People & Places

Writers’ choice

“Oak Park Neighborhood,” <br>“I aspire to create vibrant images of Oak Park that reveal a positive perspective, focusing on the hidden beauty and unseen charm woven into the design of Sacramento’s first established suburb,” the artist said.

“Oak Park Neighborhood,”
“I aspire to create vibrant images of Oak Park that reveal a positive perspective, focusing on the hidden beauty and unseen charm woven into the design of Sacramento’s first established suburb,” the artist said.

Illustration By Patris

Best runaway to make a monkey out of school administrators

“Drano” This award goes to the little simian who went missing from a University of California, Davis, primate center right as the public-relations blitz from that institution went into overdrive trying to convince locals that no virus could possibly escape from the university’s proposed level-4 biolab. Uh oh. The missing monkey—dubbed “Drano” by biolab opponents—made national headlines. After all, if a monkey could escape a UC Davis lab, why couldn’t a deadly microbe?

Best school-board member

Manny Hernandez
Loyally researching even the most hastily tossed accusations from his constituents; locking horns, respectfully, with school-board members determined to push through risky policy; and engaging tirelessly in passionate debates stretching into the wee hours of countless mornings, Manny Hernandez was the only long-term Sacramento City Unified School District board member who patiently considered every angle in the now infamous debate about the closure of Sacramento High School and voted to keep it open. His side didn’t win, but Hernandez himself won our admiration.
(916) 395-1430.

Best bureaucrat

Ernie Hawkins
The only local government official we know to chide his own employees for not giving enough information to the media, the recently retired Sacramento County registrar of voters certainly will be missed at SN&R. Hawkins’ accessibility and candor were refreshing in this era of diminishing government transparency and grumpy bureaucrats. He didn’t pay lip service to the principle that government works best when the public knows the most; he practiced it. The heads of a few other government agencies around Sacramento could learn a thing or two about democracy, and decency, from Hawkins and his example.

Best place to get lost

The Delta, at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers
New Jersey has its Pine Barrens, and South Dakota has its Badlands. In California, the strangest place that mystifies even longtime locals has to be the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, a 1,600-square-mile area south of Sacramento that extends into four counties. The Delta has more than 1,000 miles of sloughs and rivers that isolate its 57 islands from the rest of the state; its mysteries provide the staging ground for the pirate fantasies of pre-dolescents who grow up close enough to it to feel its pull, and provide ample cover for adult fantasies, felonies and misdemeanors later on.
Drive south on Highway 160 or, better yet, take your boat or find someone who has one.

Best thing to happen to Capitol Park since the Vietnam War Memorial

The California State Capitol World Peace Rose Garden
Covering almost half an acre with blooms, fallen petals and verses penned by grade-school girls about what peace feels like—“moonlight following you everywhere”—the World Peace Rose Garden is a living rhapsody to a future without war. Victorian and precious, the white-painted roses cast into trellised arches, the heart-shaped wall and the stately gazebo all were donated, as the signs say, to “women, children and families.” It’s not a manly place in general, but even men may find some peace there.
Capitol Park, 10th and L streets, (800) 205-1223.

Best place not to locate a biolab

University of California, Davis, Equestrian Center
If Provost Virginia Hinshaw and company do manage to ram their maximum-security biolab down the community’s throat, it will be situated on land that currently houses the university’s equestrian center. Yeah, we know, the horses can move elsewhere. But hey, they were there first. If you learned to ride, took trail tours or otherwise spent quality time at these facilities—which include three barns with 29 stalls, 36 semi-covered paddocks, six horse pastures, three sand arenas, a cross-country course, a dressage court, a large grass riding field, two turnout areas and a round pen—you’d know there’s a definite spirit of place that will be missed. It’s worth at least a few visits before that parade of anthratic monkeys comes to town.
Equestrian Lane off Garrod Drive in Davis, (530) 752-2372.

Best argument for being here now

University of California, Davis, Professor Rob Thayer’s new book on bioregionalism
A longtime University of California, Davis, landscape-architecture professor and leader in the national “bioregionalism” movement, Rob Thayer Jr. has just written a book—LifePlace: Bioregional Thought and Practice—that urges us to do nothing less than discover “Where We Really Are” in the world on a natural basis instead of a politically defined one (i.e., city, county, district or country). Bioregionalism—and its laudable effort to get people living fully in their present natural environment—is promoted in Thayer’s book as an antidote to stressful modern life. The book mindfully explores the bioregion of the Sacramento Valley: what it can tell us about our place, our time and ourselves. Read it and be it.

Subterranean building

Photo By Larry Dalton

Best peace activist disguised as a great-grandmother

Ruth Hultgren
This activist turned author just self-published an Erma Bombeck-style memoir, Looking into the Rearview Mirror, full of rants, verses, poems and vignettes collected throughout her 30 years in Sacramento. A longtime leader in the anti-nuclear, peace-activist scene in Sacramento—especially during the Cold War—Hultgren was involved with the local Sane/Freeze (now Peace Action) organization building local awareness about the unfathomable dangers of nuclear war. Hultgren, who taught nursery school for 10 years, was ever devoted to her late husband, Wayne (the man ultimately responsible for organizing the campaign that brought a light rail to River City). Hultgren’s new book reports that she’s still “singing, dancing, swimming, protesting, regaling” … and now writing.

Best schizophrenic magazine ad

Tahra Singh
For those people struggling to find themselves, and a viable career, why not try blending the seemingly opposite? Tahra Singh, who wears a turban and looks like a bearded yogi, has combined spiritualism with, of all things, real-estate sales. “Whether you are looking for a personal sanctuary or an investment property, I can help,” he states in a holistic-health magazine. He can get you in touch with yourself or get you in touch with land developers. He practices real-estate sales “with a respect for the sacredness of life.” He will help you with your dreams and is “available for consultation and aerial photography.”
Share Guide, July/August 2003.

Best site for an urban picnic

The Employment Development Department’s subterranean building
Folks refer to the complex at 750 N Street as the “subterranean building.” It’s a fitting moniker. Much of the multiple-level building, built in 1983 and used by the Employment Development Department, is below ground level. But even the floors that extend above the street are subterranean in that they lie under a lovely little rooftop park. At the top of several staircases leading up from the street is an unusual scene: a calm plateau from which to admire neighboring skyscrapers. One half of the rooftop is covered with dirt. The other side has been completely landscaped, with grass, a number of trees, a small amphitheater, a few sculptures and even a drinking fountain. The rooftop is open to the public for daytime use, but you’d better check it out pretty soon. The building is scheduled to be replaced, probably by a high-rise, within the next few years.
750 N Street.

Best politicians to pass a law to try stopping a protest

Sacramento City Councilmembers
Paranoia struck deep within city officials in the weeks before the international agricultural conference arrived in Sacramento in June. Councilmembers had witnessed what happened when protests turned volatile in Seattle and Oakland, and they didn’t want the same to happen here. It was time to protect property and quell civil unrest! First Amendment be damned. So, on June 17, councilmembers helped police justify bringing martial law down on the capital city by passing Emergency Ordinance No. 2003-026, which instructed demonstrators about what they could and couldn’t carry (plastic water bottles, yes; glass ones, NO!) and what size their signs and placards could be legally (no greater than one-quarter inch in thickness). Most famously, the ordinance admonished protesters not to carry or wear gas masks or filters of any sort. Can you say “unconstitutional”? We hope the mostly peaceful protests that ensued and the millions of dollars wasted on those legions of storm troopers stationed all over downtown taught everyone a lesson. Councilmembers, repeat after us: “I will not overreact. I will not overreact.”

Best Bee mug shot

R.E. “Bob” Graswich
Those little endearing headshots plugged into a columnist’s text should be postage-stamp-sized works of art, but tragically, most Bee mug shots fall way short. Dan Weintraub’s looks too eager-beaver, like a teacher’s pet with his hand raised, saying, “Teacher, teacher, I know about the state education master plan!” Sports scribe Ailene Voisin’s pic doesn’t do her courageous Kings-bashing justice. Diana Griego Erwin, the earnest soccer mom, needs to ditch the 1990s air hair, and Marjie Lundstrom may care about every living creature, but it’s not translating in the mug, which needs angelic lighting or something. That’s why the best headshot belongs to R.E. Graswich, the former sportswriter whose so-last-year Hawaiian shirts scream, “Time to party!” Mixed in with all the fawning items about heroic cops are some juicy ones that show how B1 Bob can beat his Bee colleagues, when he works. And from now on, the Esquire Grill forever will be known as the place where Chris Webber reduced lingerie model Tyra Banks to tears, thanks to Graswich’s groundbreaking item on the subject. Maybe Weintraub or, better yet, Dan Walters, can raid Bob’s wardrobe and lighten up.

Best poet

Jose Montoya
Sacramento’s newest poet laureate, Jose Montoya, takes this category in a heartbeat. The man is the creativity czar of Sacramento. A retired university professor, poet, artist, muralist, performer and one of California’s most recognized Chicano activists, Montoya has published four books of poetry and is at work on a fifth, How I Came to America. His poems also have been included in more than 40 anthologies. A crucial collaborator with Cesar Chavez during the heyday of the United Farm Workers movement, Montoya co-founded the Royal Chicano Air Force—a 1970s collective of bold Chicano artists who created infamous poster art and murals—and later founded the California State University, Sacramento, Barrio Arts program. As if all that weren’t enough, he is also a performing musician. Montoya’s life is a celebration of art … and the art of change.

Best Sacramento icon

The Tower-named businesses at 16th Street and Broadway
Flint, Mich., had General Motors; Sacramento had Tower. It was in the shadows of the landmark Tower Theatre that Russ Solomon began selling records out of his dad’s drugstore. From its modest 1960 debut, Tower Records grew into a world-renowned retail chain whose longstanding commitment to a deep catalog and a diverse selection ultimately fell victim to an era of big-box retailers, corporate conglomeration and online trading. Still, the corner of Broadway and 16th Street stands as a reminder that Sacramento was, in a sense, a company town (even though the company itself was headquartered in West Sacramento). The instantly recognizable façade of the Tower Theatre still rises above the Tower Café and (let’s not forget) the nearby Tower Liquor, none of which actually shares ownership with the Tower Records, Tower Videos and Tower Books outlets just across the street. Whatever the fate of the troubled retail chain, this landmark corner, as it comes into view from the freeway, will continue to remind us of a uniquely Sacramento phenomenon that went on to make it big.
16th Street and Broadway.

Best psychic

Saireh Woods
A self-described “spiritual intuitive counselor,” Woods’ stated mission is to help people understand their life’s emotional patterns, major life purposes and past-life connections. Woods got her start in the psychic profession when her husband died of a heart attack, and she discovered that death was merely a letting go of the body and that “if one doesn’t fear death, one can live without limitation.” A clairvoyant channeler and licensed minister for Sacramento’s Church of Enthusiasm and Joy, Woods also has been involved in the local theater scene. For Sacramento Theater Company productions, she has played Anna in The King and I and Eleanor in The Lion in Winter. The highest compliment given her: Woods has been lauded as a favorite by the metaphysical folks at East West Books.
(916) 487-9890,

Tahoe Park

Photo By Jill Wagner

Best actor to play Governor Gray Davis

Kevin Costner
OK, so this movie probably will never be made—if there’s a biopic in this mess, it’s probably going to be Arnold’s. We see Davis’ famous now-white helmet of hair easily duplicated in Hollywood. But Costner would have to stay out of the sun, because his manly tan is a far cry from Davis’ more indoorsy hue. Nonetheless, he’s the one star who can match our currently embattled governor when it comes to taking an apparently unending barrage of criticism and second-guessing while maintaining a laconic absence of charisma. But Costner’s experience at surviving big-budget disasters should be useful, also.

Best park for coffee addicts

Fremont Park
When Starbucks moved in right across the street, some folks in the neighborhood figured Cup-a-Joe, the “local caffeine dealer,” was a goner. But thanks to innovation (curbside service for morning commuters) and attention to detail (treats for the neighborhood dogs), Cup-a-Joe has managed to survive not only Starbucks but also the Naked Lounge, an upscale Chico enterprise that’s expanded with a location here. And all of this means that Fremont Park, a tiny square bordered by 15th, 16th, P and Q streets, is now surrounded by three competing coffee concessions. And to think, a few years ago, the only thing nearby was that pesky community garden.
1515 Q Street.

Best alternative to mowing the lawn

Casa Bamboo
On either side of the path, shoots of bamboo stretch up to 30 feet, even higher. A rustling can be heard overhead. Sometimes it’s the wind pushing through leaves; other times, it’s birds roosting in the sturdy stalks. For a moment, it seems as if you’ve stepped into some far-flung corner of Asia. Then a car whizzes by, and it’s clear you’re just a few blocks removed from Arden Way. This is the scene at Casa Bamboo, a private residence so named because of a tall grove of bamboo growing in place of a front lawn. Betty Byrd, the home’s owner for two years, has traced the bamboo’s existence back as far as the 1970s as evidenced by names and initials carved into the stalks through the years. Despite the occasional theft—bamboo gets swiped from the corner of the yard, presumably by adventurous cooks—it’s a landscape that requires little maintenance: Just add water and watch it grow.
1524 Hesket Way.

Best historic neighborhood

Boulevard Park
Lots of Sacramento neighborhoods show a little pride around the holidays with extra white lights and yard Santas on the porches of their colonial homes and antebellum-style mansions. But Boulevard Park shows off its pride and its distinct California style all year. For 25 years, the Boulevard Park Neighborhood Association has worked with the city to protect the historic character of the small neighborhood bordered by C, I, 16th and 24th streets. The street signs feature a small horse and buggy to remind visitors of the neighborhood’s long-gone racetrack. Wide swaths of park run down the middle of streets, giving residents extra room for more mature trees and picnicking. Homes have been carefully restored following the ideals of Frank Lloyd Wright and other stars of the arts-and-crafts style, and, as one historian noted, most of the neighborhood’s original 100-year-old beauties are still standing.

Best hair on the air

Tina Macuha, UPN 31 KMAX
This one’s tough. Local on-air personalities have everything from helmet-head to out-of-date to just-too-trendy-for-words. News10’s Jennifer Smith has some nice highlights, and Cristina Mendonsa is always looking good. Over on Channel 3, where hair obviously doesn’t come first, Lois Hart was looking just a tad shaggy during the summer, while Dave Walker was having one bad hair day after another. Does anybody even watch KOVR? The real contenders in this category are at KMAX, though we have to leave the boys out of it, especially because some of them seem to be losing a few locks. Both Abbott Dutton and Tina Macuha have shiny, natural-looking and well-tended tresses. Though it’s only by a—well, hair—the “Best hair on the air” nod goes to Macuha, whose lovely and simply stylish dark hair is nicely highlighted by the studio lighting.
KMAX’s Good Day, Sacramento!

Best father-daughter welcome committee

Victor and Svetlana Tikhomirov
We’ve seen firsthand the difference made by Victor and Svetlana Tikhomirov as case managers with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the nonprofit organization that was founded by Albert Einstein in 1933 to help refugees resettle in the United States. This father-daughter duo arranges housing, English lessons, medical appointments, job training and anything else needed to assist families in their acclimation to American life. Victor helped establish the IRC’s Sacramento operation 13 years ago, and Svetlana worked as a volunteer with the agency until she was hired as a case manager. The Tikhomirovs, who came to the United States from Moldova in 1988, handle about 400 cases per year. They’ve helped others from 35 countries—including Afghanistan, Vietnam, Liberia and Ukraine—to make a fresh start.
3807 Pasadena Avenue, Suite 220/230; (916) 482-0120.

Best overlooked shady neighborhood

Tahoe Park
When you think of areas loaded with trees, of bright green canopies arching over our streets and sidewalks, you probably think of Land Park, old Fair Oaks or Elmhurst. But in a study done by the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to determine the percentage of tree cover in selected Sacramento neighborhoods, Tahoe Park came out on top for cooling shade. According to the study, 23.5 percent of the neighborhood bordered by Highway 50, 21st Avenue, 65th Street and Stockton Boulevard has tree cover. (Compare that with 14.5 percent of the Jack Davis Park area or the dismal 1.5 percent of the town of Elk Grove.) The shade in Tahoe Park comes mostly from hackberries, zelkovas and Modesto ashes, though there also are a number of Chinese elms, Chinese pistaches, London planes, and scarlett and red oaks in the neighborhood. And the area’s only going to get shadier; just this month, the Tahoe Park Neighborhood Association conducted two events to educate residents about tree-planting programs.

Best Sacramentan on the run

Helen Klein
Helen Klein may have retired from nursing, but the great-grandmother hasn’t slowed down. Last December, at the age of 80, the Rancho Cordova resident broke the world record for her age group by finishing the 26-mile California International Marathon in four hours, 31 minutes and 32 seconds. The former smoker didn’t start running until the age of 55, but, since then, she’s completed some 200 marathons, ultramarathons and adventure races. Her participation in 1995’s 370-mile Eco-Challenge required Klein to, among other things, scale a 1,250-foot canyon wall in southern Utah. She’s finished the Ironman Triathlon and completed ultrarunning’s Grand Slam, four 100-mile races in a single season. As a coach—along with her husband, Norm—of Team Diabetes, Klein has helped raise money for the American Diabetes Association and has trained diabetic runners for marathons. She also visits retirement communities and schools as a motivational speaker sharing her secrets for physical and mental health. Disciplined and determined, Klein has said she “would rather wear out than rust out.” Neither seems likely to occur anytime soon.