You may think you do not know Dave Warnke, but chances are you do. While you may never have met him in person, it is highly likely you have run into his army of vibrant creatures. They are all over Oakland. “Galleries are wonderful, and getting money for my work is amazing,” says Warnke with a humble nod and smile as he sits deep in an armchair as we review his credits. It’s when we discuss his street art that he moves forward in his chair. “But there’s something about putting stuff up and knowing that you’re bringing art directly to people. I like that better.” Translation: free artwork for anyone looking to brighten up his day – and walls.
Thanks to Warnke, every now and then, a mundane walk to Trader Joe’s or a mind-numbing wait for a bus is graced with visions of brilliant color and indefinable shapes. Benches, telephones poles, lampposts and other things normally ignored are graced with paintings and drawings. Call them monsters, call them aliens, call them weird little blobby things — it’s all up to you. “I’m always fascinated with the stories other people think of,” says the artist. “It’s always vastly more interesting than anything I come up with.”
Warnke is not a graffiti artist. While he derives as much inspiration from the defiled subways he saw as a kid in the Bronx as he does from Ub Iwerks cartoons and artists like Keith Haring and Jean Dubuffet, there are more than a few leaps between street art and graffiti — the legality, for starters. “Graffiti is marked directly on a surface with its own unique styles and codes. Street art is anything else that is put in a public place like stickers and posters.” Warnke’s canvas is anything from a wood block to the back of a Tofurkey package. And it’s all for the taking.
After his first semester at San Francisco Art Institute, like most painters, Warnke returned home all puffed up with a portfolio full of fruit bowls and nude models. But while filing it away in his parents’ attic, he began sifting through the piles of artwork his mother had saved since he had been in elementary school. It was then that he found his voice. “There was something about that I wanted to get back to. I wanted to make a conscious effort to be free and have fun.” The result is a buoyant style once described as cartoonish pop, but what he prefers to call “Post Goofyism.” He chuckles, “I’m not very deep.”
After nine years as a professional artist, Warnke has spent the past year working toward his teaching credential and is set to graduate in January. This will not be his first foray into the classroom, as his nonprofit, after-school program Street Styles saw more than 200 middle- and high-school students, all seeking a positive means of expression. Now, after a semester of student teaching at the East Bay Arts High School, he’s looking forward to being the art teacher he wishes he had when he was in school. “I remember I wanted to do a dinosaur for my Mother’s Day card, but the teacher insisted we all had to do this same cut out-heart. There was no creative experience.” Warnke is determined to not only tap into students’ creativity, but also make them visually literate, with the ability to decipher the onslaught of images they are exposed to on a daily basis. Even if a student has no interest in being an artist, Warnke feels art is invaluable in developing skills like creative problem solving and collaboration.
Despite the new focus on his teaching career, Warnke will always have room for his supernatural brigade and the time to focus on his craft. And luckily for Oakland, he will always share. “I have nothing against anyone who does it for their personal satisfaction,” he says, holding his hands up. “But that’s kind of a shame.”
See more of Dave Warnke’s work at davewarnke.com.
—Karen T. Hartline
Who: JoEllen Hruvy, 63, of Oakland.
What: She’s a former flight attendant (40 years with United Airlines) who imports Tibetan treasures for re-sale in the
When: She makes quarterly trips to China where she selects furniture, Buddhas and other rare pieces to ship to the Port of Oakland. Her prized piece is a beautiful hand-painted chest carved with Tibetan prayers from the Dalai Lama.
Where: The goods are housed in a warehouse in Beijing, owned by a Tibetan family she befriended on her layovers in China
Why: Tibetan furniture is beautiful and rare. Only the richest people in Tibet own these exquisitely colorful, hand-carved pieces. “I find the art very calming and peaceful,” says Hruvy. “I’m not a Buddhist, but just what the furniture represents — it speaks to me.”
How: Hruvy’s connections in China make the difficult trip to Tibet and back three times a year, across rugged mountain roads and through heavy security. After choosing her pieces, Hruvy makes shipping arrangements for the large items and carries the smaller ones home in her luggage. Potential customers can contact her by e-mail at email@example.com.
You might not associate the names “Violent Heart,” Domina,” “Lady Lavender” and “Rasgasm,” with chocolate, but I-Li Chang Brice is working to change that. “There’s always a naughty little edge to them,” Brice says of her hand-dipped chocolates, such as the soft caramel and chipotle found in the dark chocolate “Violent Heart.”
Brice, 36, is the owner and one-woman operation behind Vice Chocolates, a popular stand at the Temescal Farmers Market where adults and children alike line up for her Fleur de Sel dark chocolate bars and skull-shaped lollipops. “I guess chocolate is a vice we all share,” says Brice.
Brice began Vice Chocolates, appropriately enough, on Valentine’s Day in 2008. Before then, she had been a Web developer, but a life-threatening illness prompted her to quit and do something she loved — making chocolates. Brice uses only fair-trade high-quality chocolate from a single source in Venezuela; she then custom blends the chocolate into dark, rich flavors with 65 percent, 69 percent and 88 percent cocoa beans. All her chocolates incorporate organic ingredients and take days to make. “It’s very labor intensive,” Brice says. “But a lot of fun at the same time.”
Vice Chocolates are also sold online (vicechocolates.com) and in stores such as Star Grocery in Berkeley and Lulu Rae Confections. Brice is considering renting space in the new Jack London Market when it opens. But one thing is clear: Her business is growing so fast she can barely keep up with demand — especially her bestselling Salty Dog caramel. “When I don’t have it, people get angry at me,” she says. Violent heart indeed.
— Christina Boufis
A librarian for Oakland’s Aurora School, Kathy Shepler of Oakland was appointed to a committee that will judge the prestigious Newbery Medal for children’s literature in 2010, awarding the medal in February 2011.
What an honor. How did they find you?
You never know who nominates you and why. One of the reasons might have been the adult youth literature book group I belong to. We run it like a mock Newbery. For the last two years, we’ve picked the Newbery winner before the Newbery committee actually announced it. This year, it was The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
And it was Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz in 2008.
How many books will you have to read for the Newbery Medal judging?
In 2010, I will read every book that is published in the U.S. for readers, ages 0 to 14, which is written by an American resident or citizen. It’s very exciting because there’s wonderful children’s literature right now. I’m sure there will be several hundred. I will probably read and re-read closely some 80 to 100 books.
What was your favorite book as a child?
The Secret Garden. I really respond to the setting. And what a wonderful setting it is.
What are you reading now?
I am reading right now the new edition of The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac with comical illustrations by Quentin Blake. Have you ever read it? It is a thought-provoking book for adults about how to maintain that joy in pleasure reading for our kids.
To you, what makes a Newbery Medal winner?
It’s for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children; not to be confused with the most popular book for children. There is a distinction about literary quality, and you begin to see the cream really rise to the top.
There is snack reading, popular books, that I don’t diminish at all. But there is a distinction between the mass appeal material and literary quality that is at the core of Newbery Medal.
Why did you become a librarian?
I have always, always loved children’s literature. Some years back, I found a paper I had written in high school about children’s illustrators. In my younger years, I collected first editions of interesting books. When my children were born, I of course started reading to them. But being a librarian is a second career for me. I came to it 10 years ago. Before that I was a vice president of systems at Bank of America for 19 years.
Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I worked on the development of the first ATM many, many years ago.
— Mary McInerney
About 100 years ago, scrappy Italian immigrants started picking up trash from Oakland households. Driving horse-drawn buggies, the young men worked long hours for pennies. “There were several different Italian families picking up garbage, and they were always fighting,” says Louis Alberti, 78, a second-generation garbage man.
Around 1915 the families got together to form the Oakland Scavenger Company, which blossomed into a gigantic enterprise, employing hundreds of workers and building a robust waste management infrastructure, including the Davis Street Transfer Station and the Altamont Pass landfill.
The family-owned company got into trouble in the 1980s when African-American and Latino workers sued on racial discrimination charges and won. Soon after the lawsuit, shareholders decided to sell the company to the international corporation Waste Management Inc., which currently operates garbage and recycling services for Oakland and surrounding cities.
Robert Biasotti is one of the few Oakland Scavengers still employed by Waste Management. He recalls a story his father, an original Scavenger, told him from the Depression-era.
“My dad was recently married and he would pray that they would call him to work on a Saturday because he would get paid $2 for the day, and the older partners would buy you breakfast,” he says. “It’s ironic. I was thinking the other day, $2 for a day and the going rate now for a garbage man is $28 an hour. So that tells a lot about things that have changed.”
— Sierra Filucci
In Her Hands, The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage by Alan Shroeder and illustrated by JaeMe Bereal
(Lee & Low Books Inc., 2009, 48 pp., $19.95)
Alan Schroeder, an Alamedan, is the author of this picture book — illustrated by Oakland resident JaeMe Bereal — about a little known but influential African-American sculptor Augusta Savage (1892–1962). A Green Cove Springs, Fla., native, Savage became an artist, teacher and shaper of the Harlem Renaissance. Young audiences (ages 6 to 11) will appreciate Schroeder’s heartwarming and uplifting story of this woman who leaves home to pursue her dream as well as Bereal’s straightforward, contemplative earth-toned drawings that show in images Savage’s transformation from a clay pit amateur to a recognized art school sculptor. Schroeder, who has written other books about famous African Americans, confines Savage’s demise to relative obscurity to the afterward — just part of the history lesson. Bereal, a woman of color, is a fine artist and, like the subject of the story, a sculptor. This is her debut book of illustrations.
Wheels of Change, From Zero to 600 M.P.H. by Kevin Nelson
(Heyday Books, 2009, 403 pp., $24.95)
California is a car-culture state, and Benicia-based author Kevin Nelson, who grew up in Hayward, explores this phenomenon from a California-centric perspective in his latest book, which traces automobiles from their origins to Craig Breedlove’s 600 mph hot rod ride in 1965. How many Oakland references can you find? The car of that same name, the city of Oakland and the Oakland Speedway in San Leandro are part of this comprehensive tour down motorcar memory lane. The photos are a trip: See a Christie racecar beating a Curtiss biplane, Clark Gable relaxing at the side of his Packard Twin Six, the original George Barris–designed Batmobile kicking up dust and crazy kids cramming into a VW bug. The best photo: “Steve McQueen, the coolest (and fastest) movie star of his generation.”
— Judith M. Gallman
Where does a Michelin-starred chef grab a bite on his day off? James Syhabout’s Commis joined Chez Panisse not so long ago in the ranks of internationally recognized dining destinations when Michelin awarded him a star for his creative new American cooking. Colored by Syhabout’s distinctive vision, Commis’ menu might include a soft farm egg accompanied by allums and pork jowl, a ling cod with sweet corn curd and crayfish butter, or a poached—then—seared duck in mulled broth, embellished with a sugarplum condiment.
La Piñata Taco Truck: “Go northbound on 880 and exit at High Street; the truck is on
the right hand side next to a gas station.”
Shan Dong Restaurant: “Great hand-pulled noodles and dumplings made to order.”
328 10th St., no. 101, Oakland, (510) 839-2299.
Geta Japanese Restaurant: “Very well-priced sushi and great quality. Their fried chicken
is really addictive.” 165 41st St., Oakland. (510) 653-4643.
Luka’s Taproom and Lounge: “Happy hour on Tuesdays — a great mixed crowd and
good times!” 2221 Broadway, Oakland, (510) 451-4677, lukasoakland.com.
Commis, 3859 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, (510) 653-3902, commisrestaurant.com.
— Kimberly Chun
Listen to the nouveau flower child within — or better, lend an ear to East Bay–born-and-bred singer-songwriter Bart Davenport. The one-time Kinetics and Loved Ones leader can be counted on to always have some fabulously savvy finds up
his sleeve. You can find him, maintaining a lovely mellow on the edge of Piedmont Avenue or touring Europe with his sweet, sweet indie-rock/folk pop tunes. Or you might even stumble over the talented music-maker at these cool stops.
Down At Lulu’s: “Rockers Seth Bogart (Gravy Train!!!!, Hunx and His Punx) and Tina Lucchesi (Bobbyteens, C’mon Everybody) are there, giving people rad haircuts. After getting a new ’do, I might also leave with a new top, a pair of vintage trousers or a Flamin’ Groovies record. They have a lot of nice art shows there, too. Basically, the coolest place to hang out in the East Bay — and yes,
it is in Oakland, just very near the Berkeley border.” 6603 Telegraph Ave. (510) 601-0964, downatlulus.com.
Wally Sound: “I’ve been recording at this fine studio near the DMV on and off since 2001. Wally has a magical pair of ears and a plate reverb that will send you to other realms. I just did a tune there for a Graham Nash tribute record on Grass Roots Records (Devendra, Fleet Foxes and Will Oldham are also contributing).” Park Avenue and Hollis Street, (510) 601-9010, wallysound.com.
Egbert Souse’s: “I live kind of near this bar. I have never been inside,
but it seems like they must be serving some pretty strong drinks, judging by how happy the patrons are. It wasn’t too cool when someone pissed on my front door, but hopefully they had a good night out.” 3758 Piedmont Ave. (510) 658-4740.
Mercy Vintage: “Hurrah! A cool vintage store on Piedmont Ave.! I hope they stay there for a long, long time!” 4188 Piedmont Ave. (510) 654-5599, mercyvintage.com.
Mountain View Cemetery: “Looks like a lot of early-20th century high-rollers were buried there. This is a very good spot for bike riding and contemplation or maybe a Goth photo shoot. On Piedmont, we have a hospital on one end and a cemetery on the other. I suppose it would be possible to be born, live and die here and never leave the avenue.” 5000 Piedmont Ave. (510) 658-2588, mountainviewcemetery.org.
Long ago, a rumor was started that if you wanted your wardrobe to be eco-friendly, you’d have to run to the supermarket and empty a sack of potatoes. Those days are over. While these area shops may carry myriad fabrics — be that organic cotton, bamboo or hemp — all of them have a common thread: sustainability.
The Tulip Grove
2078 Antioch Court, Oakland, (510) 339-2225, thetulipgrove.com
There is no greater way to welcome a baby into the world than a shopping spree at this inviting spot in Montclair Village. A visit to this wonderland of eco-friendly baby gear enables new moms to not only load up on all the latest in sustainable loot, but also receive much-needed support and education following baby’s arrival. The racks here are filled with tree-hugger labels like California’s own organic cotton brand Entertaining Elephants. BabySoy coordinates, made from leftover pulp from tofu, soymilk and other soy products, are offered at $25. And what would a childhood wardrobe be like without a cute pair of coveralls with a drop-down rear from Kicky Pants’ comfy bamboo line for $25. If you do not have kids already, watch out. This place would give anyone Mommy fever!
5453 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 923-0543, atomicgardenoakland.com
Set one foot in this Rockridge store and enter a haven for all that is right in the fashion world. Owners Jamie Kidson and Adrienne Armstrong, wife of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, travel all over to find clothing that is not only earth-friendly, but also uniquely designed. Pick up a Dosa tunic made of khadi cotton directly from India — a labor-intensive material that spares the earth’s resources — for $266. Gear up for the East Bay’s daily temperature variations in layers of Prairie Underground, beginning with a pair of denim Leggings for $104 and topping it off with a Long Cloak Hoodie for $228 – all made of organic cotton. Add a Rubyzaar hip bag made of vegetable-dyed leather from hides that come from an organic free-range farm for $168, and your storied outfit will enhance both your look and your level of conversation.
Two Star Dog
1370 10th St., Berkeley, (510) 525-1100, ext. 13, twostardog.com
While everyone else heads to the hustle and bustle of Fourth Street’s famed shopping district, do a few extra zigzags north for something really unique. While you can expect to find markdowns at up to 70 percent off boutique prices, to say this Berkeley shop is an “outlet” does not do justice to the warm fuzzy you get when browsing this homey spot. TSD, the first American company to show complete women’s collections made from hemp, is well versed in sustainable fabrics, and the collective spirit of its style captures both the trendy and classic aesthetic. TSD has a variety of bamboo items and Hemp/Tencel, a material made with wood pulp and designed to keep you cool when it’s warm and warm when it’s cool. For true comfort, head to TSD and surround yourself in this botanic fiber immediately. A walk in the woods has never been so lovely.
1481 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510) 649-7446, shopkiddynamo.com.
The day that Keri Levy and Erin Carter met at Totland — each with a 9-month-old in tow — East Bay parents truly lucked out. Out of their friendship came this awesome Berkeley shop with lots of clothes and toys that are as kind to the Earth as we want kids to be. “We want to hear from our vendors,” says Carter, referring to their thoughtful process of picking products, which is based on quality materials, design and location. Dress your youngster from head to toe in local brands like the San Francisco label Tea, Oakland-based Scout Organics and Berkeley mom–owned Gabby Goo. And with earth-friendly toys on their shelves as well, you can feel good about bribing the kids to behave while shopping for clothes.
—Karen T. Hartline
So you’re at Scott’s Seafood Restaurant. You just finished your oysters Rockefeller and cioppino, and the attention of your taste buds turns to dessert. The only problem is you don’t have enough space in your gut for almond-mocha mud pie.
Well, I suggest you step to the bar, find mixologist El-Khalid McCree and order his famous Chocolate Cake. Oakland native McCree doesn’t keep an oven behind his bar for cake baking, but he does have the tools, ingredients and know-how to shake a cake for you. McCree’s drink has satisfied many an imbiber with a sweet tooth.
None of the components of this concoction taste even remotely like chocolate when swilled separately, but when combined, the ingredients turn rich, sweet and decadent with a touch of tang for a flavorful dark-chocolate quality. A brown-sugar coating on the rim of the glass ties all the flavors together.
After an early start in the service industry, McCree noticed that everyone liked the bartender, so he paid his dues and became one. “I offered to work any shift just to gain experience at Olive Garden,” he says.
Now he is a seasoned barkeep who can make you laugh — and make you one hell of a drink at the same time. Here’s to having your cake and drinking it too.
1½ ounces premium citrus vodka
1½ ounce premium vanilla vodka
1½ ounce Frangelico
Mix all ingredients in a pint glass filled with cracked ice. Shake for 8 to 10 seconds and strain into a brown sugar–rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a lemon slice dipped in brown sugar.
— Lonnie Long
Jacqueline Luckett of Oakland has a good reason to welcome in the new year. Her debut novel, Searching for Tina Turner (Grand Central Publishing), will be released in January. Early reviews are already comparing her writing to the early works of East Bay author Terry McMillan.
Luckett’s book tells the story of Lena Spencer, a 50ish woman who lives in Oakland and seems to have it all — a wealthy husband, two wonderful children and a good life — yet she struggles to find herself after 25 years of being a wife and mother.
“There’s a lot of women’s fiction written for women in their 20s and 30s, yet few books seem to have a protagonist in their 50s,” Luckett says. “I want women to realize that if you’re over 50, life isn’t over. You’re still sexy and have many years ahead of you to make changes and move forward with your life.”
Luckett knows her audience well. At 62, her novel marks the beginning of a new career as a writer. A sociology major in college, Luckett juggled a career in sales with the demands of being a busy wife and mother. In 1999, she dared herself to take a writing course from UC Berkeley Extension and to begin writing a novel, something she had always dreamed of doing. To help her stay on track, Luckett formed the Finish Party in 2004, a group of women writers of color who meet monthly to discuss their projects in progress.
“As a child I wrote a lot of stories and poems and had several published on the children’s page of the Oakland Tribune,” says Luckett, who is hard at work on her second novel. “My life has truly gone full circle.”
— Linda Childers