asks Paul to tell his story.

Despite his reluctance to open up about his life, Paul breaks down and tells all.

As a boy, he was different from all the other boys. He didn’t like sports and really didn’t want to rough it up. He wanted to dance.

So, he taught himself to dance by watching Hollywood musicals. By the time he got into high school, his difference from other children caused trouble for him. They teased and bullied him. Eventually, he sought the help of a psychologist who told him he was perfectly normal and urged him to drop out of school and pursue a career in dance. So, he took the psychologist’s advice and left school. But, it wasn’t that easy for the 16-year-old boy from the Bronx find a job as a dancer?

Ultimately, he got a job dancing in drag in a club on the lower east side of New York. His new occupation embarrassed him and he didn’t dare to tell his parents. However, when the manager of the show decided to take it on the road to Chicago, Paul asked his parents to give him a ride to the airport after the evening show. That night his parents surprised him by arriving early to pick him up, and when he walked by them in full costume, gaudy dress and all, they recognized him. This made him feel horrible, but he went on to finish the show.

After the show, he walked out the stage door and discovered his parents talking to the show manager. He saw his dad point a finger at the manager and say: “You take good care of my son.”

At this point in the interview, Paul broke down and said, tearfully, “that was the first time my dad ever called me his son.”

This was a touching moment in the show and it brought back memories of my father. I remember him introducing me to his friends, saying proudly, “this is my son, Marty.”

What made Paul’s story even more meaningful to me is that just two days before seeing “A Chorus Line,” I attended the funeral of one of the Janey Way fathers, Virgil Petrocchi. In fact, he was the last surviving Janey Way father.

His son, Dan, delivered the eulogy. It was a good story about a man who lived a good life, had a good sense of humor, gave sound advice to his children and cared deeply about all the children in the neighborhood. Virgil, like all the Janey Way fathers, played a special role in my life.

These men coached little league, took the boys camping, set off fireworks on the 4th of July, and taught us how to live our lives with honor and dignity.

With Virgil’s passing, all the Janey Way fathers have left us, but we will always remember them in our Janey Way Memories.


Over the Fence

If you want to check out this 3,700-square-foot, seven-bedroom, six-bathroom house in Carleton Tract that Charlotte and Ray rebuilt, it’s at 2361 20th Ave. Debra Sciotto of Keller/Williams is the agent.

If you want to check out this 3,700-square-foot, seven-bedroom, six-bathroom house in Carleton Tract that Charlotte and Ray rebuilt, it’s at 2361 20th Ave. Debra Sciotto of Keller/Williams is the agent.

Last October, I mentioned in “Over The Fence” an enormous 3,700-square-foot, seven-bedroom, six-bathroom house in Carleton Tract was getting a complete makeover by Lincoln Creek Builders. I made a few wisecracks about how it didn’t fit the neighborhood and also told of the colorful history of the home. Most of the homes in Carlton Tract, which is north of Hollywood Park, are three bedrooms with one bath and less than 1,500 square feet.
The biggest house on the block is now up for sale. Charlotte Kyle of Lincoln Creek Builders contacted me about it. She wasn’t even upset about my initial column, although she wasn’t fond of the term McMansion, which is isn’t. It’s the Hotel Carleton!
Charlotte says she loves the place because it’s “full of personality” just like Charlotte.
There have been some elegant upgrades to the home. They also kept some of the cool original things too. It’s not ticky tacky. The home has a colorful history…there was even a counterfeiting operation back in the 90s. I asked if they found any cash in the walls, but no such luck.
The house is solid, not fancy. “We take pride in what we do. We aren’t your ordinary fix and flip type of people,” Charlotte said. Charlotte and her business partner Ray Post both have lifetime construction backgrounds.
I asked Charlotte, “Why this house and why Carlton Tract?” She said, “The price was right and looking at the house we could already see it done. We’re visionaries. It’s just built into who we are. We care about tying in with the style of the house and uniformity. We take a lot of pride in who we are and the product we put out and I think it shows.”
The first thing I noticed when entering the two-story house is the two elegant staircases. One to go up and one to go down. The French doors upstairs lead out to the deck where you can look down at the newly landscaped backyard. The deck had been taken down when they moved the house from behind the Land Park Ski and Sports many years ago.
All the improvements are too numerous to mention. There was a lot of attention to detail. The bathrooms were gutted and double sinks and a jacuzzi tub were installed. Charlotte boasted how she did all the elegant tile work, too. The kitchen is all new with quality Viking appliances and a neat-o pantry. All new lighting, too. I bet Giada De Laurentiis would love to cook linguine in clam sauce in the redesigned kitchen.
Charlotte and Ray have both enjoyed being in the Carleton Tract neighborhood. Even though it’s hard work, Charlotte told me, “we’re kind of on vacation because we’re in a new area and we get to meet all the nice interesting people in the neighborhood.”
I thought, Carleton Tract isn’t exactly Catalina Island!
They have kept some of the original character of the home including the bird aviary in the backyard. They cleaned it up, painted it, and redid the new birdhouse. Charlotte said, “I didn’t have the heart to just get rid of it.”
While I was talking to Ray about the aviary and landscape, Charlotte interrupted saying, “Somebody’s gonna get in trouble if they put that hose on top of my plants one more time.” Ray said, “I didn’t do it.”
I asked, “Are you sure you’re not married?”
If you want to check out the house that Charlotte and Ray rebuilt it’s at 2361 20th Ave. Debra Sciotto of Keller/Williams is the agent.

I scream you scream we all scream for ice cream. Right? It’s hot in Sacramento in the summer and a refreshing ice cream cone is a good way to cool off and enjoy a tasty treat.
That’s what a group of customers in Land Park thought, too. I noticed a large group of Asian American folks leaving Happy Corner Café and heading to Rite –Aid on Freeport Boulevard for some of their famous Thrifty Ice Cream.
They all went over to the ice cream counter and peered through the glass to see what flavor they wanted. Rocky Road? Orange Sherbet, Cookies and Cream? All the while laughing, talking and enjoying the evening together.
I heard over the Rite-Aid sound system: “Assistance in ice cream, please.”
I was in the antacid aisle getting some Rolaids when I noticed a woman come from the back of the store. She slowly made her way to the main counter…not the ice cream department.
The group of folks waiting for ice cream were waiting…and waiting…and waiting…until they eventually just gave up. They all walked out of the Rite-Aid together.
It was quite a scene, too. They made their displeasure known by just walking out the door. A silent protest.
Maybe they should screamed for ice cream!
Not sure why the Rite-Aid employee did not help them. Perhaps scooping ice cream is above her pay grade? Some customers looked puzzled. There was an air of uncomfortableness in the store. A giant band of customers just left the store together and the employee said, “Oh well, it’s just ice cream” and proceeded to carry on a long conversation with an elderly male customer.
Then a new group of people wandered over to the ice cream counter. Folks love Thrifty Ice cream! The employee kept on chit chatting when the other worker told the customers waiting patiently that she’d “be there in a minute.” You could tell she was irritated by her co-worker completely ignoring the patrons waiting for two scoops of Vanilla.
When I left the store the employee was still chit chatting with a customer about something and there were more people waiting in line to order a scoop of Mint Chip.
Maybe Rite-AID could use a full-time ice cream scooper – somebody with big forearms that stands there waiting for hot, sweaty customers jonesing for an ice cream cone.

A duo of dishes in Land Park has made for interesting conversations between neighbors.

A duo of dishes in Land Park has made for interesting conversations between neighbors.

Love Thy Neighbor…except if they own a satellite dish.
That’s what is happening in Land Park. Both parties did not want their real names to be used, so I went with Pro-Dish/Anti-Dish to identify them.
A woman on Land Park Drive is flabbergasted by her next door neighbor’s satellite dishes. Two satellite dishes peer down on her backyard and taunt her from the side of her neighbor’s roof. Her family moved to the charming Land Park home more than a year ago with the satellite dishes next door “not understanding it had such an impact on my landscaping. Visual damage is being done to my property,” she said.
The anti-dish lady told me, “I can see them outside every window. Every window. They’re in my sight line…and I told my neighbor that. They are a visual imposition.”
An unsightly satellite dish is hardly the biggest problem a neighbor can be faced with. Loud obnoxious parties, a constantly yapping dog, or even a meth lab would seem to be more of an imposition.
But I guess to some people a satellite dish is a neighborhood eyesore, especially when it’s staring right back at you. #firstworldproblems right?
The two families were actually friendly with each other in the beginning. Their children played together and they had dinner a couple of times. I joked she was probably buttering them up to get rid of the satellite dishes.
“Would you like some dessert…and can you dump the dish?”
At first the neighbors tried to work together to come up with a solution. “When you move into a neighborhood you always hope that people can work together and that your neighbors care what you’re looking at.” The anti-dish lady said.
The pro- dish couple were thinking about switching to Comcast after their Direct TV contract was expired to placate their neighbor. That would have been six months down the road which was too long of a wait for the anti-dish lady.
Moving the dishes, which are facing south, would have created a reception issue.
The pro-dish lady said, “I guess I feel like it’s not that we weren’t willing to compromise. I felt like she really took control of the situation before we really had a chance to compromise.”
The anti-dish lady has forged ahead with her own solution. She had a designer come in and design a pergola that was up to code and attached to the fence. She also purchased large planters and has planted bamboo to camouflage the two dishes.
Only time will tell what this might do to the pro-dish neighbor’s satellite reception as the bamboo grows to the sky. Right now, they seem to have no problem with it.
The pro-dish neighbor said, “She sort of took ownership of the fence so they could do whatever they wanted to do to the fence. And we were OK with that.”
There are some other innovative ways people are camouflaging satellite dishes.
In Germany, there is an artist who has come up with a creative way to make satellite dishes more attractive. Daniel Knipping calls it satellite dish art. He paints images like a ferocious tiger, a happy baby, even a classic Chevy Chevelle, directly onto the dish to make it more eye-catching.
Another way people are camouflaging satellite dishes is through the website, www.sqish.co.uk/gallery.php.
It’s billed as a “discreet alternative to a satellite dish” with various patterns pasted onto it from faux-brick finishes to fake wood-slat patterns and more.
Even if you think a satellite dish is an ugly eyesore and would like to tear it off your neighbor’s roof, you can’t. It’s not legal. People who own satellite dishes have rights.
When Congress passed the telecommunications Act in 1996 they instructed the Federal Communications Commission to adopt the Over-the-Air Reception Devices rule concerning governmental and nongovernmental restrictions on viewers’ ability to receive video programming signals from direct broadcast satellites. The rule has been in effect since October 1996, and it prohibits restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of antennas used to receive video programming.
In other words, I’m watching “Game of Thrones” on my Dish, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
I asked the anti-Dish lady if they’ll still have dinner parties after all this and she gave out an exacerbated, “Noooooo.” But who knows? Maybe they can patch things up and all watch “Neighbors” together when it comes to Direct TV.
Got an item for Over The Fence? Greg@valcomnews.com

The Pocket Watch: The man who taught me that Rio bites

It’s coming on a full year since the passing of one of the great figures of my adolescence and my transition into manhood. Late last June, I received word that one of the most memorable and influential figures in my life, one of my high school football coaches, Dick Dichiara, was involved in a horrible accident on his property in Placerville while operating a motorized augur. He was digging a series of holes to plant an olive orchard, and, while working on a steep grade, the machine fell back on him, severing his left leg above the knee.

His wife, Frostie, was with him at the time, so she was able to call for help, but, rural emergency services being what they are, a great deal of time elapsed before they were able to free him and life-flight him to the nearest hospital. He lost a lot of blood while responders worked, and he was in a coma for several days following the accident. As we all waited for him to regain consciousness, a flood of memories came to the fore, and I began to consider the huge impact this man had on me at such a formative time in my life.

Dick Dichiara’s influence on my life started the second I first met him, my 9th-grade P.E. teacher, and it continues to the very second that I’m typing these words into my computer. Yes, he was my position coach in football, and he taught me how to hit people and how to approach the game, and we enjoyed a lot of success together on the field (two Section Championships and two number-one state rankings). But he also taught me a lot about life.

He actually hired me for my first coaching job—nearly 30 years later, I’m still coaching—and I found that I used a lot of his principles and perspectives when coaching my players. Sometimes, when I talk to my players, I can hear Dichiara’s own words pouring out of me. Now that I think about it, the same thing has happened in the course of being a parent and confronting many of the challenges that have come with raising my own children.

My favorite quote of his was something to the effect of how the people from Rio Vista High School, our bitter rivals, believed that their (waste) tasted like ice cream, and they’d eat a pound of it as proof. We laughed and laughed when he said it, knowing it was, obviously, a joke, but, to this day, whenever I meet someone from that town, in a business or social setting, I experience an immediate shock of repulsion when they tell me where they’re from. There have been occasions when I’ve jerked my hand away midshake, depending on the timing of the revelation.

Maybe that’s not the most glowing example of his legacy in my life. In fact, if he were here today, he would vehemently deny making such a statement (then wink at me as soon as no one was looking). But there were many other things he did and said that never left me. One such thing that stands out about him is that he had no clique, he played no favorites. He loved us all equally, and he seemed to derive great enjoyment from getting to know each of us and interacting with us personally, individually. 

He had a great sense of humor. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed with any other teacher in my life as much as I did with him. And that’s funny, because I don’t think I’ve been scolded more by any other teacher than I was by him. It was as though he felt he had a vested interest in my personal development, and growth requires lots of watering, yes, but lots of pruning, too.

At one of the many post-season parties that were organized for our team following our second section championship, in one of his speeches, Dick spoke, in sort of a “now it can be told” spirit, about a player who had the peculiar habit of looking at him between plays on the field. “I’m not going to say who it was,” he pronounced, “but this player did this all season long. Immediately after every single play, he would find me on the sidelines and lock eye contact with me. Every time.” Everyone in the audience laughed, and all the players looked around at each other, laughing. I chuckled and looked around, too, but then it dawned on me that… he was talking… about… me.

I suddenly realized that I was the one who did that, and I had been almost completely unaware of the habit until he said something about it. I felt immediately self conscious, and I hoped no one would ever find out. But, you know, this was the guy who named me a starter, which, in my hometown, was on par with receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The football program had such a strong tradition that, from the time I was in grammar school, all I wanted to do was to play Delta Football.

To be named a starter was more than I’d dreamed of, right up to the afternoon practice when Steve Gardner asked Coach Dichiara, point-blank, who would be starting our first game that Friday night. Coach (gulp) actually answered him back in typical point-blank Dichiara fashion. “Dominguez and probably Hardwick or maybe Nishida on the other side. Or you, Steve,” he replied.

You could have hit me over the head from behind with a 30-pound channel cat, and I would not have been more stunned. Me for sure on one side, probably left—he was sure about that. Those other guys were fighting for the starting spot on the other side. It was the best news I’d ever received up to that point in my life. I utterly surprised, but, in front of my teammates, I had to play it off as though the news were completely expected. Sure, I’d earned it, but it was Coach Dichiara who gave it to me, and, my innate insecurities notwithstanding, I wanted to show him that he’d made the right decision. I wanted never to let him down, so I guess I looked for him after every play that season to see if what I’d just done had met with his approval, and he’d usually clap and point at me or wave his big round fist at me.

In the last game before the playoffs in my senior season, we were playing a team we’d beaten 52-0 the year before. They hated us, and they approached the game with a mindset of revenge. In between plays, I was jogging back to the huddle, one of the players from the other team blindsided me, nailing me square in the chin with the top of his helmet, under my facemask. Everything became a haze, and I stumbled over to our bench, my face leaking like a faucet.

Because our first playoff game was scheduled for the following Friday, we wanted to rest our quarterback, to minimize the risk of his injury playing against a team we could beat handily without him. Our backup quarterback played my position, so it was determined that I would have to be patched up and play the second half. So, in the locker room at halftime, our team doctor stitched up my chin, without the benefit of any kind of local anesthetic, I might add.

Imagine having your chin split open by, say, a bowling ball, then having a guy dig into the cut with a needle to sew it up, all so you can go back out and wave your face in front of the bowling ball again. Of course, Coach Dichiara was right there with me through every single stitch. He wrapped me up after it was over, and as he was doing so, he calmed me with a statement that would prove to be prophetic. “Someday,” he told me, “when you’re old and fat, you’ll get up in the morning and, while you’re shaving, you’ll nick this scar under your chin, and you’ll think about this night, getting sewn up, and going out and winning. You’ll be thankful for the scar that could take you back here.”

Earlier that season, I’d had a great game against a team that had done a lot of trash talking the week before. After the game, I had just taken a shower and was on my way to my locker. I happened to be coming around a corner when I heard our three coaches talking about me. I stopped in my tracks, not wanting to stumble into a conversation that I wasn’t supposed to hear, at least not so that they’d know. Of course, I wound up hearing it all. Dick was talking about what a great game I’d had. ME. I’d blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown, I had several sacks on the other team’s “Prep of the Week” quarterback. He was telling our Head Coach Joe Miller and Assistant Coach Jim Greene that he felt I’d had a big hand in the victory. It was as though he was scrambling for superlatives to describe the job I’d done. I stood there, soaking wet, silently shivering, completely waterlogged, but soaking this all in.

He never knew that I’d overheard his conversation, and it is impossible to convey the full weight of the effect that his words had on my game, my confidence, my life. Having Dick’s endorsement, his approval, just meant everything to me. After that night, I carried myself differently, not just more confidently, but with a kind of responsibility, an expectation of more from myself, a presumption of achievement, rather than a feeling of pleasant suprise by it. It seems silly, but hearing him talk about me, hearing overwhelming approval from the one guy I looked to for approval, was a bit of a life changer. From that night on, I handled myself much differently, in a way that sought to honor the obligation of living up to his words.

Maybe other guys on the team who were better, more well-rounded, athletes were probably already so confident that they were above the need for their coaches’ approval. But, then again, probably not. As much as we tried to comport ourselves like we were all grown up, most of us were still boys and would be for some time to come. It wasn’t until after people like Dick Dichiara were completely through with their work that we actually became men.

In the months that followed his death, two of my closest friends, Kenny Sakazaki, with whom I actually attended grammar school, and Victor Laney, one class behind me at Delta, and I petitioned the school district to name the stadium at the high school in honor of Coach Dichiara. Plans for a big renovation are currently being made, to ensure that the place befits its namesake. I’m looking forward to seeing my old friends, and my band of brothers, again.

But I won’t be seeing Dick Dichiara again anytime soon, and I imagine that this is exactly what people mean when they say, “Life is unfair.” Dick left behind three little grandchildren who have had to process the reality of death far too soon in their young lives. After taking care of everyone else’s children for so many years, Dick had just recently retired and turned his full attention to his own grandchildren. He had become a fixture at their schools, present at every little league and soccer game, every special vacation. And now, he’s gone.

Or is he? When my grandpa died, I privately asked one of my closest friends, who, I know, doesn’t believe in the afterlife, if he was sure that I’d never see Grandpa again. To my surprise, he responded, “You can see him every day, if you want.” Through tears, I shot him a confused look. “Because he might not live in Heaven,” he continued, “but he lives in here.” He poked his index finger into my chest. “He lives in your heart, in the form of a lifetime of memories,” he explained. Personally, I believe in a face-to-face someday in Heaven, but if the memories were all I had, I couldn’t complain.

I hope Coach Dichiara’s loved ones are able to convert the volumes of memories they have of him into comfort when necessary, but I also know that comfort is an illusive commodity in the face of a loss like this. As for me, I was shaving the other day, and, as I do every once in a while, I nicked the little knot of a scar, the remnant left under my chin from that night 35 years ago. It reminded me, as it had so many times in the years that had passed in the interim, of my team, our achievement, my youth, and my coach, who somehow had the ability to look far into the future and tell me what was to come with uncanny accuracy.

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

Janey Way Memories #124: A Chance Encounter

In fall of 1969, I completed my advanced infantry training at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Two weeks later, I boarded a plane headed for Germany, my next duty station. After three days at the 29th Replacement battalion in Frankfurt Germany, I boarded a bus and headed off to join the 510th Ordinance Company in Gunzburg, Bavaria.
When I arrived at the 510th and assumed my duties, fall was ending and winter was approaching. By the first week of November, snow covered the ground. It remained there until April of 1970. This kept us pretty much limited to our base. However, by April, the sun came out and we began to venture into town and explore the countryside.
One Saturday evening, my friends Jack, Walt and I headed into Gunzburg, one kilometer away, to have a night on the town. As we explored the main part of town, we discovered a little wine bar called the Wein Keller (wine cellar). Curious, we went in.
The place had wine for takeout on sale. Or, you could pick out a bottle you liked and drink it in the back. We picked a bottle of Moselle wine called Rosengarten and drank it on the premises. The shop owner told us find a table and be seated.
Minutes later he came in, uncorked the bottle and poured our wine. We picked our glasses up and smelled the wine. The aroma was wonderful. We tasted the wine and agreed it didn’t taste at all like the swill we drank at home. We knew we were on to something. For the rest of the evening, we sipped the wine, ate some snacks and chattered away.
At some point in the evening, a group of three older German men engaged us in conversation. “Where are you from,” they said. We told them that we were American soldiers stationed at Prinz Eugan Kaserne just down the road from Gunzburg. Almost in unison, they thanked us for our service to Germany.
By 11 in the evening, we had finished our bottle of wine and stood up to leave the wine bar, but before we could exit, one of the old German gents asked if we would like to come to his home for a night cap. “Sure,” we said.
So, we followed the men to a nice stone house in a residential neighborhood near the bar. There, we were served more good German wine and a tray of meat and bread. They asked us where we lived in the United States. I said “California,” Jack said, “New Jersey” and Walt said, “Oregon.”
They were particularly interested in hearing about the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean in California and the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building in New York City. They didn’t know where Oregon was.
After we finished the wine and meat, our host poured coffee for us and brought out a tray of pasties. We were getting full, but we ate and enjoyed. Finally, our host poured us a glass of Schnaps and we toasted to peace and prosperity. By now, it was 2 a.m.
So, we thanked our host and headed back to the base. Our first evening out had turned out better than we could have imagined. We made some new friends, drank some very good wine and learned a great deal about German hospitality. Now my first night on the town in Gunzburg is yet another culturally-enriching Janey Way memory.

OVER THE FENCE with Greg Brown

A minivan owned by the Crouse family of Hollywood Park got a dent from a parent driving recklessly away from LdV School. The school has been encouraging better driving from parents. Photo by Greg Brown

A minivan owned by the Crouse family of Hollywood Park got a dent from a parent driving recklessly away from LdV School. The school has been encouraging better driving from parents. Photo by Greg Brown

The Raley’s on Freeport Boulevard has really stepped things up. They have repainted the entire front of the building and spiffied up the classic neon Raley’s sign. They have an all new interior; the outdated orange has been replaced with modern brown. “Farm To Fork For You” signs made of dark wood and more tract lighting to set a mood. I also noticed more lighting in the liquor aisle…easier to see the Fireball Whisky! The employees are also using headphones and mics to communicate…no more “Cleanup in aisle 5” over the loud speaker.
Raley’s has also been playing hipper tunes over the speaker system, too. I actually heard Prince! I even saw a dad doing some air guitar near the Doritos.
Kiss from Prince, Modern Love by David Bowie, even the song “Politics Of Dancing”, a hit song by the British New Wave band Re-Flex. I guess it’s a musical 1980s retro revival at Raley’s on Freeport.
A female employee was shakin’ it over by the flower department to the Miami Sound Machine. The new and improved Raley’s has turned into Dancing With The Employees!
Raley’s has also finally caved to the craft beer revolution and is now offering Track 7’s finest pale ale. They labeled it “A Bomber Sale” right up front when I walked into the supermarket.
Raley’s new slogan could be…Raley’s home of all your favorite 80s hits!

There’s an old Bob Dylan song called “Ninety Miles An Hour (Down a Dead End Street).” That’s sort of what’s happening on Larson Way next to Leonardo DaVinci School according to Darcy Crouse and her husband Matt.

Darcy Crouse and her husband have lived in their house on Larson Way in Hollywood Park for about three years. Darcy says she loves it and they have “amazing neighbors.”

Unfortunately, some parents dropping off and picking up their children at the school have been flying in and out of the neighborhood. Making wide u-turns, blocking their drive-way, driving too fast, and putting a large dent in the Crouse mini-van.
She thinks the kids and the cats are in danger.
It has caused Darcy to get frustrated with the whole thing and created a lot of tension between her, parents and the administration.
There’s been middle fingers flying, parents sticking their tongues out and cuss words exchanged…and remember…this is from parents not children.
The Crouses have a big window in the front so they can see everything on Larson Way.
One lady in a grey Jeep Cherokee, who came flying up, whipped around and went on the sidewalk right where the driveway is. Darcy ran outside and asked the driver to slow down. She admitted, “I wasn’t being nice but I definitely wasn’t being rude.”
The woman asked, “Who are you, the Police?”
This was the first of many frustrating responses and incidents according to Darcy.
Mrs. Crouse had felt the woman in the Jeep came in at an inappropriate speed for a dead end street. She used both sidewalks to turn her car around.
They have contacted LdV about the problems on Larson Way through e-mails, calls and personal visits. It hasn’t curtailed the problem.
I reached out to Principal Devon Davis, via e-mail, and she told me that they run articles in their school newsletters, discuss parking needs at the PTC meetings, and have actively worked with parents to demonstrate proactive community relationships. Unfortunately she wrote, “a few rude and disrespectful parents have given the Crouse’s an overall negative feeling about the school and entire parent body.”
Darcy said, “we’re not looking for parents to stop dropping their kids off from school.” She just wants an overall awareness that there are children running around that run out in the street and “it’s our job as parents to make sure that they’re safe,” she said.
Got an item for Over The Fence? Greg@valcomnews.com

Janey Way Memories #122: Hanging out with my aunts

The Relles/Petta family has always been close-knit. When I was growing up on Janey Way, the family gathered often for holiday dinners, parties and road trips.
So it’s no surprise that after I retired in 2001, I began to meet regularly with my aunts at their Thursday coffee gathering. Back then, my mother, and aunts Alice, Kay and Margaret met regularly at the Muffin’s Etc. on 57th and H streets. That gathering has since moved to La Bou on Howe Avenue.
It is no big deal. We usually just chatter about current affairs, family happenings and stories from the past. The stories these ladies tell crack me up.
For example, my aunt Kay recently told me about my (step) Grandpa Rosario Petta’s migration from Sicily to the USA. He arrived first in New Orleans, Louisiana. There he worked for the railroad, saving money to pay back for his passage here. She tells me that after his first week on the job, he stood in line to sign for his pay. Standing there, he noticed the men signed their pay slip with an X. So when he reached the front of the line, Rosario, a man who read and wrote in three languages, signed his pay slip with an X. The sad truth is that the other men could neither read, nor write, hence the X.
After he finished repaying his passage to the USA, Grandpa Petta moved up the Mississippi River to Chicago Heights, Illinois. Some of our family still lives there. It was there that Grandpa Petta met my grandfather Xeverio Relles and grandmother Elena Sclafani/Relles. He rented a room from the Relles’ and they all became good friends.
Sadly, my grandfather Relles died in the 1920 Spanish flu epidemic that killed over 500,000 people in the USA alone. When that happened, my grandma took her three boys, George, Ross and Martin Relles to Sacramento to be with family. Grandpa Petta followed her to Sacramento.
There, he proposed to her. With three boys to raise, she needed all the help she could get. She accepted his proposal. Soon they managed to acquire a property on 52nd Street and 14th Avenue in an area called Colonial Heights. Grandpa Petta, a farmer, liked this property because it was located above the flood plain.
One day in the 1920s, as they sat in their kitchen drinking coffee, Grandma said to Grandpa, “When I married you, I thought that your had money from the “old country.” He replied to her, “I thought you had money from insurance from your husband’s death.” They both laughed and went on with their challenging lives, raising seven children. Ultimately, five of those children graduated from University, a testament to the Petta’s hard work and working class values.
I won’t see my aunts this Thursday as they will be out of state attending a family wedding. But, on the following Thursday, we will gather as usual to share more stories and reminisce about our Janey Way memories.