A little bit about a lot of things:

• Passing along news from the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District that the weekly distribution of free family food boxes has been extended and continues through the end of August.

Boxes are distributed most Fridays from 11 a.m. to noon at Barrington and Von Renner elementary schools in Newman....free for the asking to anybody who shows up.

The food boxes (which are also distributed at 9 a.m. Mondays in front of Gustine Elementary School through a separate provider) have been a welcome addition to our community resources during these troubled times. The hundreds of boxes distributed each week help keep local families stocked up on basics.

Last week’s boxes in Newman, for example, included staples such as chopped lettuce, potatoes, onions, apples and tomatoes....a nice assortment to help folks keep food on the table.

There are a couple of wrinkles in the Newman distribution schedule for coming weeks. There will be no family food box distribution this week, and next week’s will be on Thursday, July 2, before the schedule settles back into an every-Friday cycle.

Check it out!

• This has been kind of fun.....a movie crew has been filming in the Newman-Gustine area for nearly two weeks now, utilizing a variety of locations for their production.

We’ve welcomed production crews a few times in the past for commercials and at least one movie that comes to mind. Anybody remember “Valentino Returns,” the movie filmed partially in Newman back in the 1980s?

This production, though, was even more interesting because of its local ties. The project is being led by 1999 Gustine High graduate Travis Andre Ross, who has gone from his West Side roots to a successful acting career.

Ross is playing a lead role and producing the film.....which you can read more about elsewhere in this edition.

I caught up with the crew Friday while filming in front of the Gustine Police Department and Sunday while they were working in Newman’s skate park.

Without exception, cast and crew were graciously accommodating and welcoming.....and they had nothing but good things to say about the local communities and the helpful city officials who helped facilitate the projects.

They even pulled a few locals in as background extras while filming.....how fun was that!

Pretty cool stuff.....looking forward to seeing the finished product!

• The Fourth of July is apparently not confined to a single day, if the proliferation of illegal fireworks already evident is any indication.

Each of the last two weekends, and a few week nights as well, have brought illegal fireworks activity in our neighborhood.

We’re talking about what appear to be some pretty high-powered pyrotechnics, not the basic bottle rockets of my youthful days in Iowa.

Even your basic bottle rocket poses a fire risk in our bone-dry valley, and all fireworks carry a risk of personal injury.

Those risks grow exponentially with the power of the fireworks.

We’re not really excited at the idea of losing sleep to fireworks for the three weeks leading up to July 4.

And our dog is certainly no fan either, as the aerial explosions send her into a frenzy.

Hopefully, if the illegal fireworks continue and I’m sure they will, there are more than a few fireworks tickets handed out by authorities in Newman and Gustine, where the administrative citations for violations carry hefty fines.

It would be poetic justice if those fines could simply go into Gustine’s fireworks fund to help pay for the community show which the entire West Side enjoys each Fourth of July.

Doubt that can happen, for a variety of reasons, but that would be rather fitting, wouldn’t it?

I enjoy the Fourth of July, and I like fireworks. But I can do without several weeks of fireworks leading up to the holiday.

• The great mask debate continues.....if anything only heightened by Governor Newsom’s statewide order which came down last week.

I’m not a mask saint, by any means, but pretty much since the start of the pandemic have been making a point of wearing a facial covering when going into stores and when at all in close proximity to others while out and about.

Do I like doing so? Not for a second.

I just think it is the responsible thing to do.

Many of the arguments I hear against wearing a mask have nothing to do with why we are being asked to wear facial coverings in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. I too worry about our rights being trampled upon and wonder what rights we may lose as we go through this pandemic and (hopefully) come out the other side.

And, certainly, the mixed messages that we have heard regarding COVID-19 from the experts in the field have undermined the confidence of the public.

That’s unfortunate, and counter-productive.

And, yes, we’re all “over” the virus crisis.

But the crisis is anything but over, despite what some would apparently like to believe, as evidenced by a recent jump in Newman which pushed our number of confirmed cases to 25 after being at 12-14 for some time.

I’m sure that in the eyes of some I fall into the “sheep” category for willingness to wear a mask, even though people doing so are simply trying to do their part.

There is a certain irony in that, is there not?

Dean Harris the Managing Editor of the West Side Index and Gustine Press-Standard. He can be reached at dharris@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 243-8104.