Brace yourself because we are in for yet another weekend of steady rain, snow in the mountains and possible road closures. Is this California? Is this the Kern County I have known for so many years? The rains this winter have been spectacular — and needed — but we are desert rats here and occasionally I admit to missing those morning when it is 80 degrees at 6 a.m. Let it rain, and snow, but when the sun returns, I will welcome that too.


"I love my husband. But, what really motivates me to stay married is how much weight I'd have to lose to date again."


I took a tour of the old Silver Fox Lounge that is being lovingly restored by Rod and Julie Crawford, the couple who turned Pyrenees Cafe into one of the most popular spots in town. The couple purchased the 18th Street restaurant across from Mexicali (it had been renamed the Castaway Lounge and its iconic Silver Fox sign donated to the Kern County Museum) and are determined to return it to its nostalgic form of 40 years ago, when the best places in town were venues like The Town Casino in the old Padre Hotel, Suds Tavern, The Mint and of course the World Famous Alley Cat. "The Fox definitely won't be the dive that they once knew but not so nice that you are going to feel underdressed," Rod said. Longtime restaurateur and Crawford friend Andrew Willingham is helping in the restoration and will likely help run the place. My bet: expect the Crawfords to deliver a menu of outstanding food and service, served in a lively, homey atmosphere with plenty of outdoor seating. The new Silver Fox Starlite Lounge should be opened by sometime in February.


The Silver Fox Starlite Lounge is just the latest in the gentrification of 18th Street, already home to Mexicali, The Goose Bar and Grill (formerly Goose Loonies), Bill Lee's and an expanding Sequoia Sandwich Co. Add the upscale new apartment complex just a few blocks west, and a new coffee house called Cafe Smitten that looks about to open, and you have an urban renaissance that is transforming 18th Street east of Chester Avenue. Will this corridor become one of the "it" places to live downtown?


Last week I wrote about a man who set a land speed record on a bicycle here in 1941. As it turns out, Harvey McCown said the late Vince Clerou was part of it. "The car not only 'paced' the bicycle, but had a wind screen mounted on it. That way the car was breaking the wind and the rider only had to focus on his speed. Vince grinned and chuckled about the wind coming around and 'probably' pushing the rider to a higher speed. The car driver had to be very skilled to maintain the speed and not cause a problem for the rider. The race car driver was in town for a race at the race track at the old fairgrounds. The area is now south of Sam Lynn Ball Park. The big mound that used to be there was the grandstand for the race track. I seem to remember the name of Barnie Olfield, but that may just be the passage of time enhancing the story telling."


If you think customer service is dead, consider this note from Nick Phillips, who recently visited Cafe Med his wife Celeste and their 3-month-old son Adonijah. They showed up without a reservation and waited for a bit until the staff set up a fresh table for them in the deli area.

"While waiting for our table, about six passersby stopped to compliment us on our handsome baby boy. One more approached, with a friendly smile and familiar presence, to kneel down and admire Adonijah — Adonijah's feedback was a very intent stare. The food was delicious and the service great. We were amazed at how many friendly faces we had encountered in one evening, not to mention the fact that our baby had not complained the entire time!" When the check came, a stranger appeared to intercept the check, wished them a happy new year and told Phillips to save his money for a special date night. "Stunned, surprised, and slightly scared, my wife and I were feeling very blessed. I rose to give the man a hug and a big thank you, learning that his name was Kenny. We would like to thank God, for blessing us and preparing such a perfect evening. We thank Kenny, for such a thoughtful act of kindness. And we thank Cafe Med, for great service."

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

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