Amblin' Alameda: Pancakes

Amblin' Alameda: Pancakes

Morton Chalfy

Sunday morning, we ate pancakes. We ate them in the downstairs hall of the Elks Lodge along with several hundred neighbors in support of the unfortunate victims of the Park Street-area fires. Seated at a table tucking into a pancake stack, we had a good post for observing the people of Alameda and I must say, they're (we're) an impressive group.

The room - and it's a large room - was filled with people greeting one another, smiling, chatting, encouraging and generally giving off a community vibe. And Alameda is a community. The support for the victims is just another in the roll call of community causes that draw Alamedans together. We may be more homogenous than other communities nearby, but our homogeneity is more of the attitude kind than the ethnic one. Regardless of ethnicity or income, Alamedans share a love of community and a feeling of community that bursts into sight whenever an acute need is identified.

Volunteers: That's what an event like the pancake breakfast takes - and there were volunteers aplenty. In a twist possibly peculiar to Alameda (though maybe not), many families volunteered as a unit, judging from the number of young people who so assiduously bused the tables and refilled pitchers and restocked cups. Other volunteers cooked the food, served it up and generally made the event flow smoothly along.

We are living in the heart of one of the country's major metro areas - major in population and really major in the concentration of technical and economic power. We deal with many of the urban ills of our time: long commutes, heavy traffic and a housing market that is clearly out of control. In Alameda we are hashing out our slice of each of those difficult problems and contending with each other over development, the traffic it will presumably bring and the effect it will have on our local housing market, so we are not immune from the general situation. But we are still a community. We still care about each other. Our leaders are still servants, and we can still be counted on to lend a helping hand no matter what side of what controversy we may be on.

It's rare that we have a chance to experience community in this way, rare that positive social feelings are engendered and expressed so clearly and commendable that the people of Alameda can pull this sort of event off with the ease and grace and cooperation from all parts of town that it does. Even the politicians who came to volunteer kept their presences strictly apolitical, a real sign of a civilized person. A community is a difficult structure to cobble together, depending as it does on getting multiple individuals to share a single set of ideas about its form and function. We should be grateful that we live in one.

Anyone who missed Sunday's breakfast but still wishes to contribute aid to the fire victims may donate online to American Red Cross Bay Area Disaster Services, at http://www.redcross.org/ca/san-francisco.