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Editor’s Note: This month’s News features an article by Sheila McCormick about the East Bay Children’s Book Project that began on a wing and a prayer in the old Neighborhood Center on Lake Park Avenue. Twelve years later, it has distributed 1.6 million books and is more or less back in the neighborhood. We’re also delighted to share a post from subscriber Gary Meyer, who writes that “Oakland is on a roll, with two hot buzz films at Sundance: Sorry to Bother You, which was written and directed by Boots Riley, and Blindspotting, co-starring and co-produced by Daveed Diggs, the Oakland native we wrote about at length in our June 2016 issue. We published the photo to the right thirteen months later as the film crew was shooting a scene in The Alley.
The East Bay Children’s Book Project (EBCBP for short) helps build literacy – getting books to children with little or no access to them, via teachers, social workers, health care professionals, community outreach groups, housing authority employees, and police officers. Books are provided free of charge to schools, daycare and community centers, homeless shelters, and hospitals.
EBCBP was founded by Ann Katz and Fern Lehner, and some of their colleagues, former teachers. When several of them retired in 2004, they decided to start the project. EBCBP first operated out of the neighborhood center on Lake Park (where Caña is now), but have since been forced to relocate a total of four times.
OAKLAND IS ON A ROLL
by Gary Meyer
Social media has been hot for BLACK PANTHER and two weeks ago it set an all-time advance ticket sales record for a Marvel film.Wait until you read the advance tweets from critics and celebrities. Can’t wait to see it with an audience at the Grand Lake where Oakland director Ryan Coogler’s break out FRUITVALE STATION was a huge hit followed by his wonderful CREED.
Oakland is on a roll, With two hot buzz films at Sundance both getting theatrical distribution deals —
BLINDSPOTTING generally got enthusiastic reviews (with reservations) about the total package. Bottom line was this is a movie to see and the filmmakers should go far. David Fear’s Rolling Stone review of this opening night selection starts:
Then on came Festival Director John Cooper, who promised an opening-night selection that was “fun to the point of sassy.” He was not lying. If you can say nothing else about Blindspotting, it wears a fabulous, hard-fought cheekiness on its big-up-Oakland t-shirt sleeve.
LAKESHORE AND LAKE PARK AVENUE
Simon Lutrin, who describes his current art form as “Abstract Cyberpunk Expressionism,” remains Bay-Made‘s “Artist of the Month” through February 17th. If you haven’t already seen his work, and you’re heading to the Grand Avenue First Thursdays art walk, you can start at Bay-Made, which is only open until 7 p.m. Or, alternatively, take advantage of the artist’s reception on Friday from 7-9 p.m. Owner Sarah-Jane Bernhisel also tells me she’s really excited about her next show – “My Eyes Will Follow You” – featuring new works by Gordon Silveria. It will be up from February 20 through April 1 with an Opening Reception on Friday, March 2 from 5-9 p.m. plus an artist’s pop-up shop on April 1.
When I was in the shop on Tuesday, I photographed Sarah-Jane’s woodblock print and the accessories required to print it as a vivid illustration of one of many workshops that are scheduled at Bay-Made every month. Check their website for class schedules.
In January, the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center (above T-Mobile) became the primary leaseholder for the entire space, with an expanded capacity to rent offices to other non-profits and small businesses interested in locating in the new center. A couple of days ago, I saw Stu Sweetow, who moved his AV Consultants office into the co-working space some six months ago, and he reports that he’s quite pleased with the new management.
Caña is offering a special Valentine’s Day Dinner for Two featuring live jazz and a 4-course meal prepared by guest chef, Diego Salinas, who trained at the California Culinary Academy and whose resume includes a stint as Executive Chef for Google and Miss Pearl’s Jam House.
Over the past half dozen years, the Grand Fare Market space at 3265 Grand has undergone so many plot changes and physical transformations, it’s hard to imagine more. That said, I’ve heard from a reliable source that the property will be up for sale. This hasn’t been confirmed by owner, Richard Weinstein, but considering the morass that he and Chef Charlie Hallowell are mired in, it’s not surprising that they would be abandoning their plans to utilize the space as an all-day, specialty bakery/restaurant. Any such plans would appear to be even more problematic given the demands involved in the opening of a second Pizzaiolo location on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley while also dealing with the need to replace the three management-level employees that tendered their resignations on Saturday and three more that intend to do so this week, as reported in this article in SF Eater and this article in the SF Chronicle.
Saturday morning, I talked to Ordinaire owner, Bradford Taylor, who has been living in Chicago for the last couple of years with his two kids and his wife, Nicole, who is now doing her medical residency. He was back in Oakland for a few days, and I found him behind the bar. Bradford confided that Ordinaire had quietly severed their promotional partnership with Boot and Shoe immediately after the the story broke and only went public at the request of the Boot and Shoe staff who were leading the call for Hallowell to divest from the restaurant. Taking a distinctly pensive tone, he noted that this was having a negative impact on Grand Avenue businesses – bad for everybody involved, particularly for those who are now unemployed. An hour or so later, Pat Kernighan stopped to talk with me as I was listening to John Steven Morgan, the “Piano Man.” in front of Arizmendi. We had a similar conversation during which she pointed out the dilemma involved in choosing between a boycott and supporting the employees who remained employed at Boot and Shoe. As I remarked last month, I don’t know what the solution is … but somebody has to deliver one.
Rod Dibble’s fifty-five-year reign at The Alley’s piano bar was celebrated on January 6, an event at which Councilmember Abel Guillén read an official City of Oakland proclamation. Everyone in the crowd joined in for a rousing rendition of Oakland’s un-official, official song. This lengthy article in the East Bay Express by Rick Paulas provides more detail about the memorial gathering, and you can listen to a recording of the song by the Goodtime Washboard 3 on the LocalWiki page.
While Dibble’s passing generated lots of press, Kevin Numoto, a long-time employee at the Ace Grand Lake Nursery passed away on January 1, six weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His passing was marked with an obituary notice and very little fanfare except, thankfully, for a living memorial two weeks before his death that was attended by family members and his closest friends – including Peggy Kass and Helen Krayenhoff from Kassenhoff Growers. In their nursery newsletter and on Instagram, Peggy and Helen expressed their grief but also their gratitude for the opportunity to be by Kevin’s side as he navigated his final days.
Andrew Alden’s January 8 About Geology blog started with an interesting premise. Namely, what would a walk around Lake Merritt look like after a century of sea level rise generated by global warming? The data he used predicts water lapping at the intersection of Lakeshore and Mandana – but I’ve seen other maps that predict water up as far as Walla Vista.
For Valentine’s Day, everything’s coming up roses at Grand Flowers, Lee’s Discount Florist, and Brother and Sisters Flowers – as well as at Pura Vida Flowers and Plants on Lakeshore. If you’d like to broaden your shopping options, Studio Grand is hosting a Love Bazaar for Lovers and Loners on Sunday, February 11 from 1-4 pm. The pop-up Art Market will feature local vendors curated by Lisa Castellanos.
Speaking of Freya Prowe’s Brother and Sisters Flowers, they have a new innovation that should be copied widely. It’s a reading chair, which her daughter, Anya, kindly modeled for me. In addition, they have a bunch of new workshops scheduled. In March, you can create your very own floral crown. In April, learn the art of arranging the freshest of spring flowers. In June, you can (with the assistance of children 5 and up) create a succulent garden for Dad’s Day.
This Saturday, Bunnahabain Scotch is on the “menu” for Alchemy Bottle Shop’s weekly tastings. While you’re there, be sure to check out the nude pastels by Lena Martinez-Miller, a student at Mills College who is working on a B.A. in Studio Art.
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There are two new vendors at the market, including Dominic Cruz who at was the Grand Lake Market this Saturday for the very first time. His company, Cruz Designs, handcrafts high-quality robes, bags, and aprons. Although he had robes on display, mostly they’re custom-tailored. They also have a love cat futon available for order online – but I’m assuming Dominic would, if asked, bring one to the market.
Base Camp Bakery is based in the Bay Area and they bake “high hydration, naturally leavened breads using 100% organic ingredients and local California grown grains.”
The Baconer has been at the market for a full year, but they’ve just moved into a new location at the Grand Lake Market where they’re likely getting more traffic. In addition, they were just the subject of a lengthy article by Cirrus Wood in the Jan. 19 edition of Berkeleyside.
SPLASH PAD PARK
On my recent road trip to San Diego and points south, I ended up at the beautifully maintained Miguel Higaldo Park in Tecate, Mexico, where I marveled at their gorgeous fountain and couldn’t help but think of our little neighborhood park where our water feature hasn’t worked for months and where there’s a laundry list of major infrastructure issues that haven’t been addressed. The obvious question is, “Why not?”
We take some comfort in knowing that our complaints to the Public Works Call Center recently elicited a promise to refer the sunken decking in the plaza, as well as the huge rat infestation, directly to the Facilities Manager, Stephen Curiel. The rat problem is especially galling, since Mary Jo Sutton, the Splash Pad Grand Crew leader, has probably spent a hundred hours or more digging out their burrows and laying screens around specific shrubs. I’ve pitched in a bit as well and, for the record, avocado pits don’t kill rats – unless you can figure out how to use them as projectiles. We’ve been told that the City is now contracting with a new pest control company that uses non-toxic abatement methods – but, as far as we know, they’ve yet to visit the park and repairs have not yet begun on the decking.
The Grand Crew gots tons of work done in the California Native Garden this past month thanks to big turn-outs for the MLK Day of Service on the 15th and, again for the regular 4th Sunday work day on the 28th. On the 15th, members of a Brownie troop from Rockridge came accompanied by parents plus several other adults who found our listing on the City website. On the 28th, the regular work force was supplemented by four diligent Key Club members from Piedmont High School. This is the same group that had worked in the garden the previous two years; without their help, the big expansion garden would not have been completed.
I should also note that the core volunteers do a lot of work on their own. For example, Diane Hicks worked about ten hours on the two scheduled work days over the last two weeks and returned mid-week for another two hours to dig weeds. I already mentioned Mary Jo’s one-woman campaign against the rats, but she also returned a week ago to spread wood chips in the new expansion bed that she found listed for free on Next-Door. In addition, she’s saving us tons of money by propagating plants, including a beautiful Ribes that she started from a cutting and planted this past Sunday.
Some of the other dedicated volunteers that we count on are David and Susan Elliott and Victoria Barbero, who has also been faithfully pruning the street trees adjacent to the corner of Lake Park. The next work day is Sunday, February 25 from 9-noon. If you’re interested, please email Mary Jo at mjmatrix2
GRAND AVENUE FIRST THURSDAYS
There’s a new show at Alchemy Bottle Shop featuring brightly colored nudes by Lena Martinez-Miller with a portion of sale proceeds benefitting MariposasSinFronteras.org.
510 Brand is introducing several new artists with local connections, including Kris Fernald (manager of the Rare Book Room at Walden Pond) and Molly Lynch Maringouin, who, in addition to being a painter, has strong credentials as a producer and writer in the independent film world. Chances are there will be a DJ, and the staff is always generous with complimentary beverages and edibles including, on this occasion, a birthday cake for employee/resident artist, Nina Simi.
Panorama Framing has a new show scheduled featuring the art work of two of their employees – Morgan Patrick and Rebecca Young. Complimentary beverages and snacks will be served with musical accompaniment by Kim Lembo on guitar.
Urban Furniture is re-joining the fold this month with a show of Brittany Luby‘s art and apparel that’s “Made with moxie in Oakland, California.” Complimentary small bites and beverages.
Lou Grantham, owner of SF Fiber, will be offering a hands-0n demonstration of table loom weaving. Details for all of the participating galleries can be found on the Grand Avenue First Thursdays page.
ODDS AND ENDS
If you’ve been curious about all of the police cars parked on Lakeshore near Mandana on a regular basis, it’s due to Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church’s role as a neutral-ground venue for “call-ins” of gang members, which is an essential element of the Oakland Ceasefire program launched in Oakland in 2012. Here’s what LABC pastor, Jim Hopkins, had to say about the program in a January 16 letter to the East Bay Times:
Having been an Oakland resident and pastor for almost 30 years, I have been part of several efforts to reduce the gun violence that wreaks havoc in our community. Oakland Ceasefire has been the one effort that involves more than public prayer and political posturing. When there are 75 homicide victims, as there were last year, any celebration of success needs to be restrained, but the significant reduction in the number of homicides needs to be honored, and the city’s commitment to the effort needs to be redoubled. I tell the congregation at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church that we have done much good in our 158-year history but that our participation in Ceasefire might be the most important of them because of the lives that are saved and the community that is restored.
When David Gans apologized for a one-month delay in getting us his article about C. J. Hirschfield, due to a last-minute push to complete his latest recording, I put Drop The Bone at the top of my shopping list … and am very glad I did. The album consists of eleven songs that provide an hour and eleven minutes of listening pleasure including vocals and lots of superb instrumentals. My favorite song is Pancho and Lefty, but they all provide the perfect background accompaniment as I’m sitting at my computer working on this month’s News.
The 2018 Michelin Guide for Oakland restaurants in zip code 94610 includes Michel, Shakewell, Camino, and Cafe Romanat. Congratulations to each with a shout-out to all those who aren’t necessarily listed, but should be.
Hats off to the Oakland City Attorney’s office and to attorney Selia Warren, in particular. Recycle for Change’s appeal of their lawsuit challenging the Oakland ordinance that regulates unattended collection bins was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in December. More information about RFC and their lawsuit is in this DonateOakland.org blog.
Artist Peter Lee used to be a regular fixture in the Grand Lake neighborhood, and he’s the main reason we’re graced with so many murals inside and outside. Half a dozen years ago, he departed for Southern California but continued painting and seems to be getting more and more accomplished. In a January 6 Facebook post, he gleefully announced that he’s returned to his first love – watercolors.
I was pleasantly surprised (delighted even) to hear about a couple of initiatives revolving around Lake Merritt. The first was an organizational meeting in November of a new group called Lake Merritt Advocates for which old friends Jennie Gerard and Mary Ellen Navas are serving as coordinators. Their goal is to get a whole host of groups clustered around the lake (from the Adams Point Neighborhood Group to the Lawn Bowling Club) working in concert to promote, protect, and enhance the Jewel of Oakland and its immediate environs. Not surprisingly, retired Parks Supervisor Tora Rocha was the featured speaker and inspiration for this effort. I would be equally surprised if she didn’t refer to Lake Merritt as “Oakland’s Golden Gate Park” – which it truly is … or should be.
The other related initiative is the introduction of a new LakeMerritt.org website of which the Advocates group is a part. The website also has a Calendar of Events much like the one we’re planning for the Splash Pad News and the Grand Lake neighborhood.
- Thursday, February 1, 6 – 8 pm: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Friday, February 2: Art Murmur Uptown Oakland
- Saturday, February 11, 1 – 4 pm: Love Bazaar for Lovers and Loners at Studio Grand
- Wednesday, February 14, 5 – 10 pm: Valentines Dinner with Jazz at Cana
- Saturday, February 17, 1 -3 pm: Bonsai Garden (at Lake Merritt) Fundraising Auction
- Sunday, February 18, 10 – 4 pm: Bonsai Garden Sale
- Wednesday, February 21, 7 – 8:30 pm: Grand Lake Neighbors Meeting, Lakeshore Baptist Church
- Sunday, February 25, 9 – noon: Splash Pad “GRAND CREW” 4th Sunday Volunteer Work Day
- Wednesday, February 28, 9:30 am: Free Bird Walk Starts at Geodesic Dome near the Rotary Nature Center
- Friday, March 2, 5 – 9 pm: Opening Reception for “My Eyes Will Follow You” at Bay-Made