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Fabulous at 40 | Forty of our favorite movers and shakers dish about how times have changed, what (or who) keeps them here, and all the wonderful, crazy stuff that happens only in the East Bay. By Anna Mindess, Andrea Pflaumer, Mike Rosen-Molina, Julia Park Tracey, Emily Wilson, and Kate Madden Yee


Michael Chabon  

MICHAEL CHABON | Author

I published this piece in Gourmet in which I dwelled a bit on the lengths we Berkeleyites will go [to] in pursuit of various kinds of perfection, for example, raising chickens in our backyards in order to know the perfection of a fresh egg in the morning, even if doing so means our neighbors might get a little less sleep due to the crowing of our accidental roosters and the endless clucking of our chickens. Shortly after the article came out, I went out my front door one morning and found a carton containing a half dozen eggs freshly laid by the chickens who just happened to live in the yard behind my house. Accompanying the eggs was a photograph of said chickens, gathered eagerly around their personal copy of Gourmet, along with a note from the chickens, saying they hoped their (admittedly delicious) eggs made up for the disturbance. All things considered, no place suits me and my family better. [I love] the people, the food, the bookstores, the used record stores, the weather, the landscape, the waterscape, the light, and the fact that “East Bay” means “beast” in Pig Latin. (AP)

 

JOSH KORNBLUTH

 

  JOSH KORNBLUTH | Monologuist 

I feel at home in Berkeley like I’ve never felt anywhere else. It’s the perfect place to develop into a citizen. I love the Berkeley YMCA. Periodically I run into Wavy Gravy in the men’s showers, and that’s just not going to happen in Dubuque as regularly. Recently I was walking with my son to the North Berkeley BART, past Ohlone Park, and a woman walking her dog was coming toward us. She was on her cell phone, and as she came close to us she said, “It’s for you,” very matter-of-factly. It was her mom, who wanted me to tell my mother hello from her. They’d done political stuff together in New York. I guess the woman had seen me and mentioned it to her mother. And the funny thing is the fact that this happened didn’t seem unusual at all. (KMY)

JILL VIALET

 

  JILL VIALET |
Founder of Playworks; co-founder of Museum of Children’s Art

I was coaching Bay Oaks girls’ soccer 10 years ago, and it was halftime and we were down. It was an intense game; I think we were playing Castro Valley. I was a pretty competitive athlete and I was gearing up to talk about what we were doing right and what we needed to work on. One of the families had brought grapes [for snack]. One of the little girls looked at the grapes and she looked at her parents, and I guess the parents had worked with the farm workers union and talked about boycotting grapes. And one of the other little girls was like, “Well, why don’t you eat grapes?” and we got into this whole conversation about César Chávez instead of about soccer strategy. Only in the East Bay. (EW)

MICHAEL POLLAN

 

  MICHAEL POLLAN |
Author and U.C. Berkeley journalism professor

I did a book event at the old Cody’s, on Telegraph, where a woman in the back kept jutting her hand in the air with a scary sense of urgency. I had been talking about agriculture, and specifically about pests—the various insects, diseases, and animals that molest crops. When I finally called on her, with a sense of trepidation, she leaped out of her chair. “I object to your use of the word ‘pest.’ I think it’s anthropocentric and offensive.” I didn’t realize it was possible to offend an aphid or flea beetle or ground hog by calling them pests, but I decided to be polite. I was there to sell books, after all. “What do you think would be a better choice of words?” The woman didn’t skip a beat. “Associate species. You should call them associate species.” This moment may well have been the high-water mark of political correctness in America, when you actually had to worry about offending bugs. And it took place right here, in Berkeley. (AP)

ALICE WATERS

 

  ALICE WATERS | Restaurateur, chef

I love the open parks, all the little trails that go into the hills and by the Bay. We have unique places to gather—amphitheaters in a neighborhood, hidden places. Berkeley is the only place I’ve ever seen people sit out in a median strip as their own private park. That little space between the two lanes of traffic on Shattuck Avenue [near Chez Panisse], it adds something unimaginable, makes me smile. If I were cooking for myself right now? I can’t imagine a meal without a salad—a green salad—and maybe with garlic toast. KPFA radio once made a joke on the air that Chez Panisse was serving “compost croutons.” Several people called the restaurant to ask for the recipe. (AP)

KRIS WELCH

 

 

 

  KRIS WELCH | Radio show host, KPFA

In 1974 I had been living in Europe, but my grandmother was dying of cancer in Van Nuys, so I came home, thinking I’d only be in California for a little while—I had a boyfriend in Rome. I had just turned 29, and I walked into KPFA wearing my mother’s skunk fur coat and a dress I had made myself, purple with red bunnies on it, and incredible purple-and-red eye shadow. That’s how the Italian ladies would dress just to take out the trash. The women in Berkeley then were wearing Army fatigues, no makeup, hairy legs. I walked up to the receptionist and asked, “To whom would I speak about a job?” and she burst out laughing. I loved KPFA because I could do anything I wanted to do. The people who founded the station were conscientious objectors in World War II, idealistic. They were going to start a new society, but all they ended up with was a radio station. (KMY)

KERMIT LYNCH

 

  KERMIT LYNCH | Wine merchant

What other city could have had the clientele to allow me to open my wine shop in ’72? In those days, doctors made a lot of money so they became wine connoisseurs and purchased the most expensive wines. The other market was professors who had traveled to Europe; they tasted the food and wine and when they came home they wanted to continue that lifestyle. Then they turned on their students, who came in for bargain wines. When the students graduated and got jobs, they continued to enjoy wine. But back then it was impossible to get a decent meal. For the last 20 years I have split my time between Berkeley and a small town in Provence, France. Now it has all changed. It’s easier to get a good meal in Berkeley than where I live in Provence. (AM)

EMMA COLEMAN

 

  EMMA COLEMAN |
Children’s librarian; Prisoners Literature Project volunteer

I’m walking down the street now, and there’s this van that’s made to look like a giant frog just going down the street. You can’t get that anywhere else. One night my co-worker and I had heard there was an art opening on campus, so we went up to go look at some galleries, and people had brought out these giant wheeled vehicles that you could pedal around on, and they were giving us snacks and wine, and riding these huge, strange vehicles around. Then we got into a conversation with a man who claimed to be a cannibal, which I couldn’t verify, but it was a very interesting evening. (EW)

MARY ROACH

 

  MARY ROACH | Author

I ride the bus from downtown to my home in Glenview and you can’t make a generalization about the human contents of that bus—race, age, religion, anything. One fine summer day I was at Frank Ogawa Plaza, a couple blocks from my office. I’m sitting on a bench between the Oakland mayor’s office and a shoeshine stand, eating take-out Vietnamese bun and listening to a man play the most beautiful cello solo I’ve ever heard. The mayor and the cellist are black, and the shoeshine man is white. This—and also the Vietnamese food—is why I love Oakland. (AP)

ERIK MOORE

 

 

ERIK MOORE | Co-founder, Concentric Circles

My boss at [one] time was from North Carolina, and he was in town, visiting clients. We were driving around showing him different areas, and I brought him to the house to have drinks or whatever. As we were dropping him off, he said, “So, that was Berkeley, right?” He just could not believe that was Oakland and Oakland was so nice. There’s a lot more to go, but we’re getting there. As many issues as I have with Jerry Brown, I think a lot of it has to do with his time as mayor and getting people to come in and not feel concerned that there wasn’t much to do. (EW)

MICHAEL LEWIS

 

  MICHAEL LEWIS | Financial journalist and author

Some English friends came to visit and I took them into Tilden to try and persuade them just how much nature still remains in even our highly developed neighborhoods of California. I offhandedly said, “We even have mountain lions.” They ridiculed me for the next three hours and insisted there was no chance a mountain lion could exist within 50 miles of Berkeley. Two weeks later a mountain lion is shot more or less on the front porch of Chez Panisse. My English friends saw the story on the Internet and emailed an apology. (AP)

LONI HANCOCK


  LONI HANCOCK | State senator

When I moved to Berkeley in 1964, I had two young children, and I thought I’d go back to graduate school and become a history teacher. But then history intervened and I got involved in the anti-war movement and the other great movements of the ’60s. One of the big ideas was “think globally, act locally,” so I became an activist in local Berkeley life, eventually ran for Berkeley City Council. I feel like I was an accidental politician—my life was shaped by the ’60s. (KMY)

COUNTRY JOE McDONALD

 

  COUNTRY JOE McDONALD | Musician, activist

I came to Berkeley from Southern California in 1965. I’d just gotten out of the Navy and had tried to be a student but had dropped out and come here to be a folksinger like Bob Dylan. I had a little magazine called Rag Baby, sort of a miniature Rolling Stone, and a record label called Rag Baby Records, which is still alive today. I played on the street, or at Jabberwock coffeehouse, over on Adeline and Telegraph—it’s gone now. And I started Country Joe and the Fish and was a rock star for 10 or 15 years. Recently I performed on the median [strip] in front of Berkeley Bowl. Activists have set up a tent city to try to get the governor not to cut disability benefits, and I played songs like “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” I also played at the oak grove on campus, when the protesters were trying to save the trees. I like to perform outdoors for a good cause. (KMY)

ALISON BARAKAT

 

  ALISON BARAKAT | Founder and owner, Bakesale Betty

I am originally from Sydney. At 17, I went to culinary school in Australia, right after graduating from high school and when I moved here in 2000, I was lucky to work at Chez Panisse for three years before starting my business. My first choice for shopping is always the farmers’ markets. I buy my meat from Prather Ranch at the Temescal market on Sundays. I also love the Berkeley Bowl. Before the kids (now 11 months and 2 years) our favorite restaurants were Pizzaiolo and Burma Superstar on Telegraph and Lo Coco’s on Piedmont. But we can’t eat out anymore, so we just get the food to go. (AM)

PEGGY ORENSTEIN

 

 

PEGGY ORENSTEIN | Journalist and author

I moved here [to be] managing editor of Mother Jones magazine and stayed because I fell in love with my husband, a third-generation Californian. Now it’s home. My husband is Japanese-American and I’m Jewish; it’s important to us to raise our daughter in a place where there are lots of other multi-culti kids. For 10 years we lived next door to an elderly woman, Marion Tajiri, who was part of a prominent Japanese-American family known for its artists and activists—but she never mentioned her own work. I [found out] after her death how fearlessly she had reported on the imprisonment of her community. She was incredibly accomplished, a precious, living piece of West Coast American history. That seems like one of those wonderful quirks of the East Bay—it is full of fascinating people, and they very well might be in your own backyard. (AP)

 

LINDA YEMOTO

 

  LINDA YEMOTO | Retired naturalist, Tilden Park

My favorite places in the East Bay are probably the little secret places that we find when we’re hiking in Tilden with the Junior Rangers [youth program]. We really go off the beaten path, so we sometimes find places in the wilderness that no one has ever visited before—places that we end up naming ourselves, like Salamander Pond or Long Echoing Tunnel. Seeing the impact that being a Junior Ranger has had on kids’ lives is most rewarding. So many have gone on to work in teaching and environmental fields, but this is where they first found their love of nature, climbing through cow patties and poison oak in Tilden. (MRM)

STEVE SULLIVAN

 

  STEVE SULLIVAN |
Owner and co-founder, Acme Bread Company

In 1975, when I was working at Chez Panisse, we served this big basket of oysters, but people wouldn’t eat them. Since then, the public has become educated about the satisfaction, pleasure, and self-expression that cooking and eating well can offer. It was easy to get people interested in buying better bread. Oysters were culturally outside their experience. But bread was a yearning void just waiting to be filled. Everyone said, “There used to be better bread; my mother or my grandmother or my baker used to make that.” It was like a bread vacuum, lying dormant, just waiting to be reactivated. (AM)

JON CARROLL

 

  JON CARROLL | Columnist, San Francisco Chronicle

I’ve lived here since 1961, if you take off a couple of years for L.A. and one for Chicago. When I got here there was no such thing as “out” gay people. Now there are five gay couples on the block and one of my daughters is a lesbian and everybody loves everybody. My granddaughter goes to Park Day [School] and the multiculturalism there is just astonishing. I find my granddaughter’s been leaping over a fake fire as part of some Native American tradition they were all learning about. They’re amazingly sensitive to almost anything you can think of—no cultural bias. When a waitress tells me my chakras are misaligned that’s pretty East Bay. [Or that] call the other day from a reporter who wanted an interview and when I suggested a time she said, “Can we make it later? I meditate at that time.” (AP)

MARY LOU VAN DEVENTER

 

  MARY LOU VAN DEVENTER |
Operations manager at Urban Ore

The East Bay was home to the real environmental giants, like David Brower and John Muir, who had long-term vision and reconstructed our view of the natural world. This was the center of consciousness that changed the landscape of the nation. One of the most interesting things that I’ve seen while working with Urban Ore was once while we were doing salvage work at the dump, we found some black plastic trash bags full of old papers. It turned out that they were full of correspondence about the founding of the first NAACP chapter west of the Mississippi. Some people had just thrown them out after the owners had died, thinking they were just Grandpa’s old papers, but now they’re in the University of California’s historical library. (MRM)

MAXINE HONG KINGSTON

 

 

MAXINE HONG KINGSTON |
Author, U.C. Berkeley emeritus professor

I once lived in San Francisco for six months, could hardly bear it, no sunlight, cold wind, chilly, unhappy, depressing. My sense of reality, probably formed by Stockton where I was born, feels satisfactorily solid in Oakland. Also, my husband Earll is a fourth-generation Oaklander. I love being represented in Congress by Barbara Lee and living among people who keep putting her in office unopposed.
I spend much of every day in the garden. Our climate zone is the same as the Mediterranean. Earll and I like walking around Lake Merritt, then to the Merritt Bakery. I order their black-eyed peas and collard greens, like my mother cooked. I lost the book I was writing in the [Oakland] hills fire of ’91. Both Earll and I lost our ability to read. I got my writing back by starting the Veterans Writing Group, which meets to this day. We collected the stories and poems, and published the anthology Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace. (AP)

 

ETHAN ZATKO

 

  ETHAN ZATKO |
Program manager at Destiny Arts Center

Man, what don’t I love? Absolutely my favorite things about the East Bay are its unparalleled, breathtaking, gorgeous natural beauty, and its rich cultural legacy of human rights activism. I’m still continually stunned. Anytime that I’m outside in the Bay Area, I’m having a good time. For a number of years I lived in New York and meeting people [there], before I knew anything about them, I knew [if] they were an East Bay person. It could be anything from an A’s shirt that tipped me off to a little piece of slang. Sometimes it wasn’t anything that specific, just a demeanor, attitude, way of being that was very familiar and totally of home. (EW)

WAVY GRAVY

 

 

WAVY GRAVY | Peace activist, clown

We started the Hog Farm [commune] when we were given a mountaintop rent-free if we would slop 60 hogs, so we did. Then we moved to Berkeley and got our first house on Woolsey Street and started a telephone answering service. This was in the mid-1970s. The most significant change I’ve seen in my 30 years here is that I don’t go to jail much anymore. We’re not getting tear-gassed from helicopters. I love Berkeley, I just do. It’s a sweet place to live. Some things are cool, some things are icy fresh, but the apex is glacial, man. We founded Seva in 1978. We work on curable and preventable blindness in Third World countries. I’ve put on 30 or 40 concerts for Seva, and we’ve performed over two million sight-saving surgeries. If I can get some blind people not to bump into shit, that’s meaningful to me. And Camp Winnarainbow, my circus and performing arts camp—I do a lot of flashy things, but the kids that come out of that camp give me nostalgia for the future. (KMY)

 

MOLLIE KATZEN

 

 

MOLLIE KATZEN |
Cookbook author, illustrator, designer

Kensington farmers’ market is in my neighborhood and I’m a loyal supporter; it’s just a tiny thing on the Colusa circle, a real labor of love. I appreciate strong food activism; Mandela MarketPlace and the People’s Grocery in West Oakland bring fresh locally grown produce to residents in an area that was a food desert. But I admit my guilty pleasure (because of the bigger carbon footprint) is driving across town to the Temescal farmers’ market in Oakland. I go to Scream Sorbet for seasonal flavors like Coconut Thai Basil. Some of my favorite places: Fonda on Solano, Flora in Oakland. The tortilla soup at Tacubaya on Fourth Street puts me in an altered state. I love breakfast at La Note on Shattuck: hot semolina and crème fraîche pancakes and the best French hot chocolate. When friends visit from out of town, I take them on a pilgrimage to the Cheese Board. I plan it all out: we go there hungry, taste some samples, buy a pizza and bread. Then after a walk in Tilden—that’s it, they’re converted. (AM)

 

LANCE McGEE, aka UNIQUE DERIQUE

 

  LANCE McGEE, aka UNIQUE DERIQUE | Clown

My act has taken me all over the country and the world, but the Bay Area is the place that I would think of if I had to click my heels and think of home. One of the most quintessentially East Bay experiences I’ve had happened a few years ago, when a friend took us out on his sailboat across the Bay from Alameda to Sausalito. We landed at a dock behind a restaurant and went right in for dinner. On the way back, just relaxing with a glass of wine, it really makes you think that everything you need to enjoy life is right here. Now every time that I drive over the Bay Bridge, I look down and see those sailboats floating around. And I know exactly how much fun they are having. (MRM)
LORI FOGARTY

LORI FOGARTY

 

  LORI FOGARTY |
Executive director, Oakland Museum of California

We wanted our kids to grow up in a community that looks like California and represents the diversity that will be more and more a part of their lives in the future. My favorite classic story happened on Piedmont Avenue when my son was 5 years old. We were walking behind a lesbian couple who were arm-in-arm and kissing very affectionately on the street. My son was pointing to them and saying, “Look, Mom.” After hushing him and telling him it wasn’t polite to point, he said, “Yeah, but did you see? They were smoking!” And I thought right then, this is why I love the East Bay. This 5-year-old is completely comfortable with an alternative lifestyle, as long as it doesn’t involve a health hazard! (JPT)

ROBERT REICH

 

  ROBERT REICH |
Former U.S. secretary of labor, U.C. Berkeley professor

The first time I visited Berkeley was when I came here as a research assistant in 1968. I vividly remember getting out of my beat-up Volkswagen at the corner of University and Oxford and taking a deep breath. I had never smelled anything like it before—a combination of eucalyptus, marijuana, and tear gas. I’d arrived on a different planet. When I came to live here permanently in 2005, I remember talking to a friend about a new restaurant she’d found, when a complete stranger came up to us offering his own opinion of the restaurant. That seemed odd to me. In Boston, the only topic strangers felt free to offer their opinion about was sports. In Washington, D.C., [it] was political gossip. Here, it’s restaurants. The biggest change since I’ve lived here? The traffic is worse, but the food is better. (KMY)

 

  NARSAI DAVID | Chef, food personality

When I was a freshman at Cal in the ’50s, Telegraph and Bancroft had some marvelous shops. I loved the Black Sheep Restaurant. It was an old-fashioned tearoom with a black-and-white checkerboard floor. The waitresses were mature women; they wore traditional black skirts with white aprons. A charming piece of history. Back in the ’70s, there was a camaraderie among us chefs. We helped each other, bought ingredients together, lent each other equipment, and ate at each other’s restaurants. Food innovations happen in the East Bay because unlike France, we have no tradition to lock us into certain ways of doing things. For example, classic French cuisine does not include fresh ginger; Escoffier said ginger was a dried powder to be used in desserts. Here in the Bay Area, we have been exposed to fresh ginger, lemongrass, kaffir leaves; we can play around with them and follow our curiosity. (AM)

SHYAAM SHABAKA

 

  SHYAAM SHABAKA |
Director, EcoVillage Farm Learning Center

[I love] the weather, the people, the multiethnicity of the people. I do environmental education and social justice work. This is very much upstream public health, what I’m doing. This kind of work is needed where you have no-income and low-income people. I like the informality of people. They try to assist you. People don’t necessarily judge you by the way you dress. Whereas if you’re back in D.C.—I remember going to a place there and they told me I couldn’t come in if I didn’t have a tie on. I never had that experience here. (EW)

 MANDA HERON

 

  MANDA HERON | Owner, Body Time

We were the original Body Shop, and we opened in CJ’s Garage on Telegraph. It was an old garage converted to little shops, the epitome of the hippie ’60s and ’70s. The East Bay was a thrilling place to be then; things were shaking here. There was a sense of creative, entrepreneurial inventiveness going on, and all these innovative, hip stores. Telegraph Avenue was wonderful, very cool, no big box outfits yet, so places like Cody’s Books were able to survive. What I love now are small grocery stores like El Cerrito Natural Grocery or Monterey Market. Annie’s Annuals—that’s very Berkeley. And Lhasa Karnak with their beautiful herbs and teas. When you live outside of the Bay Area, what you notice missing is what I would call the “KPFA Berkeley,” the liberal knowingness that’s here. There’s a spiritual consciousness that’s more expansive than in other areas. (KMY))

SCOTT WHIDDEN

 

 

SCOTT WHIDDEN | Owner, Fenton’s Creamery

I grew up in Oakland, in Glenview. When the A’s came to town, I remember parades for the World Series rolling down Broadway, all the office building windows open with people throwing ticker tape. My cousins grew up in Rockridge and we’d get together in the summer and have these bicycle outings to sample ice cream at a bunch of different places. We’d meet at Chimes Market, where Market Hall is now, and set out from there. On a short day we’d cruise up College Avenue to Baskin-Robbins. If we had a little more time, the next spot was Bott’s in the Elmwood district. Bott’s was the real deal; the ice cream was made right there. If we made a full day of it, we’d ride up to campus, to the south side where Swensen’s was. Sometimes we got over to Solano Avenue to Ortman’s or McCullum’s. In 1981 I bought Bott’s, and a few years later our family bought Fenton’s. I love making ice cream—taking fresh cream and vanilla, then rippling in a chocolate marble. I’ll think that’s my favorite, but then along comes butterscotch marble, or chocolate, or strawberry. My favorite flavor changes by the season. But I’m still in Oakland, almost 50 years now. (KMY)

 

MICHAEL MORGAN

 

  MICHAEL MORGAN |
Music director and conductor, Oakland East Bay Symphony

My favorite thing about the East Bay is that you can’t gather more than two people without having at least three races and two religions represented. Everywhere you go, everything you do, there’s a great mix of people. I always like surprising people by taking them down to see Lake Merritt—a lake in the middle of the city! By day or by night, the views of the lake are spectacular, [and] the view of the new cathedral from across Lake Merritt. Geographically, the view from the top of [Mountain View] Cemetery is really grand. Downtown Oakland has been transformed. There’s a very different feeling at night. (JPT))

 JANE GARCIA

 

 

JANE GARCIA | CEO, La Clinica de la Raza

I’m from El Paso, Texas, so I think for the most part the mild nature of the weather is a real plus. I love the topography of the area. I also love the diversity of the people. I love the progressive nature of the politics. I love how inclusive we are relative to the rest of the country. The other day I was at a staff birthday party and instead of cake there was watermelon, and carved into the watermelon rind was “Happy Birthday.” It was part of being food-conscious and changing the whole paradigm of how we eat. We’re a microcosm of the whole world here and I really enjoy that. (EW)

DAVID LANCE GOINES

 

  DAVID LANCE GOINES | Printer and graphic designer

In late summer of 1971, Alice Waters and friends opened the restaurant Chez Panisse, for which I designed and printed an elaborate menu that listed a wide variety of desserts, salads, side dishes, and main dishes. But it is better to do one thing well than many things half well, and when dinnertime rolled around on Aug. 28, 1971, there was only one thing ready to eat, just like at home. Near as anyone can remember, dinner was pâté maison, duck with olives, green salad, and prune tart. Price: $3.95. This one-meal-suits-all set the trend, and my elaborate menu never got used for anything. (JPT)

MALCOLM MARGOLIN


 

MALCOLM MARGOLIN | Publisher, Heyday Books
I came to Berkeley in a Volkswagen bus at the end of the ’60s. I remember walking to the top of a hill in Tilden with a friend and looking out at the expanse of the Bay. Coming from Boston and New York, it was a revelation, the scenery combined with intelligent company, wonderful ethnic restaurants. I worked for the East Bay Regional Parks District for three years. I was the caretaker at Chabot campground, and I absorbed the tonality of the place, the muted color palettes, the grays and the greens and the miracle of wildflowers that splatter out like fireworks at the end of spring before the hills dry up, their sleepy dryness. There’s still something in the radical heritage from the ’60s that overlays Berkeley, a peculiar braiding of radical ideas with small-town values. [As] a publisher, I’ve managed to create an island within the East Bay, a river of beauty that flows through the place. People bring me wonderful books and manuscripts, and I’m surrounded by great people who work here. I’m not sure I could have created something of such beauty anywhere else. Even if it’s an island, you’re connected. (KMY)

 

STACEY STREET

 

  STACEY STREET |
Executive director, Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society

This fire [in May 2010] was really a pretty earth-shattering catastrophe for us. This building was our shelter, our hospital, and our office, and, worse, we were faced with a real immediate problem: How do we take care of our surviving animals without a place to keep them? But there was really an incredible response from the community. Foster families just started coming out of the woodwork when they heard that we didn’t have the facilities to care for all our animals anymore. We’ve found that people in the East Bay are just incredibly generous. (MRM)

TOM FRAINIER

 

  TOM FRAINIER | Founder and co-owner, Semifreddi’s

The East Bay’s diversification is different than San Francisco with its ethnic pockets. We have more of a neighborhood feeling where all different people are accepted. The university brings a vibrancy where new things are encouraged. When I started Cal in 1975, Berkeley felt like it was still stuck in the ’50s but [then] the food revolution started with Peet’s and the Cheese Board. This is the most appreciative food audience in the world, where it’s a badge of honor to discover the newest place. My favorite ethnic restaurants are Ajanta on Solano, Siam Orchid in Orinda, Bucci’s in Emeryville, and Mario’s La Fiesta, which has been on Telegraph for like 50 years. And because I was an undergraduate and graduate student at Cal, a sentimental favorite is Top Dog. (AM)

TRACY JOHNSTON

 

 

TRACY JOHNSTON |
Author, photographer, former Monthly editor

I grew up in La Cañada near Pasadena and moved up here to go to U.C. in 1960. When I went to my high school reunion [I ended up] congregating with all the women who had moved up north to go to school and ended up staying here—we were like a tribe. We had the same ideas about life and we all had to be Democrats. When I go to the [Cal] library now there are no people who look like me; they’re mostly Asian students. My favorite places are my backyard and Berkeley City College; they have a very nice photography and multimedia arts section. (AP)

 

MICHAEL WILD

 

  MICHAEL WILD | Founding owner, Baywolf Restaurant

This was the place to be in 1959. I taught humanities at San Francisco State from 1964-74, where Kermit Lynch was one of my students. I went to Burgundy with him and he was one of my wine mentors. The Monterey Market had a lot to do with early food innovations. I started shopping there in the mid-’60s. Before that, I had to go to Chinatown for the quality food you find in European markets. I like ethnic food. I go to Sahn Maru, a Korean restaurant on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, with my 14-year-old. And for Mexican food, Tamarindo in downtown Oakland, and Jalisco near East 14th for the best carnitas that are only available on weekends—they cook the whole pig in lard. (AM)

LINDA LEVITSKY

 

  LINDA LEVITSKY |
Executive director, East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse

One of the best things people can do is reuse creatively. You reduce waste and you save some money that can maybe go to your mortgage or a donation to the Humane Society. This wouldn’t be possible anywhere except the East Bay. It’s the best political climate for this. I’ve traveled all over and when I come back, I find that I am free. This is a loving and giving community. There’s always someone to say “Yes, I will help.” The biggest change is that there’s no change. This is still a progressive, sophisticated community, and we’re all privileged to live here. (MRM)

STUART SKORMAN

 

  STUART SKORMAN | Entrepreneur

A lot of my DNA is here in the East Bay. I started Elephant Pharmacy in the spirit of helping to spark a health-care revolution, and Berkeley was the test market. I knew I could get opinions from local people about the business, that the customers would help us invent it. Some of my favorite businesses? The Cheese Board—even my skeptical friends from New York now believe they serve the best pizza in the country. Saul’s Deli—they do a world-class job of combining the best in Jewish cooking with healthy, organic food. And Pharmaca—my all-time favorite pharmacist works in their North Berkeley store. (KMY)

AYELET WALDMAN

 

  AYELET WALDMAN | Author

Despite the glaringly ineffective state and city government and crazy real estate prices, I love everything about the East Bay: the food, the weather, beautiful natural places. We spent the summer in Maine; they have a great farmers’ market [where you] can get granola, yogurt, and meat but not much produce beyond kale. We come back here and there are 37 kinds of peaches. We bought 14 years ago—our house is now our retirement fund—but the creeping lack of diversity makes me sad. When we first moved onto our block there were all different kinds of people—professors, etc.—but it’s become whiter and more wealthy. I was once walking home, up the hill from Rockridge, loaded down with bags and carrying—for hours—a six-month-old who hated the stroller and wouldn’t stop crying. I tried to calm him down, speaking to him in a monotone: “Yes, this is a terrible place and you’re the saddest baby in it,” when a young woman I passed suddenly spun on her heel and said, “What did you say? How dare you impose your negative view of the universe on that child!” The East Bay is the only place on earth where I feel like a political moderate. (AP)

 


Photo Credits:
Photo of Josh Kornbluth by William Mercer McLeod, Michael Pollan by Pat Mazzera, Alice Waters by David Littschwager, Mary Roach by Phyllis Christopher, Peggy Orenstein and Ayelet Waldman by Reenie Raschke, Jon Carroll and Tracy Johnston by Tracy Johnston, Mollie Katzen by Lisa Keating.