People & Places

Writers’ choice

Best worst writer

Jim Guigli of Carmichael
Thank you, Mr. Guigli, for winning San Jose State University’s annual Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest for bad writing this year. Your efforts to blemish Sacramento’s literary reputation haven’t gone unnoticed. The contest, which you entered 64 times, called for a godawful opening sentence. Here’s your winner: “Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you’ve had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.” It hurts on so many levels—and for that, Mr. Guigli, we salute you. Keep up the crappy work!

Best green building in the red

Elk Grove Co-op
We adore co-ops over here at SN&R, so we have nothing but love to offer the new 20,000-square-foot Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op in Elk Grove. Sadly, the store has had a tough time taking root in its second location. Too bad, since it holds firmly to the original co-op’s commendable practice of promoting fresh food and local, organic family farms. Additionally, the long-awaited sister store comes in an all-new, beautiful, green, SMUD-infused package—with its sustainable design, rubber floors, natural lighting, and indirect heating and cooling. Upstairs at the new co-op, visitors literally find an amazing University of Food, where cooperators and non-cooperators alike can avail themselves of some of the best cooking, health and well-being classes in town. Go out and support the new co-op! Elk Grove Marketplace, 8517 Bond Road, (916) 714-7100,

Best online community resource

Yelp Sacramento
Look out, MySpace; there’s a new online community in town, and this one actually provides its members with services—beyond spying on strangers and exes. Yelp ( is a free online city guide, where members can rate various local businesses (think restaurants, retail shops, museums, mechanics and doctors), upload photos, read reviews posted by other members and get directions. As the online community grows, and users post more reviews, the site becomes more comprehensive. As the old adage says, the more the merrier.


Best stylist for the hair incompetent

Denise Harahus
Byüti Salon & Spa, 1414 H Street, (916) 441-2000,

I know I’ve been unfair, Denise. In all the years we’ve been seeing each other, I’ve never offered you a clearer haircut suggestion than “I dunno. Shorter maybe?” I’m clueless about product, I can’t manage regular appointments, and I still haven’t bought a blow-dryer like I promised. I disappear for months, and then I call suddenly, teary from some breakup and needing a hair change now. You always squeeze me in, offer me cucumber water and give me a hairstyle better than anything I could have pictured. Thank you, Denise. Without you, I’d be indistinguishable from Cousin Itt. Speaking of which, my bangs are getting pretty long …

—Becca Costello


Best political battle

John Doolittle vs. Charles Brown, California’s 4th Congressional District
Republican Representative and archconservative John Doolittle has never had so much at stake in an election—and he’s never had such a serious contender. Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Charles Brown is as centrist as Democrats come—and downright conservative on fiscal and security issues. A straight-shooter with an impeccable military record, he leans a bit to the libertarian point of view and has earned enough money to threaten Doolittle’s seat. Even Doolittle’s gerrymandered Republican district may include constituents who have problems with the congressman’s fund-raising practices (15 percent of all money raised goes to his wife’s business). They also might question his close ties to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff; the $52,000 contribution he accepted from Brent Wilkes, a defense contractor and unindicted co-conspirator in the bribery case that sent California Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham to jail; and his insistence that all his actions are just political business as usual. This fall should produce an interesting campaign—unless, of course, the 4th District’s voters are satisfied that they’re getting the representation they paid for. and

Best entrepreneurial couple

Best entrepreneurial couple:<br>Rick and Angela Lavezzo of Team Solar

Photo By Larry Dalton

Rick and Angela Lavezzo of Team Solar
Here’s a Sacramento couple that figured out how to do well for themselves by doing well for the planet. The Lavezzos—with their housing-construction backgrounds—were inspired to start a new business six years ago while vacationing at a solar home in Mexico. Since the inception of Team Solar, the Lavezzos have installed hundreds of residential and commercial solar systems all over Northern California and grown a four-person company into one that employs 27 people full time. Among other recent jobs, Team Solar built solar systems at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System headquarters and at Natomas High School, the largest high-school solar system in the nation. Huzzahs to the Lavezzo family for bringing on the solar. 5013 Roberts Avenue, Suite B, in McClellan; (916) 925-8326;

Best therapy for irrational biking fears

Central Sacramento’s bike lanes
While the brave kids were figuring out how to do wheelies, some of us were still wobbling along on our training wheels. With just the wrong tilt of the head, especially under a giant protective helmet, you could capsize into a gutter. But even given high bike-riding insecurity, something drastic, like $50 tanks of gas, may force us all to confront our fears. And who needs psychotherapy, hypnosis or antidepressants when Sacramento’s got such great bike lanes? Sure, the first time is a little scary, until you realize the lanes are wide enough to accommodate a Miata and flat enough that you can ride four miles to work without breaking a sweat. Even major east-west thoroughfares like N and P streets, which once seemed more frightening than BASE jumping, are a breeze—despite the proliferation of Hummers. Maybe it’s time all of our giant protective helmets got more use.

Best poetry in motion

Crows flying silently over Midtown at dusk
That’s right: silently. Oh sure, crows aren’t known as the most taciturn of birds. But we’ve discovered some who like to fly in whisper mode, migrating home to Midtown roosts in mellow little murders of about four or five, elegantly arrayed against the evening skies, their wings flashing gold when the sun descends to just the right angle, reminding us what grace is still available from simply looking up.

Best place to drop in and tune out

Sacramento Buddhist Meditation Group meetings
Every Sunday night at 7 p.m., 30 to 60 people drop in to the Koyasan Buddhist temple to tune out from their busy lives during a 40-minute meditation period. You don’t have to know a thing about the Zen concept of emptiness or ever have mouthed the sound “Om” to participate. Members come from all sects of Buddhism and from none at all. You don’t even need to know how to meditate—instruction is offered the last Sunday of each month at 6 p.m. 1400 U Street, (916) 320-8947,

Best master of disaster

KXTV News10 reporter Dave Marquis
Whenever there’s a fire or a flood or an earthquake or some other major calamity, Dave Marquis is News10’s go-to guy. A totally fearless newscaster, he prefers his catastrophes up close and personal: flames licking at his heels, levee crumbling beneath his feet or sleet blinding and stinging his eyes. Cameramen have been known to refuse Marquis’ request to get just a little bit closer to the flames or whatnot, handing off the camera to the intrepid if somewhat imprudent reporter, who always gets the shot. A graduate of Rio Americano High School, Marquis honed his chops working at TV stations in the Southwest before landing at KXTV in 1993. He’s won his fair share of awards and is an expert on such cerebral topics as military affairs. For our money, though, Marquis is at his best when he’s in action, flirting with disaster so we won’t have to.

Best place for book nerds to volunteer

The Braille and Talking Book Library
Book nerds looking to spread that literary goodness around should consider a volunteer gig with the Braille and Talking Book Library, a division of the California State Library system. BTBL provides Braille-text and talking books, as well as many other services, to blind, disabled and vision-impaired California readers. BTBL’s downtown center is equipped with two comfy studios just waiting for proficient readers to record books by or about Californians (other topics are generally handled by the National Library for the Blind). 900 N Street, (916) 654-0640,

Best local author

William T. Vollmann
The greater Sacramento area has no shortage of first-rate writers; we might even be a contender for literary capital of the West—if San Francisco didn’t glitter so much. Thrill-mistress (and former legislative consultant) Allison Brennan, sci-fi master Kim Stanley Robinson and romantic stylist Celeste Bradley all are local favorites. But Land Park resident William T. Vollmann is the one most likely to keep our fair city on the literary map. In Vollmann’s exhaustive (meaning detailed and ungodly long) novels and story collections, he trudges down piss-stained alleys and treks across far-flung killing fields, dragging readers along as he uses the grim lives of his subjects to illuminate geopolitics. Yeah, the guy’s a heavy read. His work is thick like dried blood is thick, but note that Europe Central, his most recent, won last year’s National Book Award.

Best bridge to another era

The “Mount Murphy Bridge” in Coloma
Coloma’s Mount Murphy Road Bridge—as it happens, the only bridge in Coloma proper—once was hailed as the first covered bridge in California. Actually, it still can be hailed that way, even if the bridge itself washed away long ago. Happily, it was rebuilt, sans cover, circa 1919. The second version remains a slender one-lane wonder and a persistent, bucolic reminder of our gold-rush glory days. Of course, the best way to appreciate the bridge is from below, gliding comfortably along the placid stretch of the American River’s south fork, which it traverses. Mount Murphy Road in Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park,

Best conservative talk-show host

KFBK’s Tom Sullivan
Believe it or not, back in the day, conservatives were known for their principles. That makes KFBK’s Tom Sullivan something of a dinosaur, since he’s one of the most principled conservatives on the air in Sacramento. Sullivan has the one characteristic missing in conservative talk-show hosts around the country, from Rush Limbaugh to Michael Savage: He’s polite. That doesn’t mean Sullivan will agree with you if you’re a liberal—or a conservative, for that matter. But he won’t beat you over the head with a rubber chicken if he thinks you’re wrong. What’s more, Sullivan isn’t afraid to occasionally go off topic, from foraying into the 9/11 controversy to discussing his own brush with a UFO. KFBK 1530 AM, Monday through Friday from 1p.m. to 4 p.m.,


Best juxtaposition of natural beauty and urban grime

The mimosa tree at F and 29th streets

Feather pink blossoms
Resist dusty fumes, exhaust
Car culture’s assault.

—Kel Munger


Best sanctuary for the caffeinated

Temple Fine Coffee and Tea
If your beat is downtown, and you’re a coffee connoisseur, then you don’t need to be told about Temple, which opened this past November at the old Levinson’s bookstore. You already know that Sean Kohmescher’s coffeehouse serves organic coffee and tea; that every barista has been trained for a month in the fine art of pulling espresso shots; and that when you order, say, a cappuccino, it will be unlike—and better than—any cappuccino in town. The same goes for your daily coffee: They serve a single-origin, grand-cru cup of joe (and unlike some cafes, Temple coffee starts at a reasonable $1.50). So, order an Italian-tradition espresso, meet your friends at the corner-window table and, well, get your fix. 1014 10th Street, (916) 443-4960.

Best architectural style

Sacramento’s historic Craftsman bungalows
Between Midtown’s stucco apartments and grand Victorians lie elegant, understated bungalows of the Craftsman style. Built primarily between 1905 and 1930, Craftsman homes rely on horizontal lines rather than the towering vertical, often having no more than one-and-a-half floors. The greatest concentration of these early-20th-century homes can be found in Boulevard Park, distinguished by their low-pitched roofs and exposed rafters. Many, such as the Cranston-Geary House at 21st and G streets, have been painstakingly preserved by conscientious homeowners, down to details like authentic colors and the striking leaded-glass windows. Information and resources for Craftsman bungalows can be found at a growing number of preservation Web sites dedicated to the style, such as From C Street to I Street, between 16th and 24th streets.

Best hobby for a local television anchor

Sam Shane, writing children’s books
Sam Shane, who anchors the evening news on CBS 13, has covered the big stories: the Los Angeles riots, the Oklahoma City bombing and the capture of the Unabomber. His favorite TV show is 60 Minutes. But his hobby is writing children’s books about a baseball team called the Mudhens. Shane’s buddy, Dan Marso, illustrates the books, and the pair self-publishes, promotes and distributes them. The books promote literacy and teach the intricacies of baseball slang as well as good sportsmanship. Shane and Marso travel to elementary schools to read and draw cartoons with the kids. The first Rocky the Mudhen animated cartoon played in two major-league and a dozen minor-league stadiums during the 2005 baseball season. The latest book, Rocky the Mudhen: Baseball and Humble Pie, even features a song on CD. (No, Shane doesn’t sing, too.)

Best face-lift

Best face-lift:<br>Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

Photo By Larry Dalton

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Originally built in 1889, this enormous, completely updated cathedral reopened in late 2005 after $34 million worth of renovations. Imposing from the outside, it is simply breathtaking on the inside. In the quiet afternoons, visitors sit in the pews and gaze around at the stained-glass biblical scenes and the 2,000-pound crucifixion suspended over the altar. Elaborate, sometimes hand-painted designs cover every single inch of wall and dome space; the cavernous interior is always slightly perfumed; and a font of holy water gently splashes into a pool at the entrance, adding to the sensory overload. 1017 11th Street, (916) 444-3071,

Best private place to view the river

R Street overpass
This also could be called the best place to light up without getting hassled by the Man. If you’re seeking both privacy and a place that’s totally chill, look no farther than the R Street overpass at Front Street on the river. You get an incredible scenic view. Cop a squat, find an opening through the trees and take in the beauty of the water, its glass-like top broken only by gentle breezes. The Zen-like quality increases in the post-Letterman hours, but be safe and go with a friend.

Best way to revitalize K Street

A permanent public market
The notion of a permanent public market in a city center is a no-brainer to those of us who’ve been to Florence or Paris—or even Seattle, where Pike Place Market attracts 10 million visitors a year with its “200 year-round commercial businesses; 190 craftspeople and 120 farmers who rent table space by the day; 240 street performers and musicians; and 300 apartment units.” Seriously, you’d think city officials would embrace this, considering Sacramento’s reputation in the ag industry. Dan Best, with California’s Certified Farmers’ Markets, said it’s something his organization’s brought up with the mayor. Permanent vendors—like a leather-goods store, newsstand, florist or bakery—joined by stands for farm-fresh produce, coffee, clothing and other locally made items would do far more for the neighborhood around the K Street Mall than an arena or additional movie screens would.