Let’s face it, when it gets hot in Bakersfield there are some people who don’t go to the pool or the water park, and who don’t want to “go outside and play,” frankly because some of them burn too easy and their allergies would be rocking off the charts. They are the geeks and trading card gamers of Bakersfield, and while other people would be hitting the mall or working on their tan by the poolside, the geeks are slaying giants, fighting ogres, and storming castles. What is this magical realm and where can I find it? The place is called Paladins Game Castle and it is located on the corner of White lane and Ashe road in the Food Max shopping center. Paladins Game Castle has been a safe haven to all Bakersfieldians who would like to let their geek flag fly for over 10 years. They have all the table top and card games you could desire, from the classic card games like Magic the Gathering, role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, and the latest card games like World of Warcraft TCG. Paladin Game Castle has all the things you need to get started in your new favorite hobby and keep you out of the sun and the sweltering summer heat. If you’re not sure where to start, no problem, they can even help teach you how to play the games.
The gaming store is a place where you can setup tournaments year round or just spend a day cooling off with your friends. If gaming is not your style, they also supply plenty of comics you can buy to keep you occupied during those 100 degree days. Even though it may not be the “cool” everyone is looking for, it is a nice place to build up your geek cred and spend an afternoon in a fantasy all your own.
Iron Man 3 is finally out and as an avid Iron Man fan I am very excited for the future of the franchise. I caught the show at the Edwards Cinema in the Marketplace and was blown away with the all star cast of actors like Ben Kinglsey, and Guy Pearce joining Robert Downy Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow for the third installment of the series. When Iron Man 3 was announced last year I was a little hesitant that they chose the Mandarin as Tony Stark’s next villain. Without getting too nerdy, I admired the superhero movies that stayed in the near reality of our universe, like Chris Nolan’s Batman universe. Iron Man 3 still keeps a foot hold in the scientific reality that we live in today but it is traipsing more and more into the Avengers universe. In the film, Iron Man aka Tony Stark has changed since his engagement with the Chitauri army and Loki from the Avenger movie. Dealing with post traumatic stress disorder and severe anxiety attacks, Stark feels like he is back to square one with his Iron Man designs, feeling inept and unprepared for the battles yet to come. Stark, once again has to deal with the missteps of his past and the monsters he created from it. The movie has recaptured the humor that the first Iron Man film but deals with serious questions about terrorism both domestic and abroad. Iron Man 3 has a lot of unexpected twists that some fans may not agree with but I personally believe that it was an effort to keep a more human face to what challenges Tony Stark must endure and the real consequences of war. Yes there are still men flying around in metal suits. However, in this film Tony must once again redefine who he is, and how he can best protect the ones he cares about. I would personally rate this film 8 out of 10 for the performance and story and would recommend it to all fans of the superhero genre. The one spoiler that I will let you in on is that the end credits are longer than normal on purpose (around 8 minutes long) but the scene at the end is well worth the wait.
Relay for Life is back in Bakersfield. This story covers the opening ceremony held on May 4, the inspirational singing of CHP officer Robert Rodriguez and an interview with Sue Smith, a steering committee member and volunteer for the survivors group.
Bringing entertainment and the arts to the citizens of Bakersfield, the Empty Space Theatre is alive and kicking after one of the most difficult decades in American history. While many of the shops and restaurants around Bakersfield have fallen on hard times or have closed indefinitely, The Empty Space, with its devoted founder Brian J. Sivesind, 40, and committed board members such as artistic director Bob Kempf, 53, is now celebrating its 10th season since opening in 2003 on Oak Street inside the Pizzaville shopping center What makes the story of The Empty Space Theatre so amazing is that it has survived solely on volunteers and donations from the community.
“It has had a huge impact on us, both positively and possibly negatively,” Sivesind said. “On the positive side, anyone can see a show, regardless of how much money he or she might have at any given time. There is a huge sense of community because we don’t charge admission. On the negative side, not charging has, in some ways, devalued the product. There is no doubt that some people who choose not to donate could afford to give a few bucks. The Starbucks cup in their hand gives them away. It’s a difficult issue, but we’ve stayed alive for 10 years doing it this way, so charging isn’t in our plans.”
The Empty Space has become more versatile over the years by supporting local projects like “Geeks vs. Zombies” written and directed by James Kopp and David Rock, as well as expanding its venue to include family friendly entertainment like Major League Improv and a local children’s theater group, Tonicism, for all of the Bakersfield community to enjoy.
“When we started here we aimed to be more shocking and provocative,” Kemp said. “We have come around to have a season that is more typical of a theater. We still have some provocative shows that are on late night but we have matured with age.”
The major obstacle for the Empty Space Theatre has remained retaining its relevancy and profitability during a terrible economic downturn. However, the theater is gaining notoriety around Bakersfield and its hard work and determination are being rewarded.
“It’s been a long road,” Sivesind said. “We recently won a Beautiful Bakersfield award, and I think we are respected in the arts community. But I would venture to say that at least 75 percent of the community of Bakersfield has no idea we exist, even after 10 years. I don’t think that’s any different than many businesses, so we try to stay positive.”
Since the beginning, the Empty Space Theatre has been a cultural oasis for many local artists and performers in Bakersfield.
“The Empty Space is a very welcoming artist venue. Our art gallery has had some terrific artists,” Kempf said.” We use to have a lot more musical artists but that comes and goes with the people running The Empty Space. We are always looking for fresh or new talent. People move on, but it’s great to see kids from high school develop their career here. This is why I believe that this place will keep going and going. We are all very passionate about this place and proud of it and have spent half of our lives here, it feels like. ”
The Empty Space Theatre knows that there is still a lot to do in order to keep their audience coming back year after year.
“I think we have to keep getting the word out that we are doing good work,” said Sivesind. “We have to keep the conversation going. Most importantly, we have to keep doing good work. If the shows aren’t strong, people won’t come back. It’s like any business. The product has to be worthwhile. We continue to reach out to schools and the younger generation, who we are hoping will help keep us alive and thriving. Theater is a new experience for many of our patrons, and that’s exciting. ”
The Empty Space is located at 706 Oak Street.
Major League Improv has shows every Saturday at 6 p.m.
Tonicism Presents Disney’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.” Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4 at 7 p.m., Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m. Admission is $10
“Mother Knows Best” presented by The Tuesdays. May 3 & 4 at 11 p.m. and May 10 and 11 at 8 p.m.
Admission is $5
“The Nerd” written by Larry Shue directed by Kevin Ganger May 17 – June 1, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Free admission with suggested donations of $15 general and $10 students/seniors
For more information on upcoming shows or to make a reservation go to http://www.esonline.org/ or call at 661.327.PLAY.
I must admit that I have not tried every restaurant in Bakersfield, and as a man who is not too picky about local restaurants and has a since of adventure when it comes to food, I feel that I have tried my fair share. However, I do believe that I have taken a bite out of what is the best down home eateries that Bakersfield has to offer. Here are my bites of true Bakersfield.
- Buck Owens Crystal Palace. Home of the great singer songwriter the Crystal Palace is a museum, night club, and restaurant all rolled into one. Carrying fond memories of the late superstar that bares the buildings name, it serves some of the best Southern style cuisine this side of the Rio Grande. A personal favorite of mine is Buck’s chicken fried steak. The Crystal Palace shares the same belief that my grandfather always said at the dinner table, “if you leave here hungry it’s your own damn fault.” Believe me, if you came to the Crystal Palace hungry for great food, good music, or for the history of a country music legend that put Bakersfield on the map you won’t leave there disappointed.
- Lengthwise Brewing Company. Opening their first establishment in 1998 and now opening their third restaurant here in Bakersfield. The Bakersfield brew-masters come in a solid second for being an outstanding icon of the city. As if brewing 6 different delicious beers like Lengthwiser Golden Ale, Triple Hop Red Ale, and Centennial Ale weren’t enough, the brewery also makes seasonal brews as well like Oktoberfest, Kern County Porter, and coming soon Kern County Crude Scottish Ale. For any of the brew it yourself fans out there these beverages would satisfy their local itch for iconic Bakersfield but Lengthwise also serves a wide variety of delicious food as well, like their Golden Ale chicken strips, goat cheese stinky fries, and their always popular deep fried Twinkies. I hope Lengthwise’s fame keeps growing all over California because we need more breweries like them.
- Famous Dave’s. Now I know what you’re thinking, there are so many other local restaurants out there that could have done a better job picking the number three spot. However, from my personal experience, I say that Famous Dave’s has worked its way into my heart (hopefully my insurance covers it). What made Famous Dave’s earn it’s place in the Bakersfield top three, was their dedication to the idea of setting down to a southern family dinner. I have sat down to eat at Dave’s with people from all across America, even the pickiest eater had no problem with the delectable vittles Dave’s had to offer. From pulled pork on toast, to sweet corn bread, to a variety of different sauces ranging from big and rich to devils spit. All the while you can’t shake the feeling like you are having your dinner at a family reunion. Its hard not to love the home decor and the paper towel racks stocked to the brim for the undoubtedly messy and fun experience that you will ever get served on a trashcan lid.
- Fishlips Bar and Grill. An honorable mention goes to one of our fallen heroes in the gastric and nightlife community here in Bakersfield.Fishlips Bar and Grill was a restaurant that was full of life and great food. A place where you could have a cocktail or a meal named after a famous musician (the Eric Clapton burger was a personal favorite of mine). Local bands would come in and perform cover songs from the greats like Jimmy Hendrix or The Doors and its patrons could lose themselves for an few hours in the sensational music, food, and every type of martini known to man. Sadly Fish lips could not withstand the tragedy of the last 10 years but I hope that all of you reading this have as fond of memories of that great tavern as I do.
That’s it folks, the show is over. If you feel that I am off my mark or that I have missed a deep fried treasure hidden within the valley of Bakersfield and you would like to show me the way.Feel free to reply with a suggestion and if your addition bumps off a raining champion, then it would be a pleasure to literally eat my words.