Alameda

Today after school (and a brief hail storm), I had to swing by South Shore to deposit a check and we noticed something STRANGE and FOREIGN resting on other people's cars. Certainly nothing the boys had ever seen before, but it conjured up vague memories....

Snow! (well, sleet)... we've never seen this down here in the Fogbelt's Flatlands before. We tracked some more down on the southwest corner of the mall on a Toyota and scooped some up. Simon eventually chucked his out the window but Henry held it until we got home, then beaned me with it on the cheek. Some things are just hard-wired.

It was destined. Boegers once again roam the competitive swimming world. While Kirk is coaching a team down in the Virgin Islands, Simon recently joined the Alameda Islanders -- an activity certain to command our mornings, weeknights, and every 3rd weekend for the next 10 years! Good God... I swore this would not happen again, but we somehow pulled ourselves in.

Today we find Alameda in the national news regarding the controversial gay marriage ban in California. From USA Today:

Dueling rallies often involved shouting and arrests. Election night was no different in Alameda, across from San Francisco.

Tim Tarasov, 25, stood on the corner of Otis Drive and Park Street hoisting a sign approving the ban in the moments before the polls closed Tuesday. Across the street stood those approving same-sex marriage.

"I have two kids and a beautiful wife at home, and I believe in a marriage that's going to create happiness for the family," said Tarasov, of Sacramento. "Only one man and one woman can make that happen, because the Bible said so."

Here's a project I have been working on since June that I'm particularly proud of. It's a new interactive site for our Lum School PTA in Alameda.

The goals of the site include, in no particular order:

  • Centralize communications and event info for all PTA Members.
  • Provide opportunities for parents at work to be more involved with happenings at school
  • Make it easier for PTA Coordinators to get their message(s) out.
  • Give members control about what topics/groups they want to "subscribe" too (and not get blasted with stuff they would rather pass on).
  • Give donors the option to choose where they want their donations directed (to arts, music, field trips, etc.)
  • Empower member teachers to manage their own classroom pages (still working on it)
  • A forum to exchange ideas for improvements and programs, etc.
  • and so forth....

You see much more stuff if you are a member. We have decided to protect the names and contact info of all the members, and are also keeping most pictures and galleries inside the member realm. Better safe. But, please feel free to donate to our school, and we will really appreciate you!

Alameda's Progressives have a history here in Alameda. In the 50's, "progress" meant surrounding The Island City w/ landfill, ranch homes, and a giant shopping plaza. These days, density is all the rage and Alameda progressives are blogging overtime for ways to "improve" Alameda and its inhabitants. After all, that 50's mentality has got to go!

Many old guard Alamedans fret w/ the threat of unrelenting, true-believing world improvers right here in A-town. Hell, it's True Believers that are the most dangerous (more-so than the bought-and-paid for shakers)... because it's conviction that drives them! Che and Mao and Bush all know they were right, and look at how they improved things for so many!

But back to Alameda's True Believers for Density, or shall we call them the Tool Believers (for Big Development?) There is no need to worry about them much anymore... at least for now. Sorry to be The Bearer, all of you well-meaning Tool Believers and your dreamy improvements for us all, but you have a major obstacle in front of you. And I offer you a solution where you can even make a BETTER difference and help more people than you ever imagined!!

Henry's birthday is in October, so this year he was particularly interested in Halloween. He started dressing up and scaring passers-by in late September. He wore his spiderman gloves every single day. He had 15 configurations ready for the big day, and used about 7 of them. We had a smoke machine and microphone/amplifier set up on our spider-web strewn Haunted Porch.

It was great fun. The boys got over-the-top scary at times... even scaring the bejeezus out of some schoolmates (we still feel bad, Sabrina) but it sure was fun seeing 4-year-old Hank take Halloween to the Hilt.

Alameda's a fine place, but I just wish it was more of a music town. Jim Morrison went to high school here, we have a gem of a music shop on Webster, and there are a couple places to hear live music on a random night, but *music* isn't part of this town's fabric.

Judging by the nasty tones emanating from current civic discourse, some folks could simply benefit with more music in their lives. They just don't know it yet! Now it's my turn to be an idiotic world improver, and so I dub this project: Sonic Discourse.

My first therapeutic recommendation goes to those allowing others to get under their skin. This is an unfortunate waste of energy and guaranteed loss of sanity. Why let people get to you, especially when you know that's why they do it? Don't you mind them..... "Grinnin' In Your Face".

This legendary Son House tune is revitalized on James Blood Ulmer's new record he made down in N'Awlins w/ Vernon Reid. (itune link for JBU's version) It's a swampy and spooky version with a deep blues swing. But if you are feeling *really heavy*, rather than taking somebody to court, just crank up Government Mule's version from their first album (listen to snips) and let it segue into "Mother Earth". For when it all comes down, a soulful sonic bludgeoning will harden your heart.

Don't mind... people grinnin' in your face
Just bear this in mind
A true friend is hard to find
Don't mind... people... grinnin' in your face

(itune link to Son House's original version)

My second fix is for the folk(s?) deriving pleasure from getting under the skin of others. Are you clever, witty, and sometimes cruel on the blogs? Do you like to parse details to death? Feel heroic when exposing the weaknesses of people you've never met? Need a new hobby? We don't want you to die from Bitter Persons disease, we just want you to be a better neighbor.

So for you clever/mean folks I prescribe a Frank Zappa binge. If you pay attention - and I know you can - you will be delighted and challenged by the compositions and musicianship AND endlessly entertained and humoured by Frank's lyrics and conceptual continuity themes.

You will learn to revere his mastery of plucking the feathers off of anything and everything. He parses with a poignant precision matched only by Ambrose Bierce. Nobody escapes from the big Z. Not even you. When you least expect it... just when you think he's been with you all the way.... HE WILL GET CHOO. And it will hurt, because you will know it's true. Even though you never heard it coming. And you will be humbled. And then you might be nicer to people. And perhaps Alameda will be a better place.

I'm not sure which album would do the trick, but to get you going try Hot Rats, Chunga's Revenge, Us Against Them, or (my favorite) You Can't Do That Onstage Anymore Volume I.

Until next time... this has been a public music therapy announcement from Boegerweb.

There is a battle going on in my town. There are those who want density and others mostly against it. I think everyone who's been paying attention would agree that things around here, at the very least, have been "dramatic".

The folks who run the city are pushing higher density and have adopted a "transit first" approach. There has been a series of battles, such as the downtown "Megaplex" and the oncoming Target. The top of the bill is Alameda Point, a now decommissioned Naval flight base with prime acreage in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

The problem that everyone agrees on is that Alameda's main island only has 3 drawbridges and a tube connecting cars to the arteries, so public transit is a necessity (ie precursor) for "dense growth".

The transit commission, eager to enforce their bus-stop-every-1000-feet plan, sought to put one in a rather silly place. I'm still not sure what set me off more... the audacity of the location or the manner in which is was stealthily steamrolled our way... but fight, we did. We had exactly one month to research the issue, set up an online group, make an alliance with the school neighbors, navigate the school rules and PTA workings, design and print 100's of flyers, and convince folks to show up at City Hall.

So, off we go to City Hall. Public Works made their presentation and then introduced a police captain to concur that this location was now deemed safe, although it had been decommissioned 2 years ago by the very same police due to the danger quotient. Amazingly, the policeman stated that the distance between a stop and the crosswalk was 120 feet. (The actual distances are 68 feet and 26 feet.) To make a long story short, quite a few folks went up and made sound arguments about safety that convinced even our City Council.

As the night progressed and AC Transit officials and the Public Works were asked to answer to concerns, and started to seem that none of them had ever actually been to that actual location. (but... then... who took all of those laughably distorted photos?) Is this is just a mark on the map in someone's grand scheme with no consideration whatsoever about the people who actually use that particular space? "Progress" like this brings out my inner libertarian.

The Council told us that the proposed stops would go back to the transit commission follow up on to some key questions regarding routing, ridership, and "runtime". This particular night, common sense prevailed and it almost feels like a wonder. We'll keep an eye on the transit commission's re-config project.

The anti-density folks just witnessed a victory, tiny as it is. The neighbors and families of Lum Crossing were confronting a micro-issue as opposed to an idealistic battle and the future of our island -- it doesn't get more LOCAL than this. At the risk of being called a nimby, racist, a now... stalker! in this town, sometimes you have to take a stand.

Personally, I'm not really against density, but I'm generally against development that leads to more cars. I fought the Megaplex because I was against the parking garage. I would probably get along swimmingly with this transit commission and their plans for "Manhattanization" if they weren't proceeding in such a belligerent and idiotic manner. My beef with them is that the school and its families were completely left out of the loop.

I was updating my friend Paul about this and we discussed Alameda Point. Paul is an environmental lawyer and said that it is possible to develop density WITHOUT PARKING. Hard to believe... you'd think it would be impossible to pry Californians from their cars. The parents at my kid's pre-school can't get more than 10 feet from their cars without dread. But Paul says it can be done and is being done. (aside... check out Car Free Cities)

Hmmm. Suspend Measure A for housing that literally has no parking availability? I suppose it's possible. Given Alameda Point's location, it could be served by ferries to and from San Francisco, Oakland, and elsewhere very easily. Alameda Point could be a very decent place for employers to set up with workers arriving by ferry. Ferry boats just makes a lot more sense than light rail leading to the nearest Oakland BART station.

Like the City Council kept saying, the number one issue on this ISLAND is traffic. Alameda Point is going to be developed sooner or later by somebody. Would people give up their cars to have the incredible views that will be available out there? Our family probably would.... but then again, maybe we'd rather give up our cars to live on Nob or Russian Hill in a city that is naturally dense (San Francisco). It seems to me that these people pushing for Manhattanization would have a more satisfying time of it by moving into San Francisco... or back to Manhattan.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a plot to install new AC Transit bus stops IMMEDIATELY ADJACENT to our elementary school crosswalk. We use this crosswalk every day along w/ scores of other Alameda parents. Anyone with eyeballs and a shred of common sense would recognize this a a VERY BAD PLACE to put new bus stops.

Why, you ask? First... there isn't a demand. Virtually none, if any. But somewhere in City Gov't, there is an agreement which led to a policy which led to a relentless compulsion to put bus stops every 1100 feet or so... all along their routes.

Mainly, it's unsafe. As a matter of fact, there were bus stops here a couple of years ago, but they got taken out because they were UNSAFE. Somehow, our local Transit Commission has gotten the local police to sign off that it is indeed, now, safe. This... in the face of a hard push to put a Target and expand retail at the "centre" down the road.
The scene at this crosswalk is already a challenge, even with two crossing guards. They are totally focused and professional because they have to be. Today's drivers are distracted not just by their complicated lives but a low sun rising from the SE, impairing visibility. As one of the crossing guards puts it: "they just don't want to stop!"

I just set up a google group called Lum Crossing. Since we parents are already too bent for time and other meetings (such as saving Wood Middle School), a virtual group seems the best way to go. We're not against public transit, but let's put it where it makes sense.

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