Goodbye, Wagon Wheel

January 28, 2009

Wagon Wheel Motel and Restaurant, Oxnard, California

Preservation vs. renewal: who is going to win the fight?

In the case of Oxnard’s iconic Wagon Wheel, it looks like preservation is going the way of the dodo.

Ventura County denizens — especially those with a fondness for all things retro and historic — have been waiting with bated breath to see what the Oxnard City Council would decide for the fate of the famous roadside western -themed motel/bowling alley, and last night that word came in, with the council deciding, unanimously, to demolish the buildings on the property.

When the Wagon Wheel is razed, it’ll make way for some brand spanking new homes, some commercial and mixed use, and some snappy apartment buildings.

Come to think of it, that’s pretty impressive. I think I might consider moving there.

But wait a second! This is a blog post about historic preservation. The question is: At what point do we draw the line at what we save and what we throw away? Is demolishing the Wagon Wheel really “throwing it all away”? And who’s to say that in 50 years’ time, these new structures won’t themselves be considered historic?

It’s all subjective, I suppose. I think it comes down to the notion of one man’s trash being another’s treasure. The San Buenaventura Historic Commission lobbied tirelessly to save the Wagon Wheel; yet, city officials in Oxnard, many of whom grew up with the Wagon Wheel, looked at it as no big deal, really.

I’d say their heads are focused on the renewal/improvement aspect of it all, but there’s just something about the situation that makes me think they’re slightly embarrassed by the sight of that shuttered, overgrown site off the 101.

Which antique locations in Ventura County might be next?

At any rate, having the Wagon Wheel around was good while it lasted.


Mr. President, finally!

January 20, 2009


The idiot’s idiom

January 15, 2009

One of the banes of being a newspaper reporter (and there can be multitudes at that) is the tendency for people to jump the gun when in your presence.

For those unfamiliar with the catchphrase, “jumping the gun,” by nature, is that knee jerk, over-reactive type of response most employed by people who speak before they think, or know all the facts at hand, thereby creating a whole lot of unnecessary drama that can summarily turn an interview, or any other scenario, for that matter, quickly sour.

Case in point: today, a colleague and I, in our dutiful attempt at getting out in the field, paid an informal visit to a local merchant, to ask some general inquiries and do some research for an upcoming assignment I’m preparing.  We were “off the clock,” so to speak, visiting strictly as civilians to get some background info.

The proprietor of this fine establishment was cordial and courteous — that is, until discovering we worked for the local weekly, upon which we were read the riot act, and subsequently left by our own accord. Had we waited any longer I’m sure he would have asked us to, or ejected us outright.

Now, before you, dear reader, jump the gun, here’s the kicker: we never identified ourselves as members of the media. He took care of that for us, his suspicions raised simply by our curious nature, which could have come from any customer who walked through the door. Politeness quickly turned hostile on the man’s part, his answers mutated into accusations, and with an intensely paranoid air that suggested we were undercover, out to get or expose him.

Sure, we were visibly equipped with camera and notepad, but why would anyone working undercover be so blatant? That’s what happens when rationale (if it exists) is tainted by assumption, aka jumping the gun.

Perhaps there’s a kind of superiority when working in the news world. We’re trained to deal with the facts; to verify them through two sources, three, or more when the info started as mere rumor; and most of all, to properly represent ourselves. If I wanted to formally interview this guy, I would have identified myself off the bat. And I think sometimes maybe we expect others not employed in our field to think and behave in the same spirit of factuality that we do.

Still, that gives nobody the excuse to assume. Because, of course, when that happens, you know what happens to U and ME.

What makes the generosity of said outpouring incredible has come in the form of $21,000 to aid the local homeless community, collected by a Ventura church over the holiday season and celebrated this past weekend.

The funds raised in an effort by Ventura Missionary Church will be split three ways to Project Understanding, Harbor Community Church and the area’s Task Force to End Homelessness, $7,000 each, whose triple aim is in furthering the homeless prevention cause in Ventura County.

Mark Holmen, pastor of the missionary parish, said it’s common policy for his church to forward 10 percent of its monetary donations to homeless prevention; this year, he said, the church took a step further.

“We challenged everyone in our church to buy one less gift and essentially take that money … and donate it to homelessness,” Holmen explained.

The money is hoped to aid establishment of a permanent homeless shelter in Ventura County (none exists currently), and especially to help out the Harbor Church, says Holmen.

That church, whose parishioners are comprised mostly of local homeless people, had been down to just $1,000 in reserves before the fundraiser, according to Holmen.