Friday, Jan. 4:
Johanna Miller: Today, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History will be opening a sculpture and photography exhibit in Goodwill in downtown Watsonville. You can read more about it here: pajaronian.com/article/santa-cruz-museum-installs-exhibit-at-watsonvilles-goodwill.
This exhibit, in my opinion, is a unique way to connect North and South County, as well as a great incentive for Watsonville residents to take a stroll downtown — something sorely needed these days.
Without the Ford’s/Gottschalks department store to bring in shoppers, without the Fox Theater and adjoined pizza place to cater to movie-goers, without much of what made downtown Watsonville a place to be years ago, we must figure out other ways for our downtown to once again thrive.
And to some extent, we have. This community has been putting together a number of events held right downtown and in the Plaza throughout the year — from the classic Watsonville Strawberry Festival to the newer Pajaro Valley Pride celebration.
But when there are no special events, what then? The Watsonville Farmer’s Market brings people downtown every Friday afternoon — giving them a chance to purchase fresh fruits and veggies, cut flowers and prepared food. The popular El Ateño restaurant still serves up helpings of Mexican food daily. Foreverfly Skate and Apparel supports the burgeoning South County skate community. There are a scattering of businesses downtown that are definitely worth visiting.
Despite this, there is a lot of room for improvement. The subject of downtown revitalization is one that I’ve been pondering for years, and I’m definitely not the only one. I am planning to write a longer opinion piece about it very soon.
For now, we can choose to support what we do have.
Tarmo Hannula: My workday started at the Santa Cruz office of the California Highway Patrol in Aptos to chat with officer Sam Courtney, a man I have been dealing in the law field since I started this job back in 1997. As we were talking at his desk Sam made efforts to usher Capt. Craig Kundler over to his desk to introduce me to the gentleman. Kundler said he’s been at the SC office for the past 18 months after coming over from the Fresno area where he worked for years. It was a good connection. It’s always amazed me about this job, these situations where, suddenly I’m sitting in an office with about four CHP officers about, and the captain. It kind of makes me feel like I’m on the hot seat, even though I’m not up to anything wrong. I think it’s the power of the uniforms, the badges and the guns.
I’ve come to know a bunch of CHP officers over the years, men and women, new and not so new, and I relish that opportunity.
Next, I followed a load of 25 tons of hay being hauled into the yard of Corralitos Feed and Pet Supplies on Freedom Boulevard. There, a crew promptly began unloading the bales with the aid of a hay squeeze, an incredible gadget that can lift unbelievable amounts of the hay with great ease.
Across the street I saw a new crop being watered, some form of tiny starters of a row crop. Closer to Watsonville, a crew was up in the apple trees on tall three-legged ladders at Silva Orchards. They were pruning the trees, which I’ve come to learn is quite a skill.
A few weeks back I saw workers at Ray’s Upholstery on Marin Street fixing up a pair of early day, forest green, pickup trucks with the Pista label on their doors. Wanting information about them for a possible story, I stopped by the Pista Orchard on Freedom Boulevard and banged on the locked office door. A friendly woman answered and informed me that it was not Pista in the least, but rather the business of ServiceMASTER Clean, a company that does cleaning where a water pipe may have burst inside a building, or the like. So my search goes on for Pista.
Thursday, Jan. 3:
Tarmo Hannula: This morning I drove through downtown Santa Cruz and I noticed eight motorists run through stop signs, half of them without hitting their brake pedals in the least.
At the corner of Cedar Street and Walnut Avenue there was major road construction taking place. A crew was out there directing traffic. As I stopped at a stop sign, a worker saw my turn signal and waved me to make the turn. At the same time the man, in a hardhat and safety vest, gestured for a female motorist to stop to allow me to pass through. She didn’t. That’s when he threw up both hands and really exaggerated his order for her to stop. That didn’t faze her; she’d decided she was coming through despite my coming through and his orders. She rolled right up to my front bumper (there was only room for one car there, between a corridor of road cones). The man went over to her window and told her to back up. Nope! She was angry. The man wouldn’t budge. He eventually won the weird battle.
Then, as I drove to Watsonville along Highway 1 in the slow lane near Vista Point, a man in a large white delivery van suddenly swung sharply from the center lane right in front on me, narrowly missing my fender at 60 mph. This gets worse. He then stomped on his brakes right in front of me, forcing me to stand on my brake pedal. With a clipboard in hand, he swung onto the shoulder and made a hard stop just off to my right. The last thing that flashed before my eyes was a sticker on the rear of the van: “How am I driving?” The irony of this is that Vista Point was 100 yards up the highway, a safe place to stop. That’s where I pulled off and got out my camera. Once he got going again I photographed him, the company logo, Performance Food Services, and the 1-800-800-9577 number on the back of the van. They will hear from me.
On Airport Boulevard I noticed the huge sidewalk, curb and gutter construction project has ratcheted up big times. The Granite Construction crew, with the aid of hundreds of road cones, has narrowed Airport Boulevard from two lanes in each direction to one lane each between Nielson Street and Aviation Way.
In that area, if you have not noticed, there is a recently painted outdoor mural on the Kids Fly For Free Hangar, directly across from Hangar Way. The colorful mural, which depicts a large group of youths, is huge, so you can’t miss it. It was painted by Clownbank Studios.
Wednesday, Jan. 2:
Tarmo Hannula: Here comes 2019. A quick glimpse into the crystal ball shows a reflection of me looking into the crystal ball, that’s it. I’m not one to mess around with looking ahead with specious guesses. I already get into enough trouble with my hack attempts of writing weather stories. More often than not, if my story predicts rain, it turns out to be hot and sunny and it doesn’t rain for three more weeks. And that’s just the weather.
On another note: If you happen to have gotten a gift card from some place over the holiday, like from Starbucks Coffee, good luck figuring them out. I got one for $25 from Starbucks. Just reading the tiny print and you’re already into it more than five minutes. You have to turn on your computer, type in their website and start an account. It’s not easy. You have to put your name, address, email, a user name, and a password that must contain a capitol letter, a non-letter character, at least one number and a bunch of letters. If you still think it’s worth $25, then the fun begins as they want you to fill in a secret code. What secret code? I looked all over the card and the sleeve it came in. There were numbers all over the place. The instructions on the computer said you can find the code beneath the “scratch off” area on the card. No scratch off area could be found. After failing scores of times and about 30 minutes later my wife Sarah took over and tried her luck. Nothing.
However, it does say on the card that you can also login at a Starbucks, so we drove to one in Santa Cruz. The friendly clerk had no idea what to do so she asked another clerk who also failed. Finally a third clerk seemed to know something about it. She swiped the card and said we had to start an account. Back to root one. She said we had to use my phone to do that and start the whole process all over again. It failed about eight times in a row. Meanwhile customers are lining up.
Sarah has incredible patience with this stuff. I was close to chewing my way through the counter and grabbing the nearest coffee pot and guzzling in down. Finally, the card worked.
I noticed in Watsonville this morning that more of those empty rail tank cars are disappearing from the tracks near Beach Road out in the fields. That’s been quite a process.
Monday, Dec. 31:
Johanna Miller: For the past two weeks I have been house-sitting for friends in Scotts Valley. They have three friendly cats and a beautiful view of the forest in the distance and the town below. Despite the long commute to Watsonville, it’s been a nice woodsy getaway.
This morning, however, a fire alarm began blaring from somewhere in the house. Immediately I jumped into action, searching for the source of the alarm. Unfortunately, I realized the alarm was inside the one room my friends had kept locked.
After speaking to my friends over the phone (they are vacationing in Hawaii) I then learned that they currently possessed the only key to the room. I tried to pick the lock—no go. I even went outside to see if I could get a ladder up to the second story window. That didn’t work out, either.
So I bit the bullet and called the Scotts Valley Fire Dept. I felt a bit embarrassed, since I knew there was no actual fire (I hadn’t seen or smelled smoke). But the firefighters who arrived were friendly and were able to help me pick the lock, get into the room and stop the alarm.
A neighbor had also stopped by halfway through the debacle, wondering what they could do to help—which I really appreciated. It turned out that his grandson was about to start training with the fire department. This prompted a short discussion in the entrance of the home even after everything had been sorted out.
(Meanwhile, the cats cowered in the corner, obviously mystified by all the commotion.)
The experience is one that made me realize how easy it is to panic over small things. Despite the absence of fire, the blaring sound and automated voice saying “Warning: Fire! Fire” over and over again was nerve-wracking to say the least.
And it also reminded me that it never hurts to call in professionals—who deal with things like this every day and always know what to do. No one should feel hesitant, especially when it has do with the safety of their own home (or in my case, the home they are responsible for).
Hopefully the first day of 2019 will start out a bit smoother. Have fun and stay safe tonight, everyone, and have a great New Year.
Tarmo Hannula: It’s New Year’s Eve. Time to wrap up another year.
My wife Sarah and I were lucky to have been invited to Dobie and Ann Jenkins’ house in Santa Cruz for dinner. They’re big players around Watsonville, even though they moved to Santa Cruz more than a year ago. Their home in downtown is next to the Fire Department; a few times during the evening we heard the engines blazing out into the night for some kind of rescue. It was freezing cold, so it felt good to be in the warm apartment and sharing a hot soup and salad.
I heard on the weather report early this morning that there is an odd phenomenon right now that is making the air extremely clear. Indeed, as I rolled through Capitola this morning Monterey looked like it was 10 feet away — sharp as ice. The wind was so powerful it felt like it was gushing straight through me. I had my wool coat on with my scarf wrapped tightly around my neck and it made little difference. My police and fire radio is going off the charts this morning, with plenty of wires down, trees down, alarms sounding and a couple boats capsized on the sea due to the high winds. I heard that gusts could get up to 70 miles per hour in the mountains and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Hold on to your hats…
Let’s see what the New Year brings. I personally hope our president shows a little more stability; his White House has shown to be more than a little rocky and unpredictable.
I don’t know if anyone saw the editorial Steven DeCinzo cartoon Friday that depicted me, and others here in the RP newsroom. I’ve been getting a lot of comments about it. Funny stuff to say the least.
Happy New Year!
For last week’s About Town installment, visit pajaronian.com/article/about-town-week-of-dec-24