Category Archives: Neighborhood

And I Didn’t Have a Camera

Returning from the gym on Easter Sunday, in the course of an errand I was driving down San Pablo Avenue near the 580 overpass, instead of rolling straight home on the freeway.  While driving, I saw a truly wonderful sight.  Two cars in front of me was a car containing a person in a white rabbit suit, waving to the people on the sidewalk!  I couldn’t see the details until we both got into a left turn lane.  The car was an ancient pale yellow Dodge GT convertible, top down, with an original California license plate from the ’60s – 3 yellow letters and 3 yellow numbers on a black background. It had fins.  I couldn’t tell you who was in the rabbit suit because all I could see was the back of its head.

And when I dived into my purse for my smartphone – I realized I’d forgotten it.  So all you get is a verbal description from me; but it absolutely made my day.  Happy Easter to all.

Also posted in Personal Tagged |

Sunset over the Bay

I took these photos on October 12 – that’s how long it takes me to get around to things.  On October 12 I attended the Oakland East Bay Symphony‘s 25th Anniversary Gala (I’m a board member of the parent organization, East Bay Performing Arts).  The Symphony decided to have its Gala in the new Penthouse suite in the remodeled U.C. Berkeley Memorial Stadium; and I figured it was the only chance I’d ever get to see the penthouse suite, since I don’t attend Cal football games, and if I did I’d be sitting in the cheap seats.  I’m also annoyed at the U.C. Regents for (among other sins) spending all that money to reinforce a stadium which is still sitting Right On the Hayward Fault – the fault trace runs the length of the oval.

But it was a nice party, and the food was good, and the view as the sun set was amazing.  I’ve taken panorama photos of San Francisco Bay on other occasions (see my gallery Views of S.F. Bay, which includes these photos and a few more from this session), but usually I’m using my Canon T3i or its predecessor.  In this case the only camera I had was my old smartphone, an HTC Droid Incredible 2 (since replaced).  Also, I’m usually somewhere on Grizzly Peak or Skyline Boulevard, looking down from a much higher vantage point. I think I got pretty nice photos that evening, I hope you agree.

Here’s the Campanile at dusk:

Campanile at dusk

The Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands:

San Francisco Bay

And the Campanile as the lights came on:

Campanile lights

By that time it was getting too dark for my measly phone camera to cope, so I quit.  But it was a lovely evening.

Also posted in Photography Tagged |

East Bay Mini Maker Faire

A week ago I spent Saturday at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire, a wonderful place for the gadget minded to hang out.  I had two reasons for being there.  The first was that my singing group, TOSCA, was performing on the main stage – in fact, they were the opening act, performing Ward Swingle’s Music History 101.  TOSCA is The Oakland Symphony Chorus A La Carte, and you can find more about them on the Oakland Symphony Chorus web page.  Page down to the bottom on the right side for contact information.

Here they are waiting to go on:

TOSCA waiting to perform

They sang valiantly, competing with 8-year-olds swinging hula hoops, and a swing-the-hammer-ring-the-bell arrangement in the next field that shot huge bursts of flame into the air at unpredictable times:

TOSCA on stage

Outdoor performances are always trying but they sang their best.

Mr. JazzBo

The jazz tune was great until the sound system died in the middle of it 🙁  The costumed young woman at the right was their “time machine,” who “moved” the performance from era to historical era.  I wasn’t singing because back in August I came down with walking pneumonia and I missed too many rehearsals to try to perform this complicated music.

After the performance I went off to my volunteer stint at the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s Instrument Petting Zoo, which was extremely popular.  I didn’t take many photos there – I was too busy cleaning the mouthpieces of the flute, the trumpet, and the trombone (and the conch shell), before the next person picked one up to try it!

I did like the little Zen fountain behind the booth:

Zen fountain

After my shift was over I wandered around, and could not resist a photo of the Intergalactic Imagination Transporter – that’s what it says on the door.

decorated car

This is my second Mini Maker Faire and they’re always fun.  If one happens near you, drop in on it, you never know what you’ll find.  I remember with pleasure the booth surrounded by 9 year old kids, each madly swinging a small bottle – they were making their own butter!  They were right across from the beekeeper’s booth, with its hive of live bees.  A lovely day.

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The Shirt King of Oakland

Walking along Lakeshore Avenue the other day, I passed a dry cleaners’ window I hadn’t noticed before:

shop window

The actual sign said “George’s,” above the motto, but I couldn’t get it with my phone without stepping out into the street.

The window caught my eye because of the old laundry equipment.  You can’t see it from this angle, but the iron with its cover flipped back is full of charcoal briquettes (probably originally lumps of coal); that’s how you ironed laundry before electricity. A friend of mine once lived on a boat – when I visited them I saw her Coleman iron, a mid-20th century version of the coal-fired iron.  Hers was more modern looking than the ones on eBay but it still had its pressurized tank of white gas.

Next to the coal-fired iron is its predecessor, a flatiron – you had two of those, one to sit on the stove and heat up while you ironed with the other.  The wringer, of course, is obvious; and though it’s hard to see, there is a washboard tilted against the left side of the window. The blue thing that looks like a pistol is (I think) an old sewing machine.

Why am I so interested in old laundry equipment?  According to family legend, once upon a time my grandmother supported her five kids by taking in laundry and washing it “on the board.”  These were all tools she might have used.  Thank God I never had to do that!

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The Bridge in the Truck

One of the things I like about the Bay Area is its unpredictability.  You never quite know what you’ll run into.  Today we ran an errand in Emeryville and parked in the lot across from Home Depot.  I got out of the car and found myself staring straight at this, in the next parking space:

Bridge in truck

Yes, that is a model of a suspension bridge – looks like the Golden Gate bridge to me – made of barbed wire and scrap metal, sitting in the bed of someone’s pickup.

My first shot was a little off center, although it clearly does show the cross-braces on the suspension towers (which is why I think it’s the Golden Gate).  I backed off and took a better centered shot:

Bridge in truck

It’s a good thing I took those pictures right away, because when we got back to the car, the pickup had been replaced by a minivan with no interesting features at all.  I don’t know if the bridge belongs to an artist, or just a metalworker who likes bridges.  Given that we were less than a mile from The Crucible, I sort of suspect this may be connected with that institution.  Just maybe.  But – who knows?

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Lunch in the Yard

On a beautiful day like this – sunny, light breeze, 82° – I often have lunch in the back yard, surrounded by plants and, occasionally, critters.  As I was eating today’s lunch, I heard a noise and turned to see a scrub jay land on the board edging the rose bed.  It’s hard to miss a scrub jay.  They’re almost a foot long head to tail, with a 15″ wingspan, and most of the bird is bright blue.  Since he (assumption, I can’t tell them apart) was only 10 feet or so away, I expected him to take off, but he hopped around the brick patio a bit, poking his beak, and finally extracted a string of dried grass.  Then he took off, heading for the mass of greenery at the back of the yard (an English laurel, 2 camellia bushes, 2 full grown trees, a shore pine and a live oak, and a ceanothus).

Hm.  I wonder.  A few minutes later he swooped by again and perched on top of the garage, again digging with his beak in an indecipherable glob of gup on top of the insulator where the electric wire enters the garage.  Can’t you find something nicer than that, I wondered.  But he picked up something he liked and vanished again.

I think we have a nesting pair of scrub jays.

Also posted in Nature, Personal Tagged |

Bees

We had a little excitement this afternoon.  My neighbor knocked on the door and said, “We have bees.”  What?  I said.  So he pointed to the tree in parking strip, ornamented with dark clumps of swarming bees, buzzing loudly.  As we stood around and wondered whom to call (Animal Control in Oakland is basically hopeless, though I think there’s a local guy who will remove swarms), the swarm moved from our tree to his tree, then swept onward to a yard about 3 houses down the block.  The whole thing took less than 10 minutes; I saw them last, through binoculars, orbiting around each other just short of the overhead freeway, a block away.

I wonder if they ever found a place they liked, to build a new hive.  The yard at that end of the block is posted as an official wild nature reserve, maybe they settled there.  Better them than me.  I like and approve of bees but I don’t want to raise them.

Also posted in Nature Tagged |

Ducks on the Lake

I don’t have pictures, because when I walked over to the library to return some books, I didn’t think to take the camera – or the binoculars, and that was a mistake too.  I walked back along Lake Merritt (the library is right at the end of an arm), and saw several grebes, a few small ducks I’m pretty sure were scaups of some kind, and a handsome pair of canvasbacks (handsome also in the secondary sense of “moderately large” – canvasbacks are big ducks!).

I passed a woman talking on her cellphone who was shouting excitedly into it, “They’re back, they’re back, it’s early for them,” and peering out over the lake.  I interrupted her conversation to ask what she thought she saw and she said there were buffleheads out on the lake, but they were way out, and the best photos I could get with the crummy zoom in my camera were just fuzzy duck-shaped blobs.  I’ll go back with the binoculars and maybe the 300mm lens one of these days.

It’s a genuine pleasure to be able to walk along a lake full of birds any time I like.  When the remodel is over, I must come back down here more often.

Speaking of the remodel, we passed the rough inspection Friday, which means they can start covering up the walls, starting with a plywood shearwall in the kitchen.  We’re moving right along.

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The Condo

So we’re living in a rental condo while the remodel continues apace.  I haven’t lived in a rental since I think 1976.  My biggest problem before the move was the fact that we couldn’t look at the place until the day we got the key (it was occupied).  Once we saw it, it was and is very nice.

condo interior

Our house is 1,600 square feet and the condo is only 750, but our house is 2 stories, so this is about the size of our first floor.   It’s a good thing we don’t mind spending a lot of time together, there’s no room in a one-bedroom unit for a privacy freak.  There’s also (ahem!) only one toilet; we’re used to a spare on the other floor!  The kitchen is adequate (except that we both prefer gas stoves) but really not big enough for both of us to potter around in it at once.

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Oakland Shoreline Afternoon

The other weekend, a friend of mine had a birthday party at Martin Luther King Shoreline Park.  It was a nice party, but it wasn't my party, so I didn't take any photos of it.  I did take photos of the estuary and some of the birds there, including a pelican whom I caught just taking off:

Pelican taking off

The pelican continued on and I got a nice closeup of him, with the Oakland hills in the background:

An urban pelican

Most of my photos, though, were of these little guys.  There was a whole flock of them.

Long-billed dowitchers

After doing some research online, I think they're long-billed dowitchers, but I have to consult an expert before I can be sure.  As you can see, there was quite a flock.  I didn't realize how many until they decided to take off:

Shorebirds taking off

Feel free to enjoy the rest of the photos in the gallery.

Also posted in Nature Tagged |