Oakland

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. Read more about The Original Happiest Place on Earth »

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 coffeeberry, oak, and eucalyptus. The rock itself—lichen-encrusted and moss-fringed—is an unassuming jumble. Read more about Mind Tricks: Bishop Berkeley and the Idea of Everything »

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. Read more about Step Right Up: Optimistic for America »

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. Read more about The People’s Museum: Evelyn Orantes Connects Oaklanders with the OMCA »

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. Read more about Adjunct Life: Struggles on the Ivory Tower's Lower Floors »

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. Read more about An Unusual Life Unfolding: Noted Bear Biologist Gains Acclaim in Origami World »

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. Read more about Angels, Protesters and Patriots: What a Long-Ago Skirmish Says About Love of Country »

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. Read more about Preparing to Launch: Inside SkyDeck, UC Berkeley's Start-Up Accelerator »

Trivia Pursuit—How I Graduated From Law School and Wound Up Practicing Journalism

May 19, 1972—the day I graduated from Boalt Hall.

I wasn’t going to attend the ceremony, but I found out the day before that the featured speaker was going to be my favorite professor, Jan Vetter. He’d not only defended me successfully two years earlier when the university tried to throw me out for violation of the dreaded “time, place, and manner” regulations during an antiwar demonstration (translation: I was spotted leading a sing-along of “Yellow Submarine” during a sit-in at Sproul Hall), but had also given me the lowest grade I ever got on a final exam. Read more about Trivia Pursuit—How I Graduated From Law School and Wound Up Practicing Journalism »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Confessions of a Sex Columnist: Is Covering This Just a Freaky, Masochistic Act in Itself?

When I first started writing my sex column, I was what one might consider “sex positive.” As a kid growing up in rural Maryland, I had been influenced by the sexually liberated Bay Area—the place that elected the first openly gay mayor, inspired famous sex writers Susie Bright and Carol Queen, and, of course, was home to the Sexual Freedom League of 1966, a UC Berkeley student organization that campaigned for legalized abortion and held massive orgies in protest of sexual stigma. Read more about Confessions of a Sex Columnist: Is Covering This Just a Freaky, Masochistic Act in Itself? »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

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