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HERB BENHAM: I thought I was tough

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Sunflowers — like the one in this 2014 file photo — thrive in our soil but we do not thrive gardening in the heat, writes columnist Herb Benham.

On Saturday, I worked outside in the yard from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. I thought I was somebody, I thought I was tough, I thought I could work through anything but when I finished, I thought I might be done for the rest of the weekend.

The heat knocked me on my backside. End of the summer, end of August, end of life? One more end and they'd end up planting me like corn.

Stuff grows. In Bakersfield but downtown especially where we specialize in sugar sand and thousands of years of river bottom soil. I don't know if that's true but the plumbago believes it. So do the 10-feet sunflowers that reseed themselves every year and make you wonder if Jack couldn't climb those too.

•••

I finished "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison. What a book, one I almost didn't read because I go back and forth between books I should read, books I have no intention of reading and books, mysteries for instance, that are like mother's milk.

Occasionally I show some maturity and pick up a classic like "The Bluest Eye" and it only takes a couple of great passages that are like music to make them worth the investment.

This one reveals the miserable wretches we can be when we treat people poorly (the character Pecola, in this case, who everybody looks down on).

"We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. Her simplicity decorated us, her guilt sanctified us, her pain made us glow with health, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humor. Her inarticulateness made us believe we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous …

"We were not strong, only aggressive; we were not free, merely licensed; we were not compassionate, we were polite, not good but well behaved."

Amen.

•••

Writing and music, other than a good piña colada, what else do you need?

Go on YouTube and listen to "Five Minutes" by Gretchen Peters and, since you're already there, try some Cheryl Wheeler, whose songs "Fall Comes to England," "Gandhi/Buddha" and "Little Road" you may have heard but also has masterpieces in "But the Days and Nights are Long," "75 Septembers" and "Act of Nature."

Shawn Colvin's "These Four Walls" is good too. I am a sucker for a beautiful female voice.

•••

Bear Valley's finest Cheri Hadley responded to the column about discovering a late summer taste for pineapple juice (and improving the pineapple juice by adding a generous dollop of both dark and light rum, some coconut cream, chunks of pineapple, ice and throw it into a blender and you have arrived at (regressed to) piña colada land.

I couldn't find coconut cream in the usual places so Cheri suggested the dollar stores and maybe Walmart. I found coconut milk and sweetened milk at the dollar store, added them together and made my own coconut cream.

•••

Good suggestion from Matthew Renois, a pro BMX rider counseling instructor at Woodward West who has worked at Action Sports and Snider's Cyclery, in regards to the lack of shade at the skatepark at Beach Park.

How about some trees? Trees ringing the skatepark? Once they get up and big, then you don't have to worry about the sun sweeping across the sky.

"I remember some guys got a tree from their house and took it to the park and when they were digging the hole for the tree the city had them stop and told them they couldn't plant a tree at the park.

"You know how the black top or concrete can reflect the heat right back to you. When you're on a BMX bike and you stop to rest, the heat almost kills you."

The skatepark is a great asset for the city. Shade could make it even better.

•••

Etta Robin is another lover of the late Nanci Griffith.

"Today your totally grand comments about the dear and special gifts of Nanci Griffith filled me with sweet joy.

"I have listened to and have enjoyed Nanci Griffith's musical gifts for many years. I feel so fortunate to have approximately six CDs filled with her marvelous music.

"Nanci Griffith manifested tranquility, joy and spirit-lifting music to one and to all.

"I will miss her ongoing contributions to enhance our lives profoundly."

We can be sorry that she's gone but good to be grateful we were able to enjoy her as long as we did.

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