Join The Crowd, Organize Your Block Party

Did you enjoy your block party or crash someone else’s last August?  Instead of merely mingling on National Night Out, join the crowd and organize your own block party this go-around.  It looks pretty easy to do, by reading the guide and registering online.  Then deliver the news to neighbors with old-fashioned fliers, to let ’em know where and when.

2009 Night Out In Oakland

If last year’s National Night Out is any indication, then Montclarions have been pretty celebratory.  We counted at least 21 parties throughout our streets, and it was a perfect excuse to meet neighbors beyond quick nods “hello” or virtual gatherings like right here.

Check out the latest list of Montclair parties.  From what I have heard, many of these gatherings will feature a little pot-luck dinner – so it’s best to come with some contributions.

  • Balboa at Colton, 5526 Balboa Dr, 7-9 pm
  • Carisbrook Cooperative, 2557 Carisbrook near Chelton, 5-9 pm
  • Castle Park Way MON, 48 Castle Park Way at Castle Drive, 7-9 pm
  • Chelsea Court, 20 Chelsea Ct, 7-9 pm
  • Chelton Drive, 6620 Chelton Drive, 7-9 pm
  • Estates Fountain & McAndrew Drive Group, MacAndrew Drive/Estates, 6:30-9 pm
  • Fernwood Community Club, 1470 Mountain Blvd, 7-9 pm
  • Glenwood Glade, 220 Glenwood Glade, 7-9 pm
  • Holyrood Neighborhood Group, 10 Holyrood  6-8 pm
  • LaMasNA, 2101 Mastlands Drive, 6-8 pm
  • Liggett Neighbors, 6708 Liggett Drive, 7-9 pm
  • Lower Merriewood Drive, 5591 Merriewood Drive, 7-9 pm
  • Melville Drive/Ascot MON, 6425 Melville at Ascot, 6-8 pm
  • Montclair West Neighborhood Association, Pershing Dr & Marsh Place, 7-9 pm
  • Moongate/Skyline Neighborhood near Totterdell, 9393 Skyline Blvd, 7-9 pm
  • Pelham Place, 2340 Pelham near Girvin, 7:30-9 pm
  • 7 Streets A, 6281 Girvin Drive at Thackeray, 7-8:30 pm
  • 7 Streets B, 6161 Westover Drive at Thackeray, 7-9 pm
  • Thornhill Creekside Neighbors & Friends, Alhambra Court off Alhambra Lane, 6:30-8:30 pm

If your Montclair block isn’t listed above, then please register online or call Brenda Ivey at (510) 238-3091.  Council Rep Jean Quan also wants to hear about your party plans, by reaching staffer Michael Johnson at

Official registration closes this Monday, July 27th at 5pm – so take action now.

August 1st Update: Eight more block parties have officially signed up for National Night Out, and here are the additions.  If you don’t see one below (or above) that’s literally on your block, then please visit a party that’s nearby.

  • Bruns Court, 5912 Bruns Court, 7-8:30  pm
  • Cortereal Neighbors, 1900 Cortereal Ave at Magellan Drive, no time so try 6pm
  • Montclair Valle Vista Home Owners Association, 6085 Mazuela Drive, 7-9 pm
  • Saroni Drive, 6717 Saroni Drive, 7-9 pm
  • Saroni/Sayre Neighbors, 6920 Saroni Drive, 7-8:30 pm
  • Stockbridge Neighbors, 2430 Stockbridge Drive
  • Trafalgar Place, 2173 Trafalgar Place, 7-8 pm

No More Awful, Awful Commute

Your faithful Montclair blogger normally writes about everything and everyone else, but today she’s rejoicing in the fact that she won’t be “car camping” anymore.  Based on three years of commutes between Montclair and Palo Alto, that added up to roughly 750 round trips and at least 2,250 hours behind the wheel!

Highway 13

Whenever I would mention my doubly-awful commute to neighbors or friends, the reaction was almost physical and quite consistent.  I was barraged with these questions about the daily journey:

  • When do you drive? How long does it take? – Either early or late, which means before 7:30 am or after 9:00 am to Palo Alto; and after 6:00 pm back to Montclair.  It typically takes under 1.5 hours each way, but add another half-hour for accidents.

  • Are you crazy?  I would never do that. – Remember that dotcom people do insane things.  It’s worth driving because living in Montclair makes me remain sane.  Plus the work is interesting to me.  ‘Nuff said.

We know that Montclair is filled with commuters who head to all points, every weekday morning.  According to old U.S. Census data, some 25% of 94611 residents spend at least 45 minutes commuting daily and 62% of us drive alone to work.

Well, I’m not saying you should ever follow my pitiful example and work in Palo Alto – but I can confess all this now because my super-sized carbon footprints have gone away.

Oakland Election Not Even Close

That Oakland Special Election was over quickly!  All four measures passed last night, which means that the City of Oakland has a few more million at hand – money the city fathers and mothers already figured would be voted into our coffers.

Of course, the taxing of medical marijuana is making the news because it’s the first time any city will directly tax weed.  Here’s an early TV report on that measure, approved by 80 percent of the voters.  It won’t solve Oakland’s budget gap, but it should ease the pain.

CBS5 - Pot Tax

Remember there were four separate measures included in this Oakland election – so let’s recap what voters overwhelmingly approved and did:

  • Measure C – 77% – Let our hotel visitors chip in and help pay for the zoo, museum and observatory
  • Measure D – 72% – Fixed things from November election, when we spent too much on kids funding
  • Measure F – 80% – Declared reefer madness is officially dead, with our first tax of medical cannabis
  • Measure H – 75% – Ensured better sleep, knowing that corporations pay transfer taxes when sold

Apparently many of you didn’t bother with this special mail-in election.  Less than a third of Oaklanders who voted in the November prexy election turned out.  According to the Chronicle, about 23 percent of registered voters cast ballots versus 80 percent in November.  Were you part of the silent majority?

Montclair Virtual Art Gallery: Janette MacKinlay

Montclarions are a creative bunch, and we like to display local talents like Janette MacKinlay.  She had been studying Japanese flower arranging for years, following the tenets of the Sogetsu School.  Somewhere along the way, she decided her sculptural works would look even better without flowers and fresh materials at all.

MacKinlay calls her work “organic assemblage,” because she uses dried materials that reflect nature and the universe.  When we saw some of her sculptures, they seemed nicely calming and needed to be shared with a wider audience.

So we asked MacKinlay to select pieces that communicated her experiences living here.  “I’ve picked out four pieces that reflect the mood of living in Montclair’s serene environment,” explained the artist.  “All of my work was created here in my Montclair studio and I believe being here has allowed me to capture the spiritual nature of much of my work.”

For The Love Of Pine

This first piece, above, is entitled For The Love Of Pine, because it’s not all pine (!) and yet represents what we  all see outside anyway.  It’s my favorite due the the simple and sparse elements, and fits that zen-thing well.

From My Garden

Next we have From My Garden, where you see something seasonal growing with the leaf.  I’m not exactly sure what the base element is supposed to reflect…maybe it’s the good earth?

Life In The Clouds; Oakland's New Day Dawning

Finally we have two works reflecting Montclair and Oakland, respectively.  The white vase sculpture is called Life In The Clouds, and that’s definitely true in our hills and dales.  Oakland’s New Day Dawning is the more colorful arrangement on the right.  I’m trying to decide if the sea-fan top reminds me of sunny days, filled with potential energy for the city.

Who is Janette MacKinlay? She’s a  Bay Area local through and through.  After graduating years ago from California College of the Arts, MacKinlay embraced the local art scene as an artist and gallery manager.  Then for a change of pace creatively, the Westerner packed up and headed to the Big Apple where she lived across the street from the World Trade Center on 9-11.  There but for the grace of god, she’s fine…and has returned home.

Do You Realize How Lucky You Are?

Last night, guitar virtuoso Michael Gulezian performed at a house concert in Montclair.   As the performance began, Michael looked out at the hills and declared, “Do you realize how lucky you are?”

He waxed poetic about the eucalyptus, pines, redwoods…plus the fresh breezes and fogs.  Then he blurted that his Nashville home base is an (expletive deleted) by comparison.  We all kinda replied “yeah, we know.”

Guitarist Michael Gulezian

Why did Michael Gulezian show up here?  Well, you just have to chalk this up to kismet.  Montclarion Andy Kleiber discovered the guitarist via Pandora Radio, noticed he played a few house concerts, and asked him as a lark.  Sure enough, Gulezian decided to pay a house call while touring the Bay Area!

Though he’s not exactly obscure, we didn’t know much about Gulezian before.  He takes acoustic guitar playing to another dimension, and his creations envelope you.  Listen to his MP3 radio station, and select Michael Hedges Goes To Heaven (#10) as an example of transcendent music.

You should also see this virtuoso in action, as he literally plays the whole guitar.  While the audio isn’t stellar, watch him perform the removed, ethereal Whale In The Sky.  Or check out his most popular video (nearing 20k views), which is the straight-ahead, cheerful Little Meggie.

In person, Gulezian seems amazingly humble and pure.  He thought about making money and even earned an MBA, but chucked it away in favor of music-making.  Now he creates music that’s to his own liking, and it shows in the joy on his face while playing.  We were lucky to meet him.

More info:  Michael Gulezian is performing all over the Bay Area, and you can catch him in these places:  Santa Cruz (7/23) – Santa Clara (7/24) – Larkspur (7/25) – San Rafael, Darfur benefit (7/29).