Pink Chair

Fruit Stand



The evolution of Oakland's Quik-Way.



Ho, Ho

You're Joking, Right?

It's got to be a joke. If it's a joke, I like it. If it's for real, get me out of here. Enough with the murals, already. Also, buddy, the quote marks are unnecessary. Finally, has any sign ever begged more desperately for the bullying of graffiti?

Cheaper Without Kids


The One That Got Away

It could have been mine, at a price I could afford. At the Creative Growth HOME show, I hesitated, feeling too acquisitive, only to go back the next day and find that dreaded red circle over the price. SOLD! (click to view larger)


Salted Duck Eggs

Today I ate three.


Happily Ever After

Dreams appear to come true at Children's Fairyland, Lake Merritt. They say Fairyland, open and running since 1948, was Walt Disney's inspiration for his own Land.


Duck, Duck, Goose

An odd threesome on the banks of Lake Merritt. They were off by themselves on an expanse of lawn, away from all the other birds.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!

Part of a mural on Lake Merritt.


The Egg and I

Okay, so it looks like we're actually going to go through with the chicken coop thing, in as soon as a matter of weeks.

A friend and neighbor of ours is not only director of a local farmer's market, but she has raised chickens both from eggs and chicks. A bunch of us are going to go in on the coop and its care and share the eggs.

Every weekend, she's been bringing us salted eggs made by a local egg-farmer, and the taste of them has been enough to undo any apprehension on my part about starting a coop. The eggs are so good, so fresh and soft, unlike the firmer, dryer (probably older and unlikely to be free-range) salted eggs I've purchased from Chinese markets. These eggs are so damn good I eat two a day when we have them.

She also brings us fresh balut from the same vendor, which I refuse to eat but my husband, being Filipino, views as a treat. I tried it once in the Philippines, taking just a bite. It was delicious, but I couldn't get around the feathers and the beak. A good balut should not have feathers, D. says, and these from the local vendor do not. He's urged me to try it, but I'm sorry, it's like if you haven't grown up eating ants and their larvae like the Thai and Vietnamese, it's unlikely you'll fall for the delicacy in middle age.

Anyway, I'll have to haul out my copy of The Egg and I, a hilarious, beautifully written story by--surprise!--Betty MacDonald, the author who went on to write some of my favorite children's books, the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series. The Egg and I was later made into a film, which I have yet to see.

I wonder how having a chicken coop will change my approach to eating chicken. Other members of our little coop co-op have declared that they'll have no problem slaughtering and eating our chickens once they cease to lay eggs. Myself, I'll have none of it; I can't eat someone I know.

I wonder also how it'll change my feelings about my chicken presentations. Well, we'll see.



A gravestone for a body part. They say the chin's the first to go--or is it the ass?

No, but seriously, there are many Chinese families going back several generations, buried at the Mountain View Cemetery and in the stunning and strange Julia Morgan-designed Chapel of the Chimes mausoleum in Oakland.


500 Lake Park Ave

Finally, the long-abandoned site of the former Quik-Way is under steady construction. What will it be?

White Dog


Home-Cured Meat

Composer James Fei cures his own meats in his garage for his and his wife Alice's annual Chinese New Year feast.  Twelve more days and counting; I can hardly wait!


Sewage Ejector

The other day, while buying two world-class paintings for only $30 each at Clausen House, I noticed a sign on a closet door to the right of the front desk: Sewage Ejector.

What a funny sign, I laughed, and asked if I could take a photo. The man who sold me the paintings said I could, and his co-worker asked if I'd like to see the ejector itself. I said I most certainly would, so he leapt up from his desk and opened the door (he said he also liked the idea of his scooter in the picture).

He explained how the sewage system in their building was not functioning properly, so they had this contraption installed. The sewage builds up, pooling in a metal tank beneath the floor. When it reaches capacity, it gets shot up into the copper pipes which, he showed me, continue, exposed, all the way across the ceiling of the room which we were in, right above our heads, and into the next. Then it gets ejected out into the main sewage system. What a marvel.

Chicken 16


Our Trip to Africa

Our trip to Africa was amazing. Thanks, everybody, for asking. As the emails and comments fly in, I bask in the memory of those eternal and unforgettable days, waiting with bated breath, sweat-soaked and hunched within prickly bushes on the sun-soaked tundra, afraid even to flick a fly away for fear of frightening the glorious beasts that lingered before us.

We shant perhaps return soon, but indeed it was the trip of a lifetime.


Package No Nos

How I love diagrams. This one is especially cheerful. I have a sneaking suspicion it was painted by the man at the Mail Store who wrapped my packages up for sending. He did so with a precision, thoughtfulness and quiet pride that is rare to see in retailers these days. Notice how even "No Nos" is offered correctly, with no indecent apostrophe. It's a grammatical Yes Yes. Though I might have hyphenated it.


Starter Selk

The Stokke Xplory Footmuff is the starter version of the Lippi Selk Bag. Every Selked-Out Mother should buy one for her infant.

And, by the way, I am in no way affiliated with the company; I just groove major-ly on The Bag!

Triple X Crab

Several days ago, I watched a Whole Foods employee paint the white base layer for this Dungeness Crab on an outer window. Yesterday, it was pink and some ruffian had already defaced it--rendering it worthy of my full appreciation.


Torque the Truth

I love this new sweater by J. Crew and would buy it regardless of reality if it were available in more sizes than L and XL. However, as a copywriter (my paying job) I can't help but smile at the copy block describing it:

Dulphine Torque Sweater
Dulphine—our enticing new blend of lightweight, whispery yarns—looks and feels, in a word, heavenly (with a lofty homespun feel we love). In this case, it was specially engineered to torque, which is a twisting of seams that creates a body-hugging fit unique to each piece. With metallic threads woven throughout and a feminine ribbon tie in back, it's sure to be a holiday hit. Alpaca/wool/metallic threads in a 7-gauge knit. Open crewneck. Three-quarter sleeves. Hits at hip. Import. Hand wash.

How do you read this? Do you read for content or context/subtext?. I'm a person who by default reads and listens and watches mostly for the latter. It's why I remember nothing of European History but can remember in detail the way my Greek-American History teacher acted when inspired/embarrassed/titillated/bored/popped his false teeth out, and how the class responded to each. It means I retain very few facts, but when hand-fed them, can wield them to maximum effect. It's why I'm a pretty good copywriter, and why I read the J Crew copy block like this:

Dulphine—our enticing new blend of lightweight, whispery yarns We have mistakenly ordered hundreds of units of this item in L and XL sizes only. It's a major catastrophe.—looks and feels, in a word, heavenly (with a lofty homespun feel we love). The fabric we loved so much in vendor sample twists awkwardly in the finished piece. In this case, it was specially engineered to torque, which is a twisting of seams that creates a body-hugging fit unique to each piece. Sweater fits smaller than size, with uneven seams and no consistency in fabric texture. We'll get tons of returns and complaints and Mickey will freak. Please put a positive spin on this totally fucked up situation. With metallic threads woven throughout and a feminine ribbon tie in back, it's sure to be a holiday hit. Let's move these units before Holiday 3 kicks in! Alpaca/wool/metallic threads in a 7-gauge knit. Open crewneck. Three-quarter sleeves. Hits at hip. Import. Hand wash. 

Maybe I'm wrong. In any case, J Crew has long been my favorite retail voice, my sweet spot. Seeing through it occasionally doesn't change that, just enhances my regard.


Yo Frend

When movie stars are asked what it's like to be famous, they inevitably answer that the loss of privacy is exhausting, but that it's great to be able to get a table in any restaurant.

I've always mused that if this is the best perk about being famous, then restaurant people are luckier than stars. We regularly enjoy this perk without the hassle of being hounded for autographs or ambushed by Us Magazine looking less than fresh while hauling out the week's trash.

I'm no longer in the restaurant business, but I was in it long enough to build up a community of friends and friends of friends several states wide who are now owners of restaurants and executive chefs and general managers, and through them, hosts and bartenders and waiters and so on in perpetuity.

Even though I moved away from New York City two years ago, my restaurant liaisons continue to grow, some nurtured from back East, many new. Although it's not the best thing about going out to restaurants--the best thing is the atmosphere and the food and seeing people we know--it's still fun to be given a nice table or visited by the chef or staff, offered special dishes or be met with the humbling surprise of a discount on the check when it comes. All of these things make me feel like a star--without the downsides of actual stardom.

Today we went out to lunch at a local Japanese hot spot where the executive chef, Yo, is a man with whom I used to wait tables way back when. He hasn't aged a day in the passing years, and always comes out to chat when we visit. It feels like old times in a parallel universe, a la Fringe. Today, when the check came, Yo had removed our drinks and side dishes from the bill and keyed the discount in to the database under his name and the category of 'friends'.

With the misspelling, this combination came up, charmingly, as 'Yo Frend'. It seemed a fitting phrase to represent how I feel when visiting restaurants, with welcoming shouts of 'Yo, Friend!' and parting thanks of 'Love, Yo Friend'.


Free Range Sheep (Oakland)

 (video pending)

On Thanksgiving Day, we took a drive up into the winding Oakland hills where we regularly bicycle. The hills up there, reminiscent of the hills of Tuscany, are covered with grasses and shrubs that are dry and wheat-colored in the summer and in danger of igniting and starting forest fires. So sheep and goats were brought in to keep the growth down naturally.

They are usually carefully shepherded and kept within fences in certain areas, but today they were free-range, with no shepherd in sight. Neighbors said they'd just paraded down the very steep slopes behind their houses. They marched right onto the road, then continued over or under the wooden fence depending on their size, and further down the hill to graze in as yet uneaten grassy spots.

I didn't think to start my camera until after we'd already been visited by a tiny lamb who, ignoring the warning bleatings of his mother, stopped in our midst and stuck his tongue out like Kali, bleating his little demon bleat rendered adorable by the soft storybook cuteness of his delicate, woolly white body.


The Club That Time Forgot (Oakland)

Who knew that, a mere block from the main thoroughfare of Lake Merritt, hidden inside a faux French Chateau built at the turn of the century, one could travel back in time to a genteel world replete with heated pool piped in with Christmas carols and populated by ladies in swim caps doing a slow crawl, not to mention work on one's physique with 'uncomplicated machines' in the gym featuring a garden and wall-to-wall mural?

It's the Bellevue Club, and if at the end of certain passageways and behind surprise corners it bears an unsettlingly eerie resemblance to one's imaginations of another famous Bellevue, well, that's purely coincidence.


Finding Fungi (Oakland)

I hope I can say the same for myself one day.

Black Bear (Oakland)

The sprightly American Badger has a good-spirited smile gently playing on his lips, but the mangy, flea-bitten Black Bear has seen better days.


Which One Will Taste Better?

I've always prided myself on my open mind food-wise, so I'll try pretty much anything once. Despite my years of trawling Asian grocery stores, I occasionally stumble upon something completely new, like the product on the right. Though it's main ingredient is rather unspecific, you've got to at least give the brand kudos for its unapologetic honesty. There'll be no one to blame but myself if it tastes cruddy.