By Herb Benham
Bakersfield has strengths, many of which outshine its bigger, brighter and more famous brethren. They speak to the texture of our community, the qualities that make our lives interesting and worthy of note, even if we are the only ones who appreciate them.
Parking. The glory of good parking cannot be overstated. New York? There are books and television scripts written about how to nab good parking. Los Angeles and San Francisco? Think of the despair when you find a parking space only to realize the spot is reserved for residents who have a special sticker.
I'll tell you what you can do with your special sticker.
Parking in Bakersfield is relaxed. Downtown, the parking world is your oyster. You can choose from a smorgasbord of 15-minute, 30-minute, an hour or even two-hour zones. At shopping centers, you might have to walk a short distance to the store, but walking is good for you.
99 cent stores. Some towns suffer a shortage of 99 cent stores. Not here. We have 20 or 30, one in almost every shopping center. These are a teacher's delight. You'll never have to pay full price for movie candy again.
Tattoos. If you want a tattoo, but are having trouble with the design, Bakersfield is the right place. They're everywhere and people wear them proudly.
Springtime. When spring arrives, it lingers unlike back East where it can break your heart with its fickleness. In LA, spring is barely discernible. During March and April, Bakersfield is the best place in the world. It makes no sense to leave, even for Paris. Does Paris have lupines, popcorn and California poppies?
Mexican restaurants. You'll never run out of them here. There are hundreds with more opening every day, and we are talking authentic Mexican cuisine. This doesn't include the Mexican markets and taco trucks with the portable grills that will come to your house for parties and cook chicken, beef and pork tacos, and serve them on those small, delicious homemade tortillas.
Snow. We don't have much of that here, so if you have an aversion to snow, you moved to the right place. However, if it snows like it did on Jan. 25, 1999, it will prove to be one of the most joyous, memorable and magical days of your life.
Bakersfield National Cemetery. If you served, you can be buried here. It's located on land donated by Tejon Ranch, and one of the prettiest places in Kern County. Red-tailed hawks circle above, California oaks surround it, and you can hear the rustling of native grasses. Your children will want to visit you there.
Central location. Two hours and sometimes less from mountains, oceans, theater and music. Two hours from fun, and then two hours back to home sweet home.
No intimidation by Mill Valley bodies. Tired of those thin, snotty people? You'll feel right at home here. People have more meat on their bones and are more comfortable with who they are. If you are not feeling at the top of your game, there is always someone else who will make you look like an Olympic pole vaulter.
Friendliness. There is no town friendlier than Bakersfield, no people more welcoming, no place easier to sink roots. In San Francisco and Southern California, both of which are replete with gifts, you skitter over the surface, going years without meeting the family that lives next door.
Not here. The day you move in, there will be a plate of brownies on your front porch, or perhaps a visit from neighbors who have time to visit, and will.
-- Herb Benham is a columnist with The Bakersfield Californian. Read his columns every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.