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

three daughters.

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


Mr. M&M

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

international sensation.

“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.

Outdoor classroom

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.

Improving Montclair

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.


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