I booked a haircut with Charlie. It had been awhile. Awhile for me and everybody else too.

Charlie is Charlene at Westchester Barber Shop. You can call her Charlene, but she might ignore you or she might not. Charlie is Charlie and I’m not calling her Charlene because I don’t want to risk going without the neck shave after being lathered with warm, soothing shaving cream.

The shop’s front door is locked and check-in is through the back door manned by her daughter who gives you the temperature test, squirts sanitizer on your hands and then makes sure your mask is snug.

While Charlie was adjusting the No. 2 blade, I was surprised to look in the mirror and see a man with enormous ears, the mask highlighting his ears like a solar light aimed at a butterfly bush.

The ears looked capable of flight but where would the man with the large ears go? He was where he wanted to be. In the chair, and like everybody else, male and female, glad to be in the chair. Glad to be getting cleaned up. Glad that life, strange lately, seemed more like the one he’s grown used to.


Dolly Hei responded to the column about paying tribute to doughnuts and cold milk:

“I've just learned about frozen milk. My daughter Jan suggested I freeze and store some of the whole milk she orders for me — I get the gallon size. I reserve half the gallon in the fridge and freeze the rest.

“I fill the beautiful little pint jars the natural peanut butter comes in, freeze them and take them out and put them in the fridge to thaw for about two days before use. The milk still holds a core of icy shards, so I shake the heck out of the jar before pouring, to mix them up. The ice-cold, creamy milk in my glass is foamy, rich and would be perfect with a good doughnut.”


Response from Tom W. on the column about we can do better when it comes to race:

“I'm a retired, slightly overeducated white guy who worked hard and did OK (OK enough to flee the expensive, congested Washington, D.C., suburbs and retire in Bakersfield, near family). For the longest time, I never thought about my race, and had no idea the reason I never had to think about my race — when doing things like walking by a cop or in an upscale neighborhood; applying for a job; participating in or managing teams; or simply asking directions when lost — was because I'm white, and grew up and lived and breathed in a mostly white-dominated culture. I started to wrestle with that a few years ago, and am still wrestling. Thank you for that piece. It resonated deeply with my own experience, and was pitch perfect for these times.”


Interesting article in The Californian on Friday by John Cox titled “Bakersfield is making room for LA expats.” Cox said Bakersfield is the second-leading destination for people moving out of L.A. behind San Diego. Makes sense. Houses are affordable and after COVID-19, people have discovered they can work from home, any home and anywhere and still keep their jobs.

I wondered when this was going to happen. You can stretch your finances, if you can even stretch that far, and buy some outdated, overpriced house from the 1950s for $900,000 in Hawthorne or buy something twice as nice here for half the price.

They’re coming. Bakersfield (the valley too) is the last bastion of affordability in California and people will be moving here in droves.


There is always a line or paragraph in a good book that sticks with you. Just finished “In Harm’s Way” by Doug Stanton about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis on July 30, 1945, during World War II by a Japanese sub. Three hundred men were killed instantly and 900 were cast into the Pacific Ocean. When they were rescued four days later, all but 317 men had died.

It’s tough to read under any circumstances and if you have a healthy fear of sharks and who doesn’t, it may not be something you want to read before going to sleep. Dr. Lewis Haynes was one of the survivors and Stanton said this about him at the end of the book.

“He is still troubled by nightmares of the sinking and finds it difficult to attend church.

“'Every church I go to recites the Lord’s Prayer,' Haynes said. 'And every time I say the prayer, I still cry.'”

Herb Benham is a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.

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