—photo by Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

I had to brake long enough to grab a photo of a giant reindeer mingling with other Christmas decor at a Rogers Avenue home in Watsonville.

Today is the first day of winter, the solstice. Among other things, on Tuesday the days start getting longer.

If you have not seen the drama unfolding in the night sky, Jupiter and Saturn converging into almost one bright dot in the sky, it’s going on tonight and the next few nights in the southwestern sky. Though the planets are nowhere near each other, from Earth they appear to be almost touching. Once I strapped my binoculars onto a tripod to stabilize them, I was able to get a glimpse of at least four of Jupiter’s moons and the rings of Saturn. Not bad, considering it was from my backyard with minimal gear.

Trying to get holiday shopping done in this pandemic time is not easy. Try going to a place like Sees Candy in Capitola and it means standing in line for about 40 minutes. On the other hand, when I went over to Kohl’s in the Capitola Mall, there was no line and only one person at the check out line when I left. Not bad.

The Watsonville man who died Dec. 15 after he was struck by a car as he walked along West Beach Street has been identified as Abel Elizondo Rodriguez, 42.

Watsonville Police said Rodriguez was walking partially in the westbound lane in front of Big Creek Lumber, 1400 W. Beach St., while pushing a cart full of recyclable goods. He was struck and killed by a Volvo station wagon shortly before 1:30am.

Investigators reported the 22-year-old male driver did not see the pedestrian “until it was too late to react.”

A reminder, the Holiday Lights drive-thru display is still going on at the fairgrounds.The half-mile corridor of various light displays runs through Dec. 27 and is designed to be Covid-safe, in that guests never have to leave their cars as they wander through the adventure.

Though I’m relieved to see the vaccine is starting to filter out into society, both here at home and around the globe, it is still daunting seeing the daily numbers of cases rise.

Worldwide there are 77.2 million cases with 1.7 deaths. In the US there are 18 million cases and 319,000 deaths. California now chalks up 1.88 million cases and 22,677 deaths. Monterey County has 22,799 cases and 177 deaths. Santa Cruz County stands at 7,178 with 70 deaths. In San Benito County there are 2,907 cases and 23 deaths. 

In light of the virus, Apple has now closed 53 of their retail stores around the state “due to the surge.” Around 672,000 doses of the vaccine have reached California so far.

I read that 17% of all restaurants and drinking places around the US have now permanently closed due to Covid, a number that is expected to significantly climb.

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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