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M. Richard: The model maker sitting on his railroad car at the Golden Gate Live Steam Club. He grew up in Berkeley and developed a passion for model trains. He first visited the Live Steam Club as a teenager and fell in love with the model steam-engine locomotives big enough to ride behind..
M. Richard: The model maker sitting on his railroad car at the Golden Gate Live Steam Club. He grew up in Berkeley and developed a passion for model trains. He first visited the Live Steam Club as a teenager and fell in love with the model steam-engine locomotives big enough to ride behind..


Welcome to the Readers’ Issue

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Welome to the Daily Planet’s annual Reader Contibution Issue. We received many wonderful stories, too many to fit in this issue, so we will publish a second installment of contributions on Friday. 

Thank you to all who sent in your essays, poems, fiction, photographs and illustrations. We hope you enjoy these holiday selections as much as we did.

The Life and Times of a Berkeley Kid By MINA EDELSTON

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Even after 50 years of practice he still enjoys cutting away excess material to reveal the finished part inside a rough chunk of metal. “Each part is inside the piece of metal,” he tells me, “Just cut away everything that is not the part.” 

During most of World War II, his family lived in an apartment across the street from Sather Gate in an upstairs flat on Bancroft Avenue. His maternal grandparents lived with the family for many years. In the 1920s and 1930s, grandpa worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. On e of the stories told about grandma is how her daughters teased that she baked only pies to share at Sunday gatherings instead of cakes because she would never turn the oven dial to anything less than 500 degrees. 

In 1946 a house on Grove Street near Ber ryman became home. General Steamship company in San Francisco employed his dad and mom worked in downtown Berkeley at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street in the old American Trust (Wells Fargo) building. The era of electric trolley cars on Berkeley city str eets was coming to an end. The electric Key System (F) train was still around. As a teenager in the 1950s, he could pay 25 cents and ride to downtown Berkeley or San Francisco. 

He remembers back to a day when he was a boy of 8 and 9 years old, when there was something in the neighborhood hobby shop window that looked interesting. He saw all kinds of kits from which ships, trains, airplanes and buildings could be built. Back then, models were made from paper, metals, and wood. Parts could be cut out, glue d together and painted. First came the wedged shape model of a building called a roundhouse where steam locomotives were stored. Models of a cable car and a fleet of foot-long navy ships would decorate the shelves in his mother’s living room library for m any years to come. 

Classes in wood shop and metal shop at both Garfield (Martin Luther King) Jr. High School and Berkeley High School were his favorite. Everyone made the requisite sugar scoop in the class at Garfield. This is where he learned how to cut, bend, and solder sheet tin. By 13 or 14, his laminated wood bowls and vases joined the model collection already on the shelves. His attic bedroom was becoming the location of an emerging HO gauge railroad.  

Vacation meant a ride on Western Pacific Rail road’s California Zephyr to Salt Lake City; the Santa Fe’s Super Chief to Enid, Oklahoma and Los Angeles; or Southern Pacific’s Sunshine Special to Santa Cruz. There were no freeways in the late l940s and early 1950s. Long car trips could be arduous. Travel by airplane was not yet common.  

On the way to Big Sur, the family stopped by the Watsonville Junction yard of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Trains were assembled and disassembled here. Locomotives such as Switch Engines (0-6-0), the Pacifics (4-6-2), the Daylights (4-8-4), and the Cab-Aheads (4-8-8-2) went there to be serviced.  

Thunderous sounds of the exhaust from a steam locomotive as it started a fully loaded freight train from a stop were music to his ears. Standing at one edge of the railroad yard, the young enthusiast eagerly watched as the gigantic steam 

locomotives chuffed and clanked around the yard not knowing that in only a few years this would all disappear.  

For the 15-year-old and his dad the show in 1955 at the Oakland Center (now the Calvin Simmons Theater) near the Oakland Museum must have been fascination at first sight. A local group of model makers were exhibiting small scale working locomotives. Before too long the duo were visiting the Golden Gate Live Steamers’ club where t hey operated their own model steam engines-big enough to ride behind! A three-fourths inch scale Daylight in particular made a big impression on this 10th grader. He began reading a series of construction articles published in the magazine Miniature Locom otive. Somewhere along the line, he decided to build a Daylight model of his own. 

The full sized, Art Deco styled Daylight trains made regular stops at the foot of University Avenue in Berkeley on their way to either Los Angeles or Portland. These were s ome of the last steam locomotives built in America and were retired in the 1950s. 

In the process of building a model locomotive, he learned the basics of drafting and machining. Working out mechanical details to turn problematic ideas into practical rea lity helped him develop his problem solving skills. Today he still uses the same skills aided by computer driven machines. Model steam locomotives #11 and #12 are nearing completion. John Lisherness is the name of this Berkeley born model maker. 


Writer’s note: Interviewing someone you know well and admire may be challenging. However, it can be a great opportunity to know more about him/her and gain a deeper understanding.S

Baked Goods Make For Good Neighbors in Westbrae District By HEJI KIM

Tuesday December 27, 2005

The first Christmas in my Westbrae neighborhood, I was completely taken aback when a neighbor shyly handed me a package of her home baked anise biscotti.  

My husband and I had previously lived in the Berkeley hills where neighbors would routinely look th e other way when you tried to greet them; some were suing each other over property easement rights. 

Imagine our continuing surprise all throughout that first Christmas week when we received a loaf of zucchni bread, butter balls, and sugar sprinkle cookie s from three other neighbors. My husband happily baked apple pies to reciprocate. 

It all started with buttery treats, but our neighbors have slowly become a greater part of our lives. We give each other rides to the airport. We take care of each others c ats, gardens and chickens when away. We share bumper tomato crops. Most importantly, our neighbors provide a continuous ballast of friendship, company and support through difficult patches. Even when we don’t have direct interaction, it’s nice to be worki ng on your front garden along with everyone else. 

How does it happen that one neighborhood functions as a community while another one is a disparate grouping of individuals tied together only by the geographic cluster of real estate. The most obvious and shallow explanation is income level. My Westbrae neighborhood is a moderate neighborhood neither rich nor poor. My former hills neighborhood was full of expensive real estate. 

An adjoining neighbor routinely called the police to report my husband’s car for violating the 72-hour-parking law; they didn’t want a delapidated van in front of their million dollar property. These hill houses were sited for seclusion—fenced and gated in where possible. Few of the hill neighbors worked on their front yards inste ad hiring crews of laborers. 

A co-worker told me he had a similar experience renting in the Presidio compared to renting in his current beloved Bernal Heights neighborhood. But surely there must be close knit rich neighborhoods as well; I once read an Op rah perspective where she gushed about her new neighbors just as much as I have done. 

Regardless of cause, maybe just the act of giving and sharing sweet baked goodies triggers community. So dear reader, please give it a try this season. Take out a few s ticks of butter, bake away something sweet to surprise your neighbors.  


A Thank-You Note For December By ANN SIECK

Tuesday December 27, 2005

December in Berkeley. Rusty notes from flocks of geese heading south at last. A trickle of warblers and flycatchers continue to visit streets where fall colors are still on display only a few days before the solstice. 

On neighborhood streets seasonal lights and small herds of confused looking white wire reindeer are appearing. Corny? Tacky? Tasteless? I don’t care, I love it. For the next couple of weeks any evening expedition is an excuse to admire my town all gussied up just for the fun of it. 

But in daylight, there really isn’t a bad time of year for a stroll around Berkeley. This is only partly because we have so many well-designed, well-preserved older buildings. As much as I enjoy a deft detail in a 19th century gable, it’s the large and small way s present-day residents express themselves that are essential to the appeal of a street. I love to see creative landscaping complement fine old architecture, but even residents of WWII-era bungalows often turn their unpromising tiny front yards into charm ing gardens.  

Most any flatland block has things to see that have no purpose but to delight, from a skillfully contrived rock garden with cacti and succulents in all sizes and shapes, to a sculpture of vertical copper wires mirroring adjacent boxed clust ers of horsetails (both on Channing Way below Martin Luther King Jr. Way). 

Antique bottles on a front windowsill, a flowering vine trained over an arched gate, a rooftop vent cover serving as garden stupa—On McGee Avenue south of Dwight Way a waterfall i nto a six-foot long rocky stream flows to an 18-inch-wide pool, where an underwater grill protects three small goldfish from cats and raccoons. Another water sculpture, quite different, cascades from a copper pipe into concrete basins in front of a home on Wallace Street. 

There are jokes, too. In the mostly African American neighborhood of Idaho Street, if you had a horse, you could tie it to a pink-faced stable boy. At Halloween a front-porch pumpkin on California Street had eight fat legs transforming it into a giant spider. 

Even when monsters and reindeer are out of season, fantastic animals in every shape and size are all over town. Some are alive but not lively: topiary vertebrates. Others are constructed with everything from CDs to driftwood. Of c ourse there are real creatures to be seen wherever people have worked to attract birds. On Ward Street above Shattuck Avenue, peek through an intricate wrought-iron gate into a yard alive with twittering, to see a small community of birdbaths and tricklin g fountains. 

Of course, there are shades of house paint the first amendment perhaps should not protect. I, or you, might take issue with some folks’ esthetic choices, but since I not only don’t know anything about art, but don’t even always know right aw ay what I like, I love the variety, and enjoy the junky and oddball creations along with the impeccably tasteful.  

And I suppose things sometimes get stolen or damaged. I like to think the people—the artists—doing this are ready to accept losses philosop hically, as a cost of enriching their community.  

For that is what they are doing, whether they have planted and tended a handsome front garden or fashioned a gargoyle to guard a yardful of found art (on 67th Street near Acton.) By putting their gardenin g, their art, the ornamentation of their homes out front for all to enjoy, they’ve made a generous gift to anyone who passes along Berkeley’s streets. My life is the richer for it, and I’m grateful.. 

I Have Become A Local By Patrick Fenix

Tuesday December 27, 2005

I have become a local ... a West Berkeley resident of long standing ... all of a sudden that is given to me ... it has been happening delicately, almost imperceptibly, to be sure, but the realization is sudden, breathtaking ... 

Now as a local I go to walk on the pier with my dog and see things that only I can see ... one day just before sunset I saw two tall dark lovers kissing and pressing against each other out at the end of the pier ... She was wearing white satiny jogging pants and matching top, and their embrace was so hot and absorbing that they noticed my arrival not at all, and I left them as they were about to burst into flames ... Next day on my walk, also late in the afternoon, they were still there, but frozen motionless, somehow having become one ... I marveled and wondered fleetingly how it would end ... 

Anther day as I stood at the end of the pier happy and meditative in the last moment’s of that day’s sun, I saw a man in a gray suit and floppy brimmed straw hat striding toward me, a long silken gray umbrella rolled up tight in his swinging hand ... He strode past me, lips pressed together, determined, and walked right through the bars at the end of the pier, continuing airborne until he reached the old pilings that stretch halfway to San Francisco ... then he strode on, gingerly leaping from old piling to old piling, until he was almost out of sight. 

I couldn’t help but think with gratitude that I had truly become a local.i

Once Upon A Christmas By Maya Elmer

Tuesday December 27, 2005

It is the first of November. The second floor up-elevator at Macy’s literally deposits me into the midst of CHRISTMAS! Six feet away stands a fir tree, encrusted and fililgreed with golden ornaments edge-to-edge. I gasp at the suddenness of its being and feel assaulted. To the left, out of the corner of my eye, rows of tiny, red santas—or reindeer—or toy soldiers. They demand that I linger; to finger them. Or do they coax me to pick out what should be on my tree this year. I turn my shoulder to their messages, and leave. I am affronted. The first days of November are too soon for me to reach out to the celebrating days of holiday-December. It’s not time yet.  

But it isn’t that: 

Nostalgic sorrow brushes/rushes over me as I think of the years of family, excitement, and involvement in a pagan enjoyment of the season. All are long past. Is it that my apartment speaks now with a different voice? No room for an eight-foot tree; no storage for the glittering and sentimen-tal boxes of last year’s and yesteryear’s ornaments.  

Yes. I grieve a little at this moment.  

But then I remember the year in the very late ‘70s—35 years ago now—when we bring home the eight-foot scotch pine—the tree of the year—with its airy branches and long needles. We live in a house with a vaulted living room ceiling; a double bay window with leaded glass casement windows looks out on a lawn where fifty year old elms have shed their leaves months ago. A hawthorne tree to the left. Quite often in Michigan, it is NOT a white Christmas.  

Everyone of my teenagers is away: at school, Antioch or Wayne U; or in the Peace Corps; or community living, or having a baby. In tune with the winds that are blowing change as well as marijuana smoke, I decide on a change, too.  

A sense of fun creeps up on me. To dress-up, to change the house into its party-mode. I tie wide white ribbons in bows over five or six gold balls, swag-fashion. Each swag tucked in and among the branches, truly a magnificent tree with its dark green needles, a foil for the white, and gold.  

Is this the year, I wrap sticky, white, starched strings over big party balloons? and puncture them when the strings have dried to create a huge mobile? Layers of balsa dowels, one over the other, fish hook swivels allow the balls to balance gracefullly in the front hall, by the stairs where the whole installation hangs from the second floor hall chandelier. Is this the year my eldest introduces a friend who is very vocal in his appreciation of the beauty of the house?  

The architect who had lived in the house before us has designed the perfect staircase for swags of cedar--open to the center hall. “Christmas time IS exciting!” I think as I anchor one end to the beautifully carved newel post.  

Over the mantel I hang a large round wicker wall decoration. It takes me one whole afternoon to spray magnolia leaves with gold paint and then glue them so they jut from the cross bars: a Christmas mandala. To the right or left stand three foot tall composite crystal statues, representing stylized Three Wise Men. I have glued, one upon the other, goblet bases, glasses and crystals, gold leaf and gold stickers, gold braid. One tall and skinny, the other fat and round, and the third, a middling mix. What a wonderful way to memorialize those expensive, broken Waterford wedding presents.  

In another year, friend-Carol and I fashion three wise men out of rolled self-drying clay, laid over three sizes of wine bottles. It’s hard to get around the “stomach” of a Gallo bottle although the vermouth ones take to the clay naturally. The red of the clay complements the walnut mantelpiece, the golden beige grass cloth wall paper and the centerpiece.  

Daughter Lucy reminds me not to forget the white felt angel silhouette appliqued onto green burlap as a wall hanging and sprinkled with the starlight of sequins.  

“The stockings!” Jamie chimes in. “I remember how they hung on the mantel, only to find them—white felt and with gold trim at the ends of our beds in the morning. Exciting expectation! An orange in the toe; and Bart, my brother, and I played “warship,” until it was time to go down for breakfast and presents!” 

Christmas is always a fun-time. Not for me the anxieties of some past guilt-feelings. I never get sick in December.. Indeed, I once had a baby who waited for the day after Christmas to get born. I’m basically a pagan-druid at heart. It is a time to celebrate!  

There’s another day in December which I always celebrate secretly. I raise my glass in toast to the shortest day of the year ! Dec. 21, the winter solstice. Each extra minute in the day when the sun sets later, or rises even one minute earlier than the day before is an annual triumph for the good of my soul—and the sun.  

So I wait four more days for the official celebration!  


• • • 


Now, 20, 30, even 40 years later, the house of the ‘70s gets more beautiful in my historical mind. Today, a flower pot filled with hardened plaster-of-paris holds my little coyote-bush branch now painted white. In a pattern of contemporary lacework, crystal balls dangle, as do a few golden pieces from Jakarta and Bali. It stands all year around in the back bedroom on a dresser top behind books and photos, souvenirs of life. Looking perky; or sassy; sometimes, bored—depending on how I am feeling that day..  

Until Christmas week ! ! Then—Exultate!! Jubilate !! The magic begins again !! 





Tuesday December 27, 2005

In front of the fire. 


The cat lies on your lap. 

She melts like a lump of butter, 

Spreads out  

And pours down your leg. 


She lies there : 

A molten puddle. 

Her beauty palpable 

With closed-eyed fingers.

Berkeley Recycles By C.C. Saw

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Since I haven’t seen yours firsthand 

I can only describe my neighborhood 

on city pick-up day 

when the recycling vultures 


replete to the point that just carrying 

a blue carton or two 

to the curb 


can bring a bevy 

of inspectors 

to claw through the week’s remains 

for glass, plastic, tin, steel 

newspapers & corrigated 

in fact often all gone 

before I’ve made it back inside 

to start anew emptying mostly 

more containers 


but because so many 

in spite of taxpayer efforts 

claim my refurse 

I’m convinced there’s reason 

to begin 

scavenging city streets 

for profit 


The Worm Of Thought By Nancy Schimmel

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Though I can’t remember their names, I liked my English teachers at Long Beach Poly High. They both had us read plays aloud in class, and I can still hear some 11th grade boy crying “What, you egg! Young fry of treachery!” We were reading 1984, too (this was in 1951, when 1984 seemed like the distant future), and one of the boys “translated” Lady Macbeth’s dagger speech into Newspeak. In twelfth grade English we read Idylls of the King, among other things, and some of us started writing a parody of it, in which due to shoddy construction by a corrupt contractor, a castle wall fell into the sea, killing some royal who had been doing a yoga headstand by it.  

The 12th grade teacher had us writing a poem each week in a different form: haiku, tanka, quatrain, etc.  

One of my poems had been:  


The poet catches wingéd bits of thought  

And pins them with his pen upon a page.  


After a while I began to chafe under the weekly restrictions (the same thing happened years later when I took harmony) and I submitted this:  


I amputate each struggling thought from an unwilling brain,  

I tromp it with trochaic feet and cause it endless pain.  

I stretch it out to make five lines or cram it into four  

And when I’m done I’ve got a bunch of words and nothing more.  


The teacher was also in charge of the school literary annual. She said she’d like to put both poems in it but pointed out that since the second one was in iambic meter, I should change it to “tromp it with iambic feet.” I protested that you can’t tromp with iambic feet, they sound like ostriches in ballet shoes, but to no avail. I complained to my mother, who wrote this note to the teacher.  


The worm of thought shakes off his winter clothes  

His winter prose  

And off into the air he goes,  

A poet butterfly.  


The teacher, with her sharp didactic pen  

Removes the wings and lo  

He is a worm again.  


The teacher was visibly upset when she read it, but...the poem went into the literary annual her way.  

After my parents and I moved back to Berkeley, my mother, Malvina Reynolds, became well known as a songwriter (“Little Boxes,” “Magic Penny” and others), and years later I started writing songs myself. One will be part of Meg Mackay and Billy Philadelphia’s cabaret show “A Little Cole in Your Stocking” at the Aurora Theater this week. The show will be mostly Cole Porter with a few seasonal songs by other songwriters, including “Mrs. Claus” which I wrote with San Francisco composer Candy Forest.  


Tuesday December 27, 2005

Pip takes a nap by the fire in his Berkeley home..

December Morning By Sandra J. Whittaker

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Snowflakes ... Soft ... silence 

Ice moon floats on starry dawn 

Sparrow stirs from sleeps

Holiday Cheer, Grandpa Style By Rachel Trachten

Tuesday December 27, 2005

“Why spend the holidays at a resort?” Even over the phone, I could see my urban father’s quizzically raised eyebrows. “There’s so much more to do right here in New York.” But in spite of his muttered objections, my sisters and I organized a Christmas/Hanukkah reunion in Florida. Holidays with the cousins would be splendid, we agreed. “Staying at a hotel all week sounds dreary,” my father countered. “Are there any museums nearby? Any sights to see?”  

“I’m afraid he’ll just grumble all week,” one sister confided. “It will be like having Scrooge along for the holidays.” 

However, once we were ensconced in Floridian paradise, Dad disappeared into a whirlwind of activities. On our very first day, he won a silver medal in the archery tournament before joining my step-mom for a leisurely dip in the pool. “Have you tried the iced cappuccino?” he asked. “And don’t miss the chocolate brioche.” 

At breakfast the next morning, my seven-year-old nephew Chris darted into an empty seat next to my dad. “My brother was mean to me,” he reported, snuggling against Grandpa’s shoulder. “Tell me all about it,” said Dad, offering a slice of toast. As Chris described the latest brotherly taunt, three-year-old Juliet climbed onto Grandpa’s lap. “One day, my sister was mean too,” she announced. Grandpa offered his sympathy to the injured parties as the older boys crowded around. One casually dipped a fork into his grandfather’s eggs, while another asked, “Grandpa, will you watch us water-ski? Will you come soon?” Yes, he certainly would. And when a son-in-law needed a golf partner or an armchair stock analyst, Dad was ready. He was everywhere, eager to talk college admissions with my teenage daughter and office politics with my sister.  

Later that day, I sat under a tree, drinking ice water and seeking respite from the blazing sun. “I can’t possibly play tennis in this weather,” I said, eyeing the courts wistfully. 

“Why don’t we play when it’s cooler?” Dad offered.  

And though I know he preferred to sleep late, he joined me for ground strokes and volleys each morning before breakfast.  

In the end, our family’s celebration had little to do with a Christmas tree or a menorah. But we did have a clear choice for most-Santa-like vacationer. My sister needn’t have worried that Dad would dampen our spirits. In fact, he brought his good will to every one of us—tending to our flailing backhands, hurt feelings, jumbled career paths and everything in between. 


Berkeley: Then and Now By CAROLYN SELL (Berkeley High School class of ‘67 and proud of it)

Tuesday December 27, 2005

THEN: Ozzie knew us all by name and welcomed “loitering.” Wells Fargo accepted nickels and dimes from my whole class and gave us our first lesson in financial planning. 

NOW: Signs on merchant doors—“only one student at a time.” 


THEN: Front door left unlocked and the biggest crime was kids stealing cherries off the tree in my backyard and plums off the street trees. 

NOW: Just read the Planet’s Police Blotter every week. 


THEN: BPD arrested us for jaywalking when going from BHS to Provo Park. 

NOW: Can’t we have a crosswalk mid-block for our “entitled” kids who can’t possibly walk to the corner? 


THEN: Botts served up one scoop for a nickel and two for a dime. 

NOW: You shouldn’t be eating ice cream anyway but if you are, pull out a fiver. 


THEN: Schools were our playgrounds, safe and unfenced, and within walking distance of our homes. 

NOW: Have you arranged enough play-dates for your kid this week? 


THEN: Edy’s with the best hot fudge sauce in the world. 

NOW: Scharffen Berger? Not even a close second! 


THEN: Single families in single-family dwellings supporting the best school programs in the country. 

NOW: Mayor Bates and his developer cronies giving us high-rises with 400-square-foot rabbit warrens for students, transients, low-income and commuting singles. 


THEN: Close down Shattuck Avenue for the Big Game parade every year. 

NOW: Close down Derby Street and trash the Farmers’ Market so that the ASFU can overrun and over-schedule yet another section of green open space in our city. 


THEN: Walking door-to-door collecting donations for the United Crusade from neighbors who were our friends. 

NOW: Do you even know the name of the person who lives three doors down from you? 


THEN: Great movies on all of those BIG screens downtown … for the price of a quarter. 

NOW: Have you got $10 for a show on a postcard-sized screen at Hink’s? Don’t worry about it—you can’t park anyway so you might as well go to Emeryville or Albany. 


THEN: Brennan’s blue-collar ambiance, good cheap food, and the best Irish coffee in the East Bay. 

NOW: Brennan’s blue-collar ambiance, good cheap food, and the best Irish coffee in the East Bay. What? We’d better tear it down! It’s not “historical.” 



a dance of Berkeley seasons By C.C. SAW

Tuesday December 27, 2005

the slowpoke’s tempo’s 

a challenge to tango to 

in slow motion a la Zab’s give & 

takes, Mayoral giveaways to big 

development, over-the-back throws 

to certain interests, BHS loops & 

borrows amid Council member 

embraces when a fine chin-high kick 

would fit a proper-held leg into Derby 

Street’s unprotected land holding up air 

of otherwise electrified South Campus. 


wheras the drums of Shattuck 

commerce are a drop of solid cautionary 

splash of notes short of parking 

that faces a troubled TAA as well 

just witness out of the sky 

real melting or freezing butter 

flows of traffic if it up & visits 

like when a USC games skews towed 

visitor vehicle revenue, tests the  

already blocked arteries clogged 

if nimble fingers cock loosely above 

the license number box ticket recorder 

to spell out a football weekend welcome 

that you as well as we live 

in a University town. 


and eye on the stilled traffic’s partner 

who covers every avenue 

with a full metal-jacket stall of progress 

as at least a daily occurrence anyway 

yet eyes steady on the meaningless 

height limit cited as reason to withhold 

the stretch of new construction into 

a sky full of lab-leaked experimental 

information availble beyond a reasonable 

level of eye contact between the people’s 

government and the people 

except when there’s a Daily Planet 

to watch & get back to a citizenry 

who’re paying attention 

no matter what the powers-that-think- 




Alright By Donna Cummings

Tuesday December 27, 2005

I’m curled in the fetal position on the cool bathroom tiles. I suck my thumb while Mommy strokes my head. Except, I’ve never sucked my thumb and the only stroking Mommy ever did killed her a year ago. I’m really on a ladder painting the bathroom. My mind wanders when I paint. Sweat slithers down my back and sides. I’ve picked the hottest day in a string of hot days to work near the ceiling in the smallest room in the house. Luckily, the latex fumes don’t seem to bother me. Still, I must be nuts. 

The phone rings. “Shit!” One, two, three ... whoever it is hangs up after seven rings. My answering machine doesn’t pick up because it’s full of messages I haven’t listened to and the tape is full. 

The paint is drying so fast the brush sticks. Jim always used to roller. I use a brush. This is the least of our differences. 

“That’s it. I quit.” I drag the aluminum ladder into the hall. The lid for the paint can is missing so I cover it with my shower cap. The brush is stuck to the newspapers on the floor and I kick the whole mess aside. I’m dying for a shower. The water is running from the tap and I’m stripped to get in before the 

bulb comes on. WET paint. I stopper the tub for a bath, pick up the tank top I’ve just taken off, wipe my pits and under my breasts and hurry into the kitchen for some iced tea. 

The phone rings. 

From the brown prescription bottle on the table I shake out a pink Paxil and swallow it with a big gulp of tea. The color of the vial and the tea are almost a perfect match. I can’t remember if I took a pill already today, but what the heck. Before grabbing the receiver from the wall I drag a chair to the open back door and plop. My butt on the chair makes the sound of one hand clapping. Look Ma, no hands. “Hello.” 

“Hi, Serina, this is Joyce.” 

Joyce? Oh, Joyce, my daughter-in-law, Lisa’s mother. The woman I’ve been told, who has a nervous breakdown every seven years. Sort of a psychological rejuvenation, the way the body replaces cells about that often. Unfortunately, Lisa worries that there will be other episodes. Joyce has had only one since I’ve known her. I sent a cheery card every day for a month. I like her. She’s smart and funny and can do more with a scarf than any woman I know. 

“Hey, Joyce. How ya doing?” 

Listen to me. Not five minutes ago I felt like a helpless baby and now I sound like the M.C. on Family Feud. I wonder why some people use a phony voice when they answer the phone? Like Jim, my soon to be ex-husband, who answered in the voice of a cartoon character: Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Fred Flintstone, Porky Pig. All alter egos. 

“How would you like to go to Costa Rica?” She giggles a little. Oh-my-God. Joyce is having another breakdown. Lisa told me that out of the country travel plans usually preceded her breakdowns. I’m not sure if she ever when on the trips or if the planning did her in. 

“Heh, heh,” says I, “Are you all right Joyce?” 

“I’m fine. I’m so glad to find you home. How have you been?” 

What does one person who is hanging on by her fingerprints—fingernails, say to another person who just might have let go? I’m looking at my nails and they are covered in champagne. 

“To tell the truth I feel like shit. I’ve been painting the bathroom. It’s hotter than hell and ...“ 

“Didn’t you paint the bathroom recently, Serina? Or was that the breakfast room?” 

“I might have. I decided wines. Bruised Burgundy, Rosy Rose’, Tokay Dokey. Last time it was fruits. So I was painting champagne over Very Berry just now, and it may need two coats.” 

I can hear Joyce thinking two states away. What I really hear is her breathing, but I’m sure she is thinking while she breathes. I suppose she wonders if after fruit and wine my next color palette will cover the cheeses. Cheesy! “Imagine Sheer Sherry and Mellow Merlot for the living and dining rooms. What do you think? 

She doesn’t answer and I’m straining to hear her breathing, but the phone seems to have gone dead.  

“Joyce?” I’m thinking maybe I should call 911, but I’m on the hone so how can I? I shake the phone, blow into the mouthpiece—“Hello, hello”—and am about to hang up when it/she croaks back to life. 

“Sherry and Merlot sound very bold. I can almost see it. You have been doing a lot of redecorating since Jim left, haven’t you.” 

“For once in my life I don’t have to ask him what color to paint MY house. After twenty years of milk white in every room they haven’t invented a color that I wouldn’t consider painting. 

“Seems to me Joyce that he’s the one redecorating. He’s so preoccupied with regaining his youth that I hear he’s going to get hair plugs. And to think I used to laugh when he said that once I turned fifty he was going to trade me in for two twenty-five-year-olds. Ha-ha-ha. Guess he’ll just have to get by with one twenty-seven year old.” 

“Sorry, Serina. I shouldn’t have . . “ 

“When I come up with a new color scheme I get so carried away. But I was thinking I just might keep the kitchen tangerine even if it isn’t a wine color.”  

There’s a smear of paint on the inside of my arm that reminds me of something. I move my arm around to decode the image, but It’s no use. 

“It will all work out, Serina.” 

“I doubt it.” 

“Ah, it seems I’ve picked a bad time to call. So don’t worry about Costa Rica. Maybe we can talk about it another time.” 

“Well, I, I don’t...” 

“I have to call you back Serina, I can smell my pie burning. Bye.” 

Definitely. Joyce is on the verge. Joyce doesn’t bake pies. Joyce doesn’t cook, period. Poor thing. Lisa will be devastated. 

The paint on my arm still looks familiar. Maybe it’s telling me to get a tattoo? The ice in my tea has melted, but I swallow the last diluted inch anyway. 

Bold? Did she say merlot and sherry are bold? 



My Grandmother’s Holiday Cookies By Charron-Tae Barnes

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Ooooh! I remember making and baking holiday cookies with my grandmother. 

She would prepare the cookie dough, consisting of sugar, but ter, flour, 

baking powder and a splash of vanilla and an egg. 

Often times I would sneak some dough. 

My grandmother swears against me eating the cookie dough. 

I’d do it anyway! 

My job was to get the cookie cut ters. 

I’d bring them to my grandmother. 

She would shake sprinkles on the cookies. 

My grandmother was great at demonstrating. 

I became good at imitating. 

I believe the making holiday cook ies brings joy, then, now and always! 


The Fugleman By Phyllis Henry-Jordan

Tuesday December 27, 2005

The fugleman’s song begins at dawn, 

pulling me from the even stitches of 

sleep to the sight of snow piled three 

quilts deep, in pistol-cold morning 

air. The fugleman marches in coffined 

towns, past shuttered houses, their 

eyes slammed shut against Decem ber’s 

rheumy eye, in a sky as crisp as foil 

and balnd as talc; a disk of yellow 

which quiets the owl but lends no flap 

and flutter to the barnyard fowl. 

Subdued by the season the remon tant 

rose and the natural neon of the 

azalea’s flower; it is the tremulous 

aging year’s last hour. The fugleman 

passes upon his way, over depths of ice 

and cold despair, past layers of ritu al 

mud and dread, and grounded leaps of 

faith and air, to the graves of 

soldiers of the passing year. 


Merry Christmas (I Think) By madeline smith moore

Tuesday December 27, 2005

I’ve tried to love Christmas. I really have. To look forward to it; to wallow in its expectations. From my earliest childhood memories, Christmas has been the biggest deal of the year, even bigger than my birthday which nobody but me took seriously. And as long as I can remember, Christmas has proven to be a disappointment. Being the middle of three children didn’t help. Children, selfish little monsters, count their losses at Christmas, or at least their perceived slights. The others always had more and better than I. The oldest got the bicycle which had to be handed down—no money for more than one bicycle in the family.  

But there was always Santa Claus. Where I was born and brought up, Providence, Rhode Island, it was general knowledge that the real Santa was at the Outlet, a large downtown department store. The others were obvious fakes. Once that enigma was solved for me, things should have gone smoothly Santa-wise. But my young life seemed plagued by nay-sayers. Even children younger than I would scoff at my continued and persistent belief. Eventually the apples gave it away. The Macintosh apples in our vegetable bin were the very same ones as those in our stockings. That did it. I was once again sick with disappointment and saw no more reason for Christmas. I had all but given up on the whole rotten lying situation. 

The arrival of my baby sister rejuvenated it for me—sort of. At least I could enjoy Santa Claus by proxy. Being a tender-hearted little soul, she pretended to believe it long after she wised up, for my sake I’m sure. The same happened with my daughter. For me, she pretended. That and the fact that she thought it she fessed up, the gifts would no longer be showered upon her cynical little head.  

So now that I was a married lady and in charge of Christmas, I was bent, bound and determined that Christmas would be Saturday Evening Post perfect. If my husband would have worn tweed jackets with suede-patch elbows and smoked a pipe, sitting by the fire in his rocking chair, my ideal would have been on its way to satisfaction.  

Except he didn’t smoke a pipe, he smoked Salems and utterly refused tweed jackets as too unhip. Besides we didn’t have a fireplace, either. Nevertheless, I shopped and shopped and shopped—there never seemed to be enough bulk-wise under the tree. With only one child, the indulgence can get pretty obscene. But there had to be a plethora of gaily wrapped gifts. And the stockings—real ones. Not those phony store-bought red ones with fake white fur on the top. We had to use our own socks, knee socks preferred. Panty hose were useless, of course. Needless to say, my small family was bored to tears by the whole fiasco. Watching me go nuts was very wearing on them. They didn’t cooperate. I had to tell my husband what to buy to put into my stocking and my daughter said later she was embarrassed by the bounty of gifts, just for her. 

However, I didn’t give up easily. In spite of an amicable divorce and an adult child, I was still going to have and enjoy my kind of Christmas. But since I was now a family of one, it was quite forced to say the least. Then I tried an ethnic Christmas—not Kwanzaa, not Hanukkah—Christmas with ethnic decorations on my non-ethnic tree. My ethnic holiday mask still hangs on the inside of my front door.  

Then I tried ignoring the whole thing—impossible. Even though almost all of my friends are cynics, we always end up buying silly, unwanted, expensive gifts for each other and, if we can manage it, eating and drinking way too much, Santa or no. Merry Christmas and Bah Humbug! 






CLAUS-trophobic By Sonja Fitz

Tuesday December 27, 2005

To Claus or not to Claus, that is the question. Santa Claus, that is. 

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of childhood ostracization by the Santa faithful or to take arms against a roof full of Reindeer and—You get the gist. 

As a soon (VERY soon)-to-be new mom, my little guy is due a week before Christmas but could just as easily arrive a few days after or even 

—horrors—ON Christmas, and it makes me wonder, what shall I eventually tell him about his seasonal cohort, the omniscient global sledrider, Jolly St. Nick? 

My first instinct is to dissuade him of Mr. Claus’s existence from the get-go and bypass the whole ‘Is he real?’ drama and disillusionment. 

My other first instinct (these things come in pairs) is to let him enjoy the fictional pageant with his peers since, after all, the inevitable revelation left nary a scar on me nor on anyone I know. 

I suppose it’s really a confidence quandary. By nature somewhat blunt and impatient, I’m just not confident I can keep up the charade, and I imagine the wintery illusion crumbling when I weary of pretending and let the truth slip out before the falsehood even takes root. So why bother? Better to just live honestly from the start. In my experience, there’s plenty of warmth and cheer to Christmas without benefit of Santa Claus—or Jesus, for that matter. 

But a secular solstice season opens a whole other can of worms. You guessed it—the Easter Bunny. 

The Tooth Fairy. 

The Boogie Man. 

The Great Pumpkin. 

How many childhood myth bubbles will I be forced to puncture if I give Santa a pass? Because on second thought, the Boogie Man has serious potential as a damn useful disciplinary tool—But no. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Play the kiddie character game or Opt Out. So I choose the latter. I can teach my child about Being Good without threat of a mysterious North Pole blacklist, thank you very much. 

And come to think of it, what about those other societal fairy stories, the myth bubbles that evolved to protect and insulate us, however imperfectly, from fear, isolation, and chaos? Honest politicians, friendly neighborhood police officers, ethical preists—With respect to the myriad examples that actually fit these labels, those myths are a little more than tarnished at this point. So better to start honestly there, as well: authority figures are just people doing their best. Some excel, some stray. Be appreciative and respectful, but be vigilant. 

Of course, that leaves just one myth bubble (or Basic Truth and Foundation of All Reality, depending on your point of view) remaining: 


Hmm. How can I possibly instill values without the framework of a moral Overseer and Ultimate Justice and/or Reward, you ask? Well, aside from the fact that Aesop did it fairly well without reaching to a Great Beyond for justification, there are ways, Virginia, to teach compassion and integrity within a secular humanist framework. 

After all, what is the underlying goal of instilling ethics? Good behavior and personal fulfillment—the Bobbsie Twin aims of any religion worth its salt: good behavior to protect YOU, personal fulfillment to satisfy ME. And—newsflash—there’s more than one way to achieve those aims, if you’ll pardon the following oversimplification. 

Religious paradigm: Behave well and take care of each other because God (or Santa) says so and then you’ll get (to heaven/nirvana/presents/insert reward here). 

Secular humanist paradigm: Behave well and take care of each other because we’re all we have, and see how kindness and cooperation just feel better? 

Same result, so who cares which equation you use to solve for X? Granted, the latter paradigm lacks the comforting notion of quasi-parental controls, but such is life, after all. Parental controls may get us to the starting gate, but a successful race is up to us. 

Which brings me back to Mr. and Ms. Claus, and whether or not to take a few years’ advantage of their assistance with keeping childhood childish before those parental controls are inevitably shaken off. No offense, but all things considered I think I’ll take my chances without you, Santa. 

Now, the Boogie Man is another story. 





Coffee Coffers By Estelle Jelinek

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Mocha with whipped cream 

for love 

Latté in steep glasses 

for sleep 

Cappuccino with powdered chocolate 

for rapping 

Black coffee 

for writing 



Sending In The Troops By Margot Pepper

Tuesday December 27, 2005

“How long would authority and private property exist, if not for the willingness of the mass to become soldiers, policemen, jailers and hangmen?”  

—Emma Goldman 


Photos arriving on the wire. 

American soldiers boarding planes,  

dressed for success:  

designer helmets, makeup and Kevlar vests; 

leaden boots and M-16’s slick as Hollywood. 

Bodies taut as cocked weapons,  

their hearts will become as hollow  

as the discarded shells.  


They will bomb the square  

where elders gather to tell stories, 

tear-gas the laughter 

that rides the perfumed winds of desert nights,  

and pillage the secrets of lovers. 

They will shrapnel the future, 

mutilate the past-- 

rape and rub wounds with salt.  

These are humanity’s hangmen. 


I stare at the faces. 

They could be waiting for the subway doors to open,  

or standing in a movie line. 

Is this the face  

once caressed by a mother?  

--once stroked by a lover?  

Are the cheeks soft?  


How many of these faces  

will return to applause, college degrees  

and a home behind a rose-wrapped fence?  

How many will lose their minds  

or drink themselves to death,  

spare-changing between V.A. appointments? 


Don’t you know, soldier, that you are nothing? 

You with the patriotic baby blues,  

or you with your family in the ghetto; 

you with the dark skin at the front of the line,  

or you who wanted to show them  

your parents don’t have to speak English  

for you to be “American”.... 

Your president cares about you  

less than last year’s American car model. 

You are like a little boy  

whose dreams are too small  

and whose boots are far too big-- 

talking tough, terrorizing the playground 

so no one will notice  

you trembling as you take aim against those  

who have more in common with you 

than do the billionaires your weapon protects. 


©2005 Margot “Pimienta” Pepper  


Elevator Paranoia By PAUL DALMAS

Tuesday December 27, 2005

I’ve lived in Berkeley for 40 years, and I’ve seen Telegraph Avenue in all its incarnations—war protests in the ‘60s, drug sales in the ‘70s, street punks in the ‘80s, and rampant seediness in the ‘90s. So a week before Christmas, I barely notice the holiday crowd, a mix of shoppers, students, panhandlers, hawkers of cheap jewelry, and purveyors of anarchist bumper stickers. Carrying a sack of Christmas purchases from Cody’s Books and Amoeba Records, I make my way toward the concrete parking structure off Durant and enter the dark corridor that will return me to my car. 

On one side is a shabby yogurt place, on the other a grimy tobacco shop and a space filled with photocopiers and a single shaggy employee who slouches alone over the counter. Near the rear of the corridor stands an alcove with elevators and a battered steel payment machine, the obvious victim of many frustrated parkers. A scratched screen instructs me to pay two dollars, so I remove the fat brown wallet from my hip pocket. Nothing but twenties. The machine swallows one and returns a wad of greenbacks, then, wallet and cash in hand, I walk to the elevator doors, push the button and wait. Something groans within the wall, the doors creak open, and I enter. As I press three, and a second passenger slips through the door just as it closes to seal us together in the compartment for our journey upward.  

He is large and young, 40 years younger than I am, and a stunning medley of races. His skin is the color of a creamy cappuccino, his cheekbones are high, and his hair explodes in a rasta with bleached tips. He wears jeans, soiled basketball shoes, a greasy oversized jacket, and a flannel shirt that covers a powerful chest. He looks at my illuminated third-floor button and reaches to press five. Then his eyes fall upon my wallet and the several bills still in my hand.  

“Nice wallet,” he says.  

I cram the crumpled bills into their place among the twenties and quickly return the wallet into my hip pocket.  

“I used to have a nice wallet like that,” he says. “But one day it was gone. Somebody took it.” His face is blank, his stare steady.  

I force what I hope is an understanding smile. “It’s tough to lose a wallet. The money, the credit cards, the I.D.” His eyes are a clear, wild green that is deeper than imagination. I wonder what they have seen.  

“It was my black-belt wallet,” he says, his voice soft, nearly a whisper. His eyes widen. “It was beautiful. But somebody stole it and now it’s gone.”  

“I’m sorry that happened.” I shift my weight as our car creeps upward at an impossibly slow speed.  

“It was beautiful. Not leather like that, but beautiful. I got it with my black belt.”  

I have run out of things to say to him, so I stare straight ahead at the closed doors. Finally the car stops at my floor, but he moves between me and the opening door, his arms apart to encircle me in an embrace.  

“I love you, my brother,” he says. “I love you, my father.” And his muscled arms surround me and pull me to his firm body. I am amazed at his strength and at is mercy. He releases me and smiles for the first time, a gentle, sad smile.  

I step quickly from the elevator, the doors shuffle closed, and he continues his journey without me.  

A good kid, I think, as I walk to my car. Troubled, perhaps, and lost, but a good kid. I should have wished him a happy holiday. Yet I cannot control the instinct to reach to my hip pocket and check for my wallet.  


Street Corner Society By TED VINCENT

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Drunks and drug addicts are as much a part of city life as are the earnest citizens who seek to clear their neighborhood of undesirables. Recently, discussion in the Daily Planet of these issues has confused serious problems with discarded beer cans and used condoms. Some writers seem to think anyone walking past their residence is up to no good. If I lived on these writers’ blocks and I didn’t have a car I would sure feel tense passing their houses on my way to the bus stop. 

Back in the days of the “war on poverty” and earlier in the New Deal, there was much sympathy for those who had to walk and take the bus, sympathy for what anthropologist William Foote Whyte labeled “Street Corner Society.” He and other anthropologists who hung out on the corner reported the main activities were greeting friends and philosophizing about baseball, football, horse races and who was the prettiest female. From the 1940s to the 1960s the loving stories by Langston Hughes of his Harlem street corner character, Jesse B. Simple gave pleasure to perhaps millions. The romance of socializing on the street was captured in many a song from more humanistic times. There is, for instance, the “hippy” group, Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Down on the Corner,” which goes, in part: 


Four kids on the corner trying to bring you up 

Willy picks a tune out and he blows it on the harp. 


Down on the corner, out in the street, 

Willy and the Poorboys are playin' 

Bring a nickel, tap your feet. 


Rooster hits the washboard and people just got to smile 

Blinky thumps the gut bass and solos for a while. 

Poorboy twangs the rhythm out on his Kalamazoo. 

Willy goes into a dance and doubles on kazoo. 


Many a Berkeleyan from one of our old Eastern industrial cities might remember the pop song 


Standing on a corner watching all the girls go by 

Standing on a corner watching all the girls go by 

Brother you don't know a nicer occupa tion 

Matter of fact, neither do I 


The singer of this hit record was pop star Dean Martin. I heard it when in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, a rather notoriously tough neighborhood then and now. My fellow pre-teens and I stayed out of trouble, not by hiding at home getting fat, but by going out and banding together for safety and for informative socializing, which in that environment included the Sunday morning strolls to scan the alleys to see how many condoms from Saturday night we could find. 

Another street corner song from that era includes the verse,  


There’s a pawnshop on the corner in Pitts burgh Pennsylvania 

And I walk upon and down neath the clock.  


“Who is this bum?” certain Berkeley grouches might ask. The sourpusses ought to let their hearts soften. They might try remembering when they were young, more social and adventurous—before they became home owners. We all get old. As the ballad says, 


Not a soul down on the corner, 

That's a pretty certain sign,  

That wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine.  


Granted city life can be traumatic. It drives some to pack up and leave. Historian Lewis Mumford has written that from Babylon to the present, cities have needed newcomers in order to survive, because of a combination of those who can’t handle the intensity, and a low birth rate. In this regard, a study of the Boston census lists in 1880 and 1890 found, that in that supposedly stable town, four of every five names in 1880 were not there a decade later. Cities collect the very best and the very worst, they provide both the exhilaration of the protest march, and the horror of the drive by. Blues man W. C. Handy summed up his acceptance of these two sides in his tribute to that hang out for street musicians, Beale street in Memphis.  


I’ve seen the lights of gay Broadway,  

Old Market Street down by the Frisco Bay,  

I've strolled the Prado, I’ve gambled on the Bourse;  

The seven wonders of the world I’ve seen,  

And many are the places I have been,  

Take my advice, folks, and see Beale Street first!  


You’ll see pretty browns in beautiful gowns,  

You’ll see tailor-mades and hand-me- downs,  

You’ll meet honest men, and pick-pock ets skilled,  

You’ll find that business never ceases ‘til somebody gets killed! 

Ambling Toward Christmas By Dorothy V. Benson

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Not something outlandishly lacy from Macy’s 

or pearls to hang ‘round my neck. What the heck, 

you know I’m not fussy. 


Ecology demands you demur on fur 

and I’ve not the demeanor for a new vacuum cleaner. 

Don’t give me anything mussy 

(like a kitty or doggy). 


I wouldn’t expect to stick you with tickets 

or a case of fine wine to dine on 

(I’d only get groggy). 


I’m easy to please, so no trips to Belize. 

I do want to urge there’s no need to splurge, 

and hope you’ll agree. 


My name on some doodad won’t make me feel too bad. 

So get me a gift from the neighborhood thrift, 

‘cause that’s what your getting from me. 



Tuesday December 27, 2005

The neighbors used to criticize me. Said I was too hard on Jack. Always picking on him. Like the time I made him take the cow to market. I could have done it but I had to teach him. A farm boy can’t make a pet out of an animal we raise for food. 

Besides, I wanted him to learn responsibility. Not grow up a dreamer like his father. Didn’t want him to do to some girl what John did to me. Just walked out when Jack was 2. Never said a word. 

I’ve managed. After all, I was born on this farm and know how to do everything. It’s been lonely without a man but I’ve never complained. Didn’t want to give the neighbors anything more to gossip about. We were getting by until last summer’s drought. Burned up the wheat in the field. And then with the chickens getting Newcastle’s… that’s when I knew we had to sell “Patches.” That’s what Jack called her. My first mistake. Letting him give the cow a name. 

The day he went to market, I was on edge all day. Couldn’t wait for him to get back. When I saw him, I practically ran down the road to meet him. “How much did you get?” He just stood there staring at me. Fists clenched. “Come now,” I laughed. “None of your monkey games.” I thought he had done really well and wanted to surprise me. 

When he opened his hand and showed me the few round blue beans, I went crazy. Started yelling and beating him around the face. The beans flew out of his hand and he took off across the field toward Patches’ old stall. 

I went into my room and lay down on the bed. Never fixed supper that night or said “Good Night” to Jack. After awhile I began to feel bad, I had never hit the boy before. We only had each other. But I was just too tired to get up. 

Next day when I woke up, my room was so dark. It scared me. I looked out the window and saw a huge vine covered with big leaves. Almost like a thick corn stalk that went up and up. 

“Jack! Come, see what’s happened. Hurry. This is really something.” When he didn’t come, I went to his room. Maybe he was sulking, I thought. He hadn’t slept in his bed. I was so worried, but I didn’t say a word to anybody. Three days went by. Finally, on Saturday, when I was out chopping wood I heard him calling. “Mother! Mother! Come quick. Bring the axe.” I ran around the house just in time to see Jack jump off the vine with a giant hulking down after him. For once, Jack really moved, He grabbed the axe and chopped through the vine, knocking the giant’s body against some rocks in the field. Killed him right away, I think. 

You know the rest. Jack’s pockets were filled with gold and jewels. Storybooks said we lived happily after. But that’s not really true. 

I never had a happy day after that. Felt like such a failure. What mother teaches her son to steal! I had brought up a common burglar. 

We don’t ever talk about the past. Don’t talk much at all. He insisted we move to the city where nobody knew us. Now he does pretty much whatever he wants to. And I get dressed up every day and wonder how to pass the time.y

Merry Christmas From UC By James K. Sayre

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Merry Christmas from UC (or should I say “Happy Holidays from UC?”). Have fun decorating that “holiday” tree, no, not the Memorial Day holiday tree or the Groundhog Day holiday tree, silly, the holiday-Holiday tree... you know, the one that comes around at (whisper) Christmastime...). Please note that even the word “holiday” has traditional Christian religious overtones, for it was derived from the Old English “haligdoeg,” meaning “holy + day.” So, who knows, maybe even the term “holiday” is next on the PC hit list and may soon be replaced with the phase, “Celebration Day,” “Festival Day” or even, “Pleasant Euphemism Period,” but I digress. 

On the first Thursday of each month, the UC Botanical Gardens is generous enough to offer free admission to all visitors (the regular daily adult admission fee is now a pricey five dollars). So on Thursday, December first, in the pouring rain, I drove up to the Botanical Gardens and parking in their parking lot. Having previously checked out their website, I was aware that the minimum parking charge is now 75 cents for 30 minutes, so I had brought along several quarters. I went to their high-tech ATM-like parking fee machine and pecked in my parking space number. Then I dropped in the required three quarters. Clank, clank, clank. The quarters did not register, went through the machine and came out the bottom slot. I tried putting them in again. Clank, clank, clank. Apparently, my non-academic U. S. quarters did not measure up to the high standards required by this UC Botanical Gardens parking lot machine. By this point I was beginning to seriously wonder why I had even ventured out of the house.  

I had an uneasy feeling that if I ignored the dysfunctional parking meter machine and just visited the Botanical Gardens that I would come back and find a nice new 20- or 40-dollar parking ticket for my troubles. Then, to fight the ticket, I would have to go to traffic court in downtown Oakland and then plead before the judge and tell him about the “clank, clank, clank” of my quarters. He would airily say, “Sure, kid...” (Somehow, having long blond hair and a nice fluffy gray-white Santa beard somehow classes me as a “kid,” even though I am sixty-three going on sixty-four...). 

I decided to give up on my little dream to see Cycads and Palms in the same location, and so I continued driving up the hill to Grizzly Peak Blvd. and then returned towards home down Claremont Blvd. So my little trip would not be a total loss, I stopped at the pricey Star Grocery and checked out their half-price produce rack. Nothing but some dried up old mushrooms. Determined more than ever to find or get something out of this benighted trip, I walked around the corner and checked out their dumpster. Hmm. I found a couple of packages of some fancy organic reddish “Sweet Potatoes” (more likely, yams, in my mind) and brought them home. There was one spoiled one in each package, but the rest of the yams were fine. (Cooking note: wash, fork, microwave five minutes, add butter: delicious).  

A day and a half later, I was still stewing about UC. The UC that wanted to charge me 75 cents for 30 minutes parking at the Botanical Gardens is the same UC that was exposed in a recent series of articles in the San Francisco Chronicle with giving obscenely massive bonuses and sometimes even providing rent-free mansions to top administrators. This is the same UC that is continually raising student tuition and fees. This is the same UC that is allowing the corruption of its science departments by private biotechnology corporations. This is the same UC that is denying free Internet access in its libraries to the general public and even its currently-paid-up alumni association members. This is the same UC that keeps destroying the free boxes for clothing placed in Peoples’ Park.  

It would seem that the vicious GOP corporate greed mentality has spread from the Bush administration out to good old UC Berkeley. The Republicans currently running this country seem to feel that the main purpose of government is to provide further opportunities for them to enrich themselves and their campaign contributors. It’s greed for the ruling class, tax increases and service cutbacks for the middle class and stomping on the poor. Merry Christmas from UC.


Tuesday December 27, 2005

How sweet 

A young woman’s  

Kiss ... 

The synapses 


Jumping hurdles 

With neurons 

Enough to make me 

Forget cigarettes 

And overcoat


Tuesday December 27, 2005

Meeting Allen Ginsberg 

At the gallery 

Limp ol’ handshake 

Onyx eyes 

On Kearny & Geary 

Shuffling along ... 

In wrinkled coat 

All gray/colorless 

His funny lopsided 


Visiting Jane Austen Chawton, Hants By Phyllis Henry-Jordan

Tuesday December 27, 2005

I must visit Jane Austen in her family 

home at Chawton. Would she mind the world 

strutting in her garden in this busy, brazen 

present? Her bedroom is simple, no silk 

and golden baldachino, just her place to 

rest in the grace of the world. Her crypt 

at Winchester, visited by those without 

the daily bread of faith, who trample 

the Spiritus Mundi, and mostly spend their 

Sundays with the dervishes of Sufi 

and the angels of Chagall. Her spinet and 

desk, revenant forms, settle on the mind 

as quietly as the butterfly; far from the 

grimy hectoring of modern art, apart from 

the pandering and above the proselytizing, 

this artist of perfect pitch and form, 

shaped her world in perfect sentences; a 

strange bright fruit of art and knowledge, 

beautiful as the bandaged legs of stallions, 

rich as the holds of Spanish galleons. 



ZAB Gives Green Light To San Pablo Ave. Condos By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 23, 2005

After years of wrangling, heated neighborhood opposition and repeated design revisions, the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) cleared the way Monday for a five-story condominium complex at 2700 San Pablo Ave. 

The special Monday meeting was called to consider an appeal by project-area neighbors of the Design Review Committee’s approval of revised project plans submitted by Curtis + Partners Development of San Francisco. 

The project, located at the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Carleton Street, will feature three levels of residential condos over four ground floor two-story live/work spaces and a purely commercial space. 

As first proposed, the project was in the hands of different developers and architects, and the intended use was apartments. Patrick Kennedy’s Panoramic Interests had partnered with the Rev. Gordon Choyce’s Jubilee Restoration, with Panoramic holding a 73 percent interest. 

The building began as a five-story, 63-unit project in March 1999, but was scrapped in the face of strong neighborhood opposition. Eight months later, the project was back with new architects who had scaled in back to 48 units in four stories. 

ZAB denied that project eight months later, on a 7-2 vote and Christopher Hudson, project manager for the building, refused to consider ZAB’s suggestions that he scale back the size of the structure. ZAB then rejected the building as too dense for the surrounding neighborhood. 

Finally, in July, 2002, the developers won city approval to build a scaled back four-story 35-unit project 

Kennedy and Choyce pulled the plug in August 2003 and put the project up for sale after Jubilee was unable to raise funds to buy out Kennedy’s interest and Hudson told reporters that Kennedy had decided to concentrate only on larger projects. 

The project was listed with Norheim & Yost, who handle many large scale transactions, especially in West Berkeley. Curtis + Partners bought the project with the approved permits for the scaled-back project in 2004, resubmitted the plans as a condo project and with a new architect and won approval from ZAB in December 2004. 

Curtis’s project is a 43,245-square-foot structure with 35 units, including the four live/work and one commercial spaces. 

By the time of Monday’s ZAB vote, the project had gone through at least five different design changes. 

Monday’s appeal from long-time project critics Julie DIckinson and Laurie Bright argued that ZAB should reconsider the project because its intended use had changed from apartments to condos and the designs had undergone significant changes. 

The greatest structural change was a move from an open glass-fronted building—which would have required steel frame construction—to a concrete-framed design that replace much of the glass with concrete sheer walls. 

ZAB member Dave Blake, who chaired Monday’s meeting in the absence of Chair Andy Katz, agreed with critics that the use permit should be reopened, calling the cement a “major modification ... it’s a different design.” 

David Snippen, vice chair of the Design Review Committee (DRC), told ZAB members that the glass-front design had been taken from the previously approved plans, which Curtis had told the committee needed to be changed because of economic considerations. 

“We asked for some means to lighten up the appearance along San Pablo Avenue,” Snippen said. “In that sense, we find to progress has been successful.” 

“There were legitimate reasons why they did it,” said ZAB and DRC member Bob Allen. “They addressed virtually all the items in the appeal to our satisfaction.” 

ZAB member Carrie Sprague disagreed, saying, “These were very major changes.” 

“I have all kinds of problems with the project,” said ZAB member Dean Metzger, who particularly objected to the fact that the building was considered to front on Carleton Street when the bulk of its mass is concentrated along San Pablo. 

“Those issues were already addressed,” said member Chris Tiedemann. “It’s not fair to the applicant or the public to go through items that are not subject to a hearing.” 

“It’s up to us to decide” if the issues merited a new hearing, said Blake sided with Sprague on the need for a new hearing, but lost in a 5-3 vote. Blake then sided with the majority on a vote to deny the appeal. 

For project critics—who weren’t allowed to address the board on the project—the last recourse is an appeal to the City Council, where similar projects have been given the green light. 

A permit to demolish an existing metal-framed former gas station on the site was approved on Sept. 29. Soil contaminated by the hazardous gasoline additive MTBE had been removed from the site a decade earlier.  


Suit Against Transportation Agency Moves Forward By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 23, 2005

A San Francisco federal jurist Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss a proposed racial discrimination class action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). 

The litigation, backed by the Berkeley and Oakland city councils and Democratic legislators, alleges that the commission’s public transit funding policies are discriminatory against people of color. 

“Good, it was the only thing to do,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Dona Spring of Wednesday’s action by federal Magistrate Elizabeth D. LaPorte. 

“The judge has decided they want to hear this case, so that’s what we’re going to do,” said Randy Rentschler, MTC’s Director of Legislative and Public Affairs. 

The lawsuit alleges that MTC’s funding policies discriminate against people based on race. 

“CalTrain has three times the number of white riders that AC Transit buses, and the subsidy is almost five times greater,” said Richard Marcantonio, attorney for Public Advocates, Inc., the public interest law firm handling the case on behalf of bus riders, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 and Communities for a Better Environment. 

The next step, following a late January pre-trial conference, will be a hearing on the issue of certifying the litigation as a class action on behalf of all AC transit riders, Marcantonio said. 

“This is an important lawsuit because they have been discriminating against transportation of people at the lower end of the economic spectrum,” said Spring. “This is an inequity, and it needs to be rectified.” 

Rentschler said the lawsuit is misdirected, “because the allocation of transportation funds is complex, and depends an array of state, federal statutes that are enormously complicated. 

“Even if their allegations are true—and I don’t believe they are—it’s not the result of any actions we have taken,” he said. 

The Berkeley City Council passed a resolution sponsored by members Kriss Worthington and Max Anderson on July 12 calling on the MTC to increase funding for AC Transit. 

That resolution noted that 80 percent of AC Transit bus riders are people of color, 70 percent come from very-low-income households and 60 percent lack any other means of commuting to jobs, schools, medical appointments and shopping. 

A joint letter to MTC chair Jon Rubin calling for greater equity in transit funding was also dispatched on Sept. 12 by East Bay Assemblymembers Loni Hancock, Wilma Chan and John Klehs, joined by State Sen. President Pro Tempore Don Perata, U.S. Rep Barbara Lee, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia.  

“AC Transit funding has dropped precipitously over the last 20 years,” Marcantonio said. “Along with fare increases there have been funding shortages and service cuts.” 

Currently, he said, AC transit receives public subsidies of $2.78 per rider trop, compare to $6.14 for BART and $13.79 for CalTrain, “more than five times the subsidy for AC Transit riders.” 

While local governments are promoting infill development as an alternative to urban sprawl, the greatest subsidies are given the transit systems that bring in passengers from farthest away, Spring said. “Smart growth depends on public transit, yet we have less transportation today than we did 10, 15 and 20 years ago.” 

“Instead of suing us, we need to join together and go united to Sacramento and Washington, D.C. and to the local voters to make the case that if people are serious about increasing public transportation, they have to give more money,” Rentschler said. 

“Instead, we’ll be spending money on lawyers, which we think is a waste of money,” he added. 

Now that the lawsuit is going ahead, Marcantonio said one of the next steps will be the discovery process. “We’ve received around 800 pages of documents [from MTC] out of an estimated 60,000,” he said. 

Public Advocates, Inc. is a non-profit public interest civil rights law firm founded in 1971. 

“We’re one of the first of the public interest firms that was formed as a result of the civil rights movement,” Marcantonio said. The firm has won some notable victories, which are listed on their web site at www.publicadvocates.org.  

Voting Machine Certification Delays Raise Concerns By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday December 23, 2005

Delays in the certification of electronic voting machines have suddenly thrown confusion into the fate of Alameda County’s scheduled elections. 

A new state law has mandated that any electronic voting machines used in California elections following the turn of the year must include an electronic “paper trail,” a hard copy in which the vote tally can be checked against the computerized tally automatically given by the voting machine. Since the Diebold electronic voting machines used in the November elections in Alameda County are not equipped with an electronic paper trail function, those machines cannot be used next year. 

Alameda County Supervisors had been scheduled to vote on the purchase of a new set of electronic voting machines with paper trail audit functions in mid-December. But a spokesperson for Board of Supervisors President Keith Carson said that supervisors have yet to receive information on the voting machines from the County Registrar of Voters office, and the date of a supervisors’ vote on the issue will not be held until January at the earliest. 

In addition, the California secretary of state has yet to certify new paper trail electronic voting machines manufactured by Diebold, and Alameda County does not even have the legal option of returning to the use of paper ballots for the June election, a system that was used for a couple of hundred years before the introduction of electronic voting machines. 

“We understand we are in a time crunch,” Carson Chief of Staff Rodney Brooks said. “We haven’t heard from the Secretary of State’s office as to what ‘Plan B’ is.” 

Alameda County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold said that the county is “in the midst of the procurement process. We’re aiming to do this as fast as we can. I’m hoping that we will have a recommendation available to the Supervisors by the first of the year. But while we are in the middle of the procurement process, we can’t comment on it any further.” 

Shortly after the November election, the Registrar of Voters office held a public demonstration of electronic voting machines manufactured by four separate companies: Diebold, Sequoia, Hart, and Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S). At the time, Ginnold said that a county selection committee would rank the four machines and based upon that evaluation, the Alameda County Purchasing Office would then make a recommendation to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, which was scheduled to vote on the voting machine purchase in mid-December. 

But that procurement process has been held up, in part, by actions of the Secretary of State’s office. 

That office has yet to state certify the paper trail functions of three of the four machines being considered by Alameda County: Diebold, Sequoia, and Hart. Ginnold said that because one of the ES&S machines under consideration works with a paper-based system, no verified audit trail is necessary, and those machines are already state certified. 

In addition, early this week, the office of Secretary of State Bruce McPherson asked for additional federal source code certification for the Diebold machines involving a memory card function that had not been previously reviewed by the federal government. 

“Unresolved significant security concerns exist with respect to the memory card used,” McPherson wrote in a Dec. 20 letter to Diebold. “We require this additional review [by the federal government’s Independent Testing Authorities] before proceeding with further consideration of your application for certification in California.” 

Ginnold said that “theoretically, we could recommend purchase of a machine that has not yet been certified, but that recommendation would be worthless” unless and until such state certification comes through. And she added that if no paper trail audit electronic voting machines receive state certification, the county cannot return to the use of all paper ballots because of federal handicapped access laws. 

“Federal law requires that every polling place must have at least one station that can be used by all handicapped persons without any assistance,” Ginnold said. “In addition, the system in place must allow that person to independently verify their vote, and to be notified if they have made a possible mistake in marking their ballot, such as undervoting or overvoting.” 

Paper ballots, Ginnold noted, do not provide such access, verification, and notification for all classes of handicapped persons. 

“This has put us in a very difficult situation,” Ginnold said. “We’re not getting much guidance from the Secretary of State’s office.” 

Ginnold said that 17 California counties find themselves facing similar electronic voting machine certification problems. 


Fee Increases Impact Peralta Community Colleges By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday December 23, 2005

A steep increase in statewide community college student fees is having a definite impact on the Peralta Community College system as a whole, but will probably be mitigated in Berkeley by the impending opening of the new Vista College campus, according to Peralta Board of Trustees Chair Linda Handy. 

That information comes in the wake of a recently-released California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office report noting that an $8-per-unit fee increase initiated last fall has led to a 1.33 percent decrease in community college enrollment throughout the state, a drop of 314,000 students. Tuition rates were raised by the state legislature from $18 per unit to $26 per unit. 

“If you raise tuition that much, you figure there’s going to be a fallout,” Handy said in a telephone interview. 

Handy said the district’s biggest concern is at the College of Alameda, where she said enrollment has had a “significant drop” since last year. 

“There are so many factors involved, it’s hard to pin it down to any one thing,” Handy said. “You have the cost of education, the course offerings, and the location of the college itself.” 

She said, however, that the statewide tuition raises was a factor. 

“This certainly didn’t help,” she said. 

Handy had no enrollment figures on hand for the College of Alameda or Peralta’s other four colleges—Vista, Laney, and Merritt—and the district and college offices were closed for the holiday break. 

But according to Handy, Vista College enrollment should not suffer from fee increases. The new Vista campus is currently under construction in downtown Berkeley, with the move over from the old college location scheduled for the end of the spring semester. 

“I haven’t heard any concerns regarding enrollment problems at Vista,” Handy said. “The new campus is going to be a big draw. In my opinion, enrollment is going to take off like a rocket. Everybody’s excited about it. I’d certainly go there.” 

Meanwhile, the state Chancellor’s Office study gave a grim picture of community college enrollment overall in the wake of the fee increases. 

“It is logical to conclude that the fee increases ... acted as an economic deterrent to students,” the report concluded. “The loss of older students has been significant. ... Almost one-quarter of all students in this age group stated their educational goal was to either ‘prepare for a new career,’ ‘update job skills,’ or ‘maintain certificate or license’... So the disproportionate loss of this group will have an effect on the ability of California’s existing labor force to both retrain for and advance in the future labor market.” 

The report also called the loss of first-time and returning students “even more troublesome.” 

The report noted that an analysis of community college student retention rates before and after the fee increases showed “no trend toward lower-income geographical areas having disproportionate declines in the number of community college attendees.” 

The report concluded that “this outcome points to the effectiveness of the statewide financial aid campaign which targeted these populations.”h


Friday December 23, 2005

Robber sought 

Berkeley police have issued an alert calling for the public’s help in apprehending a robber who has been targeting women in the southeast and northern sections of the city. 

Though none of his victims have actually seen a pistol, the bandit professes to be packing heat in a pocket. He targets people who have just made cash withdrawals from automatic teller machines. 

Acting Berkeley Police Public Information Officer Shira Warren described the suspect as an African American male with a large build who stands between 6’2” and 6’5” and often wears a black hooded sweatshirt and a matching baseball cap, sometimes worn with the bill backwards. 

The same individual is suspected to be the culprit of similar robberies in the Rockridge area of Oakland. 

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the Berkeley police robbery division at 981-5742. 


Reward offered 

The City of Berkeley has issued a $5,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Berkeley resident Wallace M. Richards III, who has been missing since the morning Nov. 12, when he was last seen dropping off some friends at their jobs in San Francisco. 

His car, a gold Mercedes C-240 was later recovered near San Lorenzo. 

Richards, 23, is 6’2” tall, weighs 235 pounds, and was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and a lightweight green and gray jacket, Officer Warren reports. 

Anyone with information is asked to call Berkeley police at 981-5741. 


Bus stop robbery 

UC Police have issued an alert about a strong-arm bandit who assaulted a man at a bus stop in the 2200 block of Piedmont Avenue about 10:20 p.m. Tuesday and demanded he surrender his laptop computer. 

When the young man resisted, a struggle ensued in which the victim received minor injuries but successfully managed to keep hold of the computer. 

The suspect then fled in a red SUV with a second man. 


Brandisher bust 

UC Berkeley police arrested a 25-year-old man shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday after hearing a Berkeley P.D. broadcast about a suspect who had been brandishing a knife in the 2100 block of Bancroft Way. 

Though the fellow had fled the scene before BPD arrived, university officers were able to locate him minutes later.i

Can Evo Morales Foster a World Coca Market? By MARCELO BALLVÉ Pacific News Service Pacific News Serive

Friday December 23, 2005

The resounding election victory in Bolivia of coca grower and indigenous leader Evo Morales clearly troubles U.S. drug warriors. But coca advocates and some Latin American media see an opportunity for “Mama Coca” to emerge as a legitimate economic resource for South America’s poorest nation.  

The U.S. style of fighting the drug war stresses plant eradication. As part of his left-leaning platform, Morales has vowed to decriminalize the harvest of the coca plant, which can be used to manufacture cocaine but has been grown and chewed traditionally in the Andean corridor for millennia.  

“It’s not at all far-fetched to imagine that China and Europe could be great markets for coca tea,” writes José Mirtenbaum, a sociologist and coca expert, in Bolivian alternative bimonthly El Juguete Rabioso.  

Mirtenbaum writes that even U.S. space agency NASA has experimented with coca gum to prevent dizziness in astronauts, and that coca has hundreds of possible applications—he cites high-chlorophyll toothpaste, pharmaceuticals, an alternative to chew tobacco, anti-diabetics and nutritional supplements. But stigmatization and prohibition have prevented Bolivian science from researching coca’s potential, Mirtenbaum says.  

For advocates, coca is the ginseng of the future. Their hope, and that of the highly organized cocaleros, as Bolivia’s coca growers are known, is that with their man Morales as its spokesman the leaf might finally clear the legal and political hurdles (and prejudices) that block the creation of a legitimate world coca market.  

Some call for an amendment to enshrine coca’s sacred status in Bolivia’s constitution, which will undergo revision.  

“Coca is Bolivia’s natural resource, just like gas, oil or water,” said Leonilda Zurita, president of a women coca producers’ federation, speaking at an international coca conference in Bolivia in November. “Therefore it ought to be protected in our constitution when we re-write it next year,” said Zurita, as quoted in The Narco News Bulletin Web site, which tracks the drug war in Latin America.  

Morales has sought to reassure the world he won’t harbor drug runners. But he also was emphatic in making the distinction between cocaine, made via an involved chemical processing of the leaf, and the plant, which is sacred in the Andes.  

“Coca is not cocaine,” Morales said. “The producer of coca leaf is not a drug trafficker and the consumer is not an addict, this must be clear.”  

Under the previous government of President Carlos Mesa (who resigned in June), Morales and the coca growers had already achieved a small-scale decriminalization of coca cultivation. Since October 2004, coca growers in the Chapare region, where Morales began his political career fighting U.S.-backed, militarized eradication programs, have been allowed to grow coca legally. Each grower was allowed a small, traditional plot called a cato (less than a half-acre).  

This was a huge victory, because until then, the government’s position (in line with Washington, D.C.’s) was that virtually all Chapare coca was being funneled to illegal trade. As part of the agreement, it was decided that a civilian-government commission would undertake an exhaustive study of the country’s legal coca market.  

Morales says he will push for the study to occur soon, and determine whether coca acreage needs to be expanded further. He also has promised a referendum to ask Bolivians how the coca issue should be managed. He says Bolivia will become an advocate for the decriminalization of coca leaf at the United Nations, whose drug conventions are the framework for global narcotics control.  

Elsewhere in the Andes, the alliance between coca and muscular Indian political movements is increasingly powerful, and could add regional muscle to the call for coca’s legitimization on a global scale.  

Humberto Cholango, of Ecuadorean indigenous movement Ecuarunari, congratulated Morales on his victory in an op-ed on Bolivian news Web site Bolpress.com. “(The result) is a blow to the U.S. government because it tried to ban the planting of coca in Bolivia,” Cholango writes.  

In Peru, nationalist Ollanta Humala is a strong contender ahead of April 2006 presidential elections. There are rumors that Humala has offered coca growers’ leader Nancy Obregón the vice presidential nod, according to The Narco News Bulletin. Humala has publicly offered room on his congressional slate to coca growers, who overwhelmingly support his candidacy.  

The coca decriminalization debate has echoed as far north as Mexico, a country convulsed by the open warring of cocaine cartels that manage the flow of cocaine northward to the United States.  

“The international prohibition on the international commerce of coca-derived products has no scientific foundation,” writes Ethan A. Nadelmann, director of the U.S.-based Drug Policy Alliance, in an op-ed series published by left-leaning Mexico City daily La Jornada.  

Nadelmann asks: “Is there an intermediate point between open prohibition, which has caused so much destruction, and a frank legalization that does not seem politically possible in the near future?”  

Bolivia’s immediate political future will answer that question.  


Where Are The Immigrants in Immigration Debate? By EDUARDO STANLEY Pacific News Service

Friday December 23, 2005

The House last week passed a highly punitive immigration bill, heightening the controversy over the issue of immigration reform. But even as the debate over immigration policy promises to be a divisive issue in the coming midterm elections, the voices of immigrants themselves are missing from the discussion.  

“We’re not participating,” says Claudia (not her real name), a Fresno resident and mother of one. “We don’t know whom to talk to about it.”  

“We are worried about what’s going to happen,” says Rosa (not her real name) of Madera, an agricultural worker and mother of four. To her, proposals in other bills for a new guest worker plan that leave out the nearly 11 million immigrants who are already here don’t make sense.  

“We know they want to bring workers, so what will happen to us?” she asks.  

Rosa, who has been in the United States for 15 years, says she hasn’t participated in the immigration debate because she doesn’t know how or where to voice her concerns. She’s also critical of activists who are supporting immigrants. “The people who know the laws don’t explain them to us,” she says. “We need more information.”  

Both women share a sense of frustration. For years they have worked hard to support their families, aware of their role in the economies of the two countries, yet knowing that no one will ask for their opinion, even when the policy being discussed will decide their own fate.  

“I talk about it at work and with my friends and family,” says José (not his real name) of Madera, a father of four children. “But in public it’s different because you’re afraid of the police. If something happens, they can deport you.”  

The bill recently approved by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 239 to 182 tightens border enforcement, eases deportations and stiffens sanctions against businesses that hire undocumented immigrants. It calls for a 700 mile-long fence along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.  

More drastic, it would convert almost 11 million immigrants into felons. The bill sponsored by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Peter King (R-NY), would penalize anyone—whether they are relatives, clergy or others—who helps an undocumented immigrant.  

The bill drew harsh criticism from numerous religious organizations, immigrant rights groups and Democrats, while President George W. Bush focused on pushing for a guest worker program to be included, without giving amnesty or legal regulation to those who already live and work in the country. Political analysts predict that the U.S. Senate will not approve the bill, but it will no doubt set the tone for the immigration debate in 2006.  

The immigrants interviewed by New America Media agree that an amnesty is the only way they could come out from under the shadows, where live in constant fear and shame. They see the importance of expressing their own views on immigration but, Claudia says, “The people who are proposing laws don’t ask us what we think either.”  

For José, the most important vehicle for immigrants’ voices is the ethnic media that serve them. They need to speak with journalists, he says, “so they know how we feel and can publish it.”  

Miguel Báez, editor of they Spanish-language newspaper Noticiero Semanal in Porterville, publishes immigrants’ perspectives on the debate in its Letters to the Editor section. “When we ask people, they say they don’t agree with a guest worker plan; they support amnesty,” he says. “Wherever you go, that’s what they say.”  

“Our audience doesn’t participate very much (in any political debate), not just about immigration issues,” says Carlos Ortíz of Radio Campesina in Bakersfield. “We come from a culture of very low political participation and from societies where politicians have failed the people.”  

Ortiz adds that Spanish-language media are also partly to blame. “As media outlets, we have the responsibility in the information process, but the majority of media are only interested in their ratings and how much money they’re making. They don’t inform the public or promote social participation,” he says, referring to new Spanish radio stations cropping up across the country.  

Many immigrants are not so quick to fault Spanish media. “Many immigrants in California’s Central Valley are indigenous people who don’t know how to read or write in Spanish,” explains Claudia.  

José adds that Spanish television doesn’t always reach populations of immigrant workers. “We work all day and when we get home, they’ve already aired (the evening news) and we are already asleep by the time they broadcast the late news.”  

The best way to stay informed, some say, is through community meetings.  

But Leonel Flores, a Fresno activist with the Union of Ex-Braceros and Immigrants in the Valley, says immigrants often don’t have a voice even within many of the organizations that claim to defend them.  

“Organizations don’t represent us well,” agrees Claudia. “But we need to demand more of them.”  

To make their voices heard, Flores stresses the need for immigrant rights groups to establish a common agenda and to put pressure on Congress, something he says they have not yet been able to accomplish.  

Some immigrants cite weak leadership by activists in immigrant rights. “I think this movement should be led by immigrants,” Flores says.  

Others are also self-critical. “Many people think activism is the responsibility of organizations, so they become disengaged and don’t participate,” says Claudia, who adds that immigrants should make a greater effort to be heard.  

“The economy of this country would not be the same without us,” she says. “It’s time they listened to us.”  


Eduardo Stanley hosts the bilingual “Nuestro Foro” weekly radio program on KFCF in Fresno, Calif.

Editorial Cartoon By JUSTIN DEFREITAS

Friday December 23, 2005

To view Justin DeFreitas’ latest editorial cartoon, please visit  

www.jfdefreitas.com To search for previous cartoons by date of publication, click on the Daily Planet Archive.



Letters to the Editor

Friday December 23, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last Tuesday’s City Council meeting had a big surprise on its consent calendar. Without notice, funding was requested to start a 300-unit housing project plus commercial at the South Berkeley BART station. If the ite m had not been pulled we wouldn’t have seen Max Anderson and others glow over this wonderful opportunity, council would have passed it without discussion. 

When Councilmember Anderson was running for his office in 2004 his story was considerably different. I quote a published statement: 

“Redevelopment inflicted onto neighborhoods has caused many long-term problems and failed to achieve the immense promises made in city after city around the country. In recent years neighborhood initiated enterprise zones or economic development plans focused on neighborhood and community development have had mixed results. Some have been dramatic successes and some have duplicated the failures of forced government schemes. If the City of Berkeley seriously considers such efforts we must learn from the past and make sure we have an inclusive process that truly involves residents.”  

Quite a turnaround! If I were a District 3 resident I would feel betrayed.  

The next question is who funded Max Anderson’s campaign? Checkin g the city clerks record, the sources that gave the maximum to Max were Loni Hancock, Ali Kashani, SEIU union, Rob Browning and BCA. Loni Hancock’s support could be related as she recently got passed in Sacramento the “Transit Village” fast track legislat ion which is a kinder sounding “Redevelopment” act. 

Max has already served the required six months on the council, for a recall petition to be started. The community could begin such a move for the June or November election by collecting 2000 plus signat ures of District 3 registered voters or 25 percent. 

Check out the City Charter on Berkeley’s home page for details. It may be the only chance South Berkeley has to survive. 

Martha Nicoloff 

Co-Author, Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance 




E ditors, Daily Planet: 

I am by no means a blind flag-waver, but as a child my father taught me to treat the American flag with respect—to treat it with respect because it is a symbol of our nation. It is not about the flag, it is about the nation for whic h it stands. And very few things annoy me quite as much as seeing that flag misused.  

Such as what I have seen for the past several days at the Landscape Station of the Berkeley Post Office on upper Solano Avenue. Since at least Sunday, Dec. 18, the flag has flown, night and day, in the rain, half caught on the pole, and torn to shreds. When I first saw this on Sunday (and who knows how long it had been that way) I assumed it would be taken care of first thing Monday morning. Boy, was I wrong. It is now Wednesday evening, and that tattered flag still flies. 

I have no problem with people burning the flag as a form of free speech and/or political protest. I delight in seeing it flown on national holidays and on any other day of the year. These are the act s of thoughtful, caring, patriotic people. But I do have a problem with people treating it thoughtlessly. Not bothering to take it down at night (unless it is illuminated), leaving it up in the rain, taking it down and rolling it into a ball until the nex t use, dropping it on the ground. “In the old days” each flag came with instructions on its proper use—shouldn’t everyone who owns a flag know how to care for it? 

Waving the flag (and the whole concept of patriotism) has been hijacked by the Conservative s to such an extent that most Liberals and Progressives seem afraid to admit to any patriotic feelings for fear of being branded a conservative. However, most of us are patriotic, which is why we often so fiercely rail against what we see as abuses by the other side. And this is what makes it especially bad when this sort of neglect happens in a liberal/progressive community such as Berkeley, because it just plays right into the right-wing-conservative-red-state stereotype of us as a bunch of America hate rs. 

Let’s take back the flag. Let’s wave it proudly. And let’s take care of the ones we own. 

Nancy Koerner 

P.S. For those who may wonder, yes, I did go into the post office to inquire about the flag. The response was “What’s wrong with it?” Then I was g iven an 800 number to call to report it. As I said, it may still be hanging in tatters... 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It has been a year of hard struggle in our community and our nation: 

We continue to struggle against the “Trust Us, We’re Experts” argument(s) heard in the halls of city and national government. It is difficult to trust the so-called people in charge with decisions that have made or avoided making without consulting a preponderance of evidence. 

One thinks of the Iraqi o ccupation, the secret holding cells for interrogation, the cuts to services and aid to needy families, the tax-cuts to the rich Americans, the slackening of protections for the environment, the attacks on the First and Fourth amendments, the racial profil ing, the false claims that we are not surrendering anything when we (a) give up the power to plan our own city’s downtown, (b) give up the knowledge that what we carry out of our library is only between us and the bar code reader, or (c) listen to the news that our “leader” has been spying on innocent citizens in the name of fighting terrorism abroad. 

City services keep being cut. So do the diverse faces we need to see on commissions. We give up naming a post office after a local hero, but we badly need local heroes. 

We have a governor who is the embodiment of the Biblical injunction about the sins of the fathers, but who has neither learned nor evolved beyond a drunken frat-boy chuckle and an excuse that he should have listened to his wife. 

On the bri ghter side, we have much to be hopeful for: 

We have this local newspaper, bolstering our hope that occasionally the real news does get printed. 

We have local heroes. More coming up all the time. One thinks of the Berkeley High School history teacher who used his instinct and helped save several lives this fall. 

We have creativity, we have initiative, and we have bigger heroes on the national and international level. Malik Rahim. Cindy Sheehan. Father Roy Bourgeois. Anyuratta Mittal. Jose Bouvais. 

We c ontinue to commit ourselves, to re-commit ourselves to all that is good in us. We can do this singly and together. 

It is enough. 

Lynda Winslow 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Will transit villages, smart growth and other urban renewal and redeve lopment schemes succeed in reversing the ongoing trend of service cuts and fare increases imposed by public transit agencies? If there’s any hope of that happening in the foreseeable future why have Democratic legislators been so eager to allow illegal immigrants to have drivers licenses? So developers can continue building housing subdivisions and shopping malls that are inaccessible to citizens who don’t drive? 

Many of us claim that we’re “forced to drive” but it’s puzzling that in our free country we seem intellectually challenged when it comes to identifying those who are guilty of the coercion. California state courts agree that driving a private motor vehicle on a public roadway is not a fundamental right, but a privilege. Yet as fast as we could open new freeways to traffic we posted all the entrance ramps with signs reading “Pedestrians, bicycles and non-motorized vehicles prohibited.” And those words seem to accurately describe all the new urban and suburban development we’ve been getting since. 

Four times as many Americans (U.S. residents) have been killed in motor vehicle accidents as were killed in all our nation’s wars since the Revolution in 1776. 

It’s depressing to realize how many people can lose relatives (a.k.a. “loved ones”) in motor vehicle accidents and still not protest the lack of safer alternatives. With friends like that children don’t need enemies. Nature still provides all newcomers with a pair of legs for transportation. Do any clergymen, theologians or medical experts consi der our excessive reliance on automobiles to be a form of 


Instead of subsidizing urban renewal let’s amend state law to prohibit any new urban or suburban development that is not at least as accessible and functional for non-motorists as it is for those who drive. 

Art Weber 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recently, the subject of world peace was raised in these pages (Letters, Dec. 13) and since it is an important subject, I wanted to respond to t he ideas expressed.  

I doubt world peace can be legislated as suggested. Neither can political civility. It takes much hard work to solve these problems and those lofty goals won’t be easily attained without changing the way we think and act; not what so meone else thinks and someone else acts. Insisting people act responsible doesn’t work any more than bombing people into peace.  

Very few of us are willing or able to step up to the plate and change the destructive lifestyle and diet that characterizes the spiritual decay of modern man and fuels our descent into the abyss. We’d rather rely on doctors, lawyers, politicians and other so-called “experts” to improve our lives. These old dinosaurs have long lost their effectiveness, but they still linger. It’s time to cut them loose and set ourselves free! 

The food that we eat does not only feed our physical bodies, it feeds our spiritual ones. When we don’t eat right, we don’t act right. It’s the work that has to be done on an individual level that allows r eal change to take place on a larger level.  

Instead of working from the top down; through worn-out, failed political processes of the past; we should be working on ourselves as individuals. Remember, when all those people finally leave the sauna room (the remedy suggested by one of your readers), you’re still left to face yourself; a far more daunting task than another group therapy session. It’s not the sauna room where peace starts; it’s the kitchen.  


Michael Bauce 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At the beginning of the 19th century La Nouvelle Orleans was a micro-model of new world culture. Ante bellum up-river plantation owners could stroll from the Pontalba building to the St. Louis Cathedral, to the Cabildo’s offices, get grocer ies at the French Market, enjoy musical evenings at the Opera House, a social evenings in the Quadroon Ballroom as well as by and sell black Africans  

  When post-bellum carpetbaggers gave up and went back north New Orleans sprang to life as a free-spirit ed place that would later, especially during prohibition, defined itself as a city of pleasure unlike any other.  

  The good times rolled along until the late 1950s when court ordered integration drove middle class whites to the suburbs.  

New Orleans the n began the transition to an American city in which its unique amalgam of cultures was marketed to the world.  

  I left in 1945 but over the years during visits home I witnessed a slow and heartbreaking transformation symbolized by two defining changes; T he Vieux Carre became the French Quarter and Mardi Gras became Carnival. The easy-going city of my youth, a nurturing easy-going mistress, had been prostituted, voluptuously made-over, alluring and phony. 

  My New Orleans had real Jazz funerals; I once wi tnessed three converging on the same intersection, each juicing and goosing the others. My New Orleans was integrated; Sociologist Joseph Ficther, S.J. of Tulane University published a study in the 1940s that concluded that no one in the city lived more t han a few dozen feet from a person belonging to a different racial designation. The Circle Theater on St. Bernard Avenue maintained a tri-color division: the ground floor was for whites, the mezzanine for Creoles, the balcony for Negroes. Thus, race was m ore a social than a biological attribute. Whites, Negroes and Creoles lived in close proximity but shared little; we were mixed but did not mix.  

  My New Orleans was gone long before Katrina. “This great city,” the phrase uttered by our 43rd president tw o weeks after Katrina from a cinematic stage with the 18th century façade of the St. Louis Cathedral soft-lit in the background, was actually a counterfeit. Greed had fashioned attributes of greatness from real relics. 

If governing powers rebuild New Orl eans it will be to renew the pursuit of profits. The city of my growing up, the old New Orleans where you enjoyed only those pleasures you created, is gone just as surely as Xi’an, Troy, Pompeii, and Timbuktu. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Ed itors, Daily Planet: 

The recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s first public reading of “Howl” in San Francisco brought to mind the early efforts of the instigator of stand-up comedy/political satire, Mort Sahl. He not only started to boom out of San Francisco’s Hungry i Christmas of 1953, but actually got his start in future Free Speech territory. 

Before the UC campus spread to Bancroft Way, there was a club, The White Log Tavern, four doors down from Telegraph. It was there in 1952 that Sahl started calling out the McCarthy Era; this was a good three to five years before the likes of Second City, Lenny Bruce, Lord Buckley, etc. started to touch the national consciousness. Sahl in fact played New York and had a hit album before the end of 1955. 

Let’s think about a plaque outside the Bear’s Lair on the Bancroft side commemorating this great spurt in American history. A crucial addition to our Free Speech quadrant, no? 

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A new study points out and confirms that recipients who received a big chunk of Bush’s tax cuts are the least likely to let loose of their loot. So much for the Republican claim of trickle down economics. The wealthy, people earning over $10 million, were found to be the least generous of wage-earners. This group is six times less likely to donate to charities than Americans who make $50,00 to $100,000 a year. The wealthy being chincy is a fitting example of greed trumping giving at the holiday season. 

Ron Lowe 

Nev ada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“General Webster is right,” Mr. Bush’s text said. “And so long as I am commander in chief, our strategy in Iraq will be driven by the sober judgment of our military commanders on the ground.” 

Now let me paraphrase that in an imaginary quote from the head of our local cult of the personality: “The city attorney is right,” Mayor Bates said. “And so long as I am the commanding personality in this city, our strategy in the LRDP lawsuit (or substitute any other legal matter) will be driven by the sober judgment of our professionally trained attorneys on the case.” 

In other words, the people shall have no say, and the people’s government shall defer to the government’s “experts,” regardless of what the will of the people may be. 

Hey Democrats and other hypocrites, “They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” (Job 4:8, KJV.) God does not favor the Republicans except insofar as He is using them to punish the iniquity and hypocrisy of his chos en party that is pledged to care about the democratic rights of the people. My understanding is that God hates hypocrisy above all else and He will punish it regardless of the consequences. Integrity is the greatest of human virtues, and its absence is th e greatest of human vices, because it goes toward the corruption of the soul, which has a value far beyond anything in the realm of mind or body. 

On another note, Councilmember Max Anderson was quoted as saying that the decision of the Landmarks Commissi on on 1901 Otis Street did not “pass the smell test” and that the commission should apply proper “standards.” No, I am afraid it is the City Council that does not pass the smell test. The Landmarks Commission was obviously making a statement on the lack o f genuine standards applied by the Zoning Adjustment Board and by the City Council. We all know that these bodies have become bureaucratic institutions incapable of responding genuinely to any matter that is put before them. God bless the Landmarks Commission for trying to make a statement, and I hope all the citizens of Berkeley are not fooled for one minute by the spin doctors on the City Council or in the Planning Department or in the office of the City Manager. 

On yet another note, the acting Health Office for the City of Berkeley, Vicki Alexander, was immediately relieved of her duty for making a written statement supporting my appeal before the City Council concerning the proposed “renovation” at 2235 Derby Street. At the City Council meeting, the City Manager twice tried to put a spin on it, as though she was supporting him rather than my appeal by her statement, but apparently even he didn’t believe that, because he put pressure on Fred Medrano to have her relieved of her duty on the very day of the appeal, November 15. Moreover, he put pressure on her through Fred Medrano to recant her statement and tow the party line, which so far she has not done. She has indicated to me that she may show courage against corruption. God bless her and strengthe n her to resist the obvious tyranny of a petty dictator run amok, who does not respect the rule of law or the sincere opinion of any staff member who does. 

Now, do you begin to understand what kind of government we now have in this fair city? It is not i n essence distinguishable from a Stalinist dictatorship. Whatever the People’s Republic of Berkeley may have been in the past, it now combines both capitalism and communism, taking the very worst from each. 

By the way, we did get a huge concession from s taff in their recommendation to council. In their recommendation they acknowledged for the very first time that renovation debris must be placed in sufficient containers and not thrown haphazardly on the ground. Prior to the appeal, I had a heated phone c onversation with Dan Marks, in which he insisted just the opposite, on the grounds that no one in Berkeley obeys that particular section of the Berkeley Municipal Code. This concession is a victory for the people and a step toward the rule of law, but a s mall step. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. 

Peter J. Mutnickk

Column: Dispatches From the Edge: Israel and Palestine: Is There a Way Out? By Conn Hallinan

Friday December 23, 2005

In a 2002 Le Monde Diplomatique article titled “Constructing Catastrophe,” Israeli journalist Amon Kapeliouk challenged one of the central myths about the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. To wit: that Palestinian President Yasir Arafat was offered a great deal at the Camp David talks in July 2000, but turned it down and launched Intifada II.  

What is so damaging about the Camp David myth is that it perpetuates the fable that the Palestinian side of the peace equation is unreliable. It is at the core of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s argument that Israel has “no partner for peace,” and Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz’s comment that Israel “will have to wait for the next generation [of Palestinian leaders] for a peace agreement.” 

The “no partner” myth is the rationale behind the unilateralism the Sharon government has practiced over the past four years on everything from building the wall, to withdrawing from Gaza. It will also be at the center of the upcoming Israeli elections in March, which will go a long way towards determining whether there will be a peace agreement or another generation of war and reprisal. 

According to Kapeliouk, the Palestinians were wary about Camp David because Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak refused to lay out a pre-talk proposal. But because the Palestinians were also worried that if they refused to sign on, Barak and President Bill Clinton would paint them as obstructionists, they agreed to the negotiations. 

Sure enough, when the Palestinians got to Camp David they were handed an offer they could only refuse: Israeli sovereignty over the Haram al Sharif, Islam’s third holiest site; continued Israeli presence in the West Bank; no sharing of Jerusalem; and no plan for the 3.1 million Palestinian refugees. To top it off, Barak insisted nothing be written down. 

The Palestinians countered with a proposal to give up 9 percent of the West Bank, agree to Israeli sovereignty over settlements in East Jerusalem, and to find a solution to the refugee issue that “would not threaten Israeli demographic and security interests.” 

The Palestinians also wanted this in document form because they felt that by not insisting on specific language concerning the settlements, they had been burned in the 1993 Oslo Accords. At the time, the Palestinians assumed Oslo meant the settlements would be frozen until a final agreement was worked out. Instead, Israel doubled the settler population and built more than 40 new ones. 

The U.S.-Israeli response was “take it or leave it.” Arafat said no and for most Israelis and virtually all Americans (Europeans and the rest of the world never thought the Camp David proposals were fair), the Palestinians got tagged as the bad guys.  

Sharon and his new Kadima Party will run on this “bad guy/no partner” myth, particularly since Hamas did so well in the last round of Palestinian elections. His only serious opposition—Amir Peretz, the newly elected head of the Labor Party—will have to confront this myth.  

If there is anyone who has the credentials to do this, it is Peretz.  

He was one of the so-called “Eight,” the members of the Knesset who called for full withdrawal from the territories and a two-state solution back in 1988. He is also a long-time member of Peace Now. He told LaborStart last June, “I see the occupation as an immoral act,” and that the issue is “not a territorial question but one of morality,” adding, “when a nation rules for 38 years over another people, moral norms become twisted.” 

However, it appears that Labor will try to avoid getting into a slugging match with Sharon over security by focusing on “it’s the economy, stupid!”  

Yuri Tamir, a Labor Party politician close to Peretz, says the fight with Sharon is “not about policy toward the Palestinians—on which we largely agree—but about economic policy.” 

However, with the occupation costing $1.4 billion a year (not counting building the wall) there is simply no way to separate those issues. As former Knesset member Uri Avnery points out, the two are intertwined and Labor must link the growing economic inequities in Israel to the occupation. 

So far, Peretz supports Labor’s basic positions on the territories: keep the major settlements in the West Bank, deny Palestinians full sovereignty in economic, diplomatic and military affairs, and maintain control of a united Jerusalem. He also supports the wall, which is slowing strangling the possibility of a viable Palestinian state. These current positions are not likely to lead to peace. 

Unlike Sharon, however, he promises to negotiate with the Palestinians.  

Peretz’s election to head Labor has already driven the national dialogue to the left. No other major politician uses the words “occupation” and “morality” in the same sentence. He has also turned a spotlight on the neo-liberal economic policies of former Economic Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  

As the Labor Party’s first Sephardic leader, Peretz will directly challenge the lock Likud and the right-wing Shas Party has had on this population of poor and marginalized Israelis. As the leader of Histadrut, Israel’s trade union organization, he has campaigned for raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing trade union rights, and resisting the wave of privatization that has impoverished a growing number of Israelis. 

He also initiated a series of meetings with the Histadrut’s counterpart, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. 

Peretz says he wants to address the “strange situation” in Israel, “in which the lower classes and the working class tend to support the parties of the right, and the upper class tends to support the Left.” He says this not only prevents the Left from winning elections, “it has also caused the concept of peace to become an elitist product which is identified with factory owners and not factory workers.” 

It has been a long time since Labor has used this kind of language, and it has stirred hope among peace activists. Even a critic like University of Haifa professor, Ilan Pappas says, “A cool-headed assessment of Peretz’s politics should not preclude the kind of hope that attended Yitzhak Rabin’s second term as prime minister, when he joined the peace camp, despite his previous brutal policies in the Occupied Territories.”  

At the same time, Pappas warns that unless there is a willingness to negotiate seriously with the Palestinians, Israel may face “strong international pressure, of the kind that was directed against apartheid in South Africa in the form of sanctions, boycotts and disinvestments.” 

Such a campaign is already underway among a number of churches in the U.S., and Europe, and the EU recently proposed scaling back support for infrastructure work like roads and rail lines in the West Bank. The organization is also contemplating giving legal help to stop the demolition of Palestinian houses, and to meet with Palestinian leaders in East Jerusalem rather than Ramallah. 

There is much at stake in the upcoming election, for both Israelis and Palestinians. Polls predict a Sharon victory, but he is not in the best of health, and the election is three months away. According to Avnery, Peretz must seize the opportunity, and take the issue of peace head-on. “After so many sacrifices of blood and money,” he argues, “the public may be ripe for this.” 



Column: Undercurrents: A Call For Progressives to Reveal Their Defense Strategies By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday December 23, 2005

Some weeks ago, in another forum, I warned about the potential trap laid for progressives by the entrance of Pennsylvania Congressmember Daniel Murtha into a leadership role—maybe the Congressional leadership role—in the anti-Iraq War ranks. 

“The Murtha gambit,” I wrote, “sets a dangerous precedent for what kind of person can take the lead in criticizing the nation on matters of war and security. It concedes that the only moral voice who can oppose a war is someone who supported and/or participated in a past war. … Murtha’s gambit may end up winning the battle for progressives (a quicker withdrawal from Iraq), but losing the larger war, the one being fought over the hearts and minds of the public about the role of the military in American life and world affairs. And so we may leave Iraq as we left Vietnam—with too many people in high places convinced we would have won had we only given the military a fighting chance and better strategies. These people will still be willing—and, perhaps, eager—to test that theory out in some other part of the world.” 

For that bit of heresy I got roundly criticized in some progressive and moderate circles, represented by one reader who said that “the analysis presented by [Mr. Allen-Taylor] suffers from left-wing infantilism. We need to agree with the statements of those who agree with us and stop being so damned pure or looking at motives and downsides. … What Murtha did was to change the entire debate in a way that is favorable to war opponents... It is up to us to seize the moment.” 

It is absolutely undeniable that Mr. Murtha’s entry into the Iraq war debate changed the terms of that debate entirely, and forever. Because he is a moderate-conservative, a Vietnam veteran with a long and unbroken history of support for the military rank-and-file, Mr. Murtha’s call for withdrawal made it politically easier for others to publicly join the anti-war ranks. That swelling chorus immediately forced President George Bush out of his protective closet, and in recent days we have been inundated with presidential speeches in which he has begun to publicly lay out the terms under which he believes the war in Iraq can end. It seems only a small crack, true, in the Bush Wall. But out of such small cracks, roaring floods eventually push their way. 

The question is, in what direction and to what end will the End-the-Iraq-War Flood eventually take us? What is the moment to be seized? 

Mr. Murtha, as he certainly should, is using the opening to advocate taking the U.S. military to a strategic point where he wants it to be. I’m badly paraphrasing, and I’m no military expert (and, so, you should check Mr. Murtha’s website and published speeches yourself for the details), but it seems to me that the Pennsylvania congressmember wants to pull U.S. military back to an encircling position in bases surrounding Iraqi population centers, leaving the fighting to “democratic” Iraqi military forces, and reserving U.S. troops only for possible quick re-entry under pre-determined breakdown conditions. 

Such a strategic withdrawal would almost certainly shift the balance of U.S. public opinion that is currently slightly against the Iraq war. Let’s not fool ourselves in these matters of life and death. The U.S. public ended its support for the Vietnam War not because it came to the conclusion that the war goals were wrong, but because—as a whole—it grew tired of U.S. casualties. It is the nagging, unrelenting daily roadside bomb attacks leading to steady U.S. casualties—not general concerns over the mess we are making in the Middle East—that is driving the polls away from war support. End the U.S. casualties—by whatever means—and see how quickly the names Tikrit and Najaf drop from the radar of American public opinion. And, at the same time, see how quickly the debate over the future shape and role of the military gets put on the back burner of public discussion.  

If progressives want to have some influence over what type of military defense replaces our current configuration once the Iraq War eventually ends—however it ends—then now is certainly the time to speak up. 

It is said that many Americans mistrust putting Democrats back into national office because they do not think Democrats have the fire-in-the-belly to use the military to defend the country and protect U.S. interests. You can put most of that down to right-wing political rhetoric; over and over in the past 30 years, mainstream national Democratic leaders have shown that they are just as willing to order to troops into battle as any Texas Republican. 

But what about that broad and unhomogeneous group of folks who call themselves progressives, who have not had their hands on national power for the most part, and who, therefore, have not had the actual responsibility to either pull the trigger or put the gun back into its case? 

Despite the anguish of the work to end the Iraq War and the other oddities and improprieties of the Bush administration, these have actually been easy days for progressives, in one sense. The Bush administration has made itself a nice target in many areas. The Iraq war, and how the Bush folks have fought it, have put the administration into a dilemma of its own construction: it cannot win the war with the number of troops currently on the ground (if, indeed, the war can be “won” by the U.S. side at all), it cannot attract enough new troops voluntarily because of the increasing unpopularity of the war, and it cannot reinstate the draft to swell the troop ranks because that, eventually, would completely drop the bottom out of national war support, as it did in Vietnam. In the past year or so progressives have had the opportunity to stick pins in the Bush War Machine at various hurtful points, delighting in the conservative squirming coming from Congressmember John Conyers’ call for a national draft, for example, not because progressives support such a draft, but because progressives know full well how unpopular a draft would be and that, therefore, a draft will never come to be under Bush.  

But now, to paraphrase the environmental lobby chief from “The American President,” it’s time for progressives to sit at the grownups table. To be more than mostly sideline players in American politics—holders of an occasional City Council or state assembly seat here or there—progressives have to answer the serious questions of these serious times. What should be the form and the role of the United States military forces in America and in the world? How should the United States be defended, and under what circumstances, in these times of terror? In private conversations and countless position papers, progressives have been discussing these issues for years. It’s time to bring that debate out to the general public and let those views be widely known, if they want to have the American public trust them with the ultimate reins of power. 


Commentary: Reflections On War By Harry Weininger

Friday December 23, 2005

War is the ultimate power available to a nation. Young men and women go to battle. They postpone their studies, interrupt careers, disrupt important plans, are separated from loved ones. What they will come back to is uncertain. They may never come back. Many are damaged physically, and mentally, for life. Yet all of these people, our young men and women, persevere in order to defend our society, culture, nation. To go freely, even if not enthusiastically, requires a clear and convincing sense of purpose, a compelling vision. Absent that sense of purpose, absent that vision, without a bullet-proof mandate, even the inconvenience of leaving school or work for a few months is too much – and it weakens the social order.  

The people making the decision to wage war must have overwhelming evidence, clearly and persuasively communicated, so that those who have to go know why they have to go, why they have to make that sacrifice. If the sacrifice is necessary, it must be based on a high degree of certainty.  

To execute a single individual requires a unanimous conviction by a jury, based on solid evidence beyond reasonable doubt – and it’s done with sorrow by much of the population and vehemently protested by many. Should the standard of proof be any less demanding when we as a nation go to war and put thousands in harm’s way?  

No legal structure exists that requires other government branches to use a judicial interpretation of what would be an adequate justification for war. The executive has a different mandate – protecting the nation – and therefore different standards and reaction times are required.  

Whether or not Congress has exercised its constitutional power to declare war, it’s the executive that wages war. And a critical tool for waging war is marshalling the enthusiasm and spirit of the people – presenting a credible rationale for war and the conviction that the cause is just, the conflict necessary, and the prospect for victory real.  

Regardless of military strength, a successful military action is very difficult to sustain if conflict at home consumes as much energy – or even more – than the conflict away. Although a country like ours cannot have complete consensus, we can engage in a national dialogue, conducted in a civil manner. It’s up to the executive to set the tone for a national dialogue – and to persuade the public that military action is in our national interest and, with support, will be successful. 

The concepts of reasonable doubt and hard evidence resonate throughout our culture. When effectively presented they can go a long way to engendering a winning spirit on the home front as well as on the battlefield.  


Harry Weininger is a Berkeley  


Commentary: Parking, Reputation Harm Downtown By CHRIS REGALIA

Friday December 23, 2005

I was watching the news last night and saw a piece on the plight caused by the recent rains and the inadequacy of the Berkeley sewer system. The piece pointed out that the systems can’t be fixed due to the drop in sales tax revenue Berkeley is experiencing.  

This reminded me of the article by Al Winslow in the Dec. 13 Daily Planet pointing to the 10 percent drop in sales tax revenues in the past year. In that article Mr. Winslow cites several reasons for the drop as proffered by city officials and consultants. What alarms me is not the drop itself, but the fact that everyone wants to look for answers that are outside of their control to free them of blame.  

The Internet is cited as the major reason, based on the fact that “almost everyone in Berkeley has access to the Internet.” Other reasons given are that the blocks are too long, cars use Shattuck as a thoroughfare, and there are too many property owners. While these might be fine excuses, they totally miss the obvious problems facing Berkeley. 

Most every community and resident in the San Francisco Bay Area has broad access to the Internet, but is every community experiencing as significant a drop in sales tax revenue? Perhaps that is a question that should have been asked.  

As far as I know the blocks have been the same length for decades, businesses generally benefit from being on thoroughfares and property owners generally will work cooperatively when there is a benefit to doing so. 

While I don’t profess to have all the answers, it would seem that the city should look to more practical solutions to the problem. I would suggest that one of the major problems facing Berkeley is parking. People will not come and shop unless there is convenient parking. As much as a city would like people to use public transportation, the majority of consumers are going to go where they can park because they don’t want to carry packages on public transit. If you do not want to face that reality you can expect to see your business erode. I would point to the thriving businesses in downtown Walnut Creek, where you will see that the city has provided not only ample parking, but also much of it is free. Berkeley on the other hand is hiring more parking enforcement officers. 

Another issue facing Berkeley is its anti-business reputation. Before I go too much further I must point out that I am an employee of Berkeley Honda, the subject of many letters to the editor of this paper. No matter what your opinion is of the situation at Berkeley Honda it still serves to clearly illustrate the point I wish to make about the anti-business reputation. That point has nothing to do with the issues facing the union or the owners, and everything to do with the city’s position in the dispute. As a supporter of Berkeley Honda I would have been thrilled (albeit shocked) if the city had chosen to support the owners. As a reasonable and common sense businessman I am flabbergasted at the city’s support of the “boycott.” Not because I think they are on the wrong side (which I do) but because they have forfeited their opportunity to play the role that city governments should play. The only position a government should take in a labor dispute, especially at the outset (and without all of the facts), would be to remain neutral. It is by not taking sides that allows a city to be an arbiter. Being an arbiter is the only way a city can best serve all of its constituencies, and all of the constituencies deserve to be served. There are many in this community who applaud the city’s “fortitude” in standing up for the cause of the union and against the owners, and that is fine. You may not like business, but without thriving businesses a city cannot survive. Absent a city government that encourages them, businesses will go elsewhere.  

I am not saying that settlement of the Berkeley Honda situation is the answer to Berkeley’s problems. What I am saying is it is a symptom of a much deeper problem. The city chose to take sides, and the dispute is now over six months old. While it is not entirely the fault of the city for the length of time the dispute has gone on, its support has certainly fanned the flames and emboldened the protesters to reduce the rhetoric to name calling and misrepresentations. What I do fault the city for is taking a position that eradicated any possibility of playing a role in ending the dispute. In the process it has furthered its reputation as an anti-business city. 

Take a drive through Emeryville or look at the development in Albany and you will see many businesses that Berkeley has discouraged and proudly done so. I drive through Emeryville and see millions of tax dollars that should be staying in Berkeley had the city leaders found ways to make business work. Fortitude is an admirable quality but is also politically expedient. When it comes to this issue it is easy to obtain and even easier to boast about. All you have to do is say “no” to business and put a bumper sticker on your car supporting the boycott of one of the largest tax revenue generators in the city.  

I have two questions for city leaders, how much does that fortitude really cost and how do you expect to pay for it? Based on the issues raised in the television reports of the rainstorm, the answer to the first question is “an awful lot”; based on Mr. Winslow’s article, the answer to the second question is “We have no clue.” 


Chris Regalia is an employee of Berkeley Honda. 


Commentary: A Vision For Berkeley’s Downtown By STEVE GELLER

Friday December 23, 2005

Berkeley has a reputation for wild-eyed radicalism, but when it comes to our downtown, we’re wildly conservative. We don’t like tall buildings. We want to preserve old buildings. We want to pave over downtown for places to park our cars. 

Monday night, I sat in on a discussion of the Downtown Area Plan at City Hall. Councilmember Dona Spring asked those present to give their concerns and visions, their images and concepts. Here’s what I got out of it. 

Downtown should be a place people want to come to, a place where they feel comfortable. Downtown should be a “commons” where we share good things and meet one-another. 

If people feel comfortable, they will spend money and downtown will prosper. 

Portland, Ore., Boulder, Co. and San Luis Obispo, Calif. all have pleasant and prosperous downtowns, because they have enlightened policies. None of those policies are particularly radical; they are not un-tried; they really do work. One can read about the enlightened policies on the cities’ websites. 

If we had wider sidewalks we could have more sidewalk cafes. We’ve got a good start on Center Street; maybe Center should be closed between Shattuck and Oxford. Hey, we could daylight Strawberry Creek, next to the Hotel Conference Center. A blue line already marks the spot. 

There are mixed opinions about tall buildings. Personally, I don’t think we need to limit the number of floors, but even a “green building” doesn’t make life better if it takes away sunshine; we don’t want downtown to be a dark canyon. 

We really ought to have public toilets. We could give a tax break to cover the cleaning costs. This might give work to some of the homeless folks. 

We could have fewer cars and plenty of parking. We could issue bus passes to all-day parkers, and free their spaces for shoppers and visitors. This was the recommendation of the Traffic Demand Management (TDM) study. We definitely do NOT need another such study. 

The parking we do have is mis-managed. People don’t know where it is, so they drive in circles, spewing pollution. Nights and weekends, there’s plenty of downtown parking, but people don’t know where that is. I’m told some commercial lots close evenings for lack of business. 

On-street parking is cheaper than garages; this encourages meter-feeding. Meters should be made more expensive, and the revenue spent on downtown improvements. Parking anywhere should never be free. 

A lot of working people really don’t need to park at all. Downtown businesses should issue transit passes to their employees. UC should not build those 1000 more parking spaces. It’s bad enough that UC wants to take over northeast downtown. 

I live up on College Ave. Coming and going from the meeting, I rode the AC Transit #51. Both times, the bus was full of UC students. The UC Berkeley Class Pass works great. 

Both times, the bus was surrounded by herds of honking cars, radiating road-rage and generating greenhouse gas. Walking to the bus stop, I passed the YMCA, which was filled with people pumping on exercise machines, having got to their gym by driving a car. 

My vision of downtown has people sharing shops, galleries, music venues and restaurants, seeing the sky, enjoying sunshine or the stars and getting about mostly by walking, biking or riding BART and the buses. I do this now. I like coming downtown. 


Steve Geller is a Berkeley resident.

Commentary: A Few Thoughts On Tookie and Arnold By MARC SAPIR

Friday December 23, 2005

I stood amidst a dense crowd of several thousand outside the East Gate of San Quentin on a Monday night and almost bumped into Sean Penn, the actor who played a death row inmate executed in Dead Man Walking, one of us. Beyond the usual death penalty witnesses, this was a relatively young crowd—diverse, spirited, communal, purposeful—until midnight passed us by and after a while a preacher man on the mic began preaching that Tookie would want us to avoid violence. Some of the crowd’s collective energy drained out, quieted by the preacher. The appropriation of Tookie had begun and he wasn’t even dead yet. Like all leaders before him, Tookie’s intentions, beliefs and legacy were now fair game for head hunters on every side of every question, ready to redefine Tookie in their own image.  

By 12:30, when Tookie’s death was announced, there was a palpable wave of despair; a few fists were raised, militant shouts of resistance arose, impotence in the face of the world’s greatest terrorist state. I stayed in the hope someone would do something dramatic to exorcise the state’s death dealing demons. A Native American guy on a wall held an American flag painted with a big swastika that he set on fire. It hardly burned. A woman below, for reasons I could not discern, grabbed the flag from him trying to extinguish the pitiful flame. The poor guy fell off the 6 foot wall he was on —not once but twice. Another Native American hugged the woman and calmed her anger. At the mic a more disciplined and well kempt Native American group chanted. Most people had slowly filtered out. I saw a tear in the corner of Sean Penn’s eye as he walked passed.  

After you’ve attended one execution event you feel impelled to come back, though you know the sad ritual. But at the end you don’t want to hear someone on a microphone feed you platitudes about how we need to keep fighting for a just criminal justice system. Or how Tookie lives in our hearts. You want to know what we are going to do next. You want action to end State violence and the ubiquitous media spin on our reality, both designed to further intimidate and pacify people. You want a real social revolution. No, not a protest, a rally, not even a riot. You want catharsis, peace, a total social collision against ruthless, raw, deceitful and selfish power, on the people’s terms.  

In this case, the governor signed a clemency denial letter that very pointedly denigrated not only Tookie William’s new found decency, his work ethic and contributions to society today, but also a cross section of the Black American heroes of the last 30 or 40 years. When Stan Williams was put to death early Tuesday morning, December 13, the United States, not in the person of George W Bush but of Arnold Schwarzenegger, sent a message to the African American community. It’s not only the Muslims and the undocumented we’re focused on hitting after Katrina, they as much as said. Arnold’s five-page letter specifically highlighted Tookie’s dedication of a book to Malcolm X (a murder victim, and convert to socialism), Geronimo Pratt (the Black Panther exonerated after 28 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit), George Jackson (who was never charged with a violent crime in his life despite Arnold’s libeling his memory), Leonard Peltier (a national Indian leader who was framed in the murder of provocateur FBI agents, as the original Judge’s call for a new trial makes clear), Asata Shakur (a government opponent whose re-capture has become a maniacal cause in Congress), Nelson Mandela (the most principled and supreme resister of Black oppression in the world), Mumia Abu Jamal (one of the brilliant analytical minds and mellifluous voices of our times, whose career as a leading journalist was abridged with intent to kill him legally by the Philadelphia power structure as it brought out of retirement the hanging racist judge, Szabo).  

Because the anti-clemency attack was not limited to Tookie, we all share a tremendous burden to vindicate Stan Williams, to expose the wanton criminal blood lust of the entire logical system that Arnold’s letter represents, and, if possible, to prove Stan’s innocence. Among all the hundreds of media outlets covering the execution across the nation, which newspapers, TV networks or radio stations shouted out the exposé of the blatant racism in Arnold’s labeling so many Black and Indian heroes as criminal elements. Presenting such internationally renowned political prisoners as Mandela and Peltier as evidence that Williams had not turned away from a life of violence will be Arnold’s legacy. Those key figures used their lives to fight for freedom for others, for us all, whether we be Black, or otherwise skin colored or ethnified.  

No one should forget this. It needs repeating as a mantra—today, in the 2006 elections, and in the unfolding struggle to defend and preserve democratic rights in the U.S. The system’s ruthlessness has again extended to the level of anti-historical psychological warfare where its front men and women are prepared to call humanity’s heroes past and present “terrorists and criminals,” to all but equate Mandela and George Jackson with Osama Bin Laden.  

The state did also execute Martin Luther King Jr. but did not then have the audacity to admit the crime. The book by Rev. King’s lawyer (An Act of State—The Execution of Martin Luther King by William F. Pepper, Verso 2003) provides clear proof that King’s assassination was achieved in a way that the actual assassins didn’t even know they had the backing of the 902nd Military Intelligence Group. This truth was adjudicated by Pepper in a civil court case in Memphis a few years back with the support of the King family. A jury of common Memphis people exonerated James Earl Ray and ruled the U.S. Government collaborated in the assassination. If MLK were alive today it is conceivable the government would find a way to label him a terrorist and put him to death legally. This is the state and situation we face. 

If the issues were really about violence and homeland security rather than political opposition to this system’s ruthlessness and its racism, Arnold’s speech writers would not have lied about George Jackson being a violent gang banger in that letter. They would not have dared to even mention Mandela whose principled refusal to betray the ANC’s armed wing kept him in prison, solidified the ANC’s unity and catapulted him to the presidency of South Africa after Apartheid.  

No, the state’s message was loud and clear. “If you resist our violence and terror you will be called the terrorist and we will kill you.” It is not violence per se that the elite and political classes fear. It is resistance and unity amidst the decline and fall of a class system and an empire already in total chaos, coming apart at its seams. Tookie, like Malcolm X and Martin King Jr., was slowly becoming the kind of leader that terrifies them. Alive or dead his example will be nurtured.  


Marc Sapir is a Berkeley resident. 

Commentary: While 39 Witnesses and the World Stood Watch By MATT WERNER

Friday December 23, 2005

Driving back to the East Bay from San Quentin Prison at 1:30 a.m., I feel nauseated. I just spent the last five hours with 2,500 people participating in a peaceful vigil for Stanley “Tookie” Williams. The steel slits of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge animate the image of the dark San Francisco Bay below like a zoetrope. One of the seventeen media witnesses to the execution is on the radio. He talks about how the first needle easily slid into Tookie’s arm, but how the second needle took over ten minutes to lodge properly in Tookie’s other arm. The reporter meticulously recounts Tookie’s protracted last minutes: a female voice shouted the death warrant, translucent chemicals pumped into Tookie’s veins, his head arched up, his fist in Black Power, his head down, his repose. 

I grimace, remembering the speaker at the protest outside the prison gates saying at midnight that sometimes lethal injections take fifteen, even twenty minutes to kill, and that we should all be calm and prayerful during that time. The reporter on the radio continues detailing the execution: the motionless people around him, the thickness of the glass that separated the execution chamber from the 39 execution witnesses. How it all resembled a normal medical procedure. I can’t listen any longer. 

Last month, I viewed miniature models of state-sponsored execution chambers at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. My stomach is now revolting as it had then; I open my car window for air. 

The reporter’s comparison of the execution to a medical procedure reminds me of how Americans are anesthesitized to violence today. Our society focuses on the meaningless details: how many cc’s of heart-attack-inducing drugs were pumped into Tookie, how many minutes he took to die, the ages of his victims, where he shot them, etc. 

We must instead take a wider viewpoint and look at crimes and acts of violence within their larger context. More-productive questions to ask are: Why is this violence occurring? What’s its origin, and how can we stop it? For, as Gandhi says, violence only begets more violence. It is hypocritical of California to lend itself to the evil it condemns: murder. Capital punishment is antithetical to the goal of reducing violence, in that it only creates more violence. 

A heavy burden weighs upon my conscience knowing that a small percentage of my tax dollars went to buy the needle to kill a five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. I detest the manifestly odious acts carried out in my name, with my money, by the capital punishment system, in the war in Iraq, by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, and in the secret CIA prisons overseas reported in the Washington Post for which Vice President Dick Cheney is lobbying to legalize torture.  

I do not like the culture of violence in the United States where still a majority is for state-sponsored murder. Not until violence is delegitimized like slavery, will the United States live in peace. The system of capital punishment risks killing the innocent. As Surviving Justice, the recently published book I helped edit, points out: since the 1976 reintroduction of capital punishment, 120 inmates on death row nationwide have been exonerated. These exonerations, many based on DNA evidence, expose the most Kafkaesque of horrors—the risk of wrongful execution. To prevent this, California lawmakers will decide on Jan. 10, the fate of 647 death row inmates with Assembly Bill 1121, whether or not to impose a moratorium on the death penalty. 

I share much compassion for all those affected by violence—the victims, perpetrators, lawmakers, and people of California. I know that abolishing the death penalty will be one more step toward stopping the cycle of violence as Tookie tried to do with his redemptive 180 degree turn away from gang violence and toward youth outreach. Let us hope that Tookie’s is the final death our tax dollars support. 


Matt Werner is a senior at UC Berkeley. He helped edit Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated, recently published by McSweeney’s. 


On His Birthday, Mao Continues to Inspire Many Chinese By PUENG VONGS Pacific News Service

Friday December 23, 2005

Almost 30 years after the death of Mao Zedong, many are still trying to define the controversial leader of the People’s Republic of China. But like China, Mao defies simple classification. And his name still evokes deep respect among many Chinese.  

On Dec. 26, Beijing officials will honor the 112th anniversary of Mao’s birth. Commemoration ceremonies will begin in Tiananmen Square, the historic heart of China where Mao’s body still lays sealed in a glass case. Each day, people from throughout China stand in long lines to pay their respects. Outside the country, many Chinese around the world say Mao gave China back its dignity.  

When asked about Mao, Yun Shi, 31, who grew up in Shandong province and lives in Oakland, recalls the poet, hero and liberator who rescued Chinese from a “Century of Humiliation”—what Chinese call the 100 years of foreign domination of China since the British Opium Wars. In 1949, in founding the People’s Republic of China, “[Mao] announced in Tiananmen Square that the Chinese have stood up,” Shi says.  

Shi does not discount the controversial leader’s crimes. Her own family suffered at the hands of Mao. Her great aunt was one of thousands who were forcibly taken from their homes and who had their possessions seized by peasants during the Communist takeovers that Mao led before becoming chairman. She says while she may not agree with Mao’s tactics, she still believes in the principles of a fair society.  

Not all Chinese see Mao in a favorable light. In her book “Wild Swans,” Jung Chang chronicled the hardships her family endured as one of millions jailed or sent to the countryside for hard labor during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. In her recently released “Mao: the Unknown Story,” written with husband Jon Halliday, Chang uncovers a much darker side of Mao, much of it never before reported. The book states that battles during the Long March, an event during the Communist revolution that made Mao the stuff of legend, were invented, and shows Mao needlessly sacrificing hundreds of men to glorify himself. Chang chronicles how, in private, Mao said he hated peasants and frequently tortured and killed them in mass. Mao sold food for arms, exacerbating one of China’s worse famines. Chang and Halliday say Mao was responsible for up to 70 million deaths.  

After the book was released, Chinese came to Mao’s defense on Internet message boards, citing his contributions to China.  

Chang thinks Mao’s continued idolization in China is nothing less than ongoing “brainwashing.” “He is written in the constitution as the guiding force for China,” she says, “and it is also illegal to oppose Mao.” She says because Beijing withholds the truth about Mao, younger generations who did not live under him have no other choice than to accept a distorted view of the leader. “The regime is determined to perpetuate the myth of Mao,” Chang says.  

Ling-chi Wang, professor of ethnic studies at U.C. Berkeley, says that while Mao’s wrongdoings cannot be discounted, “Mao made an important contribution in Chinese history, as a leader who instilled a great sense of self-reliance and pride in the people.” Mao is still idolized in China, especially by the working class. “When Mao took over he divided the land among the peasants. At the time they were 80 percent of the population,” Wang says.  

In San Francisco, where Chinese make up 20 percent of the population and form the city’s single largest ethnic group, a restaurant in the Richmond district called Mao Zedong Village is a living homage to the leader. Its décor is meant to replicate an early Chinese peasant cottage like the one that Mao grew up in the village of Shaoshan in the Hunan province. Garlic hangs on the wall next to numerous portraits of Mao.  

Restaurant owner Tina Cheng, originally from Beijing, says she got the idea for the eatery after seeing diners pack similar restaurants in almost every major city on the Mainland. Like them, she serves Mao’s favorite dishes, like “Chairman Mao’s Red Cooked Pork Pot,” a rich, caramelized pork stew. Folklore says Mao loved the dish because his peasant family could have it only on special occasions. Cheng says she put a portrait of Mao on her menu because it symbolizes good luck. It appears to be working—Cheng plans to open other Mao restaurants in the Bay Area.  

In Los Angeles, Mao’s Kitchen restaurant is decorated with old posters of the Cultural Revolution. In karaoke houses nationwide, Chinese speakers can select traditional songs singing Mao’s praises to an updated techno and pop beat. Mao is also a kitsch favorite among designers. Canton-born New York designer Vivienne Tam sells T-shirts of Mao in pigtails and says she admires a leader who can dictate the fashion of a billion people.  

Lately, Beijing has been using Mao’s influence to advance its own agenda, says Chaohua Wang, editor of “One China, Many Paths,” and a dissident. “As discontent grew in the countryside over the growing disparity between rich and poor, in the late 1990s the government began to talk about Mao to comfort those who were complaining,” Chaohua says. Leaders like Chinese President Hu Jintao mimicked Mao, traveling to villages in the countryside, “and emphasized Mao’s achievements in making China strong.” The message that they delivered was different from Mao’s, however. Instead of speaking out against “class struggles” against capitalism, as Mao did, they emphasized a “harmonious society.”  

Indeed, these days Mao is becoming more intertwined with China’s spectacular rise. Shanghai-born Michael Xin, 42, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, is in awe of what his country has become. “It has gone from being one of the weakest countries to one of the strongest in a very short period of time.” And he says Mao partly gets a nod for laying the foundation.  

For Xin, the lasting impact of Mao’s formal teachings on Chinese is his most impressive legacy. Xin says he was once approached by a Taiwanese vice-president of an American high-tech company who told him that he owed his business success to Mao’s books on the “Sword” and “Practice” theories of dealing with conflict and motivating people.  

Xin says, “I went to search for it right away.”  


Pueng Vongs is an editor with New America Media, a collaboration of ethnic media in the United States.  


Landscapes of Point Molate By JOHN KENYON Special to the Planet

Friday December 23, 2005

Driving home on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge after a day at Stinson Beach or a stroll around the Point Reyes Station, few returning East Bay residents cast more than a tired glance at the long stretch of natural-looking shoreline ahead, glimpsed at best through the crowded steelwork of that strange “erector-set” bridge. 

Even among folks enterprising enough to have discovered the charms of Point Richmond, its magnificent bay views, toy downtown, and winding streets of restored Victorians, relatively few have taken the easy-to-miss 580 off-ramp, just before the bridge tollgates, to the Point Molate Road, that strange little-known five-mile stretch ending at a picturesque harbor on San Pablo Bay. 

Hardly more than half an hour from North Berkeley, the trip is well worth the effort. Not as pretty as Tilden, it makes up for that by what’s now called “industrial archeology.” The rusted rails of the Richmond Beltline that once served the Contra Costa Winery and the Standard Oil Refinery over the ridge, snake along the reedy shore, over a lagoon on an ancient trestle, round Point San Pablo and past the yacht harbor, to disappear behind the gates of Chevron. 

En route, two public destinations make this trip a potential family outing. Approaching Point Molate, a public beach park of the same name offers the usual picnic facilities along with splendid views across the bay to the undulating edge of Marin County. Nearing Point San Pablo and the little Brothers Islands with their handsomely restored Victorian lighthouse, now a celebrated B and B, a bumpy rural road takes you over the hill to Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor in its wooded cove. After the over-designed respectability of Richmond’s developer-named “Marina Bay” with its fancy railings and gated docks, it’s a joy to step down between friendly looking houseboats, and stroll along old wood gangways past touchable boats, lovingly restored or falling apart, some for serious fishing, some serving as funky live-aboards. There’s even a 1940s-vintage cafe, called, appropriately, “The Galley,” and immediately below it a dockside from where, if you book ahead for a visit, you can be taken by motor launch to the East Brothers Light Station. 

So make tracks soon to this hidden demi-paradise, before the developers, those prosaic bottom-liners who never saw a rusty hull they could love, come bursting out of the wings to change everything. The wooded promontory of Point Molate, long occupied by the U.S. Navy Fuel Depot, is now up for grabs, and unlikely to remain abandoned. Chevron has made a bid for it, but the chronically troubled City of Richmond seems fatally attracted to the instant glamor and fast returns of a hotel-casino-resort complex. Personally, I have always seen this remote scenic edge as a natural extension of residential Point Richmond, shared with the East Bay Regional Park District. But enough of visualizations, for here’s a chance to enjoy the fascinating old before it is swept way by the all-too-predictable new. 

My own involvement in this obscure shore began 33 years ago as a professional happenstance could never have designed. Employed as an architect-planner for Richmond’s Redevelopment Agency, I was borrowed, thanks to some unknown supporter, by the Planning Department to illustrate a study of the city’s coastline. As a displaced landscape painter, it was the closest thing to heaven I’ve ever been paid for! About three days a week, armed with camera and sketchbook, I cruised the water-edges of industrial Richmond in search of strong compositions that carried the message “gutsy but interesting.” At the end of 10th Street, alongside the grand old Ford Plant, I drew the River Lines tugs and the “Oregon Bear” in its pre-container dock. I recorded the Santa Fe channel with its fascinating yacht-repair yards, and tackled the splendid bay-panoramas from Point Richmond’s Potrero Hills. 

But in the end, my most precious find was Standard Avenue north of the bridge—the Point Molate Road! Technically, it was private, casually patrolled by Navy trucks, but at that happy time, security was minimal. Standard Oil’s great green hillsides were not yet fenced-off, and outside the Fuel Depot you could park almost anywhere. For three undisturbed sessions, I sat on the road-edge above Castro Point, and drew dense, disreputable Red Rock Marina, a confusion of sunken-barge breakwaters, floating cranes, and ancient motor cruisers in the shadow of the great writhing bridge. 

A mile north of Castro Point, the road passes right through the middle of the ex-Navy Fuel Depot. During the 1970s, lingering hereabouts to draw of photograph was strictly verboten, but today you might wish to stop and admire the brick castellated-listed-building surviving from the Contra Costa Winery, a sad casualty of Prohibition! 

While Point Molate’s striking landform is more conventionally scenic, I have grown to prefer, as subject matter, the melancholy stretch of flat shore immediately north. Hugging the reedy water-edge, narrow road and rusted tracks weave and cross, back and forth, before parting company at a lagoon, where the tracks pass single-mindedly over a derelict trestle, while the road goes obediently around. The great hills of Marin across the water, the East Brother lighthouse just offshore, white tanks on the nearby bluffs, and the ever-passing tugs and tankers, create a strangely romantic setting that begs for a human focus. Not too surprising that 30 years after my original sketches and photographs this novel landscape should finally become domesticated by a family “Picnic by the Tracks,” with eldest daughter, first grandchild and dog. 

Thus a body of work begun as part of a matter-of-fact planning survey has continued over the years to provide unending and novel subject matter. Not even Mill Valley or Tiburon possess such strange and special poetry. 


Painting By John Kenyon:  

Thirty years after the original studies on Page 12, the artist’s favorite location becomes the setting for a more personal painting.l

Arts: Aurora Closes Year With Porter Tunes By KEN BULLOCK Special to the Planet

Friday December 23, 2005

With a nice pun on the songwriter’s name and what bad girls and boys have to look forward to from Santa, A Little Cole in Your Stocking, Aurora Theatre’s Holidays Cabaret of Cole Porter tunes, could have gotten off to a rough start on Wednesday night’s opening when pianist Billy Philadelphia, of the popular husband and wife duo with singer Meg Mackay, was out sick. But bolstered by the artistry of Larry Dunlap at the keyboard, Mackay turned in a funny, touching and all-round fine evening of Porter tunes that touted both her own professionalism and sensitivity to the material. 

Running the Porterian gamut from Kiss Me Kate’s “I Hate Men” (featuring lines like “He may have hair upon his chest,/But, sister, so has Lassie!”) to the big romantic numbers of desire, longing and a deliciously self-conscious restraint, Mackay made contact, turning out 20 tunes and an encore, followed by a sing-a-long of “Jingle Bells,” in about an hour-and-a-half or so, all with a pacing that featured each discrete mood well-framed by Mackay’s delivery, mixing comedy with warmth, and Dunlap’s sure touch on piano. 

Beginning with “What Is This Thing Called Love?” (“I was a humdrum person/Leading a life apart”) then plunging into songs from Kiss Me Kate and others, Mackay demurely made the most of each, for the most part standing in place, though never still, relying on her fluid gestures and elastic facial expressions to add emphasis to phrases dreamily prolonged or tartly tossed off. 

Mackay’s something of a cut-up, even a clown, but one of the nice surprises—as well as genuine pleasures—of the evening was her success with the romantic numbers, a success the well-placed comic tunes help set up. From “Night And Day” and “In The Still Of The Night,” she gained strength and assurance, carrying over into her fine second set, peaking with great numbers that many singers coast on, performing broadly, like “Begin The Beguine” or “Just One Of Those Things” in which the wistful lines are drawn out and both singer and pianist play with the melody in an intricate tracery.  

Ending on “My Heart Belongs To Daddy,” a song that has belonged to one singer for six decades (a possession that’s survived a clever theft by Eartha Kitt), Mackay’s delivery gives the venerable Mary Martin vehicle her own comic spin and musical bounce, with Dunlap elegantly jumping right along. This almost sassy close turns quickly into an touching encore that may be Meg’s best, “Everytime We Say Goodbye” (”I die a little/ ... wonder why a little/Why the gods above me/Who must be in the know/Think so little of me/They allow you to go”).  

Three Christmas songs were sung (Porter didn’t write Christmas songs), “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (Judy Garland’s number from Meet Me in St. Louis) and the sprightly “Mrs. Claus” with lyrics by the East Bay’s Nancy Schimmel (“Who spends Christmas Eve all alone?/ ... Who takes the stains from the old red jacket?/Who takes the reins when Santa can’t hack it?? ... Who has to put up with a saint?/ Mrs. Claus!”) and the Karen Carpenter tune, “Merry Christmas, Darling,” meant as a holiday card to Aurora’s Artistic Director Tom Ross, who collaborated with Mackay in a Carpenters Christmas show at The Marsh, performed with just a hint, an edge of the late singer’s style. 

Seasonal tunes shoehorned in or not, and despite the absence of crowd-pleaser Billy Philadelphia, A Little Cole in Your Stocking concluded its opening night as a thoroughly satisfying cabaret alternative to the usual holiday fare. 


A Little Cole in Your Stocking plays at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St., Dec. 23, 28, 29 and 30. For information call 843-4822 or see www.auroratheatre.org. 

Arts Calendar

Friday December 23, 2005



Shotgun Players “Cabaret” Thurs. - Sun. at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Through Jan. 29. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


Cowpokes for Peace at 7 p.m. at A Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave., at Alcatraz. Fr ee, all ages. 420-0196.  

Holiday Sing-Along with Terrance Kelly at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $7. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Swingthing Holiday Gala at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Dan Zemelman Trio at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Ramon & Jessica and Mark Ray at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Kaputnik, Mike Glendinning at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Destani Wolf and members of O-Maya at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$7. 548-1159.  

Joshi Marshal and Friends at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Mike Stern with Dennis Chambers, Victor Wooten & Bo b Francescini at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200.  



Razorblade, The Caribbean Groovers Steel Pan Band at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $11-$13. 525-5054.  

Gary Rowe, jazz piano, a t 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Clairdee at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $8-$16. 238-9200.  



The Rasatafarians, McAllan “Rocky” Bailey at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $16-$18. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Will Durst Big Fat Year End Kiss Off Comedy Show at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $17. 925-798-1300. 

Trovatore, traditional Italian music, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

The Michael Zilber Wayne Wallace Latin Big Band at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $14. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Moshe Cohen and Unique Derique “Cirque Do Somethin’” at 1 p.m. through Dec. 30, at the Marsh, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $10-$15. 800-838-3006. www.themarsh.org 


Joe Craven and Rob Ickes, bluegrass, at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience at 5 and 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $29.50-$30.50. 548-1761.  

Arturo Sandoval at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200.  

Jazzschool Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Larry Vuck ovich, solo jazz piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 



Dana Smith and His Dog Lacy at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5-$7. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 


Ned Boynton Trio at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Wild Catahoulas at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Julio Bravo, salsa, at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Dance lessons at 8 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Pete Caragher Quartet at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 



Asheba, Caribbean music, at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Traveling Jewish Theater “Dirt and Glory: Return of the Golem” at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Ce nter, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $10-$30. 415-522-0786. www.atjt.com 


Nomad Spoken Word Night at 7 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Word Beat Reading Series with Carol Dwinell and Daniel Johnson at 7 p.m. at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave. 526-5985. 


Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Gumbo at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Brunette & The Highlights at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-20 82.  

Debbie Poryes-Fels, solo jazz piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Witches Brew Represent at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 



Magician Jay Alexander at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Shotgun Players “Cabaret” Thurs. - Sun. at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Through Jan. 29. 841-6500.  


King Wawa and the Oneness Kingdom Band, a pre-celebration of Haitian Independence, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15. 849-2568.  

Tanaora Brasil at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $7. 841-JAZZ.  

Lucky Otis at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $11-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Fre e Persons Quartet at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. 548-5198.  

Jennifer Lee Quartet, at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Philip Rodriguez and Colin Carthen at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Nuclear Rabbit, all ages show, at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082.  

Burial Year, Bafabegiya, Acts of Sedition at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

Arturo Sandoval at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-92 00.  



San Francisco Chamber Orchestra New Year’s Celebration in Memory of Edgar Braun at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. www.sfchamberorchestra.org 

Bobi Cespedes & Her Trio at 7 and 10 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Includes Cuban dinner. Call fordetails. 841-JAZZ. 

New Year’s Eve Party at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

New Year’s Eve Balkan Bash with Anoush, Edessa and Brass Menagerie at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $20. 525-5054.  

Jesus Diaz and Afro-Cuban All Stars at 9:30 p.m.at La Peña. Cost is $23-$25. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Johnny Steele’s Hilarity Hoedown and Jocularity Jamboree at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College A ve. Tickets are $25-$30. 925-798-1300. 

Flamenco Fiesta with Yaelisa and Caminos Flamencos at Café de la Paz. Tickets are $45-$75. 843-0662. 

Lyrics Born, Inspector Double Negative & The Equal Positives at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cos t is $20-25. 548-1159.  

Beatropolis New Years Eve Party at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. Cost is $10 after 10 p.m. 848-8277. 

High Country, Dix Bruce & Jim Nunally at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761.  

Fourtet Jazz New Year’s Eve Party a t 10 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $7. 843-2473.  

Rhonda Benin & Soulful Strut at 9 p.m., Duncan James, solo jazz guitar, at 6 p.m., at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Raheem de Vaughn “Shang Hai” New Year’s celebration at 9 p.m. at 510 17th St., Oak land. Tickets are $75-$100.  

Jewdriver, Stigma 13, Second Class Citizens at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St.Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

Arturo Sandoval at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200. 



Tr aveling Jewish Theater “Dirt and Glory: Return of the Golem” at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $10-$30. 415-522-0786. www.atjt.com 


African Diaspora Cinema “Man by the Shore” at 2 p.m. at Parkway Theat er, 1834 Park Blvd., Oakland. Cost is $5. OurFilms@aol.com 



David K. Mathews Quartet at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $6-$10. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“The Greek Stones Speak” Travel photography lecture with Don Lyons at 7 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Free. 654-1548.  


Hot Club of San Francisco at 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Berkeley This Week

Friday December 23, 2005


Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair between Dwight and Bancroft, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Also on Sat. 


Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, from 10 to 11 a.m. for ages 4-6 years, accompanied by an adult. We will explore the Little Farm, care for animals, do crafts and farm chores. Wear boots and dress to get dirty! Fee is $5-$7. Registration required. 525-2233. 

Kosher Movies and Kosher Chinese Food at 7 p.m. at Chabad of the East Bay 2643 College Ave. Cost is $10. Reservations required. 540-5824. 


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 

Flames, Flares and Explosions The science of fire at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 

Healthy Eating Habits Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 

Berkeley PC Users Group Problem solving and beginners meeting to answer questions about Windows computers. At 7 p.m. at 1145 Walnut St. corner of Eunice. All welcome, no charge. 527-2177.  


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. 548-9840. 

Sleep Soundly Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities.com/ 



Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 

Joel ben Izzy celebrates Hanukkah with games, stories and a dreidel design contest at 6:30 p.m. at Black Oak Books, 1491 Shattuck Ave. 483-0698. 

World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 


Open the Little Farm Help greet the animals as we feed them, collect eggs and do morning chores at 9 a.m. at the Little Farm, Tilden Park. Dress to get dirty. 525-2233. 

Berkeley High Class of 1975 Reunion Party at 7 p.m. at the Doubletree, Berkeley Marina. mlc22@sbcglobal.net 

New Year’s Eve Balloon Drop at 4 p.m. (midnight Greenwich Mean Time) at Chabot Space & Science Center. Tickets required. 336-7373. 


Tibetan Buddhism “Introduction to Tibetan Healing Meditation and Yoga” at 3 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812.  


Free Small Business Counselling with SCORE, Service Core of Retired Executives at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. To make an appointment call 981-6244. 


Tibetan Buddhism with Sylvia Gretchen on “Healing Mind”at 8 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812.  


Learn How to Use Your GPS with Map Software with Jeff Caulfield of National Geographic at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Family Story Time at 7 p.m. at the Kensington Branch Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. Free, all ages welcome. 524-3043. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Kaiser Permanente, Dining Conference Room, 1950 Franklin St. To schedule an appointment call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE. www.BeADonor.com 

Berkeley Salon Discussion Group meets to discuss “New Years Revolutions” from 7 to 9 p.m. at the BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. 527-1022. 

Free Handbuilding Ceramics Class 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at St. John’s Senior Center, 2727 College Ave. Materials and firing charges not included. 525-5497. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

“Ask the Social Worker” free consultations for older adults and their families from 10 a.m. to noon at BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. To schedule an appointment call 558-7800, ext. 716. 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. 845-6830. 

“Faith, Doubt, and Inquiry” with Jack Petranker at 6:15 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812. www.nyingmainstitute.com 


Citizens Budget Review Commission meets Wed., Dec. 28, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7041.  

Civic Arts Commission meets Wed., Dec. 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Mary Ann Merker, 981-7533. 

About the House: Getting To Know Your Handyman By MATT CANTOR

Friday December 23, 2005

To the seasoned homeowner, few associations are as valued as those they share with their handyman (or handywoman). Finding these gems and keeping them around is no mean feat but worth every calorie you can muster. But it’s also important to understand some basic concepts about the care and feeding of handypersons. 

First and most important is to understand that a handyperson is not a general contractor. This is a person who can probably do a number of basic repairs without complex issues attached and should not be asked to do more than this despite the temptation to get your foundation replaced for half the cost. There are reasons that general contractors and other specialists charge what they do for many complex services and trying to circumvent this process can bring tears faster than the IRS (and that’s fast). 

Some of the jobs you might attempt with your handyperson include light plumbing (probably not re-piping your house but certainly replacing the washers in a faucet and maybe even the faucet itself), simple electrical jobs such as changing light fixtures and indoor painting where prep is minimal or not needed at all.  

Your handyperson should probably not be doing anything that would normally require a permit. This is hard to encapsulate into our short space but most cities limit this in dollar amount and a good rule of thumb is work that’s under $1,000. I tend not to want to see a handyman inside of an electrical panel but might allow for repair or addition of one circuit if they have good knowledge of this specialty. In general, things that pose a real threat, like electrical work and heating equipment, are best left to experts. 

There are, however, loads of tasks around the average house that handypeople are well suited for, but try and keep it simple. Here are a few:  

Caulking inside or out (make sure they buy the right caulk; there are differences and store employees can help); changing furnace filters; setting traps for pests; putting together shelving units and furniture; cleaning windows (lots of house cleaners don’t want to get on ladders); or fixing stuck windows and doors.  

Handypeople may also be suitable to lay insulation batting in your attic. Have your handyperson vacuum out your floor furnace (they can probably re-light the pilot if it goes out, too). Handypeople tend to be good at mechanical tasks like replacing locks or adjusting hinges. If your door rubs or the lock won’t engage, your handyguy or gal is likely well versed in such matters. You may also want your handyperson to do something so mundane as changing a light bulb that’s higher than your ladder (or your acrophobia) reaches. 

For larger or complex jobs, please consult a general contractor or a specialist such as an electrician or heating specialist. You also might find that a specialist who charges a whopping $100 an hour is going to be cheaper in the end than a handyperson who charges $30 an hour, due to their expertise and equipment. Sometimes cheap isn’t cheap. 

Since handypeople are often less experienced and savvy than their general contractor counterparts, there are a few things you should keep in mind. One is that these useful folk are often not too experienced in business affairs and may not lay out the timeline and cost projections with PowerPoint presentation. Some scribble hours down on napkins, although some have computers and receipt books.  

Take some time to talk about how things will work and expect your first date with your handywonk to be a learning experience. Keep it short and simple, sort of a test run, and then get the bill, pay it and leave it open-ended. If things were to your liking, call back and do another few items.  

Some handypeople are less than reliable or competent and it’s best to stay involved and find out early. Others are fantastic and may even be so good that they’re booked up for weeks in advance.  

It’s always better to wait for the one that is in demand. The restaurant with the long waiting line is probably better than the empty one.  

Remember that cost is a relative thing, as I’ve previously indicated, and a handyperson who charges $45 an hour might be a great deal while one that charges $20 might be a terrible deal. For your first date with your new handyperson, don’t fixate on price but see what the total bill looks like and how much you liked the work. Remember that showing up on time, keeping the place neat and being pleasant are all part of the equation. An irascible and perennially tardy worker is a pain and worth less than one that does the same job in a timely manner and with a smile. 

Some other issues regarding said handyperson might fall under the realm of personal liability. Since there is no licensing board to complain to and no bond to claim when things go wrong, you are more afloat with a handyperson. Check with your homeowner’s insurance company and see what they cover in the event that he or she gets hurt on the job or does something harmful to your property or possessions that they will not be able to cover. Talk to your accountant and see what the payment limits are for day labor or small repair and find out how it will be best to pay. How you pay may also affect your ability to seek recourse for problems you later discover. There are advantages on both sides of this issue so get some advise that considers your own circumstances.  

Lastly, have some fun and enjoy the fruits of this wonderful resource. I can drain the fun out of any subject with all the liabilities and inherent difficulties, but I don’t want you to miss the point that handypeople are a very practical commodity. In fact, sometimes they are so perfectly suited to your needs that it’s a wonder that you can book time with any of the good ones to save your life. 

Who’s my handyman? I’ll never tell. 


Ask Matt

Friday December 23, 2005

Dear Matt, 

I have recently dismantled an improvised system of outdoor power outlets installed by a previous owner of my house. What kinds of outdoor power outlets are safe, serviceable and economical to install?  

Martin Kramer 


Dear Martin, 

What a great question. I’m glad you dismantled the improvised power outlets and I’m glad you didn’t get shocked (I assume you’d have told me if it had happened). As far as economics, I don’t know if I can help much, since I’d recommend that a licensed electrician do the new installation, but here are a few suggestions as to what you’ll want installed. The first and most important thing is that these new outlets be “GFCI” or ground fault circuit interrupters (sometimes called GFIs). These can sense a person getting shocked and stop the flow of power. Amazing but true. These have been required in new construction (or remodeling) for quite a few years when outlets are installed in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, garages or outside. What all these places have in common is that you are more apt to be grounded—literally, connected to the ground either by touching it or by touching something that connects to the ground (such as a concrete slab or a pipe or a faucet). Outdoor outlets should be installed using outdoor-type wiring, junction boxes and special covers, especially for outlets.  

The covers I like the best have a large plastic shell with notches at the bottom. This allows you to plug something in, close the shell and leave it plugged in, protected from the rain. This is especially good for things like sump pumps, outdoor lighting devices and the like. 

The one cost-saving measure I can suggest is that you install outlets at the perimeter of your house where there is a crawl space or basement on the opposing side. This way, the wiring can be kept cheaper by running lower-cost wiring from interior junction boxes to the exterior wall and only the fancy exterior junction box or cover will be needed. You can probably put in several around your house for a few hundred dollars. If you need power further from the house it’s best for it to be buried in a PVC conduit with a firmly mounted post or wall for it to arrive at and connect to. Make sure the outlet is installed well above ground to stay dry. 

Best of luck, 

Matt Cantoro

Garden Variety: Last-Minute Gift Ideas For Your Favorite Gardener By RON SULLIVAN

Friday December 23, 2005

Those of us who do Christmas shopping can relax now. If it’s not done, tell everybody you’re celebrating the Magi this year and they’ll get their gifts on Jan. 6. Honest, it won’t make the Baby Jesus cry if you miss something at Macy’s or Wallyworld, if you sit down and nurse your bruises and skip another day of celebrating the War for Christmas. I won’t tell Bill O’Reilly on you.  

It’s not a good time to go messing in your garden, either, if the soil’s still soggy from all that rain. Berkeley clay resents being squished and stepped on and shoved around when it’s soggy—remember the way you felt after that last attempt to get your hands on this year’s Xbox? It bruises easily, and turns into impenetrable adobe when it finally dries out, and your plants won’t appreciate it either.  

So stop, take a deep breath, and elevate your feet. Partake of your favorite seasonal beverage. Contemplate stuffing or good wine; dream of a third round of latkes; if you must think of gardening at all, have a pleasant internal debate over where and whether to plant squash this year, or just how big a tomato variety you can get away with in your neighborhood. (The smaller ones do better with less summer heat and sun… Remember summer heat and sun? West of the hills, it’s tightly rationed.)  

It’s a prefect time to read the garden bulb and seed catalogues that have piled up beside the chair. But you do need to read with a skeptical eye, as unfashionable as those are this year, this season.  

It’s possible to get something from White Flower Farms or Burpee that grows up to look like the gorgeous photo in the book, but it’s hardly guaranteed no matter what the back page says. Most seed catalogues, like most general garden books, are put together with other climates in mind. They’re pitched at the East Coast, the Midwest, or some fantasyland off the coast of Bavaria—or at least England, from which so many of our garden gospels originated.  

Mediterranean-climate garden books will translate to California more easily, and some have been written for us in particular. The magnificent Plants and Landscapes for Summer-dry Climates of the San Francisco Bay Region, put together by editor Nora Harlow, designer Beth Hansen-winter, illustrator Richard Pembroke, and photographer Saxon Holt for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, comes to mind—and it’s a great last-minute gift for a gardener, come to think of it.  

So is another recent book that includes more of Holt’s gorgeous plant porn and Hansen-Winter’s inviting design, the new site guide San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum by Peter Dallman and Scot Medbury. You might have to call a few stores for this one, but it’s a good excuse to visit the arboretum. Give someone the gift of a stroll and a book and the pleasure of your company sometime next week; I can’t think of a better gift for any holiday. 




Ron Sullivan is a former professional gardener and arborist. Her “Garden Variety” column appears weekly in East Bay Home & Real Estate. Her column on East Bay trees appears twice-monthly in the Berkeley Daily Planet.



Beyond Curry Powder and Soy Sauce By DEBBIE CHANG

Tuesday December 27, 2005

As a student in a professional cooking school in the Napa Valley, I knew I was lucky. Within walking distance, there were great restaurants to train at, artisan olive oil makers, and organic produce at the Farmers market. Napa Valley, however, lacked one thing. Ethnic cuisine. By ethnic, I don’t mean Asian-fusion, Rachel Ray’s “thirty-minute” version, or the high-priced “____-influenced California cuisine” (fill in the blank with your choice--Mediterranean, French, Japanese, Indian, etc.) 

Chef Barbara, my instructor, wanted to expose our class to the authentic cuisine of other cultures, and the best way to do this was to go where the people of that culture went, buy what they bought, and eat what they ate. 

This is how I found myself standing at Vik’s, an Indian grocery store located in a dimly-lit converted garage on the corner of Seventh and Allston streets in Berkeley. I was surrounded by spices. These spices weren’t in small, overpriced bottles like at the supermarket. They were arranged neatly in alphabetical order, each kind in its own airtight plastic bag and priced per pound. All eighteen of us stood silent and confused, holding our grocery baskets. Finally one student mustered up courage to speak up. 

“Where’s the curry powder?” Heather asked. 

Chef Barbara rolled her eyes and grabbed her by the arm. “Curry powder doesn’t come in a bottle. You’re in cooking school! You should make it on your own—I’ll tell you what you need. Plus, there’s more to Indian food than curry.”  

She led Heather down the aisles. We followed like trained monkeys. Chef Barbara tossed whole cumin and coriander into Heather’s basket. 

“You should always toast and ground your cumin and coriander,” she said. “The flavor is much stronger.” 

Her basket was quickly filled with the addition of tumeric, garam masala, whole black and white peppercorns, paprika, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and mustard seeds. For under ten dollars, she could make enough curry (and whatever else Indian) to last an eternity.  

We moved next door for lunch. It was a weekday so we had no problem finding tables. Moments after sitting down, steaming, fragrant plates of lentils, potato-filled puffed breads, cubed chicken smothered with cumin yogurt, and spiced lamb arrived. Most of us had never eaten real Indian chaat before. Our initial trepidation wore off very quickly after the first bite.  

Our next stop was Ranch 99 Supermarket, off Highway 80 in Albany. Ranch 99 is akin to a Chinese Safeway, but the similarity stops at the bright florescent lighting. Some ingredients are recognizable, but for the most part, the aisles are filled with Asian sauces, oils, vinegars, Chinese vegetables, and Chinese dry goods, many labeled only in Chinese characters. The English translations also don’t necessarily help—we could read the words “Broad Bean Paste,” but none of us knew what that meant. The two of us who were of Chinese heritage (I was one of them) were no help because even though both of us knew how to eat Chinese food, neither of us knew how to cook it. 

“You are going on a scavenger hunt. We have a long list of things we need for the school year. Pick two slips out of this bag, find the ingredients and put it in our basket.”  

I opened the first slip, “Shao shing wine.” The second, “tamarind.” The first was easy. I didn’t know what it was, but I suspected that it was a cooking wine. I guessed right. It helped that the label was in bright red and said “shao shing wine.” Tamarind was harder. I knew that tamarind was a dried fruit similar to figs, but I had no idea where to find it. 

While wandering, I saw some of my other classmates closely examining cans and labels, and others searching intently for items they had never heard of like rock sugar, dry rice noodles, sea cucumber, tree ear mushrooms, and fish sauce. One student was sent back to the produce section when he brought back a watermelon instead of a wintermelon. He grumbled, “I wish my item was soy sauce. I know what that is.” 

Our final stop was Oakland’s Chinatown. We purchased woks, large and small steamers, clay pots, and an assortment of dishware, at prices much cheaper than at fancy specialty stores like Williams and Sonoma or Crate and Barrel. We also bought hundreds of Chinese spoons, small delicate plates and other knickknacks that we used to serve passed appetizers at public events held at the school. All 18 of us were needed to carry everything back to the shuttle. 

Even though our day was done, and the taste of Indian food was still fresh in our mouths, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for fresh barbeque pork buns. Chef Barbara purchased two large pink boxes full. We stuffed them one after another into our mouths, until both boxes were empty except for a couple of bright white bread crumbs. 




Editorial: Impeachment’s Back in Style By BECKY O'MALLEY

Friday December 23, 2005

Memory is physical as well as mental. If my memory serves me correctly, in a drawer somewhere in our house, perhaps in the bookshelf in our living room, we used to have (and perhaps still do) a fading yellowed copy of something headed “Bill of Impeachment.” I’m pretty sure it was from 1967 or thereabouts, and I’m pretty sure that John Conyers, the smart, dapper young congressman from Detroit, and Robert Drinan, the only Jesuit ever elected to Congress from Massachusetts or any other state, joined about 10 House colleagues in proposing impeaching Lyndon Johnson over his pursuit of the Vietnam War. That impeachment action came to naught, unless you count Johnson’s eventual decision not to run again. There have been other occasions in the intervening years when impeachment has been started, but only Bill Clinton ever faced an actual trial.  

In retrospect the crimes all of the culprits were accused of and probably committed were trivial compared to the current situation. Granted, the Vietnam War was a big mistake, but by and large it was an honest mistake. Granted, Nixon et al. were crooks, though they claimed not to be, but their crimes were limited in scope, and were carried out simply for crass political advantage. Clinton’s crime was two-fold: committing adultery in the White House and lying about it. But it was still small potatoes. 

By comparison, the crimes of which the current administration stands accused are major, and go to the very fabric of our political system. It’s not just that George W. Bush and his appointees have broken the law regarding domestic spying on Americans, which has happened before. What’s really shocking is that they refuse to lie about it. It’s not just that military operatives under Bush’s command have violated laws and treaties concerning torture, it’s that they admit it and are not ashamed. If Bill Clinton could be impeached for shady sex, surely overt unblushing defiance of the laws of the United States is an impeachable offense. Congressman Conyers, no longer young but still dapper and smart, has been crying for impeachment for some months now, and he’s starting to sound like the prophet Elijah. 

Thursday’s e-mail brought a mass Internet petition with Barbara Boxer’s name prominent, which implored Sen. Arlen Specter to investigate the Bush wiretaps. That’s a fine idea, but the administration’s defiance of law has now gotten to a level so serious that a run of the mill Senate investigation is not an adequate remedy. This can be gauged by the actions of judges both liberal and conservative this week: the resignation of one judge from the secret spying oversight tribunal, which has been emasculated by being ignored, and the decision by a conservative appeals panel not to transfer Jose Padilla from military to civil jurisdiction, thwarting a transparent administration effort to avoid judicial review of its tactics. Whatever opinions these assorted judges might have on substantive questions, they appear to agree that this country is supposed to be under the rule of law.  

This time of year many people in the East Bay, where we know from the rule of law and have fine representation in Congress by Boxer and Barbara Lee, will be dispersing to Whence We Came, other parts of the nation not necessarily so enlightened. This is an ideal opportunity to change the tone of discussion at holiday parties from “ain’t it awful” to “this is what we can do.” It’s becoming increasingly clear that the problem with this administration is not just one or two little lapses, but a pervasive contempt for constitutional law which can only be cured by removing George Bush from office.  

It really wouldn’t be that difficult to orchestrate a grass-roots movement from all over the country to do something about it. Not many members of Congress are as completely secure in their districts as Conyers and Lee, but many of the Democrats around the country are for all intents and purposes facing easy re-election campaigns. There are even some Republicans who still believe in the Constitution. More of them should be persuaded to get on the impeachment bandwagon.  

Face-to-face lobbying is the most effective, and representatives will be back home in their districts for the holidays. Go call on them, and ask your brother-in-law and your mother and your old roommate to come along. Quote Ben Franklin: “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” It’s time to move this discussion from the Internet, where bloggers are mainly exhorting other dwellers in the blogosphere, into the real world.  





Public Comment

Dream Of The Earth By Nozomi Hayase

Tuesday December 27, 2005

The earth axis shifts and latitudes change. The sun is hidden by the shadow of the moon. At the sound of ice melting on the North Pole, a white bear opens his eyes. An epidemic breaks out in Africa, rain falls in the Sahara, and Palestinian refugees escape imprisonment. Something is going on in the world. Something is going on. Every minute and every second, the earth revolves and the world changes. Everyone deeply in dream, not noticing unusual scenery, day after day read poems whose rhythm is out of time…. While a fresh couple with joyous smiles presses a seal on a marriage registration form, somewhere, someone pushes the pedal of a bicycle to buy sweet potatoes roasted on hot pebbles. While a newborn baby gives a first cry somewhere on the earth, someone somewhere passes away, in a birth of new life and a departure named death. As we fall asleep to a dream called “ordinary life” …. Not knowing that something is happening somewhere. A year, 365 days, 24 hours, each minute and each second, on the stage of the earth, various plays are unfolding. When a sun’s spotlight is on, somewhere a curtain of night falls. Each is not aware of each other's play. At the time the curtain closes, we get sleepy and yawn. On the other side of the earth, in darkness of night, the shade of the daytime, something is happening. Samurai at the Meiji Restoration, without falling asleep, run around all over Japan for the sake of revolution. At the time of war, the captain who received saddening news, not sleeping into comforting words, keeps his dignity. Great heroes at various times, backstage of the play “our ordinary life,” shake our history—change the world. While we are snoozing, while we are having a sequel of a dream, the earth revolves, the world changes. The earth axis shifts and the latitude changes. The moon is hidden by the shadow of the sun. While we do not know, someone with a sharp look witnesses the change of the world. Just now, just right … now, someone is watching.  





Fred Korematsu, Hero By Kay Wehner

Tuesday December 27, 2005

In honor of Fred Korematsu of Oakland, who refused Japanese internment camp in 1942, and was tried, convicted and imprisoned for his “crime.” Federal court in 1983 ruled the internment unjust. He died this year, and I would like to submit my poem in his honor.  



not ordinary, 


Fred Korematsu refused to be interned, 

standing firm against racist storms and fear, 

he was innocent, his goal was free- dom. 

Government reply was shame and prison. 


not ordinary, 


While Japanese brethern were locked in barbed wire, 

Fred, risking all, stood lone and fore saken. 

Superb hero of splendid dimension, 

he won for thousands, final achievement, 

exchanging judgment for cleaner jus tice 

when Bill Clinton summoned and honored him 

with the Presidential Medal of Free- dom. 

The Bus Poet By RUBY LONG

Tuesday December 27, 2005

When I worked at UC I took the No. 51 bus to my Oakland home nearly every day. It was often a ride of surprises. 

Many days, the Bus Poet rode the same No. 51 bus as I did. He was usually unkempt and shabbily dressed, but had a friendly smile I didn’t see on most of the other riders. He usually had his transistor radio with him and during football and baseball season, he sat on the bus seat holding the radio up to his ear. 

I watched him as he listened with great concentration. At some cue we couldn’t hear, his eyes would light up. With a grin of delight, and in a voice that could be heard all through the bus, he’d announce game scores or spectacular plays. Sometimes he rebroadcast news programs as he heard them. His voice was soft but resonant, with plenty of volume.  

But what I liked best was his poetry. He seemed to compose his poems on the spot. They covered a wide variety of topics. After several years, I still remember one about a woman who was carrying a bunch of balloons down the sidewalk. When he recited these poems in his pleasant voice, it gave a certain charm to the ride home after a long day. 

One day, the only open seat on the bus was next to a regular rider, a plain-looking, middle-aged UCB staffer who always read during her trip.  

The Bus Poet hesitated in the aisle before he sat down beside her. He looked like he didn’t want to disturb her. Or maybe he was afraid she’d sneer at his worn clothing. Whatever the reason, he eased into the seat and kept his eyes straight ahead. She sat so absorbed in her book I thought she wasn’t aware of him. He hesitated as he took the seat, his eyes focused straight ahead.  

After a bit he glanced over at his seatmate, head still bowed over her reading, oblivious to the world. His eyes skittered away, then glanced back, and this time they lingered. Regarding her one more time, he seemed to settle something for himself and his entire body sank into his seat as he relaxed and turned his head to give the bus full of passengers one of his beautiful smiles. Eyes shining, he began in a voice the entire bus could hear, 

“Oh lord.  

This woman sits beside me just as nice as can be.  

I don’t know her, she don’t know me.  

But Cupid send your arrow to her heart and set it free,  

So we can love each other happily.” 

My fellow riders and I all smiled to ourselves but lowered our gazes. We dared not make eye contact for fear of bursting out in laughter.  

The object of the poetic tribute sat there unmoving, totally engrossed in her reading and not acknowledging in any way that she had heard. When the bus came to her stop she rang the buzzer and got off.  

The Bus Poet remained in his seat, still smiling, and the rest of the passengers all waited to see what would happen when the next person sat down beside him. 


Christmas Cookie Head By William smith and Lisa Wenzel

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Her name is Desdemona. Yes, a color-specific name for our white kitty-cat, inspired by the lead female character in the Shakespeare play Othello.  

Desdemona’s fur radiates purity. I must quickly here interject that her nickname is “Deedee” and moreover, true to her feline nature, behavior not always pure has earned her a more sinister moniker, “Devil’s Daughter.” But this mischievious charm has only served to add shadings of wonder to Deedee’s ivory-snow goodness, merely adding an extra sense of necessity to her instinctively incessant self-cleaning rituals, her salmon pink eraser-like tongue lashing away at all infringements upon her cloak of shorthaired princessly haberdashery. 

Her vanilla coat sadly offers no balm against cancer-causing sun rays; chief among the many reasons vets advise against allowing Deedee outdoors, particularly in the summer. Yet the winter carries with it an even more peculiar danger. Because Deedee’s tastily round, fresh snow powder-like head replicates a four bite-sized Christmas cookie to the stomach’s eye at yule time, only the restraint inherent in the half-serious nature of whimsy sees her through another noel noshfest. One can only protect one’s diminutive housemate from the occasional eggnog-sloshed, hungry Christmas party invitee for so long before the admonishment: “No that’s not a snow cookie—it’s just our cat sticking her head up through our fancy new wierdly designed snack bowl” fails to convince. 

Getting back to the “Devil’s Daughter”-type behavior of our ghostly be-clawed and be-fanged apparition, the fact is, if it’s new, Deedee will try to wear it, eat it, throw it, break it, nurse it, or nurse from it. She is a relentless mouser, regardless of whether the object she’s chasing is really a mouse. Expensive wooden chairs become four-legged scratching posts. A new radio becomes her own alarm, always set to go off between midnight and pre-dawn.  

The rest of the seasons? 

Spring brings sentry duty at whichever window in the house provides the best view of the morning’s earliest songbird. Deedee’s white coat now represents the county animal control jacket worn by the workers who keep vigils on creatures who find themselves to be on nature’s delinquent list, by mere virtue of a sudden incompatibility with their co-inhabitants in a given municipality. That usually means skunks, snakes, wildcats, and any others that probably shouldn’t be removed from the backyard by the untrained.  

Of course, Deedee’s instinctive training leads her to include those conniving, pesky songbirds dangerously hanging out in trees with their hideously sweet morning sirens, distracting us away from our duties keeping her food bowl filled. The cat would love to fill her food bowl with these yowlers. In the fall,only the leaves find themselves caught up in the imaginary chase that nevertheless continues as a permanent psychological gyroscope inside the head of our feline white tornado. 

Appropriately, during the other 13 or so hours a day Deedee spends curled up sleeping, she takes on the quaint appearance of an old lady’s Sunday go-to-church white woolen shawl, perhaps dreaming a marathon confessional to Father McKitty about her “nature made me do it” feline ways. More likely, if any sense of guilt permeates the psyche of one with such pristinely glowing fur, it’s over getting the slightest smudge on it. 





If Your Blind Friends Don’t Tell You... By Arlene Merryman

Tuesday December 27, 2005

If you ever offered to help a blind person and were rudely rebuffed or felt unappreciated, or if you find unseeing people puzzling or scary, please take note of the following.  

Many of us independent, blind pedestrians are being put at risk by construction noise, loud engines, power tools and by ‘help’ from well-intentioned members of the public who startle us out of concentration vital to our safety. Since the Jerry’s Orphans fund-raising marathons, misinformation about disability in general has proliferated. 

What I am going to say is not merely the writer’s personal experience. According to numerous friends and acquaintances I have known for years both back East and in the West, my opinions are shared by many independent, blind people.  

(1) Never grab, pull or push a blind or disabled person.  

(2) Unless you know that a blind person is hard of hearing, talk at a lower volume than you would ordinarily. Many blind folk have acute hearing and are startled and distracted from concentration by a sudden, loud voice.  

(3) If you see a blind person walking alone independently, be sure not to shout, whether or not you think one needs help.  

(4) If you see a blind pedestrian crossing a busy, noisy intersection and want to offer help, it is important not to yell or honk. Leaning on a horn amounts to cruelty!  

(5) Many attempts to help result in misdirection. It’s best not to say to go right or left. If you think that a blind pedestrian is in trouble out in a noisy intersection, best to just say, ‘Wait’ or ‘This way’, but be sure you know what you are doing!  

(6) If you want to offer help to a blind pedestrian walking alone, just say ‘Hello’ at a low to moderate volume. The person may be using hearing to orient, and will more likely request or accept your help if not shocked first.  

(7) Trust us independent, blind folk to know where we are going. Don’t make assumptions about whether we are lost or new in town, no matter how we appear.  

(8) If a blind person asks you for directions, rather than risk giving misinformation when you don’t know, have the courage to say, “I don’t know.”  

(9) Don’t always assume that you must offer help. Wait a few seconds. There is a misperception that whatever a blind person does, a sighted person does better.  

(10) Give blind folk respect by listening to what we say, by not endangering us in acting on antiquated ideas, and you are likely to be appreciated.  

Merry Christmas

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Christian Curry on skis, wishing you a Merry Christmas.

When Yosemite Calls By Janis Mitchell

Tuesday December 27, 2005

I did not grow up in an outdoorsy family. We never played sports, took hikes or went camping. When I was 27 I married a man who had been a camp counselor. John loves the outdoors. He can walk all day in any terrain and he has an unerring sense of direction. I can get lost in a parking lot. About a year after our wedding I succumbed to his romantic descriptions of the pastoral life and agreed to go car camping. It would be fun, he promised. We would go with a gang of friends to Yosemite. We would take turns cooking. I was not to worry because he was experienced and confident and he owned all his own equipment. 

John, and two friends, JL, and Rick’s new wife, Anne went up a day early to claim a prime campsite. I followed the next night with Rick and Joanne (at the time romantically connected to JL). We drove up in my pared down Toyota Corolla purchased from Budget Rent-A-Car. It had no carpets and seats made out of the cheesiest plastic. It probably rented for $16 a day. Joanne’s sister, Mary, and her pre-teen daughter, Kelly met us there. Rick and Anne loved camping almost as much as daredevil sports like white water rafting. They once rode bicycles from San Francisco to San Diego, camping all the way. They knew exactly what to bring and how to make themselves comfortable. Joanne and JL loved backpacking and spent a lot of time out there, out where there are no restaurants. Mary had gone to the REI Co-op and rented a six-man tent with aluminum poles and a peaked roof high enough for campers to stand up when inside. 

We arrived after dark on a Friday night in late October. Everybody was tired and we went to bed early. I don’t think we even lit a campfire that night. It was my first time sleeping in the outdoors and it didn’t go too well. John and I didn’t bring pillows, we didn’t have squishy insulating pads under our sleeping bags, and we didn’t have a lot of room. My husband’s “equipment” consisted of a green plastic ground cover and a royal blue pup tent just large enough for two adults to lie down in if they were on very good terms. We pitched our tent on a gentle slope under a tree, a tree with many roots and many hard little pods scattered below. I woke up repeatedly with various limbs tingling from numbness, and every time I woke up I thought about going to the bathroom. I thought about all the preparation it would take to do so. I would have to dress and I would have to locate my shoes. And then I would have to ambulate through the campsite to the dirt road and find the privy in the dark. I lay there suffering until first light.  

After everyone else got up and had a round of coffee and toast we set out for a hike and a picnic. Mary was in charge of lunch. We brought our sandwich fixings and drove up to Tuolumme Meadows at about 8,800 feet. It was beautiful with giant boulders and evergreens under an enormous granite sky. We walked and laughed and Rick got out his harmonica to play that old cowboy favorite “Home on the Range” that he had learned for the occasion. He always liked to do that, to learn a thematic song and pick a quiet moment to play it for everyone. It was pretty cold so we sat in a circle by some rocks and built a nice fire. Kelly was snuggled up against Auntie Joanne looking (as JL said) like a fawn next to Mother Doe. While we were there the most magical thing happened: it started to snow! We were delighted. We were having a real outdoor experience, a taste of fickle Mother Nature.  

We drove back to our campsite in the late afternoon. John and I were the assigned chefs for Saturday night dinner. We planned on salad, garlic bread, and linguini with clam sauce. We were also prepared for a team-building group project. We were going to make the pasta ourselves! Everyone would learn together, pitching in, drinking wine: having fun. We got out the flour and the eggs and set to working the dough. We had intended to attach the pasta machine to the picnic table and roll the dough through it to thinness. All that pretty snow we had enjoyed in the meadow? Well, down there in the valley it turned into rain. It turned into quite a lot of rain. It showed no sign of letting up. It seemed a better idea to move this little enterprise indoors. So we went into Mary’s overlarge REI rental. It was soon transformed into a true “mess” tent in GI green. Soon we could hear the thrumming drone of raindrops hitting the canvas over our heads. But we had to eat so we spread wax paper over the sleeping bags making a place to lay the ribbons of fresh pasta as the little machine pressed them out. It took a lot longer than it was supposed to take. It got dark and it kept on raining. There was nowhere to bolt down the pasta machine. Rick pressed his hands down on the base while I cranked and cranked and cranked. Mary caught the long pieces of dough and laid them out. Water started to seep under the tent.  

Outside, Joanne and JL gathered sticks and dug a trench to divert the water away. The water kept flowing and the trench filling up with mud. They labored steadily in the pounding rain. John was outside boiling a pot of water to cook the pasta. He took the water off the single burner camp stove, made the roux, mixed in the clam juice, dumped in cans of clam, and stirred. He alternated heating the water with keeping the sauce warm. When we were finally ready to cook pasta, Rick and I hunched over and carried it under our jackets. We ran through the splattering muck, and when we got to the pot we just dumped handfuls of pasta in the boiling water. By this time it was raining so hard that it was raining right into the pot. Rick held a magazine over the boiling pasta while JL and John tried to protect the smoky fire so the garlic bread could get warm. We dispensed with the salad altogether. Fresh pasta cooks really fast, and all those tender strands like to stick together. What we actually served our friends was more like balls of pasta in clam sauce. We filled our plates and ran to our cars to eat. John remembered the garlic bread and ran from car to car knocking on each window and throwing in a foil-wrapped chunk of bread. We piled our dirty dishes on the picnic table and let the rainwater rinse them in the night. 

It was a very long and very wet night. JL and Joey’s trench work, though admirable, couldn’t hold back the tide. Mary’s tent and everything in it were wet. Mary and Kelly retired early to their car and covered up with the patchwork quilt we had sat on during our idyllic meadow picnic. John and I were rained out pretty early, too. Our clothes were soaked through on the dash to the car. It was dry inside my little car but terribly uncomfortable. We pulled off our wet clothes, and in the process, the empty film canister that I had cleverly filled up with salt and stuck in my pocket came open. It spilled all over the back seat providing a gritty layer between my damp skin and the sticky plastic upholstery of a basic fleet model Toyota.  

Morning dawned. It was clear and bright and sunny. We were weathered and groggy and dog tired. Our campsite looked like a MASH unit, and we looked as if we had been up all night fighting in a war. There was a great feeling of camaraderie among us as we recounted details of our particular discomforts. John and I were roundly bashed for the absurdity of our dinner menu. Mary was teased for having rented that ridiculous contraption from REI- the pole tent that couldn’t stand up to a little weather. We ribbed Rick and Anne for sleeping comfortably through it all with their fine equipment and well-selected campsite. Before we packed up to drive home on Sunday afternoon Joanne and JL provided lunch. They had been marinating chicken and vegetables in their cooler. They set up a wok on the outdoor grill and cooked up a savory stir fry. It was fabulous; and not just because everything tastes better outdoors.  



Tuesday December 27, 2005

Bertha (not her real name) sat in a chair opposite my desk, a woman in her ‘60s, thin, wearing a faded print blouse and pants that I could see were held up with a safety pin. The sandals she wore looked like they were two sizes larger than her feet. 

As I sat there looking at her, I wondered what I could do to help this woman adjust to her life outside of the psychiatric hospital. She looked clearly uncomfortable, avoiding my eyes and staring out the window, twisting a piece of kleenex between her fingers. 

“Bertha,” I started, “Would you like a cup of coffee or tea?” She shook her head, no. 

My small office, felt smaller with long silences between my asking questions about her sleep and appetite.  

My supervisor in Graduate School cautioned me not to delve into her early history. She wanted me to do supportive therapy, to find out what her interests were and help her get back into the community and functioning again.  

“I’d like to find out what sorts of things interest you, something you liked to do before you went into the hospital. Maybe it’s something we might explore together, like taking a field trip. We can have our sessions outside of the office,” I offered. I felt like a saleswoman at a department store, trying to sell someone on a stuffed boar’s head with two horns. We sat there in more silence for what felt to me like a long time. Slowly she lifted her head and looked at me. 

She spoke in a whisper when she said, “I used to like to go to Thrift Stores. Do you think we could do that?” she asked. I sat there puzzled. I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. “What are Thrift Stores, Bertha?” I questioned. “When we meet next week, can you show me where they are?” For the first time in our session together, she brightened. “Yes, I’ll show you the ones I used to go to,” she said. I was not playing dumb. I had no idea what a Thrift Store was, but I was certainly open to Bertha teaching me about them. 

The following week, Bertha and I took off in the County car around downtown Sacramento. 

It was a sunny fall day, I remember, and a good one to be out of the office. Bertha pointed to a store that said, “Good Will Thrift Store” on it. I parked the car and we went in and started browsing down the aisles. Then I saw something that caught my eye. It was a red hat, a large straw hat. I think the label said, “$l.00” I heard myself squeal with delight and say to no one in particular, “Would you look at this? It’s only a dollar. Oh my gosh.” I quickly scooped it up. And in a few minutes, my arms were full of sweaters, slacks, a few pots and pans, and I didn’t want to stop. Bertha looked at me and I think I must have looked like some of the patients she left behind in the hospital, behaving like some bizarre manner. That was the moment, the exact moment when I became addicted to thrift shopping, and I haven’t stopped since then. 

Bertha and I continued our weekly sessions in the community and she became my teacher in learning how to thrift shop. She did not know it, but as a student-intern, it was hard living on student loans and making ends meet. I felt ignorant and knew nothing about jewelry. She taught me about gems and what was fake and what was authentic. I helped Bertha buy clothes that fit and find comfortable shoes to wear since she walked everywhere.  

I was humbled by learning about her life. She had cared for her aging, ailing mother and, after her death, Bertha became depressed and began to hear voices. Unable to cope, she was finally hospitalized. 

Now she was adjusting to her new life. When we weren’t shopping, I took Bertha to a day treatment center where they had creative art classes in pottery, collage and watercolor. 

I think Bertha was more my therapist than I was hers. As a student, I felt poor and lonely too. We became kindred spirits who learned from one another. 

Although it has been many years since Graduate School, when I get into a gloomy mood, I head for the nearest Thrift Shop and have a splurge, buying something I absolutely do not need and may never use. My collection over the years has grown in different ways, depending on what phase of interest I’m in. For example, I like to put pillows on our two living room sofas. 

My husband recently counted 40 of them and, because he knows I have some shame about it, gently asks me to get rid of some of them so our guests can sit on the sofas, not the pillows. Over time, clients have introduced me to some of their interests that eventually become mine. One of them, I remember, had a collection of rocks. Since then, every time I’m on a beach, I select rocks that are smooth, or have a heart-shape, multi-colored, and speckled ones. 

I have a large collection of these stones from the different beaches, rivers and lakes I’ve visited over the years. I like to decorate the garden with them. 

Today my horoscope said, “It’s time for you to let go of some useless things. You need to have a garage sale.” I’m not ready to do that yet. I have a new client. She is a retired professional woman who shared with me, in confidence, that she is depressed, doesn’t know what to do with her time now that she does not work anymore.  

I lean forward in my seat and ask her, (as though I’m about to give her the most profound insight of her life), “Have you ever been to a Thrift Store?” 



Light Your Candles By MARY WHEELER

Tuesday December 27, 2005

This is the song that my first-grade students will sing for our school holiday performance: 


Light your candles everyone 

One for all and all for one. 

Light oil lamps for Diwali, 

Eight candles for Chanukah, 

Then the lights on the Christmas tree. 

Light your candles everyone 

One for all and all for one. 


Ring your bells out everywhere, 

Make them resound through the air. 

Softly ring for those who are near, 

Loudly ring for those afar, 

Gladly ring for all to hear. 

Ring your bells out everywhere, 

Make them resound through the air. 


Sing now every girl and boy. 

Bring us music to enjoy. 

To the heavens raise your voice, 

Herald in goodwill and peace 

That we all now might rejoice. 

Sing now every girl and boy, 

Bring us music to enjoy. 


Chorus: (after each verse) 

Let us shine forth like a star 

Sending peace and joy afar. 






Man of Courage By David Bunnell

Tuesday December 27, 2005

The most courageous man outside the gates of San Quentin on Monday night, Dec. 12, was this guy. Hundreds of angry people shouted him down and he did not budge an inch. He kept reminding us, “It’s 11:31 and Tookie is going to die in 30 minutes.” The most courageous man inside the gates was Tookie himself. Being there was easy for the rest of us..


A Modern Atlantis By MELISSA KIRK

Tuesday December 27, 2005

“New Orleans is sinking, man, and I don’t want to swim.” 

—Tragically Hip 


A good friend who used to live in New Orleans says he used to joke that the reason no hurricanes ever hit New Orleans is because the city is so cursed and haunted that even the weather is afraid.  

I was painting my living room wall as the winds died out and the waters rose in New Orleans, and with every push of the roller I thought of the people along the Gulf Coast—the people across the world—who have lost their homes; how once, they painted their walls with the same motions, and how now those walls are waterlogged, crushed to rubble, blown to bits, the hopes for them now just memories. I reminded myself, with each stroke, that someday, these walls would be gone. Either under someone else’s ownership, or just plain gone. It’s the nature of things that they eventually change form, but we don’t usually think about losing these things at the same time that we’re happy to be gaining them. A home, a lover, a job, money, things. 

Though I don’t have any ties to New Orleans except ties of affection, fantasy, and memory, the incredible tragedy of its loss breaks my heart. I started writing this as people were trapped in their homes, starving, without water, dying. I found myself doing things I always wanted to do but was afraid to: donating blood, volunteering my time. I noticed myself poised to help an old man with a cane who could barely limp out of the BART train. He carried a plastic bag with the name of a hospital on it. Ordinarily, I might steer clear of him for fear that he would want something of me, or trip and fall in front of me and I’d have to help him, with all eyes on me. This time, I found myself watching carefully to make sure he got on the elevator safely. I see the people around me more clearly, more compassionately. I don’t feel like I can stand back and watch silently, like I used to do.  

It makes me wonder what it is about this event that moves me so much. I’ve always donated money to charitable organizations when I could, I’ve gone to anti-war protests against the bombing of Afghanistan and the war in Iraq, yet I’ve always been able to go about my day, fairly undisturbed . But this time I found myself crying on the BART train in the morning, after reading the front page of the paper, unable to concentrate at work, fantasizing about traveling to the south and helping, doing something, anything but waiting while people died.  

I wonder. Is it because I actually know the place where this happened? Is it because they’re Americans? Is it because my relationship died the same week, a relationship to someone with real ties to New Orleans and that, for weeks, every headline screamed of my personal loss? Is it because I’m a new homeowner and I have an inkling of what it would feel like to lose something you’ve worked hard to make true? Or is it because I was already bereft when the waters began to rise, and saving New Orleans was something I could try to do when I could no longer save my relationship?  

New Orleans is a haunted city: haunted by poverty, racism, disparity, violence, corruption, slavery—both modern and historical—weather that drives people crazy, water, water, water. It’s a town where, literally, the dead cannot be buried lest the corpses float up in the next rainy season. It’s fitting that water would take it, in the end. I know the city will rebuild, but it will never be the same. The ruined, moss-eaten city of my romantic fantasies and of my ruined love, has been swallowed by oily, toxic, diseased water, destroyed by water, and by the same humanity that built it in the first place. A modern Atlantis. 

When I watched New Orleans drown, I couldn’t help thinking of Richmond, one of the most diverse and poorest towns in the east bay, where a year ago I was able to fulfill my childhood dream of owning a house. The people I see as I ride the bus are the people I see on the TV screen: poor, brown, wanting nothing more than to survive and be allowed to live their lives. I’m a white woman who grew up middle-class in Berkeley and went to private schools through high school. 

These people aren’t my people, yet I’m drawn to them more than to the people I grew up with, the ones with nice big houses now, raising happy white children who will always have all the food, money, clothes, and things they’ll ever need. Maybe I’m slumming, maybe it’s my privilege that allows me to carefully observe these workaday people around me, that allows me to consider taking unpaid leave from my job to help the people devastated by the hurricane when I never considered doing that for my own community, and the people around me have no such option.  

When I cry for New Orleans, and for Richmond, I’m crying for the same reason I cried in 7th grade when my schoolmate’s father was gunned down at 101 California St. in San Francisco in the first office shooting of the modern era. My mother asked me how I felt about the shooting, and I told her I felt like it was only the first of many. In New Orleans, a boy only a couple of years older than I was then, who had never driven a bus in his life, commandeered a schoolbus and drove a busload of strangers to safety when evacuation was not forthcoming. I feel like the drowning of a modern American city is just the beginning. 

America, a country where even the poorest people are richer than poor people in most other countries, has finally seen the truth that people in so-called Third World countries have known for their whole lives: that politicians’ promises will not save us, that we can only save ourselves and extend our hands to those in need around us, that a community can be buried by water in a matter of days, or bombed into oblivion, or simply murdered slowly, by the bankers and politicians, and that we, the people, are each others’ and our communities’— indeed, the planet’s—only hope for survival. 


In My Museum By Phyllis Henry-Jordan

Tuesday December 27, 2005

I am that stately woman 

in Perugino’s frescoes, 


standing without relation 

to the figure of God. 


My robes have violent folds 

that seem to state as follows: 


I now stand in relation 

only to myself. 


Or are my conscious contours 

curiously belied, 


Some wild astigmation 

of my mind’s eye?

Serve With Crackers, Aquavit, and Love By D. E. Gilbert

Tuesday December 27, 2005

The handwritten sheet is punctuated with splotches of mustard-dill sauce, the garnish complement to my father’s “Gravad Lox” or “gravlax” recipe. An urgent note labeled, “Important” and triple underlined, is appended vertically along the left-hand margin: 

“Remove all bones before starting on fillets—with pliers.”  

“Enjoy!” is the exhortation he has written at the end of the instructions in his energetic, but anachronous, cursive. Enjoy has always been the bottom line with my father. Life can be absolute hell, but if you have food and drink, and the company of your family and friends, then you have the ingredients for a good time. Although age and its baggage have caught up with my father—his energy ebbing more than flowing these days—he still produces his signature salmon appetizer for the festive event that marks the year’s end. The saltiness hints at the sea while the dill conjures up the green of wreaths, holly and the rain-soaked hills that speak to the season and hold promise for a coming spring. 

I have never asked where he first acquired the recipe and the passion for the salmon dish that I have come to expect as a starter to what usually promises to be a good time.  


2 fillets of salmon (~ 3 lbs) 

Mix 4 Tbl sugar 

4 Tbl salt  

Add 2 tsp crushed white pepper corns 

“Rub fillets with most of this mixture. Chop up, pretty fine, a bunch of fresh dill.” 

I suspect that it was an artifact of distant relationship he had once had, nearly half a lifetime ago, with a Swedish woman, one that did not end well. I should ask. I can imagine him saying that the gravlax the only thing good that came out of it.  

“Place a layer of chopped dill on bottom of glass baking dish. Place fillet, skin down. Sprinkle rest of spice mix and cover with dill on top. Cover and place in fridge for two to four days—turning over once, halfway through.” 

He prepares the dish with such care, a condition bordering on obsession with a dash of pride. He complains so adamantly about the quality of salmon available at the big chains where he shops—how difficult it is to get fillets with skin, he says. I mention places like Monterey Fish, Tokyo Fish, Berkeley Bowl, but alas, they are too far outside his comfort zone, and too distant for his driving patience, and probably too expensive. The distinction between fresh or frozen, wild or farmed is not as important to him as it is to his food-snob son, although I suspect the outcome would be negligible whichever starting material is used. 

“Scrape off all stuff when time has passed.” 

I look at that line and think of the life lesson that echoes to me in my father’s voice. Get rid of all that superficial, niggling stuff that clings to us and accumulates through the years. Focus on the substance—the fillet. 

“Lay fillet skin down on cutting surface. Slip knife under skin at thin part and slide it along flat against skin and remove. Skin can be cut into slices and fried as an appetizer if you wish. It is good, but very rich.”  

Rich, that admonition, is something I picture his very own and long-departed mother, my grandmother, saying with a scowl and chill shake of her head. When my father left home he acquired the taste for the rich things and somehow, like information encoded in genes, passed this trait onto his son. 

This year, after our holiday get-together, my father handed me the recipe with little ceremony. I took the worn paper with its battle scars, the drips of ingredients embellishing the text acquired as it sat giving orders beside the mixing bowls. There was a quiet urgency to his gesture. It was as if this signaled a passing of the torch, an unspoken statement from my father to me, “While I know this dish has come to be my contribution to the holiday gatherings, I won’t always be here to provide it. So now it’s your turn.” 


Mustard-Dill Sauce  

2 Tbl Spicy Brown Mustard 

1/5 tsp Salt 1 Tbl. Sugar  

Couple dashes white pepper  

1 Tbl white vinegar  

4 Tbl corn or canola oil 

“Mix the mustard, salt, sugar, white pepper and vinegar. Stir quickly and mix in oil. Then mix in chopped dill. Then dip!”  

I can see my father demonstrate that last step—draping with a flourish the opalescent pink slice of salmon dripping with mustard sauce across a cracker and chomping demonstratively . Mouth still full, he then reaches across the low glass table, where the drink options run from iced vodka, to champagne, and the most suitable Scandinavian liquor, Aquavit. He grabs the green bottle of the latter and carefully pours a shot into a tiny crystal glass. He tosses it back and the anise-sweet tonic, viscous and full of heat, chases the chilled salty fish down his gullet. He presses back into the over stuffed chair, his eyes roll into their shadowy recesses, darkened by the gradual wasting of age and illness, and slowly a smile brightens, inducing a little bit of his personal gravlax ecstasy. As if to say, this is what it is all about. 

A week later, I extract from the fridge the baggy he had given me with the gravlax leftover from our last meal together. I nibble on the little pink shards flecked with dill and review the recipe. 

“Keeps refrigerated four to five days.” 

I see that have stretched the acceptable outer limit of consumption now to ten days, without ill effect. 

I continue reading and become perplexed. What exactly is a 1/5 teaspoon? Is it merely a dash? He would have said dash, as he had with the pepper, wouldn’t he have? Or am I simply unable to decipher his script? It’s probably not that big a deal, I’m sure. And yet, I need to ask him—while I still can. 



O’ Hanukkah, O’ Hanukkah By Eva M. Schlesinger

Tuesday December 27, 2005

I am Jewish. I celebrate Hanukkah. Many know I’m Jewish, yet still ask, “What are you doing for Christmas this year?” 

When I worked at a publishing company in Boston, people asked me this question a lot. I always replied, “I am Jewish, and I celebrate Hanukkah.” 

One woman’s response was, “Well, some Jews celebrate Christmas.” She told me this two years in a row. 

Having grown up in a Christmas-centered culture, I can tell you that the “holiday” in holiday season does not refer to my holiday. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon with holiday parties, holiday cards, and holiday music. I participated in holiday concerts throughout grade school; I recall the lyrics to nearly every Christmas carol and Christmas-related song 20 years later. I have forgotten many of the words to the Hanukkah songs I grew up singing with my family. I hum along at Hanukkah sing-alongs. 

I can’t stomach the predominance of Christmas. I can’t stomach latkes, either (too greasy). I celebrate Hanukkah in my own special way. I enjoy going to Hanukkah parties at friends’ homes, watching the lighting of menorahs and the flickering of the lights. I also immerse myself in Jewish music. The lively melodies of “Al HaNissim,” “Yemey Hanukkah,” “Sevivon,” and “HaNerot Dolkim BaRom,” uplift my spirit. And every year I listen to Joel ben Izzy tell his fabulous stories. 

I feel revived when I honor my holiday in this way. I feel honored when others observe and acknowledge the passing of my holiday. How refreshing to hear “Happy Hanukkah!” or “You’re invited to my Hanukkah party.” Such words I hold dear to my heart. 

What will you do to celebrate Hanukkah this year? 




Mary, Queen Of The Cosmos By Carmen Hartono

Tuesday December 27, 2005

The apparitions of Mary in the last century have brought forth new titles for Our Lady. Among the most intriguing for me is thinking of the Blessed Mother as Queen of the Cosmos. While common sense dictates that no words can adequately address the Mother of God, for me ‘cosmos’ encompasses everything. And now that I am studying the New Cosmology at the Sophia Center at Holy Names University, I am becoming more in awe of the vastness of the universe. 

I believe that if we profess that Jesus is the Incarnation of the Creator, then we must believe that Mary is the incarnation of the universe. For how can God who is omnipresent be limited by a womb of a woman who is anything less than universal consciousness? Since the Holy Spirit speaks to all existence through the cosmos, and Mary is the vessel through which the Trinity became Flesh, then Mary herself must be the universe through which the Word speaks. 

Professor Brian Swimme tells us that the universe works through ten powers, the first being creativity which is realized in the center or at point zero.  

Each being in the creation must be at its own point zero for it to be in pulse with existence. If an individual is aiming elsewhere than center, it no longer is aligned to receive creative forces, it misses the mark, and will die. From this perspective, sin is less about morality and more about missing the point. Eternal life would then mean being wholly one with God Who is Eternal. For example, we believe that Mary’s Assumption means that her body never experienced death. 

The second power of allurement or attraction further proves my thinking. When any woman has a child, it is due to attraction to another human being, a man. The woman then gives birth to a human child. But Jesus was no ordinary child, since he is not only fully human but also fully God. A child becomes fully human when its mother and father give themselves completely to each other. For Jesus to be fully God, Mary and the Holy Spirit also give themselves completely to each other. This idea is only imaginable if Mary is creation itself. Anything less cannot physically receive the Creator giving of Himself completely. The third power is emergence, and Jesus emerges through the attraction of God the Creator and creation itself. 

So we have the mystery of the Incarnation. Then we witness the fourth principle, homogenesis, which brings forth the miracle of biological life. And as much as we wish it were not so, the fifth power of cataclysmic death and destruction became necessary for Jesus. The resurrected body is the sixth principle of synergy, a relationship that lasts forever. The seventh energy is transmutation, which is synergy transmuted to individual critical mass. 

Jesus, the Son of Mary, like His Mother is also the Incarnation of the Universe. His transformation (eighth principle) therefore also transforms all of existence. The temple that was destroyed at the crucifixion receives synergy and is transmuted for a transformation into seamlessness or universal inter relatedness (ninth principle) on the third day. Jesus our Savior becomes radiance (tenth power) or the universe in deep communion with itself. This will all be fully realized at the Second Coming of Christ. 

So are my thoughts this Advent Season. 





John Lennon Was Shot to Death Last Night By JULIA ROSS

Tuesday December 27, 2005

In the less than middle of the night of our lives 

In broad neon light before cabbies and queens 

Seven stunning shots sped through the New York Night 

Ripping through the joy of our lives 

Struck us through the heart. One who is blood coursing through our youth  

lay dead. 


When we all wore our hair in bubbles and beehives 

Those four burst forth our lives in song. Oh joyous song. 

Sent our spirits coursing with beat and bounce 

Electric laughter our drummers danced 

Oh wondrous right-on tune of our hearts 

Our passions roused, Moved were our feet 

To thump, pelvis to rock, fingers to snap. 

Melody burst upon the scene an irrepressible joy 

Our bodies rocked the first courage of our age. 


Our Eisenhower-years hearts were electrified with hope 

A sense of future. A time of our own. 

Most subtle revolution since Bach who beneficently and 

Polyphonously rolled over round and round in glee 


Four baby boys pulsing a beat that pumps our blood. 

Mass and lone, singing and ringing out 

The song of This Is What Can Be. Let it be. Then 


Suddenly, we are not half the men we were Yesterday 

Struck down a heart we held as ours. Leaving us all the lonely people. 

We must go back to where we all belong. 

For such a long moment they had swept us away from 

Where we all came from. And made it better. 

So much better. 


We are stunned. We are real nowhere man. Don’t know where we’re going to 

Going round ‘n round in our grief 

Struck stunned that He, A part of us so vibrant 

Was struck down in the middle of the night of our lives. 



That’s The Thing About. . . By Paul Vontron

Tuesday December 27, 2005

On Christmas some years ago, three months after my wife was killed by a drunk driver, I recognized for the first time that I’ve more or less never had a bad experience that couldn’t be bettered somehow by interacting with a dog. Others feel similarly. The biologist Lewis Thomas, for example, wrote the same thing about otters. He found it impossible to be unhappy while observing them. Neither dog nor otter would matter much to a murder victim at the scene of the crime. For those still living, however, other living things can be a help. 

At least for me. That’s the thing about suffering. It’s inadvisable, maybe even dead wrong, to tell another person when they should get over something. In the sufferer’s mind, the experience is proprietary. It belongs to him or her. Nothing of course could be further from the truth, as little is more universal than suffering, but there’s no point in saying so to someone whose heart feels broken. It gets precious, that feeling. I have met no end of persons who couldn’t imagine life without it: people who allowed themselves, often as not knowingly, to become completely joyless. Likewise, I have often wondered whether people who kill themselves, barring genuine psychological dysfunction, simply lack a sense of humor. 

Suffering—whether it is one’s own or another’s—can get muddled. My wife was murdered. My ancestors were persecuted by the Nazis. It happened to them, not me, but the world is teeming with people who don’t get the difference. There are those who feel that only capital punishment for the wrongful death of a loved one will relieve their pain, and those who do violence to one another on account of violence done to their ancestors. Some feel so strongly about the mistreatment of animals that they mistreat humans, and some devote their lives to saving helpless children in faraway lands while victimizing their own families. Strangely, in any case, the claim is they’re acting compassionately (toward loved ones, ancestors, animals, children, etc.), but compassion is the capacity to feel another’s experience, not make oneself over in its image. The truth is such persons are narcissists. The suffering of others has no meaning without reference to themselves. They are as dependent on it as they are on breathing. 

Maybe that’s the thing about dogs and otters, and for that matter apes, redwoods, and the rustle of leaves: all the world, if we’ll let it, draws us out of ourselves. We never have been, nor will we ever be, all there is. I owe this thought to a dog named Mackie. 

That Christmas day, I had never been sadder, and wanted to know someone cared. I drove unannounced to my friend Richard’s house. I’m pretty sure I cried all the way across town and was still crying when I knocked on the door. In a heartbeat, letting me in, so was Richard. Mackie, a gigantic Leonberger mix, wagged less enthusiastically than usual. Something along the lines of “This is not how people behave at the door” was amiss in his brain, so the corresponding sweep of his tail didn’t send rugs, coats, umbrellas, and even furniture flying as it normally did. Still, he was happy to see me, and signaled as much by firmly inserting his nose in my crotch. 

We sat in the living room at the front of the house, looking out at grayness. The wisteria across the bay window was a twisted bare gnarl. Liquidambar leaves skittered down an otherwise empty street; everyone who celebrated the day was busy doing so inside their homes. Richard had a twinkling tree and hot cider. I sipped a cup as we sat silently for awhile on opposite sides of the room with Mackie stretched out attentively on the floor between us. Finally, we talked. It was gruesome. I couldn’t get through a sentence without sobbing. 

And then it happened. As we talked, or tried to, Mackie looked back and forth, sometimes whimpering, and sometimes lifting a paw to say, as children will do in a classroom when they know the answer to their teacher’s question, “Call on me!” But it didn’t work. All he got in return was a soft “Shush” from Richard. So Mackie upped the ante. 

Richard kept an old wicker bed of Mackie’s beneath the bay window. He had outgrown it ages ago, so it became his toy basket. Mackie began to fetch them, one by one, and offer each to me. He was sufficiently large that, standing in front of the ottoman I was sitting on, we were pretty much eye to eye. At first, I reached out a bit and patted him, and Richard likewise took notice by smiling at his dog. “Good enough,” thought Mackie, “I’ll get another.” And so it went, raggedy plush squirrel followed by smelly rawhide followed by toeless sock until after eight or so retrievals Mackie finally got his favorite: a yellow rubber ball with a black smiley face on one side and “Have a nice day” on the other. A squeaky ball. Surely, no one could resist a squeaky ball. 

He brought it over, stood in front of me, looked me in the eyes, and munched the ball once. “Squeak!” I patted him. “Squeak, squeak, squeak!” Again I patted him and maybe, I’m not sure, smiled for the first time in a lifetime. “Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak!” I burst into laughter. So did Richard. Mackie wagged triumphantly as I kissed him on the head. Richard looked at me, smiling wildly through his tears, and said “Fucking dogs.” I replied, “Yeah, fucking dogs.” 

That was years ago, but I can still honestly state that I think of Mackie nearly everyday. When he died peacefully of old age just last May, Richard called me, hysterical. I went right over. We sat on the floor in the living room, stroking Mackie and struggling through the same words we’d struggled through once before. When we took his corpse outside and lifted it into Richard’s truck, I happened to notice a rustle of breeze through the liquidambars. Not really thinking anything in particular, I said “A beautiful sound, isn’t it?” Richard nodded. And then I thought silently, “It will always remind me of Mackie.” To this day, it has. That’s the thing about the world. It draws us out of ourselves. 

Some might say Mackie knew how I felt that Christmas, and wanted to comfort me. Maybe, maybe not, I couldn’t say. I know this for sure, though: He wanted me to pay attention to him, not just to myself and my precious suffering. That’s the thing about suffering. It gets precious. 


Gambler’s Last Exit By Joe Kempkes

Tuesday December 27, 2005

The “aesthetic of shock” that Walter Benjamin describes in a memorable passage in his essay on Buadelaire puts Buadelaire together with stories on Poe, the paintings of James Ensor, and a striking statement by Valery about the savagery of isolation in the urban crowd.  

Benjamin, as noted by Robert Alter in his superb book Imagined Cities: Urban Experience and the Language of the Novel, “draws on a celebrated essay by the early 20th-century sociologist Georg Simmel, ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life.’ ” Simmel proposes that the psychology of the new urban person is predicated on “the intensification of nervousstimulation [he gives italic emphasis to this phrase] which results from the swift and uninterrupted change of outer and inner stimuli.” He goes on to suggest that, in contrast to a mind entertaining lasting impressions that “show regular and habitual contrasts” more consciousness is “used up” in the denizen of the metropolis by “the rapid crowd of changing images, the sharp discontinuity in the grasp of a single glance, and the unexpectedness of onrushing impressions.” 

In his new book, Six to Five Against: A Gambler’s Odyssey, Berkeley-based investigative journalist Burt Dragin recounts his own Simmelian “intensification of nervous stimulation” with a concentrated superabundance of dizzying yet delightful images: 


I still remember my first walk through a Las Vegas casino. I’m enchanted by the clanging slot machines, the lush maroon carpets, the shiny silver dollars and the gamblers’ exuberance as they play dice. A pit boss jokes to me, “Get your bet down!” I’m eight years old, my head spinning with delight. Suddenly a slot machine explodes in bells and rains silver dollars into a bucket and onto the floor; the player, a huge woman with platinum hair, leaps up and down, elated, grabbing the silver. I stop wide-eyed and stare. My father takes in the fascination. Anything is OK,” he whispers, “in moderation.” I miss the point-and, of course, the irony. (p. 36)  


Dragin returned on frequent trips to Las Vegas and made countless trips to Santa Anita racetrack and other gambling venues as a teenager with fake ID. His most memorable day at Los Angeles’s Alexander Hamilton High School “was neither the senior prom nor homecoming (both of which I missed) but an off-campus escapade at Hollywood Park racetrack. Trapped in Mrs. Plummer’s American history class, I perused the Daily Racing Form. Plummer might wax eloquent on Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln but I was versed in Arcaro, Longdon and Shoemaker-the diminutive athletes who guided the 1,200 pound thoroughbreds around the track.” 

In the meantime, his father Phil, who fled an Odessa pogrom before the Soviet revolution, was on a rapid downward spiral of divorce, menial jobs and dead-end jobs caused by a gambling addiction. Burt once visited his dad while he was working at a greasy spoon in downtown L.A., “that could have been the locale in the film L.A. Confidential where the detectives wander in to discover carnage among the grime.”  

Parental discord was a recurring motif at home: “Once after a bitter parental battle over Topic A (dad’s gambling losses) there ensued a lengthy silence. My parents seemed to be doing some weird dance, as if they were sentenced to marriage and had to endure hard time.” 

While Dragin was attending college, he worked at an entry level job at an L.A. paper as an editorial trainee. Even while pursuing (and eventually receiving) a masters’ degree in journalism at USC he kept gambling... “the thrusts of gambling losses weren’t so painful. I could rationalize that I was on my way toward ‘a career.’ ” 

Sometimes Dragin comes across like a darkly comic character in an Elmore Leonard novel. At a casino after a Tahoe ski weekend, a woman friend made a comment that is etched in his brain: “ ‘You’ve already gambled $10,’ she said, ‘why do you need to gamble more?’ She stumped me (because I’m addicted?). I made a mental note to share her observation with my father. He loved it. Both of us knew blowing ten bucks was practically a win.” 

His staggering loses at Tahoe devoured his paychecks but the repeated blows to his ego were a different matter entirely. The narrow, icy roads on the drive back from Tahoe, “seemed wrong for someone in rank depression.” His solution was to gamble in Reno, which was “a straight shot up Highway 80.” After contemplating a “plunge into oblivion,” he finally faced the truth and went to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting, albeit as a freelance journalist. His 1985 magazine article “Gamblers Anonymous: Last Exit on the Highway to Hell” opened with one man’s plight: 

“Norman R. was face down in a drunk tank when he had a revelation ‘Stop or die.’ He stopped. That was seven years ago. Norman keeps the gambling demons in check by telling his horror stories over and over at GA meetings.” 

By a curious concidence, Six to Five Against: A Gambler’s Odyssey arrived on bookstore shelves the same day that the Baseball Writers’ Hall of Fame Selection Committee decided not to enter gambling addict Pete Rose’s name on the ballot in his final year of eligibility. 

What are the odds on that?  


Joe Kempkes’ disaster travel story “Stabbed and Gouged” was published in the anthology I Should Have Gone Home: Tripping Up Around the World (2005).  

Celebrating Diwali By Roopa Ramamoorthi

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Diwali is the most important festival for Hindus, like Christmas for Christians and Id for Muslims. It has always been that special time of year where mummy starts getting busy making sweets days in advance. When I was a child, I would make a long list of all the sparklers, rockets and flower pots that I wanted and my mother would see the eager look in my eyes and not want to disappoint me, but each year the price for these items kept increasing. And so I got my first economics lesson, of diminishing marginal returns. I needed some sparklers but there had to be limits set—balance price versus pleasure. 

I remember the Diwali when a friend of mine in the building got badly hurt when the crackers she burnt burnt her instead. Taught me another life lesson, to enjoy but always be careful, otherwise I can get hurt. Then there was the first Diwali in America. I did not have vacation but instead had to study for exams, but the letter came from mummy, saying she missed my not being there for the first time for Diwali, and her love made up for all the sweets and sparklers I did not savor.  

The best decorated houses, which my mother took me to see, were two buildings where people had beautiful lanterns and lit lamps with joy. These were not the wealthy people with servants swarming to decorate but simple lower middle class folk who crafted beautiful lanterns with their hands and lit lamps of warmth. Taught me one could be artistic and tasteful without throwing money.  

So many Diwalis, so many memories. One Diwali, years ago before I was born, my grandmother was a young mother and she had been called for a moment to speak to her neighbor, when her young daughter climbed up, took the sparklers, lit them and lit herself, burnt and died. My grandfather came home in the evening after a full days work, realized what had happened and instead of scolding my grandmother for negligence realized her anguish and consoled her and this is how they got through tragedies, together as a team. Today when so many marriages crumble on much less it’s shown me what marriage means. That Diwali, that tragedy was their test and they came through. 

The years went by, my father got married and I was the age my father’s sister was when she died. There had been another death in the family, my grandfather, a doting husband and a good father had died. Some of his sons were not yet in jobs and my father being the eldest son carried a heavy burden, his brothers had to come up well in life. My grandmother was grief-stricken once again as she had been that other Diwali day. I was 4 and every year before that, my being the only grandchild, my grandmother bought me a pavadai (skirt) of pure kanjeevaram silk. The blue with red border when I was 1, the sandalwood color with brown border when I was 2 and the green with orange zari when I was 3. But this year as my grandfather had died we were not celebrating Diwali. I was only 4, my grandfather had died, my father was sad and I also had developed allergic bronchitis which made me cough and vomit often. So it was a time of darkness in our lives. I sadly knew there would be no kanjeevaram silk pavadai for me this year, no sweets. So that morning I got up with nothing to look forward to.  

My friends were down at dawn lighting crackers with their new outfits while I gazed sadly from the second floor balcony. But then my mother’s mother, my other grandmother kissed me and handed a brown paper bag. Inside was a beautiful pink pavadai with two green zari strips. So someone had come through for me. I wore it and saw the two sparklers also in a box. I lit them, it was just a token. I soon vomited and had to remove the pavadai. But for a short moment wearing the pavadai and lighting the two simple sparklers I had experienced light in that long season of darkness and seeing the joy in my eyes I saw my father smile which he had not done in a long long time. 

Today I am grown and that Diwali has shown me that however dark life gets, there is always a glimmer of light and someone comes through for you and that is what Diwali really celebrates, getting from darkness to light. When God Rama came back to Ayodhya after 14 difficult years in exile, there was delight with lamps lit in the houses, the celebration after the suffering, the light after the darkness. Happy Diwali. 


One Fourth Monday In October By Garrett Murphy

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Take no joy for October 24, 

Not you a certain bus driver of Montgomery, 

Or two certain policemen in that burg. 

Not the burglar in Detroit on August oh-four, 

Or you upholders of Crow or your descendents “in charge.” 

Certainly not the pair who fancy themselves “OutKasts” 

Or the geek who dared swipe one’s very own name. 

Not even the fictional barber who dared to diss one’s efforts 

Or those so-called “real” critics who thought he should have been thanked. 

And though this one deserves far better  

Than to be praised by any of you, 

October 24 of twenty-oh-five 

Should not be called a great day by you, 

For the body may be gone 

But the essence is eternal. 


Arts & Events

Mont St.-Michel By Esther Stone

Tuesday December 27, 2005

It is said that Mont St.-Michel—“le Merveilleuse”—is the second greatest tourist attraction in France, so it was with some trepidation that my friend Mark and I headed for it during our three-day driving jaunt in Normandy, fearing that it would be overrun with visitors. But that proved not to be the case. 

The day was windy and drizzly as we made our way down the winding country roads. And then, quite suddenly, at a bend in the road, we saw its unmistakable silhouette in splendid isolation—high on a hill, ringed by the sea, with its tall steeple soaring heavenward. Simultaneously we both gasped at the sight. 

A few minutes later, after driving down the long causeway leading to the entrance, we pulled into a spot in the parking lot next to a car festooned with pink crepe paper, indicating that the occupants were a honeymoon couple. We smiled, until we noticed the young couple standing nearby, and that they were having a heated argument.  

We remarked at the contrast between that couple, who were just starting their life together so unfortuitously, and ourselves: well advanced in years, each a veteran of a broken marriage, old friends from college days who had recently been reunited and had quite unexpectedly fallen in love. We smiled at our own good fortune, and wondered what the future would hold for them. 

Hand in hand we weaved and climbed our way through the narrow, twisty streets huddled at the base of the Abbey—streets lined with tourist gift shops and restaurants, and we were soon overrun with groups of English schoolchildren on holiday.  

When we arrived at the Abbey we were struck by the unique beauty of its combination of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with its cloisters, parapets, ramparts, buttresses, battlements and fortifications, and all surmounted by a tall steeple.  

Mark flashed his press pass at the entry booth, and we proceeded onto the grounds. I looked at my watch. It was twenty minutes till noon, plenty of time to explore the area before the twelve o’clock mass would begin.  

We wandered through the gardens and the terraces, and climbed up into the refectory, and down into the monks’ reception hall. I glanced at my watch again. Noon was approaching. We decided it was time to get back to the church entrance. We tried to retrace our steps, and scampered up one set of stairs and down another, but at every turning we encountered a locked gate. We felt like rats in a maze! We were laughing uncontrollably at this turn of events. What an adventure! 

But we soon became frustrated. We really wanted to experience the Mass. We kept trying to find a way out, and eventually found ourselves in a courtyard next to the church. We could hear the chanting of the service. The Mass had begun. 

There was a large wooden door leading into the church. It was locked, of course, and I thought, “If I bang on the door, they’ll have to let us in!” I also thought, “The Ugly American strikes again!” I didn’t care. The situation was desperate! 

In moments a young, white-robed monk (I later realized that she was a girl—I dubbed her “the monkess”) appeared at the door, having unlocked it with a huge key from a giant ring at her waist. She glared at us as she let us in. We mumbled our apologies and sat quietly in back. 

The service was very beautiful and very moving. As I sat there in the gloom of the church, I looked up, and could see the blending of the ancient Romanesque nave with the flamboyant Gothic choir, and I was immersed in a sense of awe and timelessness.  

Random thoughts passed through my head: 1) the setting seemed to me to be a symbol of a kind of faith which hardly ever occurs in the “real” world; 2) I was overcome by a sense of the agelessness of the ritual, and of all the generations of people of faith who had come here for spiritual sustenance, and of being a part of a moment in Eternity; 3) I felt a sense of “Consecration” of our union, Mark’s and mine; and 4) I recalled that the last time we had been together, all those years before, was at a Christmas Mass in Greenwich Village in 1952!! 

After the mass ended, Mark went up to the officiating priest and spoke to him in French to apologize for our rude entrance. The priest, hurrying out, angrily replied, again in French, “What do think this is, a stable?”  

I am not a religious person, but, as inappropriate as my actions may have been, I have never regretted my intrusion into the Abbey at Mt. St.-Michel, which allowed me to experience some of the most profound moments of my life.  

The Day After Christmas By Claudia Pessin

Tuesday December 27, 2005


‘Tis the day after Christmas 

And the house is a mess. 

Though I love them all dearly 

I can’t help confess 

That the noise and the turmoil 

(Now considerably less) 

Is quite wearing 

With tearing 

Of kids through the room. 

This place can’t be cleaned 

With only a broom. 

A squad wielding dust-mops 

With backs overbent 

Though working all day 

Would not make a dent 

In the once-lovely wrappings 

Now crumpled and torn 

Nor the crumbs and spilled eggnog 

Which my tables adorn. 

The dishes and glasses 

Now dirty, I see, 

Have been left in their places 

To be cleaned up by me. 

This sight I survey 

As I stand in the doorway 

With despair in my bones 

And silently pray 

To be given the strength 

To last through the day. 

Then with good morning coffee 

To bring my heart cheer, 

I rejoice that Christmas 

Comes just once a year. 


Another Night In Paris By MONK LUNG

Tuesday December 27, 2005

The egg yoke skyline was waning. A new night came barging in from the outer skirts of the city.  

I’d been backpacking through the heartland of Europe for a few weeks with my high school buddies James, Nate, and Tim. An absorption of every last detail awaiting exploration. Beauty and mystique were enormously abundant, or so said myself. There were sacred legends all about whose presence flushed my nerves into convoluted anarchy. 

I left the Free World, what many Americans habitually refer to as their homeland, so that I could find a personal freedom, whatever that is. Europe was a vague answer to my quest to become stripped of fettered chains. I’d sauntered through London encountering a unique conglomeration of people in all of its nooks and crannies that I peeked my curiosity into. I’d been in Paris for only that day. By the end of the night we were trippin’ on some Paris blues. A few hours before, the bouncer, dressed finesse, laughed at us outside the entrance of a trendy dance club Tim had read about in his Let’s Go Europe Guide. I guess black dickies, jeans, and sneakers didn’t fly.  

Earlier in the day, three hostiles wouldn’t take our money. We even had made reservations for one of them three months in advance. But the fourth hostile was a procrastinated charm for us. Across the street from it was a 24-hour open bar. With hope the turning of the screw confirmed my belief that everything in life happens for a reason. Liquidation, lost, found, dry. 

Later that night, we swayed in all directions weaving off the sidewalk to the street, process, then repeat. Our drunken collective came to a group consensus to indulge our livers in the luxury of having a final drink for the night. The 24-hour bar was not busy, the only lit up hang out near our crashing spot we paid fifteen U.S. dollars a piece in Francs for. We all trudged in treating ourselves to a particular brand of beer that was native to Amsterdam. A possessor of eerie alcohol percentage. It reminded me of the European version of malt liquor. All Star Liquor on Figgeroa in Altadena supplied my juvenile friends and I countless drunken adventures throughout our teenage years. Drunken 40oz. liberty. The city of lights was a gracious host that night for the clouded mind, an entity that’s unbelievably hammered. 

We ignorantly reclined in the uncomfortable chairs at a table on the outside porch of the bar.  

Nate and Tim were on the verge of unconsciousness. But James and I decided to live a little longer that night. After we had finished our cans of brew I went back inside to buy two more. As I entered the bar, a man followed briskly behind me to the counter where the bartender slouched over. The Parisian bartender gave the man a glass of cognac. He did not look up as he slid the drink over the counter. He kept reading his magazine. A cluster of naked bodies entangled and connected together were pictured on the cover. I asked politely if I could purchase two more of those lovely Dutch concoctions. The bartender followed procedure with me, the next in line. 

The man hadn’t caught my attention at first glance. But what would happen in the next five minutes has left an irreversible impression on me that I highly doubt will ever be lost. Like a live Hendrix guitar solo. Eternal through origin and death. Originated at this bar on a corner in Paris nobody would think twice about. It was that bizarre and extraordinary.  

Right when the man took hold of his glass he began yelling at the bartender in peculiar tongue of French. I leaned against the counter adjacent to the two men quarreling, in awe of a language spoken quite differently by both men. And my listening comprehension did not extend beyond the understanding of their difference. The man was obviously high as a kite. And he flung the glass of cognac he had been holding at the bartender’s face. A split-second later a gigantic German Shepard flew out of a hidden room from down the hall beyond the bathrooms at the back of the bar. He targeted the enraged customer. The dog fluidly hunted down his prey, a man desperate for an escape. On this Paris street corner the rabid wolf tore into this man’s flesh maliciously. James and I stared at this brutal beating with inhibited amusement, each alone and foreign midst vacated premises. It was an awesome picture show for the tired beer goggles to witness. Only my frightful hangover the next day allowed me to fully appreciate something so grandeur. Soon after, a great big, bald man stormed out from the hidden room, whistling at a proficiently loud volume. The beast automatically withdrew from the enemy. Known as Cue Ball on the streets of Paris. He ferociously engulfed the weakened enemy with another bout of flurry. They were a tag team. Man and dog against a man. Cue Ball and Wolf against a man. 

The summer before, I had worked construction. One of my laborious jobs was to break concrete with a jackhammer. This man that wailed on his exhausted opponent would have been remarkably talented at the art of the jackhammer. In fact, that is where I believe this unknown art is born.  

Blood covered the cement floor. There lay a man drifting along in a dreamy current. What that man saw thereafter, maybe he could not even tell others in the years ahead hastily pursuing him. Nobody but us bothered to notice what had just taken place. It happened too quick, without forewarning of what wrath the Cue Ball’s fistful strength could unleash. It must have been four, maybe five tops, blows. It occurred in a blink of an eye. A drunken eye may call it a dream. It speedily withdrew from the street corner under the iridescence and vocal calamity. All of it. 

The first emotion that I felt was relief that I was not that man. Then, I felt pity for him, even if he had truly deserved the beating. I scratched a curious itch and quickly went to the bartender to order another drink as an ode to this experience. Maybe pour a little out. Not puke.  

Bring spirit to the occasion. I asked him while slurring my words, “What-er lies in-a room ova there mista bah-tenda?” 

“Police,” he curtly replied in a tone implying that our conversation was through. 

So I grasped my last drink of the night, a pint-size bottle of cheap red wine. My last thought before I drifted away into the vacant point of the black sea, was of tired anxiety to the coming of events another night in Paris would yield, imagining the German Shepard’s glossy dark brown eyes closing in on me. His teeth glow night. 




Forgive Yourself By William Warren Smith

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Christmas is a time of emotional reckoning: wanted or unwanted. 

My greatest Christmas wish is that we all take the time to forgive ourselves, especially those of us who not only think we do not deserve self-penance but the ones among us who don’t even realize our right to own our weaknesses.  

Many of us believe others would never see our weaknesses, our bad habits, our “sins” or our sufferings as deserving of attention or forgiveness. 

We cry tears of encouragement for the most devastated among us: those who are suffering painfully as life-ending illnesses waste them away, parents who have experienced the death of their child, children who begin life molested, poor and/or severely challenged, mentally or physically.  

We draw encouragement from the bravery of these and others, the bravery of people who have conquered severe alcohol abuse, who have overcome drug addiction, daily winners against a struggle to act out in all the insidious ways seemingly born within them. The highs we climb when we use alcohol or drugs, engage in gambling and/or habitual unspeakable behaviour towards others, all in effort to escape or more accurately mask pain, the pain that is supposedly necessary to balance the condition called life. 

My wish every Christmas is that we all continue to fight and forgive our public and private hells but my special wish is for you, the one who believes she’s not doing enough to overcome what may seem a small problem to others but to her feels just as horrible as some global tragedy but she dare not admit it or speak it, the one who believes what he is struggling to overcome is just as difficult for him to overcome as any headline-worthy catastrophic event, but he believes there’s no comparison worth mentioning.  

Just as the smallest goodwill deserves the largest thank you, the most invisible suffering, the tiniest weakness that may never be overcome and will never be understood, deserves forgiveness.  

This Christmas and every Christmas, whatever it does to or for you, let it always be the time you thank yourself and forgive yourself. 









Berkeley This Week

Tuesday December 27, 2005


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 

Healthy Eating Habits Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 

Berkeley PC Users Group Problem solving and beginners meeting to answer questions about Windows computers. At 7 p.m. at 1145 Walnut St. corner of Eunice. All welcome, no charge. 527-2177.  


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Heavy rain cancels. 548-9840. 

Sleep Soundly Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities. 



Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 

Joel ben Izzy celebrates Hanukkah with games, stories and a dreidel design contest at 6:30 p.m. at Black Oak Books, 1491 Shattuck Ave. 483-0698. 

World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 


Open the Little Farm Help greet the animals as we feed them, collect eggs and do morning chores at 9 a.m. at the Little Farm, Tilden Park. Dress to get dirty. 525-2233. 

Berkeley High Class of 1975 Reunion Party at 7 p.m. at the Doubletree, Berkeley Marina. mlc22@sbcglobal.net 

New Year’s Eve Balloon Drop at 4 p.m. (midnight Greenwich Mean Time) at Chabot Space & Science Center. Tickets required. 336-7373. 


Tibetan Buddhism “Introduction to Tibetan Healing Meditation and Yoga” at 3 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812.  


Free Small Business Counselling with SCORE, Service Core of Retired Executives at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. To make an appointment call 981-6244. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Sylvia Gretchen on “Healing Mind”at 8 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812.  


Learn How to Use Your GPS with Map Software with Jeff Caulfield of National Geographic at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Family Story Time at 7 p.m. at the Kensington Branch Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. Free, all ages welcome. 524-3043. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Kaiser Permanente, Dining Conference Room, 1950 Franklin St. To schedule an appointment call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE. www.BeADonor.com 

Berkeley Salon Discussion Group meets to discuss “New Years Revolutions” from 7 to 9 p.m. at the BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. 527-1022. 

Free Handbuilding Ceramics Class 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at St. John’s Senior Center, 2727 College Ave. Materials and firing charges not included. 525-5497. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

“Ask the Social Worker” free consultations for older adults and their families from 10 a.m. to noon at BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. To schedule an appointment call 558-7800, ext. 716. 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. 845-6830. 

“Faith, Doubt, and Inquiry” with Jack Petranker at 6:15 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812. www.nyingmainstitute.com 


Community Advisory Group Zeneca/Stauffer Chemical Site meets at 6:30 p.m. in the Bermuda Room, Richmond Convention Center, 403 Civic Center Plaza at Nevin and 25th Sts., Richmond. 540-3923. 

“45 Days: The Life and Death of a Broiler Chicken” Documentaries on animal cruelty at 7 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation of $5 suggested.  

Bookmark Reading Group meets to discuss “The Mistress of Spices” by Chitra Divakaruni at 6:30 p.m. at 721 Washington St., Oakland. 336-0902. 

American Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 10 a.m. to noon at its headquarters in Oakland. Volunteers are needed to support the more than 40 blood drives held each month all over the East Bay. For more information call 594-5165. 

Dick Penniman’s Avalanche Safety Lecture at 6 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Fee is $20. 527-4140. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1333 Broadway, Oakland, and from 2 to 7 p.m. at Kehilla Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. To schedule an appointment call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE. www.BeADonor.com 

Berkeley Communicators Toastmasters welcomes curious guests and new members at 7:15 a.m. at Au Coquelet Cafe, 2000 University Ave. at Milvia. 435-5863.  

Entrepreneurs Networking at 8 a.m. at A’Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave. at Alcatraz. Cost is $5. 562-9431.  

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. 548-9840. 

Sing your Way Home A free sing-a-long at 4:30 p.m. every Wed. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720. 

Prose Writer’s Workshop An ongoing group made up of friendly writers who are serious about our craft. All levels welcome. At 7 p.m. at BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. georgeporter@earthlink.net 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

Tibetan Yoga with Jack van der Meulen at 6:15 p.m. at Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Place. 843-6812. 

Introduction to Buddhist Studies at 8 p.m. at Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Place. 843-6812.?

Arts Calendar

Tuesday December 27, 2005



Moshe Cohen and Unique Derique “Cirque Do Somethin’” at 1 p.m. through Dec. 30, at the Marsh, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $10-$15. 800-838-3006. www.themarsh.org 


Joe Craven and Rob Ickes, bluegrass, at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience at 5 and 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $29.50-$30.50. 548-1761.  

Arturo Sandoval at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200.  

Jazzschool Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Larry Vuckovich at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 



Dana Smith and His Dog Lacy at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5-$7. 841-2082.  


Ned Boynton Trio at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Wild Catahoulas at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Julio Bravo, salsa, at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Dance lessons at 8 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Pete Caragher Quartet at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 



Asheba, Caribbean music, at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Traveling Jewish Theater “Dirt and Glory: Return of the Golem” at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $10-$30. 415-522-0786. www.atjt.com 


Nomad Spoken Word Night at 7 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Word Beat Reading Series with Carol Dwinell and Daniel Johnson at 7 p.m. at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave. 526-5985. 


Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Gumbo at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054.  

Brunette & The Highlights at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082 . 

Debbie Poryes-Fels, solo jazz piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Witches Brew Represent at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 



Magician Jay Alexander at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Shotgun Players “Cabaret” Thurs. - Sun. at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Through Jan. 29. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


King Wawa and the Oneness Kingdom Band, a pre-celebration of Haitian Independence, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15. 849-2568.  

Tanaora Brasil at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $7. 841-JAZZ.  

Lucky Otis at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $11-$13. 525-5054.  

Jennifer Lee Quartet, at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Free Persons Quartet at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. 548-5198.  

Philip Rodriguez and Colin Carthen at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Nuclear Rabbit, all ages show, at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082.  

Burial Year, Bafabegiya, Acts of Sedition at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

Arturo Sandoval at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200.  



San Francisco Chamber Orchestra New Year’s Celebration in Memory of Edgar Braun at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. www.sfchamberorchestra.org 

Bobi Cespedes & Her Trio at 7 and 10 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Includes Cuban dinner. Call for details. 841-JAZZ. 

New Year’s Eve Party at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. 841-2082.  

New Year’s Eve Balkan Bash with Anoush, Edessa and Brass Menagerie at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $20. 525-5054.  

Jesus Diaz and Afro-Cuban All Stars at 9:30 p.m.at La Peña. Cost is $23-$25. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Johnny Steele’s Hilarity Hoedown and Jocularity Jamboree at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $25-$30. 925-798-1300.  

Flamenco Fiesta with Yaelisa and Caminos Flamencos at Café de la Paz. Tickets are $45-$75. 843-0662. 

Lyrics Born, Inspector Double Negative & The Equal Positives at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $20-25. 548-1159.  

Beatropolis New Years Eve Party at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. Cost is $10 after 10 p.m. 848-8277. 

High Country, Dix Bruce & Jim Nunally at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761.  

Fourtet Jazz New Year’s Eve Party at 10 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $7. 843-2473.  

Rhonda Benin & Soulful Strut at 9 p.m., Duncan James, solo jazz guitar, at 6 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Raheem de Vaughn “Shang Hai” New Year’s celebration at 9 p.m. at 510 17th St., Oakland. Tickets are $75-$100.  

Jewdriver, Stigma 13, Second Class Citizens at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

Arturo Sandoval at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200.  



Traveling Jewish Theater “Dirt and Glory: Return of the Golem” at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $10-$30. 415-522-0786. www.atjt.com 


African Diaspora Cinema “Man by the Shore” at 2 p.m. at Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd., Oakland. Cost is $5. OurFilms@aol.com 



David K. Mathews Quartet at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $6-$10. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“The Greek Stones Speak” Travel photography lecture with Don Lyons at 7 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Free. 654-1548.  


Hot Club of San Francisco at 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com