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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Herb Benham

Big tomato year. All credit to wine-drinking, farm-loving Harvey Campbell, who coached me to plant earlier, dig the holes deeper and add some Miracle-Gro products.Production is up, I'm now self-sufficient, a net neighborhood exporter.

I received several emails on the Sunday piece celebrating the Hostess comeback -- Twinkies, CupCakes, Donettes, Zingers, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Fruit Pies, Mini Muffins, Sno Balls and Suzy Q's. Nancy Bellue writes:

"I wonder what other Magic Foods people will write to you about this week! I hope someone will mention Swiss steak or Walnettos."

Tommie Self on the Hostess comeback:

"You left out the best of the lot -- the raspberry and coconut-covered Hostess Zingers -- my absolute favorite. It's similar to a Twinkie, but reminds me of those 'jelly roll' coffee cakes Mama used to buy."

Bob Kapler, the wonderful, talented, blind piano player who has played Rotary meetings, churches and senior centers for years, is retiring and moving to Tehachapi.

Ron Martell has a suggestion for people with sore necks:

"I put on 3-inch spot mirrors. Same as truckers use. It takes about two weeks to get the hang of it. I have been saved several times in the past. They are the ones that are hanging down, 6 to 8 inches across."

The column on sore necks brought this memory from Joan Curtis:

"Your column today brought my dear dad to mind. He was a wonderful gentleman. He was diagnosed with nephritis, and the doctors gave him a year to live when I was 1 year old. He followed their directions (no meat, poultry, fish) for the rest of his life, which was nearly 70 years. Eventually he had rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson's.

"I never heard a complaint from him. He loved life. He had a gizmo in the basement that he used to stretch his neck. As I recall, it had a rope and a brick attached to the end. He would take the paper and a book, and do the crossword puzzle in ink while he sat there. He had a super sense of humor and would announce: 'I'm going to the basement to hang myself.'"

A thoughtful response from Don Clark on sore necks:

"I recall the most intense period of physical pain I've ever gone through, caused by a sudden running injury to my back. After three days flat on my back, pulling myself on the floor with my elbows to the bathroom like a human slug, I somehow remembered a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson at a time when he was going through a terrible bout of disabling pain. A friend told him, 'Perhaps the Lord is using this pain to take you aside for a little while so that He might whisper in your ear things you would not otherwise be able to hear.'"

Mad at your newspaper for whatever reason? Ann Cierley isn't because the paper saved her "bacon" lately.

Ann is the longtime wine expert about whom I did a column. We wanted to shoot a photo with the column and so Ann went into her garage, which houses her nice big wine cellar, in order to get a bottle of red wine.

"I pulled out a bottle, it didn't feel quite right," Cierley said.

"I looked at the thermometer, and the temp was in the high 60s, no cool air was blowing.

"My wine could have died had it not been for your interest in doing this interview and insistence on a new photo, as I had no plans to go into my cellar."


Every other Wednesday, I appear on the KBAK Channel 29 noon news program to talk about stuff. I have worn a hat, a decision that one viewer looks at askance:

"According to Emily Post, men's hats are considered outdoor apparel and should be removed when indoors. (Women are permitted to wear hats indoors as part of their outfit, as long as they do not block someone's view in the theater, for example). Baseball caps should be removed whether worn by men or women. Exceptions include those who cover their head for religious purposes, small children who might lose a baseball cap if there is no place to put it and those undergoing chemotherapy or who have a medical problem such as alopecia.

"If you fall under the last two categories I do apologize for this email."

These are Herb Benham's opinions and not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at