Oakland Pride 2016

This is a day when Oakland shines, and shine it did for 2016. Here are a couple of fun photos. I had my face painted by the uber-talented Nikki Borodi outside our newest “Gay Bar” The Port. The young man with the wings was a stand-out but I did not get his name. We’ll just call him the super cute rainbow-winged man. It’s a great time to be alternative in Oakland.

PS Here’s another incarnation of Nikki. What a talented singer, songwriter, dancer, producer. Sexy. And it’s funny to boot!!

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Parov Stelar at The Fox Oakland

Finally made it to a show at the Fox and what a blast. Literally. If you have a “floor” ticket, you’ll be right up front where the AC blows up from the floor. Wear a skirt and you can dance for hours.

The atmosphere of the restored theater is amazing. The people who work there are cool too. Friendly and welcoming. They have a smoking area, but honestly, by the end of the night the theater was so full of marijuana smoke you didn’t need to go outside or light up.

I couldn’t quite figure out where/why all the European hipsters came from. Stelar is from Austria, but that seemed like a stretch. Then, it was revealed … they were on their way to Coachella. cleaopanther

But, the Fox was their first West Coast performance ever. Quite an honor for Oakland and those who love electro swing, rock and just plain good dance music.

Not just your average DJ, Stelar is a skilled producer and brought together an amazing team of musicians and a lead singer that was positively entrancing. And that voice! Her name is Cleo Panther (and she was as lovely as we imagine Cleopatra to have been). And, such energy!

After the concert, I hopped on the 40 bus and went home by myself. Perhaps next time they come to the US they will have a night off and we can have an after party at my place. Hey – a grrl can dream, right?!

 

Morning existentialism anyone?

Last night I dreamed an old housemate of mine had returned. Everything was arranged in such a lovely way, but underneath it all was filth*. Not exactly like this photo, but I’ve had a few like that, too.

Isn’t that so often how we find ourselves living? Displaying shiny, happy, false fronts. Covering up our guilt and shame. Especially when we’re young. filthy kitchen

Like most of growing up in the 1970’s, I had a Mother and a Father in the home. Even though they didn’t do a great job at protecting me from certain aspects of the “real world” they did give me lots of real-world skills for getting by in life. They taught me what’s important to keep clean, and how.

Several of my young housemates/boarders have been “latch-key” kids and it shows. It can be sad, but with the right individual, it can be inspiring too. Watching someone come into their own, without the benefit of a “proper upbringing” is pretty amazing.It takes a lot of perseverance and a willingness to fuck up.

My parents were smart, funny and beautiful. They were also well educated, well read and well mannered. They took great pride in that, I think. Maybe too much, but that’s the American way – compare your selves to others. The “best” one wins, in the form of money and prestige, right?

I always wanted to please those in authority, so it could be tough to admit mistakes. But, it got easier. Becoming a Mother does that. You’re so afraid you’ll make mistakes, you’re looking for ways you might have screwed things up! You ask for help. You seek advice. And, all of that and who surrounds you forms who you are are.

I like to attempt to quantify things. Even people, feelings, etc. So, I’m starting to wonder if the ratio of nature to nurture is not 50/50 and it’s more like 60/40 or 90/10. After all, I feel like the same person as a 51 year old grandmother, as I did at age 14 when my parents “wanted to put me in a cage” (their refrain for decades afterward).

What percentage of your upbringing do you think formed who you are? Do you value family tradition or individualism? And, do you think any of it really matters (i.e. where do you believe you are going after death?).

Just a few questions for my readers on a Wednesday morning.Thanks for diving in.

 

* (Note: I am not speaking of a lovely young woman with the initials BK).

Bootstrap it! Or, “The Ranch – New drivel from Netflix”

Recently read an interview of Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson on their new show The Ranch.

I gotta ask why. And, why now?! Why do we need another show about hyper-masculine, bearded men that panders to that very demographic of dinosaurs? One that encourages us to grab a beer or whisky (mentioned twice for future product placement pitches no doubt) and to unbuckle the belts on our big fat American bellies?

Their struggle? How to get their act together in a world that makes it difficult for so many. I also take exception to this idea, generally perpetuated by white men, that people can “get back on their feet” without help. In what world is that NOT the gold standard? Being able to “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”?! That’s all one ever hears in this demographic!

So guys, I’ve got news from you. For those who were born barefoot, or have had the straps on their boots torn off, it’s not possible without help. And, very few of us have that Sam Elliot type of Daddy Protector these two characters have. Just ask any Mama.

 

Did you hear? The Bay Area is beautiful

Did you hear? The Bay Area is beautiful

And that lovely sarcastic side of me replies, “tell me something I don’t know”. But in all sincerity, it doesn’t ever lose it’s luster for me. The scenery and natural beauty of the area that is.

You probably check out my social media sites and think I really get around and have probably seen it all, right? Wrong. There are a a LOT of places I’d still like to visit here.

One or two great ones have been checked out on the surface. When I sold advertising, I’d call on many local attractions. And, that was a great way to use a work day, indeed

Those sort of interactions often netted me a comp admission, but being a busy single mother at the time made it tough to go to all of them. Honestly, I do feel like someone who lives next door to Yosemite and has never been inside the park though, when I remind myself I’ve never been to John Muir Redwoods for instance.

My excuse? I have lived in the Redwoods along the coast near Santa Cruz several times in my life. Silly but valid.

At one point, I had a great sounding address for an old loggers cabin. It was on Lindbergh Avenue in Redwood Estates (a somewhat ironic name for the place). It was filled with Redwood trees, ferns, creeks and critters. And unfortunately, earthquakes too (lived there during the Loma Prieta of 1987).

There are other places I feel I must see soon, too including Chabot Space & Science Center. I’ve gotten a tour, but not done anything hands-on yet. However, a place like that is much more fun when you have a kid with you (time to scoop up a grandchild and get there. Duh!).

There’s nothing like a small child and hands-on science exhibits, telescopes and animatronics. Taking a small child through The Jungle Ride when they actually still think the animals are real is hilariously good fun too! But, then again, I’m a terrible teaser. The whole family is.

“Let’s scare the child by jumping out from around the corner! Let’s make ’em believe Santa was just here! Let’s threaten to throw ’em to the lions or off the side of our “boat”, in the jungles of Anaheim. I’ve even heard of some kids being dangled over the alligators in the old California Academy of Sciences aquarium. Silly humans. It’s a theme in my life ok?!

I read somewhere it is also an “Irish Thang” to do that – laugh at everything remotely adverse, tease each other incessantly to “toughen each other up”, and if you’re really smarty, do it all with just a few words or a glance. After all, you want the whole room of celebrants roaring in laughter with you, right? (Total sidenote & spoiler alert: I’m part Scotch-Irish, but apparently they got “lumped in” with “those Irish people” when they immigrated here to avoid starvation.)

At any rate, here are a few photos of the local scenery – “natural” and urban – from right here in Oaktown CA. Some might even call the Port area scary, but nothing ever jumped out. I promise.

Benign neglect

 

That’s one thing that Oakland has suffered from/been blessed by I do believe – benign neglect. For years nobody wanted to build a grocery store here. Now, it’s the hippest City on the Left Coast.

Sure, a few smart residential and commercial investors were smart enough to leap in and scoop up much of West Oakland and Downtown after San Francisco’s recent population boom (one of many I’ve seen growing up in the Bay Area). Whole Foods saw the potential early on, and despite high prices they thrive because of their location and their offerings.totalbastardairlinesbuhbye

Big chain grocery stores like Food Maxx (owned by Save Mart Corporation) in the Laurel also went under. I mean, why go to Food Maxx when there is Farmer Joe’s independent market? I love them. Farmer Joe’s is on par with Whole Foods, but is much smaller, locally owned and less expensive. Their store in the Dimond has arguably one of the finest produce sections in Oakland or Berkeley, IMHO.

Yes, we still have Safeway and Walgreens and they serve a purpose.

We don’t have a need for things like department stores (Sears) or discount home goods and “art” from the Big Box Chains (Pier 1 Imports). Why go there when you’ve got the Chinatown Farmers Market and so many amazing gift, home, service and other shops downtown?

Even our tourist area is dominated by independently owned operations. Sure, we still have a Scott’s Seafood and a Ben & Jerry’s (or are they closed now, too?). But, when you think Jack London Square today – and you’re a bit of a foodie too – you surely think Plank. Lungomare and Forge before any chain offerings. At least I do.

Meanwhile out here in the East – not the deep East but the 50’s is pretty far south/east from downtown Oakland – we get by without too many big box grocery chains. You can get plenty of pantry items like coffee, sugar and canned soups at the drug stores, and at all the friendly little places like Island Super Market and Shop Rite here in the Melrose/Maxwell Park area.

So, in the words of those classic stewardesses on Saturday Night Live, Buh BYE Big Boxes.

We really do seem to “shop local”. One more way we can be trendsetters here in Brooklyn By The Bay. After all, isn’t it time we went beyond interesting facial hair, record shops, bocce ball and locally brewed beer? Note: We should continue to offer up good beer and records though. Because, let’s admit it, those things never go out of style.

 

 

Sometimes it is too late

I’m fortunate to have friends and family who step up when I’m down on my luck, or in need. Once you hit bottom it can be very hard to get back up, even impossible alone. Many will look at you with scorn, as if you did something “wrong” to deserve it. They see you as a drain or a burden. This is one reason it’s so hard to ask for help. We’re taught to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.But, what about when your bootstraps have been torn off by something like cancer?

That’s what happened to a friend of a friend, far far away. Has to be one of the saddest tales I’ve heard in a while. Not, for the person who has cancer, but those who will survive her. Too proud to ask for help, it wasn’t until stage 4 that her family finally stepped up and got her the help she needed.

It is probably too late. They will have to go on with the knowledge that they did nothing, when they could have. They waited for her to pick herself back up again.

So, if you see someone who’s down on their luck. Or, you haven’t heard from a friend in a while, go check on them. Don’t expect them to reply on messenger. Use the doorbell, and if you can’t offer any real assistance, there’s always things like housekeeping, running errands, cooking a meal. You’d be surprised how much those little things can do to keep one going. I know all to well.