Oakland

Spanish Professor Speaks the Language of the Blues

UC Berkeley grad and Spanish professor at Diablo Valley College, Marina Crouse has recently found remarkable success in her long-forgone passion for music. With the release last month of her debut album Never Too Soon (Little Village Foundation), the late-blooming singer is starting to earn national attention. And in just a few short years Crouse has become one of the most powerful new voices in the Bay Area music scene.

Smile! You’re On Candid Camera Phone

It was many years ago, when I worked in a large city and I often had to walk several blocks from one large office complex to another during the course of the average work day. One afternoon I was trudging between buildings, head bent, lost in thought; I passed the entrance to a small, dark alleyway just as a new Porsche roared up from the gloom. The car fishtailed to a stop a few inches from my kneecaps, and I froze, immobile with fear. The driver was a budding Master of the Universe—thirtyish, well dressed, obviously used to money, privilege, and a certain quantum of power.

From the Fall 2018 Culture Shift issue of California.

WATCH: Inside Children’s Fairyland

Martin Snapp, Children’s Fairyland’s unofficial historian and, arguably, its biggest fan, leads us on a a brief tour of the Oakland institution. You can read his colorful history of Fairyland, which includes appearances by Walt Disney, Mayor Libby Schaaf, and the inventor of the magnetic key card, here.

Warehouse Fire Illuminates Holes in Public Safety Net

The pain hasn’t subsided. For many people, it never will. Some traumas are simply too great to overcome, and there can be no true healing—only a bleak and comfortless accommodation.

The Original Happiest Place on Earth

Seated in her office behind a door bearing signs reading, “Warning: I have flying monkeys and I’m not afraid to use them!” and “What happens over the rainbow stays over the rainbow,” C.J. Hirschfield, the executive director of children’s Fairyland in Oakland, smiled as the sounds of toddlers gleefully sliding down one of the park’s newest attractions, the Jack and Jill Hill, a gently sloped mound covered with AstroTurf, filtered through her window.

Mind Tricks: Bishop Berkeley and the Idea of Everything

Lately, I’ve been spending time at Founders’ Rock trying and mostly failing to get a grasp on reality.

Founders’ Rock is an outcropping at the northeast corner of the UC Berkeley campus, where Gayley Road and Hearst Avenue meet, a lonely spot shaded by toyon, oak, and eucalyptus. The rock itself—lichen-encrusted and moss-fringed—is an unassuming jumble.

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Step Right Up: Optimistic for America

On the 7th of June, 2016, in Oakland, California, I was among 1,057 “aliens” who became American citizens. We took the oath. We were welcomed and congratulated. We were told not only that we could vote, but that we should vote and that we could run for office.

In 2016, the United States is going to “naturalize” 700,000 new citizens. At nearly 70 years old, I’ve achieved this belatedly in life and more than a century after the big immigration wave that brought millions of my compatriots to these shores.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

The People’s Museum: Evelyn Orantes Connects Oaklanders with the OMCA

When Evelyn Orantes studied history at UC Berkeley, she lived just a few blocks from the Oakland Museum. To her and her roommates the museum seemed as inaccessible as a castle, complete with moat. The Class of ’99 had gotten involved with Chicano politics while at Berkeley, so when she finally went to the museum for its Day of the Dead celebration, it wasn’t to enjoy but to see how OMCA was co-opting the Mexican holiday.

Adjunct Life: Struggles on the Ivory Tower’s Lower Floors

More than a decade ago, Noga Wizansky went searching for her place in academia. Her 15 years at UC Berkeley had earned her a Ph.D. in visual arts history, and it was time. She soon landed a job teaching drawing at California College of the Arts in Oakland. There, she imagined herself blending research with practice, art with ideas, passion with job security and, on top of it all, tenure—except there was no tenure.

An Unusual Life Unfolding: Noted Bear Biologist Gains Acclaim in Origami World

Bernie Peyton is profoundly dyslexic, and that made his early years growing up in New York City difficult. School was hellish: He struggled to read, he was bullied, and it was hard to make friends. Then when he was 9, his stepfather gave him a book that changed his life.

Peyton still has the book—a beautifully illustrated instruction manual on origami by Isao Honda that contains examples of various works pasted to the pages. He recently opened the volume in his Berkeley home, and thumbed through it reverently.

Angels, Protesters and Patriots: What a Long-Ago Skirmish Says About Love of Country

Lately, I’ve been thinking about an incident that happened in 1965, seven years before I was born. It centered on an antiwar protest in Berkeley, one of the first of countless such protests to come. Though just a blip in the grand scheme of Vietnam era turmoil, it seems to point to something important about America and the nature of patriotism.

It starts with a guy named “Tiny.” Tiny was 6’7” and 300 pounds. And he really liked to fight.

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

Preparing to Launch: Inside SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s Start-Up Accelerator

SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s start-up accelerator program, is housed on the top floor of the tallest building in downtown Berkeley. All four walls of the 10,000 square-foot penthouse have floor-to-ceiling windows, offering up a 360-degree view. This is where Cal’s fledgling entrepreneurs come for free office space and guidance while preparing to launch their product or service. They have six months to a year up here with SkyDeck, and then it’s time to jump out of the nest.

From Solo to Social: Research Project Banishes Isolation at SRO—For a While

When Chris Chambers, 55, moved into Oakland’s Lakehurst Hotel, he went from sleeping by the Walgreens on Telegraph Avenue to sleeping in a tiny hotel room in a place where he wouldn’t allow himself to get close with any of his neighbors. But he was used to being alone.

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