Friday, Nov. 30:

Tarmo Hannula: My day in Watsonville started with a foot pursuit by Watsonville Police that got underway from the Metro Station on Rodriguez Street and West Lake Avenue. In just moments several officers managed to snare the man as he fled through the CVS Pharmacy parking lot.

Sgt. Juan Trujillo said the man was wanted on a probation issue.

Since I was out back of Ace Hardware on Main Street I walked in to look for a few metal brackets to fix my screen door. Owner Manny Rodrigues was right there to greet me before the door had fully swung shut. He knew exactly what I was looking for. Then he rang up my order and waltzed on to the next customer.

In the parking lot I ran into my friend Rex Rackley, graffiti abatement coordinator — the man who works for the city painting over all the graffiti around town. He’s been doing this for years and he keeps a sharp eye out for fresh tagging and graffiti.

At the Fairgrounds the annual Heritage Holiday Craft & Gift Fair was underway. The event continues today and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Organizer Ron Haedicke said all 120 tables sold out this year for the first time ever. The event takes place in the Fine Arts, Harvest and Crosetti buildings.

“It’s a gorgeous day and we have loads of one of a kind gifts for sale,” he said.

At Pinto Lake City Park I spotted maintenance worker Memo Campos making his rounds, keeping the place tidy. He said he’s been at the same position for over 30 years and he still loves what he does.

A crew from Pacific Gas and Electric was on hand right outside the park on Green Valley Road repairing lines damaged by recent storms. The work forced them to shut down one lane of traffic so traffic was slowed in the area.

Though I love the rain, I do appreciate the warming sun today. The Weather Service said there will be more rain Saturday in the morning and that Sunday should be clear.


Thursday, Nov. 29:

Tarmo Hannula: As meteorologists promised, the Central Coast is getting thrashed with a powerful storm that got going late Wednesday and developed into Thursday. Of course emergency crews have been thrown into overdrive with multiple calls for trees and limbs down on top of power and utility lines getting whipped about.

As of 10:15 a.m. there were 29 reports of wires down around Santa Cruz County and four traffic collisions.

In Monterey County there were two vehicle rollovers on Highway 1 between Salinas Road and Moss Landing Thursday morning.

My friend Sam Courtney, California Highway Patrol officer, said motorists should back off about 10 miles per hour, or more, on the freeway in wet conditions and give yourself a lot of room.

“When it’s raining you need to slow down and move over,” Courtney said. “It’s easy to lose control in standing water on the freeway.”

As I drove through Aptos I photographed a large tree limb that tore off 120,000-volt power lines on Lyle Court. Firefighters shut the roadway down and had emergency dispatchers call area residents to order them to “shelter in place.” Several people lost power.

Meanwhile a tree crashed to the pavement on nearby Townsend Drive in the Rio Del Mar area leading officials to close the street. However, a crew from County Public Works was on the scene within minutes. Out came the chain saws, and the problem was swiftly dealt with.

I stuck my head in the door at Kelly’s Books in Watsonville Square (Nob Hill and CVS) and she said she’d just driven through a massive downpour on Highway 1 near Salinas Road where her wipers, switched to full blast, did little to clear the onslaught of water.

Kelly mentioned that her store is packed full of “holiday cheer” with loads of unique gift ideas. In addition Kelly said she will feature three local authors to speak at her store on the next three Saturdays. First up will be former Pajaronian editor Mike Wallace this coming Saturday. On Dec. 8 Joyce Oroz is on deck along with live music. Nancy Jarvis and several other authors will be on hand on Dec. 15 to discuss the new book, “Weird Santa Cruz.” Each event runs from 1-3 p.m.

Kelly’s Books is at 1838 Main St.

I spoke with Dave Peterson at Corralitos Market and Sausage Co. and he said his business is fully braced for holiday orders.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook,” he said.

Their business is ready for anything from single-family orders to company and corporate grand scale orders, Peterson said. He said their prime rib, boneless ham and smoked turkey are a few of the hot topics.

“On Thanksgiving we went through 400 smoked turkeys and 225 fresh natural turkeys,” Peterson said.

“We’re ready to pack ‘em, rack ‘em and stack ‘em,” he added.

And at Freedom Meat Lockers in Watsonville, manager Will Panis told me their crew has been busy building up provisions for the holiday.

“Prime ribs, brine turkey, our award-winning smoke hams, homemade sausages and a wide range of marinated meats — it’s all here,” Panis said. “It does help to call ahead, especially with the big orders.”

Panis said a good many of his customers choose the ready-made gift boxes for holiday gifts.

“They’re easy, simple and make for a great gift,” he said.


Wednesday, Nov. 28:

Tarmo Hannula: I sleep better when it rains. Such was the case Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning. I left the bedroom windows open enough to hear the symphony of rainy sounds glancing off our cars, the trees, gutters and roof.

Wednesday morning I drove out to Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz around 9 a.m. and watched the churning surf clobber the shoreline. I saw one surfer drying off by his car and asked him about the surf.

“Yeah, it’s big enough but it’s really sloppy,” he said. “Since the storm is right on top of us the winds are ripping apart the waves. I got in some exercise anyway.”

In the middle of the night I heard a brief sentence from a Cal Fire official on my police scanner that Corralitos Road was completely shut down. Indeed, my colleague Johanna Miller phoned me to say she was typing up a press release from the CHP about a big crash. On my drive into work I stopped by the intersection of Corralitos Road at Freedom Boulevard. They had Corralitos Road shut off altogether. Crews from several agencies, including Pacific Gas and Electric were on hand to deal with downed lines and a thrashed utility pole, allegedly from a drunk driver who shot off the road around 2 a.m.

A PG&E worker said his crew would be on the scene until 2:30 or 3 p.m. replacing a pole.

As I was poking around I had a brief talk with Misty Galvan, owner of Corralitos Tattoo, who said she was happy the power was on as she opened up shop. She added her business was doing well, despite its remote location.

“Actually I like being out here instead of in the city,” she said. “It’s working well for me.”

As part of my routine run about town I like to stick my head in the door at Jack’s Cigar now and again. It always feels like the hub of Watsonville, with newspapers lying about, customers coming and going and Zarko’s big screen TV flicking some sporting event. As usual, Zarko Radich, owner, was at the counter making sandwiches for a few “to go” orders.

“I always get my sandwiches here,” one man said as he waited for his order. “This is just a part of my day.”

That’s when Zarko introduced me to Franny Colendich of Corralitos who was sitting at a table. She was waiting for Navenka, Zarko’s wife, to help drive her to a doctor’s appointment — for free. Zarko said Franny has made it a habit to lend a hand driving people, that need an extra hand, to their medical appointments.

“She’s incredible,” Zarko said of Franny. “If Franny knows you need help, she’ll be there.”

Franny went on to mention her husband’s business, JM Colendich Co., a long standing lawn irrigation and landscaping business in South County.


Trevor Medina (from left), Andy Phelps and Ezra Osborn of Smile Business Products demonstrate a 70-inch Sharp Interactive Whiteboard Wednesday in Watsonville. Photo by Erik Chalhoub/Pajaronian

On Westridge Drive a crew from Smile Business Products set up their mobile RV for part of the day to give the community a view of their services through an amazing interactive white-board 70-inch screen. I learned that nearly every professional presentation could not only be performed on their gear, but also made fun and easy. Their friendly team walked me through a handful of dazzling demonstrations, in which I stood dumbfounded by the tech display. Of course, the free ballpoint pen, smiley face stress ball and donuts added to my experience. The crew even stopped by the newsroom a short while later to drop off a few raffle prizes to our news team that took the time to see their demo.

By 2 p.m. Wednesday the sky was looking like a sheet of heavy lead. Rick Canepa, meteorologist at the National Weather Service at Monterey, said a considerable storm out of the Gulf of Alaska will barge into the Central Coast Wednesday and haul in heavy rain and the possibility of isolated thunder storms.

“The winds are going to pick up to 15 to 25 miles per hour with gusts up to 40 miles per hour,” Canepa said. “Make sure you don’t have loose objects around your home that can blow around — this is how people often get hurt and property can get damaged.”

Canepa added that there is a surf advisory through Friday at 4 a.m. Surf, he said, is expected to reach 13-15-feet.

It looks like we should keep the umbrella and the raincoat handy.


Tuesday, Nov. 27:

Erik Chalhoub: Some hassles are in store for commuters in North Monterey County.

Lewis Road in Royal Oaks is shut down Tuesday as crews from PG&E replace a power pole that was damaged during a crash Monday afternoon. The crash occurred near the 800 block of Lewis Road, when a vehicle, for unknown reasons, slammed into the power pole and wiped out a nearby fence.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, someone crashed into a signal control box at the intersection of San Miguel Canyon and Hall roads, causing the signal to blink red in all directions until Monterey County Public Works crews could get the signal working temporarily by 5 p.m. Monday.

According to Monterey County spokeswoman Maia Carroll, crews are making permanent repairs on the signal beginning today, which is expected to last several days.

It’s not all bad news for commuters out there. I was glad to see crews had, at last, recently repaved a section of Salinas Road between Highway 1 and Bay Farms Road. Saying the road had “potholes” would be an euphemism; it was more like meteors from outer space crashed down on Salinas Road and formed craters.

I’m happy I no longer have to head into oncoming traffic to avoid tearing out my car’s suspension.

Tarmo Hannula: On Tuesday morning a crew was busy preparing the historic Derpich Building for a major paint job. The 1915 structure, which once housed the popular Miramar Restaurant (1947-1998), boasts a Historic Landmark Blue Oval plaque.

Across the street a funeral procession of considerable size was just threading its way out the Ave Maria Memorial Chapel driveway and up Main Street with the aid of a worker who blocked traffic to keep the procession cohesive. I’ve noticed this numerous times: motorists consistently drum up the patience for such a procession, I imagine out of a given respect for the deceased.

All morning I was saving my appetite for one of my favorite Watsonville “grab-and-go” breakfasts at D’La Colmena Market and Catering, their papa ranchera breakfast burrito. Always served piping hot with your choice of sauces, I’ve found that burrito to be consistently satisfying. They’re on West Lake Avenue next to the Metro Center.

Rolling past Watsonville Plaza I noticed the huge display of holiday decorations hung about the grounds and on the bandstand. It’s all part of the upcoming Holiday in the Plaza ceremony on Saturday, which will include a multi-cultural celebration, tree lighting, the Holiday Train, hot cocoa and cookies, and photos with Santa. It runs from 1:30-7 p.m. That will be followed by Snow Day on Sunday from 4-8 p.m.

Meanwhile, I spotted Watsonville Police Traffic Control Officer Peter Batin making his rounds with his chalk wand. Sure enough he got out the ticket book for a Honda Pilot parked in a white zone. Peter has been at this position a long time. He once told me that one of the most abused parking spots are the ones out front of the Watsonville Public Library on Main Street. They’re marked for 20 minutes and I’ve seen it myself where people park there for hours on end.

In the Westridge Business Park off of Harkins Slough Road I see Driscoll’s setting up for what they call a Holiday Market. The event was huge, with numerous white tents set up, tables, chairs and more.

At the long-standing Ray’s Upholstery on Marin Street I noticed a black 1929 Ford Model A Convertible car getting some canvas work done in the parking lot. The car’s owner, Jim West, said he bracing for a cross-country drive in the car.

“I love to drive, so it only makes sense to make this trip,” he said.

He said he’s planning on heading out in June.

Also in for work at Ray’s was an early day pickup with the logo, “B. Pista, World Brand Watsonville Apples,” painted on the driver’s door. The forest green truck, in grand condition, featured wood spoke wheels. I could be wrong, but it appeared that the truck’s early day mate was stationed inside Ray’s for other restoration work.


Monday, Nov. 26:

I’ve been tossing this article idea around in my cluttered skull for a while now, this notion of an “About Town” piece — a departure from straight-ahead news or even feature stories. While in Mexico earlier this month, the idea of this column crystalized for me as being an amalgamation of snippets and observations that really wouldn’t necessarily hit the pages of the R-P or its website, but still nonetheless valuable, I hope, in some fashion. We’re going to try to get something up on our website each day along these lines.

So if you’ll oblige me, let’s give this a try.

Every day I come to work I try to steer my Toyota Corolla on an alternative route as I approach the R-P newsroom in hopes of stumbling onto something to call news. Strangely this approach usually yields something. On Airport Boulevard I spotted the crew from Granite Construction busy with their huge project of building new sidewalks and gutters along the boulevard, something we’ve covered a few times. Do beware, there are intermittent and changing lane closures and, now and again, a flagman is out there doing traffic control.

As I rolled along Freedom Boulevard it struck me that Thanksgiving fell on the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and I only saw one article about that tragic event. My family was living in Washington D.C. on Nov. 22, 1963, and it certainly cast a huge shadow over our nation’s capital, our neighborhood and my family. My dad had spotted the Mr. Kennedy several times from the Metro busses he rode on that sailed past the White House.

A few weeks back I wrote a little story about a new ice cream business, Michoacán A Pedir de Boca, that opened in Watsonville Square near Main Street and South Green Valley Road. Well, now another one, La Michoacana, of the same ice cream chain, which is enormously popular in Mexico, is about to open in the Crestview Center on Freedom Boulevard. A man was working on the front sign Monday morning.

A few doors down I spotted a big yellow banner, “Store Closing” beneath the Factory 2-U, a popular clothing and household goods business that has been there for ages. Some shoppers were heading out the door with large bags.

Closer to town, where a gas station used to stand at the corner of Lincoln Street at Freedom Boulevard, a crew from Exploration Geoservices Inc. were setting up some huge contraption with a lengthy drill. That heavily travelled corner used to house a gas station, which closed many years ago and has been the site of umpteen ground sampling missions.

Earlier Monday morning my police scanner was busy with a few crashes that might have affected northbound travelers from Watsonville. There was a three-car crash south of State Park that blocked the northbound fast lane for a while, long enough to back traffic up all the way to Watsonville. It was non-injury. There was also an early morning four-car crash in Aromas near San Juan and Carpenteria roads. I never learned about injuries in that one.

As I made my way into the newsroom, reporter Todd Guild was excited to be following the landing of NASA’s Mars Insight, a complicated pile of machinery that successfully landed and is now sending back info about the red planet. The Insight landing is a feather in the cap of NASA in that more than half of their Mars missions, of that scale, have failed to complete the 301 million mile trip, let alone land properly.

As the afternoon unfolds I see clouds building up and I’m blazing with excitement because the TV forecaster said we can expect rain possibly into Tuesday, heavy rain Wednesday and Thursday, a break Friday and more rain Saturday. We need it and I say bring it on. I heard that the Sierra took up to 20-inches of snow near Truckee along Highway 80.

Welcome to About Town. I have my magnifying glass out and I’ve cut the bloodhounds loose. I realize I stepped outside of town a bit, including something about Mars — hardly in town — but visible from Watsonville, at night of course. But these are a few of the things that fell into sight on my foray about town.

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