Friday, July 2, 2010

Oakland: We're More Than Just Violent Thugs!

 photo from and taken by Adithya Sambamurthy of the Bay Citizen

All of this talk of the Johannes Mesherle/Oscar Grant trial has got me down.  Setting aside opinions on the case itself, the national coverage warning of riots in the streets convey an image of Oakland that clearly does not define what Oakland really is.  Oakland is many things, some wondrous, some ordinary, some not so fun.  Let's list a few of our favorite non-stereotypical things around Oakland.

Oakland Chinatown:  This is the real Chinatown.  You won't find shops selling the same t-shirts and trolleycar toothpick holders here!  You will find, however cavernous shops filled with dangerously-stacked aisles of imaginative goodies.  Plum-flavored candy, paper parasols, pajamas in very small sizes and the best darn avocado milkshake you can imagine.  With pearls!  Get it at the Sweet Booth, which is located in the mall on Webster and 9th.  Have I even mentioned the dim sum around here?!  Nowhere else can you eat for $2.00 and be full.  It is a place for aimless exploration and little surprises.

The BBQ:  Need I say more?  Find yourself at Everett & Jones near Jack London Square.  Move on to Chef Edwards BBQ in Uptown.  Then amble over to the Brick Pig House (they are just the nicest folks!).  Extra credit for managing to also make it to Tastee's Fish & Chicken Market for a catfish sandwich and hush puppies!

The Farmer's Markets:  The Sunday Temescal Market is "my" market, although Oakland hosts a Friday market in Old Town and a Saturday market right next to the Grand Lake Theater.  I can't help but geek out and try out each one- they all seem to have their own flavor.  Temescal attracts the Blue Bottle Coffee crowd and winding past the endless line of pre-caffeinated zombies can be daunting, but apparently it's worth the wait!  However, a stop at Feel Good Bakery's booth for what we call "crack cookies" erases any stresses about the crowd.  They're more than chocolate.  They're an ascension to somewhere you never want to leave.  We'll forgive them for headquartering in Alameda.

The People:  I know of nowhere else in the Bay Area where I can smile at someone walking past me on the sidewalk and they will say "Good morning."  There's a few bad apples sneaking in from Berkeley, but this town is a friendly town.  It's part of the reason why I feel so passionately about my adopted city.  Despite our far-flung areas, we are all friendly neighbors. 

Joaquin Miller Park:  where else would an urban park be named after a man best known for being totally ridiculous?  Despite the fact that this poet was obsessed with planting invasive eucalyptus and acacia trees, the park provides a quiet respite from traffic noise, as well as amazing views of the city and bay below.  There's even an amphitheater!

So here's a few of my favorite things in Oakland.  What are yours?


  1. Great post Christine! You're right, Oakland is SO much more. I hate how popular media presents a one-sided half-blind version of current events. Darn it...why wasn't the Farmer's Market by the Grand Lake when I lived there? :P Used to love being able to walk to that theater from my apartment, but walking to a Farmer's Market would have been even better!

  2. Ha, that makes me think of the time when Mountain View made the national news because the squirrels, having become accustomed to finding food in kid's strollers, started to attack the kids and take the food.

    Trauma for life (for the kids), 4 euthanized squirrels trapped with a decoy stroller resulted. And of course it was on the national news. The violent squirrels. The mean city employees. I shudder to remember.

    Nice post!

  3. Oh, and I have good friends in the Piedmont district, and have enjoyed multiple nice meals there, plus walks and a visit to the Science Museum.

  4. I love Lake Merritt in the winter when it fills with thousands of migratory waterbirds.

    I love being able to see the critically endangered California Clapper Rail (and Burrowing Owls), in a park right next to the Oakland Airport.

    I loved watching the construction of the new cathedral by Lake Merritt.

    I love my neighbors. There are two sets of brothers, who grew up on my block, and are now raising their kids on the block.

    I love the racial diversity, and the number of languages spoken in this city.

    As the t-shirts say, "I Hella Love Oakland."

  5. Forgot to mention the fact that mushroom collecting is legal in Joaquin Miller Park!

  6. I hecka love Oakland...

    So, I just learned [thanks to you] that Joaquin Miller's real first name was Cincinnatus -- named after the city of Cincinnati and not the Roman staesman [that the city itself was named after]. Heh!

  7. Great article! I just visited Oakland for the first time, to check out Garden Hortica Oakland on 7th Street, it is a wonderful example of reasons to love Oakland!

  8. Thanks so much for your support, all!

    TM- I remember seeing that on the news! Hilariously bizarre (although not for those involved!), and certainly does not encapsulate what Mountain View really is all about!

    Lisa- tell me more about this park! Sounds amazing!

    VL- ready to name your first born Oaklandina? Has a nice ring to it...

    Laura- leave it to an out-of-towner to show me what's in my city! I'll have to check it out, thanks!

  9. Arrowhead Marsh, off of Doolittle, baby! You'll see rails near the boardwalk and canal, especially at high tides.

    Also, did I mention that mushroom collecting is legal in Oakland city (not EBRP) parks?

  10. I've only been to Oakland once briefly, but the airport parking lot attendant there was a memorably nice man. Driving through on our way to Blue Lake, I liked the diversity I saw from the freeway. Someday I hope to visit. Thanks for your passion about your town, it's refreshing.