Art & Culture

Best Place for Kids

  Of all the places available in the Bay Area for young ones to express themselves fully, out-of-the-house still ranks No. 1 with parents. With the dangers of Covid-19 lurking in the air, it may be difficult to find safe and fun places for little legs to run amok, little hands to explore and little minds to expand. Fortunately, the season is getting warm, and the opportunities for exploration and respite have begun to bloom in full. Oakland’s Children’s Fairyland re-opens on March 19th. Founded in 1948, the favorite playground for tots and toddlers for over 70 years remains a great destination for parents on sunny days. The newly reopened park promises family fun while following the current safety guidelines. www.fairyland.org San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center for Art and Culture pres...

The Allendale: Donut Savant

Before the recent grand reopening of Donut Savant in the Allendale, the DS website posted a tantalizing video teaser. For several weeks you could click on donutsavant.com to find moving footage of batter frying in baskets of hot oil. The approach was subtle and enticing. Instead of a large declarative font announcing an exact opening date, virtual visitors enjoyed a visual and auditory preview of what was to come. I checked the site at least once a week to substitute an ASMR experience for my actual donut cravings. After the doors opened in November, the site removed the frying video. Now the lead image is a horizontal row of donuts featuring the tagline, “We’re redefining donuts in Oakland California.” Animated logos from a variety of food publications back up the claim of their wide-rang...

Building Up Your Home Alone

Admittedly, the best trends in home improvement during 2020 resulted from being locked up like pandemic prisoners in our homes. Even so, shelter-in-place incarceration and the necessity of clean hands gave cause for celebratory, socially distanced shopping at locally owned hardware stores such as Telegraph Hardware, Cole Hardware, Ellis Ace Hardware, Montclair Village Hardware, Moraga Hardware and others. Mud rooms and entryways that were once filled with, well, muddy stuff, were transformed by home-dwellers into sparkling sanitation stations with antibacterial soaps, sprays, wipes, UV light blasters and other viral-hating cleaning supplies and equipment. Garden nurseries, especially because they often have outdoor shopping areas, had a heyday supplying newbie green thumbs with soil, tools...

Best Backyard Getaways

In the Bay Area, residents tend to heap praise upon the California redwoods further up North, but the majesty redwoods display in our own backyards is terribly underrated. As solitude and reflection force themselves into the center of our lives, this is the perfect time to reconnect with nature and ourselves. The East Bay offers plenty of opportunities. Redwood Regional Park is a hidden redwood forest that lies off Redwood Road just a few miles over the ridge from downtown Oakland. The forest’s groves give scant evidence of the park’s flourishing past—in the mid-1800s the area was the scene of industrial logging to supply building materials for the San Francisco Bay Area. Thankfully, the logging era has passed, and 150-foot coast redwoods have replaced those cut down. Hikers, bicycli...

Best Look During a Pandemic

There were endless, politically burdened, pro-or-con statements made ABOUT masks in 2020. Happily, for people choosing to MAKE a statement with a mask, the options were equally generous. A tightly curated list had the best masks paired with deep hometown love for Oaklanders. From the city boosterism of designs available at Oaklandish to Oakland Museum of California’s lively masks made by Mixed Bag Sewing seamstress and local artisan Joslyn Lacy to the Crucible’s bevy of artists who pivoted from other activities to make masks, customers were able to express civic pride upfront and with style. For sheer beauty, the best masks came from Sonson. The private label fashion brand, helmed by Rashima Sonson, introduced 3-layered woven cotton face coverings with anti-bacterial and anti-viral finishi...

Best Cannabis for Fiddling Around

Nobody knows the world of the cannabis dispensary better than Cameron Hattan, though he hasn’t ever owned or operated a dispensary and doesn’t want to. For years, he was a cannabis cultivator. Now he’s a cannabis salesman extraordinaire who works with rural farmers and brings their products to distant urban markets. “Getting weed on the shelves of a dispensary is one of the most difficult things in the world,” Cameron tells me. “The cannabis industry is like no other. You can’t use banks or credit cards. Everything has to be in cash. “For years, I knocked on a dozen California dispensary doors a day. I’ve been to hundreds of them. In the early days, many kids who worked behind the counter had no retail experience, though they had smoked dope.” Cameron pauses for a moment and catches his br...

Best of Health

Humanity’s best—hands down and (eventually, finally) dressed in gowns with proper PPE—were the heroes serving in Bay Area hospitals, clinics, community health centers and testing sites, homeless encampments and other locations. These were folks who, during the pandemic, brought public service to a higher level, often putting their own health at great risk. Their decision to work was fueled by economics, but also by what seemed to be an otherworldly, altruistic factor that streamed through their veins and arteries. A friend of mine’s wife is an emergency room nurse who made the choice to isolate from her husband and children. She lived in the same home with her family like a paranoid, not only sequestering herself in a separate room for months on end, but doing daily laundry, decontaminatin...

Fur, Last and Deposit: Appeals judge issues decision in controversial pet rent case

In a landmark lawsuit that has gripped the region and pitted the pet-haves against the pet-have-nots, U.S. circuit Judge Pete S. Cockburn decided in favor of the defendant, child social worker and homeless volunteer Mia Cordero, 31, bringing to a close a lengthy Bernal Heights renter-landlord dispute. The case, which has played out breathlessly in worldwide media coverage since March 2020, centered on whether or not the landlord, a t-shirt entrepreneur, aspiring rapper and Jamaican food truck company chief executive who self-styles as Trés but whose legal name is Joey Chad Ryan Jr., had the legal right to charge Cordero’s pets rent, and to subsequently attempt to evict them for failure to pay their pet rent. The matter, which appeared at first blush as a simple misunderstanding between a l...

Off-World in Inner Space: The ‘Hidden Kingdom’ is closer than you think

Astronomers recently discovered a planet where winds howl at 1,000 miles per hour, rocks rain down from the sky and the seas smolder with lava. It was called the most extreme planet ever found, and, as K2-141b isn’t a very catchy name, the distant inferno was quickly nicknamed “Hell Planet.”  Now, I know what you’re thinking: you thought that moniker belonged to Earth in 2020. Which is why if you perpetually find yourself saying “Get me off this planet,” know that it’s really not that difficult. Seekers, sages, shamans and spiritualists have been doing it for eons. All it takes is a crafty escape to your own private kingdom-not-of-this-world.  Imaginary fiefdoms are notoriously difficult to find. Parsifal, one of the knights of the Round Table, stumbled into the secret Grail Cast...

You Don’t Know Jack: On the road with Jack London

A new guide book for the San Francisco Bay Area offers dozens of exhilarating walks, hikes and historical sites for locals and tourists. A People’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area mentions Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, a socialist fable disguised as a dog story, but it doesn’t locate any of the places associated with the author. That’s a pity. For nearly 40 years, the San Francisco Bay Area was London’s stomping ground. In his heyday, he signed his letters, “Yours for the revolution” and added his alias, “Wolf.” A social animal and also a loner, he blazed a literary trail that Hemingway, Kerouac, Cormac McCarthy and others followed.   No 20th-century writer dug deeper roots in the Bay Area than London. And no writer captured its essence more fully than he did, in books ...

Blue Snaggletooth Lives: I’ve seen the action figure, and He is Us

Officially, he doesn’t exist. He has no past, no story—he’d be prime black-ops material if he wasn’t part of the most visible cultural phenomena of the past two centuries. And, then again, he isn’t really visible at all. They say he’s a mistake. Who Is Blue Snaggletooth? Ever see Star Wars? Yeah, well, he’s not in it. But he’s of it. He’s an action figure—a totem, an idol, a symbol—without a referent. In the world of Star Wars, let alone the world at large, there was never meant to be Blue Snaggletooth. He isn’t in the movie, he’s not “canon” and he was pulled from the market as soon as the mistake of his existence was realized. He does not belong. One of his problems is that he’s just not cool. I mean not in the way that Boba Fett, say, has always been cool. Fett can credibly affect the s...

Mural, Mural on the Wall: A self-guided tour of Oakland’s murals

The whole city of Oakland is a canvas. Over 1,000 murals can be found throughout the city, covering once-empty walls in explosions of color. Street art is inherently radical, and many of Oakland’s murals deal with themes of protest, injustice and identity. Like the city itself, Oakland’s murals are bright, bold and unapologetic. By nature, street art changes all the time, but there are enough murals in Oakland to satisfy any urban explorer. Although street art can be found anywhere in Oakland, certain neighborhoods have more murals than others. Here is a self-guided tour to three of Oakland’s best mural neighborhoods—a full map of all the murals in the city is available at VisitOakland.com under “Mural Map.”  San Pablo and Golden Gate  San Pablo Avenue, which runs the length of B...