Recently, I wrote a column about attending the funeral of the late Dr. Romain Clerou. Held at St. Francis Church, with Monsignor Craig Harrison presiding and the eulogy eloquently given by Romain Walsh Clerou, it seemed a quintessential Bakersfield event. A town hall meeting as much as a funeral.
A reader took issue with both my portrayal of the Catholic Church as well as the Clerou family itself. The intimation was that I hadn't paid as much respect to the Clerous and the Church as each deserved.
I responded and gave the reader my phone number in case he felt moved to call me. People read differently, and I was curious. The piece had been meant as a tribute.
The reader emailed back with what has to be one of my favorite notes of all time:
"dear mr. Benham,
"thank you for your reply and phone number.
"however, I don't talk to the help about these matters.
"I would like to speak with your editor.
"have a nice holiday season."
"I don't talk to the help." I've been called many things in my life, most of us have, but "the help" is not one of them. However, given that I often wonder what I am doing here and subsequently who I am, why wouldn't "the help" be just as accurate a job description as anything else?
I am "the help" or part of "the help," giving the people with whom I work equal credit. I have my own desk, a clear plastic dispenser for paper clips and a phone with my name on it. Those are the kinds of things they issue "the help" when they hire them. They want to give them something, but not everything lest it make their heads puffy.
If you give "the help" too much, they think maybe they deserve an office, indoor plants and a coat rack.
"The help" is accurate in another way, at least as a goal. If I can help people to smile then I am proud to be a part of "the help," along with my fellow cubicle-dwelling, whispering-into-their-cellphones helpers.
No matter what I thought about my own wretched state, the reader had asked to speak to my editor, "the help" being unable to sort through this mess, and so I forwarded the email to both my boss and her boss.
It is now in capable hands. "The help" has helped all he can. Thanks for lightening an otherwise clunky day.
More conversation with readers about Romain Clerou.
"Thank you for your wonderful article about our dad's funeral. We loved him and we're so happy others did, too. Although we had him a long time, it's still hard knowing that seeing and talking with him is over. He died as he lived, quietly and without angst ... gracefully.
A couple of months ago, Sequoia Sandwich Co. held a sandwich tasting in order to choose a new sandwich that might attract the attention of Adam Richman and his cooking show "Man v. Food." Richman had done a show on the top 10 sandwiches from around the country. Sequoia owners Jeff Simpson and Gary Blackburn wanted to make Richman's list.
I was a judge along with Kim Fiorini from Sweet Surrender; Warren McDaniel, the Sysco Foods rep; and Kevin Gutierrez, the manager for the Sequoia store in Clovis.
There were three sandwiches. Simpson created a tri-tip melt; Blackburn, a pulled roasted chicken sandwich with a honey mustard garlic sauce; and Valerie Damron, manager at the Sequoia store on Ming Avenue, made a chicken piccata sandwich with homemade dill relish.
It was 9 a.m. on a Friday. I had just gotten out of the pool, I was hungry and a Honey Nut Cheerios sandwich would have probably tasted good, but even so, these sandwiches were cracking.
The judges chose the tri-tip melt, which went on the menu this week. I am loath to give Simpson too much credit because he is generally a high achiever and requires no more praise. However, this is one of the best sandwiches I've ever had. Sequoia starts with grilled sourdough bread, adds roasted and chopped tri-tip; charbroiled, peeled and diced Anaheim peppers; Mexican sauce; melted Gruyere cheese on one side and American Swiss on the other side.
The tri-tip melt would be easy to bungle because you don't want to be chewing big pieces of steak, which would tear apart the bread. Nor do you want a big shoebox of a sandwich.
This is the right size, thickness and texture. For the cool weather, it's as close to a Bakersfield masterpiece as you're going to find.
Two of Shafter's finest, Ruby and Clifford Fowler, recently celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary. They live together and take care of one another. Ruby is 98 and Clifford 97. Ruby said she feels good and doesn't hurt anywhere.
In the follow-up category (I wrote a column on Dick Meyer a couple of months ago), Meyer finished 15th out of 62 (the third-fastest American) in the World Triathlon Championships in Aukland, New Zealand.
"My time was 2:34:14 and the winning time was 2:20:55," Meyer wrote. "The Aussies and Kiwis took us all to task.
"The trip to New Zealand was amazing. Recommend it for your 'Bucket List.'"
These are the opinions of Herb Benham and not necessarily the Californian's.