Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Off-the-beaten-track great things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area, that cost little or no money

Last Saturday Farmer Joe's Marketplace opened their brand new 20,ooo foot store in the Dimond District of Oakland. My neighborhood! The neighborhood is so excited to have Farmer Joes in the neighborgood, that we staged an all-day festival, which included music, booths, and of course, all the special welcoming activities, such as a Lion Dance ceremony.

I"m so pleased to have this wonderful, family owned market within walking distance of my home, and now I should never again have to drive for grocieries. Come shop!!!

And read the San Francisco Chronicle article.
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SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA SECRETS: Kites at the Berkeley Marina

This series highlights off-the-beaten-track great things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area, that cost little or no money.

Ahhh, one of the great freebees of the Bay Area which makes me glad to be here, at least for now, is Cesar Chavez Park on the Berkeley Marina. Easy to get to and offering a 270 degree view of the Bay, this is where I stop to walk the one mile loop whenever I am in the area.

It's also kite flying heaven. Though I always enjoy watching the kites while I'm walking I haven't paid a lot of attention to them, till I brought my buddy Jonathan along the other day. Jonathan is more of a stroller (I'm more of a power walker), and he had us walking slower, watching the ground squirrels at our feet, the ocean in the distance, and the kites above.

We visitedwith some of the kite flyers -- these guys are professionals and the prices on some of their kites have three zeros behind them. They all seemed to be having a good time, and lo and behold, next thing I knew Jonathan had bought a small kite and we had joined the ranks.

We went out on a super windy Saturday afternoon .The fog was rushing in through Golden Gate and before long obscured our kite. But that's only because of our kite flying success. This little box kite took off and headed straight up, strong and steady, while the kites around us were nosediving and crashing into the ground. Soon it was so high it got swallowed up by the fog. Success.

Jonathan made me reel it in since I'm the one that let it fly so high, but I didn't mind. After all it's been about 50 years since the last time a flew a kite. Now I'm all ready for the Berkeley Kite Festival at the end of July.


This series highlights off-the-beaten-track great things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area, that cost little or no money.

Caffe Trieste has been my favorite North Beach haunt for many years. Also the favorite of the Beat Poets (the City Lights Bookstore is just across the street), and Lawrence Ferlinghetti still hangs there on a regularly.

The beginnings: In 1956 Gianni Giotta and his wife, recent immigrants from near Trieste (now part of Italy), opened this caffe -- the first espresso house on the West Coast. Before (during, and after) it was a hangout for poets and writers, it was a meeting place for the various clusters of Italian immigrants populating the North Beach section of San Francisco. Espresso in the morning, red wine in the afternoon and evening, and centrally located near the heat of North Beach, what a recipe for good times.

The caffe management is now into the third Giotta generation, but Papa Gianni's presence is keenly felt. Not only is the caffe known for espresso, conversation, and writing, but it also has a long tradition of live MUSIC.

The North Beach Italians were (and are) into mandolin music, Papa Gianni was (and still is) into opera -- not the San Francisco opera house kind, but the kind where Papa, his famiy and cohorts break into song at will. Over time, the opera stints are more organized, with a sound system and an online schedule of events.

But I want to tell you about the mandolin music, unfortunately less known, but equally embraced by Italian immigrants to North Beach. My mandolinist friend Janice Fournier told me about her mandolin group, Mattinata di Matteo, that plays every Saturday morning at the Caffe. This is easy listening music, good for waking up, visiting with friends, and reading the Saturday Times. That is, if you can resist the temptation to dance to a polka, waltz or mazurka.

There is much more than meets the eye to this mandolin music of North Beach. For example, it all got started in barber shops. To learn more about this culture and to decifer the title of the book, read Sheri Magnano Crawford's Mandolins, like Salami (2005). Not available on Amazon, but you can order through the Elderly Instruments website.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Claremont Hotel, Berkeley, California

Thanks to a gift certificate, I grabbed the chance for a massage at the Claremont Spa & Resort, and to sneak a peek at how the rich – or very self- indulgent – spend their time. Why rich and self-indulgent? Take a look at this price list:

Aromatherapy massage: $130/$180

LaStone massage: $190

Table Thai massage: $135/$190

Tibetan sound massage: $135/$190

Rosemary citron Dead Sea salt scrub: $120

Moor mud wrap: $120

Zen trilogy wrap: $120

Ultimate exfoliating facial: $130/$190

Carita signature facial: $195

Complete service day spa: $525

Evening for two in the spa: $415

I broke these figures down to the minute (variations are based on length of service), and found that each service costs between $2.30 and $2.75 per minute (!). Of course, you can't buy services by the minute, it's in 60 or 90 minute sections. But they are nice though to validate your parking, and offer complimentary child care.

But enough about money. I entered on the ground floor of the Claremont Hotel, (possibly the very door I entered when I worked at an engineering firm based at the Hotel from 1967-1969. Another story) and found my way to the spa. Though I'm an old hand at taking the waters and getting massages, this one intimidated me a bit. I arrived an hour early to take advantage of the spa before my massage.

It was all very nice -- the steam room, the shower with seven jets, the jacuzzi, the unrelenting spa music -- upscale in a cold, not a classy way. It was nice, but ... well, the massage was wonderful, and that's what matters. My masseuse introduced herself as Sadie, a young, jolly woman, who was able to soothe my sore muscles and put me in a very good mood.

So now I feel good, and the whole experience got me thinking about the memorable spa and taking-the-waters experiences in my life:

  • Berkeley YMCA, where my women friends and I would go together for massages, instead of to bars and clubs. Back when massages were affordable.
  • Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Across the street from the big hotel is a favorite mineral springs, it's hot, and it's free. The company is good, too.
  • Harbin Hot Springs, Lake County, California. Where I went in my younger days.
  • Indian Springs, Calistoga, California. Still my all time favorite, especially for the mud baths.
  • Austin, NV (?) or somewhere in the middle of Nevada is a wonderful hot springs in the absolute middle of nowhere. Anyone who has attended Burning Man will be able to give directions. Since I was there in the middle of the night and I wasn't driving, I can't be of help (don't ask -- in 20 years or so I may write a memoir and tell all).
  • Taos Spa and Tennis Club, Taos New Mexico. Where I got one of the best massages on my life. Despite it's deceiving name, this club is my style -- not too macho, not too New Age. My masseuse's name is Mae. She is originally from the Bay Area (as are many Taosenos), tired of a masseuse's wages, and considering becoming a librarian. we had much to talk about after the massage (though a librarians wages are not much better than a masseuse's).
  • Piedmont Springs, Oakland, California. Where I've gotten most of the massages, especially when I lived a half block away.

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Friday, June 09, 2006


My garden is so good to me. I have shamefully neglected it this year, and in return it gives me the most glorious clolor show ever! The most colorful are the volunteer plants, which I welcome. The first arrivals are the oxalis, as early as February, offering a dazzling bed of yellow to brighten winter days. Then come the forget-me-nots -- dainty blue flowers to balance the yellow brightness.

But that is all past. Now the stars are the nasturtiums and the verbena. The volunteer nasturtiums span the color spectrum from light yellow to deep red, and the verbena round out the color chart with hues from light pink to deep rose. The daisies, poppies and potato vine give a white accent.

Tomorrow I'll be out there taking charge of things. I'm itching to dig my fingers into the soil, and I finally have some time. Though I hadn't planned it this way, I'll be hanging around the house a lot this week-end, since my car was just towed to the mechanic's, and am without wheels. (It could have been dangerous if it happened on the road, but as it is, I'm out a few hundred dollars, and have a little involuntary at-home time. Not a bad thing.)

Pruning, planting, working the compost any chance I get. My neighbors think I'm crazy to spend so much time piddling around in the garden, but that is where I feel most at peace. After co-habiting with my plants all these years, I understand them well -- the life cycles and the water/drought cycles. I've learned that some plants won't make it to the next year, but other will flouish and take their place. I've gotten to know the perennials over the years, enough to know that they are each as uniques as we humans, and have their own watering, pruning and space needs, so obvious if we only tune in.

My garden keeps my sane.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006


What you see in this photo are the components that go into a final draft of a book:
  • 1 copy of the book, formatted as I envision it
  • 2 copies of the book UNformatted. Yes, all the formatting I did for myself to get a vision of how readers would see it, had to be undone. This took a whole week-end. But hopefully the professional book designers, who understand much more about these things than I, will do a great job in making it look beautiful
  • CDs. These are electronic copies of the whole thing. My publisher asked for one. I made another copy for my personal files, another copy to put in my safety deposit box, and made copies on my two flash drives. Overkill? Only time will tell.
  • Permissions. These are forms that must be signed by the creator for any POSSIBLY copyrighted material. In my case, I got these permissions for forms that I will reproduce in my book (which may or may not be copyrighted). In addition to this, I contacted anyone I quoted in the book and asked him or her to approve as is, or adapt the quotes. It's a lot of extra work, but I think it engenders good will and prevents bad surprises. I don't think people like to see their words in print without knowing about it ahead of time.
  • Notes to copy editor. These are my personal notes on style. citations, etc., telling the copy editor what she should or should not change, what works and what doesn't

Yesterday I sent my final manuscript to the publisher. For the most part I am finished, and it is mostly in his hands. What a relief! Since this book has been my constant companion, in waking and in sleep, turning it over to the publisher is a real cutoff time, and I will probably not write about it again for a while.

WHEW!! Back to real life.

I want the acknowledge, and to thank my publisher Mitch Allen of Left Coast Press, for all the support, good advice, and good humor. The publishing house has changed, but the publisher has stayed the same. I recommend Left Coast Press to anyone publishing in the social sciences or humanities, and I also recommend that you avoid conglomerates, and seek a small publisher.

After all, folks, few of us will get rich as published authors, so we might as well have a good time, and the secret that (as to everything in life), is to cultuvate a good relationship with the person who will turn your manuscript into a published book.

Oh yes, the book itself. Check it out.

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Monday, June 05, 2006


Oh dear, tomorrow is voting day. Voting has been the absolutely last thing on my mind, not only because of my preoccupation with my manuscript and Willa's passing, but also that politics is now beyond the pale .

So here I am at the 11th hour, going through my ballot, attempting at an educated opinion at selecting our electees. The Green Voter Guide begins with a very interesting clip on Oakland's political history. Since I run the Oakland Living History Program in my day job, I'm always on the lookout for succinct descriptions of my city. This is a good one, as long as you are aware of the Green bias.:

"Oakland has been treated as second-best ever since it was a good place to live while San Francisco was being rebuilt after the earthquake of 1906 and a good place to cut down redwood trees to ferry across the Bay for rebuilding. When factories were dirty and noisy places, Oakland was a convenient place to locate them. After World War II, when real estate developers got rich building modest homes for working-class veterans, they built a lot of those homes in newly developing areas like Hayward and Fremont, not Oakland. It wasn't so long ago that the San Leandro line was where African-Americans could expect to stop finding places available for them to rent or buy. A thriving business area along Seventh Street (in West Oakland) was demolished for the BART line being built in the 1960s to whisk those Hayward and Fremont and Walnut Creek suburbanites to their jobs in downtown San Francisco.

"But Oakland has also seen amazing movements of the left-out speaking up for their interests. Oakland is the home of the Black Panther Party, started in 1966. Bobby Seale's campaign for Mayor (1973) and Elaine Brown's campaigns for City Council (1973 and 1975) registered a lot of new voters and paved the way for the election of Oakland's first African-American mayor, former Superior Court Judge Lionel Wilson, in 1977.

The good news was; finally an African American mayor. the bad news ever since then has been people's expectations of policies benefitting the majority of Oaklanders are disappointed as mayor after mayor, and city council after city council, hands scarce City funds to developer after developer to build whatever they decide will be profitable.

Unfortunately this resembles similar sad resuslts in other US cities as African American mayors assumed responsibility while declining tax revenues during the 1980s and 1990s left them presiding over a shrinking pie. "

Source: Green Voter Guide of Alameda County, June 6, 2006 election.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

WILLA BAUM, 1926-2006

Willa Baum -- internationally respected historian, founder and director of a major oral history program, mentor to a generation of oral historians --was was also a mother, grandmother, hostess with the mostess, friend to many, cancer survivor, and magnet to the greater Berkeley cultural community.

I have just returned from Willa's memorial service, where colleagues and family members came together to share rich and varied memories of Willa. I have the privilege of knowing Willa both as an oral historian and as a family member by marriage, so my experience has been both professional and personal. Here are my personal memories, along with messages other oral historians around the world have sent to me.

FIRST TIME I EVER HEARD OF WILLA: I heard about Willa before I ever heard of oral history, back in the early 80s. I was in graduate school at UC Berkeley and my younger sister Betsy was an undergraduate. I had a great apartment in a building near campus, and when Betsy needed a place to live I told her about a vacancy in the building. It just turns out that Willa's son Brandon was the apartment manager. Well, Betsy, applied for the apartment, Brandon accepted the application, Betsy moved in. You can fill in the blanks, and that's how Willa and I got our neices, nephews and grandchildren.
Shortly after I became aware of this guy named Baum visiting my sister all the time, the East Bay Express ran a feature article on Willa Baum and ROHO. I paid attention not because of her great oral history work, but because her son was hanging out with my little sister. After I read the very impressive article, I figured any son of such an accomplished woman would have to be ok. And it sure turned out to be true!

WILLA FOLKDANCING. I had a Balkan band at my 50th birthday party for folk dancing. When they struck up a Miserlou, who should join the line (and dance it very well!), but Willa!

WILLA IN ALASKA. The first Oral History Association meeting was in Anchorage, Alaska in 2000(?). Excited to be going to Alaska, I arrived a day early to do some exploring. After I got settled in my room I went out for a walk in the crisp autumn afternoon. The streets were deserted, but then a figure appeared out of nowhere – a tall, striking woman wearing a brightly colored full length skirt and lots of jewelry. Yes, it was Willa Baum! Willa had also arrived early and was out for a walk and for a bite to eat. She invited me to join her – the first of many meals I would share with Willa – and we had our first conversation about oral history.

BABYSITTING WITH WILLA: Willa's grandchildren are my niece and nephews. On one occasion we spent an afternoon together taking care of them and getting better acquainted with each other. I remember the day involved a lot of driving around, so we had a lot of time to visit. Car trips are good for that. We talked about our marriages and divorces, about combining childrearing and working, about trying to make ends meet and still be an oral historian. Willa told me how different oral history was when it got started, and how long she -- just like me -- did other things along the way to make ends meet.

Before I fall asleep, I want to share some tributes sent from other oral historians. For longer biographical articles, check the ROHO website.

From LOREN BREHAUT from Picton, New Zealand:

In 1993, in the depths of outback Australia, and with no oral historian within hundreds of miles I found Willa's book Oral History for the Local Historical Society in a library and for the next few years used it like a bible to guide me through learning the ropes of this fascinating occupation. I have been doing it ever since and am sincerely grateful for the very welcome and practical help she provided by taking the trouble to write it all down so clearly and sensibly.

A few months after I assumed the directorship of the Cal State Fullerton Oral History Program, I was asked to come to the Sierra Club meeting in San Francisco to represent our oral history program. I recall being so ignorant of Sierra Club history and environmentalism at the time as to be perhaps the ony person at the entire event who did not rcognize the legendary Jacques Cousteau. When I asked Willa who the nice elderly man was who smiled at me and genially acknowledged me when our paths crossed in the lobby, Willa gave me a startled loook and then explained to me who Cousteau was. She even asked if I had a place to spend the night, and then invited me to be her guest in her home.
What I learned during this short interval of time with Willa is that to be a truly successful oral historian, it is not enough just to conduct many quality interviews, and write articles and books, but rather, one had to be as thoughtful, gracious, and compassionate as Willa, this magesterial pioneering oral historian and oral history administrator was to a greenhorn like me.