About Town, Week of Dec. 2

Friday, Dec. 7:

Tarmo Hannula: I was amazed to stop by the post office in Freedom Center Friday morning and there was one woman in line in front of me. Are you kidding — at this time of year? That’s one thing I like about small post offices like that. Of course, the woman in front of me wanted to see every stamp variety they had all the way back to the Civil War and then she couldn’t decide which one she wanted. When it came time for paying she had to rifle through her purse, the size of a war-issue duffle bag, for a credit card she couldn’t find. In fact, I imagine she’s still up there searching for that darn thing.

Out on Airport Boulevard I noticed two banner signs near the Airport exit from Highway 1: “Sign up for Little League.” The sign mentioned their website, www.pajarovalleylittleleague.com. The sign also mentioned signing up in person at E.A. Hall Middle School Jan. 22, 23 from 5:30-8 p.m.

The other sign mentioned “Breakfast with Santa” at the Watsonville Senior Center, 114 East Beach St., from 8 a.m. to noon, Dec. 16.

At dusk on Thursday reporter Todd Guild and I covered the official opening of The Terrace new apartments and business building on the 400 block of Main Street. Needless to say the open-air terrace on the second floor was stunning, with open fire pits aglow, lattice work overhead, ornamental stone work and large outdoor comfortable furniture. You’d never know this deluxe commons area even existed by walking past the building. I was told a Togo's restaurant has already signed up to open in one of the street-level businesses.

Someone passed me today on Airport Boulevard with a personalized license plate: "OOMMMM," which I imagine is a spinoff from the '60s when the mantra, OM, became popular. Not many of those out there, I imagine.

At the Pacific Golf Centers, 101 Ranport Road, there were about eight early morning golfers swinging away at the driving range.

Now, I’ve been scolded in the past for getting that spelling wrong, some folks claiming it’s Ramport. The golf place sign uses a N. Hopefully, some day, a family member approaches me and sets it straight. It would be my luck that they’d say it’s really Rapport. Who knows?

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. This important date was not forgotten by a dedicated handful of folks who meet every Dec. 7 in Watsonville at the California Grill. They share stories and memorabilia about the historic day and it’s touching to catch their drift.

Holiday decorations are popping up all over now. Several Christmas tree lots dot the map. As a kid I always scoffed at the idea of a fake tree, being that our family would make it a tradition of dragging our Radio Flyer red wagon up the tree lot in Washington D.C. It was put on by the local firefighters and I always liked touching base with them. They’d offer hot chocolate and cookies, which was particularly nice when it was cold and snowing. We’d select a tree and load it in our pull wagon and roll it home. It was usually dusted with snow when we got home. Our family didn’t have a car for years until our neighbor sold us their Hillman wagon for $1. It was a tiny gray wagon but not too small for our family of six to cram into for various outings.

Anyway, my wife Sarah and I now pull out our fake red Cambodian tree each year out of the rafters of our garage. I know it’s kind of garish but it’s easy and, when you plug it in, it works perfectly. Sure, some of the little bulbs have gone out, but we’ve gotten about seven years out of the thing. We won it at a white elephant gathering put on by teachers and staff of PVUSD out in Aromas.

Let’s see what the holiday brings this year.

Erik Chalhoub: I began my Friday at the top floor of the Watsonville Civic Plaza for a meeting with City Manager Matt Huffaker.

While I was there, it was impossible not to notice the "winter wonderland" set up in the city administrative offices. Thanks to Suryel Vasquez, the city's audio/visual communications technician, the offices are filled with Christmas cheer, with wreaths, Santa's mailbox and more, complete with a "fireplace" set up with gifts.

I also checked out the city's currently empty time capsule. On Tuesday during the city council meeting, to wrap up Watsonville's 150th anniversary year, city officials and community leaders will be filling up the capsule with items from this era. Once filled, it will be on display in the Civic Plaza, before it is opened in 25 years.

Thank you to the city for inviting the Register-Pajaronian to place items in the capsule.


Thursday, Dec. 6:

Tarmo Hannula: I started Thursday with a drive out to West Cliff Drive because forecasters said there was a large surf alert with a chance of huge surprise waves that can catch the unsuspecting off guard. Wrong. It looked like a lake. I’ve seen bigger waves in my bathtub. Oh well.

Next, I swung by Rio Del Mar State Beach along Beach Drive where a long-standing wood fence has kept the public out of a sidewalk that passes along the front of a string of homes along the ocean side of Beach Drive.

The Board of Supervisors recently ruled that the gate is in violation of public access, so the gate now stands open.

In Watsonville I ventured into Crossroads Fabrics, 80 Airport Blvd., under my wife’s advice, to check out their seemingly endless stock on incredible fabrics. The friendly clerk there went on the explain how they carry a huge selection of fabrics, both for clothing, furniture, indoor and outdoor projects. The place is like a museum of fabrics, from floor to ceiling and also features all kinds of trim, lace, borders, buttons, threads and on and on.

I routinely stick my head in the door of John’s Jeweler’s, 42 Mariposa Ave. Maria Zamora, her daughter Cindy Jacobo, and crew always greet me warmly. Cindy said the business is currently stocking up for Christmas demands, from rings and watches, to earrings, necklaces and others goods.

On Aviation Way I noticed a new sign, “Coming Soon: Watsonville Hangar, Food, Drink Community; Beer Mule, Zameen.” My wife and I have relished the Mediterranean cuisine at Zameen in Aptos.

It sure is refreshing to have the blue sky and sun back. Though I love the rain it is always nice to see the sky washed clean and so clear.

I’m bracing for the line at the post office Friday as I have several packages to send off. We’ll see.


Wednesday, Dec. 5:

Tarmo Hannula: Wednesday started for me at the Santa Cruz Harbor. The reasons I go there is, 1: I live nearby; 2: I imagine some Pajaro Valley residents might be curious as to the goings on there, from the crab and salmon season, to the sailing community, the Yacht Club, etc.

I happened upon a crew of six men and women struggling to haul a lengthy outrigger canoe from the water at the boat ramp. One woman said they head out each Wednesday morning for an exhilarating paddle on the sea.

“We often see whales and dolphins,” she said. “Every day is different out there.”

She went on to say that anyone is invited to try out a paddle on the open sea. Those interested can visit www.outriggersantacruz.org.

I stopped by Hidden Fortress Coffee Roasting, 125 Hangar Way, suite 270, in Watsonville and ran into Watsonville City Attorney Alan Smith. He said he liked the place because of the friendly service and their fine coffee products. Indeed, as we were talking, the friendly barista told Alan his cappuccino was ready, without him saying a word.

“See, it’s people like Virginia here that keep me coming back,” he said.

Alan said he’d just attended a birthday party for Dick Peixoto, owner of Lakeside Organic Gardens, at Peixoto’s family-owned California Grill and Bar, 40 Penny Lane.

The other day I met a man who described himself as homeless in downtown Watsonville. He said his name was Jaime and that he’d been living on the streets for the past five years. Soft-spoken and even-toned, Jaime told me he once drove trucks for a living and that once his mother died, his family began to come unglued and he ended up on the streets. He said he had four sons and a daughter who stay in communication with him.

“I don’t see this as something permanent,” he said.

Jaime described living on the streets as “not that bad.” He said that since he knew so many people — a lot of them homeless — that he felt safe.

We had a nice chat and Jaime thanked me for giving him the time and interest in a small chapter in his life. I told him I hoped to run into him again to continue our dialogue. From across the plaza, as I headed to my car, he gave me a wave, which felt like an unspoken approval for our new friendship.

Todd Guild: For Christmas, my brother-in-law asked me to get him some books I have enjoyed. When I had made my list, I went into Kelly’s Books next to Nob Hill grocery store.

Owner Kelly Pleskunas had one of them on hand, and said she would order the rest, which would be available in two days.

While there, I had an enjoyable conversation with Pleskunas. I left feeling like I was part of the thriving, vibrant Watsonville business community. It was a very different experience than the lifeless sterility of online shopping.

And so as Christmas approaches, and the shopping season comes on full-force, I urge everyone to turn off their computers, ignore such online retailers as Amazon and, whenever possible, shop at privately owned businesses.

Consider it your gift to Watsonville.

Kelly’s Books is located at 1838 Main St. in Watsonville Square.


Tuesday, Dec. 4:

Johanna Miller: My fellow R-P reporter Tarmo and I decided to cruise down Freedom Boulevard after covering an event at a local elementary school. It is perhaps the busiest street in Watsonville along with Main Street; there is always something going on.

I happened to notice an unfamiliar sign as we passed the Cabrillo Center shopping complex, in front of the old Chicken Express location across from Hong Kong Express. We made a double-back and pulled into the parking lot in front of Celebrations Party Rental to check it out.

Fat Boy Burger and Grill will be opening at 1467 Freedom Blvd. in the upcoming months. In addition to the newly installed sign, I noticed new restaurant furniture inside covered in plastic, as well as a painted depiction of the restaurant’s mascot.

Nearby, at the Crestview Shopping Center, I saw the sign for La Michoacana Paleteria y Nieveria. After having tried out and loving the new Michoacana location near Nob Hill on Main Street (I am quite the ice cream enthusiast), I recognized the unmistakable pink logo and had to swing by the store.

I found out when I got back to the office that the Freedom Boulevard location had just moved there in September, but it had been somewhere else previously. I was surprised, as I don’t remember seeing it anywhere in town. Perhaps one of our readers would know…

Christmas decorations keep popping up in shops along Freedom Boulevard— Watsonville Plaza is not the only place to see a Christmas tree.

Pajaro Valley Printing’s window display caught my eye immediately when sitting in the car at the intersection of Green Valley. A line of simple but elegant gold, white silver, blue, and turquoise trees stand (at different heights) in the store’s window facing Freedom Boulevard, with an accent of icicle lights above.

Tarmo Hannula: Tuesday started early for me in Superior Court in Santa Cruz at 8:15 a.m. There, discussions were underway to set a jury trial for Michael Escobar, a Watsonville suspect who got tangled up in a shooting in 2014 that left a 4-year-old girl and a Watsonville man dead.

Being in a courtroom like this is one of the more bizarre things I do for this job. To be in the same room with about a dozen people in orange (men) and red (women) prison jumpsuits, most of them in chains, is certainly attention-getting, to say the least.

I always feel a huge sense of relief to head out of there and take in the fresh air and morning sunlight.

My police radio was busy during the night as I learned of two car crashes on Riverside Road between Blackburn Street and Lakeview Drive. At one point I heard on my radio that officials had closed that heavily travelled section of Riverside Road altogether.

By 9 a.m. crews had Riverside Road fully open.

I spoke with my friend, Sam Courtney at the California Highway Patrol, and he helped me paint a picture of the two crashes that actually happened Monday evening around 6 p.m.

Also on Monday I swung by the building where officials from Watsonville/Aptos/Santa Cruz Adult Education had a celebration for 90 years of the school. On top of the host of speakers, including Nancy Bilicich, director, they had a white sheet cake with the 90th birthday inscribed in frosting.

I’m always fanning through my car radio for tidbits of news and things about town. One such item I heard Tuesday morning was that the Marriott Hotels and Resorts chain had their computers hacked, possibly compromising several hundred million people— meaning their credit card and passport numbers had been stolen. The newscaster went on to add that a new passport costs $110. Besides the money, it’s also a big hassle, I’ve found, to get a passport, something that takes about six weeks to get in the mail.

Before the supposed rains and winds arrive later Tuesday I see a crew across South Green Valley Road painting the AAA building. About five years ago I photographed the same building and a gentleman from AAA took the time to email me to pay thanks for getting it in the R-P.

We’ve been hearing feedback from around town regarding this new About Town daily column on our web page and so far people say they enjoy the read. One reader, Gayle Lovell described it “as the best thing to come to the Pajaronian in years.” Thanks for reading.

Erik Chalhoub: I attended the City of Watsonville's 2020 Census Complete Count Committee kickoff meeting Tuesday in the Civic Plaza Community Room.

On my way to the room, I ran into Parks and Community Services Director Nick Calubaquib and United Methodist Church Pastor Robby Olson. Nick told us about the success of Sunday's Snow Day, which drew hundreds of people downtown. A woman overheard our conversation, and commented on how great such an event is for Watsonville.

I sat at a table with Police Chief David Honda, Mayor-elect Francisco Estrada and others, as we had a chicken enchilada lunch catered by Jalisco Restaurant.

The purpose of the meeting was to launch a committee dedicated to helping get an accurate count for Watsonville in the 2020 Census. According to Deputy City Manager Tamara Vides, Census data determines how more than $675 billion a year are distributed to local communities. Watsonville stands to lose $2,000 for every resident uncounted.

Look for a larger article on this topic in this week's Register-Pajaronian.


Dec. 1-3:

Erik Chalhoub: Watsonville got into a festive mood Sunday.

I stopped by the Pajaro Valley Historical Association on East Beach Street to check out its annual Holiday Tea. It's a warm, inviting affair that is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit.

I ran into Rachel Clark of Watsonville, who had donated 50 of her Christmas-themed cups to be used to decorate a tree, which currently stands in a corner of the Bockius-Orr House. It should be noted that those 50 cups are only part of her collection.

You can see that display and other community-donated historical artifacts at the PVHA, which is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

I also chatted briefly with Betsy Lobay and Janis Brautovic, who were sipping tea. When I asked to take their picture for the paper, Brautovic told me she had once had her photo taken by legendary Register-Pajaronian photographer Sam Vestal, when she was showing her calf at the fair.

I then headed over to the Watsonville Plaza to check out Snow Day and the tree lighting, and saw a huge line of people weaving its way throughout the plaza, waiting for their turn on the snow. Large lines were even forming for a train ride around the plaza, as well as photos with Santa Claus. I heard that the line for the snow stretched to about an hour or so.

Tarmo Hannula: On Saturday I covered the Aptos tree lighting ceremony. The moment I got there, even though I feared I was late, a crowd of Sheriff’s deputies suddenly showed up, followed by an Aptos/La Selva Fire truck with lights and sirens ablaze, that was carting Santa to the event. Of course a huge group of kids swarmed Santa and the cameras came out.

John Hibble, co-executive director of the Aptos Chamber of Commerce, said the weather timed out perfectly, having rained all morning, and then, clearing out for the event.

On Monday morning I drove through the harbor and spotted several trucks loaded up with crab pots, as the commercial crab season is in full throes.

At Manresa State Beach I saw about a dozen surfers braving the chilly water for a chance at a few rides. I’ve always been awestruck by the tenacity of surfers in their unflinching devotion at jumping into the sea to catch those few rides.

On my routine cruise along San Andreas Road I saw a crew of field workers harvesting a new crop of Brussels sprouts at Bontadelli Farms. My friend Dick Peixoto, owner of Lakeside Organic Gardens, said recent rains has made it very difficult for field workers to slog through the mud to get their work down.

I drove past seemingly endless strawberry farms that are under plastic wrap for the season.

I stopped by the plaza in downtown Watsonville and had a fascinating talk with a homeless man, Jaime Mesa. He was relishing the warming sun alongside several of his friends. Jaime said he was once a trucker and made pretty good money. The Watsonville native said that when he lost his mother his family started to crumble and he ended up living on the streets. He’s been that way for the past five years.

“Since I know Watsonville, and all my friends are here, I feel safe on the streets and I know people won’t bother me; they leave me alone,” he said. “I don’t see this as something permanent. Something will come along and things will change.”

For last week's About Town installment, visit register-pajaronian.com/article/about-town.


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