Monthly Archives: February 2015

Alameda Cats

Amblin’ Alameda

Alameda Cats

Morton Chalfy

Let me begin by saying there is no single way to be a cat keeper. Just as there is no single way to be a human being there is also no single way to be a cat so the permutations of relationships are practically endless. Among our friends and acquaintances are those who keep multiples of cats and find that cages are necessary to give them all their own space and to keep them safe from their cat co-habitors and also to provide multiple sand boxes for cat excrement.

Our two cats, who could not be more unalike, require three cat boxes and still manage to express themselves by depositing occasional piles outside the box. What exactly they are expressing is not clear but that it is an expression of something there is no doubt. A day in the life of our cats mostly consists of a little eating, a little scampering (mostly at night when we’re in bed and the occasional thud of something hitting the floor is less likely to get us on our feet), use of the cat box, use of the scratching box and a lot of lying around.

Bessie likes the top of the back of my sweetie’s armchair for a while then moves to the cushion on another chair and then to her little cat hut, and maybe for variety the heater grate in the bathroom. She also will zip into any open closet door and happily stay there in a dark and unreachable corner until five minutes after the door is closed when she starts to mew and scratch.

We keep our cats inside, mostly to protect them from the tough street cats on our block but also, and very importantly, to protect the bird life in the area. Inside cats also have fewer medical problems. With the cost of veterinary work nowadays that is no small savings.

Street cats abound, however, and add their inscrutable personalities to the scene. One black and white tom with a ragged ear and tough guy swagger regularly visits our area and seems to delight in stirring up the indoor cats who watch his path intently and often hiss at him since they’re safe inside. An orange tabby on the next block often saunters across the street nonchalantly, usually just out of reach of passing cars though I fear to find it lying in the gutter one day.

Last night, as we were leaving a friend’s home she called, “Don’t let the cat out,” just as the gray furry streak of feline darted through our legs and out the door. “He’ll come back in a minute,” said our host, “don’t worry about him.” But of course we did worry, we who never let our cats out, and tried to entice him to come back in. Fat chance. He sat at the very boundary of the walkway and licked his paws unconcernedly while we got in our car and drove off. His attitude spoke volumes, “I own this place so mind your manners and watch your butt.”

Driving home through the night we saw two other outside cats, one that looked like an opossum at first and another who seemed intent on getting somewhere special. The night is the cat’s natural world and it’s one that’s hard to get into even in our imagination. Smells we don’t smell, sights we can’t see and sounds we don’t understand make up the landscape and the cat navigates it all with intentions we can’t fully understand. Looking for a mouse or a bird or something similar we get, but in the dark, stealthily creeping about, while that’s not alien it’s so far back in our cultural past that it’s hard to relate.

Our inside cats, however, stealthily creep into our laps, between the books we’re reading and our chests, make themselves comfortable there and demand their pets. They are so direct in their desires, so insistent that we pet them, and the only payment offered is purrs.

The Rains Came

Amblin’ Alameda

The Rains Came

Morton Chalfy

And then, after the long dry spell, the rains came! As befitting Alameda however, the rains came overnight, the winds stayed reasonable and Saturday morning dawned bright, sunny, mostly under clear skies and sparkling with the beads of water that had fallen through the hours of darkness. A dry Saturday morning means Farmer’s Market and so we hied ourselves thitherward.

I’m happy to report that the spring flowers are beginning to make their appearance. Today we got tulips and freesia but the rest of the family of spring flowers are not far behind. The navels are sweet, the mandarins have arrived, the greens were vibrant and more artisanal food makers show up every week. One can now get crepes from the crepery, hand made cheeses, baked goods from more than one baker and the invaluable rubbing of shoulders and trading of greetings with the other shoppers and the growers and artisans. Farmer’s markets are community builders, a public space for public activities that leaves a warm glow after shopping there and a way to make a living for the farmers and makers.

Farmer’s markets traditionally make room for non-farmers and non-food makers such as musicians. Today’s music was supplied by a mature couple, he on the guitar and she on the flute, playing lovely relaxing music just right for shopping to. A delightful experience made more so by the presence of so many young families with their children. One glimpse of a delighted four year old savoring a strawberry is enough to cast a glow over the rest of the day.

Reading Alameda Peeps (as I do for entertainment nearly every day) led us to hurry to Lee’s Donuts at the foot of Webster St. to get the last three jelly-filled donut holes. My sweetie has wanted to try them for a week now but they’re always sold out early! Today we were there before 11 a.m. and still got the last of the bunch. They’re worth getting up early for is our considered opinion.

These are the things that make Alameda so great to live in – the cozy farmer’s market, the young families out with their children letting us all share in the joy of new lives, and hard to find but worth the looking for items like jelly-filled donut holes. Simple pleasures that give Alameda life its flavor.

And, of course, the rains that conveniently visit us at night and gently, not like the storms and destruction visited on the North Bay.

The Pace of Change

Amblin’ Alameda

The Pace of Change

Morton Chalfy

This past week was a humdinger in the sense that my activities brought much of the future of Alameda into stark relief – with no relief in sight. The week was really “ramblin’ Alameda” rather than amblin’ which wouldn’t have covered nearly as much territory.

First there was the visit to our swimming exercise spot – the Mariner’s Square Athletic Club which sits at the corner of the Target/Safeway etc. development. After years of preparation the buildout has begun and the area looks like a clone of Emeryville. As more stores open there the traffic count rises and the activity level rises as well. To get there we passed the proposed Del Monte tract and the housing that is already being built adjacent to it. That trip alone cast the shadow of the future with its pall of oncoming traffic over the day.

Then there was lunch with a friend from San Francisco out at Alameda Point. We sat and ate on the patio behind the Rock Wall Winery and looked out over the water. Alameda Point is still a place where the fact of living on an island is palpable. There are no cranes building high rises there yet but the shimmering waters of that part of the Bay seem excited by the vision of the development to come, for well or for ill.

And then there was lunch at Quinn’s Lighthouse on the Embarcadero. Strictly speaking not in Alameda but so closely connected it might as well be. We ate overlooking the marina filled with boats and then drove down toward Jack London Square to a little park where our friends’ dog could run and chase balls. On the way we passed the fenced off construction site for Brooklyn Basin. Thousands of units with I-880 as their main road. Words failed me. That section of 880 is already the most notorious bottleneck of the road through our area and the idea of hundreds, if not thousands, of cars joining that slow moving caterpillar is enough to have us praying for the Jetson’s jet packs!

All these developments which hung fire for so long are now moving inexorably forward and the one feature that stands out is the impact they will have on 880 and the consequent impact that will have on traffic in Alameda, let alone Oakland, San Leandro and Hayward. It makes one want to finish ramblin’ and resume amblin’.

Which, on Sunday morning, I did. With my friend and his dog I ambled down Broadway to the shoreline where we turned west and walked along the muddy path beside the bird sanctuary. And on Sunday it was indeed a sanctuary. The sun shone, the water was smooth and placid and a flock of the larger shorebirds, perhaps dowitchers, were resting in the shallows and mud flats. They were calm, the scene was serene and the juxtaposition of natural beauty next to the bustle of Otis Drive was sort of magical. For that moment of quiet appreciation I was able to literally turn my back on the coming storm of change while I contemplated the simplicity of birds and water, sunshine and high flying clouds.

Afterward I came home wondering “What will we all do when gridlock happens?” We’ll know in just a few short years.