July 17, 2010

Memories of Marcus: A sad Saturday in Berkeley

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:33 pm

Every Saturday morning, me and my granddaughter Mena do pretty much the same thing. First we walk over to Sconehenge on Shattuck and buy Mena a carrot-zuchini muffin. Then we walk up to Whole Foods on the corner of Telegraph and Ashby and get some bacon and eggs from their “salad bar” breakfast buffet. For just two or three dollars, you can pick up enough bacon and eggs to keep you going all morning.

And then it’s on to the Claremont branch of the Berkeley Public Library for the toddler story time. Mena loves books. Plus they’ve got a great Lego table in the children’s section.

After that we walk up on College Avenue to pick out a balloon at Sweet Dreams toy store. Today Mena wanted an orange balloon. “Watch out for trees,” the sales clerk said. Right you are. Last week’s balloon ended up getting popped by a balloon-eating tree.

Next we turn right on Russell Street, go to Nabalom Bakery, get a nice slice of cheesecake for only two dollars and listen to a jazz band playing oldies on a keyboard, ukulele and slide guitar. And then we walk back home down Stuart Street.

That’s pretty much been our schedule every Saturday for the last year or so, rain or shine. But today was different. Today me and Mena were on a mission — everywhere we walked, we collected flowers. Sorry, Stuart Street gardeners, but it was for a good cause.

After the library and the cheesecake and the walk, we went home, got some chalk and went over to write “I love you” on the sidewalk where young Marcus Mosley had been killed Friday night.

I’ve known Marcus since he was four years old. He used to play with my son Joe. Joe and Marcus were born just three months apart. Joe will turn 31 this October. Marcus will not. Hearing about Marcus’s death was like a punch in the gut for me — but it must have been so much more terrible and even a whole lot worse for his mother. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose a son. I can’t even imagine the anguish that his mother must be going through right now.

I remember Marcus when he was seven years old, playing football with Joe and Nigel out in the play area next to Nigel’s home. I remember it like it was yesterday. And now Marcus is gone. Shot and killed in a drive-by. “Maybe Marcus was up to no good,” someone said. I don’t the freak care! I don’t care if he was a saint or a devil or an avatar in disguise or whatever. I just want Marcus back here, back home — and ALIVE.

Today at a benefit concert for Arnieville, Michael Parenti spoke about the tragedy of Marcus’s death and equated Friday’s waste of human life here in Berkeley with the daily waste of human life that is constantly going on all over the world — as the oligarchs and corporatists who own America spend all our wealth on weapons, guns and instruments of death instead of on life. And Parenti is right.

Imagine a world where guns and weapons are no longer allowed to be manufactured and sold and promoted as being the best way — the ONLY way — to solve disagreements or settle feuds. What if mothers all over the world no longer had to cry out for their dead sons? What if the only loud, scary, popping sound we were to ever hear again would only be caused by Mena’s balloon running into a tree?

What if all of us mothers in the world finally united together and said, “No more! Enough! Not one more mother’s son more will ever have to die under the gun.”

I think that Marcus would have liked that.

July 16, 2010

Cold & Hard: Spending the night in Arnieville

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 4:11 pm

Mark Twain’s autobiography is finally getting published — almost one hundred years to the day after he wrote it. And from what I can tell after reading the book’s advance reviews, Twain was also one hundred years ahead of his time, having apparently come back from the grave just in time to give us a much-needed warning about being wary of America’s oligarchs and to nail today’s corporatists for what they are — greedy bastards.

And I think that it was also Mark Twain who said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Me and my daughter Ashley stopped by Arnieville last night, where disabled people are camping out in protest of Governor Schwarzenegger’s callous cuts to their home-care workers’ salaries. Arnieville has been set up on a traffic island on Adeline Street near Russell in Berkeley, right down the street from my apartment. “How’s it going?” I asked some folks in wheelchairs who were sitting in front of the campsite eating dinner and chatting about stuff.

“It’s going okay, considering the horrible mess that our state’s finances are in,” replied a blind woman. “And we’ve going to try to stay here until the State of California actually manages to come up with a budget.” Yikes! That could take for-EVAH.

“It’s not so bad here during the day,” said another woman in a wheelchair, “but at night it gets a bit heavy-duty.” I can imagine — you can’t just take a hot bath, turn off the lights and pop into bed here. No pre-bed glass of warm milk and bedtime stories either. Plus you can’t even turn off the street lights — although the City of Berkeley has been kind enough to not run the sprinklers at 4 am. And the automobile, truck and bus traffic on Adeline Street goes on all night long, just five feet from your head.

“We do have a security team that takes turns keeping watch so it’s fairly safe here, but sometimes I’m the only woman at night and it gets a bit gender-heavy on the masculine side. I wish that we had more women camping out,” looking directly at me as she said this, hint hint. She also wished that the campers had more monetary donations so that they could pay for their wheelchair-accessible PortaPotty. That’s probably not covered in the state budget either.

Then I went home and got to thinking. I gots bad knees. I’m 21% disabled. Those people are doing this for my sake too. I should be out there camping with them! So I went back this evening and asked if I could stay too. “You can borrow my tent,” said my daughter Ashley who used to be a Girl Scout.

And I could wear my warm flannel nightgown and my bunny slippers!

But then, as we sat there chatting with the protesters, fog started rolling in from across the bay, the temperature dropped 20 degrees and I started to chicken out. “And besides, Big Brother 12 is on TV tonight,” I whined. So much for roughing it for a good cause.

So. Will I spend the night in Arnieville tonight? Or will I let people who are even physically weaker than me end up doing the heavy-lifting for all of us? Will I protest the injustice of having so much of California’s tax money go to large corporations and rich people but not to the people who actually need and deserve it — or will I just stay home snug in my bed and turn a blind eye to injustice like most other Californians seem to be doing?

Or will I bite the bullet, haul my sleeping bag out of the closet, be brave like the disabled people down at Arnieville (and Mark Twain), and nail these corporatists for what they really are — greedy bastards.

PS: Yes, I finally did get up enough nerve to actually go camp out. Remember those baby chickens that I got at the county fair last week? Well, last night I looked at them and they looked at me and I swear I actually heard one of them saying, “And you’re the one that’s calling ME a chicken?” So I figured that I’d better put my money where my mouth is.

“You can sleep in that yellow tent over there, said a member of the security team when I arrived (chickenless) at 1:00 am in the morning last night, pillow and blanket in hand.

“And how’s progress on the state budget coming along?” I asked. Not so good. And camping out didn’t go so well either. The ground, like the Governator, was cold and hard too. Plus I’d forgotten my flannel nightgown and bunny slippers. I don’t see how these disabled people do it.

Last night I slept in a yellow tent next to an empty wheelchair, some crutches and an artificial leg.

PPS: Country Joe McDonald is giving a free concert at Arnieville on Saturday July 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm. Please come to the concert. Please support Arnieville. Please donate air mattresses!

PPPS: You can also donate $$$$ to keep Arnieville alive (and representing other Californians besides just the oligarchs) by going to their website at

PPPPS: Does anybody out there want to adopt any baby chickens? Ones that I (almost) promise won’t talk back?

July 2, 2010

Arnieville: Cutting CA home care will cost us six times as much

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 1:26 pm

If you walk or drive down Adeline Street in south Berkeley right now, you will see dozens of disabled people camping out on the median strip in the middle of the street. “We call this place Arnieville,” I was told. That, however, is not breaking news. That story has already been covered on TV.

People on crutches and in wheelchairs are out in force, protesting a whole bunch of huge new state budget cuts to their home-care provider’s salaries. These care providers allow disabled Californians to live on their own. The disabled protesters have been camping out in protest against these radical and life-endangering cuts since June 22, 2010. But that’s not hot news either.

The disabled campers are holding a press conference over the Fourth of July weekend. Is that going to be big news too? Probably not. Nor is it breaking news that someone just dropped off a homemade blackberry pie for the disabled protesters to eat as they camped. But it was good news for me! My two-year-old granddaughter Mena got a slice of the pie — and she also got a ride on one disabled camper’s wheelchair. Mena thought that was totally cool. But then she didn’t have to be confined to a wheelchair and totally dependent on her home care provider seven days a week for the rest of her life.

Disabled people are the most courageous people I know.

However, one disabled person disagreed with me regarding wheelchairs. “We are not ‘confined’ to our wheelchairs per se,” she said. “Actually, our wheelchairs liberate us and give us freedom. Without them, we would be forced to spend our lives just lying in bed.” I don’t think that Mena would like that either. And using one’s wheelchair to give oneself freedom is a truly appropriate way to celebrate Independence on the Fourth of July — far more appropriate than Washington’s many attempts in the last ten years to disable the United States Constitution.

Perhaps it is breaking news that people in wheelchairs and with other disabilities are building a life-sized paper mache statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger right here on Adeline Street today. Or perhaps not.

It might be sort of newsworthy that a few dozen disabled people are now out here struggling to keep their protest going, to take care of their camp and to take care of themselves when most of them are physically incapacitated — up to 80 or 90%. Please! If there are any civic-minded young and strong volunteers out there who can come down and lend a hand at keeping the camp running, you will be totally welcome.

“Can I help do the dishes or something?” I asked one of the organizers, a woman with an obvious degenerative disease. “Oh, that’s okay,” she replied, perhaps worried that I didn’t look much stronger or energetic than she did.

No, it’s not news that I’m not as able to do the heavy lifting needed at Arnieville as the Governator himself would be. “Hey Arnie! Come down here and help us pitch some tents!”

What really was the breaking hot news at Arnieville today was when my neighbor Jana Ovebo drove up in her wheelchair and said, “If the state eliminates our home care workers as planned, then I will have to be institutionalized — just in order to survive.” Jana has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was nine years old and can barely even move by herself. And yet she still manages to run her own business, Disability, Resources, Exchange & Mobility Supports (DREAMS). And she still manages to come down to Arnieville and protest.

“The cost of my care if I was institutionalized,” stated Jana, “would be SIX TIMES more than what the state is now paying for home care providers.” Without her home-care workers, Jana would either have to be immediately institutionalized or be allowed to die on the street. Either choice sucks eggs.

And one home-care provider involved in the protest just informed me that, “It’s not only our salaries that are at stake: The Terminator is also trying to eliminate 40% of state funding for the entire disabilities program. This would knock thousands of people off the program all together. Then there’s the cuts to Medi-Cal, Adult Day Health and other services that keep seniors and people with disabilities in their communities.” And these people would also have to be institutionalized at six times the cost of what we are paying now? Yikes!

Hurray for Arnieville! That’s the GOOD news.

June 23, 2010

No gluten, no dairy: My search for the perfect éclair

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 9:36 am

Recently I met a doctor who told me, “The first thing that I do when I get a new patient is to take him entirely off gluten and dairy for a month. And chances are good that, if the patient takes my advice, whatever symptoms he has will improve.” I also read where autistic children do better without dairy products or gluten.

Okay. I’ve got digestive problems. I’ll try it. It works.

But then I ran into a really big snag — Solvang. You just can’t visit the Danish pastry capital of America without having an éclair. And what an eclair it was too! Seven inches long, covered with chocolate, with both custard AND whipped cream for filling — and with a yummy cherry sauce in there too.

Sometimes you just gotta break down and go off your diet.

Even back home in Berkeley and safely back on my “no gluten, no dairy” diet, I still kept having dreams and fantasies about that perfect Solvang éclair. What to do? You really can’t justify driving 250 miles just to score another éclair. Can you?

So I started Googling around for a list of bakeries in Berkeley. Berkeley has everything, right?

Andronico’s had an éclair on offer but it was one of those fancy gourmet eclairs and just wasn’t squishy enough.

Telegraph Avenue’s famous Eclair Bakery had gone out of business — and the Pastry King across from the Med only sold muffins and donuts.

“Love At First Bite” only sold cupcakes. Sweet Adeline didn’t carry eclairs. Crixa, that fabulous bakery around the corner from me where visual masterpiece cakes are lovingly created by hand, also didn’t carry eclairs. Rats.

Hopkins Street Bakery only carried éclairs with custard filling. I was only interested in ones with whipped cream.

Then there was Massa’s. Their entry into my éclair sweepstakes was GREEN. It was a very interesting éclair, with pink marzipan flowers on top and flavored with lemon zest. I’m glad I bought it. However, it was NOT a real éclair.

Virginia Bakery scored triumphant points with a good-looking, good-tasting traditional old-fashioned whipped cream éclair.

And Toots Sweet? I almost forgot about Toots Sweet but we were driving back from touring the Red Oak Victory ship that is part of the Rosie the Riveter Home Front national park in Richmond and we drove by Toots Sweet. “Have any éclairs?” I asked.

“We’re sold out now but will have some tomorrow. Our customers say that they are very good.”

Even the Berkeley Bowl offered a yummy-looking mini-éclair — but it too was only custard.

But the winner of my grand search for the perfect éclair? This will come as no surprise to residents of Berkeley. It was La Farine. OMG. They used both whipping cream and custard. But what really tipped the scales in their favor was that they used dark chocolate — even better than Solvang!

PS: I’m currently reading some books by futurist James Howard Kunstler, including “The Long Emergency” and “World Made By Hand”. In the future, Kunstler predicts, the demise of oil and gasoline will produce a society with no cars and no electricity. The Industrial Revolution will have become merely a small blip in the time-line of human history.

Also, the London Daily Mail has just reported that, “A solar superstorm could send us back into the dark ages — and one is due in just three years: Within an hour, large parts of Britain are without power. By midnight, every mobile network is down and the internet is dying. Television — terrestrial and satellite — blinks off the air. Radio is reduced to a burst of static.” And this black-out could go on for two or three years.–just-THREE-years.html

What does all this mean for the future of civilization? It means that we all need to run out and stock up on éclairs right NOW — while our refrigerators are still running. At the very least, we need to start stocking up on our MEMORIES of éclairs.

PPS: The Free Palestine Movement (, famous for organizing the first boats to relieve Israel’s brutal and illegal blockade of Gaza, just asked me to help them man their table at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. So I’m there now. Stop by my booth and I’ll hand you a brochure.

May 18, 2010

Berkeley’s Grassroots House helps send a boat to Gaza

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 12:40 pm

The Berkeley Barb used to be my home town’s most famous “newspaper of record,” and we also had another hometown rag called “Grassroots”. However, both these papers have been out of print for more than 40 years and now most of our local Berkeley newspapers have gone digital — except for “Grassroots,” which has bucked that trend and simply gone “residential”. It has changed from being a newspaper into being, er, a building?

Located on Blake Street just below Shattuck, Berkeley’s Grassroots House still does all that crusading-against-injustice type of stuff that the newspaper it was named after used to do — only now it does it with shingles, wood and windows instead of with newsprint. According to a 2009 article by Lydia Gans in the Berkeley Daily Planet, “Grassroots House…is a community building that provides office and meeting space for a number of social justice organizations.” And one of those social justice organizations is the Free Palestine Movement — which is currently helping to financially sponsor one-half of the cost of a boat in an international flotilla sailing from Greece to Gaza with medical supplies at the end of May.

Does this make Grassroots House “The place that launched a half a ship”?

Local Free Palestine Movement members Janet Kobran and Paul Larudee will be on board the FPM-sponsored half-boat when it — and seven and a half other boats — leaves Greece for Gaza in a flotilla meant to break Israel’s four-year-long siege of Gaza by providing Gaza with various much-needed humanitarian supplies. And Ehud Barak, Israel’s Minister of Defense, has promised to send almost the entire Israeli navy out to intercept this small flotilla.

Has Berkeley’s Grassroots House once again gotten itself into hot water?

Like its namesake, the original Grassroots newspaper, it looks like the Grassroots House has once again assumed the role of a biblical David by attempting to take on a very formidable Goliath — one who has threatened to use whatever force necessary to stop this humanitarian relief effort.

Oh well. That’s Berkeley for you — home to a whole bunch of us latter-day Davids. And although we may not win every round against the world’s many Goliaths, we still keep on trying. And perhaps this time the FPM’s half-a-boat will be successful in helping relieve the siege of Gaza.

(Here’s a link to the FPM, where you can actually track the flotilla’s progress via a coolness spot-locator:

PS: The City of Berkeley also recently announced that, within our city limits, a corporation is still NOT a person. Yaay!

PPS: When China successfully invaded America about a decade ago and established a strong beachhead in almost every town in the USA, it couldn’t conquer Berkeley! To this day, Berkeley still does NOT have a WalMart.

May 10, 2010

My kids’ mom is SO Berkeley that…we actually survived Mothers Day!

Did you know that there’s a website out now that is completely devoted to jokes about Berkeley moms? Blond jokes and Polish jokes are out now. Berkeley Mom jokes are in. “My mom is so Berkeley that….”

Hey, I’m a Berkeley mom.

So when my daughter Ashley and son Joe asked me what I wanted to do for Mothers Day this year, I got to thinking about Berkeley. “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s drive around Berkeley to all the places we used to hang out at when you guys were kids.” Tot lots? Soccer fields? Elementary schools? No way! My kids had different kinds of memories about their pasts.

First we went to the Cafe Mediterraneum up on Telegraph Avenue, where I used to sit and gossip in the 1970s and drink caffe lattes while my kids played under the table. Other kids may have gone to Blue Fairyland for daycare but not mine!

“My mom was so Berkeley that she raised me at the Med.”

Then we drove by People’s Park. “I was there when we first started to plant its gardens back in 1969,” I told the kids. “I was there for the riots and the tear gas. And I got my picture on the front page of the Berkeley Barb during our victory parade.”

That’s just great. “My mom is so Berkeley that she was a cover girl for the Berkeley Barb….”

Then we drove by the University of California. I always measure my life by this benchmark: “Am I having as much fun now as I did while going to Cal back in the 1960s?” And the answer is still always no.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she used to take us to hunger strikes up on Sproul Plaza.” And I still do.

Next we drove down past the old Mandrake’s nightclub, where I first met one of the backup guitarists for a band called Joy of Cooking. Two months later I was pregnant. “That’s not my child and goodbye,” said the lead singer for a band named Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she spends our entire Mothers Day making us listen to stories about when she was a Flower Child.” Damn straight. And before that I was a Beatnik. And don’t you forget it.

Next we drove past the law office where I used to work. “Remember when I used to work for Bob Treuhaft? He was a lawyer for the Free Speech Movement.” And his wife Jessica Mitford had gone to Spain to fight against Franco in the 1930s.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she used to take us to reunions of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.”

Then we drove past the infamous Woolsey Street House, where Alan Ginsburg, Chogyam Trungpa, Timothy Leary and Country Joe McDonald used to hang out in the attic with the crew of the Floating Lotus Magic Opera.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she can remember taking LSD back when it was still legal.”

Then we drove past the now-defunct Mothers Motors, where I first met Ashley’s father. He and I used to go on road trips on his Velocette. And I tried to learn to drive his old Triumph Bonneville.

“My mother is so Berkeley that she gave us motorcycle helmets for our birthdays and I went on my first chopper ride when I was three weeks old.” Not only that but you were conceived after a Grateful Dead concert.

But now all that’s changed. Berkeley is starting to become just another bedroom community. One of my daughters has rebelled and become a Yuppie. And I myself have become just another aging and forgotten recluse who doesn’t even own a cell phone — let alone an iPod.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she’s beginning to talk about being buried in the back yard when she dies….”

Next we drove up toward Tilden Park to Lake Anza, the merry-go-round and the Little Farm. How many times have I dragged the kids up there when times got tough for me, the ultimate Berkeley single mother? I can’t even count them. And we used to go to Edy’s for hot caramel sundaes when things got tough too but Edy’s went out of business. As has Mr. Mopps, Berkeley’s legendary toy store.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she used to read Sartre while we swam in Lake Anza.”

Then there were all those scholarships. I must have applied for a million scholarships so that my kids could go off to camps in the summer. Camp Tuolumne near Yosemite, the YMCA’s Camp Gualala, Cal Camp down near Santa Cruz, the Lawrence Hall of Science. Even the official NASA U.S. Space Camp. Did I leave anything out? Day camps. Overnight camps. Girl Scout camps. Science camps. Martial arts camps. Music camps. My kids went to Cazadero and Ashley learned how to play the saxophone. Joe played electric guitar back then. He still does.

“My mom was so Berkeley that we never even saw her during the whole month of July.” Hey, I believe strongly in the curative powers of fresh air.

And to finish off our fabulous Mothers Day Berkeley tour, we went off to the Albany Twin to see that movie “Babies”. It doesn’t get much more Mothers Day than that. Then we went to the Cafe Tibet for dinner but it was closed so we ended up at an organic Thai food restaurant that served pumpkin curry and brown rice.

“My mom is so Berkeley that we all grew up on Edy’s sundaes and brown rice.”

And I am also still enough of a Berkeley mom to still hope for — no, demand! — world peace. “Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!”

Screw all these people who still think that violence and neo-fascism and “war” is the answer. It is definitely not. All we have to do is make a graph that will project into the future all current Pentagon expenditures for weapons and all death by violence in all countries where Washington sends military aid or is currently conducting this or that “military action” — and what we will see is a red line going up and up and up until there is nothing left of the whole human race.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she still thinks that nonviolence is still the only answer.”

I’m also so Berkeley that I can’t stand living without some kind of hope that there will someday exist a better world for my children.Berkeley Mom

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