It’s like a concrete jungle

Creatures great and small: Maybe it’s the break in the weather and the fact that Bites finally got to leave the old Bitescave for a couple of days to wander around this urban oasis we call Sacramento. Whatever it is, Bites just doesn’t feel like making fun of anybody this week.

After all, when Bites makes fun of people, sometimes other people make fun of Bites, and if there’s anything Bites has learned in the last couple of weeks, it’s that words can hurt.

And after all, people are basically good, right? And among Bites’ favorite people are graffiti artists and guerrilla carpenters. There appears to be a movement among these dedicated new urban hygienists to bring us back to nature. You may have noticed the menagerie of cheerful turtles creeping across our downtown landscape. These larger-than-life spray-painted renditions of those water-loving creatures can be seen everywhere from street signs to Starbucks.

And turtles aren’t the only members of the animal kingdom looking to relocate to concrete pastures. A variety of forest creatures from birds to squirrels have moved into (or onto) the mostly vacant buildings around 10th Street between J and I streets. There, plywood replicas of animals, painted in an alternating palette of phosphorescent red and stark white, have been screwed into the old boarded-up windows. Somebody got a new cordless drill for Christmas, and he or she knows how to use it.

No bull: But despite the appearance of so many cute urban critters, Bites is perplexed by the disappearance of another longtime city beast: the crazy bull sculpture that once kicked and snorted at 16th and K streets, in front of the old state Department of Aging.

You may remember the piece for its garish, wraithlike frame and glowing red eyes, which were so creepy that somebody actually plucked them out a couple of years back.

The state agency has moved on to new digs in the flood plains of North Natomas, and the building has fallen into the hands of a private company. And now the bull has disappeared.

Calls to the property manager weren’t returned. So Bites still doesn’t know if the piece has been returned to the artist or sent to the rendering plant for metallic ruminants, or if it just wandered off under its own evil power. But Bites thinks the psychotic bovine would have a great home in front of Paul Petrovich’s new Rite Aid project on 21st and S streets.

Without a trace: OK, so that was uncalled for. But Bites’ thoughts have taken a sinister turn upon recalling another unsettling downtown disappearance: that of a businessman who helped start the Plum Blossom restaurant on 19th and J streets.

Bites was headed back to the lab and stopped by Plum Blossom for some broccoli and rooster sauce and immediately noticed something was amiss.

Like a lot of downtown eateries, this place posts its newspaper reviews and press mentions near the door. But on this visit, Bites’ attention was drawn to a story that had appeared in The Sacramento Bee around the time the restaurant opened in 2004.

Some not-so-subtle changes had recently been made to the piece, with what appeared to be scissors and white-out. The photo accompanying the story had been doctored to remove one of its occupants. The missing person’s name had been removed from the photo caption as well. And the text of the review had been altered to read, “Another partner, [BLANK], is in charge of managing the place.”

Bites found this a little spooky and, curious about the way the restaurant was trying to forcefully shun the memory of the missing partner, asked a friendly waitress what happened. She seemed a little surprised by the question and then said, “Well, there were differing viewpoints, so …” and then she made a sort of snipping motion in the air with fingers. Bites assumes it wasn’t an amicable parting.