IMG4362 Herb

Thomas, Herb Benham's youngest, right, and his fiancee, Alicia, are moving back to Bakersfield like many before them.

They’re coming home. His home and soon to be hers.

He is Thomas, our youngest. She is Alicia, his fiancée.

Who would move to dusty, hot Bakersfield? Thomas has the hometown roots, but Alicia? She grew up in Ipswich, Mass., went to college in Boulder and spent the past few years in Sonoma.

No one moves from places like these unless they are out of their wine-drinking, gourmet food-eating and mountain/ocean-loving minds.

No one? Maybe more than you think and it’s not just the continental drift that goes with being young, being on the move and chasing interesting jobs.

Think about Bakersfield and then about all the other great places in this country. I met somebody recently who is moving to some gorgeous place on the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama. You could make a case for places north, south, east and west.

Then you have Bakersfield, the butt of a thousand jokes, getting no love except from the down-homers, just sitting here, not complaining, not trying to make its case, not doing anything but plodding along being its plain, old, humble self.

What does dumb, old Bakersfield have? How about neighborhood after neighborhood where neighbors know each other. Paths where people can walk, streets where people can drive without bunching up, churches where people can worship, great restaurants (and times will be normal again) where people can take a load off and enjoy a good meal and people, some of the best you’ll ever meet.

All this at a pace that is several speeds below breakneck. Although speed has been a goal and watchword of the last 30 years, it’s overrated.

Places like Bakersfield are slower, and slower is a better way to live. Things are possible in towns like Bakersfield. Things like starting a business because rents aren't $20,000 a month. Things like buying a home or at least being in the hunt.

Nothing wrong with livable and nothing wrong with an achievable scale that allows young people to have what their parents had or at least have a shot at it.

Bakersfield sneaks up on you. It is surprisingly easy to make friends, keep friends and see friends because the logistics are not overwhelming.

Thomas and Alicia may end up around the corner from us, a few blocks from his brother’s family and from their best friends and a tennis ball’s throw from pickleball at the Racquet Club. To say nothing of a bunch of other people who already know them or will.

Bakersfield is a good place to live, a good place to leave when it gets unbearably hot and a good place to return to when the heat breaks. It may not be a fresh canvas but it’s one whose outlines are distinct and on which there is still room to write one’s own story.

We’re glad to have you back, and you here for the first time. Welcome home. His, hers and theirs.

Contact The Californian’s Herb Benham at 661-395-7279 or His column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.

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(1) comment


Heck yeah!

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