Posted by thenovelist
Sunday, January 20, 2008 - 14:36
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If you think Bakersfield culture scores an 'F' then so do you
Examining the recent wave of bad press our beloved city has seen. Why the hate?
By TheNovelist - N.L. Belardes, Bakotopia.com contributor
I was amazed recently when some of the media reported Bakersfield’s F rating in Men’s Health magazine. Talk about fueling local stereotypes.
As local media does its job of seeking out hard news, it’s often just as guilty of not exploring the cultural possibilities of its own city. I can’t tell you how much I’ve shown our Brooklyn-born executive producer at ABC23 about Bakersfield and he loves it!
Underground music, underground people, cultural happenings - you name it. You see, the problem isn’t a lack of culture, it’s that people are unwilling to discover it. People could do better by resolving to explore their town a little more before whining that there’s nothing to do. After all, a lot of these people are likely the same kids and families who supported the Plain White Ts in droves by showing up at a generic Wal-Mart parking lot, but not when the same band performed at a local venue a few months prior.
A lot of people fall prey to the old Johnny Carson stereotype that Bakersfield is a great place to slam. Often such slams are stereotypes from young people who fall victim to the hilarious yet sad stereotype as shown in the “The Armpit of the State” video. They blindly nod their heads in agreement and don’t realize that a not exploring culture just leads to more stereotyping, more slamming and more mocking. While stereotyping in a comedic sense can be really funny, the sad part is that it causes more people to sit at home and watch “Seinfeld” reruns and not read Bakotopia’s excellent calendar of local events - or better yet, attend local cultural events.
I’d really like to know what it is that people mean when they say, “Bakersfield is a terrible place because there’s nothing to do.”
I could go out every night of the week there’s so much to do!
Are these people talking about music? There’s plenty of music from signed bands from all over passing through town. I think I saw L.A.’s The Briggs in Bakersfield twice in 2007.
I recently heard of a great show at Narducci’s featuring The Binges from L.A. and Get Up Get Down from Bakersfield. I saw Wu-Tang Clan recently and the show wasn’t even sold out. Where were the people who said there’s nothing to do in Bakersfield? I recently saw some great country music from Terry Hansen at the new Trout’s Blackboard Stage. Homer Joy was also in the house on New Year’s Eve. He composed the “Streets of Bakersfield.”
Bakersfield also boasts some of the best Latino ska and Celtic music in the nation. Not to mention my kid’s band will soon to be on the Jumbotron at the Rabobank Arena during hockey games. Lost Ocean is a signed band on an EMI sub label, while KORN, though formed in L.A., had to start somewhere.
Go ask the ghost of Buck Owens before thinking Fresno has more music culture. Sorry Dalloways - they’re a talented Fresno-Bakersfield band about to hit the scene with an incredible new Brit Pop album - I don’t mean to slam our sister city up north.
Maybe complainers think there’s no theatre and no art happenings? There are so many local art shows between the college, university galleries and such that I lost track months ago. Lisa Small has an art group MySpace site and was inspired by a piece I wrote on dual ethnicity. How cool is that? One piece of art culture breeds art culture? Can’t beat it. There’s BMOA, Metro Galleries, Empty Space Theatre, Madigan Gallery…
And theatre? There’s too much! Yes, I’m saying it right now. Someone is sure to send me some face-slapping e-mails for this one, but there is too much theatre in Bakersfield. This town is like a Balkanized state with sub-states of theatre scattered all over town. I’ve lost count. I get a headache trying to think of them all: Bakersfield Community Theatre, Bakersfield College, Cal State Bakersfield, The Spotlight, Starz, Gaslight… And sometimes they war with each other. OK, they war a lot. Drama begets drama I suppose. But they’re all talented and entertaining. I can’t think of one theatre performance I went to in Bakersfield where I wasn’t entertained or amazed at how a small budget could be transformed into a big production.
Don’t get me started on local film either. Hectic Films and a host of other filmmakers are creating a new wave of cinematic pieces in 2008 that are sure to shake the town. We’re discussing a festival to showcase the work of Hectic Films and others. Gagfilms was on Yahoo.com. Frontier High School has an instructor who has students make feature films. I don’t have enough room in this article to discuss all the film culture. OK, they’re lacking events, but the culture is there. Watch them online instead of “Desperate Housewives”!
It’s also been said that there are no sports teams in Bakersfield. Hey, where’s the community spirit? Sports culture exists! It all starts on a local level. Without people supporting kids, high school, college and league teams there can never be any professional teams. But wait, there are pro-teams in Bakersfield. Maybe one of them should be called the Bakersfield Slam instead of the Bakersfield Jam because of all the idiots who slam Bakersfield. Might make them happy. The problem is not enough people show up to all events. And the slammers say there’s nothing to do.
It’s not that there’s nothing to do, it’s that many people have no cultural pride. The Condors is my favorite local sports team and they do pack the house on occasion. Even a roller hockey rink is being built to go along with the city’s popular ice rink. Say hi to my kid Jordan, he works there.
I wish I had time for all the sports in Bakersfield! There’s so much!
I saw some incredible sports in 2007. I watched the Bakersfield High School football team win Valley Championship. Bakersfield College football almost made it to the National Championship game. I stood on the field for both games and was beyond delighted at the competitive hearts of both teams. And that doesn’t count the incredible athletes in soccer, volleyball, wrestling, swimming and more. People who truly love competition are loyal to sports on all levels. Some of the best sporting events I've ever seen in my entire life were kids under the age of 12 participating in Bakersfield sporting events.
The owner of the Bakersfield Condors just released a letter to Condor fans. He says he’s been a long-time season ticket holder of the Knicks and New York Rangers, and though it saddens him that the Condors are having a losing season, it’s not without a major cultural victory that they’ve achieved in the community by participating in local events and raising money for charities. That’s what great sports teams do.
(Locally produced publications featuring Bakersfield culture!)
The Condors have been a part of the local music and the literary scene. Not a lot of sports teams do that, which is to help build and provide an outlet for culture. They even let me distribute Noveltown literary magazines outside the arena and sell hockey CDs with local music on them in the arena during games.
(Two locally produced comps. of Bakersfield music!)
Of course I could go on and on about Bakersfield culture, especially ethnic culture with huge Day of the Dead celebrations and Greek, Okie, Celtic and Indian festivals.
Heck, Bakersfield even boasted a beaver family currently living in town. People can walk on the Kern Recreational Bike Path and try to spot them. Lord knows I have. And while I haven’t seen the Bakersfield beaver family, just the trees they felled, I have seen great blue heron, whooping cranes, snakes, egrets, muskrats, eagles, hawks and even a bobcat. That’s nature culture.
Those who buy into Bakersfield being an F culturally, or as the armpit of the state, well they’re looking into a mirror. They don’t like who they are and watch too much reality TV. So they’re finding reasons to hate an entire city that has a lot to offer anyone who would just take the time to enter the community with pride and take part in local culture.
*Originally printed in Bakotopia Magazine, Issue 19, 1 - 10 - 0