Category Archives: lower hills

Have a Spooktacular Halloween… mwah hah hah

I know I haven’t been keeping up with this blog lately… I’ll likely be retiring it for good soon.
But in the meantime, here’s some Oaktown neighborly Halloween fun for your frightful pleasure… Happy Halloween!

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BEAT the HEAT: Five best swim spots in Oaktown (updated)

Given the record breaking temps today and tomorrow I’m reposting this guide to Oaktown oases, with some updates for outdated links and schedules. Enjoy!

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Lyons Pool – Dimond Park

It’s hot.  Too hot.  This is why I left L.A. many years ago.  Well… just one of the long list of reasons really.

But back to my point. It’s expected to top out near 90 today, so if you’re like me and you’re melting into a puddle of gritty discontent, here are a few sweet spots to cool you down and freshen you up!

  1. Lake Temescal – For some, the thought of swimming in non-chlorinated water is not appealing (I’m thinking of my boyfriend’s daughter who said, “EWW! it’s slimy!”) But for me, it’s simply the best. No burning eyes, no itching skin, and you get to swim with the ducks & fishes.  What could be better than that?? See last year’s post Sum Sum Summertime! for more detail and the history of this urban oasis.
    $3 for beach access; $2 for kids/seniors; parking can cost extra

    Open daily 5am to 10pm; lifeguards on duty 11am to 6pm
  2. Lyons Pool (Dimond Park) – This outdoor pool set amidst old growth oaks & buckeyes is heated year round and is delicious to step into, especially on cool evenings or foggy mornings. Serious lap-swimmers seem frustrated by its unconventional lanes and warm temperature, but I think this spot is just right, and nowhere near as crowded as Temescal.
    $5 to swim; $4 with multi-pass
    public recreational swim: 2:45-4:45pm Saturdays only
    lap swim: 6:30-9:30am / 11am-2:30pm / 6-8pm M-F (schedule varies slightly on different days of week so check link); 11am-2:30pm Sat/Sun
  3. Trefethen Aquatic Center (Mills College) – Another lovely outdoor pool complete with hot tub and lawn areas for lounging, I haven’t been to this one in awhile but used to go frequently when friends lived in San Leandro. I’ve heard the pool isn’t chlorinated but uses another technique (oxygenation?), but I can’t confirm this. This one’s also a tad more expensive than other options, but many folks claim this is the nicest pool in Oakland.
    $7 to swim; $5.60 with multi-pass

    public recreational swim: 5:30pm-7:30pm M-F; 12pm-2:45pm Sat/Sun
    lap swim: 6:30-8:45am / 12-2pm / 5:30-7:30pm M-F (schedule varies slightly on different days of week so check link; NOTE: that Mills Pool will be closed the weekend of 5/17-18 for special events. )
  4. Temescal Pool – This one’s a north Oakland favorite for it’s year round heated waters and easy access location. Featuring salinated water which means less chlorine (yay!) and lots of props to modify your swim routine (kickboards, fins, etc) this pool is extremely popular and can be quite crowded when the weather’s nice.
    $3 for rec swim/ $6 for lap swim; discounts with multi-pass

    public swim:
    2:45-4:45pm Sat only
    lap swim:
    6:30-8:45am / 12:30-2:30pm  5-7pm M-F; 11am-2:30pm Sat/Sun
  5. Roberts Pool (Roberts Regional Recreation Area) – Another glorious heated outdoor pool, right in the middle of a redwood grove. I only put this one last because, sad to say, I haven’t been here yet. But from the descriptions I’ve read, it sounds like best spot for a lazy summer day of play. Fewer lap swim hours and far more public/recreational swim hours.
    $3 for public swim ($2 for kids/seniors); lap swim is $3.50 or $2.50 with multi-pass
    public recreational swim: 11am – 6pm Sat/Sun
    lap swim:
    7:15-8:15pm M-Th

Blog Restart. Giving it another go…

So I’ve been thinking for awhile about restarting this blog. I miss it.

For all intents and purposes, I stopped working on it around July of 2012, which is when I started working double-time for a brief spell, finishing one gig at the same time I was starting a new one.

My old job had been part-time for a small tech startup in Emeryville, close to my old West Oakland digs… I was working 25-30 hours a week, so I had another 10-15 to spare which I devoted to this blog.

I didn’t realize when I first started how much time I was actually putting in. I had the time so I used it. It was only when I was interviewed by some folks from the Oakland Library for a piece about the blog–I had done a series on independent bookstores, including theirs, so they, in turn, were covering me–that I realized how much time I was putting in.

She asked, “How many hours would you say you put in each week in the production of your blog?”

I started counting… well, there’s the actually going out and experiencing and photographing stuff, there’s the editing and processing of photos, there’s the research to augment what I write, and of course there’s the writing. It all adds up rather quickly.

And so while I thought I’d continue the blog once my brief double-time stint ended, the reality was that my new gig was full-time, and I no longer had the 10-15 hours to spare each week. I kept thinking I’d get back to it, things would slow down at work, I’d post more photos and less writing, etc. But weeks stretched to months and months to beyond a year and the further I got from the last post, the less likely I was to write a new one. It seemed too far gone.

But now with newly acquired time on my hands, I’ve decided it’s not too far gone. It’s never too late.

So here I am. I am going to try again…

I don’t have a wealth of material stored up so I’m going to start things off with a piece of my own art below, newly created for a recent graduate school application. If you have any thoughts about it, or about this blog in general, or what you’d be most interested in seeing in future posts, or if you just want to say hi, I’d truly love to hear from you…


Support Local Music in Oaktown – bring your lawn chairs and dancing shoes!

Summer Solstice Music Festival & Acme House of Music… in the Laurel

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This Saturday, June 25th, the Laurel Neighborhood Village Association will be hosting its 6th annual Summer Solstice Music Festival.  Inspired by Fete de la Musique in France, where both amateur and professional musicians play in the streets on the summer solstice, the Laurel Festival will feature over two dozen local Bay Area musicians performing inside stores or cafes, or out on street corners and parking lots… all FREE.

Performances will begin as early as 9am and will continue throughout the day with the Fete Jam wrapping things up from 7:30-8pm at the main stage, located on Patterson Street which will be closed off to through traffic. MacArthur, though not closed to traffic, will likely be very crowded… best to walk, bike, or take public transit. And don’t forget your dancin’ shoes!

Nearby venues hosting musical acts include:

  • Ace Hardware – 4024 MacArthur
  • Acme House of Music – 3715 MacArthur
  • Kids n Dance – 3840 MacArthur
  • Laurel Bookstore – 4100 MacArthur
  • Monique’s Clozet! – 4140 MacArthur
  • World Ground Café – 3726 MacArthur

See map below, plus the full festival schedule here.

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Of special note is the Acme House of Music, a neighborhood institution for over 40 years!

The music shop was opened in the early 70’s by jazz drummer Jay Rose, who manned the shop during the days, selling sheet music & instruments and providing lessons to a large roster of students, and spent nights playing gigs in San Francisco in his bow tie and black tuxedo. He kept up this routine for decades until 2004 when a fire destroyed a portion of the store, much of the equipment housed there, and part of the business next door. Needless to say it was devastating and Jay never fully recovered from the loss.

Jay is still a fixture in the shop (I know this because – personal disclaimer – I’ve been taking drum lessons here for the last couple of months), but now he visits as a guest of honor.

Acme was taken over by husband and wife (and friends of Jay’s) Annette & John in late 2009 when it became clear that he needed help… he was then 83! Both music lovers, they were at a transitional time in their lives as well with a new toddler added to the family… they decided to ditch their more conventional day jobs and take on the project of updating Acme into a modern day independent music store. Not an easy task in the day of cheap goods from China readily available with the click of a mouse or big box stores like Guitar Center.

But John & Annette are providing something that you can’t get at a box store or over the internet. It’s SOUL.

Their philosophy revolves around making music accessible to everyone, and providing great value in the services they offer.  Their goals are to provide:

  • A family friendly environment for learning – They’ve spent quite a bit of time clearing out decades of clutter, renovating the space with additional storage and larger practice rooms; and their roster of teacher musicians is quite impressive…  professional working musicians like Donald Duck Bailey (yes, the Donald Duck Bailey).
  • Unique offerings – John is an audiophile with a particular interest in vintage equipment; he’s always on the lookout for hard to find gear and unusual used equipment, and repair services are offered as well (see rave reviews on Yelp)
  • Customer oriented service – They pride themselves on pointing customers to what feels and sounds best rather than a one size fits all approach that’s focused only on the bottom line (often used equipment can be less expensive and sound better than new)
  • Supporting the community with integrity – They are truly part of the Laurel community and take pride in supporting other local business…  getting haircuts at the neighboring salon, flowers at the local florist, etc.  They also pride themselves on being “green” – and repurposed items from Goodwill and the local Hollywood Video that went out of business in their recent renovations.

I asked Annette what the biggest challenge has been, and not surprisingly, she said so much to do with so little time (and a limited budget), plus a 3-year-old in tow!

But more importantly I asked her about the greatest rewards they’ve experienced through Acme. She said it’s the connection they’ve established to the neighborhood and local residents… “It’s our community.  It’s our family.”

John, who has over 25 years experience DJ’ing and recording music, is donating all of the sound equipment for the festival’s main stage, literally saving the Laurel Association thousands of dollars.

Do check out the festival, and don’t forget to pop into Acme Music to say hello.  They’ll have their own set of performers out front, including many of the amazing musicians who teach lessons at their shop.

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