Letters for the Week of April 13

Readers sound off on our Taste issue, Westside Cafe, and landlords.

“Late-Night Dining for Grown-Ups,” Taste, 3/30

Waiting for Dives

Super excited for some of these swank new bars to take a divey turn when the novelty wears off and clientele stops flowing so regularly. I can’t afford ten-dollar drinks and hate dressing up, and I feel lots of people in Oakland can sympathize.

Jenna Miller, Oakland

“Thirsting for Extreme Beers,” Taste, 3/30

Extreme Expense

Two things to note:

Blind Pig Brewery, where Blind Pig obviously originated from, was in Temecula and not San Diego. There is a difference, even though Southern California is considered the home of the DIPA.

While I do love a DIPA or even a TIPA, they are the reason why many small craft breweries will have a problem purchasing the necessary hops for their beers this year — yet increasing the price of beer again.

Sean Lentfer, San Diego

“Brown’s Budget Plan Unravels,” Seven Days, 3/30

Create Jobs, Not Taxes

And who thought in this California economy that anything like Brown not finding support for tax extensions could have happened? He has proposed $14 billion in taxes against $11.2 billion in spending cuts — $14 billion works out to about $387 from the pockets of every living human in California, or about $1,500 for a family of four. Jobs in the private sector, giving wage earners money to pay exorbitant California gas taxes, exorbitant California sales taxes, and exorbitant California income taxes, are surely a solution. So why isn’t Brown talking about jobs?

William H. Thompson, Walnut Creek

“Go West, Young Foodie,” Food, 3/30

Ridiculously Good

I’m so glad to see the Westside getting some love from the Express. I’ve been going here for years and ever since they opened for dinner I’ve been in weekly. They have some ridiculously good food options for happy hour, and, like the reviewer said, it is an excellent place to get upscale atmosphere and delicious food for an unbeatable price.

Jamie Dunbar, Oakland

Party Time

I love the Westside. Now that they are open for dinner and happy hour (delicious, affordable, comfortable hangout after a long day), my friends, family, and I frequent the restaurant after dark. I love the Aztec soup and my carnivore son favors the burgers and pulled pork. They are still one of the best breakfast joints in town and they cater, too! I’m having a party there.

If you’re not familiar with the Westside or you haven’t been there in a while, drop on by. You’ll be delighted.

Shoey Sindel, Berkeley

“Landlords Put on Notice,” News, 3/30

Landlords Must Be Crazy

This article is lame. A $1,000,000 penalty for “taking advantage.” What the heck does that mean? It might have been useful if the article had clearly stated what specific part of Measure EE had been violated — applying the facts to the law. That’s how one may judge “fairness.”

I’m glad I’m not a landlord. Tenants often “take advantage” of the owner (see Representative Rangel in New York City). The owner must subsidize the rent of the tenants, according to rent control laws. The sub-market rents make it hard to keep the place nice, then the renters ironically complain the place is run down. You have to be crazy to be a landlord.

Gary Baker, San Leandro

Mile-Wide Loopholes

It would be unusual in Oakland — under a rent law written by landlords and arguably the weakest in the nation — if landlords did not consistently make a reasonable profit.  Oakland’s law also contains a clause that allows landlords to impose unlimited rent increases “to assure a reasonable return, or for any other factors.” Even beyond these mile-wide loopholes, the point being missed in the Monte Cresta case, however, is not landlord profit. Here, the owner bought the property with a two-year no-interest purchase loan together with a co-collateralized loan taken on a second property of the owner, with the intent of passing 95 percent of the combined mortgage payments to the tenants. In Oakland, even such weird charge-throughs become legal — if not protested by the affected tenants within sixty days. Even a jury of landlords would find this kind of domination illegal.

James E. Vann, Oakland

“Driving While Buzzed to Become Illegal,” Legalization Nation, 3/30

The True Spirit of Marijuana

I’m sitting here in Chop Bar, enjoying a mocha, some oatmeal, and your article. I’m just another nobody with my very own personal opinions regarding medical marijuana, dope-smoking, stoners, legality, and such. Why do I have said opinions? Because as a 45-year-old, non-pot-smoking Berkeley native, I was decidely in what seemed to be the non-stoned minority at Berkeley High. I have seen this discussion go back and forth for over four decades now, and I’d like to offer the following observation, which I have formed over years of watching people smoke pot, hash, and the like.


People smoke marijuana in order to get high.

I don’t say this to diminish the medical aspects of marijuana, which are well-founded.  An HIV-positive girlfriend of mine, in the latter stages of her disease, was only ever able to diminish the nausea brought on by her various medications, indeed was only ever able to eat anything and not vomit immediately afterwards, by smoking some bud. Good for her, and yes, fine, it is good medicine for people that show a need for said good medicine.

But the primary reason people smoke marijuana is to get high.

These are from stoners I have known:

“It doesn’t really do much of anything to me.”

“It doesn’t do anything to me.”

“It really helps me stay centered/focused/grounded.”

“It’s natural.”

“It’s healthy.”

I know so many wine-drinkers in the California wine scene who go on and on about the varietal terroir of their cheap, crap, California chardonnay that tastes like mangoes.  These people are high. They are high on alcohol. No harm, no foul, but I draw the line at anyone telling me how it’s about enhancing their meals as they empty another and yet another bottle. Oh see? There’s a plate of seeded baguette croutons with local, organic cheese. That means that it isn’t actually a drinking binge, because there’s food present, even if no one touches it.

These people are drinking alcohol to get high. The same way that people smoke marijuana to get high.

I don’t touch marijuana. I learned many years back that I don’t care for the high, and that since the high is what it’s all about, I don’t have a reason for smoking marijuana. If I were sick, then yes, I might do some smoking, and I’d want my rights protected to medicate appropriately for my prostate cancer, glaucoma, or whatever.

But I would still be getting high from smoking my medically-appropriate marijuana.

If I wanted a prescription for medical marijuana, I could get one today, and I mean right now. Right here in Oakland. I have anxiety, I have a backache. … I have a misalignment of my flux capacitor, I need to sooth my dual-high-doofenator. My chakras are chot.

Chit, I’ve got a hang-nail, and I’m in pain! … and a little buddha Thai with Afghani hash should do nicely.

I won’t hear that it isn’t done, that this is the minority of the stoner industry. Because just for shits and giggles, I went with a stoned, stoner friend of mine to a stoner-con. Okay, okay, a hemp/kush con. (Didn’t even know the word “kush” until then!) I went, and there were stoners and stoners and stoners. And they were getting stoned and stoned and stoned. And they all got centered/grounded/focused, and they all had persistent pain in their pudgy, perforated plumuctimizers, and that was why they were getting stoned-er and stoned-er, and specifically not because they wanted to get stoned. And see, there are hemp clothes for sale, which means that nothing about the whole thing was anything remotely about getting high.

I got a prescription for “medical” marijuana inside of an hour. Just for shits and giggles, I started a little game of how-many-pot-scrips-can-I-get. I stopped at four, partly because it was getting boring, partly because my stoned friend started to explain to me, at great length and in listen-to-me-because-this-is-really-important-for-you-to-really-understand

sort of tones, that playing the scrip-game wasn’t in the “spirit” of the thing. He also let on that one couldn’t understand the “spirit” unless one got really centered/grounded/focused.

Most people drink alcohol to get high. And  real oenophiles still have to toe the line when it comes to blood-alcohol levels while driving. And marijuana can be good medicine for sick people. And most people who smoke marijuana smoke it to get high. And the sick people will have to toe the line when it comes to blood-THC levels while driving. In the meantime, I think we might want to err on the side of caution in that respect. Even if it means a bunch of card-waving but otherwise-healthy stoners get pulled over.

Unless I’m getting this all wrong because I’m not stoned. But I really can’t. I get drug tested at work, randomly, because I drive a ten-ton bucket truck.

And I don’t drink alcohol either.

John Gallagher, Oakland

“Not Just Fins,” Letters, 3/30

Don’t Procreate

Trying to preserve the environment and not killing animals to extinction “for our children” is part of the problem. To really save the earth, humans should stop reproducing. It is criminal to keep producing more humans. Usually about now the response is hysterical about how I’m advocating humans to die out, but really, considering the obscene number keeps doubling, that’s not likely to happen.

Bev Jo, Oakland

“Sharks Left for Dead,” Feature, 3/16

Target Asians

In Hannah Dreier’s incisive and comprehensive exposé of the tragedy of shark finning, Michael Kwong of the Hop Woo Company, an exponent of the “craft,” claims that a ban on shark fin soup would unfairly target Asians. Hmm. Does that mean that Germans were unfairly targeted for gassing and grilling Jews? 

Let’s see if the analogy holds up. What happened in concentration camps was an atrocity. What happens to a shark when its fin is sliced off, and then it is thrown back into the ocean to writhe around in agony until it dies, is an atrocity. Check. The Germans murdered six million Jews. Shark finners murder between 23 and 73 million sharks for their fins every year. Check. There was a lot of money to be made by divesting Jews of all of their worldly personal and commercial assets. There’s a lot of money to be made by selling and serving shark fins. Check. The two examples are perfectly comparable.

So guess what? Asians who sell shark fins, and shark fin soup, are being fairly, not unfairly, targeted for engaging in and maintaining a cruel and immoral practice. It hardly matters that they’ve been doing it for a thousand years. Remember, Hitler wanted a thousand-year Reich. If he’d succeeded, would its length have justified its existence?

Support AB376. 

Rocky Leplin, Richmond

“Hate Man,” Feature, 3/2

Hate the Cynic

In a university town such as Berkeley, with such a highly educated population, it’s deplorable that neither the two writers of the piece on the Hate Man, nor any of the those who posted letters to the editor, nor even the subject of the article himself, appreciates the fact that the Hate Man is a contemporary Cynic par excellence, a modern day Diogenes. He lives the life of an ancient Greek Cynic; in addition, he has an articulated philosophy quite in keeping with the oppositional philosophies of the early Cynics, who seem to have been quite a cantankerous lot.  He even has a claque of devoted followers, who’ve given up the comforts of conventional life to cast their lots with him. Not every homeless person is a sidewalk philosopher; and not every person who has dedicated his or her life to living on the streets can be called a Cynic, but I aver that the Hate Man is a true Cynic in the Classical mode.  In making this observation, by no means am I attempting to romanticize the Hate Man or his lifestyle, I’m simply trying to place him in a historical context. An enterprising UC philosophy or classics major could probably get a term paper out of this comparison. 

J. J. Phillips, Berkeley


“Oakland Club Owners Fight Back,” News, 3/16

Just Doing His Job

For the second straight week, Officer Mike Morse’s name has been dragged through the mud regarding OPD’s overtime fees. The article that appeared in the March 9 issue indicated that OPD was overhiring for events to make more money for its officers. The article states that 194 officers made at least $20,000 in OT last year. One would figure that a department filled with rampant overhiring would have quite a few officers making $75,000-plus a year instead of one. Sounds to me that the original writer was fed a story by a disgruntled club owner who went out of business and is looking for someone to blame. The OPD Special Events department works all events in the city whether they be a festival, extra security for a club event, concerts, and even sporting events. Quick math shows that there are at least 130 sporting events each year, all which require police presence. Officer Morse just happens to work most of those events, which could explain his high overtime intake. Next time the author wants to publish someone’s salary, maybe he should do his due diligence and get all his facts straight and not take input from club owners and event planners. It’s highly disappointing to see someone dragged through the mud when he’s working four to five events a week and it comes across as robbing club owners blind.

Joey Nations, Oakland


A Major Fine

The other day I was going down Adeline, crossing San Pablo. The light was red, so I came to a complete stop, saw that there were no cars coming, and then went through the red light. Mistake! Lights flashing, sirens blaring, Emeryville’s Finest pulled me over and gave me a red light violation. The fine is $480.

Oh, and I was riding a bicycle.

How completely reasonable.

Patrick Duffy, Oakland

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