Rooms of One’s Own – a box in a box in a box

Life is a box. We live in one, we work in one, we drive in one, we stare at one, we type on one, we ship boxes in boxes to other destination boxes.

I’ve been contemplating all of the boxes I’ve lived in since I embarked on my adult journey from San Diego to San Francisco in 1980. I moved north and never looked back.  My Mom followed me here after a horrible stint in Las Vegas leaving her lifeless.  I beckoned her to come to the Bay.

I think I’ve moved more times and lived in more places than military personnel. I have staked my claim to a box all over the Bay Area, everywhere but across the Golden Gate Bridge to the north.  I’ve lived in Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, El Cerrito, San Francisco, and San Jose (and yes, “I know the way”, Burt Bacharach.)

I’m almost 52 and have lived here since I was 17.5. This has been my home, my haven, and my hell depending on the decade and the moment.  As I am about to embark on yet another move in San Francisco, I think that it’s time to reflect on the boxes I’ve been in. Tonight, after a quick jump across the Bay on BART to Berkeley to dine with some friends in the well-heeled Comal, along with a jaunt through Half-Priced Books after (because I simply cannot pass by a cool bookstore without going in and buying something), and a return trip to SF with 8 varnished and ready-to-frame, 12″ x 16″ art prints of Audrey Hepburn pinched between my fingers along with the original motion picture soundtrack of Love Story with Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw pictured on the front with one of the world’s worst and ill-thought, unreal platitudes gracing the cover “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” – OY; I stop in at a Mission liquor store to pick up some Bulleit Rye because I know the night is far from over for me.  I’m going to sit in my box, type for a bit, and make some life decisions.  I’m exchanging one box for another in less than 30 days and I’m ecstatic while at the same time reflective.

OK, so it’s the summer of 1980 and my Mom drives up with me from San Diego to Berkeley where she intends to see me off to college.  We pull up outside of the dormitory that I’ve been assigned to on Durant St after an exhausting 9-hours on the road.  A bedraggled man walks right up to my Mom’s open window:  “Hey lady, you got a sandwich?”  She looks at me and then flips her head in a 180 back to the dude: “No.  I don’t.  What kind of question is that?”  It wasn’t the welcome committee she had hoped for her daughter’s leap from the safety of home.

Jump ahead 30-years to when Mom was first placed in a Skilled Nursing Facility in Oakland near my apartment, where she had to be tied to oxygen 24/7, which is why they wouldn’t let me bring her to my apt/box to die in peace with her daughter.  The first day there, we were getting her all settled in the little shared room when we heard “La Llorona” calling out in the hallway.  (I nicknamed the Latina woman in a PVC pipe makeshift walkabout that enabled her to scoot from room-to-room this name because she was a quite active member of the SNF.) She was yelling out something in Spanish when she made way into Mom’s room not 30-minutes after our arrival.  “Por favor.  Quiero carne.  Tienes carne para mi?”  My Mom looked at me exactly as she had 30 years prior in our car in Berkeley asking: “What did she say?”  To which I responded translating for Mom: “She would like to know if we have any meat.”  Mom’s eyes widened and asked, “Honey, have you brought me to ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’?”  Mom and I loved movies and always had fun making movie puns whenever we could and tried to out-do each other.  We both laughed so hard and I tried to eeek out a response to La Llorona who wasn’t in on the joke and I didn’t want her to feel bad that the two new blancas were laughing at her.  So, I told her.  “No, amiga. No tenemos carne aqui. Pero talvez la gente en el proxima cuarto lo tienen.”  I pulled together my best Spanish from high school and college and she waved her hand in thanks and scooted out.  My Mom said, “What did you just tell her, honey?”  To which I responded, “I told her that we don’t have any meat here but maybe the people in the room next door have some.”  My Mom cackled out a laugh, choking and laughing and we both cried with laughter for at least 15 more minutes.

Mom and I moved a few times in my childhood/adolescence. We went from LA (age 4 – 8) to Anaheim (age 8 – 11) to San Diego (12 – 17).  We lived in two places in San Diego each behind the school I was attending to make it easy for me to “commute”.  In Junior High, I lived across the street from the school, and when I started high school, Mom found an apartment right behind the high school. It was in San Diego that I found myself in a new found sense of myself.  I was the new-kid-in-town but somehow decided that I had enough nerve to run for class president.  I hadn’t even attended elementary school with any of these kids.  I just jumped in and did it.  My Mom and brother sat up with me one night painting posters “All the Way with Dana J”.  I even had a motto.  I never realized the connotation back then as it would be seen as it was later in life post 7th and 8th grade – a truly BAD slogan.  haha.  So, I became class President and I won the 8th grade spelling bee.  I got to go on to the San Diego county finals where I totally blew it on an easy word thereby causing the embarrassment of my math teacher who told everyone in geometry that I lost on the word “adjacent”.  In those spelling bees, you cannot make one mistake and go back so I started with A-J even though I KNEW it was A-D-J…argh.

Those boxes that we lived in were true-to-form cheap SoCal style apartment buildings with a POOL! And, I met my best friend Wendy Steward whose family ALSO moved from the building across the street from the Jr High School to the building behind the High School…SCORE!  My best pal moved with me and her parents were the bomb and the coolest family I’ve ever known who took Mom and I into their treasure chest of family love.  We all became fast friends in our first arrival to San Diego in 1974.  Those boxes were just the best and I now know this in my life reflection.  Once the end of high school hit – I was heading north and off to another adventure.  I didn’t know any one else in my school who was heading off to Cal Berkeley, so it was to be another solo adventure where I met other lifelong pals and lived in dozens more boxes on that path.

The boxes, can I remember them all?  There was the dorm on Durant which after two quarters turned into my first “room of two’s own” with my pal and soon-to-be first girlfriend, Christa, further up Durant Avenue  just a couple of blocks.  We moved into what would be my first apartment.  I loved it because it was right around the corner from the cafe I worked at 20-hours-a-week, and right up the street from my other part-time, 20-hour-a-week job at Yogurt Park.  I was taking classes full-time at Cal and working two part-time jobs which totaled one full-time job because Mom and I were not wealthy…not even close.  Mom was proud and always worked, but nothing paid too well, so I was going to college on grants, scholarships, and working full-time.  NO big deal as I made it work and it was that 17-18-19-year old work ethic ingrained in me then, that has made me the work-a-holic I am today.  Shoot, I worked 20-hours-a-week all through my second half of high school too.  When you’re a worker bee, you work because you dig it, and you work because you want the money it takes to buy things and have a better life.  Some people can sit around and watch TV all day.  Me?  No way.  I like to work and meet people and earn money.

This brings me to another thought I’ll have to blog about:  the WORK BOXES.  We all have had plenty of boxes we’ve worked in.  I’ll have to focus on those in another chapter.

Some memories of the boxes:  Berkeley – on Durant, then over to Dana Street where I had the only cool address ever:  Dana Jacobsen on Dana Street near Parker Street.  LOVED THAT.  It’s also the box I lived in where my very best friend that I’ve ever had and still have to this day lived very close by and and it was the first house I lived in on my own as an adult (i.e. not an apartment).

OK, I’m tired.  I’ve lived in too many boxes.  There is so much more to tell.  I will do so in another chapter/epidose  ha!  episode.  And if this is all just too indulgent, please comment and let me know.  You can say: “Enough about you already!  Get back to your political thoughts about all of us!”  I’ll oblige.


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Outstanding Bartenders and Bar-backs of San Francisco: Come join us!

BrokenRecord Bar&Grill“There you are!”

She idles up to the bar, elbowing her way through the many patrons at The Broken Record Bar & Grill at 1166 Geneva Ave. in the Crocker-Amazon neighborhood of San Francisco. Connecting their patrons via Facebook and Yelp!, the people working there do a pretty decent job of keeping ample stock of fancy liquid libation (a mouth-watering array of the lesser-known, high-end as well as the established kind) alongside some great dive bar treats in their back room known as Hood Grub.

Though I’m shamelessly plugging this small point of interest for the people who like to drink and eat, or eat and drink, depending on your order of preference, this blog is to have a chat with the awesome bartenders, bar-backs, runners, etc who keep the worker bees sated. Well, it’s time for you to whet your appetites too.

I know that many of you make a livable wage from the pay and tips, but let’s face it:  in this only upwardly mobile city of San Francisco, this means you can barely pay your rent let alone have some extra dough to go out and do some socializing of your own.  Being a bartender takes great skill and a killer personality – you have to like people to do well at it and you also have to know how and when to listen.  Bartenders, depending on the busy-ness of the night, must stand there and listen to our rants and raves.  Why? Because we’ll keep drinking and it’s good for business.  Is it because we’re cool and have something particularly interesting to say?  Maybe. But more than likely, it’s to keep the libation flowing and their tip hopefully growing.

Like many jobs in urban centers in America, the people who work for us rely on tips.  And it is for THOSE people that I offer this hopeful advice:  You are truly unique and you can do more to make your life full of everything you want to be.  Tending bar and working in clubs has its rewards, but it is not a 30-40-year-career like it was back in the early 20th century. You’ll be priced out of your living space if you don’t find more connected, mind and wallet-enriching work that satisfies you on a deeper level.  Most people who work in bars that I’ve met over my 30 years of drinking and working in bars for a time myself as a sound engineer and before that, a singer, are totally talented artists, performers, musicians, and writers.  (And if you’re in Los Angeles reading this, many of your bar and restaurant staff are trying to break into acting in film and television. Duh, I know.)

Here comes my pitch:  Take what you do and what makes you supremely happy doing it and go HONE YOUR SKILL.  Meet other people doing your craft and fulfill yourself in the embrace of education and furthering a life goal.  Where can you do this?  At City College of San Francisco, we have credit courses in everything from Administrative Justice & Fire Science to Women’s Studies and all other imaginable studies in between those two alphabetical bookends.  In the awesome School of Fine, Applied, and Communication Arts, we offer numerous  outstanding courses taught by an illustrious faculty in Art, Broadcast Electronic Media Arts, Cinema, Environmental Horticulture & Floristry, Journalism, MultiMedia Studies, Music, Photography, Speech Communication, Theater Arts and Visual Media & Design. I know that you’re harboring LOADS OF TALENT that yearns to bust out of you as you scribble words to a film idea or song lyric, and draw a cartoon graphic of people around you on that bar napkin.  You have something to show the world!  Let me encourage you to step away from that beautiful wood bar for a moment and tap a few letters on the web browser in your smartphone:

Maybe you’re interested to start your own business?  We offer credit and non-credit courses in Business and perhaps you should share this information with the other staff in your bar/restaurant who could use a leg up by increasing their English language skills. Our ESL department is nonpareil and the largest in the entire college with over 700 credit and non-credit classes! The courses start at multiple times throughout the semester. The Noncredit ESL program is free of charge and is designed to help immigrant students develop their general ability to understand, speak, read and write English. And why not learn their language too?  Check out the offerings of our ONE department with MANY VOICES – Foreign Languages.  In fact, maybe you’d like to move into another part of your current employ.  Where else to jumpstart your move up the ladder than in our School of Business, Fashion, and Hospitality?

Have I not yet twitched your ache to learn? Don’t let the School of Science and Math deter you!  Where else can you learn Aircraft Maintenance Technology (Aeronautics), Architecture (see all of those cranes building more buildings around SF?), Astronomy, Automotive, Motorcycle, Building Maintenance & Construction, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Networking & Information Technology (how does all of this info make its way to my smartphone?), Computer Science (yes, what you’re looking at right now!), Earth Sciences, Engineering & Technology, Mathematics, Physics…

Or how about the School of Behavioral Sciences, Social Sciences, and Multicultural Studies?  There is no doubt that several offerings there will enhance your current ability to keep up with those around you in the workplace and you might even find that you love it so much you’ll want to continue on and finish that degree you started or add another one to your life tools notch.  And if you’re STILL NOT MOVED, then start out in our School of Health, PE and Social Services. The Physical Education & Dance department’s mission statement:  “A Strong Body Makes a Strong Mind.”    Thomas Jefferson

OK, so there you have it. Join the many people who are finding their way to a more fulfilling life by following their dreams and life goals at City College of San Francisco. And here is one more thought: You work late. You found a class you’re interested in, but you can’t even THINK of waking before noon.  Try our Online course offerings to see if something rings a bell for you there.  In Distance Learning we offer a ton of choices of fully online and hybrid courses. Go ahead.  Check it out.  Follow the links.  Follow your muse. Pull another beer on tap, stir up a cocktail for your customer, take a break, and go discover the world. It’s right here in your backyard in this awesome 7X7 city.

Come join us. We’re here for you.

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First, they came for my students…

We are no longer the middle and we are not the bottom, but rather a new class of worker bees: America’s teachers who have been beaten into a twenty-mule team pulling the reformer’s idea of “right choices” for students to better compete on the global stage.

Most of us attempt to be free of the reins of the Education Reformer’s agenda and continue to serve in the ways that we always have by providing a safe haven for learning.  Students come to each classroom in various stages of learning and as a teacher, we learn and adapt to each of their needs while encouraging them to love reading, writing, books, discovery and to think for themselves.   We look to instill the desire of a better life for them through a gift called “life-long learning”. The public schools in our nation have been under attack because we have fallen behind in our global ranking in education.  But rather than point to the decline in funding for over a decade, it’s easier to point at a few “bad teachers”.

In Higher Ed, the public colleges are taking a huge beating from the political rhetoric that seeks to privatize education at that level.  There is no consideration of the truth at the for-profit schools who have only the interest of the corporate shareholders and the school’s administration at the forefront. In that model students and teachers are dead last with the student walking away with more debt than they can possibly pay back in 10 years regardless of the hyped-up promising future delivered to them by the recruiters at these dens of inequity.

There are certainly the long-winded “Reformers” with a LOT OF MONEY to play their pop tune to the masses:  They rally around “the bad teacher” problem.  How about we start with bad politicians who do LITTLE for the majority of Americans and pander solely to the big money lobbyists whom they “dial for dollars” all day on our dime? What do you think about your representative or senator sitting on a headset for at least 1/3 of their time in office (usually more) practicing their winning strategy of talking to rich people: Check out Winning Campaigns here.  They are pushing the “bad teacher” drama because it plays well.  It certainly is better to downplay the reputation of one of the hardest jobs in America so that money class can perform their power grab on education and the funding contained therein.

A big part of winning those political campaigns is listening to and repeating the strategic development of rhetoric to spread throughout the nation as they are paid to do by the education “reformers” that public schools and teachers are bad. They use the Michele Rhee, Orwellian Newspeak:  Students First, and enlist the Common Core Standards as the way to “…strengthen the U.S’. global competitive advantage by rigorously educating the next generation.”  It sounds like a great idea and looking at the aforementioned links, the language sure reads well, too, on the hyperbolic web pages of the neo-liberal reformers who intend to “save education.”

Now, go ahead and follow the money.  This is where the middle class in our current downward spiral needs to keep our eyes focused.  Following the money takes us to interesting places and to exactly where our denouement begins.  In the previous link (in case you missed it) you would read this:  “President Obama’s 2009 law, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, funded $4.35 billion to the competitive program Race To The Top [which spells No Child Left Behind backwards–my edit]. This program offered monetary incentives (which for all intents and purposes can be referred to as a bribe) to implement educational reform.”  Let me put this link in again in its entirety: 

Now read a report that rebukes the Central Feature of “Race To The Top“.

Phew.  This is a lot of studying and reading links, Dana. What’s with this blog?   Let me just remind you:  you can do this type of studying. Our children, however, are not learning how to deduce in a cognitive manner. They are learning how to prepare for and take a test.  Life does not deliver in this manner and you know that if you’re reading this.

A quote from that report I just lead you to in the previous link:  “For five years, the Obama administration has been warned by scholars and researchers that its demand for value-added assessment is having harmful effects on teachers and students, on the morale of teachers, on the recruitment of new teachers and on the quality of education, which has been reduced to nothing more than standardized testing. Secretary Duncan has brushed aside all objections and pushed full steam ahead with his disastrous policies, like Captain Ahab in pursuit of the great white whale, heedless to all warnings.”

What do I mean by cognitive deduction?  Here is something to chew on from Cell Press (Labs and Links):  “According to the mental-model theory of deductive reasoning, reasoners use the meanings of assertions together with general knowledge to construct mental models of the possibilities compatible with the premises.”   You don’t learn this when you study hard to pass a test of certain standardized questions.  What these “education reformers” are preparing our children for is a life of a corporate zombie who only knows how to answer what they have been told is on the test.  They can’t hop around from link to link as I’ve asked you to in this particular post and make a deduction about what I write here.  There is, and will be if we don’t stop this, a future set of Americans who cannot think for themselves.  “The Stepford Students”, coming to a theater near you.

Guess who thinks this would be a great idea?

Bingo!  Follow the money!

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What’s with all of this “First World” ranting?

Warning: this will not read as you think (and there is one or more expletive contained herein).  

I’m not standing up for the whiny rich people with their wireless problems, but rather for hard-working people like myself who have issues from time-to-time that I want to rant about and have been called out by comrades with this statement:  “That’s such a First World problem.”  Sometimes it’s shortened to “First World” in a shout out.

I happen to be a very lucky soul who was not born in the Sudan, nor Syria, nor Bangladesh, nor any of the other horrific areas on this globe where human beings harsh out a life of strife.  I was not born wealthy either.  I’ve grown up in a middle class, solid-work-ethic family and I have worked very hard long hours to maintain a middle class life in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.

So don’t call me out on a “First World” rant when I simply want to let out steam. We have people going absolutely bonkers all around us because they withhold their feelings until they burst.  Yes, gentlemen…I’m talking about you. If I were Kim Kardashian or some other nitwit who has happened to be born into a life of luxury and somehow made myself famous for doing absolutely nothing, then you can call out my “First World” rants. But since I’m not and I get pissed at my iPhone on occasion and want to spout about it, leave me be.  It’s my right and I’ve worked for it!

Life is strange these days and I KNOW I’m lucky that it’s not like being bombed kind of strange or mentally flogged by a factory line boss.  It’s strange in this “First World” living among the zombies who have moved into the neighborhood and are renting or buying up all of the buildings and driving out the low-wage earning artists and musicians.  It’s strange when your phone suddenly loses contact with the mothership.  It’s strange when your shit doesn’t work the way it did yesterday. I’m going to let it out when I feel it and if it’s a First World problem, then so be it.  Just shut the (beeeeeep) up about it already!

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A Neighborhood in San Francisco

 I sit here housesitting in the peace and quiet of a neighborhood I have never spent time in nor thought to.  I’ve been in the Bay Area since 1980.  I have driven by this part of San Francisco hundreds (maybe thousands?) of times and seen it as I peer south when driving on highway 280 just as it veers off from highway 101 south after the Cesar Chavez exit.  I always thought:  “Look at all of those houses out there all lined up in perfect rows from hillside to hillside.” It never occurred to me to pull off and look around.  

It’s completely residential here and the houses are quite unique though they don’t look that way from the freeway.  It’s a working class neighborhood where many of the homes have been handed down through generations of families and THAT must be why it’s so clean around here.  As I have walked around the past couple of mornings, I realize that people care for their sidewalks and upkeep and it’s really tidy in front of the homes and in the streets.  Not so in the neighborhood I live in where the techies have taken over just a couple of miles north of here.  This neighborhood is the Mission Terrace.  And it’s oh, so quiet.

One of the big benefits of this home is having Balboa High School across the street which is NOT in session right now, so I’m sure it’s quite different around here when the teens travel to and fro in their quotidian school lives en route to classes, the library, gymnasium, tennis matches, football games, etc.  It’s a HUGE high school with a MASSIVE California Mission style classroom building that is grand and beautiful.   The wiki states 1400 students and 63 teachers.  Founded in 1928. Then I read these lines:  “Balboa is a comprehensive school located in an urban working class district. It educates a greater proportion of the city’s disadvantaged and minority students relative to other city high schools…In the last decade, Balboa has experienced a turnaround and has improved its reputation and academic performance.[6] The school achieved placement on Newsweek‘s “America’s Top Public High Schools” list in 2007 and 2008.[7]”  Fantastic!

Yesterday, my friend Hugh and I traveled 3 miles northwest to the Alemany Farmer’s Market to pick up food items to cook up for lunch. I learned that the Alemany Farmers’ Market was founded in San Francisco on August 12, 1943. It was the first farmers’ market in California. We had a great time buzzing about tasting various things to add to our veggie smorgasbord and meeting some delightful people in the seller’s stalls. Saturdays from 6a – 3p.  Check it out.

 Anyway, the home is swell and quiet. The cats are mellow and easy.

 I could be anywhere…

But I’m enjoying a nice staycation here in a home filled with books. Joyous that.

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Stand UP for Democracy

What better place to feel the power of democracy than at the local level. We have 85,000 local governments in the United States that are comprised of democratically-elected officials.  A short Wiki description of the word democracy states:  “a system involving distribution of political power in the hands of the public which forms the electorate, representative government, and freedom of speech.”

Elected officials serve the will of the people in a representative government and this is the heart of a democratic system; one that America staunchly pushes outward to other nations in turmoil. As America flouts democracy proudly for the world to see and emulate on this day, democracy in my own personal sphere and that of thousands of citizens around me at the local level has been pushed aside for the rule of one unelected official, a Super Trustee “With Extraordinary Powers” who forces his will at my college.

The California Community Colleges Board of Governors sets policy and provides guidance for the 72 districts and 112 colleges that constitute the system. This Monday, three days after we celebrate American Democracy, the following Board will meet to vote on a resolution that seeks to continue the rule of one at City College of San Francisco. President Manuel Baca, Arnoldo Avalos, Jena Barrera, Geoffrey L. Baum, Natalie Berg, Joseph J. Bielanski Jr., Thomas Epstein, Lance T. Izumi, Danny Hawkins, Deborah Malumed, Henry A. J. Ramos, Gary Reed, Nancy Sumner, and  Colin Van Loon along with State Chancellor, Dr Brice W. Harris will meet on Monday July 7th, 2014 to vote on several items brought before them, one of which concerns a very undemocratic resolution recommended by State Chancellor Dr. Brice Harris: Action Item 2.1    Reappointment of a Special Trustee for San Francisco Community College District.  You can read the resolution here.  The college has already experienced more than a year of the autocratic rule of one unelected official whose “extraordinary powers” denied the college public viewings of official “board” meetings. In non-public meetings, rules and regulations were passed that included a huge salary increase for the top-tier administrators just months after denying faculty by continuing pay cuts at a pre-2007 level salary in what is arguably the most expensive city in America.

The web page of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office states the following under the heading, The Governance Process:  “Each of the 72 community college districts has a locally-elected board of trustees. These individiuals are responsive to members of their community. Trustees also oversee the operations and budgets of local colleges within their districts.”

So, you can see that although the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on a resolution “Urging State Community College Chancellor Brice Harris to Restore City College of San Francisco’s Duly Elected Board of Trustees” and the citizens of San Francisco demand the return of the democratically-elected Board, a group of appointed Board of Governors has the power to deny democracy on Monday, three days after we celebrate America’s most prized holiday.


City College’s Board of Trustees Must Be Restored

Stand Up for Democracy



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Local Democracy IMMEDIATELY!

City College’s Board of Trustee’s Should Be Restored

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