Salt Room Therapy On Shifty Ground

–Published in The Los Angeles Times health section on August 2, 2010–

It’s 1 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon, and Heidi Kling is reading in an all-white room. She’s shoeless, but socks protect her feet from the 6 inches of salt that cake the floor. The only objects in the windowless room are four chaise longues and hand-molded plaster icicles that hang from the ceiling. If there were a Yeti in the room, you would swear you were on the Matterhorn at Disneyland.

Normally, Kling would be at work or running errands, but today her allergies, which cause her ears to ring, have brought her to this monochrome sanctuary.

Basking in salt rooms, also known as halotherapy, is an alternative therapy for people with chronic respiratory and skin problems that is modeled after the salt caves and spas that originated in Eastern Europe more than 200 years ago. In the last decade, the trend has caught on, and facilities have opened up in Israel, Canada, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Florida and, most recently, Encino, home of the Salt Chalet, the first salt room treatment center on the West Coast.

But though salt rooms may be garnering fans, health experts are leery of the medicinal benefits that these rooms are purported to provide. Stories about miraculous recoveries and unprecedented health improvements are all over the Web, said Dr. Dean Schraufnagel, professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. That doesn’t guarantee they’re true. “There haven’t been any clinical studies that research this particular therapy method,” he says.

Tucked away in a shady corner on the second floor of Encino Commons, an outdoor shopping center most notable for cameos in the movie “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” the Salt Chalet is hardly noticeable in the shadow of a Bed, Bath & Beyond and a Bally Total Fitness center.

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Can Yungcloud Replace SoundCloud As The Next Major Music Streaming Site?

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It happened overnight.

On May 6, Jude Mc and Marcellus “MFK” Marcy, roommates in Los Angeles, were hanging out in their Koreatown apartment and ruminating on the current state of music streaming platform SoundCloud and the changes the site’s Berlin-based founders might make next.

Since 2014, SoundCloud has rolled out a number of additions, revamps, and policy changes to what was once the Wild West of music streaming and sharing. When the site launched in 2007, it was a place where half-finished demos, bootlegs, and copyright-infringed remixes could be uploaded and shared freely. Now that copyright infringements are staunchly patrolled, songs — and sometimes entire playlists — are regularly nixed from the site.

In the beginning, SoundCloud was free. Today, it offers paid subscription plans ranging from $38 per year to more than $100, and caps non-subscription users’ uploadable content. A continuous play feature that slips in “featured” songs has been added (unlike YouTube’s autoplay feature, it cannot be turned off), and the site has been rebranded to appeal more to listeners rather than the artists and producers who upload content in the first place.

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A Neighborhood Reawakens

The East Bay Express

Caffe Nonna on the corner of Bancroft Avenue.

Caffe Nonna on the corner of Bancroft Avenue.

Few people, if any, refer to the crossroads of Bancroft and Fairfax Avenues in East Oakland as the Bancroft-Fairfax Business District—and yet, there’s a sign at the intersection designating it as such.  Most people know it by one of its older names, like Antique Row or Antique Alley, even though the last antique shop closed down about two decades ago.  Since then, the district has struggled to reinvent itself.  In the early 2000’s, hair salons and barbershops were the main industry and the rest of the neighborhood was pocked with empty storefronts.

Fast-forward to today, and these dark ages are but a distant memory. The Bancroft Fairfax Business District is experiencing a comeback as a shopping destination. The economy is thriving and nary a storefront is vacant. In the last year, six new businesses, among them a clothing store, a café, a coffee shop and tattoo parlor, have opened and the neighborhood’s first-ever Merchant’s Watch Association was formed. A skincare salon is slated to open this summer, and plans for a parking lot, fitness center, and multi-unit live/work space are underway. The neighborhood still has a ways to go, but the future is starting to look much brighter.

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LA Weekly


Most of the time, when people talk about Sawtelle Boulevard, they mention the Japanophile stretch near Olympic, known as Little Osaka, where you can buy authentic red bean mochi, Sanrio knickknacks and mouthwatering ramen. (The general area around the stretch is now technically known as Sawtelle Japantown). But if you walk a few blocks north of that stretch, toward Santa Monica Boulevard, you’ll discover Analog Alley.

It’s where the eight-decade-old Nuart Theatre shows indie and cult films and where you can rent videos from one of the last independently owned video stores in the city. You’ll find a record store with a hammock hanging out front and a used bookstore with a tintype photography studio. Down the side street of Idaho Avenue, there’s another used bookstore, this one filled with gewgaws and doo-dads from yore. If you want a slice of the past, this is where you go.


Two or three years ago, recalls Sebastian Mathews, the owner of Touch Vinyl and Cinefile Video, “there’s these little obsolete businesses around and we were all starting to feel that analog needs to come to the forefront.” As a result, local shopkeepers decided to brand the area Analog Alley, and since then, foot traffic and business in general have improved. (Click here to read more)

Oaklandish: Booming Business Rooted in Oakland Pride

San Francisco Chronicle

920x920 Running a business as large and varied as Oaklandish — ranked 33rd on Fortune’s list of the 100 fastest-growing inner-city companies in America last year — isn’t easy. On the eve of the brand’s recent yearly warehouse sale, with a website revamp under way and spring line about to roll out, owner and founder Angela Tsay sat down to talk about Oaklandish’s circuitious journey.

“I think sometimes people think we’ve had it really easy, but it has been hard,” she explained. “We’ve really done a lot of this ourselves.”

In the last nine years, Tsay has turned what started out as a T-shirt stand at a farmers’ market into an apparel empire, beloved and recognized by an entire city. The Oakland institution now has three store locations, a warehouse in Jack London Square and two offshoot brands, Oakland Supply Co. and NSEW. Instead of mere T-shirts and sweatshirts, it now makes everything from beanies and underwear to knee socks and coffee mugs. The brand, which once had trouble persuading San Francisco stores to sell its gear, is now sold in a dozen stores all over the Bay Area and has customers worldwide.

“Oaklandish has had great success,” Tsay said. “But we did not have some grand plan. It just kind of came together.” (Click here to read more)

A Cafe Oasis in Deep East Oakland

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The East Bay Express

The chances of finding a cup of coffee in deep East Oakland — not to mention a sandwich or a pastry to go with it — are relatively slim. The nearest Starbucks or Peet’s is in Alameda or by the airport. So if you’re jonesing for a cup of joe, there’s only one place to go: Caffe Nonna.

On January 25, Sandra Bradford opened Caffe Nonna on the corner of Bancroft and Fairfax avenues, in one of deep East Oakland’s oldest (and perhaps only remaining) commercial districts. Forty years ago, the area was known as “Antique Row” because of its many stores selling furniture, ceramics, and other artifacts from bygone eras, but today, hair salons and barber shops occupy most of the storefronts. There are a few eateries in the area, such as Luis’ Coffee Shop, Westbrook’s BBQ and Seafood, and Taqueria La Nueva, as well as a smattering of other businesses including a Laundromat, dollar store, botánica, auto repair shop, and a liquor store. This has not been a part of Oakland where you’d find turkey pesto panini or spinach salads — until now.

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Girls Inc. headquarters moving to Oakland, rehabbing downtown building


THE INSIDE OF 510 16TH STREET IS A DISASTER. The carpets are stained and the whitewashed walls are blinding. Each floor is a maze of office suites and if it wasn’t for the overhead lighting, the windowless place would be completely dark. “This is like a 1980’s nightmare,” said Kirsten Melton, chief development officer of Girls Inc. of Alameda County as she walked through the site, which was last renovated thirty years ago. But starting this June, it will be renovated again. “The whole building is going to be gutted,” Melton said happily, passing a monolithic partition of clear glass cubes.

Last June, Girls Inc. of Alameda County purchased the five-story building as the site for its new headquarters. Located a few blocks from Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland, the 34,000 square foot structure will include staff and administrative offices, a mental health clinic, fitness center, teaching kitchen, and other amenities for the 145 teenage girls who are served by the organization. The Girls Inc. program was founded in 1864 as a network of local organizations providing services for working class girls in the United States and Canada. Today, there are almost one hundred organizations geared at providing services—such as after school activities, academic achievement programs, and mental health counseling—to underserved high school-aged girls from low-income households.

For the last 20 years, the Alameda County branch, one of the largest in the country, has been occupying a 13,500 square foot warehouse in San Leandro. But over the years, as the size of their staff and the number of girls in the program has grown, the site has become cramped. “We just ran out of space there,” said chief executive officer Linda Boessenecker of the building which houses both their center for the girls and staff offices. The site is also difficult to reach by public transportation. The nearest BART station is 30 minutes away and commute by bus can take close to two hours for many of the girls who live in Berkeley or Oakland.

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Actual Cafe’s owner raising funds to open Victory Burger, a burger stand next door


IT’S LUNCHTIME AND YOU’RE HUNGRY. “Hamburger,” your stomach growls at you.

OK, you’ll get a hamburger—a simple, inexpensive, easy to eat sandwich. You want something substantial; a hamburger made from quality ingredients and grilled to perfection, not like the ones served at North Oakland’s fast food joints. But where can you get one like that?

If you’re anything like Sal Bednarz, the owner of Actual Café, you’ve been in this situation before. “I love burgers, but most of the burgers around here are just not that interesting,” Bednarz said on a recent Wednesday morning. “The good burgers, of which there a few, are almost all fine dining white tablecloth $15 burgers.”

This, he said, has to change. Good burgers at a reasonable price should not be so difficult to find. Not only are they  an American staple food, but their mere existence stems from the fact that they are inexpensive. Hamburgers are a product of the industrial revolution, invented to feed the growing masses of people who had little time to both cook and consume their food. And people today, Bednarz reasoned, are not that much different. “We, as a society here in Oakland today, like our food,” he said. “But we don’t always want to take a half a day and fifty bucks to go eat it.”

His solution? Victory Burger. Slated to open next fall, Victory Burger, Bednarz’s latest culinary endeavor, will be, as he said, “a casual experience where you can still get a really good burger.” It will be located around the corner from—or, depending on how you look at it, behind—Bednarz’s other business on San Pablo Avenue, Actual Café, and will be “more like a food truck without wheels,” he said, albeit one with plenty of outdoor seating.

The plans for Victory Burger started last fall, but Bednarz, who has lived in Oakland for the last 22 years, said that the idea has always been in the back of his mind. “This neighborhood is just lacking in food options,” he said. “I live four blocks away and just so many nights when I don’t feel like cooking, there’s no place to go.”

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Be Still, Then Move

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on March 30, 2011–



Living on a tropical island has its perks, but there are certainly a number of daily trials and tribulations–stress, fatigue, anxiety–that even islanders have difficulty escaping. For this, and a number of other reasons, the Still and Moving Center has sprouted up on Queen Street, adding a measure of liveliness and tranquil vibes to the quiet industrial area.

Barely two weeks old, the center was founded by director Renee Tillotson, a black belt in Nia (a martial arts/dance fusion), who decided to build the studio after being invited to become an international Nia trainer.

“To imagine myself traveling around the world teaching shook me up so much,” says Tillotson.

But the invitation got her thinking and before long she had formulated a plan to build the most comprehensive wellness center in Oahu (a two-story, 6,000-square-foot facility with three studios, a healing room, a children’s room and an eco-conscious boutique). The center offers more than 35 different Eastern- and Western-influenced classes per week.

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Skateboard shop moves out of old Hooper’s building

–Published on on September 22, 2011–



By Wednesday night, Sam Worth, 20, had loaded almost all of the remaining wood from the deconstructed skate park into the back of his truck— a white 1995 Ford pickup that he borrowed from his father. It took him over a month to build the skate park, but only 12 days to take it apart.

“It was great while it lasted,” he said, heaving an armful of the well-worn boards onto the bed of the truck and stacking them neatly against the side. “But in the end, we couldn’t make the $7,000 rent.”

Once he’s finished loading the car, he’ll head east on the CA-24 to his parents’ house in Orinda, where he’ll add this batch to the heaps of wood already piled on the front lawn.

For now, he plans to keep the wood, one of the last remaining relics of his brief but enjoyable stint as the owner of Hooper Vintage Skateboards and Chocolates, which closed last month.

In early 2011,Worth signed a lease to rent the long-vacant Hooper’s Chocolate Shop on Telegraph Avenue in North Oakland. It had everything he was looking for: a great location, tons of space, and a unique interior.  But despite his best efforts, the store was plagued with financial difficulties.

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Community Acupuncture a New Trend in Oakland


The process is simple: a whispered check-in with the patient—How are you feeling? What’s bothering you? Then the needles go in, quick and meticulously positioned, usually for no longer than 10 minutes.

Once the practitioner’s role is done—the needles are placed and the Meridian points connecting various organs of the body have been pricked— it’s the patient’s turn to take over. Lean back and relax, they are often instructed. Close your eyes and try to feel the sensations.

And so they do. In a dimly lit room on the ground floor of an office building in North Oakland, the patients lean back in their zero gravity chairs, their bodies cocooned in blue and green pillows and blankets. An I-Pod docking station plays songs from the album Realms of Grace: An Angelic Experience, which is basically Enya, minus the vocals. Nobody talks. Some read, many sleep, all wait. This is its second day since opening, but already the Oakland Acupuncture Project clinic is packed. In less than 48 hours, it has already treated 22 patients.

Last Monday, the Oakland Acupuncture Project opened up its second clinic across the street from Safeway on Grand Avenue. The original clinic, which opened in 2008 at its current location on Laurel Avenue, was started by two graduates of the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College of Berkeley, Roselle McNeilly and Whitney Thorniley.

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