People & Places
Best hard-nosed reporter with a placard in the governor’s press-briefing room
The first time we encountered the Oakland Tribune’s Capitol bureau chief, he walked into a press-briefing room in the Capitol and unpacked a 12-inch stack of documents. He had with him printed comments from a high-ranking FBI official and two thick reports from the U.S. General Accounting Office. Though the press conference was called to celebrate bills that would tax cigarettes to benefit feel-good causes such as health programs for poor children, Geissinger wanted to ask about how higher cigarette taxes were helping to fund terrorism. Yep, terrorism. This is a guy who deserves a Doonesbury caricature modeled after him. Geissinger’s stories appear in newspapers across the state, including the Los Angeles Daily News, and often pop up on the Sacramento-based political news digest Rough & Tumble (at www.rtumble.com). Other papers, including The Sacramento Bee, scurry to play catch-up on his scoops. Geissinger consistently writes about topics the average guy really cares about—cigarettes, road conditions and the new multi-state lottery—when every other reporter in Sacramento is chasing Arnold’s most recent muscle ripple. It’s good to have someone like him with Capitol press credentials. www.oaklandtribune.com.
Best example of American Arts and Crafts-style architecture
The John T. Greene House designed by Greene & Greene
In 1894, Charles and Henry Greene founded the architecture firm Greene & Greene in Pasadena. Twelve years later, the Greene brothers were commissioned by David and Mary Gamble (of Procter and Gamble) to construct a residential home—which later would be known as the Gamble House (and a National Historic Landmark)—in Pasadena. Then, in 1915, Sacramento-based developer John Thomas Greene (no relation to the architects) called upon the brothers to create a home for him and his wife, Alvene. The home, which is located across from McKinley Park on H Street, is a prime example of American Arts and Crafts-style architecture. Next time you’re jogging around the park, take a moment to appreciate the home’s wide, overhanging eaves; Japanese-inspired roof; exposed structural beams; and earthy tones. 3200 H Street.
Best church for music
Spiritual Life Center
There’s something about naming one church or religion the “best” that seems inherently wrong—if not the root of much of the world’s suffering. So, with the understanding that all churches have their divine purpose, let’s pause to acknowledge that the Spiritual Life Center’s (SLC’s) music ministry is purposefully divine. Led by the Rev. Richard Burdick, SLC’s music ministry can shrink to a quartet of quiet vocalists for a candlelit Taizé service or swell to a choir more than 50 people strong. At Sunday services, the SLC band performs traditional spiritual songs alongside upbeat music by artists like George Harrison, Louis Armstrong and even Kelly Clarkson, imbuing those contemporary selections with the church’s message of love and unity. Frequent musical guests—one Sunday it’s an Islamic teen rapper, and another it’s soul diva Sista Monica Parker—express the Unity church’s commitment to diversity while giving everyone something to sing about. Sunday services are held at 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at Pioneer Congregational Church, 2700 L Street, (916) 448-6508, www.spirituallifecenter.org.
Best place to eavesdrop on political deal making (traveling to 1945)
I wanted to get away from this plasticky era during which the Capitol’s political staffers gather at the corporate Pyramid Alehouse, and legislators hold fund-raisers at the Paragary clan’s Esquire Grill. I wanted to get back to the time when politicos weren’t afraid to drive a few blocks, and the places they went were mom-and-pop-style restaurants. I spun the hyperspace dial to 1945, when John Rivera would have been tending bar at his now-venerable Club Pheasant over the river in West Sacramento, and his mother-in-law, Louisa Palamidessa, would have been in the kitchen putting together some chicken cacciatore. As soon as this place opened, it became a magnet not only for family celebrations, but also for backroom political deals. Rivera often overheard, but he never repeated. Unfortunately, this time-warp contraption shot me back too far. I’m at the building where Club Pheasant will stand, all right, but from the cars parked on the street, I’m guessing it’s two decades earlier, and from the noise, I gather the original brothel and speak-easy are still in business. Ah, well, when in Rome. 2525 Jefferson Boulevard, (916) 371-9530.
Best-loved name on death row
Ellen Eggers went to law school for all the right reasons. A post-college stint organizing boycotts for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers of America in Los Angeles lit a fire in her. In 1990, with many years in labor law but no criminal-law experience, Eggers accepted a job with the state public defender’s office and started representing people on death row. Until then, she had given little thought to the death penalty. “Only a small percentage of people end up on death row,” she said, “and they are always the poor, the powerless and often the mentally ill. I knew I would probably save very few, if any, of my clients’ lives unless I worked to end the death penalty.” Abolition became Eggers’ life mission. Eggers arranges for local high-school students to meet death-row inmates; organizes an annual anti-death-penalty essay contest for junior-high and high-school students; works with others to establish events such as the annual demonstrations against the death penalty at the state Capitol; and speaks tirelessly at churches, schools and conferences. “The death penalty does not make society safer, it is not a deterrent, and it does not provide healing for the families of victims,” Eggers maintains. “It does not serve society in any way.” We’re glad that Eggers does.
Best drag king
Yes, the teenyboppers scream for the oh-so-cute boy beauty of G-Luv and Jason Shark, the “don’t-label-me-gay-or-straight” girls swoon over Valentino Pantelloni, and the angst-filled get their emo fix from Stiff Bizkit. But, frankly, the king who exudes the most macho power is Mr. Hot Stuff himself, the urbane urban dude Buck Naked. Whether he’s presenting his thug-life persona or playing the sharp-dressed man in his tailored suit, it’s easy for us to forget he’s really a she when the room warms up and Buck starts stripping down to the strains of “It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here.” We all felt our temperatures rising when Buck ended up in his bejeweled red boxer shorts at the Sacramento Kings of Drag performance last July. www.kingsofdrag.com for information about upcoming Sacramento Kings of Drag shows.
Best street for a one-hour promotion blitz
J Street, between 10th Street and Alhambra Boulevard
For many creative people, the business side of things is little more than an afterthought. The dense world of taxes and contracts doesn’t always figure into rock-star fantasies or dreams of turning the art world on its head. Even promotion can be an uncomfortable challenge, which is why a lot of performers leave fliering to a street team or put it off until the very last minute. Of course, any promotion is better than no promotion at all—even devoting a single hour to it can help. And J Street makes it easy, with at least a dozen spots acting as boosters of local culture. If it’s summertime, start at Cesar Chavez Plaza during a farmers’ market or Friday Concert in the Park. Visit The Beat, The Bread Store and then Tone Vendor. Before you know it, you’ll have unloaded an armload of fliers and several posters, and you’ll still have SN&R’s front desk, Atmosphere, 23 Lounge, Beach Hut Deli, Sugar Shack, Art Ellis, Lily New York, Cuffs Urban Apparel, Her, DV8, University Arts and the Fifth String to visit.
Best Arnold protesters
The California Nurses Association
A number of organizations have been anti-Arnold from day one, but by far the most persistent and creative protesters of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s agenda are the members of the California Nurses Association (CNA). The CNA has participated in more than 90 different organized protests and even has gone so far as to thwart Arnold’s plan to attend an after-hours Oscar party by showing up to protest at the front door. He can call them names, but he can’t escape their wrath. 1107 Ninth Street, No. 900; www.calnurses.org.
Best local fashion designer
Vibrant colors, bold patterns and flowing fabrics—it was all part of Richard Hallmarq’s spring/summer 2006 collection, which debuted at San Francisco Fashion Week in late August. The clothing line, aptly titled Panamanian Summer, consisted of simple yet strikingly beautiful pieces inspired by Hallmarq’s Panamanian heritage. Not only is this Sacramento-based designer responsible for turning out elegant apparel; he’s also one of the founding members of the Sacramento Apparel Coalition, the creative team behind Sacramento’s very own Fashion Weekend. Find Hallmarq’s wares at Franco Ferrini Apparel (in Sacramento and El Dorado Hills) and at Senses (located at 1903 1/2 Capitol Avenue). www.richardhallmarq.com.
Best commingling of the past and the future
Broadway, near the Stockton Boulevard intersection
Driving downtown from Oak Park on Broadway, you can’t miss the hulking grocery store on the corner at Stockton Boulevard. The 61,775-square-foot Food Source and its neighbors, Walgreens and Hollywood Video, pull in hundreds of customers daily. But, unless you’re looking for it, you’re likely to pass right by Old Timers Barber Shop, the tiny one-room building facing Broadway with a faded barber pole painted out front. The disused shop now contains only a few dusty chairs, an old coat rack, a couple of barber stations and sinks, and a list of cuts and prices from 1991. But side by side with the grocery giant, the small former business takes on a larger import. It seems defiant, clinging to its small piece of real estate in the face of large-scale commercialism. And its condition, when seen against bright red brick and green neon, evokes the odd feeling of two distinct eras of Oak Park existing simultaneously on a single street corner. Editor’s note: As we went to press with our Best of Sacramento issue, Old Timers Barber Shop reopened after being closed for about a year. The shop is now open Monday through Saturday. Call (916) 451-8924 for hours and more information.
Best local scandal
Margaret De Barraicua
In February, when McClatchy High School teaching intern Margaret De Barraicua was found behind the steamy windows of her Nissan Maxima, having sex with a 16-year-old male student of hers, we here at SN&R scooted to the edge of our collective seat, crossing our fingers that the big media spotlight would shine on our fair town the way it did on suburban Seattle during the famed hot-for-teacher story of Mary Kay Letourneau (who later married the student she went to prison for raping). Our local story looked juicier—De Barraicua’s 2-year-old kid was in a car seat in the back, witnessing the scene. And the student was enrolled in a special-education program. But despite the fact that 30-year-old De Barraicua, a California State University, Sacramento, student, was charged with four felony counts for having sex with the underage boy, there was no media frenzy. We rarely saw De Barraicua’s mug shot, with her dramatic eyebrows, even on local TV news reports. Unfortunately, the story won’t even unravel in Sacramento County Superior Court, because De Barraicua pleaded guilty earlier this month to four felony crimes. She’s scheduled to be sentenced November 18.
Best evidence of porch-sitting’s revival among the younger set
The 2700 block of E Street
Frank Puchalski and Danny Kataszek aren’t much for watching television. “Why would anyone watch TV, when they can listen to music and watch this?” Kataszek said from his porch, gesturing broadly to the street below. “This is my TV screen.” Puchalski and Kataszek know which cars “belong” in the neighborhood and which are visiting. They can set their watches by a local running club that jogs by each evening. They know the names of the local pets and their owners. The pair are kind of a cross between a laid-back neighborhood watch and Bewitched‘s Gladys Kravitz, without the busybody end of the action. While just as content to spend time by themselves, Kataszek and Puchalski don’t lack for company on the porch. This year, water misters were added, making the porch even more attractive on hot summer evenings. But the revival of the porch culture for this pair of 26-year-olds and their varied group of friends seems to lie in its non-threatening yet binding social rituals. There’s something about sitting on a porch that stimulates both conversation and contemplation. Issues of the day are dissected, debated and discussed, as are sports. The two men one-up each other, interrupt each other and talk over each other. And there’s a lot of laughter and good-natured banter.
Best public-health official (traveling to 1918)
Dr. W. J. Hanna, Sacramento health officer
In the face of epidemic infections of influenza—more than 400 people per day came down with the “Spanish flu” in the fall of 1918—Dr. W. J. Hanna, Sacramento’s city health officer, issued guidelines that included fines for failure to wear a gauze mask covering the mouth and nose while in public. Many complained about wearing the masks, including the visiting mayor of Oakland, who was arrested and fined $5 for neglecting to cover his face in the lobby of a local hotel. But most Sacramentans understood that Hanna was simply taking the most scientifically sound approach to fighting this deadly communicable disease. It was certainly a better option than some of the “pine-tar honey” patent cures offered in local pharmacies and far better than doing nothing at all.
There are a lot of bartenders in this city, but not many of them can recall your name after a single meeting. Art Rodriguez (of Old Ironsides) not only remembers your name but also knows your drink of choice. Rodriguez began his tenure with Old Ironsides at the Bottle Shop, an Old Ironsides-owned liquor store that stood where the bathrooms currently stand. That was 22 years ago. Nowadays, you can find Rodriguez pouring drinks behind the bar from 6 p.m. to closing Tuesday through Saturday. Stop by and raise a glass in his honor. Cheers! 1901 10th Street, (916) 443-9751, www.theoldironsides.com.
Best public-health official
Dr. Glennah Trochet, Sacramento County public-health officer
It’s a tough job that requires both the mind of a scientist and the social skills of a diplomat. When a new threat to public health crops up, as West Nile Virus has in recent years, it’s the public-health officer who takes responsibility for mitigating the risk. Dr. Glennah Trochet, by all accounts a quiet person who prefers to stay out of the limelight, has been cool and confident as she soothes public fears over the aerial pesticide spraying meant to kill virus-bearing mosquitoes in the county. Although most people never gave West Nile much thought until this summer, Trochet and other officials have spent the past two years planning for the inevitable spread of the virus into the area’s mosquito population. Protecting the public health is a difficult task under the best of circumstances; Trochet’s “grace under fire” is noteworthy. (916) 875-5881, www.sacdhhs.com.
Best political battle
The fight to be dubbed the “Anti-Arnold”
Once it became clear that the Governator’s armor of Hollywood glitz could be chinked, a host of politicos took to the offensive, aiming to be the one warrior credited with Arnold’s downfall. With the fiery John Burton gone from the Senate, Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez stepped up to the plate, holding weekly press briefings, recording radio addresses and allowing the members of his press shop to fire volleys of Conan criticisms out into the media masses. Burton’s replacement as Senate pro tem, Don Perata, also took a few swings of the ax despite being bogged down by his own FBI investigation. Of course, we can’t forget state Treasurer Phil Angelides, whose gubernatorial goals goaded him to contradict Schwarzenegger promptly and uniformly beginning the day after the governor’s inauguration in 2003. Even Democratic political consultant Gale Kaufman was awarded the “anti-Arnold” tag by this city’s daily news rag. Far more than one person is responsible for the governor’s low, low, low approval ratings.
Best place for free (well, taxpayer-funded) AC
Robert T. Matsui United States Courthouse
We all know the summertime drill: The temperature rises, the air-conditioning unit flips on, and the electricity bill skyrockets. Our advice: Let the feds foot the bill. The 16-story federal courthouse downtown is the best place to pilfer cooled air. Inside, there’s public art, a cafeteria, thousands of court cases to read through and even a shoeshine guy endorsed by slick-shoed G-men. Much of the drama of courtroom television shows comes from buildings like these, where real cases of extortion, money laundering, domestic terrorism and fraud play out everyday. Plus, as a taxpayer, you help fund the place, so you’re entitled. 501 I Street.
Best town built by a flood (traveling to 1853)
The trouble with visiting Sacramento in the mid-19th century is the risk of floods, so this time-traveler is always sure to bring waders. Once again, in the winter of 1853, rains inundated downtown Sacramento with the muddy waters of the American River, and a sturdy boat was necessary for any attempt to cross J Street. Of course, the mountain communities still need their supplies, so enterprising businessmen have founded the accessible “flood town” of Hoboken and filled it with commercial goods for sale. The temporary town sits one mile east of Brighton along a section of the river that has not flooded its banks (future readers will know this as the site of California State University, Sacramento). Hoboken has grown to a bustling community of 1,000 in just days, even electing a mayor. But Hoboken’s bound to be an ephemeral community, as the mayor recognized in his inauguration speech, noting that citizens have but to wait for “a few sunshining days, and you will dry up.” Those who know their weather patterns predict an end to Hoboken by mid-February.
Best class act in local TV news reporting
Charlotte Fadipe of KOVR 13
A former reporter with the BBC, Channel 13’s Charlotte Fadipe is the most sophisticated thing to happen to Sacramento television news for a long time. We’ve seen her hold forth with grace and intelligence whether reporting about crime and punishment or urban living. Plus, it’s a relief to listen to a local reporter with such a clear grasp (and love) of the arts. Fadipe got her undergraduate degree from Oxford and then a master’s at the University of California, Berkeley. Soon, she’d won the United Kingdom’s Black Journalist of the Year Award and the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame documentary award for her movie Fillmore No More, about an African-American neighborhood in San Francisco. Fadipe deserves to go national, but here’s hoping she stays in Sacramento for a good while before the inevitable. www.kovr13.com.
Best place to explore California history (traveling to 2010)
California Indian Heritage Center
The California Indian Heritage Center is so well integrated into the landscape along the American River in 2010 that it’s hard to remember how emotional the wrangling was over its location. Once California began construction on the center in 2006, the 60,000-square-foot educational and ceremonial center became a jewel in the state park system’s crown. The new center focuses not only on the rich history of California’s American Indians, but also on their contemporary culture. As tribal leaders have said in the past, California Indian culture is often treated as if it’s long dead, as if there aren’t still generations of families living rich lives as part of native California tribes. The new center not only educates non-native visitors about the history of California, but also allows them to see and experience the impact of contemporary tribal culture.
Best ticky-tacky apartment building
2523 N Street
Sacramento is peppered with rectangular shoebox apartment buildings that are short on windows and long on stucco. Painted in bland shades like off-white and gray, these buildings shun any display of individual character. “Live here,” they seem to say. “At least it’s dry.” Only one such building stands out among legions of similar residences: the apartment complex near the corner of 26th and N streets. Its plaster-coated exterior shimmers with an undersea mural of turtles, fish, seaweed and shells. The watery tableau was painted by local artist David Garibaldi one month when the painter was short on rent. We encourage more landlords to consider operating on an art-for-rent economy from time to time. Who knows how your building could benefit? 2523 N Street.
Best radio personality
Christine Craft of Talk City
As most of us know, longtime Sacramento media medusa Christine Craft is back on the air and oppositional on Talk City 1240 AM’s The Christine Craft Show weekdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. She’s honed her radio-jock skills over the years and now gets to show them off in Air America’s left-of-center, free-form format. On the show, she’s equal parts wild woman, fastidious lawyer, progressive patriot and sarcastic smartass—and we love the whole package. Unpredictable as hell, Craft gets our vote for the coolest radionista in Sacramento. www.1240talkcity.com.
Best blog for armchair urban designers
My Urban Vista
The quickening pace of urban redevelopment gets lots of coverage, but little actual critique, in Sacramento’s local press. Thankfully, there are lots of smart people in town keeping an eye on the ongoing imagineering of Sacramento, and they have blogs. Some of these folks actually are thinking about ways to revitalize downtown while still holding on to some of its funkiness and historic character, and—though the mind boggles—leaving some room for non-rich people. Check out My Urban Vista’s post “R Street Corridor: Urban Renewal or Urban Removal?” for example. My Urban Vista is a great supplement to the usual mix of just-the-facts reporting and boosterism that constitutes most of Sacramento’s urban journalism. Another site worth checking out is Uneasy Rhetoric (http://uneasyrhetoric.net) for discussions of urban design and good places to eat. www.myurbanvista.com.
Best career change (traveling to 1990)
During a quick stop in the Sacramento of 1990, this time-traveler discovered a copy of the first ever “Best of Sacramento” issue of SN&R. Among the interesting tidbits was an award for Sacramento’s “best local developer,” which went to Phil Angelides. The 1990 listing read: “A native Sacramentan, Phil Angelides graduated from Harvard in 1974. He served in the public sector for eight years before becoming a developer. His current projects include the Laguna West development, a 1,000-acre ‘pedestrian pocket’ development east of I-5.” Well, he’s certainly come a long way—by 2005, he’s the state treasurer and a candidate for governor in the 2006 election. Perhaps a time jump to see if he wins is in order? Nah, readers will just have to wait and see on that one. But let’s just say that some people do manage to make major career changes successfully more than once—note a certain bodybuilder-to-movie-star-to-politician transformation. www.angelides.com.