When Yards Are Like Jungles

IT’S RISKY BUSINESS ringing in spring. You go where no one has dared to go since autumn — the yard. And it’s anyone’s guess what’s hiding beneath the piles of dead leaves and overgrown plants with their gangly green extensions. I saw an eight-legged thing with big, beady eyes and screamed so loud the cat came running. Dare I even think about power-washing the deck?

With my luck it’ll unleash another round of El Niño that will stretch into June.

ON THE RUN: In today’s busy world, we look for convenience. But folks apparently don’t want to see it at the Ken Betts Chevron in Montclair. The service station has been getting complaints ever since Chevron Texaco proposed replacing the repair shop with a convenience store a few months ago. And it appears, now, that the deal is dead anyway. Janice Zeiser with Ken Betts says the Oakland Planning Commission has voted it down.

“A convenience store has a lot of parking,” she says, “and there’re only two available parking spaces, to be frank, and the rest are taken up with pumps.”

There’s also the traffic problem and the factor of competition. It’s not like we don’t already have places nearby to get chips and beer and lottery tickets. Neighbors like Lea Spencer say it best. If you let the convenience store in, soon the village will be just a place “to buy stuff.”

HIGHWAY TO HELL: It’s bad enough trying to get to the Bay Bridge toll plaza without having a car cross five lanes and head straight for your vehicle. It happened to a Montclair couple the other morning. They were approaching the pay gates when a driver came straight at them, triggering a panic that caused the motorist behind them to rear-end their Oldsmobile. To add insult to injury, the perp apparently got away — racing across the bridge without anyone in pursuit. Meanwhile, our passenger is laid up at Summit Hospital with serious leg injuries and a long road of physical therapy ahead. Driving in the Bay Area is a scary proposition — even on a good day.

GOOD DEED: When hills businessman Mort Landsberg lost his brother 10 years ago, he vowed to remember him with a charitable gift. His legacy, Mort decided, would be helping homeless youth who end up on the streets of San Francisco. That’s why Landsberg hosted a group called At The Crossroads last week for a two-day hills retreat.

“They do great work,” he told me, almost like a proud father would speak of his kids. The group walks the streets four nights a week in the Mission and downtown San Francisco, offering food, clothing and counseling, among other things. If you’d like to help, contact them on the Web at www.atthecrossroads.org.

FLOWER POWER: I love the green groups who plant flowers and shrubs along our well-traveled roadways. It really dresses up the asphalt, if you know what I mean. So here’s a toast to the folks who’ve adopted the median strip along Pleasant Valley Avenue between Piedmont Avenue and Moraga Road.

“We started out weeding and tending the poppies,” says organizer Mae Liu, “then several years ago we added lavenders, sweet peas and agapanthus.”

Now the daffodils are in bloom and on Sunday they’ll be sprucing up the strip. Early birds are invited to help between 7-9 a.m.

E-MAIL BAG: Speaking of flowers, remember that old chestnut “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” It’s been remixed, so to speak, to vocalize the plight of the Oakland schools. Reader Stephanie Velasquez-Pearl says you can hear the new version on the Web site www.whereismyteacher.org.

Every bit as poignant as the song we grew up with, these lyrics ask “Where have all the teachers gone?” And “Where have Measure E funds gone?” Pearl says the lyrics were written by a teacher and sung by that teacher, a parent, and 12 children from Montclair Elementary School. Let’s hope our schools are on the road to recovery and the song doesn’t last long on the charts.


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