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Saturday, May 31, 2014


Did Hemingway really drink booze at this Michigan bar?  Noted saloon writer Chris Barnett has his doubts
Guest Blog by Chris Barnett, America’s leading saloon writer
Pillar to Post Exclusive!

IN MICHIGAN OF ALL PLACES--The mission, if I chose to accept it and who wouldn’t, was to walk in the footsteps of the literary lion Ernest Hemingway and separate libational fact from fiction.

No, I wouldn’t be going to El Floridita Bar in Havana or to any of the many Harry’s Bars worldwide who claim Papa was a patron. Or to the bar in the Ritz Hotel in Paris where he raced on V.E. Day to toss back the first postwar Martini (someone beat him to it). Or to any number of saloons and watering holes where Papa reportedly sated his voracious and eclectic appetite for a drink.

That would be a mission impossible. Instead, I was heading for Petoskey, Mich, a small resort town on the shores of Lake Michigan where Hemingway spent his childhood and teen year summering with his family. His kin folk still live there on Walloon Lake.

Getting to Petoskey was no easy trick.  Luckily Southwest Airlines got me close.  I took a SFO to Chicago Midway nonstop roundtrip.
The luck didn’t extend to renting a car. Picking up my rental car from Thrifty at Midway took an hour and a half, an episode for another column. Suffice it to say the Thrifty counter was unstaffed, my complaints fell on deaf ears and the line behind me swelled to nine serious rent-a-car grumblers. When a manager finally showed up to open up, she was surly and unapologetic.

Thrifty did not have a car in the class I reserved, stuck me an extra $10 a day for a midsized car and when I walked out to pick it up, there were none—and, again, no apologies or a suggested solution. Only when I asked, “Can I take this Chevy?” did I get a car. I’m still wondering about the fate of the nine very annoyed business travelers in line behind me.

Getting out of Chicago in Friday afternoon traffic, even with the Chevy’s GPS, was hair-raising but once I hit Michigan, the Wolverine state’s highways were smooth, spotless and practically empty. Five hours later I was in the quaint hamlet of Petoskey.

Before hitting the bars I figured, it’s wise to  book a room and I was not up for a B&B. Locals touted me on to Stafford’s Perry Hotel, circa 1899, last of 24 luxury resorts that once catered to privileged vacationers who arrived by railcars, steamships or ferries.. But the Perry today, painted a canary yellow, reminded me of a dolled up but still charmless boarding house and the walk-up rates for a double were $120 to $139 nightly.

When in doubt or in strange small town, there’s usually always a bargain Hilton or a Marriott.  In Petoskey, the 77-room Hampton Inn and Suites is architecturally boring but stylish and friendly inside. Front desk clerk Jenica Collins, who has the presence and personality to work in Hilton’s upmarket Conrad brand, labored mightedly to give me a great rate. She started at $119 a night, barraged me with questions, and, when I said I was a business traveler, whittled it down to $79 a night including what turned out to be hearty breakfast.

Ensconced, I headed over to the City Park Grill ( at 432 E Lake St., renowned for its excellent American comfort food, reasonable prices, live music but better known as the bar where Ernest Hemingway hung out and drank. Opened in 1910, it has long promoted the story that young Hem was a regular on barstool number two; his handsome bearded visage stares down from the backbar to the spot where he supposedly sat.

The bartender on duty in the high-ceilinged, wood-paneled bar and grill was burnishing that legend with patrons. I asked him what the aspiring writer drank in those early days? “Beer and Scotch,” was his answer. But when I wondered if Hemingway turned “mean” when he powered down more than a couple cocktails—the description of his mood change I’ve heard over the years from two people who claimed to have drank with him--the bartender went ice cold and stone silent.

Recovering a few moments later, he said, “Hemingway was a private person, quiet. Maybe someone mistook that for mean.”

From that point on, he committed the barman’s unpardonable sin—ignoring the customer. While we ate at the vintage bar –split a hamburger and a bowl of Jambalaya topped off with a husky Manhattan, $5.50 during the daily 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm “happy hour” --we got the silent treatment. Michigander Phyllis Joiner serving as my guide was stunned. “He just froze you out, she said.”

Some deeper investigative reporting revealed the City Park Grill isn’t quite the Hemingway haunt we’re led to believe, and certainly not the site of barroom exploits he’s famed for the world over. Sure, he may have watched bare knuckle boxing in the park next door, and it’s true he wrote magazine stories in his $8 a week room in Mrs. Potter’s nearby unheated boarding house—and all were rejected

But Michael Federspiel, executive director of the local Little Travis Historical Society and author of “Picturing Hemingway’s Michigan” (Painted Turtle Books, Detroit), shatters the myth with a strong dose of facts: “Prohibition was law in Poteskey 10 years before 1919 when it became the law of the land,” he said. Translated, the town was dry when Hemingway was said to be elbow bending at the City Park Grill. “He was a teen and might have had a soda at the bar,”’ Federspiel muses.

Ernest marries Hadley 1921
“Or he might have had a drink in the room downstairs where (diners) went during Prohibition. But then he left for World War I where he drove an ambulance.”

Hemingway returned to Poteskey after the war, got married down the road in Horton Bay in 1921 to Miss Hadley Richardson where he is not remembered fondly for cruelly lampooning residents in his Nick Adams books. After the nuptuals, the couple  immediately moved to Chicago. He did not come back for 25 years, writes Federspiel. But by then he was a bloated 265 pounds, was living in Havana, on his way to Sun Valley—and just passing through.

San Francisco-based Chris Barnett got his first gig as a saloon scribe in 1972 when then Editor-in-Chief Tom Shess asked him to pen “In Search of the Great California Saloon” for PSA Airlines’ inflight magazine. Forty-two years later, Barnett’s liver is still in good health.  His saloon writing career is still flourishing.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Arsalun Tafazoli is profiled in a cover article by writer Amy Granite
GREAT READS, COOL LINKS and RERUNS—So, who can keep up with all that’s happening?  General interest recaps ahead from recent news sources:

San Diego's West Coaster Magazine profiles Arsalun Tafazoli, the creative restaurant genius behind Neighborhood Ale House; Polite Provisions and Underbelly Little Italy and North Park.

GOOGLE’S DRIVER LESS CAR:  Check out its new look.  The ultimate get-away car.

Mens magazine claims this is the definitive list of the world’s most beautiful women.

Must confess my favorite morning hobbit is to read the New Yorker blog.
Where else can you discover an article on discovering a long lost “Beowulf” translation by John Ronald Ruell Tolkien.  I still have nightmares about not studying for my Olde English final.

FEELIN' LUCKY, PUNK? Say hi to San Francisco cop Matt Friedman.  He's making news heading up SFPD's new anti bike theft unit.  Since Matt's detail has hit the street putting out "bait" bikes life has been tough on bicycle thieves. While the arrested dorks are posting bail with hard cash, Officer Friedman is posting their mugs online.  And, while viewing this New York Times blog item you can see he loves his job! 

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Sidewalk plaque at 28th and Upas

ONE WEEK FROM TODAY—SOHO, San Diego's leading historic preservation group, is bringing its annual home tour to the North Park area.  The weekend event (June 6,7, & 8) is highlighted by popular home tours on Saturday, June 7 and Sunday, June 8.  The purpose of this post is to remind those who haven’t heard that tickets are available.  And, a significant savings on tickets can be made by advance purchase.  

SOHO’s website is very detailed and gives info on all tours and events, plus how to obtain $1 parking at the North Park Garage at 29th and North Park Way.

SOHO: 619.297.9327 or 619.297-7511

There are many events during this year’s SOHO Weekend, JUNE 6, 7 & 8, however, this post only focuses on two of the home tours.

Historic Home Tour (goes inside homes)
Sunday · 11am-4pm
Registration opens at 10am
Tour the interiors of seven historic houses in North Park. The self-driven tour features homes with an exciting diversity of architectural styles ranging from a 1916 Prairie School with Mission Revival influences and a 1916 classic two-story Craftsman, to a 1924 Mission Revival with a rare brick-clad exterior. North Park is home to one of San Diego's finest historic Main Streets as well as a rich and vibrant community of bungalows and Craftsman homes highlighted by the recently approved Dryden Historic District and Spanish Revival homes bordering Morley Field. Historic homes by master builders David Owen Dryden, Alexander Schreiber and Edward F. Bryans, and a Richard Requa, architect for the 1935 Expo, are just a few of the seven homes that visitors will tour this year. This year's historic home tour is a must see for architectural lovers!

90-minute Walking Tours (via sidewalk viewing only)
Saturday · 9am | 11am | 1pm
Registration opens at 8am
The six-block neighborhood along 28th Street and Pershing Avenue from Upas to Landis Streets was designated as the North Park Dryden Historic District in 2011. On this 1-mile stroll, guides will discuss the variety of architectural styles represented in the neighborhood. This area developed from 1912 to 1941, with most homes being completed by the 1920s. The included guidebook highlights 30 homes, many built by Master Builder David Owen Dryden.

On SOHO Historic Home Tour this Sunday
SUNDAY HOME TOUR SNEAK PREVIEW:  Tourgoers on this year’s SOHO historic home tour will go inside seven homes (docent guided). Included in this exclusive Sunday tour is one of the more unique bungalows in North Park. Located at Pershing and Landis, this brick structure was built and designed by Frank Garside.  Cast as a one-story, Mission Revival, it was built in May 1924 for original owners David and Jennie McCracken.  Popular realtor Ron Oster is the current owner.
The house is constructed of brick with a partially exposed cobble foundation. Roof parapets surround the flat roof of the house and the covered front porch on the southeast corner of the house. This porch, the front door, and two windows opening to the porch are all arched. A brick chimney is located behind a wooden trellis and gate that extends to the south of the front porch. To the north of the front porch, decorative canvas awnings cap three arched windows - double hung windows flanking a fixed center window.
A low cobble wall is located along the street-facing property lines, raising the yard five steps above the level of the sidewalk. Landis Street slopes down to the west, exposing a recessed garage door at the basement level. A newer deck and trellis structure extends from the west wall of the house. Metal roof drains and downspouts have decorative bracing; attic air vents are visible along the north parapet. On the north façade, a small shed tile roof covers a three-sided bay window that has a fixed center pane with double-hung windows on each side.

This home was featured in American Bungalow Magazine in an article by Thomas Shess.

SOHO: 619.297.9327 or 619.297-7511

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


A PRO’S PRO--Judith Eshenfelder Witty began her journalism career on the student newspaper at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and soon was reporting for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the Dallas Times Herald, where she was the only female city side reporter at the time.
It was there that she met Bob Witty, and they married during a sleet storm on January 28, 1961. Two weeks later they headed west in two cars, Judy in a sporty Austin Healy Sprite and Bob in a brand new Chrysler Valiant.
Judith Witty on Assignment
Bob had a job waiting for him at the San Diego Evening Tribune, where he later became deputy editor, but Judy was barred from working at either the Union or Tribune because of nepotism rules. Instead, she moved into public relations at Cal Western University, followed by assignments at Phillips-Ramsey and Nuffer-Smith. She also wrote for San Diego Magazine, San Diego Home & Garden, Senior World, TravelAge West and Guest Informant.
For many years Judy wrote a weekly column reviewing children's books for Copley News Service. One of the most satisfying of her freelancing assignments was writing travel articles, mostly around her treks through Europe, Canada, Mexico and California's wine country. In 2003, she and Bob took an around the world cruise on the QE2, sending stories and photos back to the states.
“When I worked with Judy as a magazine editor in town, I remember she delivered excellent copy on time and always accepted assignments with a genial enthusiasm,” said Tom Shess, who served editorial stints at both San Diego Magazine and San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles, “She was one of this city’s top freelance writers.”
In 1984, they kept a promise to their teenage children, Lisa and Stephen, and spent five weeks driving around Europe. Bob's brother, Tom, met them in London on arrival and put them up in the Ritz Hotel setting up expectations which were not to be realized for the rest of the trip.
Judy loved playing tennis, and was among the first to enroll in the Run for Your Life program when it began in San Diego in the 1960s. She was chair of Mission Hills Advisory Council for the city schools, deciding the future of the Grant Elementary School, which was condemned by the Field Act. She also was a mentor in the central library's literacy program.
She loved remodeling her family's homes in Mission Hills and Scripps Ranch, and being both daring and thrifty, she acted as contractor to oversee the projects.
Judy was born in New York City on June 30, 1936 to Henry and Helen Eshenfelder and attended schools mostly in Connecticut until age 12 when her parents moved to Dallas. Her father was an executive at Chance Vought Aircraft and was in the advance wave of the company's historic move from Stratford to Dallas.
Judy died on May 16 of complications from pneumonia. She had been active until a few weeks before, with daily workouts on a treadmill, cooking gourmet meals for Bob, playing bridge and attending weekly luncheons and teas at the Wednesday Club.
She is survived by her husband, Bob; son Stephen of New Orleans, a sister, Jan Burton of Dallas, brother-in-law Tom Witty of Oklahoma and several nieces and nephews. A daughter, Lisa, died of cancer in 2000.
Her favorite charities included Doctors Without Borders and Smile Train.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday, June 5, in the Mission Hills United Church of Christ.

Note: This remembrance was provided by Bob Witty, son Stephen Witty with editing provided by the Witty's family friend, Judith Morgan.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Anti world hunger advocate and newly published author Ellen Gustafson is in San Diego for a book signing
FOOD FOR THOUGHT--On hand in San Diego to sign her new book that’s fresh off the presses, Ellen Gustafson, a sustainable food system activist, author, innovator and social entrepreneur, will be at Café 21, 802 Fifth Ave. from 7 pm to 9 pm on Tuesday, May 27.

The gathering is free to the public.

Titled, “We the Eaters: If We Change Dinner, We Can Change the World” is published by Rodale Press in May 2014, and her message insists we can love our food and our country while being better stewards of our system and our health.  In one of her talks she examined how it is no coincidence that the world’s trouble spots—hotbeds for war and terrorism—are among the most famine prone.

She is the Co-Founder of Food Tank: the Food Think Tank, with Danielle Nierenberg. She is also founder of a small sustainable home goods company called the Apron Project. Before the launch of Food Tank, Ellen founded the 30 Project, a campaign that has helped to change the conversation about the global food system by connecting hunger and obesity. She is also the creator of the ChangeDinner campaign and HealthClass2.0, which are helping individuals change the food system at dinner tables and in schools.

An appearance on TED in New York City can be seen by linking to

Ellen will be present at the event to sign copies of her book and we will be raffling off three (3) books for guests.

Café 21 has moved into the former site of Croce’s Restaurant at Fifth & F Sts. Owned and operated by Alex and Leyla Javadov, the restaurant offers an electic menu with lots of nuances from their native Baku, Azerbaijan.