Greetings from Alameda Hospital

Hallmark, look out. Alameda Hospital has an online set of greeting cards, and they’re all free. Get well, birthday, Valentine’s Day – all available to be sent, with a personal message from the sender, Monday through Friday to hospital patients.

Go to http://alameda.netreturns.biz/CheerCards/ to check out the inventory. There aren’t a lot, but still, it’s a pretty innovative method of getting people to go to the hospital’s Web site, where there is also a calendar listing tai chi, yoga and other classes.

Anyone out there remember the community’s passions flaring when the financially-strapped hospital was on the brink of closing, and a tax was put on the ballot in 2002 to keep it open? People were either really for it or really, really against it. In the end, obviously, the voters said yes, let’s cough up an annual tax to keep the island’s only emergency facility afloat. For the no-voters, it was a hard pill to swallow. But for the hospital, it was life-saving.


Convoy of historic military vehicles heads our way

Larry Pirack, curator of the Alameda Naval Museum, tipped us off about a procession of historic military vehicles heading to Alameda. The convoy is scheduled to arrive in Alameda July 9, where it will disband at Alameda Point.  Check them out for yourself at the USS Hornet and the Alameda Naval Museum. Until then, you can watch them live at this blog: (click on the 2009 Convoy button).

Here is an excerpt from Eisenhower Presidential Library on the Military Vehicle Preservation Association:

“With great fanfare and publicity, the Army’s Motor Transport Corps decided to organize a military convoy to drive from coast to coast, from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, traversing the newly created Lincoln National Highway. The trip would prove the need for good roads and would also show off the military’s capacity to utilize modern warfare’s machinery. The major objectives of the expedition were to test various military vehicles, many developed too late for use in World War I, and to determine by actual experience the feasibility of moving an army across the continent. One example was to test Harvey Firestone’s new pneumatic tires. It would also remind the American public of the energy, power, and might of the Army as well as aid in recruiting. Eighty-one vehicles and 300 men made up the convoy; one of the officers was a young armored corps Lieutenant Colonel named Dwight D. Eisenhower.”


No drama since theater opened

On May 22, 2008 the Alameda Theatre reopened after going dark in 1979. It is lovely. But the process leading to its renewal was, at times, a battlefield, as is the case nearly every time there is a plan to change something in Alameda.

Its opponents believed:

It would be too big, thereby ruining the atmosphere and views of the homey downtown area.

It would crush the streets with massive traffic.

It would go broke because this town couldn’t support an eight-screen movie house.

And sometimes, there was a subtext from a handful of opponents, a mostly unspoken fear that it would bring people from other towns to Alameda. In addition to the traffic, the out-of-towners would surely bring crime to the area.

Today, despite vacancies in some commercial sites, downtown looks a lot better than it did five, or even 10 years ago. I don’t worry about crime, or hear about it, nearly as much as I did when the theater building housed a teen nightclub in the late 1980s. I knew some teens who went there and from what they told me, it was far from the wholesome institution its operator touted it to be. Whether the operator knew it or not, the kids told me there were plenty of drugs consumed at the club. He sold the city on a concept to give youth a place to go in town at night, where they would be off the streets, where they could enjoy games and music and dancing. But, judging from the number of police calls from residents from nearby streets, it looks like the teens I knew were speaking the truth when they implied the operation was unlike any other youth center. Eventually, it closed and things settled down again.

The theater has brought us back, in a way, to the past. Downtown has a focal point again, Alamedans have movies again, teens have another place to work in their own hometown and more restaurants have cropped up in the area. Parents and kids see family movies together and go for ice cream afterward. Couples enjoy dinner and a movie. Teens go to movies in groups.

Even in this wracked economy, they’re doing this and the result is revenues, severely needed revenues, for the city. Certainly the theater and the city’s businesses in general cannot repair our budget, but as we’ve all become painfully aware in the past couple of years, every penny really does count.


Opera singers wow audience at Franklin Park

The audience applauds the opera performances. Photos by Ellen St. Thomas.

The audience applauds the opera performances. Photos by Ellen St. Thomas.

Alameda soprano Kendra Dodd, who just graduated from Encinal High School, sang at Open Opera's Saturday afternoon recital in Franklin Park. Dodd will attend the Manhattan School of Music this fall.
Alameda soprano Kendra Dodd, a 2009 EHS graduate, sang at Open Opera.

Jon Spangler wrote a press release about last weekend’s opera performances at Franklin Park. Sounds like the show was a hit.

“A dozen opera singers from Open Opera serenaded more than 200 music lovers in a free recital Saturday afternoon at Franklin Park.

Open Opera’s first Alameda appearance featured over two hours of art songs and opera favorites on a sunny afternoon. A cast of ten singers, mostly from the Bay Area, presented 24 art songs, arias, duets, and quartets from well-known operas, accompanied by Alameda’s own James Meredith.

Kendra Dodd, who just graduated from Encinal High School and studies voice with David Tigner and James Meredith, was one of the crowd’s favorites. “It was a beautiful family event, and one of the best productions that the community has seen in a while,” Dodd said. “The musicians volunteered their time for this, and they were all fantastic.” Dodd will attend the Manhattan School of Music this fall.

The crowd also enjoyed Alameda soprano Eileen Meredith, who “had a wonderful time” singing at Franklin Park. “I’m in love with this music, and I really enjoy sharing it. Sitting in a gorgeous natural setting listening to music is very inspiring. It was great to see the turnout of friends, family, neighbors, teachers, parents, and kids from Alameda and beyond.” Meredith also helped recruit musicians and publicize the concert. Alameda tenor Raymond Chavez, known for his work with the Alameda Civic Light Opera, sang pieces by Cilea and Massenet for the many listeners of all ages.

Well-known Bay Area singers such as Heather McFadden, Sigmund Siegel, Katya Roemer, Leland Morine, Marta Johansen, Elender Wall, and Elizabeth Baker sang famous arias and duets from operas by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, and Bizet, as well as lesser-known works. Young tenor Taylor Thompson, who sang two pieces, is a graduate of Fairfield’s Rodriguez High School and will attend the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Patrick Russi and his crew from the Alameda Parks and Recreation Department were crucial to making the event such a success,” said Ellen St. Thomas, the Executive Director of Open Opera. “They were friendly, extremely helpful, and made the event very easy logistically. Franklin Park was beautiful, too.” She added that Open Opera would like to make this an annual event in Alameda.

Open Opera (www.openopera.net) will present “The Marriage of Figaro” (“Le Nozze di Figaro”) at John Hinkle Park in Berkeley on July 25-26 at 3:00 p.m. The free opera production will include costumes and a full orchestra, and will feature many of the artists who performed in Alameda Saturday afternoon.

Alameda resident Ursula Apel, Director of the San Francisco Opera Guild, co-hosted the Franklin Park program with David Tigner. Founded in 2008, Open Opera “combines classical music with natural elements to create a one-of-a-kind experience for singers and listeners alike,” according to its web site.

“We’re bringing opera to the public for free in a time of economic uncertainty, and using public outdoor spaces to build community through the arts. You could see it in the diversity of the audience. The kids were listening from up the trees,” according to soprano Elizabeth Baker, who serves as Open Opera’s Creative Director.

Open Opera is supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.”

For more information on the marriage of Figaro and Open Opera, visit www.openopera.net or contact Executive Director Ellen St. Thomas (ellen@openopera.net; 510-547-2471).


When good things happen to good people

Blue Rectangle, that fun and funky bookstore at 1355 Park St., is making life a little sweeter for Alameda nonprofit groups. Store owner Mike Johnson throws a monthly nonprofit night, where representatives from various organizations get three to five minutes to have their say as to why they should win the $200 the store donates. The winning pitch is chosen by a vote of the attendees, and the nonprofit also receives 100 percent of the evening’s raffle prizes. The store also provides snacks and drinks. And the raffle prizes aren’t bad at all, according to store employee Sam Johnson, who won a $200 gift certificate for a massage.

The next Nonprofit Night will be Tuesday, June 30 at 7 p.m. The lineup of speakers are the Frank Bette Center, the Cougar Cadet Drum Corps, Girls Inc. and Alameda Point Collaborative.


Suggestions, anyone?

Here is a post from someone looking for advice on getting squared away with Comcast. If anyone has had a similar experience during the transition from the former AP&T cable service to Comcast, maybe you could offer some advice …

“I am so discusted with Comcast-my problems with incorrect “double billing” started in January. I paid the bill every month, Comcast cashed the check every month, but the statement every month would show no payments received. I called the customer service every month, they assure me the account is taken care of, but the next month statement shows 3 months unpaid bills again and again… I asked for a manager-and every time they refused, telling me they have the ability to solve my problems. In frustration, i visited the Alameda office, in hand with all the copies of cashed checks by Comcast. She said she is going to be out of the office starting next day, and would not able to do anything about this until she comes back. I also mailed the copies of cashed checks to the main office in Seattle, with my regular monthly payments. After all this, Comcast left a message on my voicemail that if i do not pay my bills ASAP, they will cut the services. So anybody -can you tell me -where else can i go from here? For sure -I cancel Comcast, but in the mean time, something should be done against this unfair treatment of good citizens of Alameda !!”


Another biz bites the dust

The 76 Station on Webster Street closed this week.

The 76 Station on Webster Street closed this week.

The 76 Station at Webster Street and Santa Clara Avenue doesn’t look like its old self. Plywood sheets cover the pumps, windows and the door to the snack shop. It looked pretty closed, so after asking around on Webster Street Saturday, the word was that the owner shuttered the place Wednesday. Someone who requested anonymity said the owner was fed up with the regulations and related costs of running the business and he couldn’t take it any longer. I’ll try to reach the owner during the week for confirmation, but either way, if that was one of your regular gas stations, cross it off the list, as least for now. The other tidbit from anonymous that still needs confirmation is that the property belongs to a private owner, not to the 76 company.


1,2,3,4 … 8 O’Clock rock

A good old-fashioned bit of initiative, that’s what this is. While the recession drops the Dow like a rock, Jim’s Diner on Lincoln Avenue is rolling back to better days with live rock ‘n roll from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Grab your guy or gal or broom and check it out this Saturday. It’ll be like the old days — a burger and a shake with two straws and the tables and chairs moved for the dance floor. It doesn’t say so on the sign, but it’d probably  be fun to go in retro clothes, too. The gig starts at 8 p.m. and goes until 11 p.m.  (2333 Lincoln Ave.)

There's a Jimboree planned at Jim's Diner Saturday night (June 20).



Burglaries reported on Fernside Boulevard

At least two houses on Fernside Boulevard have been burglarized in less than a week, according to two people. The note below is from a Fernside District resident and the burglary apparently took place Monday. Another person, who owns a rental home on Fernside, said his tenant was burglarized last weekend.

“Just a warning that there was a burglary on the 3100 block of Fernside
(at High Street) this afternoon between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. They mostly
took small stuff like jewelry. The Alameda Police told our neighbor
that this has been going on recently. So make sure to lock all doors
and windows when you leave – even if it’s during the day.”