THE TOWN CRIER: GINNY PRIOR
REMEMBER Michael Keaton as Mr. Mom? Well, we’ve got our very own Mr. Dad,
here in Oakland. Armin Brott writes the syndicated newspaper column “Ask
Mr. Dad” from his home in the Rose Garden/Grand Lake area. An Oaktown boy
since the age of 3, Brott lives with four lovely ladies — his wife and
How did he get the title Mr. Dad? “I guess the concept of Mr. Dad came up
a few years ago,” he says, “not long after the first edition of ‘The
Expectant Father’ was published. I started getting lots of calls and
e-mails from people who appreciated the down-to-earth, accessible,
regular-guy tone of my book.” Brott says he sold over a million copies,
and it became abundantly clear to him that many men needed parenting
advice. Mr. Dad was born.
So were a whole legion of fans — mostly men. But Brott gets some
interesting questions from women, too. Like the one from a baby-sitter who
wanted to know the best way to administer a spanking. Brott explained that
any spanking is a no-no, especially on someone else’s child. Believe it or
not, the same woman wrote back saying her employers insisted she use this
form of discipline — or they’d fire her. Brott told her to quit.
Then there are those who may not be up to the challenge of having a
family. Brott says he occasionally gets letters from men asking how to get
their wives pregnant. His reply? “If you haven’t got a pretty good idea of
that before you start, you aren’t ready to be a parent.”
Want more advice on fatherhood or parenting? Check out Mr. Dad’s Web site
Who would have thought a little hard-shelled candy could change a guy’s
life? Since Hills dad Jim Hager won the M&M eating contest two weeks ago
(by eating 115 with chopsticks in three minutes), he’s been an
“I’ve had calls from morning radio shows in Iowa, Salt Lake City, Canada
and Australia,” he says, laughing. For the Toronto interview, they really
hammed it up, comparing him to famous Olympians, with theme music and
everything. Hager even has had producers from the Ellen DeGeneres and
Sharon Osbourne shows fighting over who gets to bring him to Los Angeles
for an interview.
It’s safe to say Hager is eating up the attention. But he may want to lay
off the M&M’s for awhile (though a complimentary bag and related gifts
were delivered to him yesterday at the Montclarion office). His day job is
— are you ready for this — a dental plan manager.
Reader Joanne Hartman says she and 18 kids from the Canyon Elementary
School went “dock sailing” the other day. They toured an environmental
research yacht moored at the Berkeley Marina. Local shipbuilder Tom Wylie
designed the 65-foot Derek M. Baylis in his Canyon workshop — which
brings me to a point about this Contra Costa village.
It’s an artist enclave full of talented people, many of whom volunteer at
the little Canyon School. But because of a dwindling population of
children, this public K-8 school needs more students. If you’re
interested, call the school at 925-376-4671.
If you’ve been following this column, you know I’ve been printing a
variety of answers to a Village improvement survey being conducted by
Friends of Montclair Village. Helena Foster has this feedback on the
shopping district: “There aren’t enough places where people can sit down
and enjoy the outdoors. Not enough benches, etc. It doesn’t have a natural
foods store and I would love to see an organic restaurant.” She suggests
planting more trees and adding benches and outdoor art (sculptures and
fountains) to the downtown area.
Laurie Sanchez likes the personality of shops like What The Traveller Saw,
but wishes there were more outdoor seating for her to sip her Peet’s
coffee and eat her Grinders sandwich. “I was sorry the merchants were so
opposed to converting that block into a no traffic/plaza area,” she
writes. She also suggests getting merchant cooperation to use various
parking lots (World Savings, Safeway, Albertson’s) and then provide clear
signage advising when parking is available.
Then there’s the perspective Phyllis Bishop has from living in Montclair
since 1940. She remembers “when horses grazed on an open pasture where
Albertson’s now sits. The Safeway site was a stone yard, where sand and
gravel were sold. There was a nursery where McCaulou’s sits, and the
Sacramento Northern Railway ran on tracks up behind the present parking
Bishop says change is inevitable, but what bothers her is the intersection
of Mountain and Antioch Court. It was once a green belt with a small house
where the Montclarion was published for a while. She longs for a park-like
setting there today and says the idea of a pedestrian courtyard would make
much more sense.