I Wanna Ride My Bike
Alameda ‘Cycles’ Is Pedaling for Change
If you know what you’re looking for, you won’t miss Cycles of Change APC, the nonprofit bike shop that’s tucked into a section of a huge warehouse across from the Alameda Point Collaborative offices.
If there’s one, there must be 50 bicycle rims attached to a great big wooden door out front. Then there’s the name, outlined in recycled bicycle chains and bits of old bike tires. And from the entrance there’s a view through what site director Barry Luck is turning, with volunteer help, into a community activity room to bicycles—a great long line of them awaiting repair on an elevated wooden stand. Walk past these and you get to the bikes in the office, fixed and ready for sale. Dozens more are back in the storage area, including about 50 kiddies’ bikes, mostly trade-ins donated by Alameda Bicycle, a staunch supporter since Cycles APC opened in June 2006.
Somewhere in the middle of all this is bike repair headquarters. Here, volunteers are assigned bike projects by Luck, who is multitasking and answering questions with remarkable equanimity for someone being bombarded from all directions. On this particular day, he is working closely with Ebony Smith, 19, who is in her third week of a federally funded job-training program—part of the collaboration between the bike shop and Alameda Point Collaborative. It’s a relationship that explains the “APC” designation that is appended to the Cycles of Change name. Smith is learning how to run a small community bike shop business, which includes repairing bikes.
Luck, 35, affable, thoughtful and focused—he has a longtime meditation practice—has been riding bikes since he was 5 years old. He gave his truck away almost five years ago to someone who could use it for landscaping jobs and has been “happily, healthfully and affordably” riding a bike without owning a vehicle ever since. In 2000, Luck joined the nonprofit organization Cycles of Change, which launched in 1998 and runs programs in a number of Oakland schools offering students a chance to earn bikes by completing bicycle repair and maintenance training. He worked with kids and bikes at Roosevelt Middle School and Life Academy High School and Bret Harte Middle School.
After six years on the general Cycles of Change bike program, he opted to separate from it, start something in Alameda and grow the scope of the operation. “I wanted to be independent of the schools and their schedules, offer bikes and volunteer opportunities to all age groups and have a bike shop that could be both a community center and a nonprofit business,” he says.
His mission now, he says, is “to empower local communities by providing outstanding recycled bicycle services in a safe, thriving, creative and self-sustaining space.”
When we spoke, he’d received 1,600 bikes (donations) and repaired and sold more than 1,000, doubling his sales goal and recording about $55,000 in overall sales. Bike prices range from $90 to $400 (with exceptions), with the average about $150 per bike.
“We sell lots of converted mountain bikes for commuters, road bikes for enthusiasts and kids’ bikes to children and families. Lately, there’s also been a lot more Alameda teens coming in to get good deals on parts to build fixed-wheel bikes, known as ‘fixies.’ Most of our customers come from Alameda and Oakland.” But Cycles draws people from San Francisco, Fremont, Walnut Creek, San Mateo and the North Bay, he says.
Luck sees bikes as “tools, not toys.” A committed social change activist, he walks his talk. But he’s careful not to mount a soapbox in the shop. More effective is to let kids who can’t afford a bike come in and earn points toward owning one by doing chores (from sweeping the floor and watering plants to fixing donated bikes) and to offer a space that “nurtures community interconnectedness,” to quote from his vision statement.
To grow and thrive, says Luck, the shop needs customers, high-end bike donations, skilled volunteers who will fix bikes or work with the kids as well as help with behind-the-scenes projects like marketing, and funding.
He’s pedaling hard to make it happen, and the way things are going, he’s on a winning streak.
Cycles of Change APC, 650 West Ranger Ave., is open 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tue.–Thu. and 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Sat., (510) 898-7830, www.myspace.com/cyclesapc.
Take Five With Rosemary Reilly
1 My Houseboat
I’ve been living on a houseboat since 1992 and every day feels like a vacation. I never take for granted how special it is to live in such a calming and serene environment. Besides loving the peacefulness of being on the water, I’m also thrilled with the low maintenance of my home, as well as our eclectic marina community. This way of living definitely keeps my spirits afloat.
2 Franklin Park
Whenever I visit this park that is so familiar to me, it feels like I’m going home. I grew up playing at Franklin Park as did my kids, and now my grandkids play there. I have spent thousands of hours there letting mornings turn into afternoons without even noticing. This park triggers lots of emotions and fond memories for me and is a place that makes me very happy.
3 Dan’s Produce
I think that this open market is a jewel in our community. When I go there I feel like I’m stepping back in time. The atmosphere is so charming. I think there’s something old-fashioned, yet up-to-date about this market. I love that it offers locally grown organic produce and that the staff knows their customers and is so friendly.
4 Barnhill Marina Pathway
This could be one of the best-kept secrets in Alameda. It’s quiet and exceptionally scenic. The view of the boats and the wildlife, the benches, the trees and the occasional passersby all make this trail very picturesque and unlike any other location.
5 My Office
My office is really a closet, but I love it. We have more than 200 volunteers who happily serve homebound people of all ages in our community. Helping people and witnessing such generosity of time on a daily basis is incredibly gratifying, so my job doesn’t feel like work, and my office feels quite large.
—By Gina Jaber
—Photography By Craig Merrill
New Releases From Alameda Authors
Amaryllis: Collected Poems by Julia Park Tracey (Scarlet Letter Press, 2009, 64 pp., $12.95)
Alameda Sun publisher and founding editor, novelist and poet Julia Park Tracey has published her first volume of poetry, a collection of 44 poems from the last 20 years. Set mostly in California (primarily, Oakland and Alameda) with a little Europe tossed in, the poems touch on childhood, motherhood and adulthood as well as adult longing and desire, nature and domestic scenes in clever verse laced with often lilting, sometimes jarring, descriptions. The tone is mostly loving and reverent with sensual hints, though angst and darkness rear their heads on occasion. Here’s a clever little poem, titled “Thursday, April 20”: My poem for today: /Nothing./ Join the poet for a reading and youth poetry slam 6 p.m.–8:30 p.m. May 1 at Rhythmix Cultural Works in honor of National Poetry Month.
Awearness: Inspiring Stories About How to Make a Difference by Kenneth Cole (Dk Pub, 2009, 256 pp., $25)Cristi Hegranes,
The Fireside mixologist and executive director of the Oakland-based Press Institute for Women in the Developing World, joins the company of Lance Armstrong, Bill Clinton, Bon Jovi and other inspirational people in a new book by Kenneth Cole. The designer-activist released the book to celebrate his company’s 25th anniversary and to raise funds for its philanthropic endeavors. Hegranes is one of 86 people invited to write essays on political activism, human rights, civil liberties, homelessness and poverty, wellness, HIV-AIDS, criminal justice, the environment and youth and education. The title of Hegranes’ essay is “Cristi Hegranes on Empowerment Through Journalism.” Cole characterizes the contributors, Hegranes among them, as “people who have achieved extraordinary changes often through ordinary acts or resources.
Nine College Nines by Gregory J. Tully (McFarland & Company Inc. Publishers, 2009, 224 pp., $35)
Gregory J. Tully, a longtime Alamedan, a former umpire and a member of the National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association whose work has appeared in the Oakland A’s Magazine, takes a look at college baseball. He chats up players, coaches and officials on everything from recruiting to the Major League draft. His book, subtitled “A Closeup View of Campus Baseball Programs Today,” laments an underappreciated college sport and covers nine weekend series involving Divisions I, II and III and NAIA schools plus junior colleges. Specifically he zeros in on Eastern Connecticut, LSU, Miami (Fla.), San Jacinto College, Southern Cal, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho), Chico State, Cal State-Fullerton and Texas. In each chapter, he recounts the series, then investigates a specific topic. Tully, an accountant, focused on college baseball after deciding there is little written about it. He chose schools that had earned national championships or represented a diverse geographical area and had interesting histories or personalities.
—Judith M. Gallman
Creatures Inspire Bamboo Jewelry
Christine Gonsalves and Steve King met while working at a save-the-whales nonprofit. Appropriately, the pair—she is an Island native, and he’s a transplant from Sacramento—called their Lincoln Avenue store Whales & Friends when they opened it 20 years ago. And just as appropriately, when they decided to create a line of cloisonné jewelry, Bamboo Jewelry, almost six years ago, they chose nature—including whales—as their inspiration.
Thus they have finely detailed representations of the beluga, the blue and the gray whale, the humpback, the sperm whale and the orca, each fashioned as a broach and as sets of earrings, with colors that glow lustrous and iridescent. Each eye-catching piece is sold, like the rest of their line, in a little box made from bamboo. The work is equally delicate and refined when it draws its inspiration from other sea creatures, like jellyfish, as well as an inspired range of birds, bees, Tiffany-style dragonflies, frogs, butterflies and wild animals. Each artful, elegant piece comes with a comprehensive natural history lesson, making the line a natural for museum stores, aquariums, zoos and other venues where the environment and the arts intersects. Prices range from $13.99 for post earrings to $68.99 for a cloisonné pendant on Swarovski crystal–decorated chain.
Gonsalves, who does all the buying for Whales & Friends, which is a veritable treasure chest of the colorful and the eclectic, has a master’s degree from Cal where she specialized in ceramic sculpture. King has a double degree from Yale, in photography and environmental studies. It’s a great blend for what they’ve chosen to do. He designs on paper; she on the computer. The jewelry is made to their specifications in a small studio in Beijing, China. It made sense, says Gonsalves, that the cloisonné pieces—enamel on sterling silver—be made by the people who have turned it into an art form over the centuries.
Find the Bamboo Jewelry line at Whales & Friends, 2060 Lincoln Ave., (510) 769-8500, or online, www.bamboojewelry.com.
—Photography By Craig Merrill
You Say It’s Your Birthday
As more and more people turn to Facebook and Twitter to communicate short, pithy messages, people are still taping up handmade signs to get across some ideas.
Like “Happy Birthday Tpot!” or “Happy 18th Birthday, David!”
On any given day, handmade birthday signs fill the railing in front of the old landfill in Alameda. It’s just one of those comforting little idiosyncrasies that make this city feel like a small town. Kind of like how all the kids here always dress up for Halloween and go out trick-or-treating, even when they reach high school. Or how you can walk from Ole’s to La Piñata on Park Street on a Sunday morning and see a half dozen people you know waiting in line for breakfast.
The birthday signs have been appearing for years at the end of Island Drive, where most Harbor Bay Island residents start their days in traffic, waiting to get off the Island (or actually, the peninsula). With a captive audience staring at the lovely grassy hump, known affectionately as Mount Trashmore, someone had the brilliant idea to wish a loved one a happy birthday.
“I don’t know how long it has been going on, but I think close to forever,” says Linda Republicano, who lives on Harbor Bay. “I love those signs. I helped my son Mathew put one up for his girlfriend last year. He put so much time and energy into making the sign and then we had to go late at night and park in that god-awful location and it was quite scary.”
That’s the funny thing. Everyone who has hung a sign there mentions the location, where cars can come whizzing around the bend and send you to the top of Mount Trashmore in no time. There’s no place to park and it’s dark at night, when most of the sign-hangers sneak out to plant their surprise.
“It was quite an adventure hanging up the sign as we had to figure out how to leave the house that evening without making Stephen suspicious,” said Estrella Parker, who hung a sign with her two daughters for their dad, Stephen, to mark his 50th. “It really felt like stealth operations. We had to bring ‘weapons’—scissors, string, tape and flashlights.” The signs themselves are sweet. Often just made with black marker on white paper, they range from the simple, “Happy 11th Birthday, Mica!” to the more cryptic “Happy Birthday, Tpot. From Nabo.” Wait. What?
It’s a mystery, too, who takes the signs down. The signs aren’t even on the radar of the city Public Works Department.
Republicano says she always reads the signs and asks her kids, “Hey, is that this ‘Sarah’ or ‘Joe?’ And if I see the child that week, I will often say happy birthday.”
—Photography By Craig Merrill
About A Banner Maker
Yes, She Can
Jill Anne Miller Paints Her Way up the Career Ladder
Jill Anne Miller splashes her passions all over town. From banners in the Alameda Marketplace and hand-painted signs in Trader Joe’s to sets designed for Kids Take the Stage productions of Alice in Wonderland and Guys & Dolls, Miller’s artwork has become part of the visual fabric of Island city life. And it has happened only because the 36-year-old Alameda native doesn’t take “no” for an answer.
“I’m not a bold person,” Miller demurs, “but I love the art, and I want opportunities for the art, so you have to be the salesperson and the lawyer and all these different things. In order to get more opportunities to do better art each time, you have to go out and talk to people.”
Miller’s artistic drive was evident in preschool when, she says, “I spent all my time on the easel.” She channeled her impulses into drama, along with set and costume design, at Alameda High School, and dance study with the San Francisco Ballet. Her ability to talk her way into jobs blossomed when she graduated from the Academy of Art College and moved to New York City in 1996. She had “$500 and a little suitcase” and a portfolio that promptly disappeared when she dropped it off at an agency. She walked in without an appointment at New York Magazine and was hired on the spot to help art-direct a cover.
Miller bounced around other magazines and landed in the studio of legendary flower-power pop artist Peter Max and, as his creative director, designed posters and banners for the city of New York and graphics to decorate a subway car and a Continental Airlines jet.
After 9/11 “changed everything” in New York, Miller returned to Alameda with the intention of making the “natural progression from advertising to film.”
“I wanted to do production design,” she explains. “Strangely enough, two weeks after I came home, they were filming Bee Season right around the corner from my parents’ house. So I walked my dog over there and stayed till 5:30 in the morning. By that time, all the neighbors had gone home, and the director said, ‘OK, who are you?’ I said, ‘I’m Jill Anne Miller,’ and I just told him what I wanted to do, and he said, ‘That’s great. We have this last scene in the movie that we really need help on. Can you do it?’ I said, ‘Yes, I can.’ ”
Miller designed the climactic scene in which the Juliet Binoche character’s unstable mental state is depicted graphically. Her work led to her signing on as a designer for Rent (“I thought I had worked hard in New York!”), and her film portfolio grew to include the feature One Way to Valhalla and documentaries for the History Channel (Fort Knox Revealed and The Assassination Attempt on Ronald Reagan).
The week before a conversation over tea at Julie’s Coffee & Tea Garden on Park Street, Miller had wrapped up a huge project for the Trader Joe’s store on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland—a giant Old Oakland–themed mural across the front windows. That job evolved from her walking into the Alameda Trader Joe’s and being told she could get some painting work only if she learned the grocery business by working in the store for three months. She did, and she ended up hand painting all kinds of signs for the Alameda store and another in Petaluma.
“One thing I like about Trader Joe’s,” Miller says, “is that they want people to feel like it’s their neighborhood store. They love promoting the identity of the area and using original art instead of computer graphics, so it’s fun to get your hands in paint with them, and I love doing the research and making the graphics accurate.”
Miller said she loves research so much that she is now enrolled as a history major at UC Berkeley (where she keeps in shape by working out with the women’s swim team every morning). Her next goal is a law degree so she can practice entertainment or intellectual property law and help other artists. (When the History Channel didn’t pay her for her work, Miller represented herself in court.)
“It’s neat to have dreams and to go for them,” says this unstoppable dynamo.
“I don’t want to look back and say, ‘Oh, I wish I had tried.’ One of my dreams is to have a horse. I know I’ll have made it if I have a horse.”
See more of Jill Anne Miller’s graphic art at www.jillannemiller.com.
—By Derk Richardson
—Photography By Philip Kaake