RACE CARD IN RICHMOND: Richmond City Council meetings have a well-deserved reputation for trashy antics. Police prowl the chamber, ready to snatch away anyone who goes rogue. The mayor routinely gavels recesses to quell disorder, and two council members refuse to even sit next to each other.
The Sept. 11 meeting, which drew more than 400 residents, was par for the course, lasting until nearly 2 a.m. and featuring a litany of outbursts and non sequiturs. One thing that was different was an ugly racial spat among the four black council members. First, longtime leader Nat Bates lashed out at his rivals, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, for trying to appeal to "his community," then he asserted that Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles is "not African-American" (Beckles was born in Panama).
Later, Councilman Corky Boozé went after Councilman Jael Myrick, telling the younger man that "there is going to come a time when you have to be black." Myrick, visibly agitated, responded: "Don't you dare question me on standing up and being black."
After a recess to cool down, Myrick came back again, questioning Boozé's credentials and implying that he is a tool for white, wealthy interests. "You question my blackness, and Beckles' as well, but when we bring up issues for our communities, all (Boozé and Bates) say is, 'What about the Chamber (of Commerce), what about the Council of Industries' ... you don't want to insult the 'massa.'"
Boozé let out a hearty belly laugh.
AN UNEXPECTED STRIP CLUB: The Eye did a double take recently while driving through downtown Antioch and seeing a small sign on a storefront window advertising a "Strip Club Demo."
What surprised the Eye is that the store was Queen B's Quilt Shop -- not exactly where you would expect to see such a sign.
As it turns out, the sign is meant to catch the eye of passers-by and draw them to a Saturday morning quilting class, which has been held once every two months for at least the past five years.
A store employee said recently that the sign outside the Second Street store draws people in to ask about the demonstrations, "especially men, wink."
"There are a lot of people that stop and stare at the sign when walking by. It's turned out to be good marketing," owner Bernie Cabrara joked.
The class includes taking rectangular strips of colorful and coordinated sets of fabric and stitching them into quilts, Cabrara explained.
The next class will be held at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 16.
LEND ME A TENOR: Not everyone has his 21st birthday recognized with "Happy Birthday" sung to him at a national historic site by several hundred people led by a former professional opera singer.
Nolan Richard, of Lafayette, enjoyed that fleeting honor last month in a serendipitous moment.
Richard, a college summer intern with the Muir Heritage Land Trust, was attending the conservation group's annual fundraising dinner in John Muir's old pear orchard in Martinez on Aug. 24.
As he spoke to the audience from a microphone, Linus Eukel, the group's executive director, spotted Richard and exhorted the crowd to join him in the song to celebrate the young man's upcoming birthday.
Of course, the audience obliged.
"It was spontaneous. There is nothing like the joy of singing to bring people together," Eukel explained later. "Our group is a lot like a family, and Nolan did a great job for us as an intern."
Eukel, a former opera tenor who has performed at Carnegie Hall, acknowledged he held back some with his voice to keep the moment informal.
"I hadn't been drinking," Eukel said later with a chuckle. "I never eat or drink when I go on stage."
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME: Spotted on a BART train: Father and son catch BART in the East Bay to catch a Giants game earlier this month in San Francisco. Dad strikes up a conversation with a fellow fan as to what is the best way to get to the ballpark. Fellow fan says it's an easy walk from the BART station, then asks Dad whether his son is allergic to peanuts. Dad says no. Fan tosses the kid a box of Cracker Jack, that perennial ballpark favorite immortalized in a song.
Yes, allergies are important, but it's hard to imagine the subject of peanut allergies being brought up with a box of Cracker Jack way back when.
Staff writers Robert Rogers, Paul Burgarino, Denis Cuff and Eve Mitchell contributed to this column.