A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Drink Beer, Save Animals

(Above: Esme, Nunbun and Durga in a typical pose)
Tippi the kitten was starving to death when she arrived at the Berkeley Humane Society. The little white female with a gray spot on her forehead wouldn't eat and was obviously in a lot of pain. She hadn't been grooming herself, either, so her fur looked awful.
"Her mouth was clearly the source of the pain," says vet tech Sarah Gray. "There was pus coming out of the right side, and it was too painful for the vet to examine her. So we started her on antibiotics and sedated her for the exam."
 Once she was under, they were able to look in her mouth and discover that a chunk of her lower jawbone had broken off and was being held in place only by soft tissue.
"You could tell by the discoloration that the fragment had already started to die, so we had to remove it and two teeth on her lower jaw. Then we put her on antibiotics again and let her rest," says Gray. "After two weeks she was eating out of both sides of her mouth, had almost doubled in weight, and was grooming herself. When I first met her, most of her personality was encompassed in dealing with the pain she was in. Now she was amazing and wonderful and super duper sweet. So we put her up for adoption."
It didn't take Tippi long to find a new home – and a new name. She was adopted by Erin Bennett of Berkeley, who renamed her Esme and put her together with her other two cats, Nunbun and Durga.
"I had planned on being extremely cautious when introducing the cats, but Esme darted out of her room right away and almost immediately began playing with them," she reports. "I was so happy to see them all getting along. Esme is the tiniest of the three, but most definitely the fiercest! She especially loves to chase after and initiate a play-fight with Nunbun, who is three times her size! It is such a joy to see them cuddle, play, and eat together."
 Esme is another happy ending for the Berkeley Humane Society, which bounced back from a disastrous fire that destroyed its adoption center in 2010 to place more than 941 animals in loving new homes last year, and is on track to top that number in 2016. But loving care like this is expensive.
So what can you and I do to support them? Drink beer.
Next Saturday, June 4, the Humane Society will host its third annual Pints For Paws, a craft beer festival featuring more than 80 beers from more than 20 craft breweries. (This is Berkeley, after all.)
And if beer isn't to your taste, there will be plenty of locally produced ciders and wines, too - plus food trucks, live music, and special guest appearances by some of Berkeley Humane's adorable, adoptable animals.
And unlike other beer fests, which donate only a portion of their proceeds to charities, 100 percent will go directly to the animals.
Pints For Paws will run from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Humane Society, 2600 10th Street in West Berkeley. Tickets are $45 in advance at berkeleyhumane.org/pintsforpaws or $50 at the door.
Oh, and bring your dog. Tell them Tippi – oops, I mean Esme – sent you.

Going For Broke

(Above: Lawson Sakai and me at last year's ceremony.)
They say the French hate Americans, but I know one group of Americans they definitely don't hate. Au contraire, mon ami, they love these guys, and with good reason.
The date was Oct 18, 1944. The town of Bruyeres – population about 3,500 – was facing a bloodbath of catastrophic proportions. The German commandant in the area, Klaus Barbie, aka "the Butcher of Lyon," had scheduled a mass execution of hundreds of resistance fighters in the town square that afternoon.
But that morning, the 442nd Regimental Combat team, a segregated Japanese American U.S. Army unit, spoiled his party by liberating the town. And those resistance fighters were saved, including a 16-year-old boy named Francois Mitterrand, who grew up to become President of France.
He never forgot, and neither did the people of Bruyeres, as I discovered in 1994 when I accompanied some 442 veterans on a sentimental journey back to the city.
As our bus pulled into town, I spotted huge banners overhanging the street. I expected them to read, "Bienvenue a nos libérateurs" – welcome to our liberators. But instead, they read, "Bienvienue a nos sauvers " - welcome to our saviors!
The next day was Bastille Day, and the parade featured the 442nd vets marching down the main street – which the French named Rue du 442 after the war – behind the local high school band.
Never have I seen such joy. Old grandmothers leaned out their windows and tossed roses at them as they passed by. Young mothers, who were born decades after the war, ran alongside, holding up their babies for them to kiss.
One of the citizens who greeted us was Serge Carlesso, who was an 11-year-oldboy on the day the 442nd liberated his town. Serge's right leg was blow off by a German shell, but the 442nd medics saved his life. With him was his grandson, Laurent, who was the same age Serge had been on that day.
Also there was Pierre Moulin, a man who made it his life's work to honor the 442nd and keep their memory alive, writing books and articles and leading tours of the battlefields.
Serge died several years ago, and Pierre died just last month. And many of the 442nd veterans who took that trip with me are gone, too. But Laurent is still around to keep the story alive. And so am I, and so are the next two generations of Japanese Americans, the sansei and the yonsei.
Next Saturday, May 20 - Armed Forces Day – the men of the 442nd, plus their family and friends, conduct a memorial ceremony for their lost comrades in Oakland's Roberts Park, and they cordially invite you to join them. It won't take long – only about a half hour – and the scouts from Troop 21 in Berkeley will present the colors.
Roberts Park is on Skyline Boulevard. Just follow the signs for the Chabot Space & Science Center and take the Roberts Park turnoff a mile and a half before you get to the Center. Just say the magic words "442" to the guard at the gate, they'll tell you where to park. The service starts at Noon.
And no matter how nice the weather is, bring a sweater. We're going to be in a redwood grove, and it has its own micro-climate.

Daring To Dream

Bay Area basketball fans remember Lou Campanelli as the coach who took over the moribund Cal men's basketball program in 1986 and restored it to the kind of glory it hadn't known since the legendary Pete Newell era of the late 1950s, leading the Bears to their first NCAA tournament in 30 years.
For instance, Cal hadn't beaten UCLA for 26 straight years, but he beat the mighty Bruins his first time out. And the last time he played them, he handed them their worst home defeat ever.
But what I didn't know until now is that there was an even more fascinating chapter in his life before he came to Cal. And it's all detailed in his new memoir, Dare To Dream: How James Madison University Became Coed And Shocked The World, which he wrote with longtime local sportswriter Dave Newhouse.
Of course, it wasn't called James Madison University back then. It was Madison College, a tiny girl's school in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.
But its president, Ronald Carrier, whom Campanelli calls "the greatest college president in history," had a better idea. He  changed "College" to "University" and doubled the student body by admitting men.
But to attract the kind of faculty and money he needed to make JMU a first-class teaching and research university, he needed something to put the school on the map. And that something was basketball.
So he took a chance on a smart, young, ambitious, fast-talking, but as yet untested coach from New Jersey named Lou Campanelli. It was a real culture shock. Carrier even had to teach him how to speak "Mountain Talk" to convince local parents to let them coach their children.
The only players who would consider James Madison were the ones nobody else wanted. But within five years Campanelli took them to three straight NCAA tournaments, knocking off powerhouses like Georgetown, Ohio State and West Virginia along the way.
But the game that really put JMU on the map was a last-minute 2-point loss to one of the greatest teams of all time, the 1982 North Carolina squad that starred James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and some guy named Jordan.
And how many of his players graduated on time with their class? All but one, and that guy came back later and got his degree, too.
"I'm prouder of that than of all the victories combined," he told me. "I told their parents, 'I can't promise you he'll play in the NBA some day, but I can promise you he'll get his degree.'"
And it worked. Within a few years, U.S. News & World Report was ranking JMU as one of the Top 10 Regional Colleges, and there it has remained ever since.
Dare To Dream can be enjoyed on many levels. One one hand, it's a thrilling David vs. Goliath story that makes "Hoosiers" look about as exciting as a TV test pattern. On the other, it's a fascinating insight for hardcore hoops buffs into how the game is really played. It's sure to become required reading for all young aspiring coaches.
Campanelli and Newhouse will appear at Barnes & Noble in Dublin at 2 p.m. on May 15 and at the Emeryville store at 7 p.m. on May 19. He may have been a great coach, but he's an even better storyteller.

Mayor Fujioka Goes To Washington

Piedmont Mayor Margaret Fujioka is off to Washington D.C. next week to accept a special honor from the Smithsonian Institution on behalf of a beloved relative she never met.
On May 12 the Smithsonian's Museum of American History will officially launch its Nisei Soldier Congressional Gold Medal Digital Exhibition, honoring the soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the segregated Japanese American World War II unit that was awarded more medals, man for man, than any other military unit in American history.
The exhibition focuses on 12 individual soldiers, and one of them is Fujioka's uncle, Private First Class Teruo "Ted" Fujioka, a member of the 442nd's 1st Antitank Company, who was killed by a German 88 mm. artillery shell on November 6, 1944, in the woods outside the French town of Bruyeres. It was two months after his 19th birthday.
"I never met him, but I've always felt like I knew him," she says. "He was one of twelve children, so there were a lot of aunts and uncles to tell me stories about him as I was growing up. My father was the youngest, and he and Ted were very, very close. He idolized his big brother."
What they told her was that Ted was an intelligent, patriotic, handsome, athletic and kind young man who was a terrific writer and a born leader, and that his dream was to become a lawyer and run for office some day.
"He has been an inspiration to me all my life," she says. "It's no coincidence that I became a lawyer and ran for office myself."
Ted Fujioka was born in 1925. His mother was a gifted artist and haiku poet. His father was a journalist and community leader who was active in promoting friendship and understanding between the United States and Japan in the decade leading up to World War II.
Despite this – or perhaps because of it – Ted's father was one of the first of the more than 120,000 Japanese Americans who were arrested and imprisoned after Pearl Harbor. The rest of the family was sent to the Heart Mountain detention camp in Montana, where they languished until the end of the war. But Ted's dad was arrested by the FBI and interrogated for months before finally being allowed to join his family at Heart Mountain because of ill health.
The internees created their own school system in the camp, and Ted was elected the first Student Body President of Heart Mountain High School, as well as editor of the student newspaper, the Heart Mountain Sentinel, and president of the Hi-Y Club.
When he turned 18 he volunteered to enlist in the U.S. Army and joined the newly created 442nd Regimental Combat Team, despite the treatment his family and so many others had suffered at the hands of the government.
"The future welfare of all of us who hope to remain in this land rests almost entirely on how the 442nd does in battle," he wrote to his parents explaining his decision. "We've got everything to gain by doing our utmost in battle, nothing to lose. We have a chance to prove to all who doubt our loyalty and sincerity to this nation that we too are Americans and therefore entitled to live as Americans in the truest sense of the word."
He fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the war, including the celebrated Rescue of the Lost Battalion in the Vosges Mountains just a few days before his death.
"The Lost Battalion was a Texas National Guard Unit of about 200 men what was trapped behind German lines," his niece explains. "Other units tried to break through to save them, but they couldn't. But the 442nd did, although they suffered 800 casualties to save those 200 men. For this and many other heroic acts of bravery and loyalty to our country, the 442nd was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011."
Mayor Fujioka attended that ceremony, too, accompanied by her father.
"The emotion he felt to be there to accept an award on behalf of his brother meant a lot to him in the last years of his life," she says. "He died two years later. I wish he could be with me on this one, too. That's one of the reasons for me to go – to honor him, to honor Ted, to make sure this story gets told, and to thank the Smithsonian for doing this."
A year after her father died, she and her family visited France and saw the places where Ted fought and died, including the American Cemetery in Epinal, where so many of the 442's fallen are buried.
"It was a sobering experience gazing upon the hundreds of rows of white crosses; walking down the main street of Bruyeres, which the French have named 'Rue 442;' and breathing the thick, molst air of the Vosges forest where the grateful French built a memorial to the 442nd for liberating Bruyeres," she says. "I will never forget the inscription: "To those whose lives proved that patriotism is not determined by their ethnicity."
Ted's parents received the dreaded telegram from the War Department a week after his death. They were still imprisoned at Heart Mountain. Shortly afterward they received a Purple Heart for the wound that killed him. Many years later a thief stole it from their home. But Mayor Fujioka still has the stubbed end of the pencil he used to write his letters home, as well as many of the letters.
In his last letter, Ted wrote, "Dear Moma, Papa, & all, Don't worry about me. I'm OKAY. Just take care of yourselves. When this war is over, I'll be home again – Heart Mountain, Detroit, Cincinnati, Hollywood, wherever it may be… As ever, Ted. Will write again."
But he never did.
Teruo "Ted" Fujioka, 1925-1944. Rest in peace.

Berkeley Hardware Redux

(Above: Manager Quentin Moore presiding over Berkeley Hardware's famous model train set.)
Whew! Berkeley Hardware isn't going anywhere, after all!
Actually, it is going somewhere; but only two blocks away.
I must admit I was feeling panicky when it was announced last year that the store's lease wouldn't be renewed, after 120 years in business. It seemed like the latest in a long casualty list of those mom & pop stores that used to make Berkeley so Berkeley, including Edy's, Wilkinson's, Radston's, Cody's, and the Blue & Gold Market.
But Berkeley Hardware was special, even among that august company. It's the oldest store in town, founded in 1895, when Grover Cleveland was president. But it really became a beloved institution in 1945, when Charles Judy - universally known as the most respected man in town – purchased it.
The stories abound about his honesty and generosity, all of them true. Like the time went to the bank to make a withdrawal, only to find the teller had given him $600 too much, which was a lot of money in those days.
He tried to give the money back, but the teller wouldn't hear of it. "We never make mistakes," he said smugly.
Mr. Judy shrugged, took the money home, and put it in his safe for safekeeping, certain that the man would eventually realize his mistake.
Sure enough, that night there was a knock on his door. It was the teller. "Mr. Judy, we did make a mistake after all," he sheepishly confessed.
Or the Christmas Eve when Mr. Judy got a frantic phone call from a man who had bought a model train for his child. A part was missing. It was well past midnight, but he got out of bed, met the man at the store, and gave him the part so his kid wouldn't be disappointed on Christmas morning.
"That's the kind of guy he was," says his daughter Virginia Carpenter, who now runs the store with her husband Bill. "We still try to do that today, if we can."
Berkeley Hardware will open by the end of the month in its new location at the corner of Addison and Milvia, and all the old gang, who are on a first-name basis with most of the customers, will still be there. Tracy will still be running the hobby department, Mike will still run the gardening department, Romeo will still run the tool department, Rio will still run the electrical department, and Alex will still be in charge of the plumbing department.
Best of all, store manager Quentin "Chuck" Moore, a man whose disposition is so sunny he makes Santa Claus look like the Grinch, and his assistant manager, Andy Taylor, will be there too.
"We're not going to change our helpful hardware folks," Bill promises.
It's a smaller space, so they'll have to reduce the back stock inventory somewhat.
"Those oddball items that people come in for once every four or five years won't be on the shelf," says Bill. "But we have the capacity to get them from our warehouse within a few days."
That's a minor inconvenience compared to the appalling prospect of Berkeley Hardware going away forever, which, thank goodness, it isn't.
Mr. Judy died in 1997, but his spirit lives on. And so does his store. May it live and prosper for another 120 years.

Austin & Amanda

Last January 16, Gail Churchill, a volunteer with Island Cat Resources & Adoption in Alameda (ICRA, for short) was feeding a small group of feral cats in Oakland when she noticed that a new one – a black and brown tabby – had joined the group. What caught her eye was that he had a notched ear, meaning he had already been neutered.
Over the next few days he came closer and closer to her and wanted to be petted. That's when she noticed several oozing wounds on his back that were now abscessed.
The next day she came back with a cat carrier and whisked him off to the vet.
"I didn't know how he would respond to being picked up," she says, "but he must have known better days were ahead of him because he was gentle and willing to go into the carrier."
The vet found four deep bite wounds that required shaving, cleaning, and drainage tubes inserted under Austin's – that's what she named him – skin. ""All this was done with only a local anesthetic because he was so sweet and calm during the whole procedure."
The next day he was able to go home – "I was NOT going to let him go back outside!" – and got along famously with Rosie the golden retriever and Gail's other cats.
A few days later, Gail got a call from a very nice woman in Berkeley named Judy Bertelsen, who was looking for an adult male cat to keep her 10-year-old female, Amanda, company. It was a perfect match.
Amanda had settled down into a sedentary life as an old lady until Austin arrived, but now she's enjoying a second youth.
"She is really enjoying playing with Austin, and he with her," Judy reports. "They love the cloths that are draped over a chair and the futon because one of them can hide behind the cloth and stick a paw and/or nose out, and the other one can pounce. They are absolutely wonderful. I recall Eckhart Tolle's comment that he had lived with a number of Zen Masters, all of them cats."
Austin is just one of hundreds of homeless kitties that are rescued each year by ICRA. Since this group began, they have spayed or neutered 16,000 cats  (Think of all the unwanted kittens that were never born because of them!) and placed more than 3,300 kitties in loving new homes.
I've covered a lot of worthy organizations, but ICRA gets more bang for its buck than any other group I've seen. Not a penny goes to salaries; everybody is a volunteer. All the money goes to the kitties.
Their major fundraiser of the year – a champagne silent auction - is coming up Saturday, May 7, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Alameda Elks Lodge, 2255 Santa Clara Avenue (basement level). Apart from the auction items – fine jewelry, trips to Disneyland, wine, gift certificates, pet goodies and original artwork – it's always a great party, featuring champagne, wine, vegetarian munchies and live entertainment.
Suggested door donation is $40, but passes for $35 can be purchased online in advance at picatic.com/icrasilentauction. if you can't make the party but would like to support ICRA anyway, you can do it online at icraeastbay.org.
Tell 'em Austin sent you.

Who Wrote Shakespeare's Plays?

Happy birthday to William Shakespeare, who was born 452 years ago this Saturday and died 400 years ago, also this Saturday. (The guy always had great timing.)
As the old joke goes, Shakespeare used a lot of clichés – the joke being that they became clichés when other writers started ripping them off. It's amazing how many phrases he coined are still a part of our everyday language 400 years later. They number in the thousands.
To list just a tiny sample: "Knock knock! Who’s there?" (Macbeth), "Kill with kindness" (The Taming of the Shrew), "Laughing stock" (The Merry Wives of Windsor), "Love is blind" (The Merchant of Venice), "Good riddance" (Troilus and Cressida), "Milk of human kindness" (Macbeth), "Play fast and loose" (King John), "One fell swoop" (Macbeth), "Break the ice" (The Taming of the Shrew), "Refuse to budge an inch"  (Measure for Measure), "Cold comfort" (The Taming of the Shrew), "Dead as a doornail" (Henry VI Part II), "Give the devil his due" (Henry IV Part I), "Eaten me out of house and home" (Henry IV Part II), "For goodness’ sake" (Henry VIII), "Foregone conclusion" (Othello), "Jealousy is the green-eyed monster" (Othello), "Heart of gold" (Henry V), and "Wild-goose chase" (Romeo and Juliet). 
For the first few hundred years after he died, nobody questioned whether he wrote those great plays and sonnets. But lately, poor Will has become like Rodney Dangerfield: He just can't get no respect.
People as diverse as Walt Whitman, Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, Helen Keller Charlie Chaplin and George Bernard Shaw have suggested that someone else must have written them and used Shakespeare as a front man. Among the candidates: Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Derby, the Earl of Rutland, the Earl of Southampton, the Earl of Essex, Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth, Sir Walter Raleigh, and the current favorite, Edward de Vere, 7th Earl of Oxford.
Their argument is sheer snobbery: How could a country bumpkin from Stratford, who never made it past grammar school, possibly have written such sophisticated plays with such a huge vocabulary and such a great insight into human nature?
But Shakespeare's school, the King's New School in Stratford, wasn't like the grammar schools of today. The students learned Latin and Greek, and they had a thorough grounding in the classics.
Besides, Shakespeare was an auto-didact. His real teacher was himself. He consumed literature like a vacuum cleaner, and it all came out in his writing.
Another auto-didact was Abraham Lincoln, who had even less formal schooling than Shakespeare - a total of less than one year in "blab school," where the students shouted versus from McGuffey's Reader in unison at the top of their lungs. And Lincoln wrote some pretty good speeches, too.
As for the Bard's huge vocabulary, there's a simple reason why he knew so many words: He invented them.
Shakespeare's language is so sublime, it has transcended the enormous gap of four centuries and still speaks to us today. He even has the best description of our current presidential candidates.
When they campaign: "His promises fly so beyond his state/That what he speaks is all in debt; he owes/For every word."
And after they're elected: "His promises were, as he then was, mighty;/But his performance, as he is now, nothing."