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December 9, 2019
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About Town, week of Nov. 18

Nov. 20, 2019

Tarmo Hannula: Someone called 9-1-1 Wednesday morning after they spotted a man prowling around their carport on Harper Street in Live Oak. An SC Sheriff deputy arrived within minutes and located a suspect at 3:40 a.m. When the deputy confronted the man he fought the deputy and the deputy used his Taser to stun him. It worked. The deputy was able to drop the suspect and handcuff him. Over the police radio, the deputy ran the suspect’s name and it turned out he had a few other issues on record with the courts and police, including unlawful trespassing. He was detained and taken to County Jail on suspicion of battery on a peace officer and trespassing.

The other day I saw a group of about 60 people in downtown Santa Cruz watching something on their cell phones. At one point they started moving swiftly along Pacific Avenue as if they were all in a big net being pulled along. They stopped at a corner and stood around glued to their phones, talking, laughing and pointing. With that, I had to barge in and ask a young couple what was going on. I was informed they were all playing the latest version of Pokémon Go, an augmented reality mobile game, whatever that is. The fellow said it was “really fun.” As an outsider looking in, the whole thing seemed ridiculous. But I’m glad these folks were having a good time.

Today I went over to Second Harvest Food Bank to take photos of students from New School who were helping bag up food for the needy. About 35 of them, and a handful of staff, wasted no time in getting the job done and had fun along the way. Suzanne Willis, development and marketing officer for the Food Bank, also let me know that donations around the county are down during this year’s holiday food drive. She stressed the importance of people making cash donations, stating that $25 can fill a barrel with food. Dignity Health is one of the major players of fueling the Food Bank’s mission to feed those in need, Willis said. Willis added that the best way to donate is to visit thefoodbank.org and click the donate tab, by calling 722-7110 or in person at 800 Ohlone Parkway.

Suzanne Willis, development and marketing officer for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Watsonville, demonstrates how a $25 donation can fill a barrel with food through the Food Bank. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

The California Highway Patrol is continuing to seek the public’s assistance to locate the person, or persons, responsible for 38 reported incidents of objects striking vehicles traveling on Hwy 156 and Hwy 101 in the Prunedale area, said Jessica Madueño, Public Information Officer.

The CHP responded on Monday to three reports of objects being thrown at vehicles on Archer Road in Prunedale between 7:05-7:15 p.m. The victims called 9-1-1, and the CHP contacted three juveniles they believed were responsible for damaging the windshield and the left side of the vehicles. No injuries were reported and the CHP is fairly certain the three juveniles are not responsible for the 38 previous incidents. 

Anyone with information regarding the person(s) responsible for these incidents is asked to call the CHP, Monterey Area office at 770-8000.

Metro Diary (Tales of my bus travels)

On my way out to Watsonville Tuesday morning I waited for the 69A on Soquel Avenue but it never came. About 25 minutes later the 71 did come along. I usually avoid this one because it takes a little longer in that it cruises along Soquel Drive out past Cabrillo College and then along Freedom Boulevard. It feels like the milk run. During the ride, I was able to read a few articles in the New York Times about the ongoing Trump impeachment hearings. I got off at East Fifth and Main streets and walked the block over to the Pajaronian — easy. 

At the close of the day, I took the 69A home from Watsonville at 4:20 p.m. Loretta the coach operator was driving again so it was good to connect with her upbeat attitude about her job. The wind was picking up and we saw bunches of leaves scurrying across Freedom Boulevard as we collected riders out toward Airport Boulevard. 

At the Capitola Mall we called an older gal, Margie Castillo. She was talkative as all outdoors and the two of us got into it. She said she was born in Watsonville in the 1940s and graduated from Mora High in 1965. She worked a number of jobs, her family living at 24 Arthur Road. With two large tote bags slung over her shoulder, Margie was not slowed down by her age. She was as sharp as a tack and funny. She said she lived by a solid and simple rule she still remembers from her third-grade teacher. When she was grappling with a tough problem at school, Margie said she barked out “I can’t do it,” whereupon the teacher reversed the tide and simply firmed her up with the words, “You can do it!” Margie said she’s fallen back on that rule many times in her years. She said she was from a family of 8 kids.

Last touches were being made Thursday in Watsonville Plaza for Holiday in the Plaza, a family-oriented gathering that starts at 2 p.m. on Sunday and includes a snow play, kiddie train rides, music, food, and a tree-lighting ceremony.

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Nov. 19, 2019

Tarmo Hannula: Nearly a year in the making, a new laundromat is nearing completion on the corner of Brennan Street at East Lake Avenue. New signage went up today for Laundry Day. The place is packed with washers and driers, folding tables and all the accouterments. It’s odd to note that there are three other such businesses very close by, one on East Fifth Street, the other in the May Way Center on East Lake and Sudden and another just up East Lake past Lincoln Street.

Maybe a quick fix was in order, but I noticed the E was missing from the end of the word Watsonville on the new sign that faces Main Street.

A massive search is still unraveling in Fresno for two gunmen that burst into a backyard of a home Sunday and sprayed a crowd of men with bullets as they were enjoying a football game on TV. Four were killed and six others were hurt. No suspects have been rounded up. Fresno police are telling the public that the injured are of the Hmong community that stems from Vietnam. Fresno is home to one of the largest bodies of Hmong people that moved there during the Vietnam War. Police are forming a special task force to hone in on the attack.

Since I’ve been taking the METRO bus a lot lately, between Santa Cruz and Watsonville, I’ve been exposed to a vastly different world than what I’m used to from behind the wheel of a car. For starters, I meet a heck of a lot of people. Some approach me with conversation and others I start the talk. I’ve heard and seen some incredible things that I don’t think I would have spotted otherwise. So this leads me to another chapter of this About Town column that I started last November: Metro Diary.

I was at the METRO stop at the Pacific Graden Mall a few weeks ago and got to talking to a man named Dan. He said he was heading to a medical visit to follow up on a giant health issue he’s been dealing with for years. Dan said about two years ago he was coming out of a popular food market in Aptos and a woman offered him a sample of some “health beverage” from a small display table she had. After he gulped it down he felt a bunch of fluids coming back up his throat and he felt ill right away. By the time he got home, it was far worse and the very next person to spot him called for help. That led to three hospital stays in this county and elsewhere that stretched out over the next two years. Dan said he never found out what he drank and there was no follow up to who the woman was that gave him that sample. He said he lost a huge amount of weight, his housing situation, his appetite and a whole bunch of other things. But now, he said, he was back on the road to recovery.

I met a very kind man named Kevin from Taiwan last Friday. He had just strapped his bike on the front of the 69A at the Capitola Mall headed for Santa Cruz. He said he had broken his ankle and was coming back from physical therapy. Kevin came here from Fresno and was living on the West Side of Santa Cruz. He said he really missed the food in Taiwan and their “extremely reliable” public transportation. 

Last night as I was boarding the 69A at the Capitola Mall and I jokingly asked the coach operator, Loretta, if she had seen the teenage girl again, the one who had stepped off the bus recently on Airport Boulevard and ran across the street, right in front of the bus. She almost got clobbered twice by several cars in the dusk hours. Loretta not only knew exactly who I was talking about, but she had also just let that very girl off moments before I got on last night. Fortunately, Loretta said she managed to get in a few words of reason and talk the girl into using the nearby crosswalk.

A few weeks ago I made the awful mistake of walking away from my police radio I used for my reporting. I left it on the bus. Though I called METRO lost and found several times, it never showed up. I guess someone found it and that was that. It was a huge setback.

•••

Nov. 18, 2019

Tarmo Hannula: I saw the movie “Harriet” last night at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz. It’s a powerful film, based on the life of Harriet Tubman, a slave from Maryland who escaped to Pennsylvania in 1849 and then went on to help around 800 people escape the chains and hard labor of slave ownership. It’s over two hours long, so be prepared. I was there with three other adults and all of us liked the movie.

On Friday fellow reporter Todd Guild and I visited Watsonville High School to cover juniors and seniors testing their engineering skills by launching pumpkins with their home-built trebuchets, catapult-like contraptions that use gravity as their driving force.

Four people were killed in Fresno last night when at least one gunman snuck into a backyard football party at a home and opened fire. Six people were hurt as well. The gunman is still on the loose. The shooting comes on the heels of several other mass shootings around California recently. On Thursday, a high school student opened fire on his birthday at his school in Santa Clarita and killed two fellow students and injured others before turning the gun on himself. And on Saturday a man shot and killed his four children, his wife and then himself in San Diego.

Lawyers working with the homeless people that were evicted for the second time from Camp Ross (now Camp Phoenix) in Santa Cruz have filed for a temporary restraining order against the city. Among other things, the legal team claims there are inadequate shelter alternatives.

My longtime friend and great photographer Jim Howes rolled through Watsonville Monday and he and I hit the streets with our cameras. Jim is a Watsonville High grad, class of ’75. His family lived on Herman Avenue. He shared a wealth of stories about this place from the ’70s, including visits to Stepick’s camera store, Ford’s, and on and on. It felt like we could hardly take 10 steps before someone pulled us aside on our walk along Main Street that knew Jim or knew of Watsonville in the ’70s. It was a very rich few hours and offered a load of fun photos along the way. The photo of the old man crossing Brennan Street is one of the photos I got on our tour around town.

This man steadies himself with a cane as he crosses Brennan Street in downtown Watsonville Monday. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

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