Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Home of Peace Cemetery

Reminded by Oakland Daily Photo of Home of Peace Cemetery in a recent Taphophile Tragics entry, I went and checked it out on Monday. I've ridden past it many times on my way to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, but had never stopped before.

It's much smaller than Mountain View Cemetery or even Saint Mary's Cemetery, and a bit newer, as the land for it wasn't purchased until 1901. At the time, that was still a ways from the city limits, though people were living in nearby areas. Despite its compact size, it's an interesting place, and I'll need to make another visit sometime.

The cemetery is owned by Beth Jacob Congregation, which has been on Park Blvd. since the 1950s. But the original structure for the congregation was in Old Oakland, at 9th and Castro, dating back to the incorporation of the congregation in 1893.

I saw a lot of familiar symbols: ivy (fidelity, eternal friendship), kohanim hands (priestly tribe of Aaron), and even a few Freemason symbols. But I also saw some new symbols, including a water pitcher (a Levite, a person who was responsible for cleaning the hands of the temple priest) and lions (tribe of Judah).

All of the markers had English, but most had some Hebrew text on them as well. A few had Cyrillic (Russian), and one I saw had a quote in Romanian. I also saw a number of them that were fully bilingual—English on one side, Hebrew on the other. While the markers are generally smaller and simpler than those at Mountain View or Saint Mary's, many of them were visually quite striking, using unusual colors of granite or marble, along with a combination of polished and unpolished stone and painted lettering.

One thing I'd never seen before was what appeared to be a small mailbox next to one of the gravestones. It had a glass front so I could see there was something inside, but it wasn't clear what was there. Maybe on my next visit I'll be brave enough to see what's in there.

Lots more pictures:

Monday, January 30, 2012

food: Caffe 817

Sunday morning I joined a number of other Bay Area food bloggers and writers for a special tasting at Caffe 817 in Old Oakland. I'd been there some years back, but I heard new owners had purchased it and it was definitely worth checking out again.

Oakland owner/chefs Emily and Scott Goldenberg previously worked at Zuni Cafe, so they're not new to the food business, but they are new to ownership. Because Caffe 817 has been around a while with a loyal customer base, they didn't swoop in and change everything, but have been making smaller changes over the past year.

owner/chefs Scott and Emily

At first glance, they're doing things some other new Oakland cafes and restaurants are: sourcing from local, sustainable farms; simpler menu; rotating displays from local artists; open, airy space with an Old World vibe to hang out; etc. But they're passionate about local, sustainable food. They know not only where their ingredients come from, they know the people behind them. The grass-fed beef for their homemade corned beef hash, for example, comes from a ranch cooperative in Marin county and a similar cooperative in South Dakota. The Gruyere cheese is made locally, and the coffee comes from Oakland's Mr. Espresso, and they know all the people there.

homemade preserves

But they go a step further than local and sustainable, they go slow, too. Rather than poach the eggs, they have an old Italian-made egg steamer. The orange juice is fresh-squeezed. Emily makes the preserves (which are also available for sale by the jar) and the extremely delicious chocolate chip cookies. Scott makes the mostard di frutta spread that takes 2 days to prepare, and the slow-cooked corn beef hash.

OK, the food is local, sustainable, slow, but how does it taste? I only tried the items without meat, but it was all delicious. The Italian steamed egg, toasted levain, and olivada was amazing. The homemade honey yogurt and granola was simple but flavorful and not overly sweet. The coffee (they roast it over oak wood fires at Mr. Espresso) was extremely good, and a Prosecco mimosa made with fresh-squeezed orange juice is a whole different experience than your average brunch accompaniment. And did I mentioned the chocolate chip cookies? K agrees they're extremely delicious.

Italian toast

The food is also beautiful to look at, as evidenced by how much fun Paula Wirth was having photographing it. Even the dishes with meat looked appealing to me, a long-time vegetarian.

In short, I loved it. I'll definitely be going back.

more pictures:

coverage by other Bay Area bloggers and writers:
(I'll be updating this as other coverage comes online)
If you're an Oakland Local advertiser and interested in a similar event, or interested in advertising with Oakland Local, contact Susan Mernit.

Friday, January 27, 2012

There and Back Again: an Oaklander's photo tale

"I don't want any sort of adventure!" But Gandalf would not be swayed. He seemed distracted, lost in thought, referring to me as hairy even though I had recently shaved. Perhaps he was referring to my toes, of which we hobbits are justifiably quite proud. In any event, there was no changing his mind.

So after packing entirely too few provisions, I raced out the door, unsure if I would ever see my home again. I could only hope I would find a decent tavern or two during my journey, as I hadn't yet eaten my second breakfast. I hadn't even done the dishes from the first! With a long sea voyage ahead of me and because time was of the essence, I rode to the quay in the Rainbow Havens aboard the wagon of one of the 'big people' named Bart. It was a quick but comfortable trip, though I must say some of the way stations could do with a good cleaning.

I walked the short distance to the ship and set about familiarizing myself with my new surroundings. The ship seemed sturdy enough, but sensible hobbits are none too fond of boats of any sort, so I was cautious. And a good thing, too—within minutes the ship was moving. As I watched my now-distant home fade into the haze, I wondered what lay ahead.

The ship passed several islands, one looking to be almost entirely covered by a deserted castle. A much larger island appeared to be inhabited, though I could not see any people moving about. Perhaps elves were moving silently through the forest, watching us as we sailed past?

The ship entered shallower water as we neared land, and slowed I thought, to avoid the treacherous shoals. I heard later that the huge fortress on the nearby shore held thousands of prisoners, so perhaps the captain was right to sneak past, lest we join them.

The sun was beginning to set as we made port, and I was a bit apprehensive. I could no longer see my home in the distance, and what sort of strange people inhabited these lands? But the oddly pale Northern peoples were friendly enough, though. Perhaps they took me for one of their not-as-well-to-do Southron cousins.

I mounted my trusty pony Bill *1 and we proceeded up the river. As the last rays of light disappeared from the sky, I made it to my destination. The lovely and talented K and I then proceeded to a nearby pizza/pasta place tavern and settled into a good meal and a few pints of the fine local ale *2.

After such an exciting journey, the return trip seemed uneventful *3. But it was good to be home again!

more images of my journey:

*1 Yeah, I know Bill wasn't until Lord of the Rings. Work with me here!
*2 I know, I know...Lagunitas or something from Marin Brewing Company would be more local, but they didn't have it.
*3 Except for the announcement in the BART station that trains weren't stopping at West Oakland because of a 'police action'. Maybe it's just me, but 'police action' always makes me think of the euphemism for the Vietnam War.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Crossroads: Gimme (Green) Shelter

This guest post is by Tim Eyre.


About a month ago, driving farther down International Boulevard than my business usually takes me, an impressive building caught my eye that I'd failed to notice before. What corporation was this sleek building the headquarters for? With its mint green walls and fanciful yellow tower, the Crossroads Emergency Shelter stands as a beacon of modern architecture and progress in an otherwise hardscrabble neighborhood.

Looking further into the building, I discovered that it opened in 2008 after an $11 million construction effort. That stopped me in my tracks. With all the causes that need funding, why drop such a hefty figure on the homeless? They're not exactly contributing to our tax base, right?

It only took a minute to realize my own ignorance and appreciate the virtues of Crossroads. The East Oakland Community Project's 125-bed building has solar panels on its roof, a brightly colored mural in the lobby (painted by the community), and hydronic heating using grey water to heat the building. If green building is the approach we should be taking with all new construction, a principle that people of all political and philosophical backgrounds mostly agree on, then why not follow suit for the most needy?

Here's how I justified the expense to myself: Imagine you have some insurmountable problem, like having to come up with an extra $5,000 in income this month, doubling your regular salary.

You're going to need to find some other sources of income – probably something creative. That's going to require time and concentration.

Everything else will take the backseat for awhile, right? You need to focus fully on the task at hand.

Now imagine that your room is a wreck, with piles of clothes stacking up on the dresser and dust bunnies under the bed. Your kids are home sick, and someone needs to call the plumber before the kitchen sink backs up again.

With all the distractions constantly around us, it's hard enough to concentrate on a major task until all the other pieces of our daily lives are back in place.

Now imagine that you're starting off with nothing; penniless, with no assets, and you're HIV positive. You're given a bed and a hot meal once a day at the shelter, but you have to get in line early to ensure a spot each night. Your goal is to be self-sufficient, renting a room in an apartment with a steady job, within three months. It seems impossible, and it's easy to give up and turn to the bottle or drugs.

The goal of most shelters is to get the recipients of their care off the streets and back into a productive life. It's a task made more difficult by the environs of most shelters: bleak concrete bunkers with unnatural lighting and prison-like facilities. The dreary surroundings make it easier to give up and fall back into old substance abuse habits.

Crossroads recognizes that in a sunny, light-filled atmosphere of hope, people are more likely to take personal responsibility and stick with a plan to success.

"I wanted to help create an environment where people could wake up and say, 'Okay, things are bad, but I have a clean environment where I can work on my other issues,'" Crossroads executive director Wendy Jackson told Ode Magazine in 2008.

The shelter already boasts tons of success stories. Former resident Sharon Hicks ended up at Crossroads after suffering from domestic violence and losing her child. An AIDS sufferer, her depression led to drug use. Counselors at the East Oakland Community Project helped Hicks design a money management plan and to regain custody of her daughter. They now live together in an affordable apartment that Crossroads staff helped her find.

Countless other men, single mothers, and families share similar stories, not just at Crossroads but at shelters around the country. The trend that Oakland helped begin has spawned other green shelters around the country. At The Bridge in Dallas, crime rates in the surrounding community have dropped 18 percent in the three years since the award-winning building opened. Austin, Tex., and Boulder, Col., both boast shelters with amenities their users can take pride in.

A friend even sent me a link to a new shelter being built by the nonprofit Crisis Ministries in Charleston, SC. Rainwater collection and a silver LEED certification at a homeless shelter in the deep South? As is often the case, what starts in California slow trickles east.

If you haven't been out to Crossroads, I encourage you to volunteer. They're open to help of all sorts, from serving food in the kitchen to offering computer help. There's really no better way to directly help the needy in your community. Fortunately, for both the homeless and the volunteers, it's much easier to smile and look ahead from a naturally lit green building than the concrete bunker shelters of yesterday.

Tim Eyre works in the self storage industry, regularly traveling to see locations like this Oakland self storage facility near Jack London Square. Tim also contributes to the Extra Space Storage Blog on a regular basis.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

upcoming Oakland events

This week's events are brought to you by the letter B. There are birds, bikes and beer, along with some civic engagement about the budget. And Oakland Restaurant Week is still going until Sunday—lots of great deals at great restaurants around Oakland. Including, of course, B Restaurant and B-Side BBQ.

City Council / Redevelopment Agency meeting - tonight, Wednesday, January 25, 5:30pm. Meeting about cuts needed because of the elimination of redevelopment agencies. Amongst the programs that are slated to for cuts are the downtown Oakland walking tours, a wonderful program led by Annalee Allen. Also facing cutbacks are Children's Fairyland, Peralta Hacienda, and the Oakland Zoo.

Impact of a Recall - tonight, Wednesday, January 25, 6pm. The Oakland Tribune, the League of Women Voters of Oakland and the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education are holding a public forum on the possible effects of a mayoral recall. At Nile Hall in Preservation Park.

Winter Bird-a-Thon for Kids - Saturday, January 28, 9:30am-12:30pm. Families are invited to participate in this day of birding and citizen-science! Naturalists will assist a bird walk around Lake Merritt to discover and count bird species such as ducks, cormorants and herons. For kids of all ages and their families. This free event is inspired by the Audubon traditions of the Christmas Bird Count and Great Backyard Bird Count. Please RSVP with Golden Gate Audubon: ggaseducation@gmail.com or 510-508-1388. more info. (free)

Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale preview - Sunday, January 29, 10am-4pm. Preview sale for the Oakland Museum annual fundraiser. ($15-$20)

Oakland Restaurant Week - January 20-29. Oakland has a ton of great restaurants, so why not support the local economy and eat well? Oakland Restaurant Week includes dozens of restaurants from Amba to Yoshi's, from B-Side BBQ to Faz, each featuring prix-fixe specials during the celebration.

looking further ahead:
Victorian Valentines at CSH - Saturday, February 4, 10:30am-12:30pm. Join Camron-Stanford House for the first of their new Decorative Arts Workshops and create Victorian-inspired works of art. ($20-$25, 12+)

Urban Geology Lecture with OHA - Thursday, February 9. Hear about Oakland's geology with the Oakland Heritage Alliance and Oakland geologist Andrew Alden of Oakland Geology. ($10-$15)

Oakland Urban Paths geology walk - Saturday, February 11. Explore Oakland's geology and urban walkways with Oakland geologist Andrew Alden of Oakland Geology. (free)

Tour de Bière 2012 - Sunday, February 12. Take a bicycle tour of breweries in Oakland and Berkeley, and raise money for the East Bay Bike Coalition. Limited tickets, so order quickly. ($25, 21+)

plus the usual events:
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)
Mt. View Cemetery Tours (2nd and 4th Saturdays)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chapel of Memories

Continuing with the Taphophile Tragics meme, today features the Chapel of Memories. Oakland Daily Photo introduced some people to the word columbarium a couple of weeks back. To reference that, I went to the Chapel of Memories Columbarium and Mausoleum. It's next to Saint Mary's Cemetery, very near Mountain View Cemetery and Chapel of the Chimes.

More Taphophile Tragics from around the world.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Oakland Urban Paths: Lakeshore to Park Blvd.

up to Oak Grove park

For the first Oakland Urban Paths walk of 2012 on Saturday there was a great turnout, despite the spotty weather. Eighteen people and 3 dogs came out to explore the paths and stairs between Lakeshore and Park Blvd.

We started near Lakeshore Ave. by examining one of the ornate gateposts that date back to the early 1900s when the area was first developed. We heard a bit about the history of the area from Gerry Montmorency, president of the Lakeshore Homes Association (LHA), one of the oldest homeowner associations in the country. The streets were laid out by the Olmstead brothers, and some of the houses designed by noted architects Julia Morgan and Maybeck & White. You may recall that Mt. View Cemetery was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the father of the Olmstead brothers. Read more about the history of the Lakeshore area on the LHA website.

From there we headed up Mandana Blvd. and into the long, narrow Oak Grove park. The park is owned and maintained by the LHA, and sits between lots on Mandana and Longridge. The neighborhood is known as Trestle Glen, for the rail trestle that once crossed the canyon to Sather Park. That was built in 1893 by F.M. "Borax" Smith, the real estate magnate of the Realty Syndicate who eventually developed the Key System. Before that it was known as Indian Gulch, named by early Anglo settlers for the seasonal Ohlone village there.

We then walked into Crocker Highlands, once part of the Charles Crocker estate. The area is full of beautiful homes, many also dating back to the original development. That was started in 1911 by Wickham Havens, son of Frank Havens of the Realty Syndicate.

Then it was over to the Glenview neighborhood and Park Blvd. We had to cross the gulch without benefit of a train or trestle, so there was a lot of going down stairs then up the other side. The gulch was formed by Trestle Glen Creek, which is mostly underground now, but still feeds into Lake Merritt. After we climbed up to Park Blvd., we took a brief coffee break, then it was back down into Trestle Glen and to our starting point.

Another great walk. The next Oakland Urban Paths walk is coming up Saturday, February 11th, and will be led by Andrew Alden of Oakland Geology. The walk features 3 old quarries and a focus on geology.

Lots more pictures:

Friday, January 20, 2012

signs: High Street Pharmacy

Another two-fer on signs, the before and after at High Street Pharmacy in the Laurel. I can't say as either version of the sign is amongst my favorites, but at least the new one has some neon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

stop SOPA and PIPA

You've doubtless noticed all sorts of sites blacked out today, in protest of SOPA and PIPA. SOPA and PIPA would basically allow censorship of the web. Read more and sign a petition against them here. On a related note, you won't be able to use any of the Wikipedia links in my articles today.

upcoming Oakland events

The big event coming up is Oakland Restaurant Week, but there's lots going on Saturday, too, including the first Oakland Urban Paths walk of the year. If you enjoyed doing some gardening for the MLK Day of service, a number of organizations that have their regular gardening events this Saturday. See the events calendar for more on those. With most of the outdoor events, heavy rain cancels, light rain doesn't.

Oakland Restaurant Week - January 20-29. Oakland has a ton of great restaurants, so why not support the local economy and eat well? Oakland Restaurant Week includes dozens of restaurants from Amba to Yoshi's, from B-Side BBQ to Faz, each featuring prix-fixe specials during the celebration.

Oakland Urban Paths Lakeshore to Park Blvd. - Saturday, January 21, 10am-12:30pm. Explore urban stairs and walkways between Lakeshore and Park Boulevard with Oakland Urban Paths and their first walk of 2012. (free)

Living Concrete - graffiti art at OMCA - Saturday, January 21, 11am-5pm. An Oakland Standard event, where a 520 sq. ft. blackboard will become a mural for four Oakland graffiti artists: Ras Terms, Safety First, Resta, and Tecka. Live DJ music (with admission)

looking further ahead:
Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale preview - Sunday, January 29, 10am-4pm. Preview sale for the Oakland Museum annual fundraiser. ($15-$20)

Urban Geology Walk with OHA - Thursday, February 9. Explore Oakland's geology with the Oakland Heritage Alliance and Oakland geologist Andrew Alden of Oakland Geology. ($10-$15)

Oakland Urban Paths geology walk - Saturday, February 11. Explore Oakland's geology and urban walkways with Oakland geologist Andrew Alden of Oakland Geology. (free)

plus the usual events:
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)
Mt. View Cemetery Tours (2nd and 4th Saturdays)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Saint Mary's Cemetery

G.E. Lubatti, 1923-1924

Next door to the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland is Saint Mary's Cemetery. It's a Catholic cemetery serving parishes in Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda, and opened in 1863, two years before Mountain View.

I mentioned St. Mary's in last week's taphophile tragics post. It's where Domingo Ghirardelli moved his granddaughter's body from after a priest had refused to administer last rites as she lay dying.

There's a lot of other Oakland history represented in St. Mary's, though. It's the resting place of Edward and Virginie Rémillard. You may recall the Rémillard name from the Preservation Park walking tour. One of his brothers started a brick company in Oakland, and the company's bricks were used all over the Bay Area. Interestingly, most of the Rémillards are buried in Mt. View with Pierre, but Edward and Virginie are in St. Mary's. Read more about the Rémillards on Wikipedia and at Lives of the Dead.

One of most significant names in Oakland history is Peralta. Luís María Peralta was a soldier for the Spanish government in Mexico, and was given a large land grant which included most of the East Bay. According to Beth Bagwell's Oakland: The Story of a City, about 75 members of the Peralta family are buried in St. Mary's. And of course Peralta Hacienda in East Oakland is now a museum and historical site.

Lugrezia Vinella, 1921-1922

Knowing a little more about graves now, I noticed different things looking at various graves. There are lots of beautiful markers and even a number of larger mausoleums, though smaller than those at Mt. View. There are lots of 'standard' grave symbols used in the cemetery (no Masonic symbols, of course), though many more that are associated with Catholicism, like the Blessed Virgin. As with older graves in other cemeteries, the markers frequently list the birth country of person, e.g., "natives of County Galway, Ireland".

But I saw a couple things that I hadn't seen as much of before, including text in the native tongue of the deceased's family -- there were a fair number of markers in Italian. There were also a lot of markers with pictures of the deceased affixed. I saw a few of those in Mt. View and the Home of Eternity, but there are many of them in St. Mary's.

Lots more pictures:

More Tapophile Tragics from around the world.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Shepherd Canyon Park

Despite the return of winter temperatures, people turned out all over Oakland to serve, celebrate, and further the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It was cold when I left home in the morning; our birdbath was frozen. So it was a brisk ride over to my first stop, Shepherd Canyon Park. Several groups were doing various tasks, including pulling invasive species and planting milkweed, which is good for monarch butterfly caterpillars. Local regulars were there, including Mike Petouhoff (he led the OHA walking tour of Shepherd Canyon), and council member Libby Schaaf and her two children. The sun was just starting to make it into the canyon by the time I left, which meant it was plenty cold, and slippery with frost on the trails.

Stop the Gunfire rally

My next stop was Re:generation Church for the "Stop the Gunfire" rally. A large, diverse group was in attendance to hear different speakers and musicians, and then people networked, all in an effort to stop the violence in Oakland. I found Brenda Grisham's speech particularly moving and compelling. She's the mother of Christopher LaVell Jones, who was shot on his way to church and died trying to protect his mother and sister. See @tdlove's blog post for a nice write up about the event.

Lake Merritt cleanup

My final stop was Lake Merritt, where hundreds of volunteers descended to help clean up around the lake and in the gardens of Lakeside Park. The gardens at Lake Merritt are much more extensive than many Oaklanders realize, and are largely maintained by volunteers. So it was great to have a lot of fresh energy put into their maintenance. See the post at The Gardens of Lake Merritt for more about the event.

By the way, if you'd like to help with the gardens and are looking for a once-a-month thing to do to help make Oakland better, they work the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of every month, and welcome more volunteers. See The Gardens at Lake Merritt website for more info.

There was a lot more going on in Oakland today for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, but I only had a chance to sample a little of it. I'll add more links about the events as I find them. What did you do in honor of MLK Day?

More reading on the 2012 MLK events:
POPNA - Oakland's dedication to MLK
ACCFB MLK Day video
Oakland Local - Day of Service draws hundreds to East Oakland

Lots more pictures:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

signs: OHA + Neon Works

Neon Works warehouse

Ilove Oakland, I love history, and I love interesting signs, so I was in heaven Thursday night. The Oakland Heritage Alliance held an event about neon signs at Neon Works in the Gaskill. OHA board member Michael Crowe gave a lecture on the technology and history of neon signs and showed photos of various great neon signs around the U.S. But for me the real treats were seeing master sign-maker Jim Rizzo's amazing collection of vintage signs, and then watching Jim bend some glass and prepare the tube for installing on a sign. As Michael said, neon isn't rocket science—the physics of it are well understood. But creating a beautiful neon sign is definitely an art, and one that requires a lot of patience and skill.

The first practical neon lights were created by Frenchman Georges Claude and demonstrated in 1910. His company, Claude Neon, became so well known people thought that was his name. Neon signs became extremely popular in the U.S. from the 20s to the 60s. The first neon signs in the U.S. were created and sold to two Packard dealerships in 1923, and literally stopped traffic in LA with people stopping to stare at them. The first neon lights were made with neon gas in clear tubes, which has a distinctive orange-red color. But other inert gasses like argon (along with a drop of mercury) can be used, and combined with different phosphor coatings to produce a variety of colors.

Once a sign has been designed, making the lights for it requires several steps. First is figuring out the two- and three-dimensional layout. Then the difficult task of heating and bending 4' glass tubes to match the pieces of the layout. The glass is heated to about 1500°F to allow it to bend, but air needs to be blown into the tube while working to keep it from collapsing. The workshop has different types of gas flames with different shapes, depending on what sort of bend is needed. Becoming a glass bender requires a lot of practice and a lot of patience.

Once the tubes have been bent to the necessary shapes, they may be joined into longer lengths up to 16'; different sections can have different phosphor coatings, so a single tube can have different colors. An electrode is inserted into one end which is sealed, then a vacuum pump removes as much air as possible from the tube. Other impurities are burned off using high voltage. The tube is filled with the desired gas, another electrode inserted, and the end sealed. If all has gone correctly, it's now a functional neon light, waiting to be mounted on a sign.

While Neon Works mostly creates new signs, they also restore old ones. The G&G Hardware sign on Telegraph above Pizzaiolo was recently restored by them, as was the Kwik Way sign for its reopening. One of their best-known creations was the Yahoo! sign near I-80 in San Francisco, which was recently taken down. The pieces now sit behind Jim's warehouse.

We also heard that the Clancy's Cantina sign will be coming down. Either Jim will get the sign, or it will go to the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale, CA. That's how Jim has gotten the majority of his vintage signs. Someone sells or redesigns a building, and they don't want the old sign anymore. I heard that Jim has offered to repair the Children's Hospital sign, but the city has turned down his offer.

Neon signs aren't as popular as they once were, but there are still lots around, and Neon Works installs new ones on a regular basis. Although more expensive than plastic signs, neon signs can last for decades, and many people (myself included) find them more attractive and interesting than modern plastic signs.

more pictures:

more reading and links:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

upcoming Oakland events

After a relatively quiet week, there's plenty of interesting stuff coming up, with lots planned to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Arroyo Viejo Park cleanup - Thursday, January 12, 8:30am-12:30pm. Oakland Parks and Rec is holding a park cleanup for Arroyo Viejo Park in East Oakland to celebrate and honor Dr. King. more info (free)

Speeches of a Dream MLK celebration - Thursday, January 12, 5pm at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for The Arts. Celebrate the life of Dr. King through poetry, music, and art. more info (free)

National Parks free - Saturday-Monday. Not specifically an Oakland thing, but good to know if you're planning on visiting one of the national parks this weekend. In honor of MLK Day, all 397 national parks and monuments will be open for free on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. (free)

In the Name of Love at the Paramount - Sunday, January 15, 6pm. The 10th annual musical tribute to Dr. King, at the Paramount Theatre. This year features Mavis Staples, Oakland group PopLyfe, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and more. Congresswoman Barbara Lee will present the Seventh Annual City of Oakland Citizen Humanitarian Award to Derrick B. Johnson for his service to the community. MC'd by Aimee Allison of Oakland Seen. Read more at Oakland Local. ($8-$18)

Alameda County Community Food Bank Food Drive - Monday, January 16, 9am-noon. Join the ACCFB on January 16 for the 3rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service! Drop off food at 7900 Edgewater Drive. Canned tuna, peanut butter, and complete meals like beans and rice or pasta and sauce are in high demand. A Virtual Food Drive is set up for those who can't get out to East Oakland. For every $1 donated, ACCFB can distribute $5 worth of food. (more info)

MLK, Jr., Celebration at McClymonds High - Monday, January 16, 10am-2pm. A celebration of MLK called Dream: Let’s Make it Real. Lots of live entertainment, a keynote speaker, and special guest Matthew Fox. Read more in the Oakland Post and the Oakland Tribune. (free)

Stop The Gunfire gathering - Monday, January 16, 10am. An event to fight crime in Oakland and celebrate the memory and life of MLK. Read more at Oakland Local (free)

Day of Service at MLK Shoreline - Monday, January 16, 8:30am-noon. Work with the East Bay Regional Parks District doing habitat restoration. more info (free; pre-register)

other events:

Machine: A Fire Opera - opens Wednesday, January 11. The Crucible, presents an amazing sci-fi short story performed in a fiery industrial universe. Times and days vary. More info ($45-$65)

Jack London's 136th Birthday @ Heinhold's - Thursday January 12, 5pm. Fans of Jack London are gathering at his favorite watering hole, Heinhold's First and Last Chance Saloon, to celebrate his 136th birthday. more info (21+, free)

looking further ahead:

Oakland Restaurant Week - January 20-29. Oakland has a ton of great restaurants, so why not support the local economy and eat well? Oakland Restaurant Week includes dozens of restaurants from Amba to Yoshi's, from B-Side BBQ to Faz, each featuring prix-fixe specials during the celebration.

Oakland Urban Paths Lakeshore to Park Blvd. - Saturday, January 21. Explore urban stairs and walkways between Lakeshore and Park Boulevard with Oakland Urban Paths and their first walk of 2012. (free)

Urban Geology Walk with OHA - Thursday, February 9. Explore Oakland's geology with the Oakland Heritage Alliance and Oakland geologist Andrew Alden of Oakland Geology. ($10-$15)

Oakland Urban Paths geology walk - Saturday, February 11. Explore Oakland's geology and urban walkways with Oakland geologist Andrew Alden of Oakland Geology. (free)

Plus the usual events:
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)
Mt. View Cemetery Tours (2nd and 4th Saturdays)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

taphophile tragics #3: Aurelia Ghirardelli

Herein lies the tale of how the Ghirardelli family of chocolate fame ended up buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

Domingo Ghirardelli was born in Italy, and came to the SF Bay Area by way of Uruguay where he opened a confectionery, and changed his name from the Italian Domenico to the Spanish Domingo. After a short stint in the gold fields near Jamestown and Sonora trying prospecting, he returned to San Francisco and founded the signature business.

In 1879, his teenage granddaughter Aurelia became gravely ill, and the Catholic priest refused to administer the last rites. There are several stories as to why: it was raining too hard, or the priest felt Ghirardelli hadn't given enough to the church, or one story says the priest was drunk. In any event, the girl died without receiving last rites. Domingo's wife Carmen was devastated, and Domingo forbid the family from entering a Catholic church again.

Domingo had the Ghirardelli mausoleum in Mountain View built, including a Masonic symbol above the door. The Vatican forbids Catholics from being Freemasons, so this was doubtless very intentional. Then in the middle of the night, Domingo and his sons took a wagon to St. Mary's Catholic cemetery and moved the Ghirardellis buried there (including Aurelia) to Mountain View next door.

Domingo died in 1894 during a trip to Italy. His bodied was returned to Oakland and buried in the Mountain View Cemetery.

Read more on the Lives of the Dead site.

More Tapophile Tragics from around the world.

Monday, January 9, 2012

signs: 400 Club / El Potrillo 400

old sign

Here's a two-fer with signs, an old version and the new. In the middle of Jingletown near the Park St. bridge from Alameda is El Potrillo 400 Restaurant and and Bar. El Potrillo is "the foal", as you might guess from the sign (though the icon makes me think horse or stallion.) But not that long ago, the bar was called 400 Club. The 400 part of the name makes sense because it's at 400 29th Avenue. But why the name change? I haven't been to the bar, before or after the rename, so I can only speculate. Maybe 400 Club sounded too much like Pat Robertson's 700 Club?

new sign

Saturday, January 7, 2012

bits and pieces 7

The big news that has everyone atwitter is that Oakland was #5 in the New York Time's "45 places to go in 2012". Even @JerryBrownGov tweeted about it. Those of us who live here already know it, but it's nice to see a mainstream publication giving some positive press, too. With restaurants like Plum, Bocanova, Boot and Shoe Service, and more opening all the time, plus great music, amazing weather, and a diverse, wonderful population, what's not to love? Check out Monteskewed's Top 10 Reasons Why He Loves Oakland. For a nuanced response to the NYT article, check out 38th Notes. Late addition: also check out the response on examiner.com

Also in the great-to-see-its-about-time category is a report in the Tribune that West Oakland's 7th Street district is going to get a blues walk of fame. The area was once home to music locales like Esther's Orbit Room, which hosted legends like Billie Holiday, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, and BB King. So it's nice to see the area getting some recognition.

There are a variety of restaurant openings and and one closing. Oakland North reports the Silver Dragon in Chinatown is going to close, and it will become an Asian health services clinic.

I still haven't been, but apparently Arbor Cafe in the Temescal is now open. Always glad to see another bike-friendly place.

According to Diablo Magazine, Faz has opened in downtown Oakland. It features Mediterranean food, and sounds good. Anyone been yet?

Haven opened in Jack London Square. Another restaurant by Daniel Patterson (of Plum fame), it sounds quite promising.

Rumbo al Sur opened in the long-vacant spot on Park Blvd. in the Glenview. It was Compadres for a number of years, but sat empty for the last several. Rumbo al Sur features Mexican and pan-Latin American food, from the folks who brought us À Côté.

The lack of rain (and snow in the mountains) has been bad for air quality and terrible for skiing and our water supply, but it's made for some beautiful sunsets.

And last but not least, some photos that didn't get used elsewhere.

Friday, January 6, 2012

happy cats

happy cats

Yesterday on my way home from the bank and other errands I spotted these very happy cats catching the last rays of the sun. There were actually four cats on this set of stairs (one not shown below), and another on the stairs next door.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

upcoming Oakland events

There aren't a lot of events happening in Oakland this week that I know about, but there are some of the regular events. I confirmed that the Art Murmur is happening this Friday, but haven't heard yet about the tour at the Paramount. No special mention on the website, so I assume it's on.

What interesting events are happening in Oakland this week? Let me know in the comments!

Art Murmur - Friday, January 6, 6pm-9pm. It's the First Friday of the new year, so it's time for the Art Murmur. The galleries are installing new displays, so come check out the latest artwork in Oakland. (free)

tour the Paramount - Saturday, January 7, 10AM. Tour the historic Paramount Theatre, an Art Deco gem of Oakland and get to see behind the scenes. ($5)

Saturday Stroll - Saturday, January 7, 1-5PM. The mellower daytime cousin of the Art Murmur, the Saturday Stroll features many of the same galleries. (free)

Blog Launch Party @ Oakollectiv - Saturday, January 7, 7-10pm. Come celebrate a new blog with the fashion collective, Oakollectiv. Champagne toast to the new blog at 7:30pm, music by Ge-ology and DJ Yaddos. (free)

Blow Out Sale at Montclair Plaza Collective - Sunday, January 8, 9am-2pm. The initial stage is wrapping up, so they're shutting down for a while to figure out the next stage, a sustainable food market. Come get great local, hand-made items at a discount! (free)

Plus the usual events:
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)
Mt. View Cemetery Tours (2nd and 4th Saturdays)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

taphophile tragics #2 - Frank Ogawa

The other day I stopped by Mountain View Cemetery again, but not for a tour. This time was to explore one of the large mausoleums at Mountain View Cemetery, because I have relatives interred there. I got a description of the location of my paternal grandparents' vault and my uncle's vault within the structure from my parents, and set off exploring. While looking for them, I found the vault for the Ogawa family. Frank H. Ogawa is well-known in Oakland, if nothing else because the plaza in front of city hall is named for him.

Frank Ogawa was a Nisei (2nd generation Japanese, born in Lodi, CA), but like many Japanese Americans during WWII he and his wife Grace were forced to sell their possessions and were imprisoned in an internment camp. Their daughter, Nancy, was born in the Topaz War Relocation Center in 1942 and died at age 2 in 1945. But the mistreatment didn't turn Frank against the U.S. After release, Frank returned to Oakland and became active in the community and civil rights. Originally a nurseryman, he served on the city council for almost 30 years, and held various other public offices.

While exploring the mausoleum, I noted a fair number of vaults with flowers, but quite a few decorated for the holidays with poinsettias, wreaths or even small trees. Having recently been on the symbols tour, I also took note of various symbols that were used. While not as common as on older graves, there were a fair number used on vaults in the mausoleum. Many were related to Freemasonry, but there were other symbols used, too: crosses, a painter's palette, American Federation of Musicians, United States Marine Corps, Professional Engineer, and even a Santa Clara County fire captains badge. Certainly more literal than the symbols used on older graves, but nice to see the use of symbols hasn't completely disappeared.

More pictures from the mausoleum at Mountain View:

More Taphophile Tragics from around the world.