Food News:That Caribbean Place; Big Louie’s reborn as Marcelli’s

This is my third post about “The Caribbean Picnic”,  on Henderson where the GoGo Bistro used to be.  I finally made it in there yesterday. It’s a PUERTO RICAN restaurant with CUBAN food also.  The two main offerings are Cuban sandwiches (ham, pork, usually pickles) and a Puerto Rican sampler, both $9.  I’ve eaten a lot of Cuban sandwiches, having family in Florida, and this was not only better than average, it’s HUGE, easily two meals for the  average person. They also have a selection of pretzels, not the little brittle kind but serious big puffy ones. The staff is welcoming and helpful and I will definitely be back. Any of you who visit this place, please share your opinions with us.

On another note,  Marcelli’s Pizzaria  (their spelling) had a soft opening a few days ago and  folks were streaming in for lunch at what used to be Big Louie’s. They don’t have a website yet but they’re open 7 days and the menu looks a lot like the old BL one. You can call them at 497-6374 for eat-in, takeout, delivery or take’n’bake. So much to be grateful for! Please share your reviews with us. Bon appetit. 

Humboldt Economic Index for June 2014

The hardworking crew at HSU has published its Index , which shows a sharp drop in housing sales, down 12.4% since last month. Most indicators were down or flat although Retail held steady.  Unemployment rates: National 6.3 (May figures), California 7.6, Humboldt unchanged at 7.1. Many thanks to Dr. Eschker and his researchers.  

More good food news: HSH open for dinner

I just found out yesterday that the Humboldt Smokehouse (which is fabulous if you haven’t tried it) is now open for dinner Monday thru Saturday. I predict they will put Porter Street out of business within a year. Love those burnt ends!  Menu and hours are at the link. 

Graduation Day- “Reach for the Stars”

Saturday the 14th was my cousin’s kid’s graduation day from UC Santa Barbara. I wasn’t expecting much aside from heat and chaos so I was pleasantly surprised that the graduation speaker actually had something to say that was memorable.

His name is Jose Hernandez and he was born in French Camp. If you’ve ever known anyone from French Camp, you know it is a migrant labor settlement. He spoke of following his parents as they moved from job to job picking  strawberries, lettuce, whatever. Finally a teacher took an interest in the family and convinced the parents to settle near Stockton so that the kids could get a real education.

One night in 1972, the family watch Gene Cernan walk on the moon. Jose told his father, “That’s what I want to do”.   His father told him that he could do it but he needed to make himself a roadmap to follow. “And don’t skip any of the steps.”

Jose graduated from high school in Stockton although he had not learned English until he was twelve. He earned a BSEE from the University of the Pacific and then an MS from UC Santa Barbara. He joined the Johnson Space Center and held a number of assignments while applying for the astronaut program. He applied again, was rejected again.  NASA let it be known they would like their personnel to know some Russian (for space station work). He learned Russian.  He pursued every avenue they suggested. Finally,  after TWELVE TIMES,  he was accepted into the 2004 astronaut class and on August 28, 2009 he achieved his dream: two weeks on the Space Shuttle Discovery. He sent the first tweet from space in Spanish.

 Since then he has run for Congress, unsuccessfully. Clearly we haven’t heard the last from him.  His “Reach for the Stars” foundation encourages kids to explore careers in space.  The gloom and doom which was underlying the ceremony due to the recent murders in Isla Vista could have taken over, but didn’t have a chance after Jose finished speaking. It was a good day, and he didn’t skip any of the steps.

FOOTNOTE: The road from the Bay Area up here is an AWFUL ROAD which seems to get worse every year. I kept thinking how much it would be to be riding a bus or a nice relaxing TRAIN. Talk about reaching for the stars! 

 

 

 

Should the USPS Offer Financial Services?

The Post Office’s inspector General has proposed just that.  In a while paper released earlier in the year, the IG suggested that USPS start offering financial services such as check-cashing, bill payments, international money transfers and even small loans.

When you think  about it, it makes a lot of sense. Postal workers are looking for work, and there are a lot of them .  The USPS is second only to Walmart among civilian employers with 491,000 workers.  Meanwhile our poorest citizens are losing access to banks , which always seem to close their branches in the poor neighborhoods first. Poor people pay dearly for payday loans and check-cashing services. It has been estimated that 25% of American households are un-banked or under-banked meaning they have no or inadequate access to checking and savings services. These folks pay more for banking services than the rest of us do.

This arrangement may seem outlandish to us but many Asian and European countries have been doing this for years. Japan Post operates one of that nation’s biggest banks.  I once hosted a particularly obnoxious German tourist who wouldn’t stop complaining about the fact that he couldn’t make long-distance calls from our post offices. Hey, there’s another idea…

Anyway, the idea of expanding postal services, especially those helpful to our poorer citizens appeals to me. What do you think?

RCB WILL BE ON HIATUS FOR A FEW DAYS. Your comments are welcome and will be responded to by the middle of next week. See you soon!

April Economic Index Is In

You may feel that you’re being bombarded by economic indices. That’s because the Times-Standard wrote up the MARCH index just a few days ago, when the April index was about to come out. That’s okay. They’ll get the hang of it. 

For the April index, click HERE.  Housing sales and prices are creeping up but of course gasoline prices lead the way.  Our thanks again to Dr. Eschker and his crew for their great work. 

The Consumers’ Guide to Summer 2014- Bring Money

-To no one’s surprise, the courts have approved the merger of American and USAir, which creates the world’s largest airline. Meanwhile, United, our sole air carrier thru their sub, United Express,  was the ONLY major air carrier to lose money this past quarter. To add to UAL’s problems, two of the runways at SFO will be unavailable this summer, leading to lots and lots of delays and consumer unhappiness for the unprepared.

What to do, what to do? Driving to Redding won’t help.  They only offer three flights a day to the beleagered SFO, again thru United Express. Driving to Medford gives you access to Horizon, SkyWest, United Express and Allegeant which offer nonstops to Portland, Seattle, LAX, Denver, Salt Lake City and , seasonally to Las Vegas. Lots more choices, but a four-hour drive, which more and more people are doing from what I hear. Then there’s Sacramento, which offers many choices including direct flights to Mexico. Don’t forget your gas will cost $4.50 according to some predictions. Bargains will be hard to come by so be sure to share with us if you find any.

- According  to The Economist  China will overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy later this year, partly as a result of their relaxing the one-baby rule. Does this bother you?  I see it as an enormous opportunity for Americans in the baby businesses -baby clothes, cribs etc. Their disposable income is rising so fast that the cheap COSCO stuff sold at KMart won’t be good enough for them. Humboldt County has never had a garment industry to speak of but wouldn’t it be nice if someone figured out how to make baby or children’s clothes our of that nice soft hemp cloth?  Someone local?

-Greg Gehr an FOB -Friend of the Blog- shared a link to Titan TV as an alternative to whatever comes out in this week’s URGE. I was pretty impressed especially as it gives more info, like is the show new or a repeat. Definitely useful. Thanks, Greg!

-Another FOB shared this about Northern Redwood Federal Credit Union, an institution I have not dealt with but considering my recent travails with Coast Central I just might look into them. Their Visa Classic Credit Card offers a 1% cash back applied as a credit to your savings account. They’re at 1270 Giuntoli Lane in Arcata and the phone is 800-822-5903. Jenna Cardoza is their Operations Officer and you might want to check them out.

- Finally just a peek into the future. The Eureka Fair Wage initiative is felt by its backers to be a sure shot for qualifying for the ballot in November and you’ll be hearing plenty about it  before them because it is already a bone of contention between the two 4th District Supervisorial contenders, Kerrigan in favor and Bass against. This is an enormous issue for Eureka so pay attention!  There should be some lively debate and it may well affect YOUR pocketbook.

See you later. Gonna be a busy summer!

USPS and CCCU- last update, hopefully

Those who waded through the saga described in my last post will recall that 1) I was advised by CCCU to close my checking account because I lost some checks  2) I opened a new account but after a month the new checks hadn’t come 3) CCCU contacted the Deluxe (check) company and was told that the checks must have been lost in the mail 4) CCCU closed THAT checking account and opened a new one for me and 5) I had to contact all 14 of the utilities, credit cards etc that I have payments deducted for to advise them that the payments would now come from a THIRD checking account.

I imagine you can guess what happened next. The day after I finished all the letters, calls and visits changing the account number for the second time (North Valley Bank insisted on an original letter) , the checks showed up for the second  account, now closed. According to the package, the checks were mailed from Lancaster, CA on March 13. It took FIVE WEEKS AND ONE DAY  for a small package to arrive here from Lancaster.  In the meantime I had tried to research the lost-mail stats fro the USPS and found- not surprisingly- that there are no clear figures. The consensus seems to be that the loss rate is between 2% and 5% for the USPS and a QUICK survey of what’s available on the loss rate of UPS and Fed Ex seems to indicate that customer satisfaction is far higher with UPS than with Fed Ex but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.  A graph published by Fed Ex gives their loss rate as .55% for what that’s worth. 

I was curious to know how long it would take me to hear from CCCU since the very helpful and talented staff there are skilled at calming customers and I really wanted someone from management to give Deluxe a reality check on their delivery times.  This morning a nice person named Jolene (“like the Dolly Parton song”) called and we agreed that if this NEXT order of checks doesn’t get here in two weeks, I should call her and she will call Deluxe. I’ll settle for that. I will also mention that the envelope in which Deluxe mails its checks ( with the box flattened but you’d have to be an idiot not to figure out that the “Important Documents Enclosed” are checks) in a plastic envelope that says “tamper-proof” but which can easily be cut open so should really read ‘tamper-evident”.

I hope this is the end of it.  

I will add just  one thing more. Of all the entities I have had to deal with during this mess, the EASIEST one was Suddenlink, the WORST one was PG&E. Happy Spring!

Is This Good Customer Service? You Be The Judge.

I have had most of my money in Coast Central Credit Union since I moved back here in ’93. At one time I had my mortgage with them too. Mostly they have been okay, okay enough that I stayed with them.  Today I am madder than the proverbial wet hen, and here’s why.

Over the weekend of March 8 I lost my checkbook. I rarely write checks and believe me I won’t be carrying that checkbook again without a specific purpose but in any event , it turned up missing and you know what happens when you report that to a bank. They tell you: Close the account so the villains out there can’t use your checks. We did so and I obediently opened a new account with Coast Central and they gave me a few checks to use until I got the new box. Meanwhile I had to notify EVERY ONE of the 14 parties I had authorized to take payments/debits about the new account number. I called or visited North Valley Bank, HCSD, PG&E, Suddenlink, State Farm, PayPal, three credit cards, Recology etc etc etc. It took a week.

Then I waited for my new checks. I had to go to CCCU and have some checks printed up  so I could pay Fullerton’s for my tax return. As of yesterday,  I was waiting a month for the new checks that were promised in two weeks. Finally I went over there and pressed the issue. The nice lady in New Accounts called the check company who told her the checks were LOST IN THE MAIL.  Who the hell mails blank checks through the USPS? Well, Coast Central does.  And it’s your tough luck if they don’t make it.  The nice lady was sympathetic but I HAD TO OPEN A THIRD CHECKING ACCOUNT, and I am in the middle of the second round of notifications to PG& E etc etc.  In an effort to stave off further disaster I told them to hold the checks at the CU and I would come pick them up. Again it seems to fall to me to be proactive.   

Why can’t they shave a few cents off Dean Christensen’s million-dollar salary and FED EX the checks? Boom! NO more “lost in the mail”.  I’ve really been thinking about Coast Central and how it really has been getting a free ride by  by being active in the community, as they shoud be.  Makes me think I should drop in on a board meeting or start a user’s group or something. Anybody with me?