Town Crier: It’s a small world, after all — at holidays

MONTCLARION: Dec. 16, 2015

There’s a trick to making money as a Salvation Army bell ringer. And it’s not all in the wrist. Oakland native Arthur James was ringing — and singing — outside a market in Minnesota last week. The joy in his voice was contagious. Within minutes, James had a chorus of shoppers belting out carols in the brisk December air.

“It makes the time go by and it makes people happy,” he told us. James used to sing, as a child, at his Oakland Baptist church. He moved to Minnesota to be closer to family and when hard times hit, he found seasonal work as a bell ringer. It’s a good fit for a man with a booming tenor voice and a repertoire of songs that includes all the old chestnuts.

And yes. It really is a small world … especially at Christmas.

Holiday hops: The Bay Area’s newest brew trail is spreading holiday cheer with beer. The Tri-Valley Beer Trail ( runs through Pleasanton, Danville, Livermore and Dublin. Now through Dec. 31, 16 breweries, taprooms and restaurants will give you a passport stamp every time you order a beer. Five stamps and they donate $20 to the Alameda County Food Bank. You can even buy an ugly “Spread Cheer with Beer” sweater if you want to stand out at holiday parties.

Around town: Since this is the season of giving, how about giving yourself the gift of a clutter-free garage? If it’s been years since you used that old bike, check out the nonprofit organization Cycles of Change. They’re looking for donations of bicycles, helmets and gear for their bike shop. See the donation guidelines at

Hot topic: Embrace change? When it comes to Oakland’s high rents, not everyone is on board. The feedback on Twitter — especially in the wake of Uber’s decision to move here — is sounding an alarm that Oakland is becoming unaffordable. You have only to look to San Francisco to see the kind of problems housing costs bring.

Email bag: Readers are wondering about a small protest this past weekend on Mountain Boulevard and Moraga Avenue in Montclair. About 20 people, mostly women, were carrying signs that said “someone died here” and “slow down.” If you know anything more, let me know.

Oh, Tannenbaum: I love seeing neighborhood Christmas trees spring up during December. The latest is a sweet little pine on a hillside above Skyline Drive. There, amid the Scotch broom and manzanita bushes is a Charlie Brown tree decked in garland and baubles. Anyone have a star and some candy canes?

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at and on the web at www.



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