Full Text

Brian Shiratsuki
          UC Berkeley’s Sather Gate was decked out for November’s Big Game against Stanford.
Brian Shiratsuki SATHER GATE ALL AGLOW UC Berkeley’s Sather Gate was decked out for November’s Big Game against Stanford. •


Editor’s Note

Friday December 30, 2005

Welcome to this year’s second Reader Contribution Issue. In this issue you will find more submissions from our readers, as well as a few columns from our regular contributors. 

Thank you again to all of you who sent in your essays, poems, fiction, photographs and illustrations.  

Happy New Year from everyone at the Daily Planet.Ê

A West Oakland Visit By Mertis L. Shekeloff

Friday December 30, 2005

“I talked to Elizabeth yesterday. Can you believe she’s 90-years-old? Anyway, she wants to see you,” Mother said on the phone. Miss Elizabeth had been our landlady when I was in junior high school. This was right up my alley—I’m always thrilled to take a walk down Memory Lane. 

I’m a little mushy about my past, Mother is not; she believes in letting the past take care of itself—she’s strictly a NOW person. I’m always trying to get her to take these sentimental journeys to West Oakland with me. Sometimes she agrees to come along, and sometimes she simply refuses. “I’m not interested in seeing those old houses!”  

“Let’s eat lunch at the Senior Center. It’s chicken day ... and we can go visit Miss Elizabeth afterwards,” I said, quickly before she had a chance to think about it. 

“OK, now don’t be late. You know they stop serving at one o’clock.” Mother still talks to me like I was a teenager. If, for example, I were to tell her that I was driving to San Francisco—she herself has refused to go by car or BART since the 1989 earthquake—she’d probably say: “Call me when you get there.” 

When I had a serious operation at San Francisco Hospital five years ago, she took me aside before the surgery and whispered: “Baby, I don’t think I’ll visit while you’re in the hospital. You know how I feel about crossing that bridge!” 

“Really, Mom,” I had said, unbelieving. Before the earthquake, her favorite pastime on Saturdays was taking BART to San Francisco to shop at Macy’s. The quake created a true lifestyle change for her. But the fact was she visited me many times at the hospital and at the rehab facility where I was sent to recuperate for a couple of weeks. She even moved into my house when I left the hospital to nurse me until I recovered. That’s Mom, always pulling through for me no matter what the cost. 

Miss Elizabeth still lived on 14th and Peralta, and it would be a treat to see the old house again. After lunch, I took the slow way to West Oakland and drove past places Mother and I both remembered. We had moved a lot when I was growing up—always into rooms in other people’s houses. 

“Mom, there’s the house you and Grandmother Emma were living in when I first came to California.” I said pointing to a vintage two-story house on my left. I had taken a taxi from the 16th Street Southern Pacific train station. Instead of going directly, the driver had meandered around nearby streets to make a larger fare. When the cab pulled up in front of 1412 14th Street, Mother and Grandmother had run out to greet me. 

“Of course, you didn’t know, baby, but you could have just walked here—the station’s only a couple of blocks away,” Mother said. 

“And the house next to ours belonged to the crazy woman ... you used to play with her children, remember?” 

“Yes. Mom, remember the Hiralez family? I used to help Marguerite Hiralez do housework in exchange for a bowl of that spicy stew her mother used to make.” 

“Uh-huh. Vera and her family lived in the house on the corner ... near Willow Street.” 

We both fell silent at the mention of Vera—my best friend until I left for college. She became Mother’s best friend in later years. She used to take two buses from her senior facility to come play bid whist with Mother almost every day until she went into hospice. 

“Lord, I sure miss Vera.” Mother said. 

“Me, too.” I added. Vera had died of lung cancer a couple of years before.  

I turned left on Campbell Street, drove three blocks and made a left on 11th to see the two story imitation red brick house Grandmother Emma and I had lived in when I was in high school and started junior college. I had left Mother’s when she went back to my stepfather after their brief separation. 

“It’s up to you. You have to choose between him and me. If you go back with him, I’m gonna live with Grandmother,” I had challenged. 

She chose to be with him. 

“Mom, look at Miss Sadie’s house! Isn’t it a shame?” I yelled, surprised to see that what was once, one of the best kept houses on the block, was now boarded up ... empty ... looking like it had suffered many decades of neglect. I could have wept. 

“Mom, look at those black bars! There weren’t any when Grandmother lived there.” 

It occurs to me that we never worried about robbers ... break-ins or leaving the front door unlocked. It seemed, I remember, we didn’t worry about personal safety ... the streets were safe. The house once belonged to Sadie and Jessie Rodgers, a couple my family knew back in Monroe, La. As a kid, it seemed that the whole of Monroe had moved to Oakland. We had the same friends here as there. I drove slowly by Sadie’s house, remembering that she never complained, as she had to the other roomers, about my using too much electricity. 

“Sadie wants you to study,” Grandmother Emma had explained when I asked about it.  

At Peralta Street, I made a left turn to 14th Street. Miss Elizabeth’s house had not kept up with the surge of remodeling now going on around it. Peralta Street, it seemed, was emerging from the drug induced slump it fell into in recent years. Two houses across the street were being handsomely remodeled. The one on the left of our old address was being renovated by a young white woman who smiled as we parked next door. There had been a white family living there when we first moved to Miss Elizabeth’s in the late ‘40s. I remember a pretty young girl around my age running up and down the long stairway, tossing her blonde hair, and never looking my way; nor did she ever speak to us—not once. Soon after we came, the family moved away, silently, in the night.  

There was a long stretch of stairs to climb to the front door. Mother reached it first and rang the doorbell. Miss Elizabeth opened the door in her wheelchair. She managed with the assistance of a younger 87-year-old sister, she told us later. Mother and I stood in the foyer; I gave Miss Elizabeth a big friendly smile while steadying myself with my cane. Miss Elizabeth’s smile froze as she looked me up and down. Hesitant. Puzzled. 

She looked good: unwrinkled and with a good skin tone. 

“You don’t look like the Louise I remember,” she said, trying to come to terms with the aging grey and crippled woman standing before her. Her eyes avoided mine throughout the visit. Mother ... embarrassed? ... attempted to explain my condition—why I didn’t look younger and prettier, something more like the pretty young teenager who had lived downstairs. I was beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable. 

“Well, you know,” Mother said, coming to my defense, “I was only 14 when I had Louise. So she’s in her 70s now. And she had an operation where she was cut from here to here,” she said, using her own neck to demonstrate the surgeon’s cut. To her, I was still that skinny young girl of 13 whom she had to protect ... letting no one get the best of me, if she could help it. She would do for me what she hadn’t been able to do for herself.  

Miss Elizabeth and Mother fell into easy conversation recalling the whereabouts of people who had lived downstairs with us, most of whom were now dead. 

“How long has Kenny been dead?” I interrupted. Kenny had been Miss Elizabeth’s husband; I had fond memories of him. A friendly white southerner, and a welder in a shipyard. When I came up from downstairs to talk with him, he was usually lying in bed, shirtless, reading the newspaper in the bedroom across from the kitchen. Miss Elizabeth did not talk much. She usually went about her chores while Kenny and I talked about school, what he was reading or anything else we happened to think of. 

He held the paper with both hands, and my eyes were sometimes riveted on his pink arms, where a mosaic of tiny red burn marks (stray sparks from his welding machine) had amassed for my wonderment. His gold rimmed glasses rested on a crimson, pear shaped nose. Everyone agreed that what Kenny lacked in looks was more than compensated for by his ability to provide. 

Miss Elizabeth twisted her mind and face in a struggle to remember the date of Kenny’s demise; at last she gave up trying: “I can’t remember,” she said, defeated in the effort. 

“You know Kenny always said that of all the children downstairs, Louise was the only one who would make something of herself—the others wouldn’t be shit—EVEN IF HER MOTHER WAS ALWAYS RUNNING THE STREETS.” Mother recalled. “Well, I told him that it was none of his business.” Miss Elizabeth nodded in agreement.  

“Miss Elizabeth—mind if I look out the back door to see the garden?” I asked. 

“Help yourself,” she said.  

Getting to the back door was not as easy as I supposed. Long ago washed towels and linens was strewn everywhere, hanging limply on collapsible wooden dryers, piled high on stored extra chairs ... Outside, two steps down was a sitting porch ... a deck of sorts... with a couple of mismatched over stuffed chairs for sunning. The houses next door and in front had the same decks. So close, they almost touched. No garden as such, only a few patches of unmowed grass ... essentially a dog run for the barking and mean-looking pit bull who had seen me and was now coming up the back stairs, towards me. I wasn’t sure if he could get past the makeshift barrier constructed to keep him from Miss Elizabeth’s section ... if it would be sufficient. I bolted back inside the house. 

Mother was ready to go home; she needed to take her breathing treatment, she said. We hugged Miss Elizabeth and said good-bye, promising to visit again ... soon. 

In the car on our way back to Berkeley, I remembered a question a friend had asked me the day before. I popped the hypothetical question to Mother: “Mom,” I said, “what would you have advised me to do if I had been chased home from school by a bully?”  

“I guess I would have told you to go to the principal and report it,” she said. “I remember Mary Williams beating ME up every day and taking my lunch money when I was a young girl. When I told Grandma Millie about it, she went to the yard and found a stick for me to take to school the next day. ‘I want you to hide this in the grass somewhere along the way home,’ she said, and then she went in the kitchen and filled a small cotton tobacco pouch with salt and pepper. ‘I want you to pin this to your dress, and if Mary follows you and tries to take your money, just lead her to the place where you hid the stick. Throw the salt and pepper in her face, get the stick and beat the hell out of her!’ I did exactly like she said, and you know what?” 

“What?” I asked. 

“Me and Mary became the best of friends after that!”  

“What if I HAD told the principal, but nothing happened and the person still bullied me?” I said, getting back to the point. 

“Then I’d go take care of it myself!” Mother said, defiantly.  

“I know why you advised me to go to the principal and not fight as Mama Millie told YOU to do.” 

“Well, sometimes there’s a better way to handle things.” 

“You didn’t tell me to fight because you didn’t think I would win, huh?” I continued, with the gusto of a 13-year-old who had caught on to adult tricks.  

“Yeah, you're right,” Mother admitted.  





About a Gorilla By Sherry Bridgman

Friday December 30, 2005

With a three-foot acacia branch, Bwana, the then massive male gorilla at the S.F. Zoo sits down, shucks the leaves off and stuffs them in his mouth and begins to chew. 

The gorilla is the largest and most robust of all the primates. The head being particularly massive, with a low forehead. In males the head is peaked, due to a well-developed sagittal crest, on which are attached the powerful muscles of the lower jaw which he uses to chew the tough leaves of the acacia. 

For many years my office at the zoo looked directly on to the Gorilla Grotto. Bwana was the dominant silverback male along with the three female gorillas. 

The Gorilla Grotto was all concrete. It was built many years ago with the thinking of making zoo exhibits sanitary. 

The keeper would give the gorillas burlap bags, which they dragged around, sometimes using them as a wrap around their necks, or over their heads, but when they decided to rest they would spread the bags out on the concrete and sit. 

Bwana was such a gentle gorilla; he very rarely chased the females, or threw things. What he did do that was so extraordinary was sit on his burlap bag looking very much like ‘the thinker’, with his massive knuckles propped under his chin. I would hear many zoo visitors remark to the likes of this. Then there would be times when zoo visitors would begin to tease the gorillas. Yelling, laughing and acting like apes themselves. But some would persist in their antics until Bwana had enough. He would get up from his ‘thinking’ position and turn his silverback to the teasers, which, of course made them holler more. Luckily a keeper or the director himself would come flying out of the nearby office with a stern warning not to tease the animals. There were signs all over the zoo about not teasing the animals, but over the years you find out people don’t read signs or think they don’t apply to them. 

OSHA came out for an inspection of the zoo. One of the things that they wanted done was to make steps down the side of the grotto to the moat, so the keeper would have a safer way of getting down to the moat for cleaning. The gorillas were locked up in their night quarters for almost two weeks while city workmen put in the steps. The director was furious that they took so long; he hated having the gorillas locked inside in their small quarters. 

The workmen put a railing in along with the steps, plus some large rocks to make it look more aesthetic. Finally, the concrete dried and they let the gorillas outside. They went over to inspect the steps. First they ripped out the railing, then they pulled out the volley-ball sized rocks and began to throw them in the moat where they broke up into smaller pieces that they then hurled to the walkway where visitors stand to view the gorillas. (What people don’t know about large apes like the gorilla is that they are five-times stronger than the strongest person.) 

Up went the yellow tape, trying to keep the people from being stoned. The keeper tried to get them back in their night quarters, but no luck there. They were not about to go in until their dinnertime around 4:30 p.m. The gorillas were again locked up for another week, the workmen called back to repair their sloppy work under the guidance of the zoo director. 

About a year later the then zoo director secured a large grant to construct a new larger gorilla enclosure with grass, trees, rocks and a rock water fall. He offered the contractor a bonus if he got if finished earlier. And he did. New Gorilla World went up in record time to the delight of all the staff and the director, and zoo-goers. 




The Secret Ingredient By RUBY LONG

Friday December 30, 2005

Soon after Ruff joined our household, my husband and I hosted a family event to introduce him to everyone.  

I would never have chosen Ruff as a name for our dog. For one thing, I can’t stand Dennis the Menace and for another, a handsome boxer like him deserved something more dignified—Clarence, maybe, or Nigel. Or a name related to the sport—Max, say, or Rocky. Not Ruff. But you can’t look a gift horse, or in this case a gift dog, in the mouth, so when we were offered 2-year-old purebred Ruff, we took him, name and all. He was a good-natured dog and we thought he would be a good companion for the child we were expecting. 

The neighbors who gave Ruff to us showed long faces as they offered him and made the excuse that they hated to lose him but were moving to a place too small for a dog. But I suspect that after we said yes they went inside and celebrated. I imagine them chortling and high-fiving each other at having gotten rid of him. They had had a lot of trouble keeping him in their yard and were probably tired of the struggle. 

He was a beautiful dog, with a muzzle like black velvet, but he had never had any training and had always been allowed to roam. My husband and I had both grown up with dogs and were sure we could train him. Since there was a strong board fence around our yard, keeping him home presented no problem for us. He would have plenty of room to exercise on our big lawn, we reasoned, and no need to wander. We would find out later how naively optimistic and wrong on all counts we were. But he was part of our family now and we wanted everyone to meet him. 

The day before our event, I shopped for dinner supplies. I put a lot of thought into the menu and chose a nice roast, small, sweet carrots and firm, brown potatoes. They all went into the fridge as soon as I got home, to keep them as fresh as possible. I made two apple pies and put them in there, too.  

The next day we worked in the yard, making it look as good as possible for the family’s visit. My husband mowed the lawn and we arranged the furniture on the patio so we’d be able to sit outside after dinner. When we were finished, my husband went off to visit with the neighbors. I got the roast out of the refrigerator and unwrapped it. It was at that moment I discovered, to my dismay, that I didn’t have a pan large enough to hold it.  

I’ll make a quick run to Wanda’s, I thought, as I headed for the front door. I’m sure she’ll have a big roasting pan. She’s always having company for dinner.  

Wanda, about 15 years older than I, lived two doors from us and I often borrowed things from her. Sure enough, she had a big pan I could use. I took it and dashed back to my house, anxious to get the meat in the oven. 

In my kitchen once again, I washed the pan out, set it upside down to drain and reached for the roast. But there was no roast on the counter. I could have sworn I had left it there, sitting on paper towels. I looked in the refrigerator. No roast. I looked in the garbage. Yes, the butcher paper the roast had been wrapped in was there. But where was the roast? As I stood, puzzling over how 10 pounds of meat could fly out of my kitchen, a movement in the back yard caught my eye. I half laughed, half cried at what I saw. There was Ruff, our dinner roast in his teeth, chowing down for what must have been his answered prayer, his dream meal come true.  

“Ruff,” I yelled at him. “Put that down.”  

I ran out and took the meat from his jaws. I inspected the damage. I wondered how I was going to tell my husband’s midwestern family, used to having meat three times a day, that this would be a vegetarian dinner. Ruff watched me with disappointed, accusatory eyes as I brought the roast, covered with bits of grass and dog slobbers, bits of paper towel still clinging to it, back into the kitchen. It doesn’t look so bad for all that, I decided as I gave it a good inspection. Only a small bit shows signs of being chewed on. If I wash this off, no one will know its history and the story of its rescue. Plus, I rationalized further, the oven temperature will be hot enough to kill any dog germs.  

So that’s what I did. I washed the roast carefully, getting all the grass off, turned the oven up high and stuck the meat in.  

Everyone said it was a delicious dinner. And when they commented on how tender the roast was, I kept my eyes lowered and said, “Thank you.” I never told anyone about my secret meat tenderizing method. And Ruff didn’t say a word, either. 




Supermarket Love By JUDY WELLS

Friday December 30, 2005

Last week at Whole Foods 

as I was reaching 

into the refrigerated shelves 

for the coldest tofu 

with the most future 

expiration date 

a yellow gloved hand 

from the other side 

laid itself on mine. 

I nearly jumped a mile. 

“Oh sorry!” said a woman’s voice 

from the other side. 

A man behind me laughed. 


This week as I walked by 

the same tofu 


I heard a disembodied voice 

from the other side say, 

“I needed you, 

and you have never 

been there 

for me once.” 

“Yes, I have,” 

I wanted to protest. 

“Last week!” 


Elderly Woman Arrested in West Berkeley Shooting By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 30, 2005

A 78-year-old Berkeley woman was arrested early last Friday morning after she allegedly shot another woman in the abdomen near the corner of Sacramento and Russell streets. 

Police dispatchers received a call reporting the shooting at 4:49 a.m., and arrived to find the 36-year-old victim suffering from a minor wound. She was taken to the Highland Hospital emergency room in Oakland, where she was treated and released. 

Police arrested Ruth May Thomas on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon—a .32-caliber revolver—and two related charges. She was taken to a psychiatric hospital for observation, then transferred to the Santa Rita County Jail in Dublin. 

“She just walked up and shot this younger girl and we still don’t know why,” said Officer Shira Warren, the Berkeley Police Department’s acting public information officer. 

Thomas was arraigned on one count of assault with a deadly weapon on Thursday the 29th, along with two so-called enhancements that can lead to a more severe sentence—use of a firearm in commission and causing great bodily injury, said Alameda County prosecutor Chris Lamiero.  

The alleged shooter has no known criminal record, said Lamiero. 

Column: The Public Eye: Ten Christmas Wishes By Bob Burnett

Friday December 30, 2005

Dear Santa, 

Here are 10 political wishes that you can grant and make my Christmas.  


10. Come out of hiding, Al Gore. The Democratic Party needs you as their environmental spokesperson. After Hurricane Katrina, and the other disastrous storms of 2005, the American people don’t have to be convinced that there’s a problem with global climate change. They need to know what to do. You understand this. Your speech, “When there is no vision, the people perish,” was a superb first step. Al, you can provide the leadership that the party and the nation need to deal with this peril. Come out, come out, wherever you are. 


9. Let go, John Kerry. You’re acting out the lyrics from Lucinda Williams’ song, “Well it’s over, I know it, but I can’t let go.” You lost your bid for the presidency. You couldn’t defeat an inept president who made one disastrous mistake after another. It’s over. Quit acting as if you’re the leader of the Democratic Party. You aren’t even the leader of the Senate minority. You had your chance. Please don’t run again. Let go, John. 

8. Get a job, Bill Clinton. Charging thousands of dollars for inspirational speeches isn’t a real job. It’s celebrity fluff. How about taking on a challenge? Rebuild your reputation by making a contribution that will strengthen America. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina left a mess that the Bush administration is unwilling to clean up. America needs the kind of leadership that you can provide. Move to New Orleans. Become our champion for the reconstruction. Bring us together. Take on a real job, Bill. It’s way too early for you to retire to a life of Oprah appearances and golf. 


7. Get out, Joe Lieberman. The Democratic Party has a big tent but no more room for you. Either quit backing President Bush and blasting your fellow Dems, or leave the party. You’re worse than an irritant. You are an embarrassment. Your statements seem scripted by Karl Rove. You’re not a “centrist” Dem. You are a Republican. Get out of the party, Joe. 


6. Get a grip, Hillary Clinton. It’s time for you to quit being coy about your position on Iraq. The Democratic Party needs leadership in 2006 and you can provide it. You have an easy re-election campaign for the Senate. No harm will come to you by taking a strong position on Iraq. Support John Murtha’s position. America needs a leader not another fundraiser-in-chief. Get a grip, Hillary. 


5. Leave town, Howard Dean. You’ve heard it said, “they can take the boy out of the country, but they can’t take the country out of the boy.” That’s the problem with your new job as DNC chair. It keeps you in Washington when you really should be working full-time with grass-roots activists. The heart of the party isn’t in D.C. It’s in the rest of the country—the sane part. There’s a lot of anger out here in the boonies. It needs to be harnessed. You can provide this leadership. Get out of D.C. town, Howard. 


4. Get an agenda, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. A laundry list of scintillating ideas isn’t an agenda—it’s detritus from brainstorming sessions conducted by overpaid Washington consultants. The country needs a few clear notions about who Democrats are. Help us out. What do the Dems stand for besides not being Bushites? Get a real agenda, Nancy and Harry. 


3. Convert to Christianity, George Bush. Abandon the fundamentalist pabulum you’ve been spouting—the “Weekly Reader” summary of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelations. Read the Gospels. Pay attention to the teachings of Jesus: The admonition to tell the truth. Not to murder. To care for the poor. Step into the light, George. Before it’s too late for you to save your soul. 


2. Pay attention, Congress. While you’re obsessed with garnering the next big contribution, the country is going down the drain. There’s this guy Osama bin Laden and his band of thugs, Al Qaeda. While you’re wasting our money on a pointless war in Iraq, they’re gaining momentum. By the way, the people down in New Orleans who got left behind in the flight from Hurricane Katrina are still left behind. One more thing, there’s this country named China. They’re about to eat our lunch. Do your job, Congress. Pay attention. 


1. Wake up, America. Democracy isn’t a spectator sport. Eternal vigilance isn’t a video game. Everything you really care about is slipping away. It’s not just about you. It’s about your family and friends—everyone you love. Wake up, America, the bad guys are winning. 


Thanks Santa. If you grant my wishes I promise to be good for at least a week. 



Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and activist. He can be reached at bobburnett@comcast.net. 



Column: The View From Here: Tookie and Tina: A Christmas Carol By P.M. Price

Friday December 30, 2005

“That’s the way the Tookie crumbles,” jokes KGO’s Pete Wilson on his San Francisco-based radio show the day before Stanley Tookie Williams is scheduled to die. Upon hearing Wilson’s snide, callous attempt at humor, I am incensed. Even if considered guilty, as Wilson believes him to be, does that make Williams undeserving of even the most basic courtesy and respect as he faces the last few hours of his life? 

One reason it was so easy for so many not to feel any sympathy for Stanley Williams was due to the limited range of media images depicting a huge, glaring black man with bulging hair and even bigger biceps. There were no photographs of the child Tookie or of the misdirected teenager who formed a gang. No words or pictures of his wife, children, siblings, parents, grandparents; nothing to even remotely imply that we could have anything in common with this dark, hulking monster of a man. The Tookie photos brought to mind the purposely darkened Time magazine cover of the accused O.J. Simpson. I suppose the thinking was that the darker a black man’s skin, the scarier he is and more deserving of harsh judgment and severe punishment.  

American corporate media—which controls most of what we see, hear and read—tells us who we should care about and who should remain invisible; whose disappearance, rape or murder is noteworthy and whose is not worth mentioning; who we should laugh at; who we should feel sorry for; who we should love; who we should hate and even who should be paired with whom.  

It defines what the so-called majority thinks and therefore how we should think as well. If there are dissenters among us, they are usually painted as unpatriotic, crazy or so marginal that they should not even matter. The media also dictates who is attractive and who isn’t; it doesn’t matter whether the blond hair, big breasts and swollen lips are real or fake—it’s all about the visuals, baby. It’s all about what corporate America believes sells more products. In this consumer-driven society, image is everything. 

Which brings me to a woman I’ll call Tina, my family’s sole dinner guest at this season’s Christmas dinner. Tina was a neighbor many years ago, with a factory job and a family. One day the factory let her go and part of her mind went with the lost job. Unable to keep up with the mortgage payments, she eventually lost her home. Her family dispersed and she took to the streets, living in her car and taking care of the lawns of her former neighbors, including mine.  

Tina is a small-framed woman, a bit scruffy but clean. A red kerchief frames her smooth, youthful brown skin. Beneath her worried expression her features are delicate: you can see that she was once quite beautiful. It’s not difficult to imagine her laughing, flirting, having a good old time within a circle of friends: home at last from a hard days’ work; ready to eat, drink and play a rousing hand of gin rummy or dance to Martha and the Vandellas blasting from the radio. 

This Tina, grey-haired, brown-toothed Gardener Tina, is rarely without her favorite words of wisdom, dispensed with the turning of soil, the trimming of dead branches.  

“Vitamin C! That’s what you need. 2,000 grams. Every day. Cures everything you got.” 

As I trudged past Tina on Christmas Eve and headed up my front steps, arms laden with groceries, she asked me, “Are you-all cooking Christmas dinner tomorrow?” 

“Yes,” I replied, wondering what she was really asking. As I continued to the door she let me know. 

“Can I come by for a plate?” 

“Yes, of course,” I replied, immediately feeling guilty that I had not offered first. 

When my children learned that Tina was joining us for Christmas dinner, they were not thrilled. “What’s wrong?” I inquired. They shrugged. “I just don’t feel comfortable around her,” said one. “She smells funny,” said the other.  

“You kids need to be more welcoming,” I admonished. “You know Tina. It’s not like she’s going to hurt you or anything.” 

“Yeah,” my son agreed. “But she talks about all this weird stuff.”  

Yeah. She does. 

“We have eight personalities and two hearts,” Tina announces between the last spoon of gumbo and the first forkful of turkey. “One good heart and one that’s wicked...” 

My kids exchange glances. Here we go... 

“There are four blood types in the whole world,” Tina goes on. 

“I have type O,” I contribute. 

“There are four blood types,” she repeats, glaring at me for interrupting her. “And each type has a positive side and...” 

“I’m O positive,” I insert. She glances at me, incredulous at this second interruption. 

“And each blood type has a positive side and a wicked side,” she finishes with a flourish. 

“Oh.” One by one, my family members finish their meal and mumble their “excuse me’s” leaving me at the table to deal with Tina alone. So much for their Christmas lesson in charity and compassion. They’ve got new iPods waiting. 

Tina follows me into the kitchen, talking along while I wash the dishes. 

“I didn’t want to say this in front of the kids,” Tina confides conspiratorially, “but if your pubic area is thumping then you need to have sex. It relieves this area right here ... in the back of your head, of stress.” 

She gestures to the area between the back of her head and neck. 

“That’s why homosexuals aren’t meant to have sex because their kind of sex doesn’t relieve the stress in back of the head right.”  

“You mean they’re under a lot of stress? Maybe they should have more sex, then.” 

This remark of hers calls for some clarification. 

“No, no,” Tina shakes her head. “What they need to do is to take more Vitamin C.” 


“And one more thing,” she cautions me. “If your pubic area is thumping it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have sex. It means you’re lucky and should be at the casino ... it happened to me...” 

“You won some money?” I ask. 

“No, I didn’t play but they called my number and I would’ve won,” she laughs. 

“And I want to tell you about Stanley Tookie Williams,” Tina says, abruptly changing subjects. “He was innocent. And now he’s in heaven. He’s just fine.” 

“Why do you think they killed him?” I ask, curious about how much she knew about the case. 

“What about all those white men who raped and killed little girls, cut their heads open and even ate people? They didn’t kill them!” (Actually, it is interesting to note that Williams was not executed for killing any black folks.) 

Tina is hot. “They’re still following slavery,” she says, adamantly. “They haven’t let go of slavery!” 


What do we believe about the homeless people who populate our communities? That they are lazy or drug and alcohol addicted? That they should have tried harder? That it is somehow their fault that they are without homes, adequate food and clothing? Or just that they smell bad and shouldn’t be invited to dinner? How do we judge them? And how would we like to be judged? 

This is the most time I’ve spent talking with Tina. It was interesting and she could be quite amusing, sometimes intentionally so. Apparently she reads a lot and keeps up with current events. I wonder if Tina votes? 

I’ll ask her tomorrow when she comes back for seconds. 


A Guide to Bay Area New Year’s Eve Celebrations By KEN BULLOCK Special to the Planet

Friday December 30, 2005

A plethora of local and internationally known favorites will ring in 2006 around Berkeley and the bay, with an array of festivities to choose from: nostalgia to glitz, humor to hillbilly music, jazz to DJs, cruise to battle ships, circus to Japanese bell-ringing. Prices also vary from high ticket extravagance, to high or low culture on the cheap, or for free.  

Among the free events is San Francisco Chamber Orchestra’s concert with special guests, the Jacques Thibaud String Trio from Berlin, 8 p.m. at the First Congregational Church on Channing Way. Dedicated to the late Edgar Braun, SFCO director for over 40 years, the program will begin the group’s 53rd season with works by Mozart, variations on Mozart’s “La Ci la Mana” from Don Giovanni by Beethoven and Franz Danzi, and 20th century music by Jean Francaix and Osvaldo Golijov (an homage to Astor Piazzola). Like the majority of SFCO concerts, admission is free; reserved seating available for associate members. For more information, call (415) 248-1640 or see www.sfchamberorchestra.org. 

At the more lavish end of the scale, the San Francisco Symphony (415-552-8000) hosts a formal party at Davies Hall, with performances by Broadway stars Christiane Noll, Doug LaBrocque and William Michals, with dancing before and after to The Martini Bros, Peter Mintun’s Orchestra and Soul University. 

A New Year’s bash in the Berlin of the Weimar Republic, onstage and off, will be featured by the Shotgun Players in a special performance of Cabaret at the Ashby Stage (841-6500), followed by a dance and holiday partying. The musical spotlights a New Year’s countdown in the Kit Kat Klub on the brink of the end to the Roaring ‘20s. The spirited cast interacts with the audience throughout, and shares the dance floor with them in all-out “carpe diem” style. 

Cabaret, pure and simple, will be served up royally in San Francisco when Lorna Luft plays The Plush Room (415-885-2800), and Weslia Whitfield holds forth with Mike Greensill at the piano at The New Conservatory Theater (415-861-8972), Van Ness and Market. 

Jazz will ring in the new at many clubs and restaurants around the Bay, including the David Jeffrey Fourtet at the Albatross Pub (843-2473) on San Pablo Avenue near University ($7), and in San Francisco at Pearl’s (415-291-8255) with Kim Nalley. The Richard Harris Trio will play on Pier 23 (415-362-5125). Dixieland will resound in North Beach with Mal Sharpe at Enrico’s (415-982-6223) and as part of an all-day New Orleans Carnival at Andrew Jaeger’s House of Seafood and Jazz (415-781-8222) in the old Condor ($5-25). Yoshi’s (238-9200) at Jack London Square in Oakland will host Latin master trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. 

Jesus Diaz and His Bay Area AfroCuban Allstars will fuel the dancing at La Peña (849-2568) on Shattuck Avenue ($25). For Blues, R&B and Funk, the reopened Eli’s Mile High Club (654-6124) in Oakland features Baron Edwards’ Motown Revue ($10), while nearby Jimmie’s (268-8445) has Disco Dave and Don Mitchell ($20-30). In San Francisco, North Beach’s oldest boite, The Saloon (415-989-7666) hosts old pro Curtis Lawson ($10), while Biscuits ‘n Blues puts up “Godson of Soul” Marvin Banks, an Afrofunk Shakedown at The Elbo Room (415-552-7788), and Oscar Myers & Steppin’ at The Boom Boom Room (415-861-5016).  

Freight and Salvage (548-1761) celebrates with Bluegrass faves High Country ($27.50) and San Francisco’s Cafe Du Nord (415-861-5016) has a Super Hillbilly Hoedown ($20). Good old Rock-&-Roll, Folk and related beats at the Starry Plough (841-2082) on Shattuck with Dave Mo’re & The Bluesdrivers and The Happy Clams ($8). Blakes (848-0886) on Telegraph will feature a Medicine Show (four bands, “belly dancers, fortune tellers and other oddities” $15). Meanwhile, Phil Lesh and the John Mayer Trio will be at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (415-974-4060), while innovators The Mermen celebrate their 10th New Year’s at the Beach Chalet (415-386-8439) for $25 a ticket. 

Decadenal nostalgia flowers in ‘80s fashion in San Francisco’s SOMA as the Cherry Bar (415-974-1585) features “New Wave Eve” with DJs and live music ($25), while a few blocks away, “1984” at The Cat Club (415-703-8964) offers all that plus a “classic 80s video game arcade” ($30-$25 in ‘80’s wear). 

For the ultimate holiday nostalgia, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas will stage its final night at The Orpheum (415-512-7770). 

The Glitz is out with SOMA’s Levende (415-864-5585) transforming into Sin City with “Vegas, Baby!” featuring lounge comics, showgirls (The Blackjack Girls), dead celebrity lookalike appearances (Elvis, Liberace, Siegfried & Roy, The Rat Pack), DJs and live music and something not off the Strip: nouvelle cuisine and a complimentary champagne or Red Bull toast. The Rat Pack is re-enacted in The Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey and Dean, created by Sandy Hackett, Buddy’s son, at the Post St. Theatre (1-800-348-8499). A stranger, more recent nostalgia fuels “New Year’s Eve On Fantasy Island” with hosts Cody The Pimp and Bobby Montalban at the Castro’s Lingba Lounge (415-355-0001). 

Celebrations get out on the water with a romantic cruise under the fireworks aboard the S.F. Spirit (415-453-9001) from Pier 9, or on the USS Hornet (521-8448) at Alameda Point, with swing-dancing to Cab Calloway’s Orchestra, zoot suits and military apparel encouraged.  

The Pickle Family Circus presents an afternoon family show of “High Water Radio” at the Palace of Fine Arts (415-567-6642)—which later that night will feature Comedy Countdown, headlining Mark Cross. Other comedy shows include Black Comedy Explosion with D. I. Hughley and others at the Oakland Paramount (763-7308) and Marga Gomez and Nick Leonard at the Mission’s Victoria Theatre (415-581-3500) with “Stand-Up At Its Gayest,” produced by Theater Rhino. 

The 10th annual Japanese Bell-Ringing ceremony will take place at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum (415-863-7576) from 11 a.m.-1 p. m. to ring out the old in Buddhist style, with bamboo flute playing, children’s arts and crafts, and ceremonies ($6-10). A quick search didn’t turn up any Scottish Hogmanay celebration (no Robert Burns? No “Auld Lang Syne,” nor haggis?)—though San Francisco’s Edinburgh Castle (415-885-4074) cheerfully reports that it’ll be open, tuneful and free. 

Many clubs, restaurants and bars everywhere will be featuring some kind of celebration, cheap or for free. But a special mention goes to the Stork Club (444-6174) on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, which last week advertising being “Open For Suggestions” and, on being asked midweek who was on for New Year’s, announced, “Nobody—and it’s free!” 





Forty Years of Donovan By Patrick T. Keilch

Friday December 30, 2005

Just in time for the December holidays and the New Year, musical troubadour Donovan is releasing The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man.  

The 288-page book with many photos, published by St. Martin’s Press, very personally chronicles the 59-year life and times of Donovan. He tells many colorful stories and thoughts from growing up in a hard working-class neighborhood of Glasglow, Scotland, as it recovered from heavy Nazi bombing in World War II, to performing on the world musical stage beginning at age 18 in the mid-1960s. 

The autobiography is also accompanied by the release of a new deluxe box set of three CDs and one DVD entitled “Try for the Sun.” Both are available at local stores. 

The new book and boxed set help celebrate the 40th anniversary of Donovan’s musical career which began in 1965 when he sang “Catch the Wind” on a London TV show. Donovan was initially known as a folk singer, influenced by artists such as Woody Guthrie, while the influence of British bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and American folk artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez was spreading widely. 

In addition to his new book and package of music and film, Donovan also kicked off the holiday season and his new “Hurdy Gurdy Concert Tour” with a Bay Area concert on Thanksgiving eve. 

Introduced as a Celtic poet at the concert, Donovan Leitch, a child of the British Isles, grew up in Scotland, moved to London with his family, and later settled in rural Ireland. Playing to an enthusiastic audience at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, Donovan treated the audience to a wide variety of some of his 1960s hits such as “Catch the Wind,” “Colours,” “Sunshine Superman,” “Mellow Yellow,” “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” “There is a Mountain,” the dramatic “Atlantis” as well as diverse songs he has penned and performed in the decades since. 

Several of these songs were among the 15 top hit songs Donovan wrote from the 1960s to the 1970s. His songs are notable for their mix of message, bohemian atmosphere, humor, romance, and the mystical. 

One timely song sung by Donovan at the Bay Area event, enthusiastically applauded and cheered by the audience, was “Universal Soldier,” for which Donovan warmly credited its author, Native American folk singer Buffy St. Marie. Recalling the Vietnam war in the 1960s, when “Universal Solider” was popular, Donovan noted that the song’s powerful anti-war lyrics are still highly relevant to the wars of today. 

Born in 1946, Donovan looked fit and healthy at the Bay Area concert, as he continues his 40-year musical career. To the degree appearance matters, he wore a simple peach-colored shirt, black slacks, and white shoes, much more simple than in past years—but still had long hair. 

With the style of a poet, Donovan introduced songs, made amusing observations, and told colorful tales throughout much of the show. He was backed by a solid four-piece band of a lead guitarist, acoustic bassist, drummer, and piano player who occasionally jazzed songs up with a smokey saxophone. An acoustic string trio joined in at times. The band members were all from the Bay Area and, along with Donovan, had the audience standing and singing along by the end of the 40th anniversary concert. 


Arts Calendar

Friday December 30, 2005



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.  

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.  

Paul Mooney, “The Full Moon” comedy, at The Black Rep, 3201 Adleine St. For ticket information call 652-2120. www.blackrepertorygroup.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 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.  


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 

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



“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 

Barbara Linn at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Ellen Hoffman Trio and singer’s open mic at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 



Courtableu at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

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

Franchise at 8:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

Calvin Keys Trio Invitational Jam at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Whiskey Brothers at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Ahmad Jamal at 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $18-$24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



John Oliver Simon at 7 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 17. 

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


Emam & Friends at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Irene Sazer’s Real Vocal String Quartet at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Fourtet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is. $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Silver Fox Trio, jazz, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Guitar Summit with Will Bernard, Paul Mehling and Ken Emerson at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Ahmad Jamal at 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $18-$24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“Walkin’ Talkin’ Bill Hawkins ... In Search of My Father” performed by W. Allen Taylor at 7 p.m. at the Marsh-Berkeley, 2118 Allston Way. Tickets are $15-$22. 800-838-3006. 

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


Luthier’s An exhibtion of tradition guitar and ukulele making at the Addison Street Windows Gallery, 2018 Addison St., through Jan. 15. 981-7533. 


“A Journey to Sacred Places” with photographer Jasper Johal at 6 p.m. at Studio Rasa, 933 Parker St. 843-2787. 


Dance Production 2006 at 8 p.m. at Florence Schwimley Little Theater, Allston Way. Tickets are $5 students, $10 adults. 

Freddie Roulette & Friends, blues, funk, at 9 p.m. at Baltic Square Pub, 135 Park Pl., Pt. Richmond. 527-4782. 

Choz & The ChoZen Music Fam at 9 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $8-$10. 848-0886.  

Susan Muscarella Quartet at 8 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $10-$15. 701-1787. 

Lua at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Steve Gannon Blue Monday Band at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $7. 841-JAZZ.  

Raw Deluxe, Psychokinetics, Mickey Avalon at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low. Cost is $5-$8. 548-1159.  

Opie Bellas Quartet at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Grapefruit Ed at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Houston Jones at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Mike Marshall & Chris Thile, mandolin at 8 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761.  

Stephen Yerkey and Kurt Huget at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Municipal Waste, Bury the Living, Killed in Action at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

Ahmad Jamal at 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $18-$24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 


Plant Seeds Are a Letter of Life to the Future By RON SULLIVAN Special to the Planet

Friday December 30, 2005

Our vegetable love would grow 

Vaster than empires and more slow. 


Andrew Marvell was making a counter-example when he wrote those lines to his coy mistress. His point was that, being mere humans, members of the animal realm, we have only a short time to do what we want to, given even the classical three-score-and-ten years to live. We’re on the long-lived end for mammals ourselves; most of the best-known prodigies of animal longevity are herps like tortoises or fish like certain carp—and there’s evidence that some small, unprepossessing North American freshwater shellfish might persist in their quiet ways for a century or two.  

In fact, we have mammals around us who are effectively annuals—some shrews, especially the males, who run around in a frenzy of competing and courting and mating as soon as they reach maturity, and then drop dead. There are fish who don’t do much better, and of course lots of invertebrates with several generations in a year. In that, they share the strategy of some plants, who grow, flower, set seed, and wither all in the course of a year or a season. Such plants tend to be small and showy—they invest more in flash than substance. 

No animal approaches, in a single life, the record of the plants who use the other strategy: long, slow growth. (I’m assuming we’re not quite at the point of counting fungi as animals, though they seem closer and closer relatives, the longer we look at the structure of the cladistic tree of life.) The redwoods up- and downcoast live for centuries; there are bristlecone pines in the White Mountains older than any religion I know of, never mind mere nations; there’s a humble ringclone of creosote bush down in the desert northeast of Los Angeles that experts are saying is between 9,400 and 11,000 years old.  

A creosote ringclone forms when the plant, in its usual habit, bends its growing stem to the ground and takes root again where it touches. Eventually the oldest section dies off, and the new part of the plant keeps going in the same way. As multiple stems work thus, each leaning a little away from the rest, you get a circle of the new plant tissue around a center of its own dead wood. It’s still all the same plant. 

Ancient-growing trees like redwood use reproductive strategies closer to those of turtles than to the styles we sort-of-slow mammals use. Rather than investing lots of energy in a few offspring who will, we hope, also live long and prosper, they scatter millions of seeds in thousands of cones regularly over the course of their long lives. Of course, most of those seeds don’t grow up to match their parents, becoming instead part of the economy of the forest or desert that supports and is supported by the matriarch plants.  

But there’s one advantage we mammals can’t hope to have without some technology further advanced that we’ve ever managed. Plant seeds can “live”—or maintain their potential to grow—for very long times. National Geographic News published an item last November by John Roach, an account of the successful germination of one of several date palm seeds found in the ruins of Masada. The seeds have been carbon-dated to be about 2,000 years old. 

Roach talked to a researcher in November: “‘It’s 80 centimeters [three feet] high with nine leaves, and it looks great,’ said Sarah Sallon, director of the Hadassah Medical Organization’s Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center in Jerusalem.” She’d asked a desert agriculture specialist, Elaine Solowey, to try germinating a few of the unearthed seeds. Planted on the holiday Tu B’shevat, the trees’ New Year, one of them had sprouted and produced felty gray, then healthy-looking green leaves. It remains to be seen whether the tree is a male or a fruit-bearing female. It is apparently a member of a species or cultivar wiped out completely by 500CE.  

This is a domestic plant, and extreme, but wild trees can keep their seeds dormant for decades. Sometimes they wait for a fire to open their cones and slap the seeds awake; sometimes they sleep in some critter’s forgotten food cache until water stirs them. But to a being who might live a thousand years, such a time capsule, a letter to the future, probably looks more ordinary than it can to the fast and flashy likes of us. 



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

About the House: If the Shower Scalds With Each Flush By MATT CANTOR

Friday December 30, 2005

A man showers happily. He is singing to himself. Not bellowing, but really singing. It’s a torch song … no, it’s Donovan. “Mellow Yellow” I think. He’s smiling. He’s soapy. Suddenly a shadow falls across the shower curtain, a figure looms, then a sound, Ahh … Ahh … Ahh … He screams, backing away ... He screams, scalded by the remaining 125-degree water.  


Is this you, my friend? Do you suffer from the desperate plague of those consigned to “old pipe syndrome”? Well, dear reader, there is hope for you. You need not toil in fear any longer. Your marriage can be spared the threat of divorce over the innocent act of draining the bowl, and children need not fear for their allowances. A few minutes with your kindly plumber (twinkling sound) and you can be scorch-free. 

Welcome to the world of galvanized piping. To many of you, this is the real deal. Not all houses with galvanized pipe have this problem, but many do. Let’s take a slightly less silly look at the above problem. When flow through a piping system is impeded, the flushing of a toilet steals both pressure and cold water. This drops flow and also changes the balance of hot and cold pressures for a short while, resulting in the showering party getting more hot than cold. It can also result in such a loss of pressure that the shower, for all practical purposes, stops flowing. While not the norm, many older houses have this unpleasant condition, and for those who live in those houses (and you know who you are), it’s no fun. This is, of course, not dangerous, and the new homebuyer who figures this out may not prioritize such repairs, placing them in line behind foundation upgrade, seismic retrofitting and a new roof. But it is something that is very worth fixing. It will make life more pleasant and it will surely raise the value of the house.  

Depending on a few factors, this need not be a very complex problem to address. But there are a few things to find out and some notions that you may want to consider prior to hiring a plumber.  

If you’re lucky, you have most or all of your plumbing on one floor with an accessible crawlspace or a basement (best of all) below. If this is the case, the majority of the guilty piping is easily reached and therefore easily replaced. That’s right, we’re going to replace it. Yes, there are methods for flushing out old piping, but I would urge you to choose replacement instead. The primary reason is that flushing systems still leave you with relatively small pipe interior diameters as well as piping that has a lot of friction and piping that’s destined to corrode internally again.  

Unlike copper, galvanized piping rusts. It also grabs minerals and holds them internally, gradually becoming encrusted until it looks like the inside of a cave. In fact, if you cut out a foot-long section of old corroded “galvy,” you probably won’t be able to see from one end to the other, even though there may be a quarter-inch opening at either end, since this passage will not be uniform and the water has to find its way through the twists and turns created by the uneven build-up. This is part of why water flows so poorly through old galvanized pipe.  

Also, older houses are usually piped in 1/2” galvanized with 3/4” being used only for the main trunks on houses from the ‘40s or later. If your entire house is piped in 1/2”, that’s at least a part of your problem. Your plumber will probably want to re-pipe using 3/4” for at least the main trunk or manifold lines and 1/2” for the final branches only. These will be the lines that lead to the sink, the toilet and so forth. 

If you’re trying to make the pennies squeak, here’s a strategy you might employ. Try replacing only those lines you can reach in your basement or subfloor area (crawlspace). I also suggest you replace as much of the main as you can easily reach. If you do these portions, you might find that things are good enough to live with for quite a while. If you do this, it’s very important to keep your new copper (the only kind of piping I recommend for water systems) separated from the old galvy by use of some sort of “di-electric union.”  

Here’s the problem: If you take a piece of steel and a piece of copper and connect them and stick the opposing ends of each into water or into the ground, you’ll make a battery. This means that one of the metals is going to become a “sacrificial anode” and that anode is the steel. The battery gradually takes the steel apart one molecule at a time. Inside your pipes, this also means that those stolen ions leave sites where minerals bond, and so you have both destruction of the original pipe and the arteriole sclerosis that makes your plumbing exasperating. 

Here’s how this gets remedied in this “partial” upgrade: Having removed all the galvanized that can easily be reached, a long nipple of brass is inserted into a female fitting of galvanized (a brass coupling is even better). I suggest that at least six inches of brass be used at each contact point. This will inhibit the di-electric effect and protect the old galvized portions which remain. Copper can then be “sweat” or soldered together to replace the missing piping. Remember to use at least 3/4” for all major lines that serve multiple functions. The line to a single fixture can be 1/2” if it’s not extremely long. You can also simplify your piping system at this time. Many old system are unnecessarily circuitous or poorly routed. 

This is also a great time to add the oft-missing main water valve at the front of the house. It’s best if it’s on the outside at a spot that is easy to find and operate. On many older houses these valves are missing or located in places that are hard to reach, and installation of one can help minimize the effects of a gushing leak by making it easy to get to and use. 

While you’re there, you may want to add a pressure-reducing valve. This might sound silly given what we’re trying to achieve, but high pressure increases the likelihood of a damaging flood, even when water flow seems poor. Have your plumber test your line pressure (this is a function of the utility company’s equipment and you have no control over it, except to reduce it on your own home). If the pressure is high (80 is the upper threshold but anything over 100 is getting serious), adding a pressure reducing valve is a great idea and doesn’t cost much (the part is about $100-$150). 

And remember, in the mean time, it really isn’t funny flushing the toilet while your wife is in the shower. 


Ask Matt

Friday December 30, 2005

Dear Matt, 

I enjoyed your article in the Nov. 25 East Bay Home & Real Estate. I wish you titled the article “A Short Course in Tragedy for the Inexperienced Architect.” You cite some excellent examples of the pitfalls of our profession and as such, many architects get a bad rap due to shoddy work by our peers or lack of attention to detail or the inability to provide basic professional service to our clients. I am now nearing 20 years in the business and I’ve seen all of those horrors you mention and more. 

I’m not sure that the rules of the game place an enormous emphasis on “A”rchitecture so much as the emphasis on the bottom line. We are always rushed to do the work, but our firm will always set aside the time to review each others work which results in a thorough and, more importantly, a well coordinated set of documents. The cost of errors and omissions is too high to not do a peer review, and as I tell my colleagues, it helps everyone continue to get better because we are focusing on finding the missing pieces, and then passing it along as knowledge from each others experience in the tradition of the Intern/Mentor relationship that is the foundation of our profession. It sounds corny, but because we are diligent about it, I sleep well at night. 

There are plenty of architects out there doing shoddy work. Earlier in my career, when I was an intern, I was told to release drawings that were not reviewed by my employer prior to going to bid. That is not to say that the design was not code compliant and safe, but the resulting change orders during construction because of notes such as “TBD” or “VIF”....well we verified, and it won’t fit! See what I mean...the bottom line and compressed schedules have great impact on a project and it is up to the professional to diligently schedule their time and their staffs’ time to maintain project deadlines & quality control from day one. 

In closing, I agree that on most projects, except for the most high profile buildings, cheapness wins. Cheapworld, USA, my home town, and yours too, but need we accept it? I’m working hard to change it by closely managing our aspect of the project, though once the construction starts it’s mostly up to the builder...maybe you can do a follow up story about the fresh high school graduate (or not) doing waterproofing work on his 61st of 200 track homes being built somewhere in Cheapworld titled “A short Course in Tragedy for the Young Contractor”! 

Paul McKenzie  

San Francisco  


Dear Paul, 

I’ve been picking on contractors all years. It was time to take a shot at the “A”rchitecture world. Contractors are, after all, expected to follow the instructions of the architects and the bar should be at its highest when the plans are drawn, assuming that it will sag quite a bit during the following exercises (commonly known as construction). I genuinely feel that the architect should try and include as many specific details as they possibly can in their drawings despite the great likelihood that there will be a range of changes as work proceeds and including the reality that some of the details simply won’t work. The more you try and conceive and plan, the better you end up. I agree that cheapness is much more the problem than the artistic aspiration, but I do think that the latter plays a role in the former. If there were less of an effort to appear as bold, new and thrilling, there might be more energy spent on making thing work well and last. One man’s opinion. 

I’ve very grateful for your response and hope you’ll keep reading. I’m sure that you’re part of the solution and not part of the problem. 

Best of luck, 

Matt Cantor 


Garden Variety: Winter Is a Good Time to Choose Seeds for Planting By RON SULLIVAN

Friday December 30, 2005

Winter’s a good time to ponder seeds as well as books. The local world’s way of bestirring itself and greening up has a way of urging us hairless, featherless bipeds indoors to be warm and dry; most of us like being cold and soaked to—or through—the skin rather less than seeds and bulbs and roots do. And the gray skies of today make us gloomy if we can’t stir up our own knowledge that they contain possibilities for tomorrow. 

Seeds are an intellectual gift, unlikely-looking little bits of matter that take the classical elements around us and turn them into sweet substance. It’s never too late to plant something here, and never wrong to think about what we’re going to plant next. Salad greens and potherbs and even natives now; early veggies soon; summer produce in a couple of months. Take advantage of that January-February warm spell we usually get.  

If you plant from seed, you can get varieties that aren’t usually to be found in nurseries, even the best ones. Most big nurseries offer ever-new hybrids, as fashions in flowers and foliage are getting as evanescent as clothing, car, or electronics fads are. Our thirst for novelty’s a good thing, but nobody’s experience is so broad that we can’t find something new that’s old, too. 

Traditional open-pollinated seeds are an investment. They more readily breed true, that is, bear seeds that will grow into something very close to their parents, than “modern” hybrids. As the fashion for heirloom tomatoes and lately other produce—apples, beans—has demonstrated, there are culinary adventures to be had in older varieties that were bred for flavor rather than shipping strength. (Remember the square tomato? What ever happened to that little stunt of technology?) 

For gardens right here in the Bay Area, the Ecology Center hosts the seed collection of BASIL, the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library. You can “check out” a batch of seeds by filling out a membership application and promising to grow them out and bring some seeds from the resulting plants back in return. Seeds are from local gardeners and farmers who donate some from their favorites, the individuals that grow best in their gardens—and, being locally adapted, QED, are likely to grow well in yours. BASIL generally hosts a seed-swapping party in March, but seeds are available for check-out all year. E-mail basil@ecologycenter.org or call the Ecology Center, 548-2220 for open hours. 

To venture further afield, try some seeds from Seed Savers’ Exchange, 3094 North Winn Road, Decorah, Iowa, (563) 382-5990, www.seedsavers.org—just their garlic list will make your mouth water.  

A personal favorite of mine is Native Seeds SEARCH, headquartered at 526 N. 4th Ave., Tucson, Arizona. Call (520) 622-5561, email info@nativeseeds.org or see www.nativeseeds.org for more about this earthly treasure trove. If you think you can grow these desert-adapted varieties, order seeds; if you’re dubious, you can buy their chiles, chile powders, beans, corn, and more.  

You don’t have to be all high-minded to prize the work these folks do. You just need an appetite. 








Friday December 30, 2005

This morning I went to the Lab on Telegraph for a fasting blood test. This means 12 hours of no food, starting, say, at 8 p.m. I get to the lab at 8 a.m. Then, phew, that’s over. I got there at 8:14 a.m. (not bad, eh?). The waiting room was crowded, and only one Blood Tech was on duty. My stomach was grumbling, and I felt like growling along with it. 

Finally, my name was called. I jumped up, as if awakened from a nap. “Come this way, sweetie” said the blood lady. “Sweetie?!!” I thought. “Don’t call me Sweetie.” But I dared not say it aloud. After all, she had the needle. 

I walked all the way to Bancroft, muttering to myself. 

Don’t call me sweetie. I may be old, not tall, gray haired. But I’m not a sweetie. I’m not your child, or your cat, or your parrot. I’m not your lover or your doll. I have a name, I have dignity. Don’t call me Sweetie, or Dear, or Honey, or…. 

Thank goodness. Now that I’m home, I can write it all down. I feel better now, but —  


Hexclusive! GOP, Fortune 500 Battle Over 2006 Hurricane Branding By ARMIN A. LEGDON

Friday December 30, 2005

In a not-so-simple twissssst of fate, the Republican Party and major corporations have joined a mythicky battle over the naming of hurricanes in 2006. Ironically, it would mean the elimination of individual (rugged?) names to identify the late summer and fall big blows. 

It all took off when the U.S. Weather Bureau received a Christmas cash transfer of $100,000 from American Airlines suggesting that next season’s first Atlantic storm be named for the already airborne company. Said a very wet AA flack: “We’d get running mention on every news report. Marketing is working on additional thrusts.” 

When the word got out, and the check had been cashed, other multi-nationals—led by the fleur de oilys from Chevron to Valero—sent their lobbyists flocking to the halls of Congress. This resulted in HR 666 being put into motion, stating that all corporations were welcome to enter the fray—and a total of $3 billion came into play by year’s end.  

The struggle then got complex when all-the-rage, off-the-wall Republican politicians proposed the leaders of the GOP be so “spun in the sky.” Leading the list was the infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff, followed by Bush and Cheney. . .  

A veering moderate faction of the party balked, saying it wanted the hurricanes to be named after 2006 congressional candidates whose campaigns were in jeopardy. Following six years of Republican rape and pillage, such politicos could use all the publicity available, they cried. Consequently, the three groups began fighting amongst themselves, much to the bemusement of the Democrats, who didn’t know what to do. 

However, there were young (Gen Y’erd) Aderall (a latest drug of choice, composed of four time-released methamphetamines—a.k.a. as the “Fantastic Four”) sucking corporate liberals who saw this as an opportunity to shift the agenda by proposing a national lottery in which the people could select a hurricane name from party candidates—ranging from Democratic to Green to Peace & Freedom. . . This democratic process grabbed the excitement of the ever losing left, progressives, whoever, particularly when it was agreed that for $20, folks could get to pick 26 names, from A-Z.  

Democrats filibustered in the House in an attempt to stall the inevitable, even as lottery bucks dribbled into party coffers. At which point, the GOP announced that the dollar be abandoned, and replaced with something called the Reagan Rand, named for Ronald Reagan and arch-conservative icon Ayn Rand. 

Following a watershed year in which hurricanes reached beyond the alphabet into the 30s, 2006 looks like it could find stepped-up manmade global warming mixing even more with the casino economy. This development may even bring back and forward from a previous tempestuous time NomadiKoran chanting Weathermensch, as well as, say, Wobbudhists, Navahopis, Quechecwelch, Ukrainiancestors, Clintonian Croasians, EUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU U.S. isolationist teeny boppers. . .  




Armin A. Legdon, aka Arnie Passman, is a writer, cultural undertaker and executioner living in the prevailing corrosive winds in west central Berkeley.

Beds. Beds. Beds. By MAYA ELMER

Friday December 30, 2005

There’s a whole dictionary of used beds I have tried out for size in my life time. The iron cot in the room I shared with my small sister when I was 5 years old. I dream of a pretty, long, cold snake lying next to me. It wasn’t scary, but that’s what happens to a bed wetter when the sheets are wet in a cold winter morning. Mommy, I really tried to wake up.  

Teenage mattresses slumber on Marthe’s back porch where I see my first northern lights on one hot summer evening in Grosse Pointe. The green-gold ribbons wave; the stars overhead seduce our inane chatter into silence. I hear the distant wailing of trains promising a future for all.  

There’s the bed in Elaine’s guest room, my future mother-in-law’s. She was a nice enough little-old-lady; really old and really little when I knew her. And so was the guest-room bed: really old. The cotton stuffings had suffered so much through the years. Pushed apart by other bodies; where other knees had ground, other heels had pounded. My hips and spine clamber to the edges in the dark to keep from falling into this worn-out trough.  

There’s no ignoring the bed for the poor university student honeymooners: the St. Clair Inn was an old, but well-respected hotel on a Great Lakes beach front. It had class. This room must have been designed as a walk-in closet, for the double bed was pushed against the side and end walls; the door, when opened, touched the end of a dresser. Yes, there was a minuscule bathroom, too.  

We toasted to the taste of vinegary, cheap champagne. The hours of wake and sleep and the thrust of love. Then the desperation-comedy of running out of matches at 3 a.m. The ignominy of his buttoning his tweed raincoat over pajamas to go down to the lobby and get a pack of matches from the ever awake, and no doubt amused, bellboy on duty at the desk. It’s not amazing that I should remember that bed well.  

Are there always old mattresses and box springs hiding in attics to lend? Do they float in some giant airport carousel to be parceled out when a clerk beckons to help out the aspiring lawyer or the writer-to-be? With what signs of relief are these used bed sets dealt from body to body, dreams to dreams ? Do they ever start from new ?  

There was one in the rented apartment in a college town where Mrs. Yarmain and her Armenian flavors rose up the varnished brown stairs to the attic. They say “The first year is the hardest…” Will you believe me if I admit to dragging blankets into the long, old-fashioned bath tub one night of disagreement?  

Another year. Another apartment. This time the bedsprings squeaked, and the bed wobbled. There was no anonymity to our lovemaking for the landlord on the first floor.  

The ones dealt to us in wartime rooms across the U.S.A. were equally the same, but with different bedspreads: Boston, New York, Rhode Island on the East Coast. Alameda, Oakland, and Pacific Grove on the West Coast. Lower berths and upper berths, years and events roll on.  


• • •  

He never said he was ordering twin beds; our verbal jousts continue. I protest at his sailing away on a Saturday morning on his 20-foot sloop while I cope with the children. We are indeed coming apart, but our disagreements don’t seem to solve anything.  

Spring arrived early that year. The gentle pink bloom on the hawthorn tree in the middle of the lawn spoke quietly to the Michigan afternoon breezes. I watched from the second floor, through the tall clerestory window which overlooked the front yard. A Macy’s delivery truck stood in front. Surprise. I hadn’t been to the store for weeks. The delivery men approached. One with papers in his hand: “to deliver twin beds.”  

Shock. I refuse the order. They call the store. I just say, “This has been ordered without my knowledge.” I refuse to accept them. They go back.  

I have no recollection of any discussion we might have had. But it did come up in therapy. The husband, in turn, was shocked that I had turned them back; more at my audacity at confronting his authority. Dr. W. said that was part of our problem: not talking over the decisions to be made.  

What it was: he really wanted to be getting farther and farther away. I was too unknowing of the changes being generated in society to recognize them for what they were. I kept hanging on; wanting to pull together. My father had said to me the morning he left for the summer, “Keep your family together, Mary”—a paternal edict!  

So we ordered a king-sized bed. We met on a lunch hour, one Saturday and bounced on the beds in the store. But that playground of a bed didn’t help either. More and more, I felt less and less together. There was a broken trust like shattered eggshells. There was anger. On one hand my simmering anger and his simmering anger locked together saying, “ Go!” 

His won out. He abandoned me in December at Black Lake, our forest retreat, deep in cold snow drifts. Without a car, 18 miles from town. 

So I bought the new bed for a new house, a new life: a queen-sized bed to hold new dreams and future lovers. ?

A Candle for Cindy By Melanie Wendell

Friday December 30, 2005

A candle defies the darkness, 

The flame a tiny blaze 

Bending, battered by the slightest breeze, 

Brave and wordless, 

With no conscious effort 

Melting solid sturdy wax 

That weeps over its sides 

Silent tears 

Of understanding. 


A candle defies the darkness, 

And sends fear, hatred, ignorance 

Away, to hide in musty corners 

Where the air is thin and lifeless, 

And small minds shudder and grope 

For validation, to believe 

In war, in righteous pride 

And the shimmering ghost 

Of a faithless world. 


A candle defies the darkness, 

And a mother steps into the light 

To ask the question 

Burning in her heart 

Like a wick that won’t be doused, 

Tell me, now, she asks, 

Why did my son die? 

And the corners quake 

In indignation, upholding, defending 

The Lie, in the name of patriotism. 


A candle defies the darkness 

And melts the solid, waxen column 

Of willful, grasping, hopeless faith 

Bestowed upon a cynical man 

Whose determined vow 

To stay the course  

Defies all hope 

Of understanding. 


Friday December 30, 2005

When I turned 50 my mother gave me an heirloom, her mother’s only piece of real jewelry. I was surprised that it had not already been given by seniority to my older sister, Cheryl. The gift was a rose gold ring set with pieces of opal arranged as a blue flower. 

Mom had it cleaned and repaired, then presented it to me for my birthday. I had always admired the ring and I guess she gave it to me because I love history and because I care about family lineage and tradition. I know she wanted to pass on something of significance at that milestone of middle age. It was precious and valuable to her, and I wonder too if she gave it to me so that I could feel something of what she feels for her own mother. 

My mother reveres her mother. She speaks of Minnie Cordts Kuhl as if she were a saint. She always refers to her as “Mama.” Mama was widowed at a young age right before the stock market crash. She was left with three children and a rented farm she couldn’t work. My mother still has the newspaper clippings that advertise the auction held to sell off all of the equipment and farm machinery. My mother was only a baby when her father died needlessly. He was a diabetic traveling without his insulin. One story says that he was on his way to a faith healer and didn’t expect to need this medicine any longer. Another version is that he was visiting the Mayo Clinic in hopes of being cured. But surely the Mayo Clinic would have had insulin on hand. Had he felt he needed some insulin at any point on his journey he could probably have seen a doctor and gotten some. This lends credence to the faith healer story.  

My grandfather is very handsome in his photographs. I know from seeing the resemblance in his other children that he had clear blue eyes that looked far into the distance. My mother’s sister had those eyes. Her sister was six years older and her brother four years older than that. The family stayed in the same small Nebraska farm town with other relatives nearby. They were so poor that my mother had false teeth by the time she was seventeen from lack of dental care. My memories of my grandmother are not the idealized ones that my mother holds dear. 

I cannot recognize the woman my mother describes; she is completely unfamiliar to me. My grandmother lived with our family and minded us children while our parents worked. I remember Minnie as harsh and ungenerous, even cruel at times. I had felt the hardness of her hands. My best friend was afraid of her. I wasn’t exactly afraid, but I had learned to stay out of her way. I was born with a sunny disposition, and when I would wake in the morning, I had a smile on my face. My grandmother would hear my voice and admonish “If you sing before breakfast, you’ll cry before night.” If I asked for a second helping of dessert she would call me “greedy goat.” When she wanted a household chore done she would say, “Those who do not work do not eat.” I cannot remember a single thing she liked about me. I can easily remember her critical tone and routinely dismissive remarks that undermined my confidence in myself. She would not compliment for fear of engendering vanity. She would not praise because obedience and good behavior were what was expected and did not need to be recognized as an accomplishment. My singing and dancing were showing off, she felt, and not to be encouraged. 

My grandmother became seriously ill when I was about 9 years old. She had congestive heart failure then known as “dropsy.” When she could no longer get around easily she was put into a sickbed. It was my bed. This bed and its matching twin with headboard bookshelves remained in the room I had shared with my sister. I was dislodged and moved down the hall to share sleeping quarters on a rollaway cot close by my younger brother in the den. Cheryl stayed behind and her company, among our common things, was no longer within my reach. I was not really able to call my room mine anymore. There were water glasses with bent glass straws in them on the nightstand. Sometimes Grandma would call out and I would fill the glass and hold it so she could drink. I hated to look at her. Her limbs were thin and wasted while her belly was massive and distended. Her hair was dry and scraggily around her gaunt and waxy face. I was terrified that she would die while I was in the room. I can remember being left home alone with her sometimes. I was afraid she would call for me to help her with something. Whenever she did call I was berated by her, by my mother and by my sister for not being fast enough or attentive enough and labeled selfish or unloving.  

When Minnie died I was kept away from the funeral because I was “too sensitive” and the experience might be upsetting to me. I am amazed by the irony of that decision. I had participated fully in her illness and decline, but I was kept from hearing the Service For Burial and observing a family ritual that might have taught me how to mourn and how to accept death. Still, I felt guilty because I hadn’t done enough for her while she was living. I had not served her lovingly—only fearfully. I had not pleased her or earned her respect. I knew, even then, that her death was in no way my fault. But I also knew that the end of her life could have been more comfortable and sweeter if I had been more giving of myself. It was hard for me to love her because I did not feel any love from her. My own feelings about her were not those a little girl should have for her grandma and they were not feelings I could reveal to a sister who served her willingly and a mother who was devoted to her.  

What I carry with me from my childhood years is guilt and shame. Both of these are inheritances from my time with my grandmother, Minnie. Her critical voice lives on inside me and I often hear it when I indulge myself. Do I deserve this thing? I hear it when I attain something and rationalize away the value of my achievement. It enters in like an insidious worm and undermines my enjoyment of the pleasures of life. I am never able to compete without sabotaging myself in some small way. I succeed in spite of myself and in spite of her presence within me. If she were alive today I still don’t believe that I would have her approval. For some reason my mother wants me, out of all of us, to have her ring. Perhaps one day I will understand what that means. 


Lost Love By Roopa Ramamoorthi

Friday December 30, 2005

I look again at that black and white photo from more than 30 years ago. I am 2 years old, sprawled on the sand at Foreshore Beach clad in tiny pants and full-sleeved top, busy with my bucket and spade. My mother is pointing her finger telling me to look at the camera. My aunt and mother are wearing similar nylon 644 saris in that photo. I recollect my mother’s sari, large purple flowers on a white background. My uncle was on the other side taking the photo.  

I remember those vacations when I was two and three, going to my uncle’s house with my mother. My getting up early to hear the crows cawing and see them flying away from the clothesline. My getting scared if a crow came too close to me and my getting my grandfather to wave his hands and clap to make the crow fly away. For breakfast I used to eat the extra large idlis my grandmother served me and drink warm milk from the special small stainless steel tumbler with my name inscribed on it. Before 7 a.m. I would go walking to the beach with my mother or grandfather. The beach was just four blocks from my uncle’s house. I collected shells and made sand puddings by filling my small pail with wet sand using my spade pressing the sand tight in the bucket turning it over and releasing it from the bucket.  

Fishermen with their big nets were there going to catch fish. If my mud pudding crumbled I went to work again to make another one. Soon I had two or three perfect sand puddings. I proudly exhibited these to my mother. After an hour the sun would be too hot. Then I stood in the waves with my little hand catching my mother’s large hand. She rolled up my pants and lifted her sari to her knees and we stood there letting the waves wet our ankles.  

Then I went home only to come back in the evening to make more sand puddings. I would go further in the water when the waves were small and retreat when the waves grew larger with my mother always holding my hand or admiring the sand puddings.  

But the summer vacation ended. My uncle moved to Thanjavur for sometime, my brother was born and I became too big for sand puddings. The picture has changed. That beach was one of the places hit by the tsunami this year and those fishermen I used to see who must be old men now and their families were destroyed.  

Of the people in that picture of more than 30 years ago, my mother died of a heart attack two years ago, my aunt has terminal cancer and the innocent round face of the two year old has been weathered by rough roads. But once making a perfect sand pudding, feeling the wet sand in my hands was all that mattered and a spade was a spade. 


High Ropes By J. Steven Svoboda

Friday December 30, 2005

The cable traces the treacherous line 

Between falling and falling. 


Up on the high ropes, 

Tottering tree to tree, 

Everything’s sharp air and 

The blur of faded faces. 


Strapped into suburban security in 

The harness I never need, 

I hear a stranger’s heart thrumming in my throat. 


I’m frightened of these props that sustain me, 

Helping me to be more, 

Keeping me at less. 


Tricked on by some dumb dog of faith, tail wagging far below, I 

cross toward my moment of magnifi cence, 

Reaching for the next rope 

And holding on desperate as new love, 


Teetering on that precarious trust 

That two humble minutes can be this grand, 

That along the edge between death and dust 

Lies a narrow path to a warmer land.›

Christmas After Mastectomy By Ellen Scheiner

Friday December 30, 2005

Light sounds drench the world. 

Cold winter’s warmth creeps through us. 

Shimmering joy explodes. 




Soup, Glorious Soup By Claudia Pessin

Friday December 30, 2005

For the first 11 years of my life I lived in a small town outside Newport, Delaware, which was on the map, but barely bigger that the bedroom community where I lived. Winters were severely cold, rarely more than six or seven inches of snow, but often freezing rain. When the ground froze, no mother would dream of keeping a child home, and certainly not for a little ice or snow. Schools didn’t close for weather in those days, and since there were few automobiles, we were in no danger from traffic. The trackless trolleys continued their routes, and most used them to get to work. 

On days when the streets and sidewalks were glazed with ice, we were expected to—and did—walk the mile and a quarter or so to the grade school in Newport, spending more time on our well-bundled bottoms than on our feet. We didn’t feel put-upon though, but accepted this as the status quo. And there were usually compensations when we got home: cocoa and fresh-baked cookies, or cake, because winter seemed to bring out the urge to bake in our mothers. But my favorite was coming in with wet and icy mittens and snowsuit, and smelling vegetable soup simmering on the stove. 

Mother had a large pot, called a waterless cooker, that had removable compartments for vegetables that could hold a complete meal of meat and sides and cook them together. But I only recall Mamma using it as an enormous stockpot for soup. As I sat by the kitchen table warming up and doing my homework the fragrance of that soup made my mouth water, and long before it was finished I would be begging my mother for just a small bowl full. I didn’t care if it was done or not, I simply could not wait. Of course she refused, and by dinnertime when Daddy came home, I felt I could eat the entire contents of the pot, though usually two bowls were more than enough for my small self. 

When my mother died, this pot was one of the few things she had that I really wanted, and I often used it to make enough soup to freeze and some to give away. The problem was that I had learned to make it from watching her, and her method was a pinch of this and a handful or two of that. And how do you divide pinches and handfuls so you can reduce a recipe? 

Over the years, I did tinker with her recipe a bit, adding a bit of this and omitting a handful of that. But I continued to make this soup pretty much her way in this pot until my children were grown and I no longer could figure out what to do with such a great quantity of soup. So I gave the pot to my younger daughter who wanted it to cook soup in for her family. She had learned to cook Mamma’s vegetable soup by watching me throughout the years, and in her turn tinkered with it to suit her family, and had more than enough for her freezer and some to give away. She always pulled out that pot on the first cold day of winter, as I had, and put up a pot of soup early in the day, and her daughters came home in from school to the same homey fragrance that I and a generation later, my own children had enjoyed. 

Recently though, she decided that the pot was just too big and bought a somewhat smaller one and adjusted her recipe accordingly. But what to do with her grandmother’s pot? She didn’t have the heart to discard it and it sat for months in her cupboard until the adult daughter of my elder daughter, recently married, heard of the dilemma and claimed the pot for her own. 

It pleases me that my granddaughter is now making vegetable soup using Mamma’s recipe and her pot. It pleases me too to think that in a few years yet another generation will be coming home from school on a cold day and be met with the fragrance of that same soup. 

And I am certain it would have pleased my mother.?


Friday December 30, 2005

Eunice tucked her thin strands of pale red hair behind her ears, as was her nervous habit, and peered about the dining room. She was seated at her regular table in the Palace of Secretarial Eats. There was no sign of Amanda amidst the trill of anxious voices and the unsteady clatter of coffee cups refilled far too many times. The carcasses of single-serve packets of non-caloric sugar substitutes lay dismembered in unceremonious heaps on the other tables. The sight of this made Eunice swell with a perverse pride. Of the secretaries assembled, she and Amanda were the ones who ate.  

They spent their secretarial paychecks on lavish meals that were anything but secretarial. There was nary a salad nor a sugar substitute in sight. Eunice and Amanda dined on bread with fresh garlic butter and shrimp cocktails, crepes with salmon and crème fraîche, washed down by bottles of Prosecco (at one o’clock in the afternoon!), followed by crème brûlée and coffee with Frangelico. On their (rare) demure days, they forewent the liqueurs and merely took their coffee with cream.  

It was because their lunchtime personas—piratical, voracious, insatiably slurping, gulping, gnawing, devouring—stood in such marked contrast to the 40-hours weekly reality of their secretarial selves that Eunice and Amanda cherished their lunchtime excesses. Where in the office they nibbled timidly on crumbs, here they ate with unrepentant appetite. Where in the office they microwaved tepid cups of herbal tea, here they made themselves drunk in full daylight, daring neighboring tables to look askance at their debauch. Where in the office they starved, not enough to induce visions or euphoria, but just enough for a steady emptiness to whisper its dissatisfactions in the pit of their stomachs, here they ate until they had rendered themselves so sated that any awareness outside the voluptuous fullness of their bellies was subsumed entirely. 

Having learned from their respective families and their society at large that pleasure was a dish best accompanied with a heaping side of remorse, afterward, the girls did penance for their excess. They flogged themselves with the label tape from their label dispensers and made graphically detailed itemized lists of their extravagances, which they proceeded to methodically white out. Upon completing these rites, they tucked themselves neatly under their desks until it was time to turn on the phones at 8:30 a.m. sharp and commence another day at the office.  

Eunice glanced up, adjusted her round gold-framed spectacles, and saw a curvaceous blond in a tweed skirt making her way toward the table. Amanda’s face bore the pleasantly pained expression it always did when she walked. She was such a model secretary that her feet had evolved their own high heels, fleshy stiletto-shaped protuberances jutting from the bottom of her feet. It made shoe shopping quite a chore.  

Amanda’s eyes, congenial ice pics, made contact with Eunice’s and she seated herself at their table.  

“Sorry I’m late, but I wanted you to think my time was important,” she said.  

Eunice fidgeted with the sleeves of her crumpled gray blazer. She never knew what to make of Amanda’s unflinching candor, which seemed to be made possible by the fact that the alarming nature of her bald-faced truths completely escaped her.  

At dessert, Eunice cleared her throat. 

“Do you ever,”she began, her voice wobbling like the spoonful of crème brûlée she held in her quavering hand 



The crème brûlée slipped off the spoon and she made herself set it down.  

“It’s just, do you ever wonder if there might be—um—” 


“Ah, it just seems that, possibly, there might be a—better—way of—life.” 

“But who would make the coffee?” 

Eunice shivered as the cold cream made its descent down her insides. 

“I guess you’re right.” 




Holiday Spirit By GERALD COTE

Friday December 30, 2005

it’s the bottom end  

of another year 

as they’re shouting 


of holiday cheer. 


while days turn darker 

in me and out, 

the list grows longer 

of human drought. 

remembering my spirit  

what it’s about, 

beyond my troubles 

to those without. 


oh release me from 

my trifling world, 

my selfish needs 

take to their grave. 

for everyday 

should be like this, 

remembering others 

less fortunate.

Lake Merritt by Michael Howerton

Friday December 30, 2005


Late afternoon at Lake Merritt towards the end of October.e

A Holiday By Linda J. Rawls

Friday December 30, 2005

It was hot and humid as it always is in East Texas during the months of June, July and August. The year was 1956 and I was 6 years old. It wouldn’t be long now according to my daddy before I would be joining my two brothers, going to school and learning how to read and write. My daddy gave me the only head start that I got before starting first grade because my little hometown did not have a Head Start or kindergarten program. 

He taught me the ABCs, how to spell a few elementary words like cat, dog, run, and walk and how to spell and read my name. Daddy always told me how smart he thought I was and I wanted to make him and Mama really proud of me. I felt ready to learn. Most of all, I wanted to be smart and make my parents happy. 

The anticipation of starting school was barely enough to get me through those hot summer days. I had to invent ways to stay focused. I decided that I would ask every question that popped into my head. For sure, I thought this would be the best way to get smart fast. I remember asking my grandmother Pearlie Mae a question that really surprised her.  

“Ma Pearlie, how come the sun comes up over there and go down over yonder?”  

I hadn’t learned east from west yet. My grandmother’s answer surprised me, when she said, “I don’t know, baby.”  

It wasn’t too often that a grown up would admit to a kid that they didn’t know something. 

“Ya don’t know?” I asked her. 

“No baby, I don’t. The sun has always come up from the east and gone down in the west.”  

Ma Pearlie pointed to the east and then west. Even though I thought, at the time, she was not very smart I really loved my grandmother. My minor disappointment over her answer was exchanged for happiness because I had just learned east and west. 

Ma Pearlie was not only the matriarch in our family but also in the little community where I lived. She was a sturdy God-fearing woman who loved her children and grandchildren. I never heard her raise her voice to anyone or display anything that vaguely resembled a bad mood. She was half black and half Sicilian without the stereotypical mean temper or gift of being an exceptional cook.  

I liked most of the old people in my family, with a few exceptions. Old people seemed pretty smart to me and you could learn lots of neat stuff from them. I remember that it was my great uncle, Augustino who taught me how to chase the cows out of the backyard. Uncle Craig taught me how to sweep the floor and his wife taught me how to gather eggs. Little did I know at the time, that my curiosity was an excuse for some of them to get extraordinary help from a kid who was just overly eager to learn.  

I had heard from some of the other old folks in the family that a holiday was coming. Although I couldn’t quite remember what that meant, the excitement was so thick I could just feel that it was something special. One day when I was helping Ma Pearlie shuck corn, I asked her, “When’s the hollerday gonna get here?” 

“It’ll be tomorrow,” She said. 

I couldn’t sleep that night. I was so excited! 

The next morning I woke up before Mama, Daddy or anybody else in the house. I sat alone on the front porch waiting for the start of the holiday. After a while of just sitting there all by myself, I heard my dad in the kitchen making a pot of coffee. I can remember thinking that this was really a special day if Daddy was in the kitchen making a pot of coffee and Mama was still asleep. What a switch! Poor Mama, she was always tired. I thought maybe it was because she was getting too fat. She’d been having a lot of trouble lately just getting up and down the steps on the front porch. Just a few days ago she got so tired, standing over the ironing board, she almost fainted. I had to run across the road to get Ma Pearlie! 

My excitement about the day really started to build after everybody started waking up. My two older brothers got up and dressed. My father asked them 

“What ya’ll boys doing today?” 

“Don’t we have to go to the fields today, daddy?” asked George, the oldest. 

“No, it’s a hollerday, son,” daddy said. 

My eyes went wide with disbelief! I was really starting to love this holiday. If George Edward and Harry Lee didn’t have to go to the field to pick or shuck anything that meant that Mama, Ma Pearlie and I wouldn’t have to can or preserve anything today, either. 

I sat on the front porch for a while longer. Then, I heard my sister Wretha stumbling around in the bedroom we shared. Wretha was three years younger than me. Her favorite thing in the world was to snitch Kool Aid from the pitcher my parents kept on the front porch on Sundays after church. My brothers and I gave her the nickname “Koola” and to this day she hates us for it. She walked out onto the front porch with a comb and brush in her hand.  

“Mama said comb my hair,” she said.  

“Alright, go get some rubber bands.” I told her. 

“Mama said use these ribbons cause today is a hollerday.” 

“But these are my special ribbons for when I start school,” I said. 

I knew that Wretha wouldn’t lie to me. We were best friends certainly we were each other’s only friend. But, I didn’t want to share my special ribbons with her before I started first grade. I can remember reasoning that since it was a special day maybe it was all right to share my special ribbons with my sister. 

“Okay, but when the hollerday is over, you have to give them back.” 

After I finished combing Wretha’s hair, I remember sitting there a while longer thinking it might be time for the holiday to start, but I couldn’t tell time yet. I stared at the old faded clock that Pickle Feed Store gave to Daddy a long time ago, hanging on the wall between the two windows on the back of the porch, as if I could tell time. 

There was a thermometer on the left side of it, right above the words “Drink Coca Cola.” I didn’t know just how hot it was, but I can remember thinking that it had to be really hot, because the red stuff in the little piece of glass was almost all the way to the top of the red numbers. The actual clock was offset on the right side under the words “Ralston Purina.” I stood there looking at the words for a minute or so. I didn’t know what they meant but it seemed like a good time to ask another question.  

“Daddy, how you know what time it is?” I looked at him with a big smile on my face.  

“Well, dumplings, the time right now is 10:30 in the morning.” 

Daddy sat me down on his lap and explained to me how to look at the clock and tell what time it was. I caught on pretty fast. When daddy gave me a quiz later, I passed.  

“You’re gonna do good in school, dumplings. I just know it.” He was beaming with pride. 

My brothers were patiently waiting for their turn to occupy Daddy’s attention. My brother George Edward, who was three and half years older than me, wanted to go down to the creek to go swimming. I don’t think Harry Lee really wanted to go swimming, but most of the time he went along with whatever George wanted. Sometimes George could be a bully about getting what he wanted, but not Harry. I think Harry would just choose the path of least resistance. 

Even at 9 years old George would strut around the house talking about Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. He had decided that someday he would be an even bigger star than either one of them because he thought his singing was better. Sometimes he would use the broom as a substitute microphone and sing something by one of them. He’d stand there with his chest stuck out waiting for me to start clapping my hands. Most of the time, I just laughed at him and he would get mad and storm out of the room. I can’t remember what songs he would sing because I didn’t like either Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry. George and I were in tune with music that was vastly different, even though we would both play in the High School Band and Orchestra later on. 

Harry was two years older than me. I was born on his birthday within two minutes of exactly two years. He never let me live that down when we were kids. It was always a bone of contention between us as children. It was very clear he did not want to share his special day with me and he held that against me for a long time. I never held anything against my brother Harry, not even the fact that he got so mad at me one time he pushed me on the wood-burning stove we used for heat in the winter. I was burned pretty badly. I was so afraid that Harry would get a spanking I told Daddy that I fell. 

Well, as I had suspected, George got his way. Daddy announced that we were going to pack a picnic and head down to Sandy Creek to go swimming. Mama protested in vain saying she wanted to go over to her mama’s house for a visit.  

“Bud, it’s been a month of Sundays since my mama saw her grandchillens.”  

She always called Daddy Bud whenever she really wanted something from him.  

“Your mama knows where we live. She’s welcome to come over here anytime she wants too.” He said with half a smile. 

Mama and Daddy’s mama, Ma Pearlie, had a very special relationship. But Daddy and Mama’s mama always seemed at odds with each other. The fact that Ma Pearlie lived right in front of us across the dirt road known as Prospect Road made life a little easier for Mama when she needed a baby sitter. But I know she wanted to see her mama more often than daddy was willing to.  

“C’mon now. Let’s take the kids down to Sandy. I promise we’ll visit Miz Zoret next Sunday.” 

Mama fried some chicken and my brother George decided he wanted some fresh fruit for the picnic. So he jumped over the fence to Uncle Ken’s orchard and took what he wanted. It’s a good thing that Uncle Ken was not home. He’d been known to reload buckshot casings with salt pellets and shoot at intruders. His aim was to discourage white kids and strangers from stealing his fruit. His eyes were so bad his chances of ever actually hitting an intruder were pretty slim. If my brother George had gone over and asked for fruit, Uncle Ken or Aunt Susie would give it to him. But not George, no sir, the fun for him was snatching what he wanted and not getting caught. 

My parents piled us kids in the back of Daddy’s old Ford pickup truck and we headed down to Sandy Creek. Daddy’s hound dog ran along side the truck barking as if to say he wanted to come along too. Daddy stopped the truck and opened the door on the passenger side.  

He told mama, “Slide over closer to me,” then he snapped his finger and gave a little whistle.  

That damn dog jumped into the cab of the truck with him and Mama as if he were too good to ride in the back with us kids. I hated that dog! Sometimes he got more attention from my daddy than I did. 

When we got to Sandy Creek, I could vaguely remember having been there before. I asked Mama, 

“How far away from this creek is it to our church?” 

“Bethlehem is over yonder on the other side of them trees,” she said.  

I looked up at some of the biggest trees I had ever seen. These trees were huge, I remember thinking, they looked like they were going to bump into the clouds. Luckily, their shadows cast the shade we needed for our picnic.  

“What kind of trees is these Mama?” I asked. 

“These is East Texas Pine trees baby,” Mama replied. 

“Ain’t this where I got baptized?” 

“Yes it is. I’m surprised you remember, you were just four years old.” 

“I ain’t never gonna forget that. I thought Reverend Spikes was trying to drown me.” Mama laughed and threw back her head.  

I remember thinking that she had the most beautiful teeth I had ever seen. 

The sound of daddy’s voice calling to me interrupted the special moment I was sharing with Mama.  

“C’mon in the water, dumplings.” He stood there holding out his arms for me.  

I was just about ready to walk into the creek when I looked up and to the left of where Daddy was standing waiting for me. I saw my brothers standing on the bank trying to determine who could piss further into the muddy water of Sandy Creek. To this day, whenever I hear the term “pissing contest” I always think about my two oldest brothers, God rest their souls.  

“I ain’t coming in there!” I said. 

“Why not, dumplings?” daddy asked. 

“Cause George Edward and Harry Lee is peeing in the water.” 

“That’s okay. It won’t hurt you.” 

“I ain’t coming in there. It’s nasty!” 

Daddy tried for at least a minute to coax me into the water, but he failed. 

I remember walking back to the shade of those big pine trees where Mama was sitting with my sister Wretha. It was so hot! It seemed to me with the day being a hollerday and all that it was time for somebody to start hollering. I had been waiting all day for the hollering to start. So I decided to get the hollering started on my own. I stood up, looked up at those big tall East Texas Pine trees and started hollering at them as loud as I could holler. Mama struggled to stand up to come over to me as quickly as she could. But daddy was out of the creek and running toward me before she could get to me. Daddy grabbed me up into his arms and said “It’s okay dumplings, I ain’t gonna make you get into the water.” 

“I know that Daddy” 

“Then why you crying?” He looked so puzzled. 

“I ain’t crying Daddy, I’m hollering,” I said with a big smile on my face. 

“Why on earth would you be hollering?” 

“Because it’s a hollerday Daddy. I been waiting all day for people to start hollering.” 

I had never, up to this point in my life, seen my daddy with tears in his eyes. He was laughing so hard his nose started running. I remember feeling just about as dumb as a sack of hair right then. After everybody was done laughing at me, once again it was daddy who sat down with me and explained the meaning of a holiday. Unfortunately all that laughing caused my mama to get so sick, Daddy had to rush her to the hospital. The first set of twins in the family was born July 4, 1956. 

About 35 years later, I came to regret having thought of Ma Pearlie as being not so smart when she said she didn’t know why the sun rose in the east and set in the west. One day one of my nieces, who liked to ask a lot of questions, asked me, “Auntie what was God doing before he created us?” 

“I don’t know, baby.” 

“You don’t know?” She asked with just a touch of indignation. 

“No, baby, I don’t know. But, keep asking your questions. The answers are out there somewhere.”?

I Dream of Circus Characters By Judy wells

Friday December 30, 2005

For months I’ve dreamed 

of circus characters, 

and I ask my friend Betsey, 

“Do you think I’d have 

these same characters 

in my dreams 

if I didn’t live in Berkeley?” 

She says no. 


Who are they, these strange 

denizens of the night? 

Jojo La Plume who makes puppets 

to perform for pint-sized children, 

Looks like she lives in her car 

then renews herself hiking 

the John Muir Trail 



Homeless black men living in vast barns 

who tell me it’s O.K. to stay there— 

The landlord doesn’t care. 

My boyfriend Dale, 

sleeping on a shelf 

alongside an underground escalator 

leading to a poetry reading. 

Houses of strange people  

in turquoise pants and wild hair 

showing surrealist movies in their kitchens 

and myself in a bed 

struggling with a beatnik. 


I wish there were beautiful 

wild chestnut horses in my dreams 

even blue ones, red ones 

instead of my parade 

of misfits, beatniks, and 


homeless, houseless 

underground men and women. 


Is that where the vein  

of ore lies 

The Mother Lode 

The Fat Lady?

Strolling Through Tilden By Yvette Hoffer

Friday December 30, 2005

T he beauty and tranquility of Tilden Park, a few minutes above the city soundscape, await our Tuesday Tilden Walkers. Although we have enjoyed our “secret” treasure for over 10 years, the park constantly changes and we never tire of its birds, flowers, and waterways.  

Please join our slowpoke walks of one to two hours near Jewel Lake at 9:30 a.m., meeting at the Little Farm parking lot. Occasionally, Dave Zukerman, park ranger, shows us methods of the watershed and history of the park, but we rarely get rained out.  

Call 524-9992 or 215-7672 to be sure we look out for you.  




Photo by Yvette Hoffer

Monterey Market By lENORE WATERS

Friday December 30, 2005




Pumpkins heaped one story high! 

As high as the sky! 

Pre-schoolers climb the orange  


Down again, backward. Feet first, head first, wriggling. 

Running between bins of squash 

Pink, orange, yellow-green 

Yellow and green, pink and orange 


Skidaddling among boxes of beans 

Black-brown, red, white 

White and red, brown and white 

Then up the pumpkin pile again. 

I choose this one, it’s the BIGGEST. 

I want this, IT’S THE most  


I NEED this one. 

How will you carry it? 

I can carry it I’m strong. 


Inside, the chaos is the vegetables  

and fruits 

All colors, all vying for attention 

Ugli fruit 

Rome Beauties 

Grotesque Fungi 

Pear shaped pears 


Tiny tamarinds 

Gargantuan grapefruit 

Red hot peppers 

Cool green Collards 




Browsing through the apple aisle 

I notice a hand written sign 

Arkansas Black Apple: Locally grown 

I pick one up in astonishment 

Indeed, part of it is a red so dark,  

It is almost black. 


The rest of this apple is red apple color, 

A little sunshine yellow. 

Is this fruit a metaphor, a simile,  

an allegory, or a saga? 

Did a family of Dust Bowl migrants from the 30’s bring the seed, 

Crossing deserts, mountains, and fording streams in their Model T Ford? 


I too am a migrant 

But I brought nothing as lasting  

As this apple. 


I put it in my basket. 

Two days later, it’s in the food section of the New York Times 

It’s a very trendy heirloom apple 

From Arkansas originally 

Now grown in California 


Well well well 

So much for poetry 

I eat the apple. 




Late October Evening 


Outside the Monterey Market, the pumpkin is less high. 

A few children, in that whiney mode between school and home, 

Try to climb the pile. 

Their irritated just home from work parents shout them down 


I’m here searching for the perfect  

persimmon for a salad 

I have no small children, I can take my time. 

Just a few left, all bruised and squishy. 


The purple and green figs are lying in their beds 

Looking gray and sickly. 

I take the remaining persimmons, someone has to care for them 

At least they don’t whine. 


Inside, the market looks dingy. 

The arugula, crisp this morning, is wilting. 

I hold a leaf, crush it, and sniff what I like to think of 

As the aroma of a Mediterranean hill side. 


A nice thought, a bit pretentious, 


Still, good salad makings. 

With a baguette 

This is all I need for supper 


I try to comfort a mewling child 

And go home to my solitary meal 


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. 






Friday December 30, 2005

Takes smokes 

A young strongarm stick-up artist hit Kahn’s Smog Pros at the corner of Shattuck and Ashby avenues late in the afternoon of Dec. 19 and made off with cash and cigarettes, said Officer Shira Warren, the Berkeley Police Department’s acting public information officer. 


Botched heist 

Less than a half hour later, four teenagers tried to rob a fifth outside Cancun Taqueria in the 2100 block of Allston Way, but the would-be victim escaped, his belongings intact. 


Wallet robber 

It was just minutes before midnight on the 19th when a 21-year-old woman walking in the 2500 block of College Avenue was confronted a strongarm heister who forced her to surrender her wallet. 


Booth burner 

Berkeley firefighters and police were summoned to the 1700 block of Scenic Avenue just after 9 a.m. on the 20th and discovered that an arsonist had set fire to a phone booth. 

The unknown fire-starter had already departed the scene by the time they arrived. 


Another botch 

A strongarm bandit made an unsuccessful attempt to rob a 19-year-old man of his belongings in the 2200 block of Piedmont Avenue about 10:15 p.m. on the 20th. 


Inept assassin? 

Berkeley police arrested a 21-year-old man following a 2:50 p.m. shooting on the 21st. 

According to Sgt. Steve Odom, the man had appeared with the shotgun at the door of a residence in the 1900 block of Ninth Street, where he allegedly confronted the 23-year-old occupant about a theft. 

During the ensuing argument, the suspect pulled a sawed-off shotgun from his pant leg, accidentally firing off a round and shooting himself in the foot. 

Odom said the wounded fellow reloaded and fired another round at the departing resident, striking him with pellets in both legs. 

The shooter did more damage to himself than to his victim and is being held on suspicion of attempted murder. 


Armed booster 

When the manager of the San Pablo Avenue Walgreen’s spotted a shoplifter in the act at 3 p.m. on the 21st, she confronted the 20-something booster—who promptly produced a shiv which she brandished at the manager before hot-footing it out of the drug store. 


Armed robbery 

Three men, one armed with a pistol, approached a man near the railroad tracks on Third Street shortly after 5 p.m. last Friday and demanded his wallet. The fellow complied and the satisfied trio departed. 


Brick bashing 

A 44-year-old man told Berkeley police that a man in his 40s had bashed him in the face with a brick sometime before 2:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve in the 2700 block of San Pablo Avenue. 


Foiled robbery 

When a bandit in his late teens or early 20s tried to rob another young man in a parking garage in the 2400 block of Durant Avenue at 7:12 a.m. Christmas Eve, the victim saved his possessions and person by the simple expedient of sprinting away. 


Passport stolen 

One hour later, another young strongarm robber relieved a man of clothing and a passport near the Ashby BART station. 


Unknown attacker 

A 46-year-old man arrived at the Summit Alta Bates emergency room on Ashby Avenue shortly before 11 a.m. Christmas Eve for treatment of a neck wound. 

When he told nurses that someone had hit him with an unknown object, police were summoned, though the injured man was unable to offer any information about his unknown assailant, said Officer Warren. 


Criminal holiday 

Christmas and the day following proved singularly uneventful for Berkeley police, with no reports of robberies or other violent crimes. 

The next crime of note came late Tuesday morning, when a young woman reported that another young woman had poked her with a manicure tool. Her injuries were minor. 


Trike heist 

Two men robbed a 28-year-old man of his adult tricycle and a boombox as he pedaled along the 2200 block of Shattuck Avenue just before 8 p.m. Wednesday. 

The prompt arrival of Berkeley’s finest resulted in the recovery of three-wheeler and sound system and the arrest of two suspects, one 29 and the other 18.

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. 




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..


Fathering 101: Tyranny, Tuning Out or FINE-Tuning By PETE WALKER

Friday December 30, 2005

Tough love? Unconditional love? Disney-Channel love? Quality-time vs. quantity-time love? The 13 different Greek words for love? The roof-over-your-head and food-on-the-table love of my parents? The pile-the-presents-so-high-you-can’t-see-the-Xmas-tree love. What’s a 59-year-old man with a 2-year-old son supposed to do? Will I heed my ancestors: “kids should be seen and not heard,” or subscribe to a New Age permissiveness that would give every kid a portable microphone? 

As a seasoned psychotherapist, I vacillate between difficult choices: cognitive-behavioral or neo-Freudian? Rewards and punishments or anal, oral and oedipal resolutions? Dr. Phil or Oprah? 

Codependent and not wanting to offend anyone, I, of course, am trying to choose an eclectic approach—a “take the best and leave the rest” middle path. But how do I know my choices won’t be denial-laden reenactments of my parents’ execrably poor parenting?  

In truth I don’t know, but nevertheless I am deeply committed to evolving my own eclectic parenting style—a hands-on, out-of-the-study, TV-dectomy approach of gentle coaching and benevolent guiding. I am attempting to balance a “love and limits” approach with an old research-proven formula that shows that kids respond best to correction when each instance of it is balanced with at least five pieces of positive attention. 

In this dauntingly meaningful endeavor and responsibility, I frequently find myself amazed at how much I am buoyed by the wisdom of the age-old metaphysics I first ventured into some thirty years ago—the psychology and spirituality of astrology.  

My understanding of astrology informs me that my son has complex developmental needs and drives—often competing and contradictory—that will only flourish if I am generous with my love and nurturance in many diverse ways.  

In this regard, I see that like every other human being, his essential self is composed of twelve different parts and that each part has corresponding drives and needs—needs that can be delineated by the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Each sign, then, describes a fundamental archetypal aspect of human being and informs me about different aspects of his Self that he will need my loving assistance to develop in a way that will promote his growing up to be a balanced, fully articulated human being. 

So Jaden, my son: How do I love Thee? Let me Count the ways 

Here then is a very abbreviated delineation of the ways—the 12 categories of loving actions that I infer from an astrological model, and that I hope will guide me to be what the famous psychotherapist D.W. Winnicott called “a good enough father.” 

Aries reminds me to nurture his need to be assertive and powerful in the world, so I love him through wresting and vigorous play. I greet his asking for what he wants, I let him make as many of his own choices as reasonably possible, and I respect his healthy and instinctive use of the word “No.” I want him to be able to say no not only to drugs, but also to corrupting influence from any dangerous authority figures that he may encounter—whether they are elected or not. 

Libra reminds me to teach him to share and compromise, and that everyone deserves their fair turn. It further informs me to nurture his ability to develop intimacy through conversations that are authentic, vulnerable and reciprocal. I won’t pass on the “no-talk” rule that was part of my Anglo-Saxon upbringing, and my enculturation into the tight-lipped male world of macho posing. I will try to show him by example that real intimacy is directly proportionate to the amount of one’s whole experience—mental, emotional and behavioral—that can be shown to and shared with another. 

Taurus instructs me to help him discover his own sense of aesthetics—his capacity to be moved by art and beauty, and to exult in color, form, texture, composition. I will create copious opportunities for him to explore arts, crafts and tools, and I will take him out frequently into nature to nurture his enjoyment of natural beauty.  

Gemini informs me to love and support his present-time, crucial and delightful developmental stage of following his curiosity and investigating everything and everyone in his environment. I love him by giving him copious time to explore—to, whenever possible, take an hour to witness his discoveries as we painstakingly [me, rarely him] circumnavigate the block we live on. Part of this discovery process is teaching him names and words to describe his experience. In this vein, I greet and love all his questions, refusing to shame him as a chatterbox or “Chatty Cathy.” 

Virgo informs me of his need to settle into healthy eating and hygiene routines. Accordingly, my wife and I have relinquished our family legacies of eating in front of the TV. We strive to make mealtime around the table a sacred family time, a time that links eating with the pleasure of conversational engagement—of sharing the triumphs, mundanities and tribulations of the day. 

Leo tells me about Jaden’s need to discover and bring forth his whole individuality in a confident, spontaneous, fully expressive way—to shine on the world his unique gestalt of talents and qualities. Playing frequently with him, with minimal directing, is the best way I know how to cultivate this. His enthusiasm, nascent sense of humor, rudimentary singing, and inventive use of toys is typically easy to actively appreciate—and even though it’s natural, sheer repetitiveness sometimes makes me feel like I am Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I subscribe to applauding him copiously—not out of insincerity—but as a labor of love. 

Cancer reminds me to protect his fragile need to maintain an unconditionally loving relationship with himself, which as will be seen when Capricorn is described below, does not cancel out his need to be considerate of others. I am committed to nurturing his capacity to grow into being his own best friend, and especially, in the emotionally impoverished milieu of an industrial society, to love and value himself in all his emotional experience. In other words I strive to support the growth of his emotional intelligence and try to greet all his emotional expression, especially and somewhat paradoxically when I am lovingly and non-punitively guiding him to “use his words” and find non-hurtful means of emoting. I want to help him resist this culture’s pressure on males to split off their female sides—an act, I believe, that leads to the workaholic and/or drug and alcoholic management of emotions that causes so many men to die a decade earlier than women. 

Scorpio tells me that he will be periodically subject to the painful life losses that are existential to being human. Grieving is the most powerful tool that people have to recover from their losses, and he was born instinctively knowing how to grieve out his pain. His cries have always had the capacity to release both the anger and sadness that is a core part of pain, and I love him by showing him that I fully cherish him when he non-hurtfully expresses “his mad and his sad.” 

Grieving releases the stress of loss and upsets—which for him at this time in his life is so often about grieving the gradually decaying narcissistic privilege of his infancy, and discovering that there are limits and rules he has to learn to accept—that his brief birthright of being the center of the universe is coming to an end. “It’s OK that you’re mad that you have to stop playing now, Jaden; I see you’re really sad too. And you do have to stop now. You can come with me, or I’ll have to pick you up and carry you to the car.”  

To illustrate two essential life lessons about which I hope to be one of his key teachers, I will present the needs represented by the last four astrological signs as pairs of contradictory but complementary opposites. I hope to offer him throughout his childhood ongoing guidance regarding two difficult existential choices he will continuously face. I hope to help him come to terms as gracefully as possible with these paradoxical issues of life. 

Sagittarius then, informs me about Jaden’s spiritual need to recognize life as bounteous, grace-full, and replete with opportunity and wonder, while Capricorn represents his mundane need to accept that life also contains many obstacles and struggles, and that he will also need to be disciplined and work hard in order to succeed and thrive. I want him to get that life is an inordinately exquisite gift—an incomparable free ride—even though it is simultaneously a school of hard knocks and many dues will have to be paid. 

I want to nourish in him a trust in the essential worthwhileness of life. I want to help him know when to flow with the river, and when to get out, chop down a tree, carve a canoe, and start paddling upstream. I believe his maturation will be about becoming increasingly adept at finding the ever-shifting balance between taking things for granted and working like a dog to get some desired result. I think I do this for him now by ongoingly adjusting the balance of love and limits in his life—the latter something he must gradually learn about as he embarks on the long journey to adulthood. Hopefully I will do it in a way that play will always be important to him as work. 

Finally, Aquarius encourages me to nurture his evolutionary need for continuous growth and development—I hope that by providing non-pressured opportunities for him to explore a wide variety of interests, entertainments, hobbies, activities, group memberships, etc., that I am sowing the seeds for a perennial love of self-development and life-long learning—the kind of lifelong learning that science now believes is a key antidote to Alzheimer’s. 

In a somewhat opposite and complementary way, Pisces reminds me to support a counterbalancing development of his need to devote sufficient time to relaxation, letting go, and a lifelong respect for getting a healthy amount of sleep. I don’t and hopefully won’t over-schedule his day—no matter how rich the potential for growth and development. Too much of anything is too much. Overeating, even when it’s the best and most healthy food in the world, still creates digestive problems—and serious ones when it occurs over time. Similarly, too much rich experience creates very problematic psychological indigestion. 

My loving pledge to Jaden is to help him live his life like a human being and not a human doing.  


Kashmir By Roopa Ramamoorthi

Friday December 30, 2005

Beautiful land of lakes and  


Srinagar with your georgeous  

gardens and aesthetic fountains 

As a child I used to lie next to my mother  

And hear tales of her adventure 

Luscious apples eaten 

And how she was smitten 

By the sight of shikaras 

Dotting crystal clear Dal lake 


Time moved on and a trip I did take 

To the same land of mummies  

legendary tale 

But I was disappointed 

Dal lake was more polluted 

And Kashmir had changed from a lovely young bride 

To a weary old woman who had lost her innocent pride 


She had endured becoming a tourist destination 

And too much Hindu Muslim tension 

Where once she was filled with lakes with pristine water 

Her hands were now bloodied by  


By marching armies over territorial rights 


Her smile has turned to a frown 

And she tells you see you later 


Note: Shikaras are the boats that ply along Dal Lake, in Srinagar city.

Mary’s Poem By JUDY WELLS

Friday December 30, 2005

Mary saved our night blooming  


It was dying 

Mary saved our night blooming  



There was a hard freeze one night 

and the jasmine took sick 

Soon it looked like a couple of sticks 

but Mary wanted to save it 


Every day she watered it 

and coaxed a few little green leaves 

from the dry sticks 


I pruned it a bit 

clucking and shaking my head 

but Mary persisted 


Now it’s blooming once again 

by our stairway 

the sweet smell of jasmine rising 

through our kitchen window 


But now Mary is doing poorly 

She’s had a heart attack, a bad back 

a broken hip, a broken arm 

and her bones are porous 


If we could pour water into her 

If we could make her sprout 

green leaves and strong new  


we would do it in a minute 

but we can’t 


Mary saved our night blooming  


It was dying 

Mary saved our night blooming  


Berkeley This Week

Friday December 30, 2005


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.  

Confetti Arts Day from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Habitot, 2065 Kittredge St. Cost is $6 child, $5 adult. 647-1111. www.habitot.org 


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 meets 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. 


Choosing a Preschool A workshop on the options at 7 p.m. at Bananas, 5232 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Registration required, 658-7353. 

Learn to Salsa Dance A 4-week class on Thurs. at 7 p.m. at Lake Merrit Dance Center, 200 Grand Ave. Cost is $50, or $15 per class. 415-668-9936. 

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 

“Transforming Negative Habit Patterns” at 6:15 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812. www.nyingmainstitute.com 


United Way’s Earn it! Keep It! Save It! needs volunteer tax preparers and language interpreters to help low-income families in Alameda County claim tax credits. No previous tax preparation experience is necessary. Training sessions run through mid-January. For more information, call 238-2415. www.earnitkeepitsaveit.org 

Magnes Museum Docent Training begins Jan. 8. Open to all who are interested in Jewish art and history. For information contact Faith Powell at 549-6950 x333. 


Housing Advisory Commission meets Thurs., Jan. 5, at 7:30 p.m., at the South Berkeley Senior Center. Oscar Sung, 981-5400. www.ci.berkeley.ca. 


Public Works Commission meets Thurs., Jan. 5, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Jeff Egeberg, 981-6406. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/publicworks 

Planning Commission Special Meeting and Tour Sat. Jan. 7, at 9:45 a.m. at McKevitt Volvo-Nissan, 2700 Shattuck Ave. at Derby. Carli Paine, 981-7403. 


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