IF YOU’RE NOT in the habit of looking over your shoulder — this story may change your mind. Oakland Police say a man was robbed in his driveway in the hills, the other night. He pulled up, got out of the car and was accosted by two armed men. This guy was lucky. He may have been mugged, but he wasn’t killed. Could he have prevented the attack if he’d been more aware of his surroundings? It’s hard to say — but police have this advice: If someone suspicious is following you, keep driving past your house, get on your cell phone and call Oakland Police Emergency at 777-3211. Don’t call 911 on your cell phone because 911 calls get routed to the Highway Patrol.
E-MAIL BAG: Once again, I’m hearing complaints from readers about road rage in Montclair. Kay Cardenas writes that while her 15-year-old daughter was learning to drive on Thornhill Road one evening, a car came barreling up to her bumper and precariously passed her on a hill. The tailgater wasn’t some wild teenager, it was a man in his 50s driving a new Lexus. As if passing on a hill wasn’t bad enough, the guy made an obscene gesture as he raced past the nervous girl. “Was he late for a TV show or did he have too much to drink at dinner?” Kay wonders. Whatever the reason — if I were you, Kay, I’d get a big sign that says STUDENT DRIVER.
Returning soldier: Welcome back to Lt. Cpl. Billy Dorshkind, the young Montclair man who just returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Billy shipped out of Camp Pendleton last February and reached a milestone in the Iraqi desert. He turned 21. When he returned home to the hills the other day, he saw some of his childhood pals painting The Rock on Ascot for him. The greeting didn’t stay up long. Neighbors tell me that demand for rock space has become so great, the paint barely dries on a message before it’s replaced by something else. Perhaps Ticketmaster should take over with online reservations.
JOYFUL NOISE: One of my favorite church songs is a piece called “Here I am, Lord”. Many of you have heard it and sung it yourselves. The brilliant man who wrote this, and dozens of other popular worship songs, is giving a concert in Piedmont next Sunday, June 22. San Francisco composer Dan Schutte is pairing up with local singer/songwriter Janet Sullivan Whitaker to perform at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in a benefit for FACE — (Family Aid to Catholic Education). The music these two make is so uplifting, you can almost levitate. The show starts at 7 pm and you can get more information by calling 510-763-0477.
Zoo news: The Oakland Zoo gets some ink in this month’s issue of Smithsonian Magazine. It’s a great article on the zoo’s groundbreaking efforts to save elephants from extinction. In Africa, the elephant population has plunged from 1.3 million in the 1970s to as few as 270,000 today. It’s even worse in India, where the Asian elephant population is under 48,000. What’s causing this alarming drop? Poaching for ivory and elephant meat, along with the destruction of natural habitat and stomping grounds. Zoo’s are trying to encourage more elephant births, but it’s a difficult process, as we’ve found out here. The last two African Elephants born at the Oakland Zoo both died, in part because their mother never learned the skills she needed to take care of a baby. You can learn more about elephants on the Web at http://www.oaklandzoo.org. Click on the icons and you can even hear elephant sounds.
TALKING TO ANIMALS: Remember the old show “What’s my line”? Marta Williams would have stumped the whole panel with her occupation. She’s an animal communicator from Sonoma County. In a phone interview, she told me she often holds therapy sessions with people and their pets. If a dog is acting out, Marta has a little pow-wow with the pooch to find out why. Usually it’s loneliness — the dog isn’t getting enough attention. For cats, it could be a respect issue. But the strangest “therapy” session was with a den of rattlesnakes that insisted on slithering up the stairs of a family home. Marta explained to the snakes why their behavior was “freaking” the homeowners out — and they stopped. If you’d rather “talk it out” than move out — Marta will teach you how in her new book — “Learning their language”.
HOLLYWOOD IN VALLEJO: Marine World isn’t just for thrill-seekers. Hollywood is making movies here. Not only was Sean Penn shooting a film last week, but the final scenes from the new Samuel Jackson movie “Blackout’ (coming out this fall) were shot there recently. In that one, the dolphin pool was made to look like San Francisco Bay. In fact, machines were creating such huge plumes of fog that the local fire department responded, thinking the place was ablaze. Oh — there was also an actors strike. The sea lions refused to work once they’d gotten their fill of fish.