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MONTCLARION: February 28, 2014

“Art is love times love. The creator loves it, and his audience adores it.” — Vincent Price.

This quote comes to mind as I see students from Skyline High creating a beautiful mural on the south side of Rite Aid in Montclair. Commissioned by the Montclair Village Association, artist Pam Consear works with the kids every Saturday — a kind of art internship that gives the students practical experience and gives the rest of us public art on a once-blank wall. Continue Reading »

CONTRACOSTATIMES.COM: February 28, 2014

My job in the sled was to stop my big head from knocking into the driver. Kind of an odd Olympic memory, but true.

The Sochi Olympics remind me of my visit to Salt Lake City just after the 2002 winter games. Like the athletes, themselves, I experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of the feet. Mine were killing me after five days of snowboarding, skiing, bobsledding and Biathlon. Anyone can have these Olympic experiences. You need to have guts and be a bit nuts, but you can do it.

The bobsled at Utah’s Olympic Park is a slick four-man ride called the Comet. It flies down the track at some 80 miles an hour with double the g-forces of a roller coaster. I was right behind the driver and had to keep my helmet-clad head still around 15 bone-jarring curves on a track that dropped 40 stories in less than a minute. It was terrifying and intensely rewarding. It may or may not have led to my hip surgery a few years later.

Then there’s freestyle ski jumping, a sport only a human pretzel can love. You can learn this here too, with instructors who teach on terrain parks in winter and special ramps in summer that have you jumping into an aerated pool. The bubbles cushion the blow when you land with your skis in a tangle and arms all akimbo. But with just a few lessons, you may even learn to stick your landing.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Is there anything in the area that’s a little more — tame? The answer is yes, with two world-class facilities for skating and cross country skiing.

Framed by the rugged Wasatch Mountains, Soldier Hollow was the site of the 2002 Cross Country and Biathlon events. Today, you’ll find youngsters to seniors swooshing about on trails and terrain for all skill levels.

The coolest thing here is the biathlon. Imagine speed skiing around the track and up to the air rifle range, where you drop to your belly and take aim. With your legs in a V- shape behind you, the trick is to hit the target.

The final jewel in Utah’s Olympic crown is the Oval Ice Skating Rink. Called the fastest ice on earth, you can lace up and skate the same 400 meter track on which American Sarah Hughes won the gold medal for figure skating. Not up to snuff on your triple lux? You can always try curling under black lights and neon. It’s one event where you can hold your head up high and not worry about it knocking out the guy in front of you.

FYI: Utah Olympic Park
www.utaholympicpark.com

Soldier Hollow
www.soldierhollow.com

Utah Olympic Oval
www.utaholympicoval.com

 

 

MONTCLARION: February 21, 2014

There’s a lot of air travel into Oakland these days, and I don’t mean passenger flights. It turns out our town is a winter resort for birds coming down from Alaska, Canada and other northern environs. Continue Reading »

MONTCLARION: FEBRUARY 14, 2014

When Dorothy Lee started teaching in 1974, the world was a much different place. Richard Nixon was resigning in the wake of Watergate; high gas prices were spawning the 55 mph speed limit and a hot new electronic device was hitting the shelves — the pocket calculator. Continue Reading »

MONTCLARION: February 7, 2014

God knows we need rain. Could February be the month we get it? The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts higher than normal rainfall for the Bay Area this month, but still short of what we need. Seems to me it’s time to take action. Continue Reading »

MONTCLARION: January 31, 2014

This is the stuff dreams are made of. An East Bay big band has won its first Grammy for “Best Tropical Latin Album.”

Pacific Mambo Orchestra — or PMO — beat out a field of heavy hitters Sunday night to bring home the gilded gramophone. What makes this story even sweeter is that several of the musicians are from Oakland and two even help run the Bay Area-based school music program — M.U.S.E. Continue Reading »

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CONTRACOSTATIMES.COM: January 30, 2014

With two weeks until Valentines Day, it’s time to scout out some sea salt and chocolate. The sea salt is the fun part.

Twenty minutes south of San Francisco is the fishing village of Princeton by the Sea. You may know it as the home of the Mavericks Invitational — one of the most extreme big wave surf contests in the world. Continue Reading »

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