Loud bass, a recycling bandit, an unreliable friend & a stuck elevator

It’s time once again to see what’s happening on the streets of our sleepy little community of Albany, CA. This is a partial listing of the police log from last week, courtesy of the Albany Patch. http://link.patch.com/view/7rbk.1d/22798686

SEPT. 21

9:28 a.m. Someone reported a loud bass guitar on Brighton Avenue.

I’m assuming someone was playing it, and it wasn’t just wandering down the avenue.

3:19 p.m. Someone reported several teens in the 100 block of Evelyn Avenue smoking marijuana. 

But 3:19 is after Albany High lets out, so at least they weren’t skipping school to smoke, right?

4:25 p.m. A woman went into the Police Department to report that someone had sent her several fake money orders.

All at once or was this a pattern?

SEPT. 22

7:06 a.m. Someone on Brighton reported “loud music coming from the back of the house” that “starts every day at 7 a.m.”

Oh, that darn bass guitar is at it again.

11:57 a.m. Police took a report of someone exposing himself to another person on San Pablo Avenue. 

Ooh, right before lunch? Gross…

5:27 p.m. A red girls bike was stolen from Albany Middle School.

Now was that a bike that belonged to red girls or…oh, never mind.

SEPT. 23

5:10 a.m. Someone on Cornell Avenue called police to report a “recycling bandit being loud.”

I do wish those recycling bandits would learn how to steal more quietly.

11:48 p.m. Someone on Brighton called to report an ongoing problem of a “resident playing electric bass in the garage.” The caller said he or she “would like him to quiet down.” 

Wow, that bass player is up early and stays up late—when does (s)he sleep?

11:53 p.m. Two callers reported two males involved in a fight with a bat. Matter checks out OK.

Did the two males win or did the bat? It seems like an unfair fight if you ask me.

 SEPT. 23

4:32 p.m. Police received a report of a woman stuck in an elevator in Bayside Commons Apartments on Pierce. Miscellaneous public service provided.

Miscellaneous public service provided? What other public service would be appropriate in this case other than freeing the poor woman from the elevator? Giving her food stamps?

SEPT. 24

12:24 p.m. Someone reported the theft of two boxes of books from the 1000 block of Talbot during the week after four cases were dropped off by UPS.

Woo hoo! Books are still considered worthy of stealing! Who said that the publishing industry was dying?

5:19 p.m. Someone visited to the Albany Police Department to report that his or her vehicle was missing after letting a “friend borrow it [a] couple months ago.”

Unfortunately it’s not a crime for a friend to turn out to be an unreliable snake. Although it should be.

7:23 p.m. Police received a fire alarm call on Santa Fe, with a report that there was smoke in the hallway and “birds confined” in the home.  Miscellaneous public service provided.

I understand that the birds would be bored just sitting in a cage, but how did the birds get a hold of cigarettes?

10:38 p.m. Police arrested a transient near San Pablo and Portland Avenue on suspicion of possessing a drug pipe.

It was “on suspicion” of possessing a drug pipe? Does that mean they weren’t sure if he had one or they weren’t sure it was a pipe for drugs?

I have to say that I am so happy that I live where most of the entries on the crime blotter involve loud music rather than gunshots.

Inspiration in the form of an author reading

Last weekend I attended a book reading at Mrs. Dalloway’s with my husband. The author was a former colleague of his in publishing. I always want to support local authors and independent bookstores, so I went with an open mind and no expectations.

Before he read from his novel, Jim Cohee spoke eloquently about his path to publication, which I always find intriguing, but his was particularly so. Although he had wanted to write from a young age, he had fallen into the other side of publishing, becoming an editor at  Sierra Club Books. But the desire to write never went away, and at 60 years of age, he decided to give it a shot.

His first attempt received 50 rejections. And this is a man who has industry connections and knows the business!

Then he wrote The Swan, a novel with a ten-year old narrator who stops speaking after his sister dies. After his failure to get his first novel published, he didn’t even send out this second work until his wife pushed him. So he sent it out, expecting nothing.

Two weeks later he got an e-mail from an editor that opened with the words every novelist dreams of hearing: “I love this novel.”

So Jim Cohee is a debut novelist at 67. It makes me hopeful. It’s the kind of story that gives me that little bit of inspiration that all writers need to keep going.

Thank you, Jim. And I look forward to reading your book, which I’m sure will provide an additional burst of inspiration.

Writer’s block not an issue, just time

I know that I risk making enemies by making this simple statement, but I always tell the truth:

I never have writer’s block.

I really don’t. I could write 24/7 if I didn’t have to eat, sleep, go to work, do laundry, etc. And I also can’t understand it when I hear someone remark that it’s difficult to find things to write about. If you’re alive and thinking, there will always be things to write about. (Someone famous may have said something similar to this, but I can’t recall who.)

Now that doesn’t mean that everything I write is going to be fascinating to everyone out there. In fact, what interests me may not be your cup of tea. (In fact, I’m not  actually that interested in your cup of tea, but I don’t know much about it—maybe there is a wonderful untold story in your cup of tea.) But just doing my everyday thing, I come across lots of potential blog-worthy topics.

I was listening to the end of a radio show that was airing a City Arts & Lecture held in Herbst Theater in San Francisco. (I was sorry I hadn’t heard more of it because it was Tina Fey, and I love, admire, worship Tina Fey.) But at the end of the credits, I heard that the assistant producer of the show was a former student of mine. Kate Goldstein-Breyer was in my kindergarten class in 1984, and I haven’t seen her since I stopped teaching at San Francisco Day School in 1986. Memories rushed back, and I smiled, recalling the little spitfire that Kate was at age 5. I could go on and on about Kate, about teaching kindergarten, even about the crazy carpool that I was in that year with three other teachers who also lived in Oakland and taught in San Francisco. But actually, I’m not going to write about that right now.

When I was in the check-out line at the grocery store last Sunday, a voice called out  just loud enough for me to hear: “Fire in produce!” And then when everyone was trying to digest this bit of information, the voice repeated its urgent call with more volume and clarity: “FIRE IN PRODUCE!” The cashier at my check stand was closest, so he ran over to squirt the grapefruit-sized flame with the little hose they use to wash off the produce, only moments before another employee showed up with a fire extinguisher. But it was too late—the conflagration was history. Of course a customer had already dialed 911, so the fire truck showed up as I was exiting the store. It was a pretty exciting 90  seconds for a lazy Sunday afternoon. But I’m not going to write about that either.

A hole made by a piece of orbiting debris in the panel of a NASA “SolarMax” satellite.

I caught the end of an interview on the radio where the reporter was thanking her interviewee for his time. His field of expertise? Space garbage. Okay, his title sounded more scientific than that, something like orbit debris researcher. But basically he knew all there is to know about stuff that gets launched into space and lands (or doesn’t) back on Earth. I could definitely write a lot about that, and I didn’t even hear the interview.

So my point is—and I do have one—there is no shortage of topics on which to write. The only thing in short supply is time.

Butt in chair a practical writer’s motto

I get Greg’s poems regularly via his google group and enjoy them. Today I had to share his clever, simple, catchy poem with all my writer friends out there.

me at my desk

by Greg Pincus 

Butt in chair. Butt in chair. 
Minutes here, an hour there. 

The work is hard, but I’ll get through it; 
It won’t get done unless I do it. 

Sit me down. Glue me there. 
Keep my butt, butt, butt in chair! 


Sometimes you’ve just gotta look at cute cat photos…

Sorry, I couldn’t resist reposting this cute photo of two cats creating a heart.








Or this photo of a cat in a toilet…










Or this photo of a baby reading to a cat…



But that’s absolutely the last photo of a cat that I’m putting in this post, except…

for a photo of my own cat.

Memories from summer of 2011

watching the Big Lebowski in downtown Berkeley for free in the Bank of America parking lot


making cupcakes that look like the Very Hungry Caterpillar



making outdoor sculptures out of dried agapanthus


 hosting two lovely foreign exchange students: 

Anouk from France


and  Magdalena from Austria 


watching my beautiful daughter do a little graduation dance before she hugged Principal Scuderi

dropping same beautiful daughter off at SFO to go to college and crying on the drive back home (no photo available)

Sunday stroll down Solano

a balloon ballerina

It’s a tradition that started in the 70s in North Berkeley, though it was more like an evening sidewalk sale then. Now it stretches from the Alameda all the way down to San Pablo Avenue and includes Albany, making it the huge street festival that it is today.

I’ve been a regular attendee for many years, even when I didn’t live in Berkeley. Now that I live a block away from the main drag, I don’t have to worry about finding nearby parking.

It starts with a small-town parade, led by the fire department, good old BFD. Sometimes the mayor shows up. Local high schools are represented, as are preschools, private schools, elementary schools, and the Chinese After School program, which provides the parade with a colorful dragon.

Of course there are also political messages from those who want to free Burma, or Tibet. And they’re walking in between the Boy Scouts of America and the Gray Panthers. Young and old, Berkeleyans and Albanians (the kind from Albany, not from Albania), liberal and radical (maybe a few token conservatives)—all walking together down Solano Ave.

puppets for sale
I have my routine: start by watching the parade near the top of the route, then begin the long leisurely stroll all the way down to San Pablo Ave.
If the Back Pages are playing (they used to be Stroll fixtures, but haven’t made it a few years), then I schedule my strolling around their performance time. Music fills the air and changes every few blocks, so that you could hear Albany High’s Rhythm Bound and their brass section and then a few moments later hear a surf band comprised entirely of people over 50. Or the Blondies, a middle-school band that plays a lot of Beatles covers and no doubt has a few 10-year-old groupies.
The other must-see is Katie’s dance studio show. I always get there early to get a good seat. Where else could you see five-year-olds in tap shoes and accomplished company dancers in glittery costumes all on the same stage? And this year, as a surprise even to Katie, the performance ended with a flash mob dance including parents and the sound guy.
Religion is out in full force. Several churches have booths, as do temples, synagogues, at least one ashram, and the poor atheists, who have no house in which not to worship. Even the scientologists have a booth. 
If you don’t mind eating while standing or settling on a curb, you can take advantage of the many food vendors who offer corn on the cob, gourmet corndogs, vegan munchies (I had mushroom crispies), Thai food, unusual flavored ice cream (ginger, anyone?), “Killer” brownies (that’s their actual name), and slices of Zachary’s pizza. If you require chairs and a table, Cugini’s expands its table service along the sidewalk where their big umbrellas will protect you and your pasta from the sun.
Vendors run the full gamut—you could buy a penguin hat,  a toe ring, Tibetan scarves, garden ornaments, hand-carved wooden African animals, or 1200-thread count queen-size sheets in every color.
I even saw people in costumes that had nothing to do with any sort of scheduled performance, although it’s possible that the Riff-Raff/Magenta duo just never left the area after the Albany Twin’s previous midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The big slide is no longer the only ride on the stroll. The pony ride and the ferris wheel were both quite popular. This year they even had a few carnival attractions: a fun house, darts, and fishing for rubber duckies.
I always run into people I know from the various parts of my life: former students and their parents, fellow writer coaches and Berkeley Broadway singers, friends and neighbors, people who go to my gym, and the amazing collection of individuals that make up this quirky little place I call home.
a very unBerkeley sign

Time-traveling postcard finds its way back home

This story comes by way of the Berkeley Patch.

One June morning, Berkeley resident Jennifer Frisch found a postcard in her mailbox. It had come from the American Museum of Natural History in New York. On the front was a Jurassic scene with a couple of dinosaurs, and on the back was a note: “They chased us three miles but we were saved by a band of Indians.” It was signed simply, “Dad.” 

Then Frisch noticed the postmark, which was stamped June 12, 1963. The 4-cent stamp was of Swedish diplomat and author Dag Hammarskjold, who died in 1961 — the same year Frisch was born. This postcard had come a long way, and taken 48 years to arrive at its Berkeley destination.

The article ends by saying that the current owner of the house where the postcard was delivered tracked down the previous owner to whom the card was addressed. How did she get it back to him? She mailed it. Let’s hope it arrives more quickly than it did last time…

Read the rest of the story by Emily Henry at this link: http://berkeley.patch.com/articles/time-traveling-postcard-finds-its-way-back-home

Vampire bats are coming, vampire bats are coming!

I credit Steve Newman’s “Earthweek: Diary of a planet” for today’s scary bit of news: vampire bats could be moving in.

A rabid vampire bat bit a 19-year old last summer in Mexico, but he didn’t become ill until he was working in a sugar cane field in Louisiana where he collapsed.  His heartbeat slowed, he got hypothermia, and he stopped responding to stimuli before he was taken off life support and died.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted this as the first rabies fatality in the U.S. linked to a vampire bat attack and warned that the habitat of the vampire bat could be expanding to include the United States due to climate change.

Wait a minute—the article stated that the young man had been bitten in Mexico, not Louisiana. So what exactly is the base of CDC’s dire prediction? I guess even the CDC isn’t beyond a little sensationalism. It does make for a scary article. Although seriously, you could write a story about unicorns and rainbows, and it would still be pretty darn frightening with this photo of a vampire bat next to it…