Monday, October 16, 2017

Downtown Organisms

By C.J. Hirschfield

During a lunch break last week, I had the opportunity to view, up close, the gonads of a flatworm. How could I pass that up?

When I was young, I dreamed of being a naturalist. So when the California Center for Natural History sent an e-mail describing a “Pop-Up Aquarium” within walking distance of Fairyland, I jumped at the opportunity.

Here was their pitch:

“Come see all of the wonderful critters that call the waters of Lake Merritt home. During the summer months Oakland’s jewel blooms with all sorts of exciting marine organisms ranging from bat rays to shrimp!”

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Teddy Bear's Tattoo

By C.J. Hirschfield

Oakland resident Phil Wong, 27, is an actor, educator, musician, and comic. He’s also a featured performer in Fairyland’s latest Theatre for the Very Young (TVY) production, “Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” Until the show opened, Phil hadn’t been at Fairyland since he was very young himself. So we were surprised to notice that he sports a tattoo of our Magic Key on his arm.

Clearly, he had come home.

Phil Wong's Magic Key tattoo.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Help Make a Butterfly

By C.J. Hirschfield

Around this time last year, it felt like Fairyland was running a drug operation. Dozens of people would come to our door and say that Jackie sent them; they were here to pick up the plants. 

The plants weren’t marijuana, they were milkweed – the food that monarch caterpillars need to undergo their dramatic transformation into butterflies.


Our scores of volunteers helped us find and treat monarch eggs and milkweed to prevent against disease, fostered the caterpillars at home (1,200 last year), and then released them near our park.

Well, it’s that time again, and Fairyland horticulturist Jackie Salas is sending out the word: Lake Merritt monarchs need your help! Do you have what it takes?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dear Dear Meg

By C.J. Hirschfield

Hers is the first obituary I’ve ever seen that includes the word “poop.” She would have loved it.

For three decades, Meg Zweiback helped our community’s families with young children solve problems with – as the SFGate obit puts it – “poop, sleep, siblings, schools, and everyday life.” She left us on Sept. 9, when she finally lost a yearlong battle with leukemia.

Meg Zweiback with Charley and stuffed animals.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Night of the Magical Popcorn

By C.J. Hirschfield

Fairyland’s final sleepover of the summer season on Aug. 19 was a sell-out. By sunset, 164 happy guests had arrived, set up their tents in our meadow, and prepared for an evening of family fun. Dinner was served, the rides were all operating, and my team was setting up for the 8 p.m. puppet show and 9 p.m. live performance. Our volunteers had rolled out the popcorn machine and were preparing to make popcorn for the shows. All was going well.

And then, the unthinkable: The popcorn machine failed. No popping kernels. No irresistible aroma of freshly popped corn.

Imagine it: You’re responsible for 164 guests who expected to be treated to one of life’s great pleasures – enjoying popcorn during a show. We’d made a promise, and it looked like we wouldn’t be able to keep it.

But this is Fairyland, after all. Magic happens here on a regular basis, and magic is what occurred that night.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Where There's a Will...

By C.J. Hirschfield

When Will Lewis was about 2 years old, he discovered the joy of puppets. His parents were indulgent – his dad built him a little stage for his productions – but they assumed that his interest was “just a phase.”

“It obviously wasn’t,” says the well-spoken Will, who is now 13 and will premiere his puppet version of “The Frog Prince” at Fairyland’s Puppet Fair Aug. 26 and 27. It will be his first full theatrical production. We can’t wait.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eating the Impossible

By C.J. Hirschfield

A classic dry martini, a retro wedge salad with bleu cheese, and a burger. That’s what I enjoyed for dinner after a tough day last week. Something old, something new. The “new” was that my burger was the highly-touted “Impossible Burger,” the disruptive vegan patty that will soon be manufactured by Impossible Foods in East Oakland, providing up to 80 new jobs. I enjoyed my meal at KronnerBurger on Piedmont Ave.; the burger is also on the menu at Umami Burger in Uptown.

Impossible Burger had been in the news last week. The New York Times reported that the Food and Drug Administration, which had been asked by Impossible Burger to confirm that the patty’s secret sauce was safe for human consumption, had “expressed concern.” The sauce is made from soy leghemoglobin – “heme” for short – which is found naturally in soybean plant roots and created in the company’s laboratory.