carol's kitchen

Friday, August 26, 2016


Opera in Vallejo? Preposterous, but true. It’s not the San Francisco Opera or L’Opera de Paris, or anything even remotely like them, but it’s a living, breathing phenomenon playing here in our far-flung little town and I doubt anyone can walk away unmoved.

Isn’t being moved the reason we go to the opera?

All you need to do is open your mind and allow yourself to feel the wrenching pain of Verdi’s heart-breaking melodrama, Il Trovatori, playing now at a ramshackle (but improving) theater in town, performed by good singers and a little orchestra, who managed to transport us to exactly the place where the composer and librettist wanted us to be — in the deepest, darkest depths of despair.

I experienced a variety of emotions — starting with pleasure at having found a parking spot across the street on Broadway (try that in New York or Paris), where I was greeted by the theater’s owner, who opened the front door for me. I handed over $25 to the amiable ticket seller, and chose a seat in the front row.

There were only a handful of us in the audience, and all but two had grey hair (this is not an opera for sissies). No curtain, no mise en scene, no frills, but pretty good costumes, which allowed us to believe we were in an earlier time in history, except for one fellow’s trousers which looked like his regular street pants.

A sceptic by nature, I was braced for the worst, but that never happened. My emotions were stirred from the very first notes. To begin with, I felt doubt and denial, but by the time that memorable Sunday matinee performance played its final chords, I’d experienced the whole gamut of emotions, including surprise, acceptance, astonishment, horror, misery and utter despair.

My thoughts went out of control as the opera unfolded. I resolved to write my last will and testament as soon as I got home, and talk to my family about my final hours, or days, or whatever. I recalled the horrible doctor who described my demise as an agonizing scene with bloody needles and tubes. All sorts of terrible images went through my mind while I witnessed the murder of one’s children, torture of enemies, mothers burning alive at the stake, suicide, fratricide, and the pain of unrequited love.

You’d think it’d be difficult to imagine the soprano who played Leona as a beautiful young virgin maiden, or that her lover could be played by a man who looked old enough to be her father, or that the mother of the hero was young enough to be his granddaughter, but none of that mattered.
The music did its job in spite of all obstacles.

Only the violinist, who played like Jack Benny, brought me back to reality from time to time, but, it was a difficult piece to perform. Nevertheless, the orchestra and singers learned the score, the lyrics, the arias, the staging and movements; they changed costumes and lighting and remembered their entrances and exits. They did their job well enough to put me through the wringer for nearly three hours, and then mercifully released me back into the sunshine of the day.

I recommend Il Trovatore, performed by the Verissimo Opera Company, at the Bay Area Stage Theater in downtown Vallejo.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016



Speaking as a New Yorker, having attended the renown, elaborate Central Park theater performances, I want to praise our very own Shakespeare in The Park people for their magnificent work.

I went to see their production of TAMING OF THE SHREW last week in a noisy outdoor amphitheater in Martinez, with bed sheets hanging from a wire as a back drop and a small tent behind serving as the backstage, in modern dress, with a bench and a chair and no other props. 

We sat on cement steps under the warm sun, and were as enchanted as those New York thespians in their fabulous park with all their fancy la dee da.  The acting was superb, especially the lead, Petruccio, president of the Vallejo Rotary Club, whose power blew us away, and his brilliant co-star who also produced, Dalia Vidor.  But, they were all good, every single one of them.

The play was so well produced, directed & performed we were utterly captivated and forgot where we were.  Theater is magic. Thanks to Vallejo Shakespeare in the Park!

Monday, August 01, 2016


Why does Vallejo need FUSE to find and train someone for the important job of marketing our city to potential businesses?  Why can't we hire people who are already trained?  Why can't we hire a highly qualified, experienced professional who has references, a resume of successes and verifiable accomplishments, important connections and a proven track-record working with other cities to do exactly what we need?  Surely these professionals already exist.  We might even have such people among us.

If I needed a heart surgeon I would seek out the best, most experienced one I could find.  I would not go to Truoro University and ask them to find a pre-med student whom they would then train to become a doctor, and specialize in heart surgery to operate on me - and watch over him and give him refresher courses while he did it. 

As I watched the presentation Tuesday night at City Hall, I kept thinking what a fine sales person the FUSE organization sent, offering vagaries, non-specifics, and avoiding direct questions with slick language that told little more, as far as I could tell, than how good they are in selling themselves.  That alone should have told us what they were about.  How many times did Councilman McConnell ask the same question about who pays the cost of the refresher-course training hours after the person is hired?  Three! The same number of times the question was avoided; the third time received a head-shake when he offered the obvious answer.  (The answer is "Vallejo does.") 

If I was looking for a job I might go to FUSE, but I wouldn't be on the buying end.  Why should the city of Vallejo pay $60,000 to find someone for us ?  Why should we be benefactors for FUSE?  I don't see what they can do for us that we can't do better ourselves.

My brilliant City Council and Mayor voted unanimously in favor of FUSE, while expressing "hopes" about what the FUSE trainee should do.  "HOPES" not requirements or expectations, but HOPES.  The wise men of Chelm have spoken again.  Good luck, Vallejo.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016



The many layers to the Orcem/VMT Scary-Tale inspired a 3-tiered cake, rising from nourishing flour to deadly cement, picking up sacks of gold on the way and erupting in four fat cats.  The myriad hidden layers contain the tale of a beautiful waterfront transformed by a monster-destroyer that wants to rob the city of its future.  The four figures who dominate the scene ride high on their creation, enticing us to partake of their cement cake that will poison all who come near. 


© 2016 Flora & Howard Zolin – Vallejo: Artists/Creators
           Carol Pearlman - Vallejo: Scribe/Political Consultant

Friday, July 01, 2016


Kudos to the organizers of Sacto MoFo food trucks Wednesday for hitting the bull’s eye on an activity that finally brings the community together.  Art hasn’t done it.  Politics don’t cut it.  No cultural event I’ve seen in this town has done it.   

Music would do it if done right: free outdoor evening concerts when the weather is right --  jazz, blues, hip hop, rock and roll -- might rouse otherwise reluctant citizens.  But when it comes to food, Vallejoans proved yesterday they’re willing and able to show up in numbers for their burritos and tacos, burgers and dogs – and a real good time was had by all. 

I joined the crowd around 5 o'clock on the downtown waterfront for an early dinner on the grass, served up by amiable vendors with colorful vehicles, and not only did I enjoy a tasty, juicy meal of pork belly tacos with apple slaw, I got to see and schmooze with folks of all ages from all over Vallejo.

I will not think about Roi Choi's celebrated Korean tacos or the other gourmet fusion cuisines from the trucks I loved so much in L.A.; I will not.  I will be here now.  It was a wonderful event and I look forward to the next one.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


Some of the folks running for mayor & city council in Vallejo invite me to fund raisers, but, with the exception of Robert McConnell, they haven’t told me anything that makes me want to vote for them – so far.  I watch their mouths move, but hear nothing but platitudes & clichés; just a lot of blah blah blah, delivered over fancy food & drink, in lovely settings, with charming people.   

Sorry guys, I won’t be bribed, nor will I contribute to campaigns that tell me nothing.  

For example, here’s a doozie I read last week in this newspaper: “’s time to dig deeper and work on systemic and long term change that will ensure a transparent, open and collaborative form of government such as civic engagement policies that ensure public noticing and participation on major economic development projects.” 

Whew!  Will someone please translate that garbage for me?

Worse than gobbledygook is the gossip people repeat as though they know it’s true, when they actually do not.  There’s a lot of nasty stuff out there, which, if we can’t stop at the source, we can at least ignore.  Please, don’t let gossip influence your thinking.   For example, many people I know tell me a certain candidate is a Dominionist.  They believe this is a fact, which it might be, but how do they know?  So far no one has been able to tell me.  Moreover, just because someone is friendly & smiling, shakes my hand and acts like a “good guy,” isn’t enough reason to get my money or my vote.

I want my elected officials to be able to articulate what’s needed in Vallejo and how to get it done.  I want them to know what’s going on in the city, its schools & various communities; to understand business and know how to make good deals.  Do any of the people running for mayor or city council have those qualities?   These are my questions to all local candidates.  Please answer with straight talk, in simple English.  

  • 1.      What’s your vision for Vallejo? 
  • 2.       How will you make it happen? 

Furthermore, I want to see regular town meetings, public forums, Q & A sessions where citizens can ask tough questions directly, and hear answers we understand. 
Enough obfuscation!   Stop the gossip!  Let’s have a real conversation.  I want to hear the candidates tell me what I need to know in order to use my intelligence in deciding who to vote for.  

Saturday, June 04, 2016


Listening to Faraday Future’s presentation this past week, I thought this is too good to be true. But it could happen. Good things happen, too. No reason why it shouldn’t happen to us. Lord knows we’ve suffered long enough, what with two bankruptcies and crime, tearing our hair out over the cement factory ...
From my point of view it wasn’t a professional presentation like other companies I’ve seen pitching our city council for that land on Mare Island. Our staff spoke well, but Faraday’s fellow, Dag Reckhorn, vice president of manufacturing, was inarticulate and unprepared. The slides didn’t match his words; his words were often jumbled. He did, however, speak with a twinkle in his voice. We want to have fun, he said. When was the last time we heard anything like that in our drafty old meeting room in City Hall?
Last night was different. We in the audience were feeling pretty good about ourselves as well. A number of well-spoken, knowledgeable citizens pointed out the need to hire experts, be prepared, make a timeline, as well as other warnings and good ideas on how to negotiate this deal. Boudicca Todi told the city council that Faraday needs us more than we need them. In fact we don’t need them. Be ready to walk away, she warned, like the brave civic/heroine she is.
We must be brave. I’m sad to see Vallejo suffering from the mentality of poverty. We’ve got to cut that out now and start behaving like the great city we’re becoming — with or without Faraday Future on Mare Island. We all know it’s coming. You can feel it. I can smell it. Bernie came ...
Our calls for public art, moreover, the landscaping of our parks and waterfront, should also go out to the world. We deserve the best. If the winning talent comes from within our community, all the better, but let’s not limit ourselves by holding on to the status quo. Think big. Raise the bar. Let’s go for the best we can get.
I’d love to see Faraday and Vallejo work out a deal worthy of the citizens of Vallejo.
That, Mayor Davis, is what you should leave as your legacy. Not a 60-foot bronze monument to all wars.