Thursday, February 24, 2005

Circle S Meeting

Last night’s meeting at the Civic Center in Maple Hall, regarding the acquisition of Circle S Mobile Home Park, was indeed very interesting and informative. It was fairly well attended, although many residents of the Park did not show up. These will be the people who will complain the loudest that they are never informed of the proceedings. A notice was delivered to all mobile homes in the Park in the form of a questionnaire to be filled out and handed in last week so the people from the Redevelopment Agency would have an idea as to the concerns of the residents.

I have attended all meetings that have any bearing on the future of this Park, and still there were a few items that I had questions about. These were answered last night either by the presentation, given by a young man and woman, Kelsey and Sonia, from the Redevelopment Agency or through replies to questions from the audience. I even asked a couple of questions myself, just for clarification, and came away satisfied with the answers. One was a simple question about planned affordable housing locations, and the other was a time-frame question in response to a statement made by Kelsey, who said that no benefits would be paid to residents until after acquisition. I asked if acquisition starts from the date the City Council votes, and he replied that it starts from the time the money is spent (to buy the property). The City has the bond money now to purchase the property and relocate the residents, and the pending Casino project is not a source of funding for the mobile home park purchases.

Relocation settlements will be substantial, and should hopefully take some of the sting out of losing a home. We were given no indication of the time period in which this will all take place, as there are many variables in the process of acquiring the property, interviewing the tenants as to their housing needs, and all other details involved in real estate transactions.

Today, I went to City Hall to request copies of the slide presentation last night. The slides had all of the information available at this time, and the presenters added embellishments where necessary. Sonia made the copies for me, and we had a lengthy discussion of the meeting after she asked me what I thought of the presentation. We went into further detail regarding the apartment complexes, qualifications to rent, and problems with the Mobile Home Park.

She is a very personable young woman, and shows great concern for the welfare of the residents. Of course, her stance is that the City will be removing us from deplorable living conditions. She is right, in a way, but none of us really want to leave, even though a lot of us hate certain things about living here. I hate this mobile home, because it is aging, in disrepair, doesn’t have enough room or storage even though it is a double-wide, and the mobile homes are too close together.

However, the location itself is perfect if you want to live in San Pablo. All conveniences are within walking distance – it is very centrally located. I walked to the meeting last night, for example. City Hall is a half block away. This point is one of the major arguments that people have used against being relocated. They feel that they will no longer be within reach of the facilities that they need for continuing in their lifestyle. The hospital is around the corner, and there are many other medical facilities in the same area. There is all kinds of shopping, several banks, restaurants, fire and police departments, the Senior Center, and the post office is only a few blocks away. All of these places are a big reason for my own desire to stay right here, but it will not happen. I just don’t know how soon the City will take over this place.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Most people write about losing them to a dark hole somewhere, to the neverland of socks, to return no more. I am writing about shopping for them. It is more difficult for me to shop for socks than for a complete wardrobe.

This has been ongoing for the past few years. In the beginning, the problem came from being unable to purchase the usual white socks in packages of six in a type that I prefer to wear. All of a sudden, it seems that they are not being manufactured any longer. I like my socks to be cotton, the best fiber from which to make socks, in my estimation. They feel better on my feet, and my feet stay in better condition. The tops have to be a certain length, and tight elastic bands at those tops shut off my circulation. Countless trips to various stores, both here and on the East Coast, have been fruitless as far as purchasing the bags of socks that I am used to acquiring. Sometimes I make a mistake, and waste my money because I can’t wear them.

In my latest efforts, I have turned to buying single pairs of socks, and I thought I had it made because I found a few pairs that actually felt good on, fit right, and were very soft to the touch. These I chose in colors because I only found one pair of white ones. Also, they are the new larger size, meaning that they don’t get holes in the toes as easily. This also helps if there is shrinkage in laundering. The socks are 92% cotton, with the remainder of the fibers being in those that are necessary for elasticity.

On a subsequent trip to another store location, same retailer (should I say Walmart?) I bought a few more colors, only to discover after I got home, that not all socks are as they seem. Two out of the four pairs were 84% cotton, smaller when I put them on, didn’t feel soft, and made my feet perspire. They actually felt scratchy when I touched them. These had the same brand label as the ones I liked.

This week I was in yet another store, same company, and checked all the socks of that type, with that label. The cotton content ranged from 84%, through 87%, to 92%. Guess which ones I bought.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Another Meeting...

I just returned from a City Council meeting. Rather interesting – several members of the public were there to protest the enlarging of Casino San Pablo. Quite often there are only a couple of people in the audience, and the City conducts its business with not a soul caring about the outcome, or at least, very few souls. The Casino issue has been belabored up to the point of redundancy.

Of course, as is the case with any proposition in this City, it seems, the City Council proceeded with a resolution of support for the enlarged Casino. In the meetings that I have attended regarding the Casino, and the acquisition of mobile home parks in the next block, the City has continued in the mode that it has adopted previously – listen to the people, then proceed as planned.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the City has made many improvements over the years, and is not a bad place at all in which to live, but sometimes it seems to me that it does not really matter that much whether one is “for” or “against”. It is very interesting to watch our local governing body at work. Let’s see what happens next.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Civic Duty

It seems that I have become rather involved lately with City Council and Planning Commission meetings. There is a lot going on in this small city that will have a direct effect upon my life.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a City Planning Commission meeting regarding the building of a townhouse complex, and an affordable living apartment complex near the townhouses. They are both to be constructed in a not so desirable area; an industrial neighborhood near very busy railroad tracks that are used by freight trains and Amtrak. In fact, the railroad tracks run alongside the proposed building sites.

The architectural renderings for both complexes seem to be attractive, and the affordable living apartments may possibly be of a decent size – two or three bedrooms, with two baths. There are many drawbacks to these plans, not the least of which is the fact that “people” will be packed into an area that is unlike the areas they might be moving from.

The main reason for constructing the apartments is to provide a home for residents of two mobile home parks that will be purchased by the city. I am a resident of one of those parks. The city has planned on relocation to the apartments, or other places if residents so desire.

At the Planning Commission meeting, I asked a woman representing the management company for the proposed apartments what the rent would be for a three bedroom apartment. She told me that it would run from $500 to $675, depending on income. This is incredibly cheap for the Bay Area. I was not sure she was giving me the correct information, but she looked it up in her file.

The following week, I attended a City Council Meeting in which the main business of the evening would be to adopt the townhouse and apartment plans and proceed with the next part of the project. Another spokesman for the management company for the apartments presented the screening qualifications to keep riff-raff out of the complex, as this seems to be a concern of residents of houses nearby. The figure mentioned as a qualifying income was $45,000, half the median income for this city.

When the public was allowed to speak regarding all of the information provided so far, I chose to make myself known. I had become rather upset with the way things were proceeding regarding qualifications for renting an apartment, especially in light of the fact that the complex had been dangled like a carrot as a place to move everyone.

I reminded the City Council and Planning Commission that the main purpose of the apartments was to provide a place to relocate residents of Circle S and Alvarado Mobile Home Parks and I doubted that anyone living in the parks had an income of $45,000. After elaborating on that a bit longer, I used myself as an example, stating that I am on Social Security.

The Mayor, whom I have become acquainted with, acknowledged my statements, giving me the impression that I had made a good point.

I am really getting into going to these meetings. There is a lot of interesting business conducted, and I see some of the council members on a semi-regular basis at other functions.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Cheese Factory

Little bus full of seniors, happily on its way
Looking for a cheese factory on the road to Bodega Bay

Winding, winding, climbing over hills green in the spring
Green, green hills; bright green of spring
Fields of mustard bright against the green hills of spring

Calves and lambs gamboling near their mamas on a spring day
Oh, yes, and an octagon house, stucco in decay
“Do you have enough gas?” “Look at the llamas!” “Are you sure you know the way?”
Didn’t find the cheese factory, but it was fun anyway.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Chinese New Year

Lots of Chinese music on the San Francisco classical music station today, in honor of the New Year. It is wonderful to listen to - definitely fills the mind with beautiful images.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Wayward Lady

“A Touch of Class” was located on South Austin Street, in Rockport, Texas, across the street from the harbor, where the shrimp boats would dock. It was possible to walk along the wharf and purchase fresh shrimp when these boats would come in, and the view from the store windows was always interesting. This was my antiques store, located on railroad property, and I rented it from the owner of the Ace Hardware Store next door. It was a big store, with several rooms, and I had great fun decorating it and filling it with antiques which I purchased in New York State then transported to Texas in my one-ton truck.

As proprietor of the store, I was able to put my talents to use outside the store. I obtained the commission as decorator of “My Way” restaurant, down the street from my store. I chose to purchase many artworks, mat and frame them in colors incorporating the colors of the walls and upholstery, and hang them, along with a variety of mirrors, leading to a pleasing interior which was noticed by all who entered.

Among the patrons of the restaurant were the gentlemen who were responsible for building a riverboat at the nearby shipyard. This huge riverboat was to house several restaurants, and was to become quite the project. They had already hired an architectural firm from Chicago for the main decorating, but I was hired to do many jobs for the owner, Jim, and the builder. Jim owned a chain of restaurants in Texas, Jim’s Coffee Shops.

The largest project was the application of industrial vinyl wall covering in two restaurants on one deck. I was not involved in choosing the colors for decoration. Chairs and booths were turquoise, other decorative items were purple, and the wall covering was salmon. I thought this seemed like a horrible decision, but when the work was completed, it was amazingly beautiful. Huge paintings were commissioned for the two dining rooms and the hallways. These artworks were a beautiful match for the colors used in decorating

The work was mind boggling. I was using a tall ladder to hang the very wide strips of vinyl. The rolls were so heavy that I had to recruit two men to get new rolls for me out of the eighteen wheeler trailer on the lot. I had large tables set up for measuring, cutting and pasting. I ran into problems while doing this work, as I was applying the wallcloth over mahogany paneling, and the wallcloth bubbled up overnight – pulling away from the walls. I had to do research, and go to supply companies to find a paste that would adhere. Part of the problem was that the boat was being built on the water, and there was severe humidity, lengthening drying time a great deal. The man in charge of construction of the boat arranged for the application of heat to aid in the drying process. Eventually, the walls did dry out, and the wall cloth shrunk to fit, with a tight bond.

Working on the riverboat was very exciting. Wearing my hardhat, I loved showing up for work as the only female, working with over a hundred men on any one day. There were tile men doing fabulous floor designs, carpenters, painters, including those who stained and varnished bare wood, electricians, metalworkers, plumbers, the men who installed the huge arched windows, those installing furnishings and equipment. On the first deck, there was a restaurant on one end and a bar on the other. That restaurant had a gorgeous metal ceiling, straight out of Victorian times. This was painted a copper color, and the fumes were horrendous. A wonderful stairway leading from the first deck to the second and third decks, had a ship’s figurehead as a newel post at the bottom. An incredible chandelier extended down through all floors at this stairway. The cost was monumental.

At one point during construction of the boat, it ran away at night. I am not sure how this happened, but the riverboat slipped its moorings and floated away. It was found the next morning, and was immediately dubbed “The Wayward Lady”. The ship’s figurehead at the bottom of the stairs was named Wayward Lady, and the tile workers laid a design in the floor with a picture of the Wayward Lady, and her name.

I was also asked to do the wall covering in the Owner’s Stateroom. That vinyl was white, in a beautiful watered silk pattern. The stateroom had a sink carved in the shape of the State of Texas, and had gold faucets. The third deck was done in beautiful dark wood, and contained the huge banquet room. It was decorated in ruby drapes and table flounces.

When I was working on the boat, I was approached with more very large projects. I was asked if I did refinishing, and after stating that I did, I was given the job of refinishing a ship’s wheel from a British squarerigger that Jim, the owner, had had in storage for many years. Along with that came the job of stripping all paint off a ship’s telegraph and binnacle. They had many coats of naval paint, and my job was to remove it down to the brass, then coat it with a lacquer to deter tarnish and prevent fingerprints from accumulating. I had all items in a workroom in my store, and worked on them when I had spare time. These naval items were installed in the wheelhouse on the top, open deck of the boat. Jim also had wonderful antique brass door pulls with large plates, and I lacquered those, to eliminate the need for polishing.

Jim and his wife came to my store many times to purchase items for the boat. A heavy, highly ornate, carved three piece set of furniture – settee, chair, and rocker, took up residence in the foyer on the third deck, outside the banquette room. Oriental rugs were acquired, along with several other items. It made me feel so good to see items that I had purchased in New York State become part of the riverboat that I had come to love so much.

I watched, with tears flowing, early one morning, as the riverboat was nudged out into the bay by tugboats, to make its journey to Corpus Christi, where it would be permanently docked as a super attraction and dinner destination. I had hoped to be able to accompany “The Wayward Lady” on her route, but only a handful of the top executives were allowed to do this. Oh well, I had been given every bit of scrap from this huge job, all manner of great pieces of lumber, fancy woods, counter top, plus the gangway, in exchange for making sure that every piece of debris was removed from the shipyard. I put it all in storage in another building on railroad property that I rented, and eventually sold it for a good sum. I had given the builder a quote for the total job I did, rather than an hourly quote, and I had problems which added to the hours, therefore I doubt that I made very much at all – perhaps nothing, but the experience was well worth my time.

In Corpus Christi, those of us who had helped make this dream come true were treated to a fabulous dinner one evening, before the riverboat opened to the general public. The entrance was flanked by flowers, and the riverboat was amazing with all of its lights blazing. I can still remember how beautiful the dining rooms were, with their tablecloths, silver, and china. From the top deck, we could look out on the Corpus Christi skyline. I had such a feeling of accomplishment, seeing all of my hard work on a night such as this.

Below decks, we were all surprised by a “gift” done for those of us who had not been down there. A few workmen had made a cozy club with leftovers, all different types of wood in a cute little hideaway. There were washers and dryers down there, showers, and all of the kitchen equipment needed to take care of several dining rooms. It was amazing.

I will never forget my time on “The Wayward Lady”.