Tuesday, September 29, 2009

fire in the hills

looking west towards the Caldecott

Fire crews are close to containing a fire in the hills between Oakland and Orinda. As you can see in this frame from KPIX, it's on the hillside immediately south of highway 24 on the Orinda side of the tunnel. According to KPIX, the fire is mostly contained, and no homes or other structures have been threatened.

I was riding past Lake Temescal on way home from the Red Cross, and heard lots of fire engines, then saw several aircraft over the hills. There was a larger plane dropping retardant, and a smaller plane that I'm guessing was a spotter. And there was a helicopter that came and filled its bucket in Lake Temescal. I saw it just after it had gotten a load and was heading back for another water drop.

firefighting helicopter
over Lake Temescal

signs: Thrifty 1 Hour Cleaners

Thrifty 1 Hour Cleaners

Behold the power of the atom! Able to get whites whiter, and colors, er, colorer! All in one hour! Or at least that seems to be the subtle message behind this sign at Thrifty 1 Hour Cleaners in the Laurel.

Monday, September 28, 2009

signs: McNally's Pub

McNally's Irish Pub

On College Ave. near the library, next door to the Garibaldi's and the recently opened Marzano is the Oakland institution, McNally's Irish Pub. Besides their name in neon, they've got various neon beer signs including the mandatory (for an Irish pub, that is) Guinness sign.

Garibaldi's, Marzano, and McNally's,
with a "draft beer installation" truck
thrown in for good measure

Friday, September 25, 2009

Community Feast at St. Paul's

St. Paul's Episcopal Church 2nd Annual Community Feast
"Nourishing One Another In Abundance"

An evening of conversation about food justice, sustainability, and how we can help to nourish ourselves and others in prosperous and troubled times. We will talk with neighbors who have found ways to share the abundance of what we have---even when we don't know how much that is. Come learn how to make more of your gifts, to be self-sustaining, and in turn to help feed those in need.

The dinner will include a home-cooked meal, wine, and speakers from City Slicker Farms, Peoples Grocery, St. Mary's and others. Cost of the event is $20. To reserve a seat or a table, email rsvp@stpaulsoakland.org.

All proceeds support St. Paul's community service projects, City Slicker Farms & People's Grocery.

Event Info
DATE: Saturday, September 26
TIME: 6 to 8 p.m.
LOCATION: 114 Montecito Avenue, Oakland, CA
COST: $20
RESERVE YOUR SPACE: rsvp@stpaulsoakland.org (but you can also apparently walk in)

For more information about the event, visit our website at http://www.stpaulsoakland.org.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

City Slicker Farms

City Slicker Farms

West Oakland is blessed with a unique resource, City Slicker Farms. While much of Oakland has an array of supermarkets and farmers markets to get good produce from, West Oakland is largely left with small corner markets and liquor stores. That's where City Slicker Farms comes in. They grow fresh, affordable produce for West Oakland residents.

They also work to empower residents to understand the connection between ecology, environment, and food, and become more self-sufficient by growing their own food. They currently sell fruits, vegetables and honey to West Oakland residents. The last round of Americorps with Habitat for Humanity East Bay worked in their spare time and built a chicken coop, so eggs will eventually be available, too.

awesome looking tomatoes

City Slicker Farms

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oakland: DIY Resources

View Oakland DIY Resources in a larger map
Over on my home improvement blog, I posted a list of resources for DIY building and repair centered here in Oakland.

Whether you're doing a small project or building a house yourself, it's a good starting point for DIY resources in the East Bay.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

signs: French Cleaners

French Cleaners

This great sign is on Piedmont Avenue. As you can see, it still lights up and it has Plexiglas over it to protect the glass tubes, so hopefully it'll be around for a good long time.

French Cleaners

Monday, September 21, 2009

signs: George & Walt's

George & Walt's bar

George and Walt's is another sign I've posted before, but it's worth a second look, too. I also wanted to take the opportunity to link to a new Oakland North feature, blogwalk. The first one up is College Avenue at dusk, and features a picture of George and Walt's. It's an interesting observation of people and goings-on, so check it out when you get a chance.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

signs: The Alley

The Alley

I've posted the sign at The Alley before, but it's a great sign and worth a second look, especially since unlike a lot of old signs, it still works.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

signs: Walden Pond Books

Walden Pond Books

Just up from the Grand Lake Theater and across from Smitty's Bar and The Alley is Walden Pond Books. I love books, and so libraries and bookstores are favorite spots. Walden Pond Books goes not one but two better, by having a cool sign and two friendly dogs. If you look carefully you can see them sleeping on either side of the door in the picture below. I bought a copy of the newest Images of America Oakland history book, Selections from the Oakland Tribune Archives.

Walden Pond Books

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

signs: Smitty's Bar

Smitty's Bar

I'm usually not out and about much in the evenings except when we go out to dinner. As much I'd like to get pictures of some of the great signs in Oakland lit up, when we're out to dinner I don't want to carry along my tripod and interrupt things with lots of picture taking.

But last night I had opportunity to be out at dusk, so I took my tripod and DSLR along Grand Avenue. I've posted about the great sign at The Alley before, but there are some other nice signs along Grand, too. First up is Smitty's bar, just a few doors up from The Alley. It's got two classic script neon signs, and the requisite martini glass.

Smitty's Bar

And just a quick side note on parking: according to the Tribune, councilmember Pat Kernighan is going to bring a proposal to rollback the extended parking hours from 8pm to the original 6pm. One of the complaints is that the increased hours, rates and enforcement are cutting down on business. However, I was on Grand from 7pm to after 8pm, and there were very few parking spots available, and while I was photographing, there was a decent turnover. According to UCLA urban planning professor Donald Shoup's formula, that suggests the parking rate is about right. It should be high enough to encourage turnover, but low enough that people can get their shopping or whatever done. Obviously this rate changes depending on demand, so that's why Oakland should implement demand-based rates for parking. There's no reason to charge the same rate in an area with lots of empty spots as in an area like Temescal or Grand Ave. where there's lots going on, and if an area is less busy at times of the day, make the parking cheaper.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

GRID Alternatives 2009 Solar-a-thon

solar install

Saturday I took pictures at GRID Alternatives 2009 Solar-a-thon at Habitat for Humanity East Bay's Edes Avenue development. I did a brief write-up on the Thrivent Builds blog, and there's a great post over at Oakland North focusing on one of the homeowners who was there to help install the panels on her house.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

signs: C.P. Bannon Mortuary

C.P. Bannon Mortuary

Time keeps on slippin' into the future. And there's nothing like a good clock to remind you that your time could be up soon. The C.P. Bannon Mortuary on International may not have a great sign, but like other funeral homes it's got a clock.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

signs: Island Market

Island Market

On High Street is this great sign for the Island Market. Most, but not all of the neon is intact, so I don't know if any of it still lights up. And is the case when your sign is bigger than than your building, they had to build quite a tower to hold the thing aloft.

Besides having a great sign, I love the color they painted the building. It's a warm, orange-ish wheat color, made more so by late afternoon sun. My office walls are a subtler version of this color, and the office glows when it gets the late afternoon sun through my window.

great color

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

history: Scheberies Used Cars

Scheberies Used Cars

It was a short work day at Habitat with GRID Alternatives, so I rode the e-bike home by a different route scouting signs. I'd checked some things out with Google Maps Street View, and one sign had caught my eye. Not the main sign pictured here, which is nice enough but hardly classic. No, it was the sign that's made from part of a car. So on my ride home, I went a little out of my way down MacArthur from High Street to check it out. I'm very glad I did.

I met Gerald Scheberies. He was moving some cars around the lot while I was admiring the signs. I told him what a great set of signs he had, and he informed me that he'd painted them himself. He invited me inside to see more, and found he has an amazing history collection. Pictures of the original Caldecott Tunnel, Broadway when it was a set of muddy tracks, the toll bridge that used to span the end of Lake Merritt. Gerald also used to race cars, so quite a number of the signs he painted were for events that he raced in. And he and his used car lot have been around since before I-580 was there, so he's seen a lot of Oakland history. He coached wrestling at Skyline high school and all sorts of other things in his 70+ years. I saw at least one article on him in a scrapbook. I couldn't find any articles online, but did see references to his racing career. And when he commented on the slick tires on the e-bike, I said, "No, they're supposed to be that way -- haven't you seen a The World's Fastest Indian, where he shaved the tires down by hand?" He replied that he loved the movie, and he'd been at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the 60s, too.

great sign!

Gerald Scheberies, then and now

the original Caldecott Tunnel

Monday, September 7, 2009

signs: DeLauer's News Stand

DeLauer's News Stand

In downtown is an icon of Oakland, DeLauer's News Stand. It's been around since 1907, though it's changed with the times. It was originally in the Tribune building, and moved once before settling in the current location in 1966. I didn't look in when I was taking this picture (I stepped over during a break at the Art and Soul Festival), but according to this article in the Tribune, it was going to close last year and be re-opened as an internet cafe. However, other articles (which I can't access fully as they're in the archives) say that it managed to survive that, and is still a going concern:
With the aid of good Samaritans and hard work, DeLauer's Super Newsstand is defying the tough economic times as well as the demise of so many businesses organized around print.

Not only did the iconic newsstand come back from the brink of extinction in 2008, but the new owners have polished up the place with shiny floors and a mini-renovation.

Anyone been there recently? What's the scoop on DeLauer's?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

food: Lake Chalet

the main bar

The sun was shining. The location was perfect. The weather doesn't get any better (mid 70s, slight breeze, air so clear the hills in the distance didn't look quite real.) We were greeted in a friendly fashion at the hostess station. It's on Lake Merritt, one of my favorite spots in Oakland. It's a historical structure that's been beautifully restored. And it's run by people who emphasize beer with food. I wanted to like it, so very, very much.

Sadly, it was not to be. I understand that they've only been open a few weeks, and there are some kinks to work out when opening a restaurant. But they've got a lot of work to do, and some apologies to make first.

It started innocently enough. We skipped visiting a church this morning, because K tweaked her shoulder working out at the Y yesterday. But I needed some more drywall mud for the dining room walls, and we wanted to go to the Jack London Square Farmers Market. With the beautiful weather, we decided to check out the Lake Chalet in between for lunch.

We found parking on Lakeshore with no problem, and admired the landscaping. I was pleased to see some bike parking, too, something I hadn't found on my first visit for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. We were greeted in a friendly fashion by the hostess, and informed that outdoor seating didn't start until noon (in about 25 minutes). So we strolled along the lake and enjoyed the weather.

ourdoor bar and seating

We returned, though about 4 minutes early, and were told we could go seat ourselves. We selected a table for 2 with beautiful views of the lake and the restaurant, right on the water.

There was a bit of a delay before our waitress came, but that wasn't surprising since we were a couple of minutes before the outdoor seating officially opened. We had to ask for menus with food on them, as there were only drink menus at our table. We ordered some drinks to get things rolling, and then perused the menus when she returned. Then we waited, and watched the boats, and watched other people arrive, and generally enjoyed the atmosphere. Then we waited some more. I noticed our waitress was still at the order computer at the bar, but I wasn't worried. After a bit, I looked over again, and she was still there, this time with a manager-type tapping on the screen. After a bit more waiting, our drinks arrived, and we ordered our food.

The menu for outdoor dining is fairly limited: burgers, hot dogs, shrimp poor boys, salads and soups. K ordered a caesar salad, and I ordered a bowl of gazpacho soup. The people at the next table ordered burgers and poor boys. All of it is pretty expensive: $9 drinks, $13 burgers, $5.50 beers, etc. But the food sounded good, and after all, we were willing to pay something for the amazing atmosphere.

*cue the ominous music* Our food arrived after a bit, and we were underwhelmed. K's caesar salad had some sort of meat on it, but we weren't really sure what. If a caesar has meat not separately labeled, it's usually anchovies (though there's debate about that), but the menu had only said 'Parmesan-Anchovy Dressing', and these weren't anchovies. "Maybe chicken? I'm not sure. And why is it pinkish?", said K. My gazpacho was watery, not the thick, hearty cold soup I was expecting. It was tasty enough, but not $7.25 tasty.

Meanwhile, others were fairing even worse. The people at the next table waited 45 minutes from ordering until the first 3 of 4 entrees arrived. The 4th arrived later via a very apologetic manager. A woman at another table was very unhappy with some aspect of her meal that was not as ordered, and he was dealing with her. And while he was at the kitchen talking to the chefs, someone from another table across the way carried his dish up to the manager, and refused replacement, more of a, "take it -- I'm done here."

beautiful gutters
and downspouts

It was the waitress' first day, or at least the first day working outside there. The rest of the restaurant has only been open a few weeks. But the owners are experienced, having run the Beach Chalet and the Park Chalet for more than 10 years. All together, they were not having a good day. The manager comp'ed the meal for the next table, and probably would have comp'ed ours if we'd raised a fuss. As it was, we felt a little sorry for the waitress, because the food wasn't her fault. But she did manage to put chicken caesar (aha!) on the bill (although it's not on the menu for outside), which we had her correct before we paid.

The beer was good, but that was about it. I'm unlikely to eat there again, and I doubt many of the others seated near us would, either. I was hoping ours had been just a bad day, but the reviews on Yelp suggest most others have had a similar experience. It's in a beautiful spot, but with high prices, bad food, and a lot of problems in their ordering system, they're unlikely to last long without big changes.

Friday, September 4, 2009

signs: Dimond Printers

Dimond Printers

On the way back from my trip to La Farine the other day, I spotted this sign at Dimond Printers. I even shot two birds (with one photo), in honor of dc's bird project at Fragmentary Evidence.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Vive la...Oakland?

La Farine Bakery

Inoticed yesterday we were getting dangerously low on coffee, so today I rode down to Peet's for a resupply. But because I wanted a bit more exercise, and I've been wanting to check out La Farine, I rode down to the Dimond district. Our closest bakery, Montclair Baking, is more into cakes and pastries, whereas La Farine is big on bread. (Farine is French for flour; the ingredients in a traditional baguette are flour, water, salt and yeast.)

So I zipped down to the Dimond -- it's almost all downhill getting there, so it's a fun ride. I bought a pound of beans at Peet's, and sipped my iced coffee (it's hot today, though not as hot as it was over the weekend) and headed over to La Farine. It didn't disappoint. Lots of breads, and they all look beautiful. So I pondered which to buy while I worked on my coffee.

spiffy solar-powered
trash compactor

Afterward I sat and people-watched for a while. It's a great spot to watch from, and various businesses including Peet's and La Farine have provided benches to make it even better. It was mostly a nice experience, except for the mentally ill guy on the next bench who was babbling racist things to the Asian guy sitting there. I did some quick grocery shopping at Farmer Joe's, and kept an eye on the situation across the street in case it escalated.

As I was about to hop on the bike and head for home, a young woman asked if I knew of an ice cream place nearby that her friend had mentioned. I told her I didn't live nearby so I didn't know the area well, but was pretty sure there was one nearby (she was on foot, so I didn't think she meant Loard's down MacArthur near Fruitvale Presbyterian, and to be honest I didn't remember it at the time.) She said she'd keep asking around. I checked on the Google G1 phone, and saw Tango Gelato on the other side of MacArthur. I told her about it, and we agreed it was a great day for it. I pedaled off for home, and saw the storefront for Tango...papered over. So I road back and told her before she walked all the way up. I wish I'd remembered Loard's, as it's only about 1/2 mile away, albeit in a different direction. Sigh.

France? No, Oakland

So finally heading for home, I road up Fruitvale and through Oakmore. I stopped to take a picture of this interesting apartment building, which looks like it would be more at home in France. Having just been up the street from Fruitvale Presbyterian, I immediately thought of Monte of the monteskewed blog. Until recently he was the pastor at FVPC, but he and his family moved to France for him to take a call at a church there. An exciting opportunity, but it sounds like settling in there has had its ups and downs.

Oakmore Highlands

I was also reminded of my post a while back, what's in a name? I'd always thought of the area I was riding in as Glenview, but Google and Yahoo maps showed me that it was actually Oakmore. But a sign down the street stated it was Oakmore Highlands. Huh? Not as mysterious as the Village Market website saying it's in Montclair, but I'd never heard of Oakmore Highlands before.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

signs: Golden Hours Bar

Golden Hours Bar

Across the street and up Fruitvale a bit from the amazing Acme Fire Extinguisher sign is the Golden Hours bar. I managed to catch one of the many food carts that ply the sidewalks of the Fruitvale passing by.