Affective Education (1)

Back in 1977, I attempted attending Bakersfield College, a.k.a. “the high school on the hill” or “Panorama High,” a two-year community college with free tuition. It was the only choice I had as a poor boy. I only made it for a year, even though I had what many teenage boys might call a dream job—I was paid to photograph pornographic magazines. I was an assistant to the P.R. photographer on campus, Al Noriega, but mainly I worked with instructional materials (specifically Swedish ones). After taking the usual panorama of psychology, philosophy, and art classes I dropped out in disgust when I was not able to pass even the bonehead English course. I could read, but I couldn’t write. So I jumped ship.

Rex called me the other day to inform me about their latest P.R. campaign distributed around the city on billboards. As with many things, location is the key to success. Where this billboard was placed is especially meaningful to folks of my vintage.


It sits in the shadow of the Padre Hotel. When I was in my twenties, it seemed like at least once a month someone would take the leap off the top of it—frustrated artists, lovers, general misfits, you name it. There was always much drama, and the drama of these people often ended on the pavement near this sign. Greg Goodsell has written some good stuff about the Padre and its famous Piano Bar. It closed in 2002 and is yet another case of arrested development in Bakersfield.


I remember the missile on top pointed toward City Hall, and the neon “Alamo Tombstone” sign vividly. I don’t remember ever photographing there (too trendy for me), but I do remember visiting there from time to time to soak in the funky vibe now being radically reconstructed.

Jump, indeed.