Travel Stories Offer Useful Lessons


THIS IS A TALE of two passports. One belonging to a seasoned traveler and the other newly ordered for a teenage boy. In both cases, the stories punctuate the stress of international travel these days.

The seasoned traveler was connecting in Dallas for a flight to Costa Rica when she was stopped at security. Her passport, they said, had a dog-eared corner and was thus invalid. The airline put her on the next flight home. She never made it to the rain forest.

The boy also was going to Costa Rica, on a school trip. He’d been waiting 12 weeks for his passport and as the travel date neared, it still hadn’t come. His panicked parents called U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee’s office and got no help. But an urgent e-mail to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office had an almost immediate reaction. A call from her assistant said the passport would arrive the next day — by overnight delivery. The boy got his documents and had a wonderful trip.

There are a million and one travel stories in the big city. These are just two of them. Draw whatever lessons you’d like — and pass the information along. It may just help someone you know have a smoother trip.

GLENVIEW CRIME: It was good to see a walking police officer patrolling the Glenview district the other night. Some of my favorite restaurants and shops are in that neighborhood, and the recent crime wave has a lot of us on a higher alert. Let’s give the Oakland Police Department our thanks and support, and keep pushing for more police protection in the hills.

SAD NEWS: Friends and family packed the recent memorial service for local mom Susie Robertson. Susie was well-known in the community as the founder of a popular support group for parents of twins. She died after a heart-wrenching struggle with pancreatic cancer. Her husband, Doug, says a memorial fund has been started in Susie’s honor and donations can be made to Twins by the Bay, 6116 La Salle Ave., No. 738, Oakland, CA 94611

SOUND CHECK: Montclair musician Caren Armstrong debuts her new CD “Everything” this Sunday at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. It was recorded right here in the hills at Wildplum Studios, which proves you never know what your neighbors are up to. Caren is a great entertainer with a playful (and occasionally pithy) mix of folk, country, blues, jazz and pop in her bag. Her upcoming show will feature a few friends, including guitarist Glenn Houston, drummer Peter Tucker and bass player Chris Kee.

FREEBIE ALERT: This is NOT a commercial for Bank of the West. But I have to say, I’m quite pleased with the free toaster I just got for opening a new checking account at the Montclair branch. It makes smiley faces on my bread! The toaster giveaway is one of those retro marketing campaigns to get new accounts, and it’s working. It doesn’t hurt, either, to have the banks making fresh cinnamon toast each morning when they open their doors. The aroma alone puts a smile on your face — even if you’re overdrawn.

LANDMARK RESURRECTED: Remember how you used to stop at the Nut Tree in Vacaville on your way to Tahoe and back? The old travelers’ rest is back, with a new look patterned after the open marketplace in San Francisco’s Ferry Building. Stores and restaurants are gradually coming on board, including an Oakland institution — Fentons Creamery on Piedmont Avenue. A Black and Tan sundae covered with nuts and whipped cream is enough to make anyone pull off the highway. It’s great to see the Nut Tree up and running again.

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