radio

Can We PLEASE Shut Up About The New Bay Bridge?

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The next time I hear the words, “Bay Bridge,” on the radio, I’m going to run over an orange cone in a construction zone on the freeway. Bad enough that the bolt fastener problem got talked about endlessly for months on “The Ronn Owens Show” during the morning commute and the news roundup during the evening commute. A week-long drumbeat to the closure of the Bay Bridge over Labor Day weekend was especially aggravating. But was it really necessary for KGO Radio to host their news desk on Yerba Buena Island—where the eastern and western spans meet—for the week following the bridge reopening on Labor Day?

I’m not sure if I will ever drive over the new eastern span anytime soon. Since I live and work in the south bay, I rarely have to cross the bay. The last time was a few years ago when I did a temp job in San Mateo and drove over the San Mateo Bridge to visit my father in a Sacramento, taking the 580 out to the I-5 in the central valley to avoid paying the bridge toll at the Benicia Bridge on the 680 in the north bay.

The last time I was on the Bay Bridge was the day of the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. I was working with my father in construction at the time. We visited a job site in Walnut Creek, crossed the Bay Bridge after lunch to visit a job site in San Francisco, and came home in time for the earthquake. We saw on TV the collapsed section of the Bay Bridge that we drove over hours before, which started the 24 year ordeal to replace the eastern span. The job isn’t done yet: still got bike lanes to add to the western span and the dismantling of the old eastern span over the next few years.

Now talk on the Bay Bridge has shifted to arguing over renaming the western span to the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Bridge. Tim Montemayor of “The Monty Show” screamed over the radio on Saturday that the state legislators gave in to being “blackmailed” by the NAACP, which is pushing to rename the bridge after the former mayor of San Francisco. That’s a bit of stretch even for conspiracy nuts. If you’re naming the bridge after Willie Brown on the western span, name the eastern span after Governor Jerry Brown and call it the Slick Willie/Moonbeam Jerry Bay Bridge.

Let’s shut up about the Bay Bridge and talk about something else for a change. The BART contract negotiations will rear its ugly head when the 60-day cooling off period imposed by the governor expires in October. The union is threatening to have the longest strike since the 1970’s if they don’t get a 23 percent pay increase, and BART management is threatening to run the trains during a strike. Although all the screaming and hollering might get tiresome, no one will be talking about the Bay Bridge outside of the traffic reports.

Watching Joan Jett At The Mountain Winery

Joan Jett Unvarnished 2013I’ve been teasing my friend about going to see K.C. and the Sunshine Band and the Village People at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga next week, as KGO-Radio (810 AM) was giving away tickets for a week (his response was “No!” and “Hell no!” to seeing the 1970’s bands). When I checked the ticket prices, I noticed that Joan Jet & The Blackhearts was playing on Saturday, 9/7, and found a pair of reasonably priced tickets. We didn’t hesitate to see her play this past Saturday.

I was never a big music fan growing up. My older brother and his Fleetwood Mac albums got kicked out of the house when I was still a young child. My mother bought me an old record player and a set of Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley 45’s from the Goodwill Store. My father’s truck only had two radio stations, country and talk. That didn’t help me as a confused teenager in the early 1980’s, listening to the Beatles when everyone else was listening to Michael Jackson, Duran Duran and Boy George. I did pick up Joan Jett’s single at the time, “Crimson & Clover,” but I didn’t become a fan until I heard “Bad Reputation” in the first Shrek movie.

Getting to the Mountain Winery was a special challenge. Although the directions for getting there from the 85 was clear, it was less clear once we got into the mountains above Silicon Valley. We caught the right turn from Highway 9 that was a sharp U-turn on to the road that went past the winery, but missed the similar left turn into the winery that was also a sharp U-turn. That became obvious when I drove past a sheriff cruiser and the uphill drive went downhill from there. After making a wide U-turn at a four-way stop, we drove back through the entrance to start the steep climb with multiple turns on a narrow road. This was rough driving for my 1999 Ford Taurus that caused the engine to overheat and the coolant to boil over.

The Mountain Winery is literally on top of the mountain with a spectacular view of Silicon Valley. More so after the sun goes down and the street lights turn on to surround the tall buildings of downtown San Jose in a brilliant sea of orange street lights. Despite the views, we couldn’t escape the wildlife. Flies aimed for the eyes and nose to lay their eggs. As the evening cooled down, a bat came out to eat the flies. Marijuana smoke and alcohol fumes whiffed through the air.

The opening act was Survival Guide with Emily Whitehurst and Jaycen McKissick. Their music was quite different with a techno beat. Jett dived into a set list that featured a selection of songs from the new album and the classic songs she acknowledged that we all love and know so dearly, performing 18 songs in 90 minutes almost non-stop. The audience was mostly baby boomers who outgrown being young punks. A memorable performance.

Driving While Black In My Apartment Complex

Justice For TrayvonWhile the Trayvon Martin protests took place in a hundred cities over the weekend, I listened to Brian Copeland on KGO Radio. (Sign his MoveOn petition to boycott the state Florida until the “stand your ground” law is repealed.) Like President Barack Obama sharing his experiences of being a young black man in America, he shared of his own experiences from living in the East Bay during the 1970’s.

He dropped his car off at Jiffy Lube and walked over to Tower Records when a van cut him off at the gas station in San Leandro. A white undercover police officer jumped out with a gun, told him get down on the ground, frisked him while pointing the gun at the back of his head, called in his driver license on the radio, and let him go because he had no outstanding warrants.

On another occasion, he helped a white woman moved out of her dorm room. After they got on to the 580 in Oakland, a CHP officer pulled over the van that she drove and asked for his identification. When the officer returned from calling in his driver license info and founding no outstanding warrants, he asked the woman if she was okay and wasn’t under any duress from being with a black man.

An Oakland woman called in with a story about her eight-year-old nephew that also happened in the 1970’s. A neighbor around the corner called over to say that she had a batch of cookies fresh out of the oven. She told her nephew to walk over to pick up the cookies. Of course, he didn’t. A moment later she heard police sirens, ran out of the house and found her nephew in a chokehold by a white police officer. The poor kid pissed his pants from being terrified. She called a police officer she knew to come over to rescue her nephew from being booked in jail for running through the neighborhood.

Some white callers gave Copeland grief for “whining” about being a black man, provoking hatred between the races, and complaining about a problem that wouldn’t exist if black people stopped talking about it. If a black man could be elected President of the United States, most white people think we must live in a post-racial society. The real world doesn’t work that way—at least, not in my neighborhood.

One summer afternoon a few years ago I heard a commotion coming from the parking lot outside and walked out on to my balcony to see what was going on. An older black man stood with his wallet in hand next to his big car in the fire lane, and five San Jose police officers—three whites and two Hispanics—with hands on their holstered guns stood behind three police cars in the parking lot. A traffic stop being made this far back into the apartment complex was unusual. A black man screaming at the cops about driving while black for a half-hour was something else.

Although the SJPD has long denied committing any racial profiling, officers will have to record the race of any person they stop for any reason by the end of the year.

As a white man in California, I can’t ever relate to being a black man. Race isn’t something I think about at all. The only racism I run into as a “minority” technician among Indian engineers is finding only vegetarian pizzas for the catered meetings and special events at my tech job. No pepperoni and sausage for this fat white boy.

The Men’s Wearhouse Guy Is Out Of The Job

When the news broke that George Zimmer of the Men’s Wearhouse—not to be confused with vigilante George Zimmerman who went on trial for murder—got fired from his own company, I couldn’t believe it. I practically grew up on his TV and radio commercials with his signature line, “You’re going to like the way you look—I guarantee it,” over the last 30 years.

However, this is a familiar tale of woe when the founder invites outside investors to put up money and eventually loses control over the company. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I predict that Zimmer will get the board to pay dearly for putting him out to pasture, the board will give itself a raise for getting rid of a troublesome founder, and Wall Street will drive up the stock price.

As for the Men’s Wearhouse customers, there’s always Rochester Big & Tall Clothing.