Blog

Our New Authoress

by Johanna Leonard
February 2014

On Thursday afternoon, at our lecture series, Conversations at The Lake Merritt, the entire The Lake Merritt community came out to support our very own newly published author, Vilma Vitanza. Vilma has been an integral part of our community since 2012. She has brought and continues to share her energy and verve to our community, especially when she breaks out in song and dances down the hallway.

Vilma and several of her friends entertained us by reading passages from her new book, Fumes and Fine Dust. The story follows Vilma's workplace exposure to brain-damaging toxicity and her efforts to discover what was causing her health issues while working hard to keep her job and self-esteem. It is an intense story, but ultimately uplifting, as Vilma never stopped struggling to get back to the woman she was! She sought and found new ways to restore herself to wholeness: introspection, dancing, singing, and a new relationship with nature.

The story that she wrote surprised us all. But what did not surprise me was when a person in the audience asked how she was able to be so positive when she had such difficulties in her life. I think almost everyone in the room was thinking the same thing. Vilma is so upbeat and fun! Vilma's response was that she was naturally rebellious. No one was gong to tell her what she could ot could not do. Vilma was determined to be positive, and use the philosophy of "mind over matter." She ultimately won.

Vilma, I know I join with our residents in great admiration for you and your struggle to get back to you. You are an amazing person!

 



 

Did You Know?

Lighting Up Oakland
by Johanna Leonard
February 2014

Did you know that there is a "Necklace of Lights" which encircles Lake Merritt? Right outside our door and illuminating the entire lake, the famed Necklace of Lights creates a magical atmosphere for all to enjoy. The necklace was first installed in 1925, complete with 126 lampposts and 3,400 "pearly bulbs" illuminating 3.4 miles of shoreline. The lights were turned off in 1941 during World War II to comply with wartime blackout mandates. In the post-war years, the necklace fell into disrepair. The lights remained off until business leaders of The Lake Merritt Breakfast Club led a campaign to turn the lights back on. Their effort, part of a 10 year beautification campaign for Lake Merritt, brought the Necklace of Lights back to life in 1985. Since then, these beautiful lights illuminate our lakeshore every night from dusk until dawn. On May 3, 1985, the Necklace of Lights was designated an Oakland Landmark.

 



 

Melody Makers at The Lake Merritt

by Johanna Leonard
January 2014

We're happy to announce a new activity at The Lake Merritt - A Choir! One of our residents had requested a choir, and we decided to give it a try. We were not certain whether there would be sufficient interest to develop a choir, but because we embrace resident-driven activities we gave the go-ahead to Ryan, our Programming Coordinator, who is a musician as well.

After a month of choral singing at The Lake Merritt, we now have a consistent base of seven residents who are singing and our group is learning "rounds" and "parts." For those who do not know (which included me until I wrote this) a "round" is a simple melody that one group starts, and then a 2nd and sometimes 3rd group begins later. The same melody overlaps. A "round" is the gateway to singing multiple parts of a song.

Our residents are also rehearsing several songs, including "Coffee Canon," "Mozart's Drinking Song," and "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen.

I may well be biased, but despite the fact that they are a choir-in-training, our residents sound wonderful. Their singing never fails to place a smile on my face, as I walk by the rehearsal room. From their smiles, as they walk out of the choir practice, I see it does the same thing for them. I am not certain that we need to wait for another study to determine that a choir is beneficial to seniors. My best guess is Yes!

 



 

We're ROARING here!

ROAR stands for "Resources for Oakland's Active Retirees (ROAR)"
by Johanna Leonard
January 2014

A brainchild of some incredibly active senior citizens and the Lake Merritt/Uptown Merchant Association, ROAR began modestly as the Senior Citizen Task Force. The goals were to help make the Lake Merritt area accessible and marketable to the neighborhood which includes a large population of older adults.

ROAR began Feet on the Street to let the City of Oakland know where sidewalk trip hazards were located within our neighborhood. The group also put the spotlight on pedestrian crossings which need the City's green light to accommodation people with mobility issues. Feet on the Street now hosts regular senior walks in our area.

ROAR is now working on other ways to bring the senior community together. In partnership with ROAR in late 2013, The Lake Merritt was excited to host its first Passages on the Lake, a sophisticated, spoken word showcase featuring some of the most talented storytellers, writers, and musicians in the Bay Area. On Wednesday, February 19th, ROAR in partnership with The Lake Merritt is hosting its 2nd Passages on the Lake. Admission is free. Those who attend can also enjoy dinner and cocktails in The Terrace Room Restaurant & Bar (located in The Lake Merritt). Passages on the Lake showcases the very cutting edge of an old art in a new medium. For more information on the upcoming Passages on the Lake, check our the complete Public Events Calendar.

Want to learn more" ROAR is in the news. Check out the Oakland Tribune's salute to our newest neighborhood group!

 



 

Holiday Happenings at The Lake Merritt

by Johanna Leonard
December 2013

In early December, The Lake Merritt hosted what has become our Annual Holiday Party. Each year, we invite our residents and their families and friends to bring in the holiday season and the New Year. This year we celebrated the holiday season with food and wine, and delicious home-made swan puffs and 3D gingerbread sculptures by our own Kitchen Supervisor Todd Fisher. We were all thrilled to see how our community has grown - We had over 130 people!

During dinner, one of our residents, Warner Obendoerfer, lit the 5th candle in celebration of Hanukkah, and sang the traditional candlelighting blessing. Then, after dinner, we adjourned to the lobby to imbibe in eggnog and coffee, listen to the tinklings of Rodney Bell on the piano, and decorate the Christmas tree. A great time was had by all!

It was a great way to start December, but in no way, have the holiday adventures slowed down. Our residents went to Hertz Hall at the University of California, Berkeley, to listen to Handel's "Messiah," and also enjoyed the "A Chanticleer Christmas" concert held in Berkeley. The Middle School Choir from the Oakland School of the Arts visited our community and treated us to a wonderful holiday performance. And we are still not done....on the agenda is Oakland's own "The Nutcracker" ballet at the Paramount Theater, the Solstice celebration "Christmas Revels," and a scenic drive down Christmas Lane to see the pretty holiday lights.

Holidays at The Lake Merritt are a wonderful time when we are surrounded by family and friends. Our community is blessed to have that in abundance. Happy Holidays!!

 



 

TLM Restaurant's Big Band is on SF Chronicle's Front Page!

by Johanna Leonard
December 2013

The Terrace Room, where our residents and area diners enjoy great meals, is the gathering site of top-notch musicians who love to play big band music. Featured on the front page of this week's San Francisco Chronicle, The Chops Big Band is made up of 18 musicians who bring the music of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and others to life for dining and dancing at the Terrace Room.

The Lake Merritt residents Hank Lewis and Vilma Vitanza are always the first on the dance floor. "The music just immediately makes me come to life," Vilma says. "Hank and I both just love to dance."

Hank added, "I'm a classical music fan, and there's a lot of live music here at The Lake Merritt- duos, trios and the like, but we absolutely love the monthly big band music. It's truly unique! Along with other residents, we have dinner and are part of the early crowd."

"Last season, the band gave us an award because we are always the first couple to take to the dance floor. The leader said we were 'Couple Number One,' and so the musicians gave us a gigantic trophy they picked up at a yard sale!" Hank exclaimed.

"This is the kind of thing that makes The Lake Merritt so special," said owner Randall Berger. "With our public restaurant, our residents experience the blending of generations and cultures. The Chops Big Band continues a great tradition of the Terrace Room, where wonderful musical artists, including The Count Basie Band, played as the centerpiece of Oakland's nightlife."

"We're so happy that the musicians of The Chops Big Band call the Terrace Room home," Randall Berger said. "For our residents, The Lake Merritt is an intimate place, but we're doing big music here!"

Enjoy the news story - Playing' the swing shift with Chops Big Band. Photograph by Ruel Cordero.

 



 

Cal Band Makes Some Noise

by Johanna Leonard, Executive Director
November 2013

A few Mondays ago, the Band from the University of California, Berkeley visited us at The Lake Merritt. What fun! Our own Programming Coordinator Ryan Wilcox made it happen. When the Band came through the door, he grabbed his trusty saxophone, jumped in, and played along. (If you did not know before, now you know that TLM's Ryan is a Cal Band Alumnae with great connections!)

With their straw hats, zany outfits and let's-have-fun attitude, it was a true delight for our residents to experience a performance from acclaimed masters of brass! The Band played Cal Fight songs, such as Fight for California and Big C, among others. They also played some popular tunes from Santana and Journey. The performance was loved by all.

The Lake Merritt boasts many University of California Alumni, and the Band's visit was just one of Cal-oriented activities that we've arranged. Our residents went to the Cal vs. Arizona football game last weekend to root on the Bears.

The performance was a real treat for our residents (as well as our staff) as it brought back memories for one and all. One of our residents said the performers were "wild...such goofballs that it was delight to watch." GO BEARS!

 



 

Introducing our New Programming Coordinator

by Johanna Leonard, Executive Director
November 2013

The Lake Merritt is excited to introduce our new Programming Coordinator to you. Meet Ryan Wilcox. Ryan assumed the Programming Coordinator position in mid-September and he has already made a big difference to our community.

In the short time he has been on staff, he has added new activities to our calendar. One of them is "Dining at the Spanish Table." Several residents had expressed the desire to practice their Spanish and Ryan set it up. All residents are welcome to come to The Terrace Room Restaurant & Bar on Wednesday nights to enjoy dinner at a special table where they may only speak Spanish. All must order in Spanish and speak in Spanish. Diners are even served by a Spanish-speaking server. It is great fun! Last week, we had 10 residents come down to participate.

In addition, Ryan has also amped up our musicial activities. There are more outings to musical events on the calendar and Ryan himself is helping the new Lake Merritt choir as they practice between their more structured semi-monthly sessions.

Ryan is not new to our community. Prior to working for The Lake Merritt, Ryan was a caregiver for ResCare Home Care, one of our preferred partners for home care. He has been a familar face to our many residents in his work at The Lake Merritt over the past few years. Previously, Ryan facilitated a weekly discussion group about health and philosophy-oriented issues titled "Rappin' with Ryan," which he has continued to lead. With all this experience, Ryan hit the ground running and has not stopped.

Ryan has been involved in helping others for some time. His first job, after graduating UC Berkeley, was working for AmeriCorps as a teacher. He then worked at an elementary school in a low-income neighborhood and later as a counselor in a group home for emotionally disturbed teenage boys.

Ryan lives in Oakland. He loves music and goes to many concerts, ranging from classical to world music and beyond. He is a SF Giants fan, but he does support the Oakland A's. We will have to work on changing his allegiance with baseball. No one can be perfect!

 



 

Itsy Bitsy Spiders and More

by Johanna Leonard, Executive Director
October 2013

The Lake Merritt has a weekly Lecture Series titled "Conversations at The Lake Merritt," which is free and open to the public. We invite individuals and groups to come in and talk about a specific topic or book or their business. It's been great! We've heard from Oakland's own poets during readings from a women's salon, listened to today's political figures, plus we've enjoyed health and educational medical presentations from Alta Bates Summit's doctors, plus we've had fun with local comedians who have made us laugh (early in the afternoon!) and much more.

This past Thursday, we invited Eddie Dunbar of the Insect Museum of California to speak to our residents. Previously, we enjoyed presentations from the animal caretakers of the Oakland Zoo and it was a big hit!! So, I thought, "Hmm, maybe someone will be interested in learning about the insects around Lake Merritt?" I have to admit that it sounded good to me at the moment, but I second guessed myself from day one. I had serious doubts that anyone would come.

Eddie Dunbar

Well, imagine my surprise, when I walked in the room to see how many people were present. There were over 20 people in the audience enraptured by Eddie. We learned about the over 144 insects that live around Lake Merritt. His pictures of insects were so high resolution as to be simply spectacular! My second surprise was that our audience was not just watching; but afterwards they were chatting it up with Eddie - sharing about camping trips and hikes, and the many insects that they have seen during their lifetime. "Conversations" last week turned out to be a bug-lover's convention! Lady Bug

Eddie Dunbar's love of insects really shined through and brought everyone along for the ride. Eddie, thank you for a wonderful presentation. To all of you who have never heard of the Insect Museum of California, you can learn a lot more at www.bugpeople.org.

 



 

Picture This!

by Randall Berger, Owner
September 2013

I have had the pleasure of seeing many of Bob Lustig's watercolors since he moved into The Lake Merritt from his long-time hom ein Montclair earlier this year. Bob's artwork is influenced by his many years as an accomplished Bay Area architect.

Some of my favorite pieces of artwork are Bob's interpretation of the stunning beauty of the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel-by-the-Sea and the historic Spanish Missions. It is a magical place that Bob Lustig has loved and also one that my family has treasured for many years. Bob's Carmel watercolors got us to talking about art and started our friendship.

Today, in his 80s, Bob is still being commissioned to create pictorial representations and construction drawings of Bay Area buildings. In fact, because of how effective he is with water and paints, he has a special talent that translates the look and feel of a three-dimensional building into a two-dimensional painting.

This gave me an idea. Given the historic nature of our building, I asked Bob to consider creating a watercolor for us. I know he has a lot going on, but I asked if he minded doing a painting for me sometime. I suggested that there was no rush. He could choose the perspective and composed it the way he would like.

The painting is done! I am thrilled with the result which is pictured here. Visit the lobby of our building and soon you will have a chance to view the artwork up close. Check out the piece and notice the special touches - the beauty of the sky and the attention to small details, including the shadows on the windows. I hope you enjoy this piece of art as much as I do!

 



 

Font size: