I admit, Monday will be weird.
It will be the first time in nearly 30 years that I receive my copy of The Bakersfield Californian as a “civilian.”
I’ve worked here for 27 years. That’s a long time.
When I started, there were no cell phones, no internet.
We had dictionaries, big paper phone books and bulging Rolodex files to keep track of our sources.
It was frighteningly primitive by any millennial’s standards.
Yet somehow, every single day, we put out a daily paper — and a damn good one.
It’s hard to know how to sum up all those years but I want to start by saying thank you.
Thank you to The Bakersfield Californian for hiring me back in 1990 and giving me so many opportunities along the years.
Thank you to Ginger Moorhouse, owner of The Californian, for allowing me more leeway than I probably deserved.
Thank you to my wonderful colleagues who are some of the best journalists, photographers, editors, layout/design and production folks in this business.
More than colleagues, these folks have been my family. We’ve grown up together and I will miss them terribly. (OK, I won’t miss Jason Kotowski’s terrible fake Southern accent…)
And a huge thank you to The Californian’s readers.
Thank you for trusting me with your stories.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my rambling, snarky columns. Especially the complicated — but super important! — water stuff.
And thank you for your (mostly) thoughtful and often...er...lively responses to those columns.
One thing I can say about Californian readers, y’all ain’t shy.
Anyhow, if it weren’t for readers hungry for news about their town, elected officials, schools, environment, arts, sports and so, so much more, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to provide you with all that news.
So, thank you readers and loyal subscribers to The Californian.
You are the foundation of this newspaper’s success.
Since I’ve never written a “farewell” column before, I’m not sure where to go with this except maybe to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked when I’ve given talks to local groups.
What columns have generated the most responses?
Fireworks — hands down.
I started writing about fireworks in 2008.
“I have a new title: Enemy Of Fun,” I wrote and followed up with, “We need to ban all personal fireworks in Bakersfield, Kern County and the entire state…”
You’da thought I went out and kicked someone’s dog.
I was bombarded with angry emails, letters and online comments. (Some I had to forward to law enforcement.)
A package addressed to me was even left on The Californian’s front steps that was filled with burned up illegal fireworks.
I was never sure of the message there, but had a very “sleeps with the fishes” feel.
The more facts I piled on, though, the more people started to change their views.
Now most commenters agree, something has to be done.
I believe the state will have to be the entity to take charge of this.
We shall see.
Second most asked question: What’s Herb Benham really like?
All I have to say to that is, read his columns.
Yes, he loves pie (and shrimp and bacon and butter and donuts…) that much.
And, yes, he’s a pretty happy-go-lucky guy and I’m proud to call him my friend.
Surprisingly, people often ask about the Kern River as well.
When I started my crusade supporting Bakersfield’s efforts to be awarded river water that was forfeited after a years-long lawsuit, I got a lot of backlash.
But that was mainly from farmers and others in northwest Kern, many of whom had been enjoying that forfeited water without actual rights to it.
The vast majority of readers who’ve contacted me believe the public has been shortchanged on the river and they want it back.
Speaking of the river, my first story ever for The Californian (published May 20, 1990) was about burn survivors enjoying a rafting trip on the Kern River.
So I guess the river and I go back a ways.
The editor that day was Mike Trihey, now news director at KGET Channel 17 News.
I remember walking into the newsroom after driving back from Lake Isabella and Trihey was loudly cussing out another reporter. He saw me and asked, “Who the BLANK are you?”
Ahh, the good ol’ days.
I re-read that story recently and noticed I left a word out of one sentence, so thanks for the great edit, Trihey.
Well, there’s lots more.
I’ve got war stories for days. But you have a life to live and so do I.
P.S. OK, Steve Mayer, NOW you can have my parking space.
This story was corrected Aug. 28 to reflect the correct title of Mike Trihey, news director at KGET Channel 17 News.