Friday, March 1:
Tarmo Hannula: On Thursday our crew here at the R-P bid farewell to our long-time letter carrier, Leo Teixeira, who was wrapping up his final shift before retiring from his career with the U.S. Post Office. He’s been at it for the past 35 years. Everyone here liked him. Leo was engaging, warm, and always wiling to look toward the positive.
He told us that he didn’t know the names of a lot of the people on his route of about 850 people, but he got to know almost everyone here at the R-P on a first-name basis.
Leo was as punctual as a sundial; you could count your mail being on time and in your inbox without looking back.
He told me he was born in the Azores in a town named Velas. Of course, we here at the R-P wish Leo many years of fulfilling retirement. Thanks for all you’ve done for us.
The Santa Cruz Orchid Society’s annual show and sale is set for Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Cabrillo Horticulture Center, 6500 Soquel Drive in Aptos. Co-sponsored by Cabrillo Horticulture, the free event will feature an orchid show judged by American Orchid Society judges, orchid vendors, member sales, and demonstrations. For information, visit santacruzorchidsociety.org.
A new pizza business is slated to open in the restaurant space inside the former Fox Theater on Main Street in Watsonville. Over the years I’ve seen a bunch of businesses come and go in that spot. I wish these folks luck.
Though I caught word that the Beer Mule on Aviation Way — a sister beer taproom to Beer 30 in Soquel — was supposed to open in January, the place is still in a holding pattern and yet to open. Taprooms are a real splashy trend now. They’re basically a place with a bunch of seats and tables where you can go up to the counter and choose from dozens of tap-poured beers. Many of these beers are from microbreweries and are a huge step up in taste, quality and everything else from the big brand names like Bud, Coors and Miller. I hear the Beer Mule is going to allow food vendors to sell various prepared foods at the site.
If you get a chance, and you’re searching for fresh flowers, try stopping by the Ruvalcaba Nursery flower table at the Friday Watsonville Certified Farmers Market. Anna Ruvalcaba is a permanent fixture there. Besides a large section of individual flowers, Anna will dress up a bouquet of flowers of your choice. Last week she assembled a bouquet for me. Centered around a cluster of fresh ranunculus, Anna accented them with eucalyptus leaves and splashes of baby breath. It’s worth noting that those flowers garnered a lot of attention for me as I waltzed through the door at home and handed them to my wife.
One day, over at Kitayama Brothers on San Andreas Road, Robert Kitayama was talking about that very thing — presenting someone with flowers. He said something that stuck with me: That handing someone a bunch of flowers is often “unexpected.” I like that part of it — a surprise.
Anna’s table is on Union Street close to Taylor Brothers Hot Dogs.
On my drive to work I often get stuck at the light at Soquel and Seventh avenues. I am often refreshed to see outside my passenger window a giant garden statue of a meditative Buddha perched right on the edge of the avenue outside of Pottery Planet. Just seeing it brings an immediate air of calm for me. If you’ve never wandered through the crowded indoor and outdoor aisles of Pottery Planet you might give it a chance. They have an extraordinary selection of garden pots — both small and mammoth — incredible fountains, garden ornaments and a lot more. Just look for the giant Buddha just north of the gas station on the top of Seventh Avenue.
A giant garden statue of Buddha stands outside Pottery Planet on Soquel Avenue near the end of Seventh Avenue. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)
Johanna Miller: While in line at the bank this morning, I ending up chatting with a local farmer who owns a small plot of land near Corralitos. He said he was relieved that the big storm that was supposed to hit our region this week hadn’t amounted to much. He also admitted that a year ago, he felt the complete opposite.
Weather in California (and, honestly, the rest of the world) has been unpredictable for the past few years. After years of drought, we suddenly had a massive rainstorm in January 2017. Then came another relatively dry year, lots of devastating wildfires, and then this winter season — which has given us more rain than we’ve known what to do with (and lots of strong wind).
The farmer said his main field was pretty much underwater after the last big rainstorm, putting a big damper on production. And he isn’t alone. I saw at least two other fields, including a major plot just off of San Andreas Road, completely flooded around that same time.
The recent cold temperatures also took their toll on local agriculture; I recall seeing an update from Lakeside Organic Gardens on Instagram, with a photograph of rows of vegetables covered in ice. The crop was unsalvageable.
Hopefully the mild weather this week has helped farmers get back on their feet and look to the future.
This week in Monterey two tall ships will arrive and be docking at Fisherman’s Wharf Dock #1. The Hawaiian Chieftain arrives today and the Lady Washington (which made an appearance in 2003’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”) will arrive one week from today. Both will be in the area until March 17.
The ships do offer Adventure Sails, giving guests the experience of being on-board with crews as they perform their sailing maneuvers, singing sea shanties and more. Also planned are Battle Sails — featuring fast-paced maneuvering and actual black powder cannon fire.
These events are quite pricey, with tickets ranging from $65 to $85. However, for those interested in just seeing the ship up close and personal, walk-on tours are also offered at the dock, with just a $5 donation suggested.
Saturday, the Queer Youth Task Force of Santa Cruz County along with Gender Spexctrum, TransFamilies of Santa Cruz County and the Safe Schools Project will be holding a free, bilingual workshop for parents, guardians and other adult allies regarding gender at Lakeview Middle School.
The Queer, Trans & Allied Student Summit aims to help adults learn more about modern understandings of gender in our society. Subjects do not only touch upon non-binary, transgender and other gender-expansive youth but also how every child and teen can be limited by traditional gender stereotypes.
Personally, I think this event is a big step forward for South County. I hope they have a big turnout and that the summit will help open people’s minds to be more accepting and supportive of the youth in our community.
Let’s move forward, not back!
For information and to register, visit safeschoolsproject.org.
Thursday, Feb. 28:
Tarmo Hannula: Today is the last day of the shortest month of the year.
This morning I covered the largest tree I’ve ever seen that crashed to the ground in a parking lot in Capitola. The massive cypress, with a 10-foot diameter base, toppled sometime during the night harmlessly onto an empty public parking lot behind the Capitola Police Department.
“I heard this big sound — it sounded like water splashing or something,” said Lawrence Fogel, whose home is close to the fallen tree. “I wasn’t sure what was going on.”
A crew from Community Tree Service was present Thursday morning sizing up the situation. I can envision them lopping up the big limbs and such, but how they’ll get through that massive trunk is certainly a mystery.
A giant cypress tree crashed onto an empty parking lot over night in Capitola. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)
The manager at Freedom Meat Lockers called me this morning to let me know the company won 16 awards at the annual Cured Meat Competition California, put on by the Association of Meat Processors in Chico. There were 19 different plants that entered and 216 individual entries, Jeff Bassmann of Freedom Meat Lockers said.
Carmen Cisneros builds a chicken sandwich at Freedom Meat Lockers in Watsonville. The locally owned company just claimed 16 awards. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)
At Coffeeville in the East Lake Village Shopping Center yesterday I ran into Carol Hand-Turley, general manager of the Pajaro Dunes Association. She praised Coffeeville not only for their refined coffee products but “their warm and friendly staff.”
“It’s places like this that make a community a community,” she said.
Another customer, who was sitting at a table with her personal coffee mug the size of a small swimming pool, said she thought their coffee was “excellent” and the atmosphere was “very inviting.”
At Watsonville Fire Station No. 2 on Airport Boulevard 13 men and women are taking part in the Santa Cruz County Regional Fire Academy in hopes of graduating and becoming full-time firefighters. They’ve been running through a wealth of exercises, including car crash rescues, ladder skills, entering a smoke-filled building, various saw drills, classroom time and much more.
Two stories from out of county caught my attention lately. Once in a while you see these things and simply can’t believe it happened. I think they’re worth repeating here: A 56-year-old woman was killed in Yosemite Sunday when she hiked on a closed section of Mist Trail, according to the National Park Service. Xuan Wang was struck by falling ice and rocks while walking on the closed-off section of trail that runs between Yosemite Valley to Vernal Falls. That part of the trail is typically closed during the winter due to hazardous conditions.
However, Wang ignored the closed sign and went ahead anyway. Heed the signage.
Two people were arrested in Oakland for an alleged connection to an armed robbery of a KPIX TV News crew Sunday. A couple of people first approached the news team, reports said, and one man waved a gun. The bandits stole a TV camera and tripod. One man then reportedly shot the crew’s security guard in the leg. The security guard returned fire and hit one of the suspects.
Wednesday, Feb. 27:
Tarmo Hannula: For the second time in just over two weeks another motorist got trapped in deep flooding along Paulsen Road Wednesday morning. A man driving his two children to elementary school attempted to ford the flooded road just before 9 a.m. when his Dodge Charger stalled in about 18 inches of water.
In order to reach that section of road he had to drive past several road closed signs. California Highway Patrol officer Fred Smith showed up and he called firefighters from Pajaro Valley Fire.
Firefighters used a large truck to approach the Charger and pull the family aboard the truck safely. A tow rig from Chaz Towing then showed up and went about yanking the Charger to dry land.
A firefighter from Pajaro Valley Fire talks with the male driver of a Dodge Charger after the car stalled in a flooded section of Paulsen Road in Watsonville early Wednesday morning. The man was reportedly driving his two children to a nearby elementary school when he attempted to ford the watery roadway. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)
There was plenty of entertainment Wednesday morning when Michael Cohen, former attorney for President Donald Trump, took the stand to testify before the House Oversight Committee to set the record straight on a host of concerns regarding Trump’s behavior leading up the 2016 election and since he has been in office. Cohen labeled Trump as a con man and a racist, among other things. Sparks flew right from the start and it took a while for things to settle down. The hearing is ongoing.
On Friday an event called “Mothersong,” with Joya Winwood, guitarist and vocalist, will take place at the Main Branch of the Watsonville Public Library. The poster for the event reads: “Join us for a fun and special musical program. Unborn babies, toothless wonders, toddlers and preschoolers, bring your moms and dads to celebrate culture and song.” It starts at 10:30 a.m.in the Main Library meeting room.
Bold steps have been taken in the partial demolition and construction of a building at the corner of Brewington and East Lake avenues for a new location for Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance. The work is being done by a crew from Selden & Son, General Building Contractor. In the last few days they stripped away the old bricks on the exterior to make way for development. It’s a dramatic sight if you happen to go by there.
At East Lake Village Shopping Center I briefly walked through Coffeeville Specialty Roasters, 948 East Lake Ave., and noticed several customers enjoying their brew. The friendly clerk said they’ve been real busy and building a regular stream of customers.
Erik Chalhoub: The Watsonville City Council opened up Tuesday’s meeting by unveiling the total raised during the Pink Patch Project.
The Watsonville police and fire departments joined forces this year to raise funds for the Katz Cancer Resource Center at Dominican Hospital. Both departments sold pink badges for $10, with all donations going to the center.
This year, the efforts raised $9,166, about $3,000 more than last year.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Peter Bartczak of Clownbank Studios in Soquel gave a presentation of his recently-completed mural on the side of a hangar at the Watsonville Municipal Airport, visible from Airport Boulevard.
The piece depicts local youths and adults standing in front of a Cessna 172. The youths had participated in the “Kids Fly Free,” a program offered to young people ages 8-17 by the Experimental Aircraft Association.
“I’m very proud to be a part of this project,” Bartczak said.
Paul De Worken of Monterey Bay Murals gave me a heads up about the annual Community Mural Paint Day.
All ages are invited to the painting event, this year taking place March 25 from 9 a.m. to sunset at Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance, 335 East Lake Ave. in Watsonville.
For information, call 600-5445.
Tuesday, Feb. 26:
Johanna Miller: Cherry blossom trees have been blooming across Watsonville for the past month. I’ve always held a fondness for these trees. Perhaps it’s because they always seem to bloom around the time of my birthday (Feb. 12). It always brings me joy to see pink sprout up in every corner of our city — at E.A. Hall Middle School, in front of the historic 1106 Lincoln St. house, along Airport Boulevard … they are pretty much everywhere.
I always thought it would be a fun thing for Watsonville to organize and hold its own cherry blossom festival. And not only because of the amount of trees; the cherry blossom (or “sakura”) is the national flower of Japan, and Watsonville has held a deep connection with Japanese culture throughout history. Sakura trees were planted as gifts to the city from Japan as far back as 1912 and as recent as 2013.
It would be a great thing for us to honor that connection — and be a fun event that everyone could enjoy.
ABOVE: This cherry blossom tree thrives tucked into the corner of a building at the Westridge Business Park, just around the corner from the Pajaronian. (Johanna Miller/Pajaronian)
I’ve noticed that in the first couple of months of 2019, new store signs have been popping up on various businesses in Watsonville. I think it’s interesting how a new sign can draw your attention so acutely. Even a new coat of paint on an old sign can make a big difference.
Recently I drove down East Lake Avenue toward Main Street and saw a new sign at the old May Way center. Crossroads has also been given a new shopping center sign; it’s been a while since Kaiser Permanente moved in, and now the sign displays its new occupants. I remember the old sign, which would occasionally change to advertise one of the businesses in the center. The new sign doesn’t require people to change it, which I suppose is more efficient. (Though it kind of takes the “magic” out of it.)
The 76 gas station on Freedom Boulevard, the one at Cabrillo Center and attached to the city’s newest 7-Eleven, was closed off this morning. I sometimes use this station since it is one of the closest to my house. Just one lone man was working on the station — at least that I could see — so I decided not to go bother the busy worker. Some yellow caution tape surrounded all of the gas pumps and metal plates on the asphalt were open. I can only assume that they were working on the gas tanks underground. Hopefully things will be up and running again soon.
Tarmo Hannula: I accidentally ended up bald over the weekend. It’s been very unusual. It started when I went to clean my hair clippers. The handheld electric hair mower hasn’t been working well lately. So I took off the No. 4 spacer, a comb-like attachment that is used to adjust the length of hair you choose. Then I pulled open the gadget by undoing a few screws and simply cleaned it out. Bingo. Done.
That’s when I went to try it out (forgetting to put the No. 4 attachment back on). I cut a major path of hair off in seconds. A huge patch of hair hit the floor, enough to knit two mohair sweaters. It looked like someone scored the side of my head with a sit-down mower. When I showed my wife, she fell over laughing.
“Go to the barber right now — not tomorrow — now!”
That sounded pretty urgent.
At Super Cuts in Santa Cruz they asked me what kind of haircut I wanted. I responded by telling them it was more like damage control.
“Do whatever you have to do to blend it in — I’ll leave it up to you. I just don’t want to go out of here bald.”
“You’re going out of here bald, there’s no other way around it.”
I left the place looking like a light bulb. It felt like someone had left all the windows open upstairs because suddenly my head was freezing. In a strange way it felt like I’d just had an amputation. But in another way it felt good, a fresh start. And it got rid of all my gray hair. I’ve tried a number of excuses when people see me, including telling them I just joined the Marines. Whatever. It’ll grow back, I hope. Those clippers, by the way, are working really well now.
I stopped by Jack’s Cigars yesterday and found the owners, Nevenka and Zarko Radich playing cards since there were no customers present. They always warmly welcome me and I always come away with a better understanding of what’s going on around town after talking with them. Nevenka said she attended the dinner Saturday night in downtown Watsonville where Ivo Radonic, deputy principal minister, and Mario Curic, head of department of general affairs, both of Cavtat, Croatia, were welcomed with a catered dinner that drew in a host of local dignitaries and others. The pair are in town to get a taste of the Pajaro Valley, California hot spots and to take part in a formal signing of a Sister City relationship between Watsonville and the Municipality of Konavle tonight with city officials. I just learned that their visit has now gone international, as the event has been published in the Dubrovnik Times in Croatia.
Watsonville Police had their hands full this morning. Their first major incident came when they stopped a rooftop burglary suspect on Walker Street and West Lake Avenue. The suspect, Fermin Sanchez, was in possession of a large flat screen TV that they believe he swiped out of a fourth floor window of the nearby Lettunich Building sometime least night. Oddly, the same man had just been released from jail where he had been arrested on suspicion of pulling off a rash of similar rooftop burglaries in the Overlook Center on Main Street. Police said he was placed on an ankle monitor upon his release but was none-the-less right back at his antics Monday night. Police were attempting to bump up his bail following Tuesday’s arrest.
Watsonville Police officer Collin Travers leads Fermin Sanchez to a patrol car after police arrested him on suspicion of making several rooftop burglaries in Watsonville. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)
Moments later police made a high-risk car stop on South Green Valley Road in front of the Big 5 Sporting Goods store where they took a suspect in a year-old sex crime case into custody. Police said the 20-year-old was ordered from an Acura sedan from the passenger seat at gunpoint. He was in the company of a male driver, both of whom cooperated with police. The driver was released. Both incidents are still under investigation.
I saw on the TV news this morning that the CHP stopped a man last night on Highway 580 near Livermore traveling at 103 mph. Eleven minutes after he got a ticket he was pulled over by another CHP officer doing 90 on Highway 580. The newscaster said the fines could top $1,000. Slow down.
Monday, Feb. 25:
Tarmo Hannula: Officials from Caltrans are supposed to release a statement today about whether or not they will close Highway 1 in Big Sur near the Mud Slide area due to an approaching string of storms that, forecasters say, will bring heavy rains. Officials are worried that the highway could give way.
The TV weather folks are slapping exclamation points and words like extreme weather and flash flooding all over the screen regarding this next series of storms. I guess strong winds and rain are in order as well.
I saw regular gas was going for $2.99 a gallon at the Shell station in Live Oak at Seventh Avenue and, on Freedom Boulevard at the 76 Station, it was $3.03.
Watsonville Diesel on Aviation Way continues to post a huge sign in their window: “Now Hiring Diesel Technicians.” Their number is 724-4100.
On Sunday I went to the 38th annual Clam Chowder Cook-off at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The two-day event, which draws thousands of people, serves as a fundraiser for the City of Santa Cruz. For $10 you can sample six chowders from a host of vendors, both in New England and Boston chowders. While Saturday is more of an amateur fun day, Sunday the pros line up. It doesn’t take long to learn that people take the thing pretty seriously. One guess I have is this: people generally love festivals and such gatherings, especially in the dead of winter when things slow down a lot. It felt good to see so many people out there having a good time, sampling the chowder, and enjoying the boardwalk and sea.
Mike Tausch of Boulder Creek is served Boston clam chowder by Robin Ray (center) of New Leaf Community Markets at the Clam Chowder Cook-off at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Sunday. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)
I peered through the window at a proposed Fat Boy Burger and Grill, 1467 Freedom Blvd., this morning. I’m confused what’s happening with this spot. It has new furniture still wrapped in plastic, some signage up, floor tiles and work completed on a kitchen, but it has sat that way for months with no sign of progress.
New furniture and signage sits idle inside the proposed Fat Boy Burger and Grill on Freedom Boulevard. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)
Internationally, I read today that the Pope has finally held a landmark Vatican meeting about clerical sexual abuse. He called “for an all-out battle against abuse of minors.” It’s interesting that he left about abuse against adults. The New York Times said the Pope barely finished his be-all end-all speech on the topic, which has been going on for years and years, “before some abuse victims and other frustrated faithful began expressing outrage and disappointment at his failure.” Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org described the Pope’s words as a “stunning letdown, a catastrophic misreading of the grief and outrage of the faithful.” I’m glad the topic is being brought to light, even if it is, according to some, only partially being addressed. We’ll see, I hope.
I spotted a long line of people outside the DMV on Alta Vista Avenue this morning, like many mornings. I still am very confused why this organization continues to have their clients stand around in the long lines for hours. Last year for my birthday I got to relish this experience at the DMV in Capitola. All I had to do was renew my driver’s license. It took four hours. That four hours of my life I will never get back, just sitting there in a chair watching and listening to people boiling over with frustration. Why? I’m sure money isn’t the issue. My wife and I pay somewhere between $300-$400 and year to register both our cars. Now, take that number and multiply it with all the people in California that own cars and trucks (trucks are more expensive, I’ve heard), and what kind of money do you come up with? Wow.
People wait outside the DMV in Watsonville Monday morning. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)
For last week’s About Town installment, visit pajaronian.com/article/about-town-week-of-feb-18