Media Life: The lukewarm reviews are in on Auburn

By: Gus Thomson
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Tourist guides always provide a portal into viewing Auburn the way others may see the community, warts and all. Promising to take readers beyond what first catches their eye and into the heart of a place, the 12th edition of "Hidden San Francisco & Northern California" arrived the other day, fresh off Berkeley's Ulysses Press. A short synopsis of the local entries: Loved Nevada City. Wasn't too enamored with Auburn. "Auburn, like Placerville, has grown too large to enjoy the rural charm of other Mother Lode communities," author Ray Riegert notes pithily. The lone glimmer of a silver lining in an abbreviated entry on the city praises Old Town as "the only section of note." The self-guided walking tour (Old Town map available at the Auburn Chamber of Commerce office) gets a Roger Ebertesque thumbs up from the Hidden author. Latitudes Restaurant gets kudos in the Northern Gold Country Dining section for a "colorful selection of worldly dishes in an 1870 Victorian home." "Try the savory curried tofu with papaya chutney or the filet mignon with rosemary potatoes," the reviewer suggests. Auburn's role as a regional shopping destination for the Mother Lode gets a mention, with Old Town Auburn again getting the share of the attention. An excursion there is tantamount to a historic adventure, according to the guide. But that's about it. Auburn State Recreation Area is listed in the "parks" category and the Foresthill exit's 77-unit Travelodge gets a lukewarm nod, I suppose, as a, quote, 1970s time warp. The city is shut out of the night life category. Nevada County, alternatively, gets plenty of ink, with scads of information on Nevada City's "country village charm," including mention of gaslights, turreted houses and balconied stores along Broad Street. "Much of the Victorian elegance remains," the reviewer gushes. The reader is directed to what is described as an adventurous side trip to Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park. Also getting a plug is the true living history of Nevada City's Parsonage Bed & Breakfast. Nevada City's plethora of bookstores are detailed, as are go-to nightspots McGee's Annex and Cirino's. In a tale of two cities, it looks as if Auburn's attributes are well hidden, even for "Hidden San Francisco & Northern California." LIFE IMITATES "ER" Auburn's Mark Vaughan is a doctor who plays an attorney for an actor who plays a doctor. Got that? Pick up a copy of "The Californians," a movie that came out last month on DVD after bypassing movie theaters and you'll be able to see Dr. Vaughan, an Auburn physician, onscreen with "Dr. Carter" of "ER." Vaughan is flanking actor Noah Wyle in a courtroom scene at the beginning of the film. Wyle is most famous for his work from 1994 until last year as a regular cast member on TV's "ER." His Dr. John Carter was the last original member to leave the cast, exiting to do good works in Africa. The courtroom scenes were filmed in San Rafael in the summer of 2004. Vaughan had put his name in for parts with several casting companies after getting a small part when Animal Planet filmed a made-for-cable movie in Placerville. "The Californians" director looked through a stack of photos, saw Vaughan's, and said something to the effect of "I want that face sitting next to Noah Wyle's." For three days, Vaughan literally rubbed shoulders with Tinseltown's version of what an upstanding-yet-flawed-but-terribly-wealthy doctor should be, playing his attorney and getting a lengthy opportunity to chat with the actor. Coincidentally, Vaughan was a third-year medical student and a regular "ER" viewer during the early shows when Carter played a third-year medical student. Vaughan didn't get a speaking part and remained off the list of credits at movie's end, but he's up there on the screen and if you listen closely, that's his voice exclaiming "yessss" in a celebratory scrum near the end of the scene. For all you Placer High School spring musical fans who may wonder if you may have seen Vaughan - a 1988 Placer High graduate - way back when, he was Hugo Peabody in the 1987 production of "Bye Bye Birdie." WHAT'S A KARFLUKI? Auburn's list of outdoor festivals just jumped by one - and it's a significant jump. Called the Karfluki Fest 2006, it's the brainchild of Celtic folk-rocker Lief Sorbye and the Looper family, owners of Newcastle's Constable Jack's entertainment mecca. Sorbye, founder of the band Tempest, liked what he saw when he spotted the Gold Country Fairgrounds as an alternative venue for the band's annual reunion concert in Davis. Constable Jack's Tim Looper and his family joined in to provide some local expertise on putting together a festival from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.. May 6 at the fairgrounds' Ferrell Wren Park. It's A Beautiful Day, a long-lasting Bay Area band known for the 1960s classic "White Bird," will close the festival. Original member David Laflamme will be onstage to deliver simmering solos on violin. As well as Tempest, other acts will be Shana Morrison (Van Morrison's daughter with a three-piece acoustic set), Slim Bawb & Gator Bait (a melange of Beer Dawgs and Mumbo Gumbo members) and Wicked Tinkers (more Celtic music, melding didgeridoo, bagpipes and percussion). Add in some Medieval re-enactors, jugglers, kids activities, dancers, puppeteers, sideshow acts, foods and beverages and Karfluki promises plenty of fun. As for the word "karfluki," Looper - whose own clan includes daughters Shannon, Shylah, Sheena and Dana, and wife Jacquie -- says its root is "kaflu," a word describing a messed-up musical part. Its derivation is all to the good though, having evolved into "karfluki" - Northern Californian for a "joyful, happy time." Karfluki is a two-year project, with the fairgrounds locked in for next year too. If it works out, it could become an annual festival. Tickets this year are $25 apiece and available locally at Auburn's Cherry Records and Constable Jack's. For Constable Jack's, April is turning out to be quite a month - perhaps the biggest for name entertainers in its eight years of serving brews, food and hot music at its downtown Newcastle location. Chanteuse Maria Muldaur appears tonight. Blues legend Elvin Bishop drops by April 23. Blues harp master Norton Buffalo follows April 28. Who says the Auburn area doesn't have a nightlife? Oh, right. Perhaps that "Hidden Northern California" guy Ray Riegert may want to stay a while longer next time he visits Auburn and turn up a few more hiding places. The Journal's Gus Thomson can be reached at