So where is the best college town in America? Would it surprise you if I told you it was just up the road in San Luis Obispo, home of Cal Poly? That's what the website College Rank found in its research, crowning SLO as the "best college town" in the country. Rounding out the top 10 were Cambridge, Mass. (Harvard); Gainesville, Fla. (University of Florida); Amherst, Mass. (Amherst College); Boulder, Colo. (University of Colorado); Burlington, Vt. (University of Vermont); Charlottesville, Va. (University of Virginia); Ann Arbor, Mich. (University of Michigan); Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz); and Athens, Ga. (University of Georgia).


If you've noticed a sharp spike in the price of avocados, it should come as no surprise. The average retail price for avocados rose 35 percent in the first half of this year to $1.21 per avocado, according to the Hass Avocado Board. The reason: smaller than average harvests in California, which produces more avocados than any other U.S. state.


"Just drove my mechanic's vehicle and his check engine light was on."


"You're never too old to be nice to people."


Hats off to new Californian columnist Justin Salters, who broke ranks from the divisive and self-pitying nature of other voices and called for more "Jefferson Dinners," venues for people of all backgrounds and political philosophies to come together for constructive conversations. It's an idea whose time has come, and I salute Salters for suggesting something that I for one plan to adopt.


Steve Schilling, who built Clinica Sierra Vista into one of the largest and most important health organizations serving the needy in Central California, is looking to retire. That's the word from Jennifer Self, Clinica's communications and advocacy director, who said a search is underway to replace Schilling as the organization's chief executive officer. "He will stay until his successor is on board," Self said, adding that might be accomplished by the end of the year. Schilling almost single-handedly built Clinica into a powerhouse in providing basic and preventive health care to thousands of Californians via a vast network of public and private partnerships.


City Councilman Andrae Gonzales was making the rounds in Ward 2 the other day when he gave a shout-out to an important local organization that works quietly and doesn't get a lot of press: The Assistance League of Bakersfield. Said Gonzales: "The Assistance League is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization, serving the community through ongoing philanthropic programs. One program, Operation School Bell, provides new school clothing to children in need. In 2017, the group helped over 3,600 children with back-to-school clothing! The organization's thrift store, the Bargain Box Thrift Store, is the group's biggest fundraiser. The store is located at 1924 Q St. and is open Monday though Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Stop by and visit!"


So who remembers Beryl's Cafe, a small country-style cafe located at the corner of South Union Avenue and Bear Mountain Boulevard? According to Fatima Al-Bugharin, writing on the Kern County of Old Facebook page, it was originally a gas station owned by Vern Sweitzer (Sweitzer's Corner) from 1917 to 1961. "In 1961, Mrs. Beryl Mitchell purchased the property from Mr. Sweitzer and turned it into Beryl's Cafe. The cafe was successful and became a home away from home for many visitors, farmers, and truckers. Beryl's cafe closed in 2006 and in 2009 Mrs. Beryl Mitchell passed away. Unfortunately, the old place fell apart through the years and was demolished as a result."

Email contributing columnist Richard Beene at His work appears here on Wednesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own. Read more on his blog at

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