carol's kitchen

Tuesday, April 04, 2017


Last Wednesday, I went to the Chase bank on Tennessee and Broadway. Standing in front of the teller, finishing up my business, I placed my keys on the ledge in front of me so I could sign the receipt. Just as I was about to put the keys in my pocket, my phone rang, and I grabbed the phone from my pocket instead, spoke for half a minute, then looked back to my keys.

But they were gone.

Several people at the bank tried to help me find them. They weren’t in my car, or in my pockets, not in my bag or on the floor, or anywhere. While the search was going on, certain the key-snatcher would steal it, I kept an eye on my little red Honda FIT, parked in the first space in front of the big glass doors of the bank. I asked the security guard to continue the vigil while I went home to get my duplicate key. A kind customer at the bank, Tom Green, a veteran and a gentleman, who lives in Country Club Crest, and to whom I am eternally grateful, drove me home and back. When we returned some 20 minutes later, my car was still there.

Why would someone snatch my keys and not steal my car? It makes no sense. Once home I decided to wait a day or so before making a new set of keys, on the off chance someone picked them up by mistake and brought them back to the bank. But I never really believed that would happen.

Next day, I got a call from a fellow named Jason who works at the Fairfield Public Library, asking me to call Detective John Corcoran of the Pinole Police Department about some keys. Imagine my shock when Detective Corcoran told me he’d arrested a couple driving a stolen car in Pinole the day before, and a search turned up my keys in the back of their car. My library card was on the key-ring and that’s how he found me. The little plastic card contained a bar-code that allowed Jason to trace me in the library’s data base. How about them apples!

As there was a warrant out for the woman’s arrest, Detective Corcoran was also able to search their motel room, where he found piles of mail stolen from Vallejo. Incidentally, he told me the mail would be turned over to the Post Office, but would probably never be processed because the Post Office to too understaffed to handle that work.

Why didn’t they steal my car? They could have had they acted quickly. The detective guessed they may have had a change of heart. I’ll never know. I didn’t press charges.

The story gets better: Detective Corcoran not only found my keys, and found me, he drove all the way up to Vallejo to deliver them in person. What a fine fellow!

Heartfelt thanks and three cheers for Detective John Corcoran of the Pinole Police Department — and to the Good Samaritan at the bank, Tom Green of Country Club Crest.

And here’s a $1 million idea for the Vallejo Police Department: Manufacture and sell small plastic cards for key-rings with bar-codes containing the owner’s ID that only police can read.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


I attended the first performance of the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra in its new venue at the old Empress Theatre in beautiful downtown Vallejo on Sunday, March 12.  Before things got going, I took the opportunity to turn back from my vantage point in the second row of the orchestra, and marvel at the sight of a great upward sweep of happy music-lover faces, young and old, filling every seat in the house.  The show was sold out.  Bravo Vallejo!

I loved the beautiful Empress setting, with its rich red velvet curtains and massive gilded curlicues, as befits a world-class symphony orchestra, and the words “VALLEJO SYMPHONY” projected in subtle light on the valance of the proscenium above the orchestra. 

Many years of concert-going taught me that audiences must refrain from applauding between movements.  We should hold it in until the end of the piece.  I always wait to be sure it’s the end lest I look like a jerk, unfamiliar with the music, ignorant of correct protocol of classical performances.

But I had nothing to fear in Vallejo, at that wonderful concert in the Empress Theatre on Sunday.  This audience went so crazy ga-ga loco over the performance of masterworks by Haydn, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky, with Livia Sohn, the brilliant violin soloist, under the magic baton of conductor Marc Taddei, we couldn’t hold ourselves back, applauded wildly in between movements as well as at the end, howling and cheering like utter fools.

Mr. Taddei, the kind and wise conductor, rather than reprimand us for bad behavior, as other maestros might have done, turned to the audience with grace and dignity, smiled at us, accepted our unbounded joy, thanked us, even acknowledged one of the solo performers in one instance, before turning back and getting on with the rest of the piece. 

So, who made the rules?  Who dictates concert etiquette?  Afluent magazine, claiming to be the authority, informs us that “applause should only occur when the work is finished and not in between movements.”  They also instruct their readers in the art of clapping, included here just for fun.  “The appropriate way to clap is holding your hands slightly to your left and clapping small brisk claps. Never clap in front of your face. For a standing ovation – stand, lift your elbows high and slightly to the left, then clap small and briskly.”
Elsewhere I dug up bits like these: “Mozart took delight in audiences clapping at once in response to a nice musical effect. Individual movements were encored in response to audience applause.”  “In their day, audiences spontaneously clapped when they heard something they really liked -- even if it meant breaking into the music before its conclusion.  If audiences didn't applaud during the performance, composers would get worried. (How well I understand.)  Brahms figured his first piano concerto was a total flop because there was so little audience response.” “Some composers actually composed their music to incite audience response in the midst of a piece.” 
Speaking of audiences, the eminent conductor Pierre Monteux said, “their artificial restraint from applause between movements of a concerto or symphony… certainly does not fit in with the composers’ intentions."

Brooklyn Philharmonic CEO Richard Dare says: "Perhaps it's time to simply allow ourselves to react to classical music with our hearts just as we do when we meet other forms of art. Classical music belongs to the audience -- to its listeners, not the critics; to the citizens, not the snobs."

The rolling of eyes and killing looks are, “born of a snobbishness, a device whereby some people (yours truly among them) can feel superior by showing that they know the piece isn't over yet. It is entirely a twentieth century convention - a custom that would shock Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and any other composer prior to our own time.” 

Vallejo is a city of the future; no longer a twentieth century mindset; and this seems a fitting time for a healthy re-examination of old customs.  Here’s an alternative concert manifesto: We, Vallejo music lovers, claim the right to clap with all our hearts and souls whenever and however the music makes us do it.  Even at the symphony.

Arise, fellow Vallejoans, come one come all.  Go to the Vallejo Symphony.  Buy your tickets in advance.  Clap your heads off if you feel like it, for beautiful music, performed by the world class Vallejo Symphony Orchestra, under the brilliant baton of maestro Marc Taddei, a gentleman who understands feelings.   If Tchaikowsky can let it rip, we can too.

Friday, February 10, 2017


The revolution has begun. Everything we do from now on is to that end. Anyone who doesn’t resist is a collaborator.

Don’t be on the wrong side of history on this one.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


I practiced yoga for many years and studied with some great teachers, so I believe I’m qualified to recognize what qualities make a yoga teacher good or not.  When I decided to return to yoga classes I took myself over to Vallejo Yoga on Georgia Street, a little apprehensive about what I’d find.  

What I discovered was yoga teaching as good as it gets.  I signed up and attend three classes a week with Amy, a well-trained, highly-skilled, knowledgeable and dedicated yoga teacher. 
I expect the other teachers at Vallejo Yoga are equally excellent.  The studio is clean, warm, well equipped, and professionally run.  If I could, I’d take a yoga class every day at Vallejo Yoga but alas, I don’t get out of the house early in the morning or go out at night when it’s dark and cold.  That’s not my only shortcoming.  
I’m so happy that yoga is back in my life, and trust that I’m in good hands at Vallejo Yoga.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


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


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


 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.