Mexicali West1 (copy)

The building that housed Mexicali West will be torn down to make way for two multi-tenant retail buildings.

Sometimes driving is as satisfying as a peppermint stick ice cream cone from Dewar’s. In “American Graffiti,” one of two must-see movies if you want to understand Bakersfield and the San Joaquin Valley (the other being “Best of Times”), the characters cruise and while they do, they observe, reminisce and talk.

Driving slow, and it has to be slow, can be a meditation, and also a way of enraging the people behind you. Watch them losing it in your rear-view mirror. Their eyes are bugging out, they’re frothing at the mouth and they want you dead no matter how much you smile at them with peaceful eyes.

Recently, I took a drive. I like looking at the town, remembering what it was like when I was growing up and seeing the difference now. Much of it is better, including the construction that will link 58 and the Westside Parkway.

On my way to FedEx on Stockdale Highway, I cruised by the cleared lots on either side of the street and wondered, as I have for months, how they are going to connect the south side of Stockdale with the north side. Will it be an underpass, overpass or a bypass?

Some things you never get to. They can be the last two items on a list that get transferred to tomorrow’s list and then the day after that. The under or over question is one of those things. I could ask Darrell, a man I swim with because he works for Granite Construction here but he only swims on Friday, and sometimes every other Friday, and when I see him I’ve usually forgotten because I’m razzing him about his swim attendance.

Darrell either has to swim more or I have to write down the over/under question and tape it to my goggles.

Rite Aid adventures

At FedEx, I saw Melissa Doughty, who was carrying an armful of large yellow envelopes. Melissa worked on the line at Jake’s Tex-Mex for years but returned to school to become a paralegal. Recently, she was hired by Paige Etcheverry. The staff at Jake’s is thrilled and so is she.

Cruising town is a way of catching up. It’s better than LinkedIn because a smile in person in better than an LOL in a text.

Next up was Rite Aid downtown. Stockdale going east was jammed so I headed west and made a right on California extension, There was a chain-link fence around Mexicali West, which was sold a few months ago. The chain-link fence said, “Take a look because this building won’t be here long.”

I called John Hale, a friend and a crackerjack commercial real estate agent who had done the deal and asked him what was up the old Mexicali. He said Mexicali is coming down and two new buildings will be built in its place.

I drove to Rite Aid downtown, always a colorful experience. I called a friend on the way and asked her if I should get a neck tattoo before I went into the store. She said, “I’m pretty sure you can’t enter the building without one. You also need a pit bull that you tie up outside or you can bring a blanket and a cardboard sign.”

I made a clean entrance into the front door and headed to the pharmacy. I am having knee surgery and I picked up 90 tablets of 800 mg ibuprofen and 12 tablets of Cephalexin, an antibiotic.

I felt like a drug addict. Maybe I’ll just walk out and sell them to somebody in the parking lot. Try to get through post surgery with some Casamigos, the delicious tequila that George Clooney used to be invested in. I can sip it and if that doesn’t help, rub it on my wound.

I cruised home. I’d seen some people, had good conversations and learned a couple of things, one of them being, get out and look around. This town is changing and some of it is good.

Here's what's Cooking

A man has to eat; women too. 

This Thursday, we are bringing back the Men Cooking dinner we used to do at the Bakersfield Museum of Art but this time we're holding at a private home downtown, 3014 20th St.

Men will be cooking it all: spare ribs, paella, lamb lollipops, Asian-Cajun pork butt (from an Emeril Lagasse recipe), homemade pizza and more. Chefs include Richard Beene, Stan Eschner, Bart Hill, Russ Elrod, Bruce Haupt, Grover Waldon, Andrae Gonzales, Kyle Ray and me.

No silent auctions, raffle tickets or windy speeches. Just food, drink and good conversation come rain or shine. It's $40 per person and all the money goes to the art museum. For reservations, call 323-7219.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or 661-395-7279.

(1) comment

Peter Roth

Thanks, for shopping at Rite Aid.

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