Category Archives: PTA election

Livin’ in the Mo(raga), or It’s Getting Real in the TJ Maxx Parking Lot

Where I live, in Oakland California, when you say something is “through the tunnel,” it really means you are saying, “in a galaxy far, far, away.”  Through the tunnel has implications. 

I’m not knocking the ‘burbs here, but we Oaklanders had many adjustments to make to our new situation in Moraga, a place that still calls itself a “town,” which is where we settled, temporarily, while we planned the rebuilding of our home.

One road in, one road out. The kids call it “Boraga”

The adjustment to living in the Mo didn’t just have to do with our being displaced after the fire and finding ourselves bereft of  all our familiar touchstones…it also had to do with learning to let go a little in the suburban environment. For example, the older kids could ride their bikes or walk to the library, to the local shopping center, and to the lovely park in the middle of town. We went to see fireworks at the park on the 4th of July, and even held one of James’s birthday parties there. But the best part of living in the town of Moraga was…the parking!
I swear to god, free parking everywhere. And lots of it. If I was looking for a silver lining, this was it.

Nice, right?

You could park at the grocery store. Or the take-out pizza place, or the Baskin Robbins, or the TJ Maxx or the deli or the hardware store. Right in front!  No meters, no restrictions, no street sweeping on the second Monday, no circling the block and praying for your parking karma to kick in. Just wide open spaces everywhere you looked.

However, there were a few things lacking in the bucolic town of Moraga. One weekend, I took my kids to the San Francisco Fair. It was held at the plaza in front of City Hall. There were, among other things, men wearing leather pants. Didn’t see much of that in our town.
There was a distinct lack of diversity on those tree-lined streets and in the places we shopped and had lunch and checked out books. After living in Berkeley and Oakland for many years, I felt cut off from the vitality of cities where everyone didn’t look so much…alike.
We drove the kids to school back in our old neighborhood–a distance of around ten miles each way. The freeway I took to get to Oakland forced me to drive past the barren hills every day, but the payoff was getting that breathtaking view of the Bay and the city. Every time I came through the tunnel, heading west, and got that sweeping panorama of the Golden Gate, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, the city skyline…I could feel my shoulders relax and my breath come easier.


Even with the blackened landscape on either side, seeing all of that gave me hope– and helped me get through another tough day of meetings, phone calls, list making and schlepping.

Ooooh! I missed seeing the fog too…

This video (who knew you could find this sort of thing?) is a much longer journey than the one I took during my round trips between Moraga and Oakland–and it’s following traffic going in an easterly direction…but the important thing to notice is how, twenty years later, there are trees and houses in the hills over and around the entrance to the tunnel. In 1991, the scorched moonscape stretched across 1520 acres.

Fasten your seatbelts, please. 

I did not drive this fast, by the way.

Madam President: The Storm Before the Storm

I imagine the smoke-filled room: a group of fat cats sit around a table. Their shirt sleeves are rolled up, they puff on stumpy cigars, their foreheads are slick with sweat. It’s getting late; the hours tick by while the discussion gets heated. Voices get louder and the shouted comments are laced with profanity. FistsContinue Reading