≡ Menu

A golden first place trophy with the word Best and colorful stars shooting out of it, symbolizing winning a competition or being declared to be top of your field, sport or classReturning to the Central Coast after an Easter-week jaunt to the desert, I was excited to pick up a copy of Monterey County Weekly outside my neighborhood dispensary. At last there would be some recognition for this blog, the Monterey Bay Partisan, which the paper undoubtedly had honored as the region’s best.

My holiday spirit of renewal and revival was crushed in an instant, however, when I discovered that those sneaky folks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium apparently had stuffed the ballot box better than I had. Before the Weekly’s “Best of Everything in the Universe” contest, I had no idea the aquarium put out a blog but of course it does and of course it is everything that an aquarium blog should be.

In the interest of efficiency, I let Charlie the Truth and Justice Dog lick my wounds while I pondered my next move. Then, amid the weeds and wildflowers of spring, it hit me. Who are they at the Weekly to think only they can decide what’s the best? (They would maintain, of course, that they do not pick the winners, that their readers do. To that, I have no ready response but I am hoping something will occur to me before I attach the final period to this post.)

So here it goes, the Partisan’s first and likely only “Best of Most Everything the Partisan Cares About Awards,” better known as the BMEPCAAies. (There will be some semblance of democracy because readers will be invited to post comments letting me know their own favorites and reminding me of my lack of discernment.)

BEST THAI FOOD DISH: The Kao Tung at Baan Thai in Seaside. It’s this chicken curry thing that you spoon over rice crackers.

BEST ELECTED OFFICIAL: Libby Downey of the Monterey City Council. I don’t agree with every vote she makes but she’s usually on the right track and she puts so much attention and energy into every issue that she makes most elected officials look like Fernando Armenta, whose back seat must be a repository of unread agenda packets.


Libby Downey

BEST HOSPITAL: CHOMP and I’m not just saying that because my wife works there.

BEST TORTILLAS: Rosa’s La Villa Taqueria in Seaside. Fresh and soft and best wrapped around just about anything.

BEST DOCTOR: My doctor but I’m not going to name him because I don’t want him to get too busy to see me.


BEST THRIFT STORE: Tie. Last Chance Mercantile at the dump offers up all sorts of unexpected treasures, especially outside, and the prices are right. St. Vincent De Paul on Fremont in Seaside keeps the stock fresh, likely by taking the unsold stuff to Last Chance.

BEST MOVIE THEATER: Maya in Salinas, especially for artsy movies because you might have the whole theater to yourself. Now I hear they have updated the sound system so it probably compares favorably to the new screens in Marina.

BEST GOLF COURSE: Beats the hell out of me.

BEST BUDGET GOLF COURSE: Nine holes after 2 p.m. at Salinas Fairways is a budget-balancing $11 without a cart, and they keep the fairways hard enough to give my drives some semblance of distance. It works especially well for me because my usual playing partner is Larry Parsons, whose running commentary on golf and life keeps me humble.

BEST REPORTER: The Herald’s Claudia Melendez Salinas. She has been criticized by some as overly supportive of Latino causes, which is nonsense. She brings a Latina perspective to her work and that’s a good thing. She also brings tremendous passion to the job, something that is exceedingly difficult to maintain in these dark days of daily journalism.


Claudia Melendez Salinas

BEST NEWSPAPER: The Weekly. They are not as good as they think they are, but they are  becoming indispensable.

BEST CARMEL NEWSPAPER: The Carmel Residents Association newsletter.

THE BEST LAWYER: If I ever get busted, my family has instructions to hire Paul Meltzer of Santa Cruz. No matter what they did, his clients never go to trial much less jail. On the civil side, especially in the non-profit realm, Virginia Howard is a very good choice. If you or someone you love has been in an accident, I can tell you which firm to avoid.

BEST BURRITO: Darn it, I can’t remember the name of the place but it’s on Market Street in Salinas, west of the Amtrak station, and it’s like this little grocery store with a deli counter. You can’t miss it.

BEST TEACHER, MIDDLE SCHOOL: Derek Yonekura, San Benancio Middle School. He brings science to life. He also brings eighth-graders to life.

BEST TEACHER, HIGH SCHOOL: OK, the field is limited to the teachers my daughter had, but I’d put this guy up among the best anywhere. Phil Moore, history, Salinas High School. First off, he avoids most things digital. Second, he teaches in a way that makes it stick and, third, he does a remarkable job of teaching writing skills even while teaching history. He gets extra points in my grade book as well for his years of work with the teachers union.

BEST ACTIVIST: Crowded field this one but George Riley comes out on top. George has toiled tirelessly on water issues for years and years now and he knows as much as anyone, including the brain trust at Cal Am. It is something of a mystery why all the local news outlets don’t call him for comment when news breaks in the local water world.

BEST COACH: Gary Figueroa, CSUMB women’s water polo. In his current post, Figueroa is unlikely to win a championship. The Central Coast is a water polo backwater compared to Southern California and the Bay Area. But this former Olympian improves everyone he coaches, both as an athlete and as a person. I played a little masters polo under Gary just so I could tell my old water polo friends that I had played with him. They figured I was probably lying.


Gary Figueroa



BEST REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON: Steve Hunt, Sotheby’s. No one will work harder to make the sale or the purchase.

BEST PLACE FOR FISH: Massaro & Santos on at the Coast Guard Pier (first right after going through the tunnel southbound.) Upstairs. Order anything and enjoy the view.

BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT: There are a bunch of really good Italian restaurants, especially in Carmel and Pacific Grove, but if you want really good at prices you can afford, try Frutti del Mar on Reservation in Marina. It’s run by a Salvadoran family that worked in all the pricier places hereabouts and learned all the secrets.



Jon Ordonio


BEST POLITICAL CANDIDATE: Tie, Jane Parker and Mary Adams. Parker is the District 4 supervisor and is being challenged by Dennis Donohue of Salinas, who is essentially the carpetbagger in this race. Adams is challenging Supervisor Dave Potter in District 5 and she’s a class act in every respect.

BEST ENDORSEMENT: To the surprise of most everyone, former Supervisor Lou Calcagno has endorsed Parker but there has been almost no publicity about it. I called Lou twice to ask him to talk about it  but he hasn’t called back. I’d love to hear from you, Lou. It’s 484-5068

OK, that’s all for now. I tried to come up with others. I wanted to find a category Cal Am could win but I was stumped. Maybe I could have named it the Best Reason to Have Your Own Well. I thought about picking on GOP activist and troublemaker Paul Bruno again, maybe by naming him as the Best Reason to Be a Democrat, but I decided to give him a break. People have been picking on him all his life. The local Democrats just issued a dual endorsement for District 4 supervisor, picking both Potter and his challenger, Adams. Maybe I will make that the Best Reason to Keep Local Politics Non-partisan.

I could go on and on. I do that sometimes. But let’s turn it over to you, the Best Readers of Any Blog in Monterey County. What say you about my picks? And what categories and honorees would you add? Just click on the comment button below and have at it.


goofy_golfer_5It’s Thursday afternoon in south Salinas, and fighter jets are tearing across the sky. Depending on one’s point of view, they are making an unholy racket or thundering the sound of freedom.

This only happens once a year — for this, my dogs and cats are thankful — on California International Airshow weekend in Salinas.

For me, it means another once-a-year chance at one of the best secrets on the Central Coast. But before I divulge this marvel, grant me a modest digression.

Never in my 30-plus years of journalism did I write one of those stories of the genre “best kept secrets known only to locals.” You know the kind, they come with headlines that promise to reveal “10 hottest hideaways for revelings of those really in the know.”

Such stories I always considered shills for the tourist trade, or worse, the products of turncoats willing to reveal some of the few special places known only to people who live and work around here for a paltry handful of silver.

Never have I stooped to that mercenary level — until now.

It’s no surprise the Monterey Bay is a special place for the game of golf. Duh. There are world-famous courses and many other great and very good courses to beat golf balls around until you you are blue in the face.

I have played a lot of them, though I’ve never been invited to the private gems or paid through the nose for 18 on the most famous loops. But many times, I’ve played what I consider the most fantastic rounds of golf one could ever hope for on the Central Coast.

The opportunity only comes on Airshow weekends at the modest muni course Salinas Fairways.

If you tee off Saturday or Sunday about 12:30 p.m. and the course is not backed up by legions of weekend duffers who play as slowly as a blimp hovers over a Pebble Beach tournament, you will hit a stretch of back-nine holes cheek-to-jowl with the Salinas airport as the headline act screams down the runway.

Over the years, my partners and I have seen the Blue Angels, the Thunderbirds and the Snowbirds do their thing from tee boxes, fairways and greens at least as well as anyone sitting in the grandstands on the other side of the fence abutting the par-three 13th.

There is nothing like lining up a putt when two fighter jets are roaring just above the pines nearby, doing one of their collision-avoided-at-last-second stunts. It is both breathtaking and a perfect reason for blowing an easy five-footer with no break.

The best part of the show goes on while you play four or five holes. You walk down fairways, head tilted back, watching the sky and forgetting, for the moment, how wretched that last drive was. There are explosions, columns of colored smoke and planes rolling, spinning, soaring and tumbling.

Added bonus: the spectacular aerial happenings are free, included in the cost of a weekend round. If your timing is impeccable, you reach the 17th, another par-3 beside the airport grounds, after the show is over. Airshow attendees are lined up in cars, inching away from the parking area while you and your partners pull out short irons to go for the green.

By the time you clear the 18th and have put away a beer or soda, the Airshow traffic has dissipated and there’s nothing but clear skies on the roadways. And you head home with the ideal excuse for shooting another execrable 107 — All the noise from those freedom-loving jets put me off my game.

Keep this under your hat, OK.