The song of a Northern Mockingbird came through my open hotel window at 6:00AM. It had been warm in Bakersfield so that was the reason for the open window. I like Mockingbirds and enjoy listening to them just to pick out other birds they are imitating. In this case a Western Scrub-Jay was featured.
I'm not sure why anyone would like to live in Bakersfield. As soon as you step outside you can smell the air.
The American Lung Association ranked Bakersfield as the most ozone-polluted city in the nation in 2006. It was also ranked as the second-most polluted city in terms of both short-term and year-round particle pollution. As of 2013, when measured by atmospheric particulate matter—specifically PM10, particles of 10 µm or less—Bakersfield is listed as having the worst air in the United States.
During my stay it was either foggy or sunny with a strange yellowish haze. A nurse at the hospital said that breathing the air takes five years off your life and respiratory diseases were frequent. What else does Bakersfield have going for it.
Horrendous traffic is one thing. That might just be my small town thinking coming through but…
Bakersfield has consistently ranked as one of the least educated metropolitan areas in the United States. A study by the Brookings Institution using 2008 data found that the proportion of Bakersfield metro adults age 25 and over with a bachelor's degree was the lowest (14.7%) of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States; that 100th place finish was down from being ranked 95th in 1990.
According to a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Bakersfield ranks as one of the ten most obese metro areas in America. Of its residents, 33.6% were found to be obese, compared to the national average of 26.5%. The same study found that 21.2% were smokers, 12.7% had diabetes, 27.9% had high blood pressure, 22.8% had high cholesterol, 3.3% had a heart attack, 75.2% felt they had enough money to buy food and 75.5% had health insurance.
An August 2005 article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer listed Bakersfield as the eighth-most-conservative city in the United States and the most conservative city in California.
Mom didn't live in Bakersfield. My parents had retired to Wofford Heights near Isabella Lake in the Southern Sierras. My sister Jill said that we had been pronouncing Wofford wrong all this time. It should be Wafford instead of the “O” sound.
Jill picked me up (never used the bus system) at the hotel to take me to the Bakersfield Heart Hospital. This hospital was great. It was new, bright, and clean. The employees and medical staff were all friendly and caring. That being said our healthcare system is all fucked up. What followed was a fight to honor my mother's “do-not-resuscitate(DNR)” orders. We were dealing with an unseen doctor that made rounds at midnight and didn't believe in DNR's or POLST orders. Then we went through the repeated lowing of care that was controlled by the insurance company.
My mother's spiraling health decline went something like this. Old age(almost 90) —>crushed hip from fall in early December —>hip replacement surgery—>rehab at a nursing facility—>UTI—>hospital again—> infected gallbladder—>surgery again—>ventilator and tubes. After the ventilator and tubes were removed it was just—waiting.
I've been hard on Bakersfield to some extent. I must admit that I didn't see much of it. There seems to be a fine public transportation system and many bike trails that my brother and his wife used while visiting. There are even neat bike racks being installed all over the city. The Amtrak Depot had one. Check out Bike Bakersfield's website.
Bakersfield has canals running through the middle of the city. In back of my hotel there is a walking path that has been done up really well with a paddle wheel building and a fountain. It's pretty at night with the old fashion lights on.
I must admit that I partook in the excellent Mexican food (and beer) at the two Mexican Restaurants near my hotel.
Update: Stop the press! I forgot to mention Bakersfield's country music roots. Merle Haggard was born just outside of Bakersfield. Buck Owens settled in Bakersfield and between the two of them created the Bakersfield Sound. We went pass the Buck Owens Crystal Palace which was on Buck Owens Blvd. on our way to the hospital.
But my best memories of Bakersfield will be reuniting with my brother and sisters. We had not seen each other in many years and used our waiting time to reminisce and catch-up on each other's life's. It was my mother's last accomplishment. We would like to think that mom and dad are together again dancing and drinking their martini with the big olives.