Tiki bar pulls thousands of dollars from ceiling and walls, donates it

It started innocently enough. A single dollar bill was pinned to the ceiling of a tiki bar in California — with a tiny paper umbrella, no less. That lone bill soon inspired many more.

For over 10 years now, patrons of Forbidden Island, a popular tiki lounge in the island city of Alameda, have been leaving legal tender suspended above their rum-filled cocktails. Using their drink's umbrellas, or swizzle sticks, the bar's customers stick the cash up, but not before they decorate it in some way. Some pen their name and the date, while others get more elaborate and make their offering a rectangular piece of art.

It's become such a popular pastime, the bar keeps a bucket of markers and unused umbrellas for those who want to leave their mark.

But it recently got out of control, at least in the eyes of my pal Michael Thanos, the bar's owner. He invited me down to get the whole story.

"There was simply no more room to put the money in the ceiling," Thanos told me. "So people started sticking money all over the place," motioning to the Lauhala-matted walls and tapa-covered light fixtures.

"It was just too much."

Before (photo by Alex T./Yelp) and during (photo by Michael Thanos)

So, in October, he and his staff spent an entire day carefully pulling the cash off of everything.

It was a bigger job than they had first realized. As it neared opening time, they had to stuff the cash in four big garbage bags to deal with at later time. Read the rest

Bob Ross couple's costume and other Halloween night surprises in my neighborhood

This Bob Ross "painted" happy little trees onto their partner's face all evening.

I've lived in Alameda, California going on 10 years now and I'm always surprised by what I see on Halloween night — it's a real circus! Each year, thousands of revelers head to my neighborhood in the Fernside district to trick or treat. And my neighbors go all out with decorations, costumes and candy. I've heard from friends in the busier parts of the neighborhood that it's easy to hand out over 1,000 pieces of candy in that one night.

This year I decided to document the madness. Here's what I captured.

This giant faux spider dropped down from a tree to frighten folks.

I didn't end up making it to this "Haunted Cave" but I sure do love its sign.

There was a line of people with kids waiting to get photo opps with this pretend Goofy.

I saw many Jack O'Lanterns, including this toothy one.

Two years ago was when I first spotted a couple of vendors selling light-up toys. Now, they're everywhere and they've graduated from small push carts to actual tables.

This was the first year I saw vendors selling hot dogs and sausages. Business was brisk. (A neighborhood friend reports that he's seen them in other parts of our 'hood in past years._

This family must dig Shakespeare.

Every year, this family truly brings it. This year their display contained a fire element in the pirate ship's cannon.

This skeletal pirate and his gold were on the other side of the lawn, behind the ship. Read the rest

So much great vintage Halloween stuff at my local flea market this month

I love a good flea market. Even though I don't really collect anymore (I make exceptions for extraordinary items), I love seeing what weird, old stuff is out there. Here where I live in Alameda, California, on the first Sunday of every month, there is a massive vintage and antiques sale with over 800 dealers. The most recent Alameda Point Antiques Faire was this past Sunday and many vendors brought out their vintage Halloween wares. Here's a look at some of the old-fashioned paper trick-or-treat bags, plastic kiddie costumes, ephemera, blow molds, and other fun seasonal items I spotted out there.

This E.T. Halloween costumes deserves a special shout-out -- it's 100% handmade with love!

Sexy Darth Vader!

If you go: The best time to arrive to the Alameda Point Antiques Faire, in my opinion, is at 7:30 a.m. when the price drops from $15 to $10. Yes, at 9 a.m., it drops to $5 but then it starts getting crowded and/or hot. Children under 15 are free with an adult. There is tons of parking and a free shuttle if you end up at the back of the enormous lot.

Pro-tips:Wear a sun hat, sunglasses, and comfortable shoes (my Fitbit tells me I clock in around 15,000 steps!). Also pack a water bottle and a snack, though you can also purchase food and beverages. Bring small bills and negotiate for what you want. The faire closes at 3:00 p.m., so that's when big deals start happening (the vendors have been there since around 4:00 a.m. Read the rest

Beach Toy Library: Borrow a sand toy, leave a sand toy

There have been all kinds of neat alt-libraries, places where you can check out things other than books. There are ones for tools, American Girl dolls, and musical instruments (and undoubtedly lots more).

Here in Alameda, at the entrance of a charming estuary on the west end of town called Crab Cove, there's a Beach Toy Library. You can "check out" a sand-friendly toy to play with out of the wooden box, or leave one that you found. I love the spirit of this but given the condition of the toys in the box, I suggest people leave some new toys they "find" at the store.

photos by Rusty Blazenhoff

(I Love Alameda) Read the rest

A mini boat you can build yourself with zip ties and epoxy

Your dreams of captaining your own tiny-but-shiny electric boat are about two grand and a fair amount of elbow grease away.

Donald Bell (previously) of Maker Project Lab shared Rapid Whale's Mini Boat with me yesterday and I'm already sourcing a captain's hat.

The Mini Boat is a kit you can buy for $950 and then assemble with cable ties and epoxy. No, really, look...

It'll cost you another $510 to $1140 to complete it. From there, it's all smooth sailing.

photos by Rapid Whale Read the rest

Some trick-or-treaters will get a Trump University 'degree' for Halloween

Dan and Cathy Balsam of Alameda, California are putting the "trick" back in trick-or-treating by handing out fake Trump University diplomas this Halloween. You may remember this same couple is behind the "world's scariest Halloween decor." Read the rest

The world's scariest Halloween lawn decor: 'A Very Very Trump Halloween'

Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood in Alameda, California is "A Very Very Trump Halloween," a lawn display that may well be the world's scariest.

The decor is the brilliant creation of Alamedans Cathy and Dan Balsam who shared, "These decorations are the scariest thing we could possibly think of."

What makes their lawn decor so spooky?

Well, it features an all-star monstrous cast of the ghouliest of all ghouls in American politics.

Like...

Turtle man Mitch McConnell...

Putrid undead Pence...

The ever-grim Steve Bannon...

Dark puppetmaster Vladimir Putin...

(Skeleton Putin riding a horse skeleton is a nice touch on that one.)

Scary Steven Mnuchin...

The eerily-silent Sarah Huckabee Sanders...

Brainless Ben Carson...

Melancholy Melania Trump...

The resemblances are spooky, aren't they?! And, there's lots more frightening faces here.

"A Very, Very Trump Halloween," indeed.

photos by Rusty Blazenhoff

Previously: 'Fuck Trump' projected on a building in California's 'Mayberry by the Bay' Read the rest

'Fuck Trump' projected on a building in California's 'Mayberry by the Bay'

On Tuesday night, the words "FUCK TRUMP," as well as other political statements, were projected on the Odd Fellows building on Park Street in Alameda, Calfornia.

I live in Alameda, and have for many years.

It's a beautiful, quiet island suburb wedged between San Francisco and Oakland. Our public schools are highly rated and it's known as a safe place to raise kids.

In fact, my friend Sunny jokingly coined it the place "where hipsters come to breed," which is funny because it's true. That bumper sticker already exists.

We have a grand Art Deco movie theatre, a world-famous tiki lounge, and a Fourth of July parade that can make the most disaffected feel a tinge of patriotism.

Life moves a bit slower here, literally. The speed limit is 25 MPH on nearly all of the island, a throwback to when the island had a military presence.

Alameda is so quaint that it earned the apt nickname, "Mayberry by the Bay."

We have our issues, though it has felt as if our sheltered bubble had become remarkably unpoppable until the past couple of years.

Still, it was a surprise to see such powerful words broadcast publicly on our main drag. And it wasn't just "Fuck Trump" being featured, there was a whole slideshow of messages with a distinct "Resist" bent. I'm not complaining, it was simply something I'd more expect to see in one of our other, more politically-active, East Bay cities like Berkeley.

A photo and a video of the projections were posted in several closed Facebook groups created for Alameda residents, as well as in the public-facing Resistance SF Facebook page. Read the rest