carol's kitchen

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

OPERA IN VALLEJO



I attended the opera in Vallejo on Sunday.  The Verismo Opera Company performed Verdi’s La Forza del Destino in our recently opened Bay Area Stage Theatre on Broadway, across the street from my favorite ice-cream parlor/bakery, Paleteria & Pasteleria La Michoacana.
It couldn’t have been more convenient; the drive took all of seven minutes; I found a spot in the reserved parking alley next door, and walked just a few steps to the theatre, which keeps improving each time I go.  They’ve now installed a graded seating area, which makes the theatre experience better than ever.
Inside, I was greeted by smiling, happy faces, and paid $15 for a seat which I found easily in the second row center.  By show time, the house was nearly full.  There was a small chamber orchestra of six excellent players, and the conductor, Michael Moran, who did a great job.  We had a screen that told us what was being sung, in English.  Costumes were gorgeous.  The stage had a few simple props, dominated by a large crucifix in the center that made me feel that serious punishment was coming.  

Some of the singing was sublime with voices you might hear in the Met.  Jennifer Torossian-Studley as Donna Leonora, Josh Bongers as Don Alvaro, Steve Zimmerman as Don Carlo, and Susan Thieme as Preziosilla gave outstanding performances. In fact, everyone in the cast was fine; they remembered the words, knew where to move, and hit all the notes; they performed the challenging, melodramatic opera skillfully, with all their hearts & souls.  

From the first powerful chords I was into it.  Verdi’s score is so deeply emotional, the story so profoundly heart-breaking, only a stone would not be moved.  I cried during one of Leonora’s arias, sung by Jennifer Der Torossian-Studley.   

OK, it’s not the Met, but it’s what we got, and it’s really good; a treasure in our city.  The Verismo Opera Company brings great art and beauty to Vallejo, and I recommend it as a wonderful way to enjoy a Sunday afternoon.  

Don’t forget the treats across the street.

***

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

THE VALLEJO SYMPHONY


I hesitate to talk about The Vallejo Symphony for fear there’ll be no seats available at the next performance.  Yet I must declare the Vallejo Symphony is the jewel in the crown of all our city’s treasures.  How a far-flung backwater burg like ours managed to pull this off is beyond me, and tells me there’s more to Vallejo than what meets the eye. 

In my opinion The Vallejo Symphony Orchestra can stand proudly among the best in the world.  On October 30th,  our new musical director/conductor, Marc Taddei, performed magnificently, as did the brilliant orchestra under his baton. 

For the opening performance of the season, Mr. Taddei’s first on the podium for us, he brought in pianist Sara Davis Buechner, whose electrifying rendition of the Prokiev Piano Concerto #3 was so powerful she could have whipped all the forces of evil in the world.  She bounced and pounced all over the keyboard like a madwoman, yet in perfect control and mastery of her art.  It was pure power & emotion.  Not only did Ms. Buechner leap out of her seat while she played, we in the audience were propelled out of ours’ as well, unable to contain ourselves during her explosive performance. 

We also heard superb performances of Haydn’s Symphony No. 6, and Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5, as the salutation to Vallejo from Mr. Taddei, in an unforgettable afternoon of great, thrilling music.

I was an usher during the reign of David Ramadanoff, the previous conductor, because I had a friend who had a friend connected to that also wonderful conductor.  Many Sunday matinee performances, not only did I enjoy taking tickets, handing out programs, & chatting up fellow music-lovers, I got to sit in on the concert for free.  How I’d love that job back again. 

One more thing:  We need to give our magnificent Vallejo Symphony a proper concert hall.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

SOMA: ART IN THE CITY



 Driving down Georgia Street this bright sunny morning I got an eyeful of something that filled my heart with joy.  There stood SOMA, the Flaming Lotus Girls’ fabulous sculpture, perched on a platform beside the JFK Library, in all its shining bleepy-bloopy-synapsonical confounding glory, proclaiming that this is indeed a place that holds art in high esteem and has something special to tell the world.  


Like New York, Paris & Rome, where great public art gives the city its unique identity, Vallejo steps up to show the best we have, demonstrating a recognition of the past and belief in the future.  SOMA confirms that we who live here value ourselves, care about our image, believe we are worthy, appreciate art and recognize how it elevates our daily lives.  


It makes me proud to live in Vallejo.  We are a good city, getting better, and beginning to think of ourselves deserving of world-class public art.  SOMA gives a solid sense of place to Vallejo that we didn’t have before, and it’s only going to get better.  We have reason to be proud.



Sunday, October 09, 2016

CANDIDATES FORUM IN VALLEJO



I enjoy the city forums because they’re an opportunity to experience democracy in action -- a great privilege and one of the reasons my ancestors came to America.  I get to hear & see the candidates in person, real people speaking for themselves, giving me the opportunity to think for myself and make up my own mind. 

At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the fiery blog gossip and word-of-mouth rumors that slither through our city like a sweet-talking serpent.  Easily recognizable, the language of gossip is loaded with clichés and platitudes; its slogans arouse fear and demand conformity; it’s antithetical to thinking for oneself.  Certain journalists promote & thrive on it.  No wonder Trump does so well in this country.

I’ve attended two forums so far, the latest run by Vallejo’s White Chamber of Commerce, and held in the gorgeous Empress Theater in beautiful downtown Vallejo, which has become more beautiful lately with the installation of a fine sculpture called SOMA, in front of the library.  

Proud of my city, I gazed with joy at the diverse ethnicity of the candidates who sat side by side at a table on the stage.  I watched them as they spoke, listened carefully to their words, and considered what I’d heard.  I still believe Landis Graden will make a great mayor for Vallejo.

Hssssssssss….  I’m warned to “follow the money,” insinuating Landis’s JumpStart endorsement means he’s sold out to the Orcem Ogres.  It makes me wonder what exactly it takes to sell out your own city.   I try to imagine how much money & power Landis could garner from JumpStart to sway his vote.  My conclusion: I'm not buying it; Landis has a far-better destiny than to become the mayor responsible for bringing a cement factory to the shores of Vallejo.
 
I’m not excited about candidates who need notes to recite their thoughts and visions for the city.  I’m excited about candidates who can think and talk at the same time, and are able to speak from the heart.  Nothing excited me more than the two council candidates with the least experience – including the youngest of all – who spoke with such passion and exuberance about what they want to do for Vallejo that they were jumping out of their seats. 

Too bad we can only elect three this year.  We need fresh blood down at city hall.   With the exception of Robert McConnell (who, incidentally, was the only Caucasian on the roster of council candidates), I’d like to replace every single one of them who sit on the dais now.
 
Let’s look and listen and think about what is offered.  Do we want a mayor who needs notes to tell us what he’s done, or a mayor of strong character; a businessman with fresh ideas, who speaks well, thinks on his feet, & can guide our emerging 21st  century city.





Wednesday, October 05, 2016

LET'S CALL A SPADE A SPADE



     Early last summer The City Council invited applications for the newly created Arts & Culture Commission.  Fifteen people applied for seven seats, submitted lengthy, detailed applications and underwent personal interviews with the Mayor & City Council.  Appointments, we were told, would come in the end of Sept.  
     Now, we learn: “City Council directed staff to reopen the application recruitment process for the Commission on Culture & the Arts to garner specific interest from members of the City’s diverse cultural institutions.”
     What is the meaning of those words? What is a cultural Institution?  My synagogue?  Will city staff approach the congregation of B’nai Israel up on Nebraska Street to garner interest for the Arts & Culture Commission? Or, is it something else they’re looking for?
     Let’s speak plain English.  It seems to me what city council really wants is black people, Filipino people, Latino people, Asian People – people who represent the true demographics of Vallejo. Where are those diverse cultural institutional members when the city needs them?  And why doesn’t the city say what it really wants?
     I think it’s for reasons we all know only too well.   They want to be politically correct; but how can our city staff deal with a problem they call by another name? 
     Ever since I arrived in Vallejo I’ve been asking people why it is I see only white people at arts & cultural events?  (Food & Music are exceptions.) Why is the downtown arts group primarily, if not completely, white?  Where’s the diverse city I’m told Vallejo is?
     To my question, the same answer always comes back, “We’ve been dealing with this for a long time; they are invited; everyone is welcome; if they don’t come it’s not our fault.”
     Really?  Not our fault?  Maybe, in another world where everything is perfect, worked as it should, and everybody just got along, that response might hold water, but not in my world.  The world I live in is fraught with racism & bigotry that runs rampant through society on every level. 
     Here’s my proposal for dealing with this very real important problem.

  1. Be fair; respect the democratic process: choose seven from among the fifteen original applicants regardless of race, religion, color, or creed (whatever that is). Instruct them on the demographics of Vallejo and explain why you’re not satisfied with the commission being comprised of only white people.   
  2. Charge them with the task of correcting this problem within the ranks of the Commission, in its committees & sub-committees, among all participants.  Set a deadline by which time they must demonstrate how they are solving the problem, the results of their efforts, and the effects thereof.  If the council is satisfied, so be it.  If not, the city council reserves the right to close down the commission, and Vallejo will live again in the chaos that comes without an Arts Commission. 

We must learn to live together.  If we won’t do it ourselves, we must be made to do it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

DREAMS CAN COME TRUE

It appears my major civic troubles are over.  I’ll get my park, now in the capable hands of Mayor Davis’s Ad-Hoc Committee, which will manage to deal with Mr. Chiodo without me – please don’t ask why.  I’m confident PB will look after the interests of those of us who actually use the park.

And, it’s looking very much like we’ve toppled Goliath with our mighty slingshot.  The cement factory story should be made into a movie.  I’ve already proposed to depict this historic event in pictures on the walls of the city, just as the ancient Egyptians related their great battles on the walls of tombs.  It’s a story that needs to be told, and passed down through the generations.

I also think that million dollars dangled in front of us by the port and factory folks should be contributed to the south Vallejo neighborhood anyway.  For nothing.  Just because we worked so hard to defeat them. And reimburse our costs too. 

While I’m asking, put an upscale health-spa on that beautiful southern waterfront, and a sports/concert stadium, and a ferry stop and a private boat dock so Zuckerberg and his wife can use their speed boat when they come to Vallejo for mud masks and massages. And a five-star lunch.

Dreaming of Vallejo of the future, inspired by the new General Plan I’m proud to say I worked on ever since I moved to Vallejo two years ago.  The best thing democracy has to offer is the opportunity to participate, which I can do here in Vallejo, and is one of the things I love best about living in this city. 

Now I can dream of Farraday Future spending hundreds of millions here, and think about the prospect of fresh blood and intelligence in local government, and enjoy that feeling of hope I sense in the air while watching the river flow beside Independence Park.  It gives me courage to think about what else I want.
 
Here it comes: Not only do I want a peaceful, beautiful family park across the way from where I live, I want to re-route all busses and trucks from Mare Island Way to another street, Sonoma Blvd. for example.  Put a roundabout in the place where Curtola Parkway meets Sonoma Boulevard to divert heavy traffic to Sonoma, already a commercial thoroughfare. 

Mare Island Way needs to be quieted down so we can hear sea lions honk around the boats near the old shipyards, watch flocks of seagulls cawing into the wind, notice migrating geese fly in formation overhead, and wonder about the whacked-out drummer-boy who tap-tap-taps his day away as though heralding in some great event that’s sure to come.

Consider the well-being of present residents as well as future buyers and renters of the luxury apartments, condos, and homes guaranteed to appear on the waterfront, sooner or later. 

And, wouldn’t it be nice to have gondolas carry us over to Mare Island?

I said I was dreaming.

P.S. If you don’t know the drummer-boy I’m talking about you don’t know my park.



Sunday, September 04, 2016

SHOW ME THE MONEY!


Ha ha ha!  I’m glad to see I’m not the only one worried about the outcome of the vote when the Orcem/VMT project comes before our city council in a couple of months.  Two others are also worried, as we can see from the report on the front page of today’s paper.  Orcem’s president & VMT’s owner are so worried they’re willing to pay the city a million bucks to vote for them.

But I'm not worried any more.  It’s nice to know they’re not as sure of themselves as we think they are; it’s not the “done deal” rumors would have us believe.  If it was a sure thing we wouldn’t see a nickel more than what they have to pay.  After all, it’s business.

The part of this story that makes me most happy is, by making this offer, VMT/Orcem have shot themselves in the foot – royally!  How can our venerable Mayor or any City Councilor vote for them and accept the money?  Think about it. 

By going public with their bribe, VMT/Orcem have ruined their chances of getting the deal.  If our city leaders accept the money and then vote for them for all the world to see, what does that say about our leaders?  Even the wise men of Chelm would know better than to do that.

(And, doesn’t this make the nature of their business even more suspect?)

And yet, it seems to me there’s a price for everything in this material world; business is business after all.  Everyone knows a measly million dollars doesn’t go very far these days.  This is the era of The Billions.  I say, show us a Few Billion and at least give us something to think about.