carol's kitchen

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

POLITICS & ALL THAT JAZZ

I’ve got a lot to learn.  I never participated in city government before I came to Vallejo.  I don’t know how things work.  In the old days my activism was grandiose intellectual coffee-house BS.  Now I flap around like a stranded seal, trying this and that, always working for truth and justice; at least I’m on the right side – ain’t I?  The good thing is the game is accessible in Vallejo; even I can say my piece, as though it might do any good.  I’ve got a front row seat at City Hall where I get to watch political crime and corruption in 3-D and living color nearly every Tuesday night.  It’s history in the making; the finest entertainment in town (beside the Empress Theatre, of course), and the best teacher if I pay attention.

Listening to our untutored councilors try to figure out rules for cultivating and delivering marijuana made me think I was back in the old world, eavesdropping on a bunch of rabbis arguing some obscure Talmudic point.  The mountain of considerations for each decision for each rule is huge.  How many inches a baby plant may be before it can be moved from its mother?  What is the precise size of the growing area allowed for a vender?  Where may it be?  Fortunately, the lawyer for the dispensary gang set everyone straight when he said, let’s be real, it has to grow somewhere.

As I see it, city staff runs the whole show.  I took part in the citizens workshops that led to the creation of the new General Plan, aka Propel Vallejo, which has been snatched from its cradle by our legal staff because a “certain applicant has spent thousands of dollars” (her words) on his project of putting a deep water port and cement factory on the waterfront that we, the citizens have rightfully claimed to be ours in our new General Plan, and we had better not say anything about it because that’s against the law. 

They’re fixing the pipes and water storage tanks in the parking lot across the street from my complex.  The report claims that “Rerouting the surface storm water flow will also reduce the risk of flooding of the lower levels in the event of a strong storm coupled with a power outage.” 

Man, that scares me.  Will the river overflow?  How long can the power be out?  I get oxygen from a machine that runs on electric power.  In case that storm and outage come to my house, I have 4 auxiliary tanks on my patio that hold 72 hours of oxygen, so they say, and that’s it.  I’ve asked neighbors to help me if the juice stops.  And if you’re around, please come over and help. 

One of the first storms of the year knocked my only tomato plant over, breaking the pot and strewing earth on the patio.  I had to get rid of the plant but managed to save about 15 marble sized green orbs.  What could I do with them?  You can’t eat them, they’re no good to cook, but I didn’t want to throw them out, so I pickled them.  Got the recipe from the nice pickle vendor at Moschetti’s on Saturday morning.  Those babies were so delicious I want to pickle everything in sight. 

One of the most interesting things I ever learned about self-defense is when you tear up lettuce leaves they produce more anti-oxidents, so always tear your lettuce when you make a salad. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

PLAN THE GENERAL


To those who warned me not to trust the Mayor I say this: throughout all the time we worked together on what I’d come to believe was “our” park, mine and the mayor’s, Osby Davis behaved honorably, kept his word, and fulfilled every promise he gave me about beautifying the patch of land known as Independence Park (which is currently being used as a giant bird bath). 

Yes, he did!

If you have any doubts, please take a look at Item E under section # 8 of the Action Calendar of the city council meeting on January 26th.  “REQUEST FROM MAYOR DAVIS TO PLACE THE FOLLOWING ITEM ON A FUTURE CITY COUNCIL AGENDA: PRESENTATION ON A WATERFRONT ART WALK PROPOSAL Recommendation: City Council to consider request from Mayor Davis to schedule a presentation on a Waterfront Art Walk proposal on a future City Council agenda.”  
This small item is proof he means business.  

From the outset, Mayor Davis told me his intention was to get that park done before he leaves office, or at least get it to the point where there was no going back, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.  I was right to believe him and work with him, as far as we could go.  I can only applaud his efforts.  

The problem is he’s going full speed ahead without me now.  He’s found an artist who wants to fill the entire waterfront, from my house all the way up to the bridge and on the streets as well, with sculpture that will depict and glorify the history of Vallejo.  He brings mighty sponsorship with him.  This artist is a nice fellow; I’d like to sit down and have a glass of wine with him, but his style of work is not to my taste and I think it’s wrong for Vallejo.  I related these thoughts to my friend, the Mayor, who no longer returns my calls. 

Oh, the ironies of life are cruel.  I will get a park, but it won’t be my park.  I yodeled that tune when it was taken over by PB, and I’m howling it again now that the Mayor has taken it over.  Yet, it’s not done yet; we’ve yet to hear from the fat lady. 

I recently took part in the development of an “arts element” to be included in the Next General Plan, and that element foretells the reconstitution of the much needed Vallejo Commission for Arts and Culture.  And, it’s my opinion that it should be the Vallejo Arts and Culture Commission that takes up the question of whether an artist’s work meets their criteria for art in public places of our fair city.  Until the commission is established no permanent Art should be installed on our waterfront, Parks or other public spaces.  That’s my two cents.  Otherwise, it’s a free-for-all, or so it appears to me when I walk out in the streets of Laredo, I mean Vallejo. 


My memoir is still for sale: www.flatbushprincess.com. 

Happy New Year, and all that.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

VALLEJO DREAMING

I visited the Vallejo City website to express my thoughts about housing and wandered into the section about Mare Island.  What a place!  What a situation!  If I was a developer I’d buy up the entire western shore and as much land as I could get, and create a Martha’s Vineyard type of place, with beach homes and apartments, protected beaches, little town centers with shops etc. etc.  It would have its own ferry to San Francisco and other towns on the bay, maybe a car ferry.  Hey!
From the pictures on the website those Mare Island warehouses look fabulous.  As a New Yorker I think of the old deserted buildings in Soho and the meat packing district that became million-dollar lofts, high class international art galleries, and home to some of the fanciest restaurants in the city.  I don't understand why this property hasn’t been snatched up by smart investors, especially since they'll get a ferry service to the mainland very soon.  Personally, I’d love to see a bridge at the southern section of Curtola to get most of the traffic off Mare Island Way. 
While I’m at it, those parking lots across from the ferry are in the wrong place.  Put three or four multi-storied parking structures on Santa Clara Street and allow the waterfront to become the beautiful place it should be, with shops and walks and outdoor cafes.  We can make better use of that place, dontcha think? 

Let me ask you: which would you rather do after stepping off the Vallejo ferry?  Stop off for a drink at a beautiful bar with a view of the sunset, sit down in a cozy tea room/pastry shop, eat a good dinner or grab a stand-up snack, purchase some last minute grocery items, a loaf of artisan bread, look at an art exhibit, buy a book, eat an ice-cream, and more fun activities like the above…… or go to the dentist?  The city should buy him out; rent him a nice spot at the bottom of Georgia Street, and let him drill, baby, drill.

Imagine visiting Vallejo.  Whatever for, you may well ask?  What is there to do in Vallejo?  I took a drive down Lemon Street recently and was inspired by the beauty of the long, tree-lined lane along the river that leads to the old Sperry Mill, which later became General Mills, with its lovely old buildings and beautiful river vistas.  Why not re-purpose those buildings, like London turned their electric utilities station on the Thames River into the Tate Modern, one of the great museums in Europe?

My idea is to turn some of that gorgeous waterfront property into a world-class spa and health resort, with shops, restaurants, a five-star hotel, a pleasant motel, and a youth hostel, expensive and reasonable places to eat; a condominium complex, senior and student housing, a pier for ferries and other boats that bring tourists and visitors like Mark Zukerberg and his wife, who will sail over in their google-driven speedboat for a great seafood lunch and an afternoon of mud baths and massage.  Movie stars would rent beautiful river-view suites while they get Botox treatments and recuperate from plastic surgery.  

It needn’t be only for rich tourists.  Let’s have a learning center with free seminars for Vallejo residents, and courses on marine life and tidelands, good nutrition, free weight-lifting and yoga classes; a carousel, a fine planetarium, a great day-care center. What about an art film house? And a fine, fitting home and performance hall for our great symphony orchestra - it's about time!

How about this: the hottest night-club in the Bay Area, right down there on the shores of our southern waterfront, with top notch DJ’s and world-class entertainment, where guests can arrive directly by boat at its dedicated pier, and let’s call it THE CEMENT FACTORY. 

Vallejo is gorgeous; it could also be prosperous, and clean and healthy at the same time.  I can easily imagine a beautiful river city, with a thriving, integrated community, great schools, active citizens, and elected officials who listen to and represent the people.  

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

Monday, December 21, 2015

CHANGES



It appears I got my park, but I never expected it to arrive as it has, cram-packed full of junk, including a submarine sail, whatever that is (I thought they go under-water), and heaps of tchotchkes they call sculpture, a questionable judgement in Vallejo.  I feel like I’ve bought the wrong ticket for the right place, or the right ticket for the wrong place.

What the heck is History Arts?  It doesn’t sound like anything I want in my park.  

Will someone please tell me who’s behind this?  Participatory Budgeting, who, incidentally, pay more than $500,000 - aka ‘administrative welfare’ - to city employees for assistance on these projects, guards its secrets well, and so far my simple question has gotten no answer.  I’m not supposed to know who on PB worked on it.  Top secret.  Is it Isis?

Why should the city pay for this park?  The rumor is a certain Mr. Callahan is supposed to clean up and beautify that park as part of his deal with the city in return for the development of a parcel of waterfront land nearby that he’s clearly in no hurry to do.  City staff, working hand in hand with PB, surely know about the deal with Mr. Callahan, who, no doubt wakes up each morning with a big smile on his face, knowing that we the people are going to fix the park for him and pay for the privilege out of our own pockets, and he doesn’t have to do a darned thing.  We must be so rich.
I feel guilty that so many people who signed my petition and supported my project voted for the PB Park thinking it was the same park.  Someone should have told me before it was put on the ballot.  I should have been included.  If I had my way it’d be just me and the Mayor making that park, our way, without the city. Yes, I said that! 

But, don’t worry about me.  I consider this development a windfall and intend to make the most of it.  I’m looking at it now as an opportunity to join with others, whoever they may be, to work on the design of the park, with the needs and desires of those who live beside it, foremost on my agenda.  We want a peaceful quiet place, with nothing that will spoil our view, no junk, and nothing noisy.  Please.
Will the city approve it on December 8th?  They know all about Callahan – better than I do, and they know about my petition and have heard about the Topher Delaney design I submitted.  T’will be interesting to see how they deal with it.   

Did anyone else hear what I heard last night at the City Council meeting?  Council member Katy Miessner warned us not underestimate the effects of drought on world politics.  I don’t recall her exact words, she said them so quickly, but the gist was that an important reason for the problems in Syria started with a drought, bringing on the subsequent troubles we now witness with horror in that country, as well as those manifested in Paris, Beirut, etc. 
 
Basically, as I understood her, Katy blames terrorism on the drought, ultimately, which she cautions us to take seriously.  Presumably, our drought will turn us into terrorists if we don’t.  I like the theory that weather is to blame for the problems of the world.  Why not?  We wouldn’t need armies to fight it.  We could use our brains. 


Sunday, November 01, 2015

INDEPENDENCE PARK BULLETIN



To My Friends and Neighbors,

     No one was more surprised than I to read the bit on the front page of the Times Herald last week announcing a Participatory Budgeting project “to transform a dirt area south of the Vallejo Ferry Terminal into the Waterfront History Arts Park.”  

     Huh?  What’s that?  

     Sounds like a description of my own Independence Park, the park I look at every day, that I'm working hard to transform.  Then I saw the pictures on the PB website, and knew for sure.  My park - OUR park has been parknapped by the Participatory Budgeting Cycle 3 ballot. 

     This PB proposal does not fit the vision of the park I worked on with the mayor and other people.  I asked for a peaceful place, for families, gentle paths, with benches, a few tables, and if we can’t plant grass, let’s have a good-looking natural drought-resistant ground cover, like granite chips.  I wanted a labyrinth as a point of interest, some appropriate plants, and perhaps a bocce court for fun.  I wanted stations along the river walk, where people could look at Mare Island and learn about its rich history.  The original vision was a simple elegant haven of peace, a joy for Vallejoans, and a statement to visitors that says we care for our city.  

     I confess my ignorance of the PB plan for Independence Park until a few days ago.  I should have known about it but I didn’t, and I’m sorry about that.  I apologize.  I do know, however, if the PB Independence Park plan doesn’t get enough votes to go through, I’ll have a plan by the middle of next month, which the mayor and I will have put together after gathering various elements together to actually get it built, and, this plan will be closer to the needs and desires of the many more supporters who’ve been cheering us on since we started, and the more than 700 people who signed our petition.
 
     While I’m confessing, I should say that I don’t care for some of their plans, and wonder if they’ll get enough votes to make it happen.  Moreover, I’m a dreamer, politically naïve, and fearless; I didn’t foresee the excruciatingly long process of getting a park project off the ground (ahem), and I’m running out of patience -- but not out of enthusiasm and dedication to transforming that “dirt area” on the river into a lovely, peaceful Park.

     Thanks for bearing with me. 
    
     Faithfully yours,

 

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN - I LOVE THE MAYOR



First of all, let me say this: I want to outlaw all financial contributions for political campaigns in this country; and immediately fire all the lobbyists.  Turn them into social workers and send them out to do good works in troubled neighborhoods, like ours, for example.  Vallejo can use all the help we can get – or can we?

Investors, please take note; I read this startling information online:  “…Standard and Poor’s has raised the City of Vallejo’s investment rating from BB- to BBB - with a stable outlook. This equates to a three step jump, which equates to the City has been moved out of the “speculative - grade” category and has returned to having an “investment grade” rating. Having an investment - grade category rating means potentially improved investment or borrowing opportunities…” 

No doubt the mayor will carry this message to the world when he travels to the Philippines and Japan later this month.

More good news: Andrew Young, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations came to Vallejo to inaugurate an institute whose purpose is “to improve the fortunes and futures of those 15 to 25 years old.”   Young spoke at a meeting in a downtown waterfront restaurant.  He gazed through the windows and said, “…I don’t know Vallejo, but people tell me y’all have problems here. I can’t imagine that. I can’t imagine a waterfront like this, the beautiful hills and mountains. Problems? Problems are challenges that make you invent new solutions.”

Great sounding stuff.  Tidbits like these give me goosebumps and confirm the reasons I chose Vallejo in the first place.  What we need, in my humble opinion, is a city council full of savvy business people, interested in developing this jewel of a city to its rightful grandeur as a thriving, beautiful, historic place in the center of the bay area, and who know how to do it.  Other cities have done it. Why can’t we?

When I contemplate some of the decisions made by the powers that be in Vallejo, I think of the mythic wise men of Chelm, those infamous village idiots who made all the wrong decisions for their town.  Case in point: the waterfront utility storage boxes we paid some well-meaning artist, selected by a jury, to decorate “graffiti style.”

Other cities pay to get rid of that kind of stuff on their public walls, but we in Vallejo, with the astuteness of the wise men of Chelm, paid good money out of our participatory budgeting “beautification program,” to get graffiti painted on our public waterfront for all the world to see.   Ok, if they want, for pictures of birds and whatnot, although they look so kindergarten/first grade to me, but graffiti, in my opinion, sends out the wrong message. 

Don’t get me started on that sculpture item planted on the corner of Georgia and Mare Island Way, for all the world to see.  Who’s watching the new buildings and designs on the waterfront?   Who’s protecting our beautiful public spaces from the anything-goes attitude of our arts community?  What’s this about a cement factory on primo riverside property?  Really?  And how’d some dentist get a hundred year lease (is that true?) on what in my opinion is the best commercial spot in the entire city?  That gorgeous, grassy place between the ferry and Independence Park, should contain a fine restaurant, a lovely tea room, gift shop, hot-dog/taco stand, candy store/ice-cream parlor, bicycle rental, paddle-boat station, news stand, souvenir studio, summer bandstand… isn’t that what we want for Vallejo?

I’m off the meds now but unapologetically still cranky.  I wish someone would take out the garbage for me.

I got elected to the Vallejo Board of Beauty and Design and given the title of Board Member.  My outspoken nature might get me thrown out sooner or later, but meanwhile, let me tell you, sitting up on that dais, practicing the rules of order, speaking into a microphone in a room open to the public, discussing the beautification of our city with intelligent talented people who want to improve Vallejo is my idea of a real good time.

At my first meeting, the only people in the audience were my sister and brother-in-law who flew in from Florida to help celebrate my birthday that week, and took pictures of me sitting up there on my high horse. 

My squeaking caught the attention of the mayor who invited me to his office to make plans for Independence Park.  We both want a park we can be proud of, and the Mayor has promised he will make it happen.  I call him the Giver of the Green Light and believe he’ll keep his word.   

At the risk of being lynched, I wish to say I love Mayor Osby Davis.  I know it’s inflammatory and revolutionary to talk such words on these hallowed pages, in the very annals of the infamous angry finger-pointing VIB that I admire and respect, but I’m here to tell you I’m quite fond of this handsome dark-skinned fellow who lords it over our city, with his quiet voice and sharp zoot suits. 

The mayor is a gentleman, warm, charming, eager and able to help. When we sit and talk together, plotting and planning the creation of Independence Park, it’s as though I’m with my father.  His voice is gentle and reassuring.  With all due respect, I feel like I could sit on his honorable lap while he tells me he’ll support my efforts and that I should keep moving forward with my project.  He’s my daddy.

I went to City Hall last week and watched the vote on whether or not to pay for the mayor’s travels, with councilwoman Verder-Aliga, to Japan and the Philippines, which turned out as expected.  

That night, however, I was especially interested in the main feature of the evening, the final showdown between our Mayor and City Council members, and the lawyers for the medical marijuana dispensary people.  Our City Manager presented the case simply and eloquently.  He enumerated all the facts and figures that boiled down to this: spend a million dollars to fight them, or give them what they want.  The vote came in loud and clear; give it to them, with the mayor casting the only no vote. 

Then there were parents who got up to express heart-wrenching fear for their children’s safety in our schools, demanding a meeting with the school powers to deal with intolerable bullying and violence in our schools.   Violence in the schools!  Is there anything worse?  How did Standard and Poor miss that?   We must change that immediately.    

By 9 PM I was worn out and decided to return home and watch the rest of the show on TV.  Once home I did some stuff and started up the stairs to my bedroom when I realized I didn’t have my mobile phone.  Heart pounding, I ran to my garage (ha, I can’t run, I just think about it and lose my breath), drove back to City Hall, climbed the front steps, burst into the room where they were in recess, and stumbled right into the mayor. 

“What happened?” he asked, helping me with the oxygen tank falling off my shoulder.  “I’ve lost my phone,” I blurted, hardly able to speak.   Calmly, he asked, “Where were you sitting?” and while I led him to the spot near the front of the room, he told me he had lost his phone once and it was an awful experience.  I pointed to my chair.  He got down on his knees and searched under the seat.  After a moment he looked up, smiling from ear to ear, and handed my precious little Samsung over to me.  I was so happy I threw my arms around him and cried with joy.

So, if you happened to have caught me in the act of hugging the mayor in City Hall that night, and were wondering what the heck is going on, you now know. 

###


 



Friday, June 12, 2015

LIFE AND THE RIVER

      I drive to Rehab twice a week, stop off at Trader Joe’s on the way home, and I’m good to go; two birds with one stone, so to speak, though I don’t care for that image.  I learn so much at rehab I’d gladly make the 17 mile drive + bridge tolls 5 days a week if they’d let me.   

     Still using my phone’s navigation system everywhere I go; I’m lost without it.   I drive to medical appointments in places named Fairfield Vacaville and Concord, words I never dreamed would be in my vocabulary.  I’m hopping onto freeways like a loony-bird and trying to shut-up about it.  
     Efficiency is key; gotta re-think everything.  In addition to the long tube at home and the small portables, I’ve got 4 big oxygen tanks stored on my Patio.  I formed an “Oxygen Brigade” consisting of 6 neighbors who’ve agreed to think of me in case of a power outage and if they’re able, to come help me with my tanks.   Anyone else out there is invited to do that too.
     Good food has become more important than ever.  Thinking about doing a cookbook for invalids.  No kidding.  What a concept.  It might sell more copies than my memoir.  
     Have you gone to my website, flatbushprincess.com to buy it yet? 
 
     Started walking along the river.  There, in my opinion, is the heart of Vallejo: the murky currents, the steady ebb and flow, the sparkling menacing sludge of it is so much like this city and it makes me feel alive.  It’s a challenge, I need to slow down, buck the wind, pace myself.  Gives me time to look around and see who’s there, recognize the true colors of Vallejo on a human level.  
     I meet other regulars who come down to the river at Independence Park – MY PARK – most days.  We wave, nod, sometimes stop to chat.  Walkers acknowledge each other and keep walking, bikers are careful with eyes ahead, parents pushing strollers are happy to stop and let me admire their beautiful babes.  Fishermen tend to be reticent but they’ll show me what they’ve caught.   Quite a few grandma’s with little kids, talking, enjoying each other.  I pity the moms who miss all that. 

   One day I was struggling to walk in a strong wind, hanging on to the barrier, my teary eyes fixed on the oxygen meter dangling from the index finger of my left hand, when a young man dressed in black and silver, his hood covering his face, and pants below his tuchas, came up to me, touched his heart and asked, “Where you goin’ mama?  Do you need help?”
     This guy looked like the lurkers in the alleys behind some Vallejo homes that I read about on Next Door.   I could tell he was up to no good, except for the fact that when he saw me he responded straight from his heart.  Later, we sat and talked.  I told him to stay out of trouble, don’t hurt anyone.  He said, “I’m black, they want my heart. You don’t know how hard it is.”  Then, what blurted out of me was, “shut up, MF.  I know it’s tough.  But next time the going is rough, think of me -- struggling to walk, struggling to breath, struggling to stay alive.  Then get on with it, and be good – like you are with me.”
     I don’t know where that came from.  It must be the meds.
     Then there’s S--, a truck driver in his 60’s from South America, who talks dirty to me.  He’s got a twinkle in his eye and says sooner or later he’ll get me into bed.  He tries to grab my hand, but I tell him “don’t touch,” and he obeys.  Imagine propositioning a little old grey haired Jewish lady with an oxygen tube up her nose, pushing a tank on wheels, barely able to walk for more than a few minutes at a time.  Obviously, a wack job, but he means no harm.  He shows up most days and pins the bait on the hooks of his friend in a wheel chair, who fishes all day long.  If he promises not to touch, I take his arm and let him help me cross the street.
     I’m thinking of joining the infamous Senior Center.  I actually used to shoot pool once upon a time in my life, and would like to take it up again.    And… if anyone is wondering, the Mayor and I are moving ahead swimmingly with the Independence Park project.  More about that anon.