Dykelah 

Need an escape? Here it is

THU 12/25

It started on a whim, and now folksinger Irina Rivkin's Dykelah Escape-from-You-Know-What-Day Musical Extravaganza has become an East Bay living-room tradition, celebrating its tenth anniversary tomorrow, Thursday, at 4 p.m. at Rivkin's North Berkeley concert space, Rose Street House of Music in North Berkeley. She views it not only as an escape from the rigors of Christmas but also as a fund-raiser for Shalom Bayit, the Jewish women's organization working to end domestic violence. The show also serves as a showcase for some of Rivkin's favorite fellow women musicians. She tops it off with a vegetarian potluck dinner, all in a three-hour program. But mainly it's a chance for whoever shows up to enjoy live music and camaraderie with those others not caught up in Yule fervor. Far from negative, "I'm not anti-you-know-what day," Rivkin says. "Dykelah is just an escape from it, an alternative. In this culture, if you're not religious, you've got to buy into the commercial side of the day. This is about what Christmas at its best should be: connecting with other people."

Rivkin, who was born in Russia and moved with her family to the United States when she was five, was raised on Russian traditions. "In Russia, the big holiday was New Year's. The whole decorated tree, Santa Claus thing was connected to New Year's." A decade back she got the idea to gather friends together for food, drink, and fun at the women-only Whiptail Lounge in San Francisco, and it felt good enough to continue. While Rose Street is women-oriented, Rivkin points out that everyone is welcome.

Tomorrow she will perform traditional and original songs tied to her experiences as a Russian Jewish lesbian. She also joins with her twin sister Inna to sing Russian folk songs. Two members of Berkeley's FolkDiva collective, KPFA's Eileen Hazel and Helen Chaya, offer solo sets of their original songs. And Jamie Isman mixes mythology, poetry, and politics into her mystical songs dedicated, she says, "to the spirit of nature and to all the wild and freely living things." Also onboard with their voices and music are Lia Rose and Cofi Owango. Paintings by Reef Upwelling will be displayed, with 50 percent of money from sales also going to Shalom Bayit. For more information and directions to Rose Street, call 510-594-4000, ex. 687, or visit Rivkin's Web site: RoseStreetMusic.com -- Larry Kelp

12/27-12/30

Lit Happens

Bill says she's okay

Ex-prez Bill Clinton has personally praised East Bay storyteller Diane Ferlatte, whose tales of Africa pepper the Berkeley Public Library's Kwanzaa celebration. It's at the West Branch (Sat., 2 p.m.). ... Burned out on "The Night Before Christmas"? Get a new lease on kid lit at Borders San Ramon's Storytime, complete with activities (Sun., 2 p.m.). ... Any new wars in store for 2004? Ask veteran oracle Marie Elena, who does Tarot readings ($15-$30) at Boadecia's (Sun., noon - 3 p.m.). ... He juggles fire, cracks jokes, plays ukulele, sings along with hoop-jumping Lacey the Circus Dog, and is still fresh as a daisy. Berkeley's Dana Smith performs at the Berkeley Public Library's North Branch (Mon., 3 p.m.). ... Oh, so it's all about you? Join the memoir-writing group at Borders Fremont and tell 'em the story of your life. Only trouble is, your groupmates think it's all about them (Tue., 7 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus

12/26-12/27

Shiny New Ferrari

If you detect a subtle uneasiness, a slight edge, in comedian Doug Ferrari 's material, it might be because his offstage story is so unusual. Several years ago, the SF native was reportedly diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes major changes in one's perceptions as well as behavior. He recovered, and is now happily making material out of his former medical malady -- so don't wince every time he pokes fun at mental illness. He's been there. Ferrari, a veteran who has worked with Michael Pritchard and Jerry Seinfeld and once wrote for Jay Leno, takes the mike Friday and Saturday (8 p.m.) at Tommy T's, 1655 Willow Pass Road in Concord. 925-686-6809 or TommyTs.com -- Kelly Vance

WED 12/24

Philo au Coquelet

The holidays bring out the philosopher in some people, usually old uncles with pickled-herring breath who buttonhole you and attempt to explain why they've been unemployed for twenty years. But sometimes a soupçon of philosophical inquiry is just what the frazzled celebrant needs to navigate into the new year. The Berkeley Socrates Cafe , a regular irregular group, meets Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Au Coquelet Cafe, 2000 University Ave., Berkeley, to discuss whatever. It's free. Info: lnorin@yahoo.com -- Kelly Vance

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