their own words
I was born in Canada.
My family is from Trentino-Alto Adige , the region above Veneto in the
mountains. I worked for many years in Venice as a tour guide. Many of
my friends were gondoliers and they taught me how to row.
Gondolas in California
go back to 1919 in Venice Beach, California. Giovanni Scarpa, brought
two gondolas to Venice Beach. We chose Lake Merritt because it’s a
beautiful place with a beautiful ring of lights at night, and the
saltwater is better than fresh for the wooden boats. The City of
Oakland’s been very friendly and helped us start by not charging us
too much rent plus giving us storage space and office space, a dock to
use, very, very kind.
My wife, April Quinn,
and I run the business. We have about ten gondoliers to row our four
gondolas from Venice. When we shipped them from Venice, we had extra
space in each of the containers so we added small Venetian boats too.
With these four boats, we’ve created a small Venetian rowing club,
open to anyone that’s interested in rowing Venetian style.
What we primarily do
is we do romantic tours. It’s $55 for two people for an hour ride or
$65 if you want to include a little antipasto which we get from a
local Italian deli here in Oakland, cheese, crackers, olives and
fruits, salami, chocolate. It’s very nice. We’re open 7 days a
week from 10 a.m. to Midnight by reservation.
Oakland really has
some of the best weather in the Bay Area so it stays really nice. We
have mostly night charters. They like to go out and see the lights. It’s
more romantic and intimate. We have lanterns on the boats. Sometimes
people get carried away?
Good gondoliers shade
their eyes. People choose us for all amorous affairs – proposals,
We always sing on the
tours, even though the gondoliers in Venice don’t. The two most
common misconceptions about gondolas in Venice is that they’re poled
instead of rowed and that gondoliers are entertainers. But we sing
traditional songs from Venice or other Neapolitan favorites.
I worked as a tour
guide in Italy, doing walking and bicycle tours and cooking school
tours in northern and central Italy. I grew up in Canada, graduated
high school and went to university in Perugia in central Italy and in
Waterloo in Canada. I studied Renaissance Drama, in particular Italian
theatre, and the Commedia Dell’Arte.
combining what you learned about theatre with what you learned as a
As a tour guide, I
read lots of poetry and entertained clients. Now I entertain clients
on the gondola instead. The real Venice is the boats, the rowing, the
history, the Serene Republic – Serenisima, the old name for Venice.
Serenisima means very serene.
For more information,
568 Bellevue Ave.
Oakland, CA 94610
Engineering and Maintenance, Port of San Francisco
I was born in Hong
Kong. I came here in 1969 when I was almost 11 years old on the SS
President Wilson. I landed in San Francisco at Pier 50 Shed D, which
is where the Maintenance Department is now. I remember getting off the
ship and wanting to buy a Coca-Cola. The machine at that time was 20
cents and I had no concept of what a quarter was. This is one of the
few countries I think that has a quarter coin. In Hong Kong, we had
five cents, ten cents, and twenty cents. So that was my first
I never left the San
Francisco area. I graduated from Lowell High School in 1975. I did a
few years at City College, two years at San Jose State, and graduated
with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering in 1980. I worked for the Navy
for three years as a civilian engineer.
I responded to a
posting for Industrial Engineers at the Airport; I had always wanted
to work for the airport. My father had worked for PanAm. My mom had
worked as a hostess at one of the airport restaurants. I took the exam
and placed in the top 3 but I did not get the job. Low and behold one
day, this big white haired fellow showed up at my front door from the
Port of San Francisco, Duke Edwards. He was the superintendent of
maintenance at that time. He was looking for industrial engineers and
he went out of his way to persuade me to come to the Port. I talked
with him, came down, and they offered me the job as Operations
Superintendent at the Maintenance Department. So that was the
beginning of my Port of San Francisco career.
I was an industrial
engineer for two years, and became a line manager in 1985. Back in 90,
I was offered a job as General Superintendent - Ways and Structures at
Muni. I went from supervising twenty people to supervising two hundred
and twenty people. I was 33: I wanted the challenge. My fourth year
there, they said, "Alex, why don’t you take over cable
cars?" I said, "Do I get more money?" They said,
"No." I took over running the cable car system, which I
loved. The system is an engineer’s dream, with plenty of motors,
gears, and controls to keep an engineer busy. A large majority of the
people that ride the cable cars are happy, which was a contrast to the
other mode of transport Muni was providing at the time.
I was glad to return
to the Port. I am responsible for the maintenance, engineering and
design, building code enforcement, construction management, and
project management of all the Port properties. The Engineering and
Maintenance department is the largest department of the Port, with
over half of its employees, about 135 in all. The maintenance crews
are located at Pier 50D. One of my first jobs coming back to the Port
four years ago was relocating the Maintenance Department from Pier 46B
so that the Giants’ baseball stadium could be built.
The Maintenance group
maintains 7.5 miles of waterfront. The department has over 15 craft
skill, from electricians to roofers. Among our responsibilities are
1145 steel roller curtain door throughout the waterfront to worry
about, 2.5 million square feet of roofing, 635,000 feet of fencing,
90,000 piles, 80,000 light fixtures, and 42 pumping stations.
Altogether over 645 acres and 4 million square feet under roof.
The Engineering group
provides construction and project management services for projects
such as, Hyde Street Harbor, Downtown Ferry Terminal, and China Basin
My philosophy is that
my department is here to serve the Port of San Francisco. Our core
values are Customer Service, Fast & Flexible, and Continuous
Improvement. The Port can buy the services we provide elsewhere.
However, if we provide a better service and at a good price, why would
the Port go anywhere else?
I do not know if
everyone I work with now is as happy as the folks that rode the cable
cars are, but I hope so. I’d say if you talk to the people who I
support – the property managers, the wharfingers, and our customers
– I think they’re satisfy with the services the Maintenance and
Engineering groups are providing to the Port. That is what they tell
me at least.
Rosenblum Cellars Winery
I admit that it’s a
little bit unusual place to have a winery in Alameda, but then we had
an unusual start. This was my hobby back many years ago and my
veterinary job was my business. Now it’s kind of reversed. That
business is my hobby and this is my main business.
Being a winemaker, you
need to be very close to your product and I live here in Alameda. As
it turns out, it’s not a bad place to be because it’s central to
all the vineyards that we utilize, all the way from Mendocino to Napa,
Sonoma, Contra Costa, down to Santa Barbara.
We started in 1978 in
a little place called the Deadend Bar in Oakland. It was a little dive
bar joint between two houses of ill repute and Amtrak. The rent was
$125 a month. We made our first 400 cases there and the interesting
thing is that everybody thought we were just as illegal as they were
so nobody broke in. We were part of the crowd. We stayed there until
1982 and then we moved to Emeryville. I had to commute from Alameda to
Emeryville every noontime to check on the wines and again in the
evening, a little longer commute. In ’87, we moved over here into
one end of the old shipyard building.
The neat thing about
our building is that before it was used as a shipyard it was for many
years the place that the trains serving the ferry system were
repaired. And today we look right on the Alameda Gateway Ferry
We started out making
what we liked, zinfandel, chardonnay and Johannesburg riesling. We
started out with 400 cases in’78. We’re about 80,000 right now, of
cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, mouvedra. We also make a nice
selection of white wines – chardonnay, voignier. We’re doing a
marsanne and we’ve got a cuvee blanc. We also have desert wines,
Muscat, a couple different kinds of port, a late harvest voignier,
which has been brought in at about 40% sugar. That of course has a
residual sugar of about 15%.
We just love it when
folks take the ferry over to visit us. A lot of times people show up
here to go to the Hornet. They don’t realize the Hornet is about two
miles away so they come here and we call them a taxi. The Ferry’s
been an asset that I think could be utilized even more. .
You know, from where
we are you can see San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate.
When I talk to people, I tell them we have the best view of San
Francisco of any winery in California. It doesn’t make the wine any
better but it’s something unusual.
For more information:
2900 Main St.
Alameda, CA 94501
Open daily from Noon
to 5 for tasting, 8 to 6 for business. Watch for three open houses
every year featuring 30-35 wines to try with food and music. A
newsletter is available upon request.