People & Places

Writers’ picks

The weekday morning jokes never seem to stop flowing for Talk 650 KSTE dudes Jack Armstrong (left) and Joe Getty. In addition to the laughs, these guys bring the smarts.

The weekday morning jokes never seem to stop flowing for Talk 650 KSTE dudes Jack Armstrong (left) and Joe Getty. In addition to the laughs, these guys bring the smarts.


Best morning-radio personalities

Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty, Talk 650 KSTE

Every weekday morning, no matter what, Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty can be counted on to remind us what a fun job sounds like. They’ve been at it at KSTE since 1992, but the jokes never seem to stop flowing. What accounts for the longevity of these 650 AM dudes? They bring the funny, plain and simple. They chat up guests and callers—nobody’s off-limits—about everything from local news to sports, politics to whatever the heck. As evidenced by several SN&R staffers who’ve appeared on the show in times past, only to fight for airtime amid charges of working for a “commie newspaper” and publishing “birdcage liner,” Armstrong and Getty turn out to be smart, the real deal, no matter what their political persuasion. These guys enjoy what they do and, hey—we get to enjoy it, too.

Best men behaving badly onstage

Eric Baldwin and Brian Harrower

Normally, we’d prefer to give these awards to men (and women) behaving well, but when it comes to behavior onstage, it’s best to play it as bad as it can get. That’s the case with these two fine actors, who seem to have specialized in playing downright nasty guys. Brian Harrower was a good guy turned bad in Closer at Big Idea Theatre; then he teamed up with a crowd that included Eric Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross (a real bad boys’ play, also at Big Idea), before tackling the baddest badass in the House of York, Richard III (also at Big Idea, where Harrower is in the company). In addition to his turn in Glengarry Glen Ross, Baldwin was a man behaving badly because his heart was broken in Burn This (at his home company, Resurrection Theatre). These guys are so good when they’re bad, you can’t help but love ’em.

Best very short journey into the past


Located about 6 miles east of Plymouth, Fiddletown seems like just a speck on the map. And to be sure, there are no tourist boutiques here, no gimmicky “authentic” bars and no overpriced antique shops. What you do get: a tiny, peaceful town that was established as a mining settlement in approximately 1849. At one point, this gold rush town was home to more Chinese settlers than any other California town outside of San Francisco, and today the still-standing Chew Kee herbal shop is a must-see. The building, a thick-walled adobe, dates back to 1850 and was home to Jimmy Chow, Fiddletown’s last Chinese resident. Today it’s a museum, open every Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., with many of the shop’s original furniture and medical supplies on display. Also worth seeing in Fiddletown: the old Chinese gambling hall, the Fiddletown cemetery and the Chinese general store.

Best place to feel like you’re stepping into a 1970s-era orgy without having to take your clothes off

Deeda Salon

The building Deeda Salon is housed in is beautiful, inside and out, with exposed brick and wooden beams. But let your eyes wander while a stylist ups your beauty quotient, and you’ll see a random phallus here or there. Ask the staff for a tour and history of the building to see the lair that belonged to a professor in the ’70s, and by the looks of it, was some sort of love pad. Case in point: the sunken-in massive tile bathtub with a gorgeous wooden-heart sculpted entrance. Lovely as it may be, one glance inside reveals that it was built to accommodate many individuals at once. After you shake off the shivers from imagining what happened within, admire the handsome loft, which features even more genitalia sculptures in the structure.

1734 34th Street, (916) 456-0600,

Best place to see a UFO

Southside Park

Neon-pink lights combust from the exhaust of a metallic spaceship suspended in midair, while a 3-foot alien peers out from behind a plexiglass door—or so it used to. This was the best place to spot a UFO, until the alien either: a) busted through the door and walked into Midtown; or b) the obvious, he was stolen. Whatever the case may be, Southside Park’s Airstream trailer converted into stellar spaceship sculpture is just one of many highlights this park has to offer. Of course, there are the essentials: swings, slides, outdoor amphitheatre, community pool, tennis and basketball courts, a fishing pond—and one missing alien.

2115 Sixth Street, (916) 808-5200.

Best wildlife exhibit

Sacramento itself

Sure, the Sacramento Zoo in Land Park has the usual amenities for those who love traditional zoos. (Check out the newly born Red River hog piglets, in particular.) But for those who like their wildlife old school and free range, the Sacramento Valley offers the best bestiary. Rampaging pregnant cows? Sacramento has them. Zebras hoofing it in traffic, perhaps heading to the Zebra Club in Midtown? Sure, Sacramento has that as well. Bats downtown and along the Yolo causeway? Check. There are thousands of them. Just keep on the alert, you never know what will be heading toward you on the street, or just when the wild will call.

Best place to have few a laughs while you shop

Deseret Industries

Sacramento is rife with thrift shops filled with both unique treasures and hilarious monstrosities. No thrift store has more of both than Deseret Industries. Run by Mormons, the shop has a disproportionately large amount of Brigham Young University merchandise, as well as all the ugly sweaters one can handle. But there are also a lot of fun T-shirts and plenty of great vintage formal wear for guys. The store is enormous but refreshingly well-organized, and even has dressing rooms that are relatively clean. So if you’re into the thrill of the hunt, grab some friends and head out to Deseret Industries, where looking at all the wrong things can be just as fun as finding the right one.

3000 Auburn Boulevard, (916) 482-1480.

Michelle Steeb, executive director of St. John’s Shelter Program for Women and Children, leads a nonprofit that continues to accomplish the amazing. She’s seen here (second from right, bottom row) with a crew of volunteers and “voluntary learners” at their newly opened Plates Café.


Best nonprofit visionary

Michelle Steeb

St. John’s Shelter Program for Women and Children is a nonprofit that accomplishes the amazing. Its executive director, Michelle Steeb—with her soccer-mom looks and tough-love philosophy—is a big part of why. At a Mothers Tea Party fundraiser the shelter sponsored last spring at the Sheraton Grand, Steeb’s special powers were there for all to behold. Board members (we’re talking women with last names like Tsakopoulos) gave her credit for her achievements, but so did a lineup of mostly African-American homeless women who gave moving testimonials about what St. John’s and Steeb had done for their futures. Last year, Steeb succeeded at cajoling support, training and equipment from some of the region’s best restaurateurs and, two months ago, the shelter opened a business named Plates Café and Catering at the old Army Depot on Fruitridge near Florin. The strategy—to raise funds for the shelter while simultaneously teaching its residents a work ethic and job skills (to be chefs, waiters, line cooks)—is outright brilliant. Not surprisingly, the cafe is being called a grand and early success. Leave it to Steeb.

Best reason to venture into Old Sac


Admit it, visiting Old Sacramento is a chore. There are too many tourists, poor horses forced to parade up and down the streets among cars, and no parking. However, a trip to Evangeline’s shop of all things random will always persuade me to venture into Old Sac. It’s the perfect place for gifts, featuring dirty birthday cards, accessories for hippie wannabes or those with gothic aspirations, sacrilegious stocking stuffers, sex toys, Halloween costumes and party favors for drinkaholic college friends. It’s a jokester’s paradise and a savior for unimaginative gift givers. Best finds: ice-cube shot glasses, as well as joke books for my future father-in-law. Although, I think my future mother-in-law would disagree.

113 K Street in Old Sacramento, (916) 443-2181,

Best city leader to step into the breach

Sacramento Interim City Manager Gus Vina

When former Sacramento City Manager Ray Kerridge made the shocking announcement he’d be stepping down from the town’s top managerial post last March, we knew very little about a man named Gus Vina. Destined to be the fellow who stepped into the vacuum after capable Kerridge departed the field, Vina turned out to be smart, quick and talented. He took the helm and never looked back. Of Cuban descent, Vina’s personal story is a classic one with a narrative that promotes hard work, sacrifice and the essential value of a good education. The man “stepped up,” said Mayor Kevin Johnson, and we’re sure glad he did. Now responsible for a city with a total operating budget of $855 million and a workforce of 4,300, Vina has turned into Sacramento’s go-to man.

Best voice in news broadcasting

Mike TeSelle at KCRA

There are a few requirements that all successful news broadcasters need, the proper voice being one of the most important. Mike TeSelle of KCRA delivers the news with just the right amount of drama and conviction. There’s been record snowfall in the Sierras? Traffic conditions not looking so good toward the Bay Area? A puppy’s fallen down a well? He’ll tell you all about it with his calm and soothing voice leading the way. His voice makes event the most boring news pop and makes watching the news enjoyable.

It’s all vintage and steampunk at Fringe, where a huge storefront window houses a rotation of unusual finds like industrial lights, retro furniture and fanciful mirrors.


Best window display


While the shops on the corner of 21st and X streets deserve an award for livening up the otherwise drab corridor just under the freeway—with the yellow beehive painted facade of Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies, the royal-blue Antique Company, immaculately arranged furniture in the window of Home Style—it’s the eclectic display in the window at Fringe that takes the cake. The huge window houses a rotation of unusual finds, such as massive, gorgeous and industrial lights; gleaming retro furniture pieces; fanciful mirrors; and noteworthy décor and art pieces. And when put all together, it gives a vintage, steampunk vibe that successfully compels the viewer to go inside for closer look.

2409 21st Street, (916) 706-0216,

Best ears

Ira Skinner

If you’ve gone to a concert at all in the last 10 years, you’ve probably heard of Ira Skinner’s work. Skinner ran booking and sound for Club Pow! at The Press Club. Before that, he was at the old Cattle Club. He’s held fort behind mixing boards and set up the stage for almost every significant act to play the TownHouse Lounge over the past three years. And when’s he’s not doing these late-night gigs, he’s freelancing for other live-music venues and shows around the city. On top of that, he records bands and runs Alley Avenue Recording Studios, where local favorites Pets, Chelsea Wolfe and the New Humans have all tracked songs. Oh, and when he’s not running sound for others, he plays live as electronic-rock act Paper Pistols. Thanks, Skinner, for making sure that Sac always sounds good!

Best theatrical breakout year

Benjamin T. Ismail

Holy moly, where did this kid come from? We’ve seen him play a texting-mad teen in Capital Stage’s raving-Willie production of Speech & Debate; spend the holiday as a nice delivery boy who wants to be a star in 1940’s Radio Hour with Artistic Differences; earn a raving-Willie rating as the director of Almost, Maine at Big Idea; star in Deathtrap (also at Big Idea); then put on the tie-dye as the lead singer (and channel the Barenaked Ladies) in a musical version of As You Like It; and finally, back to directing at Big Idea with The Underpants. Oh, and did we mention that he made an outrageously funny video for the Sacramento Area Regional Theatre Alliance? We just want to know when he actually sleeps.

Best place to drink in the state-worker plight

Park Terrace on a downtown roof

Just behind downtown’s Employment Development Department headquarters, the Department of General Services building features a giant park on its roof. Half of this rooftop park is a gravel dirt patch, and the other half is landscaped with flowers and trees. There are also some abstract sculptures, and even a petite elevated auditorium above the O Street light-rail tracks. The park is open all day, but our recommended viewing time is just after 5 o’clock. Watching the state employees leave work in the quiet park, in the leaning shadows of high-rises but just above the emptying streets, evokes an image worthy of the cinema: melancholic and banal. And that dirt patch on state property just screams community garden.

750 N Street.

Best blog from the dead


Before 106.5 FM collapsed into ’90s nostalgia, and back when 94.7 FM was still for smooth-jazz enthusiasts instead of displaced alt fans, deejay Derek Moore had one hour each Sunday night to bring indie music to the FM masses. At the time, Sundays at 7 p.m. on KWOD 106.5 was the only place one could spin the local dial for kewl dispatches from the sonic underground. And there was Moore, periodically breaking in with some salient back story of how an album came to be or where a band got its name. We nearly wrecked our car multiple times trying to scribble down the name of an undiscovered band like Sparklehorse or the Good, the Bad & the Queen, but it was worth it. While Sacramento’s longtime alternative station may have fallen to the BUZZ-saw, Moore keeps the new music fires passionately stoked at his regularly updated blog.

Best sad skimming

Sacramento Craigslist > Personals > Missed Connections

Oh, love, why must thou be so elusive—and dickish? Thank the cybergods, then, for Sacramento Craigslist’s “Missed Connections” page, which offers Travis Bickle-worthy bons mots on the origins, nature and complications of attraction. This is where the locally lovelorn come in the hopes of their rom-com-promised second chances, and where the rest of us indulge in a positively dreary kind of voyeurism. Sometimes sweet (“I can’t get my mind off of you, I look forward to football practice everyday”), sometimes bitter (“My boyfriend is cheating on me and I figured I may as well do the same. So any takers?”), sometimes creepy (“i took your picture today in front of 3rd and U”) and sometimes really creepy (“You were headed towards oncoming traffic and skipping with your dog”), it’s easy to get lost in these impersonal personals. And, hell, maybe you’ll discover someone’s looking for you.


Best place in Sacramento to spend an afternoon with the in-laws?

SN&R’s Facebook friends respond:

“The movies! You’re not supposed to talk during the movie.” —Gia Ramona Moreno

“Fishing on the river with a picnic lunch, including wine, lots of it!” —Debbie Deason Miller

“Delta King!” —David K. Aslanian