Flies And Showers Bring Flowers

Yesterday, our seasonal eruption of flies arrived inside the house.  We forget about these buzzers all year, and so are surprised when they re-emerge from…wherever.

Flies and showers bring spring flowers, so we took a quick spin around the garden this morning.  Sure enough, the flowers had started to burst forth and here’s a little picture proof.  First, we snapped the pretty blue buds alongside the garden steps.

Then we noticed the calla lilies.  While most of the lilies stayed all curled up, a handful of these architectural beauties had begun strutting their stuff.

We thought the entire garden was starting to look quite sweet, with a profusion of colors from flowers, bushes and trees.  Here’s a nice garden mix of spring whites and pinks.

Anyway, we’re more than willing to put up with the flies to get our just rewards.  For carpetbaggers who grew up elsewhere, the East Bay spring will never, ever get old.

And those flies?  At least the indoor visitors all bit the dust after inhaling our carcinogenic sprays.  We’ll keep this up for a day or two and they should be vanquished – or at least cavorting with the flowers instead.

North Hills Not Patrolled Much Lately

Did you know that we’re not even patrolled by beat-level police much anymore?  Apparently assignments and shifts have been adjusted, and the North Hills are getting less attention and love.  We learned this exciting news last night, while tuned to KTOP (Channel 10) for the Oakland City Council’s marathon proceedings.

Among the parade of public speakers, our neighbor Jim Dexter came up to the podium to speak his mind.  In his more official volunteer duties, he chairs the North Hills Neighborhood Council (Beat 13Y).  Everyone who lives north of Thornhill, up to the Berkeley border, falls within this group’s purview.

Anyway, Dexter was discussing overall city priorities regarding public safety and was hardly alone.  He also mentioned the current Problem Solving Officer (PSO) assigned to his beat no longer put in full-time hours.  Jim reported recent changes in assignments with, as we understood him, an officer patrolling only one out of four days here.  Yes, that’s 25 percent of the time!

Measure Y is something Oakland voters approved years ago, to increase community police officers.  Compliance seems to be a tricky deal and, without assigned officers full-time, we are effectively violating the terms.  Dexter reminded the Council reps that funds can neither be collected nor used when the force falls below 770 officers.

In the meantime, John Haney serves as the Beat 13Y officer and knows the lay of the land well.  Come meet him at the North Hills steering meeting tonight, from 7-9 pm.  All neighbors are invited to share their safety questions and concerns – at Fire Station 7, 1006 Amito Drive (map).

More info:  We suggest visiting the North Hills Neighborhood Council’s blog here, as well as signing up for their email here.

Feb 26th update:  Correction here, as we learned Officer Haney “had been assigned one day a week (out of his four-day work week) to be on patrol.”  This reassignment translates to a 25 percent loss.  Please read Jim Dexter’s comments below.

Bay Area Facebookers Are Provincial

Facebook has reached a critical mass where you can dive into profiles and see who collectively connects out there.  Now it’s possible to uncover the most frequent geographical ties, including some eye-openers.  And you can track what people “fan” the most, which provides a cultural zeitgeist.

In the Bay Area, President Obama makes the top-10 fan lists and San Franciscans still place him in the very top slot.  Starbucks has the most social clout in the East Bay and Silicon Valley, and drops down a couple notches for San Francisco and Santa Cruz.  And everyone wants more sleep, except for the already laid-back Santa Cruzans.

Bay Area friends also stick around their neighbors online, and seldom venture from California!  East Bay and San Francisco friends are the closest, reciprocal connectors.  Silicon Valleyites associate with San Franciscans most often, while Santa Cruzans bridge to Silicon Valleyites first and foremost.

When Bay Area Facebookers venture beyond California, they primarily reach their New York buddies.  East Bay and San Francisco friends have some Washington, D.C. ties.  Silicon Valley clearly works with their Seattle colleagues too.  And we’re not sure why San Franciscans forge special ties with Chicagoans.

How does this work? When you sign up for Facebook, you can identify with a geographic area.  It’s not a perfect measure, we know.  Some Montclarions have told me they attached the San Francisco label to represent the Bay Area, rather than pick the more precise East Bay moniker.  In any case, millions of Facebookers drive regional and metro distinctions that make sense here.

The Gold Medals Of Montclair

In honor of the Winter Olympics, we wanted to award a couple gold medals to native Montclarions.  Why not add to the early podium-topper count?  Some of us are deserving here.

We’ve been watching the sports for hours and now the pairs ice skating has arrived.  Everyone keeps falling on their jumps, the music is tired, and the commentators aren’t feeling the love either.  So our attention started to wander…to local awards.

With a little imagination, we can envision the Montclarion award winners.  Drumroll, please…

  • Snowboard cross – Awarded to the school-kids running out of Montclair School, at least the last time we passed by.  Queue the kids, knocking each other out of the way as they leave school for the day.
  • Freestyle, aka bumps and jumps – Awarded to the local deer, as they navigate backyards and leap across the streets at dusk.  Don’t tell me you haven’t seen them navigating the hills before.  They do look like the freestylers, a bit!
  • Luge – Awarded to hikers during the recent rains, as they slide down the narrow and muddy East Bay trails.  Okay, this is something which I awarded to myself while sliding down a really soaked trail two weeks ago – and deserve that gold.
  • Downhill – Awarded to just about any driver hitting top speeds down Shepherd Canyon.  The route enables drivers to pick up speed and hang onto various curves, so it fits.  Heck, there are many folks who surely beat Bode Miller by a tenth here.
  • Cross country – Awarded to many commuters, as they simultaneously walk in the door at night and collapse on the floor.  You know how all the skiers keel over, the second they cross the finish line?  Well, it feels like us.

We Have Old But Loved Trestles Too

In Montclair Village, we have old trestles on Mountain Blvd that are rather unadorned.  They might be something you haven’t noticed much before, but are two concrete hulks lining the street as you head south from the Montclair School into the commercial district.

Some other places, like the City of Pinole, have decorated their train trestles in lovely ways.  Makes you start to put two and two together, right?

During an Oakland Heritage Alliance tour of Montclair, which we took last summer, the docent pointed out the old train route.  All the vestiges are pretty obvious when you look carefully.  Just check out the Pocket Park at the Moraga and Thornhill intersection, our now well-marked entry.  Or take a walk up Shepherd Canyon, which is now getting love from the Friends of Montclair Railroad Trail.

What’s been left behind are the huge concrete trestles on Mountain Blvd.  We have discovered interested parties who are beginning to ponder the possibilities – and I’m interested too!  There’s strength in numbers here, due to the aesthetic and cultural impact of filling these blank slates.  If you want to contemplate and help, then please reach them:  montclairtrestles@gmail.com.

Montclair Farmers Market and Mayoral Politics

This morning, various political causes were in full view at the Montclair Farmers Market.  It was the first time we saw a public display declaring “Jean Quan for Oakland Mayor 2010” on the street.  There was a volunteer at the adjacent table, and the all-important cinnamon loaves were luring us nearby.

Both Jean Quan and Don Perata have declared their mayoral candidacies online and you can keep up virtually for now.  They each have base camps:

  • Candidate Perata’s website is called “Believe in Oakland, Perata For Mayor 2010.”   Perata has posted his appearances, including the Laurel on February 27th.  The site also has a donations section, of course.  Over on Facebook you may join his group, which has 512 members, or friend him along with 254 others.
  • Candidate Quan’s website has been live for a while, and serves as a fund-raising channel.  You may also fan her through Facebook, which she seems to use actively – by posting appearances, messages, images and more.  Oh, and there are 254 fans as of this minute too.

We wonder how these online efforts will influence voters during 2010, who knows?  As the real campaigns get underway later this year, however, we suspect there will be evidence of live humans ready for their meet ‘n greets.

TV News Airs Montclair Bubbly, Chocolates

We get all warm and fuzzy when Bay Area telecasts feature the Montclair District, because it’s a rare event.  Tonight we saw the requisite Valentine’s Day story with an economic twist, and two Montclair businesses were highlighted:   Farmstead Cheeses and Wines and Le Bon Bon.

KTVU Reporter Tom Vacar was making the point that Valentine’s Day still packs a profitable punch, even though people want to economize a bit.  Our local business owners felt pretty optimistic so far.

“Valentine’s Day is all about sparkling wine,” exclaimed Jeff Diamond, who owns Farmstead. He added that all holidays matter, including  V-Day, and that his business has picked up versus last year.

“We are happy,” declared Le Bon Bon’s proprietor, Ugyen Triantopolous.  She explained that some customers buy a little bit less, but business is looking good this year.

Check out the the video and our two new celebrities.  You’ll see plenty of air time for the two stores, along with bubbly and trays of chocolates.  You can’t really go wrong with these affordable luxuries for V-Day.