When you first tell people you’re moving to Bakersfield, their reaction often has some reference to air pollution or social conservativism or Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. That is, of course, if they’ve heard of Bakersfield at all. In some ways, it’s a good thing that we had no choice in the matter when we first moved to Bako, because all those negative reviews might have had me headed elsewhere. But our Bako Reunion Tour, after a two-year hiatus, is completely voluntary. We lined our choices up in a row and chose to pack up and move back to the San Joaquin Valley. And while the dusty, sun-drenched, landscape might be just as people have described, the people themselves aren’t as easily categorized. Calling Bakersfield or Kern County the ‘Texas of California’ isn’t completely off base. Superficially the similarities are clear: the cowboy hats, agricultural landscape rimmed by rough mountains, the oil pumpjacks filling fields and taking up space in the parking lots of an endless row of commonplace chain businesses. The similarities also run deeper, as this stereotypically Republican district finds me feeling a little blue in a sea of red beliefs. But you’ll also find pockets of individuality, shiny little pebbles of traditional and modern culture that give a city, on the verge of being swallowed by sprawl like so many other mid-size towns in America, it’s own flavor. Have you ever brunched at The Crystal Palace? Or sampled tri-tip (I leave experimental meat-tasting to Dave) ? Or had dozens of mom-and-pop Mexican food restaurants to choose from? All these, and other non-food related examples that escape me, wonders can be found in Bako!
One of those pockets smells like incense and sounds like ‘Om’ and is filled with people of all political shades of blue, red and purple who need to sweat through yoga class to find their zen. The InnerBodyWorks studio is a relatively long standing member of the hopefully successful downtown renaissance project that Bakersfieldians are undertaking. And besides the yoga lessons I’ve learned there of late, I’ve also discoverd a microcosm of the community where I might be able to blend in a little better than at, for instance, a rodeo or country-western bar.
On Sunday, after class, Ashley and I, joined by Dave and Hud, attended a Vegan Potluck at the studio. We even proudly contributed a Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti taken from the Veganomican cookbook I get for my birthday (thanks, Alley!) because you simply can’t show up to a potluck empty handed, vegan or no! I made no mention of my desperate love of cheese amongst this sea of lovely vegans, but I sampled (and throuroughly enjoyed) every dish. I met some of the people next to whom I practice yoga every week (turns out they have names!), and socialized with people *gasp* outside of the hockey-network! I plan to attend next month as well, and will venture deeper into my cookbooks from something else to wow my fellow yogis and Bakersfield neighbors!