About Town, Week of Feb. 11


Friday, Feb. 15:

Tarmo Hannula: On Thursday we got hammered with incredible rain, thunder and lightning. I covered several trees that crashed to the ground and buried several vehicles. This morning, Friday, I went out on Paulsen Road and saw the road closed signs and the water that buries both lanes of the popular corridor that connects Green Valley Road to Casserly Road.

I don’t know how many of you watched the speech this morning by Donald Trump. It was very hard to tell what he was talking about. He said things like, “I’ve already done a lot of wall.”

I’ve made my share of typos in this paper but what in the hell does our president mean? If you bothered to settle in and listen to his talk this morning from the White House Rose Garden, it made no sense to me or my wife as we struggled to grasp some sense of what this man was trying to say. I still don’t know. It was nutty, at best.

“We have tremendous amounts of drugs flowing into our country,” Trump said, without backing it up with a dime of attribution. He also spoke, over and over, about the “billions and billions of dollars” that he has at his disposal, going so far as to say it was a ridiculous amount of money.

After declaring a state of emergency, Trump went on to say, “It is a very good emergency.” Uh, what? Is there ever an emergency that is good? Let’s just say I got in a car crash, my wife just slipped and fell on a wet floor, our fence just got smashed in by heavy winds — how can any of these things be good? A good emergency. What the heck is this man talking about? Oh well. We’ll see, I hope.

I just drove over to Blackburn Street where Watsonville Police shut down the street and ordered a lock-down for Watsonville High School. There was a report from a citizen of a man with a gun so police hit the situation very hard. There were a lot of folks on the streets checking out the situation. “I saw they had their guns out and they meant business,” said a fellow named David at the scene.

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Thursday, Feb. 14:

Tarmo Hannula: Last night was an amazing adventure in weather. I left a window partially open and heard the blast of hail, wind and strong rain thrash our neighborhood over the night. I usually sleep well during windy and rainy nights, but this one took things to another level.

On Wednesday I went out to Paulsen Road where a driver of a pickup plowed through four feet of rainwater and stalled out. That’s when a bunch of firefighters and an ambulance crew and sheriff’s deputies responded. There, they found a man stuck in his truck after he drove around three “Road Closed” signs to set his own course through what Mother Nature had brewing.

That was just the beginning. Several trees smashed to the ground along Westridge Drive near the R-P. At least three vehicles were smothered in the bushy foliage of the downed trees. No one was hurt.

By 2:30 p.m. we were treated to swatches of blue sky. It was a welcoming respite, since rainwater was starting to come though our loading dock door and fill up our back room.

On East Cliff Drive this morning I noticed a huge sheet of sea foam taking over the beach and roadway. I’ve never seen this before. Scores of people were stopping, like me, to take photos and take in the weirdness of the scene. At one moment a young woman walked by me and announced that she was going to create a “foam angel.” And indeed, that’s what she did, lying down in the foam and fanning her arms and legs out to create something like an angel, I guess. Not something I would jump right in and do, but hey, whatever makes you happy.

Our president has announced that he is not backing away from the idea of declaring a national emergency regarding his urgency to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Among other things, that declaration, I’ve learned, gives the president the power to freeze all communications in our country, which means leave your smart phone (if you have one) at home and switch off your computer, if you have one, because it will be useless. Dead. Your bankcard or ATM card will also become useless, if Trump chooses to destroy your access to your bank as well. That means that when your car runs out of gas, wherever you happen to be, on the Green Valley exit, on Main Street, pulling into the hardware store, and you run out of gas, simply turn off your car and start walking from now on in. Your bankcard is now dead. Welcome to Trump’s world, the guy that promised to “make America great again.”

Todd Guild: I just learned that Peggy Triplitt died on Jan. 29.

For those of you who didn’t know her, she was co-owner of the Swingtime Cafe, which once operated at 19 West Lake Ave.

Along with her wife and partner Antonette Wood, and friend Elizabeth Silva, the Swingtime provided free Thanksgiving feasts in Watsonville for anyone who wanted it for many years.

For this past Thanksgiving, they cooked, packed and transported a Thanksgiving feast all the way to Paradise to feed the people affected by the summer wildfires there.

It was my great pleasure to work with Peggy in helping her publicize her free feast events. She was thoughtful, kind and believed with all her heart that feeding the hungry was her calling in life.

Everyone was invited to the events.

Peggy and Antonette spent the days before Thanksgiving making the food for about 1,000 meals, which included turkey and everything that comes with the traditional meal.

“I believe in paying it forward,” she once told me, speaking of the philosophy that if one does something nice for another, that person will in turn do his or her own good deed for someone else.

On another year, she explained, “We do it for the community, and the payoff is huge. It makes you feel great.”

More amazingly, she wanted nothing in return. In fact, she all but insisted on getting nothing in return. They used some of the proceeds from their business, believing that they were repaying the community.

I hope my life, and those of my two young sons, are populated by people like Peggy. My life is better for having met her, and the community is richer for the time she spent here.

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Wednesday, Feb. 13:

Tarmo Hannula: Holy mackerel is it raining or what? The litmus test for me, as far as judging how much it has rained, is my back yard. If it looks like a lake, like it does now, that’s enough evidence that the rain has been plentiful. I was up on my ladder this morning checking the gutters. Since I have a couple of trees in my yard it means leaves and sticks piling up over the year in my gutters. No one warned me about this; I’ve just learned how to deal with the issue, mostly from the evidence of rainwater coming though my bathroom window when the gutter gets plugged up.

My fellow reporter, Johanna Miller, and I visited the Agricultural History Project at the fairgrounds this morning. We met with John Kegebein, who is the man that will, someday, have a towering bronze statue built in his remembrance at the entrance to the fairgrounds. John is, in my mind, a living legend. The man cares so deeply about the history of agriculture and everything about it that it baffles me how he can get it all straight. Today he showed us a manure spreader, a horse-drawn rig that Tom Stickel and crew have been working on over the past few months to restore.

I am frequently amazed at how much work gets done out at the AHP thanks to the work of volunteers.

Johanna Miller: Cruising by the East Lake Village Shopping Center today, I noticed people coming and going inside the former Super Max grocery store building.

The space will eventually become a new location of the Santa Cruz-based Staff of Life Natural Food Market. Currently the store has one location at 1266 Soquel Ave. in Santa Cruz, not far from the Rio Theater.

My family and I once in a while stop by the store when we are in town. While it is rather pricey sometimes, we can occasionally find very good deals. My mom, who is vegetarian, can find plenty of items that suit her and her cooking.

Today I saw a man coming out of the building with a dolly, seemingly moving various objects inside. I’ve also noticed there is a temporary office type building set up right adjacent to the store.

Hopefully soon we will know more about the time frame of this big project.

Where I live in Watsonville, garbage and recycling pickup occurs on Wednesday morning. Signs are posted warning us to not park on our side of the street, since the street sweeper needs to make its way down that section of road.

This morning, two cars were parked on our street when the trucks and sweeper came through. Additionally, the alley that veers off at the end of our dead-end street had been blocked up with numerous vehicles.

The garbage and recycling trucks and the street sweeper all had to make 3-point turns and take alternate routes. Possibly they didn’t even try to empty the bins set out by the people living in the houses on the alley.

We all make mistakes and can be forgettable — just a couple of weeks ago my family realized almost too late that we had left a car on the street and had to run out and move it as fast as possible. I house-sit a lot at locations throughout the county and sometimes it’s hard to remember which night I should be putting out the bins.

Ways to remember? Setting up notifications on your smart phone can help. Just input it as a weekly reminder. You can also hand write it on your wall calendar, or on a bright post-it taped to your fridge.

After all, no one wants a big fine from the city to put a dent in monthly expenses.

For a full Street Sweeping schedule, visit cityofwatsonville.org.

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Tuesday, Feb. 12:

Tarmo Hannula: On the fifth floor of the Santa Cruz County Building I dropped in to the County Supervisors’ meeting this morning. On their hefty list of things to do and cover was their discussion about the Focused Intervention Team program that deals with high-frequency criminal offenders.

They also went into the ongoing and gargantuan issue of homelessness. If you’ve not noticed on your drive through Santa Cruz recently there is a massive homeless camp at the intersection of Highway 1 at River Street next to the Gateway Plaza (Ross Dress for Less, Pet Smart, World Market). It spontaneously sprang up after the city closed the River Street homeless in November. As many as 200 people live there in various makeshift tents and such. The City of Santa Cruz, according to spokesman Jason Hoppin, recently ran into a huge chunk of money to aid their efforts in housing people that live on the edge.

This morning on the TV news I heard them use these terms to describe upcoming weather: Damaging winds, dangerous weather, flash flood alerts, severe weather, accompanied with exclamation points in attention-getting yellow and black. Since I work for the paper and deal with weather stories often, for me, all these desperate terms translate to this: rain. It’s going to rain — that’s all. Maybe toss in a few gusts, a little snow in the hills. Severe? No. It does this every year. Rain is good. We’d perish without it. How would this work as a headline: Dreaded life-giving rain expected?

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Kelly Pleskunas, owner of Kelly's Books in Watsonville, shows copies, in English and Spanish of "El Otro Lado," or "The Other Side." (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

I stopped by Kelly’s Books in Watsonville Square today. Always upbeat and positive, owner Kelly Pleskunas said that while January was a “die on the vine” month, things are picking up. On top of her lengthy section of local authors, like as many as 50, she features the latest and greatest books of the times on top of a rich mix of gift items, including various packets of Donnelley’s Chocolates.

On Feb. 23, Kelly will feature a book-signing event by Suzanne Elliott, co-author of “Letter From Yemen.” A flier for the event reads: “Travel along with Jean Mondon, a 62-year-old English midwife, as she recounts her two-year adventure of living and working for a nonprofit in the Arab Republic of Yemen in the 1980s.”

The event is free and starts at 1 p.m. at 1838 Main St. in Watsonville Square (near Nob Hill). Kelly added that she is running a book special on a book by local author Joaquin Barreto who penned, “The Other Side” (an immigration story) or “El Otro Lado.” She said that anyone who buys the book in either English or Spanish will get a free copy of the same book in the reverse language.

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Luis Diaz fills a tire with air on his 1950 Chevrolet Deluxe Tuesday. He said he plans to restore the four-door as soon as funds become available. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

Erik Chalhoub: Work is moving swiftly on the Highway 129/Carlton Road intersection project.

The project, which got underway in September, is realigning Carlton Road and constructing a new intersection with a left-turn lane on Highway 129.

Between Thompson and Silliman roads, one-way traffic control is in place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. now through Friday.

Caltrans estimates the roadwork will wrap up in the summer, but on a drive through the area today, it looks to me the $2 million project will well exceed that goal. Striping looks complete, and crews were working on some signage, among other things, today.

•••

Monday, Feb. 11:

Tarmo Hannula: On Sunday I covered the 25th annual Peace & Unity March in downtown Watsonville. My “guesstimate” was that there were close to 400 people, from politicians to community members, and — most importantly — family and friends of those that were sent to their graves by gang violence. It was a powerful event, with a host of speakers, including folks like Danny Contreras, who, by his own words, said he got tangled up in gangs but found a window out of the quagmire and has since gone on to be a motivational speaker.

The march, following a long list of speakers in the plaza, headed south on Main Street over the Pajaro River into Pajaro, thanks to help from traffic control by Watsonville Police.

In Pajaro the group met at a tiny sliver of grassy land next to El Nopal Bakery, the area where, 25 years ago, Jessica, 9, and her brother, Jorge Cortez, 16, where gunned down in a high profile gang-related shooting. There, a tree was planted in the name of Jessica and Jorge as their mother, family members and others gathered. Fortunately, the weather held back for the event, offering a window of warming sunlight throughout the march and gatherings.

A small yellow airplane crashed into a field at the Monterey Bay Academy on San Andreas Road Saturday morning. Thanks to the folks at Cal Fire we got a dramatic photo on our web page over the weekend of a CALSTAR air ambulance in the sky above the crazy wreckage. I heard a woman and a man suffered major injuries in the crash. They were flown out to a trauma center in Salinas.

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Construction on the hotel project at the corner of Lee Road at West Beach Street has now moved into the second floor level. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

On Lee Road I noticed the Elite Development project has now climbed into the second story on construction for the slated hotels and retail spots there on the former Indalex aluminum plant at the corner of West Beach Street. It certainly doesn’t take an expert to realize that the weather is playing a huge role in the work out there in that there are huge pools of gathered rainwater around the property.

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The former California Grill and Bar site remains empty in the Freedom Centre. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

In the Freedom Centre in Watsonville Monday I ran into Ari Parker, a sixth grade teacher at Bradley Elementary School and recent winner to a seat on the Watsonville City Council. Always forthright and direct, Ari said she welcomes challenges and looks forward to the rigmarole of city business. Among other things, she said she got a lot of help running her campaign for the city council from her mother, Aurora, who is 95. She said Aurora was born in Pajaro and lived in a home on the 100 block of San Juan Road. She taught in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District for around 50 years, including music instruction, a direction Ari has adopted, among other topics.

I noticed the site of the former California Grill and Bar in Freedom Centre still sits vacant. It’s surprising because the spot in situated on the corner of the center right off of Freedom Boulevard — which I imagine would be an ideal location for any number of businesses.

Today the sky is slightly cloudy and the air is cold. It’s a brief respite from another chain of storms on their way to the Central Coast. Forecasters at the National Weather Service are saying rain could start up Tuesday night and spill into the weekend. On Sunday, from San Andreas Road, I noticed numerous snow-capped mountains. It felt like I was in the Alps. And more snow is supposed to be on the way. Keep the wool cap and scarf handy.

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Weeds and rainwater dominate the property where the former Community School once stood on Airport Boulevard between Loma Prieta Avenue and Airport Road. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

Nothing seems to be happening to the property where the former Community School once stood on Airport Boulevard between Loma Prieta Avenue and Airport Road. A few heavy pieces of equipment sit idle out there alongside pools of collected rainwater and a stretch of weeds.

Todd Guild: On Sunday, hundreds of people marched through the streets of Watsonville in honor of the people who have been killed in violent acts, an event I am certain was also created as a show of unity against those who would commit violent acts.

The Peace and Unity march, now in its 25th year, was created after gang members killed 9-year-old Jessica Cortez and her 16-year-old brother Jorge, who were walking to a nearby panaderia for a snack.

Dozens of names make up the list of those remembered during the event.

The reason for the shooting has never been clear. Some law enforcement officials say Jorge was affiliated with someone who committed a perceived wrong against a rival gang.

But really, in the end, the reasons don’t matter, for this or any of the violence and crime the community suffers at the hands of gang members.

I, for one, chose not to attend the march, opting instead to spend the day with my boys, now 10 and 7. We read books together, engaged a Nerf gun battle and cooked dinner.

To me, these are the important moments; the ones stolen by the same violence that launched the march.

So my way of honoring those lost to violence was to spend time with the people I love most in the world. And to hope desperately that we never experience such loss.

And that none of them ends up on that list.

I went to Yamashita Market on Union Street on Thursday for some Asian cooking supplies, and as always I felt like I was stepping into someone’s home. It is well stocked and understated, with none of the pretensions of chain stores. The proprietors are friendly and helpful, and they offer supplies that one cannot find on this side of the hill.

So glad to have this gem in Watsonville!

Johanna Miller: After conducting an interview in Aptos Friday, my colleague Tarmo Hannula and I went on a drive through the new Aptos Village Project. I've not seen the progress for many weeks and was surprised at how much was going on.

There were a few businesses being advertised as going in soon that we were not aware of. A banner for Sock Shop Santa Cruz and the Penny Ice Creamery were among these — two of my favorite places in Santa Cruz. I’m glad that the shopping center will be including satellite locations of local businesses and not just big box stores.

As previously mentioned, a Cat & Cloud Coffee Co. will open there as well. The shop has locations at the Abbott Square Market and on Portola Drive in Santa Cruz.

Another section of the development will be set aside for the new Mid-County Safety Center. The center will be a hub for multiple agencies, including replacing the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office location that was previously located at the Rancho Del Mar shopping center.

I'm looking forward to seeing what is next to show up at Aptos Village.

•••

For last week's About Town installment, visit register-pajaronian.com/article/about-town-week-of-feb-4

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