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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mr. Mopps and Mr. Gravy

O frabjous day, as Lewis Carroll would say. Devin McDonald and his longtime sweetie, Jenny Stevenson, are celebrating the third anniversary of their buying Mr. Mopps toy store in Berkeley from its founder and longtime owner, Eugene Yamashita, by opening a children's book store tomorrow, right next door on the former site of Grove Antiques.
"It's something we've wanted to do ever since we bought the store," says Jenny. "The biggest complaint we've been getting from customers who were big fans of the old store is that they missed the old book collection."
The bookstore will feature all the classics – Babar, the Ramona series, Curious George, The Learning Tree, Barrington Bears, Thomas the Tank Engine, etc. – and also a lot of cool new titles, as well as Devin's favorite book from his own childhood, "Harold and the Purple Crayon."
"It's an amazing story about a kid who draws his own adventure with a purple crayon and steps right into it, drawing it as he goes along," he says.
Only one question: What to name the store? One little boy suggested "Mrs. Broom's."
"We probably won't be doing that," says Jenny. "But we do love it."
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Meanwhile, at Children's Fairyland in Oakland, the Magic Lamp toy store is stocking some new goodies just in time for the park's Jack O'Lantern Jamboree on October 26 and 27, including a brand new Fairyland activity/coloring book and handmade pewter Magic Keys to activate the talking Storybook Boxes that dot the park.
But the big news is that Fairyland honored cartoonist Morrie Turner, creator of "Wee Pals," America's first racially integrated comic strip, on September 21 with a gold Magic Key, a panel discussion, and a Q & A session with an adoring audience of children and their parents who braved the rain to show their love.
 One little girl asked him how to find success as an artist.
"Keep your pen wet," he advised. "And draw, draw, draw!"
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Finally, congrats to Wavy Gravy, the self-described "activist clown and former frozen dessert" (a reference to Ben & Jerry's naming a flavor after him), who was awarded the Berkeley Community Fund's prestigious Benjamin Ide Wheeler Medal on October 10.
Wavy, who founded Camp Winnarainbow in 1975 and co-founded the Seva Foundation in three years later to fight preventable and curable blindness in Asia and Africa ("Three million eye surgeries and we're still truckin'!"), was awarded the medal for distinguished community service.
Most of us first became aware of him as the MC at Woodstock, but his career goes back much farther, all the way to the early '60s, when he roomed with an unknown folksinger named Bob Dylan in Greenwich Village and co-starred with Tiny Tim in a musical review at a dubious venue called The Fat Black Pussycat. (His manager at the time was Lenny Bruce.)
"We got a front page in the Village Voice and a rave review in the New York Times," he recalls. "The next day, the sheriff came and padlocked the joint for back taxes."
Originally named Hugh Romney, he was dubbed Wavy Gravy by none other than B.B. King. And Wavy Gravy he has remained ever since, except in the pages of the New York Times, which persists in calling him "Mr. Gravy."