Friends came from San Diego. They gave Friday's Vince Gill concert a 10 out of 10. Then, with the pastrami sandwich and Monte burger the next day at Luigi's, they bumped it to a 12 out of 10.
I'm anxious when people visit. We want to show off Bakersfield but we tend toward self-deprecation and are reticent about our prospects to impress.
Fall is safe and a good time to visit. The relief from the heat is palpable. Locals are grateful and their faces are relaxed.
"What time should we leave?" asked Jack Phillips, a criminal defense attorney in San Diego.
Jack was asking about Friday. There is no quicker way to derail a visit than bogging down in traffic in San Diego, Orange and LA counties and turning a potential four-hour trip into a six-hour crawl.
"Leave at noon," Sue said. "Before noon is even better."
They did. They rolled in at 3:30. I wasn't even finished with my pre-Vince Gill concert nap.
"Did we wake you up?" Jack asked, when I unlocked the front door.
How do you answer that? You don't want your guests to feel bad, but I could have used another half hour in the recliner for reasons I didn't know yet -- Vince Gill played for a concert-whopping, mail- delivering, energy-blasting three hours.
"Do you have a beer?" Jack asked.
We didn't have any beer. What was I thinking? Jack, who grew up in Yuba, likes a cold beer, and it doesn't have to be fancy.
No, I was wrong. I had one beer in the garage. It was a Chocolate Bock from Samuel Adams that was about 14 months old.
That's not a beer. That's dessert. Best to slice it thin and serve it on cold plates.
We drove to Westside Liquor and bought a six pack of Peroni and a six of Diet Coke for Mel (short for Marilyn).
"You want to drive?" Jack asked about his fancy Mercedes that became a convertible in order to soak in some Bakersfield fall.
I did and drove him past the Bakersfield Museum of Art, the new federal courthouse, the Strength and Health Gym, the newspaper and the Padre, where we stopped. I told him the Padre had become our town square and some guys from San Diego had helped make it happen.
Jack was impressed, which made me feel good. San Diego is a big town with an ocean. Bakersfield is not big and its inland ocean dried up awhile back. But that doesn't mean we want to roll over and play dead when our big-city friends visit.
Sue made dinner: pork tenderloin, wild rice gratin and roasted vegetables. You might be able to get something tastier in San Diego, but you'd have to try hard and be friends with a good home cook.
The sparkling wine was cold, the Malbec tasty and the company lively, which included friends invited to showcase the people side of Bakersfield.
Vince Gill, I love you and let me count the ways.
You start on time -- at least for a concert you start on time (7:45 for a 7:30 show) -- you talk to the audience, you don't mess around, you give every impression of wanting to be here, you tell funny stories that we could have listened to forever, you play the Bakersfield Sound songs on your newest CD, you bring a great band but you sit them down after the intermission and play five songs by yourself so we can hear your glorious voice, and then you play two encores and everybody leaves tired but feeling as if they got their money's worth.
Vince Gill made people happy. At least two were from San Diego. Fall, food and friends -- Bakersfield showed well.