Mike Tharp: Things I like about Merced: the sequel

April 7, 2012 

Below is a column I wrote in November 2008.

Thought it was worth a reprise and an update. Had to delete listening to the Wolfman Jack show since our local radio station switched formats. And the smell of ink and paper in our building, since we now print in Fresno.

What I'd add to the list after three and a half years:

Every one of the local businesses I've reported on in our Monday Business Profile, which I started writing last August. From one-person startups to giant global competitors, they've restored my confidence in our local and national economic recovery.

And I'd add every single person I've been lucky enough to write about in this column. There are too many to mention, but without exception listening to their stories and then telling them to you has been one of the best parts of the job.

Then come the friends I've made during that time -- and you know who you are.

Finally, I'd add the folks who are now in our newsroom and those who've been here and moved on. The Feral Dogs and I established a trust, a commitment to our mission, a chemistry/camaraderie and a friendship rare in any business. And since our business is reporting and writing "the best obtainable version of the truth," it matters more that we get along.

So those are what I'd add to the original list, which starts right now:

Things I like about Merced.

In no special order.

The clerks and checkout counter folks at Save Mart where I shop. They're nice, fast, often funny and want to help.

The young man at Goodwill who always thanks me for returning books I've bought a couple weeks before; he now recommends titles to me.

Melissa who cuts my hair. She's Vietnamese, and we always find something to talk about while she's trimming my Oakland Raider (silver and black) locks -- that war, this war, Kobe and the Lakers ...

Lowe's workers who've steered me right every time I go there looking for lawn stuff or kitchen gear.

One lady at Ross who's been ultracourteous and superefficient in all the dealings I've had with her.

Sarah, whom you already know from my blog, at the DMV.

Dr. Christian Gallery, my doc, the best I've had since I was a kid.

Second Time Around Books in downtown Merced, where I'd spend most of my time and money if given half a chance.

My commute: two minutes, if I make the light at Olive and G, compared to 350 miles a week in SoCal.

Bear Creek Inn, where I stayed the first two times I came up here to look at the job and the town.

Wailing trains around 5:15 a.m. when I'm sittin' in the back yard, sippin' my green tea, before breakfast. My dad was a railroad bull (policeman) for the Santa Fe for 40 years back in the Midwest, so the romance of rail still outweighs the hassles of getting caught at our crossings.

The biannual appearance of a full moon at either end of Olive Avenue. Last year, Matthew Fisher, my Canadian war correspondent buddy, and I drove his rental way out of town, looking at that satellite loom like a pomegranate in the sky.

How the fields smell when I cross the county line heading north on 99 -- you know you're back on farmland.

The 30- to 40-degree temperature swing in the fall in these parts. Resort weather, my dad used to call it.

How close we are to Yosemite, one of Earth's truly stunning and unique wonders -- even when it's filled with tourists.

The lack of lines -- in stores, in traffic, in restaurants -- which means what you want is much more hassle-free.

Almond groves, sweet potato fields, vineyards, peach orchards, strawberry plants and dairy heifers -- all within a couple miles of the city limits. All living, breathing examples of the billions of dollars in our ag statistics.

Mercedians' sense of humor, shown by farmer Bob Chad who's installed solar panels at his place. I went there on a recent tour, and after he told us all the details about his set-up, he mentioned that behind the house he had "a solar clothes dryer." The veteran newspaper editor nearly went back to take a look before the penny dropped.

How quick and sharp (in two meanings of the word) the commenters are on our website about our stories and our own blog entries. Shows we're being read, if not liked.

Hilmar Cheese and how the family-founded, locally owned company reaches out to kids in school with cool tours; and to the needy among us, with donations to food banks.

The depth of human character in most folks I've met. It reminds me of where I grew up, Oklahoma and Kansas, and whether you like the character or don't, you know just what it is. Who you see is who you get. (This is a 180 from the shallow, surface-obsessed people in SoCal.)

Paul's Place. Could've fit right in on Route 66 in the '50s.

Now you know why I call Merced home.

Mike Tharp is the executive editor of the Sun-Star. Reach him at (209) 385-2456 or mtharp@mercedsunstar.com.

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