Our partisan fireworks will be hard to put out

“While July Fourth is the holiday that most directly celebrates Americans’ common heritage, this year it comes as their extreme divides underscore how difficult it has become for any president to set a unified direction for the country,” according to a political analysis on CNN.

“From vaccination rates to voting rights, from immigration policy to racial equity, blue and red states are hurtling in antithetical directions at staggering speed, even amid President Joe Biden’s persistent calls for greater national unity and his attempts to foster more bipartisan agreement in Washington.

“Across all of these issues, and more, Republican-controlled states are pursuing policies that amount to a wholesale effort to counter Biden’s direction at the national level — even as they look to block some of his key initiatives with lawsuits.

“In some ways, the red state recoil from Biden’s agenda echoes the ‘resistance’ that exploded in Democratic-controlled states to Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency; in other ways, today’s actions in red states may constitute even greater evidence of the country pulling apart.

“Especially striking is that, as during last year’s lockdowns and mask mandates, the separation between red and blue America is occurring not only at the level of government policy, but also in individual behavior, with all studies showing Republicans are being vaccinated against the coronavirus at a much lower rate than Democrats.”

The rest of the article is here.

Maine lobster rolls for July 4

We are celebrating the Fourth with fresh lobster rolls shipped from Maine, thanks to Beal’s Lobster Pier and Goldbelly.

“If you are dreaming of a summer day in Maine, Beal’s Famous Lobster Rolls will take you to the shore of the Atlantic at Beal’s Lobster Pier. Each Beal’s lobster roll is a butter brioche piled high with 1/4 pound of lobster per roll. You and your family will enjoy lobster rolls that taste just like the ones they make right at the pier.”

Beal’s Lobster Pier has been providing Bar Harbor and the rest of Maine with the freshest boat-to-table lobsters and seafood since 1932.

(Photos: Beal’s Lobster Pier and Goldbelly)

Scoop: Foothills Event Center plans sale to Ag Natural in GV

The landmark Foothills Event Center in Grass Valley is being sold to the owner of Ag Natural, a thriving business across the street that sells organic garden and hydroponic supplies, greenhouse products and other ag-related items, Sierra Foothills Report has learned.

Mardie Caldwell of the Foothills Event Center — a popular and elegant gathering space for weddings, fundraisers and other local events beside Hwy. 49 — and Roy Harris, who owns Ag Natural and Grass Valley Hydrogarden, both confirmed the planned sale to me this afternoon. The deal is in escrow, and it expected to close in July.

“We’re expanding — we’re overgrown,” Ag Natural founder and owner Roy Harris said. Ag Natural is located across the street from the Foothills Event Center on Idaho-Maryland Road.

“If it has roots and it has flowers, you can grow it with my products,” he said, emphasizing, “I’m not a cannabis business; I’m a garden supply business.”

“It’s going to be a soft, gradual opening,” Harris said and will gradually become “one big shopping center.” As a result, the businesses workforce might grow from 15-20 to up to 30 workers, he said.

For her part, Caldwell circulated this statement to clients about the sale:

“It is with some sorrow that I share with you that I will be selling The Foothills Event Center to new owners.  They are also Nevada County residents; however they will not be operating it as an event venue.

“When I purchased the building in 2013, it was a true labor of love to rehabilitate it and offer it to the community as a gathering place.  I have been honored to be a part of so many celebrations over the past eight years.  Your weddings and celebrations of life, fundraisers and parties, concerts and seminars, reunions and faith celebrations.  Every one of them has been unique and it has been amazing to be a part of each one.

“2020 looked to set the stage for our best year yet! We were booked solid in January and February and had four weddings in March!  We were looking to hire more staff because of your events.

“Then Covid-19 came along.

“We made it through a year and a half of no events. During that time, we offered our space to the hospital if overflow hospital space were needed, to the county as a testing or vaccine site, and to all first responders to be of any service to our community.  Unfortunately, we were not offered the opportunity to bid on the Covid testing or vaccines, nor were we selected for the Nevada County Anchor Grants that were awarded to the other large venues in the county.  We applied to various other county and state grants four times to no avail.”

Mardie concluded: “The blessing of 2020 is that we completed work at Rough & Ready Vineyards, an outdoor wedding venue just 10 minutes from downtown Grass Valley. Many of our Foothills brides are choosing to move their indoor wedding to our beautiful outdoor venue.

“Our staff is currently contacting our booked clients and closing out their future events.  While it is farewell to The Foothills Event Center, I’m happy for the memories that have been created here and hope to see you at an event or paint class this summer, before we close up shop.”

A local trend?

The site once was a car dealership called Weaver Auto Center — just as Hometown Hydroponics on 800 South Auburn St. off Hwy. 49 once was a Ford dealership. Hometown Hydroponics relocated to the Ford space from its much smaller previous location on Clydesdale Court — near the former offices of the Idaho-Maryland Mining Corp., another business that has been long proposed for our town.

Biden signs Juneteenth Act into law (despite some “local yokel” opposition)

“President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have signed into law a bill establishing Juneteenth National Independence Day, a celebration designating the end of slavery in the United States, as a federal holiday,” as Yahoo News and others are reporting this afternoon.

“By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history, and celebrate progress, and grapple with the distance we’ve come but the distance we have to travel to,” Biden said during remarks Thursday in the East Room of the White House. The last federal holiday was created decades ago in 1983, when former President Ronald Reagan established Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The bill faced only slight opposition in the House of Representatives earlier this week from some Republicans, who included Tom McClintock and Doug LaMalfa.

(Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Welcome Stuart Baker to Nevada City Chamber!

I was glad to read about the hire of the new Executive Director of the Nevada City Chamber — Stuart Baker.

As a UC Berkeley graduate, student in the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, longtime journalist, and former Berkeley resident, I was glad to read about his background. YubaNet published the Chamber’s press release:

“Baker has resided off and on in Nevada City since 1997 when he first discovered the town while attending California College of Ayurveda. For four and a half years he served as the Executive Director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District (TBID) in Berkeley, CA, while also serving on the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce.

“As Executive Director, Baker led a staff of twelve, worked with over 150 merchants and nearly 200 property owners when undertaking initiatives to improve area infrastructure and district aesthetics, developed partnerships with the Berkeley YMCA and University of California at Berkeley, and worked with the City’s Planning and Zoning Commissions, developers and student activists to promote the construction of housing projects within blocks of the campus.

“Another exciting initiative Baker spearheaded was working with the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism to create a smartphone-enabled walking tour app that documents and shares the rich history of Telegraph Avenue. The app is so popular it is now part of the University’s orientation materials to all new students.”

I also wholeheartedly agree with this perspective:

“’While the pandemic has been crushing for merchants, I believe we are on the cusp of a combination of positive events,’ said Baker. ‘As many travelers will initially be inclined to avoid unnecessary air travel, there will be a great opportunity to entice Northern Californians to pay us a visit.’

A ukulele is in the house

When I was nine years old, my grandma Clara gave me a guitar for my birthday. For about six months, I walked up the street for weekly lessons — until my guitar teacher broke the disappointing news that he was moving to, well, Spain.

My interest dwindled, and I took up other extracurricular activities, including Little League baseball. I still embraced music: singing in the church choir and later, the Concert Choir at middle school.

I still enjoy listening to string music. One of my favorite stringed musicians is Israeli-American cellist Amit Peled, whom I’ve heard in concert at InConcert Sierra in Grass Valley, as well as with his “Cello Gang” (who are the students from his studio) at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, where our son is going to college.

We’re “empty nesters,” and the pandemic has keep us at home more than we’d like, so I decided this week to spend some time learning a musical instrument that is less demanding than a classical guitar: I settled on, well, a ukulele.

Boomers remember that Tiny Tim helped make the ukulele popular singing “Tiptoe through the tulips.” But my interest stemmed from something more romantic: Hearing the instrument at sunset at the “House Without a Key” restaurant at the famed Halekulani Hotel in Hawaii.

The ukulele is gaining in popularity. Japanese-American Jake Shimabukuro is a renowned ukulele virtuoso and composer, as was the late Hawaiian, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. And pop culture icon Billie Eilish has embraced the ukulele, with her signature model from Fender, the renowned electric guitar maker.

I did some research and bought a respected model from Petaluma-based Kala Music Co. at Foggy Mountain Music in Grass Valley: a mahogany concert model meant for an adult beginner. The owner confirmed it was a good choice.

Kala Music has an app to learn the ukulele online, and I signed up for the beginner’s course. I spent some time learning the chords this afternoon and figure I will dedicate about 30 minutes a day to this new endeavor.

Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until her 70’s, so I figure I can learn some songs on the ukulele as I settle into the lifestyle of “60-something.” Aloha.

Judge rules CA’s ban on assault weapons is unconstitutional

“A federal judge on Friday struck down California’s ban on assault weapons as unconstitutional but left plenty of time for the state to file an appeal,’ as NBC News is reporting.

“The state’s definition of illegal military-style rifles unlawfully deprives law-abiding Californians of weapons commonly allowed in most other states and by the U.S. Supreme Court, the judge wrote.

“Judge Roger T. Benitez, who has favored pro-gun groups in past rulings, described the AR-15 rifle, used in many of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings, as an ideal weapon.

“’Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,’ he wrote in Friday’s decision.

“’Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR15 type rifle,’ Benitez continued. ‘Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional.’

“He praised the AR-15 as a rifle that should be formally protected by the law for its ‘militia readiness.’

“Gov. Gavin Newsom was indignant in a statement late Friday.

“‘The fact that this judge compared the AR-15 — a weapon of war that’s used on the battlefield — to a Swiss Army Knife completely undermines the credibility of this decision and is a slap in the face to the families who’ve lost loved ones to this weapon,’ he said.

“The office of Attorney General Rob Bonta said it would appeal.

“’Today’s decision is fundamentally flawed, and we will be appealing it,’ Bonta said in a statement Friday night. ‘There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with swiss army knives.’

Owners: New Moon Cafe in Nevada City is in escrow

This message is now posted on the New Moon Cafe’s website:

“Some news…

“After 23 years, we are posed to move on to our next adventures. 203 York street is now in escrow and we are on the eve of our last few weeks serving you all.

“We will be serving normal take-out this Friday, June 4th. If you’re sitting on gift certificates, please call in and redeem them for take-out.

“It has been a beautiful run. Thank each and every one of you for helping make it what it was. We have enjoyed our time with all of you and our staff through thick and thin.

“We are rich in memories and happy to have you part of our lives. We’d love to serve you one last time. 

Peter & Buzz”

Our Sierra FoodWineArt magazine previously reported that the popular restaurant was up for sale. The latest asking price had been $975,000.