Monday, April 7, 2014

One Day in Oakland

The following is a guest post from Alden Olmstead, creator of the cool, artsy map above, and of the new blog, One Day In. Cards featuring the map can be purchased at a number of local businesses. See the list at the end of the post.

Lake Merritt
Flag of Oakland, Calif.Jack London and Oak trees, fire artists and urban blight – oops – urban renewal, sorry mayor. What to make of a town like Oakland, California depends partly on perspective, more on your stance against the world. What’s that – you don’t have a stance? You don’t thrive on challenges that everyone says won’t work? You’ve never felt like the underdog, succeeding regardless of – or even especially because of what others think? Oakland might not be for you. You might not get it. However, if you can appreciate a young man whose dreams and aspirations were so strong that he hopped a steam ship to the Yukon to pan for gold, came back more broke than when he left, sold his bicycle to buy heating gas and bread for his mother, then found success writing about his struggle amidst the elements and the hardened souls of men, Oakland might just be for you. Jack London was not the first underdog to grace Oakland and he certainly won’t be the last. From its artists to its sports teams, its beautiful Lake Merritt and skyline to the ongoing reality of urban violence, Oakland is honesty. The sweet with the sour, it’s all here. Be prepared, stay alert, and you’ll be surprised at how friendly people are. Overcoming challenges produces character. Oakland has truckloads of it.

Basic instructions for Oakland, California:

1. Dogs can smell fear, so can people. Smile and the world smiles back – be smart and you’ll be fine.
2. Everything that’s a challenge in San Francisco is one or two notches less in Oakland. Parking, harsh weather, Toyota-swallowing potholes, baseball ticket prices, parking, etc..
3. Layers. You can start with a sweater or jacket if you like but by noon or so you’ll be shedding it faster than a 70′s streaker at an A’s game. I recommend a medium sweater, flannel, or fleece, with a favorite t shirt underneath. But that’s just me. In winter months maybe a scarf. I’ve never owned one but they sure look warm. And stylish.
4. Park at 101 Washington Street – or street parking if it’s a weekday – or BART to 12th street/ City Center if you don’t mind the aforementioned blight.

Let’s begin:

8:00 am Jack London Square
Oakland, Ca 94607
Speaking of the wavy-haired socialist himself, your day in Oakland begins near the water for a variety of reasons, most of which you’ll discover for yourself. Grab coffee at Blue Bottle on Webster or Autobahn (at 5th and Clay) and walk to the end of Broadway – down to the water. Put your black and white glasses on, flip your collar up on your Navy peacoat and smell the cool and salty air. See the hundreds of cranes? The port of Oakland is an international cargo hub and was one of the early adopters of container shipping. Though Lucasfilm claims to have taken no inspiration from these cranes for The Empire Strikes Back, I say let your imagination go. Besides it’s more fun to disagree with George these days.
Walk south to Jack London’s little cabin, make a note to yourself to visit his estate in Glen Ellen at Jack London State Park (one hour north) and enjoy the fountain and the many seats available. *Good luck finding a seat if this is Sunday, farmers markets here can get a little crazy.
8:30 am Eat Breakfast at Home of Chicken and Waffles (Broadway and Embarcadero) or the Oakland Grill, two blocks up and one block south, at 3rd and Franklin. Both are very good, though completely different atmospheres.
10:00 am Walk East (away from the water) up Broadway, stopping wherever you like. You might see an estate sale – at Something to Sell About, or an art or clothing store you like – if today is a first Friday check out an art walk schedule at Either way head up Broadway towards Old Oakland. The mornings are when your mind is fresh, let’s find some history.
Turn left, north, on Eighth St.

You can make a nice side loop and enjoy the architecture of Old Oakland by turning on 8th street, and heading north for a few blocks. Turn right up Jefferson or Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and then back towards Broadway on 12th. Great photo opportunities and light should be happening to free your mind. Stop at the Flower Mart or pose outside the Washington Inn. Very cool.

12 Noon at the Oak Tree
Oakland City Hall and Frank Ogawa Plaza – Overheard: "Dude that tree is huge!"

I know, someone should make a logo of it. Oh they have? How about a shirt? Oh really? Ok, ok – where do I get one?”

Before heading back towards the water for lunch, watch the plaza come alive with the working crowds from the Oakland Tribune, Clorox, the state building, or from the many other businesses around Frank Ogawa Plaza. Walk up to Oaklandish on Broadway to get some Oakland apparel. Don’t spend it all in one place though – the awesome shirts at lOakal back on 2nd street will make you glad you saved some dough.
Walk back towards the water to:

Lunch at Everett & Jones BBQ
Everett jones sign E & J brisket

Are there great places for lunch other than E&J? Of course – There are also blondes other than Marilyn but really? Eat. Wow.
*If you’re more of a chicken person, or you’ve heard so much about it, yes – it’s worth it to try out Bakesale Betty up Telegraph ave. at 51st. An ironing board might be your dining table and the chicken – yes. yes.

The afternoon is yours, I recommend the following based on number of people in your party:
1. Just you? Hello you – you’re awesome! Find some peace and solace – and ridiculous views at close-by Joaquin Miller Park. Sure there are others and more secluded but we’re talking about one day. Get in your car and drive just 8 miles – 580 East to Lincoln Exit and go left up the hill, which becomes Skyline Blvd. Follow the signs.
2. Just the two of us? What a great pair you are – are you active? Of course you are, you should be hiking the East Bay’s hidden stairs? Where are they? They’re everywhere! Thanks to Julian for her amazing blog as well as Oakland Urban Paths. I recommend (esp. for one-day-ers) Grizzly Peak or Piedmont, they'll walk you through a perfect two-hour trek.
3. A small group – Jack, Chrissy, and Janet? Perfect for sidewalk shopping and strolling the streets of Piedmont, Lakeshore and Grand, or College in Rockridge. You won’t be disappointed. Just make sure you end this session on Grand near Children’s Fairyland, park and walk out to Edson Adams’ point on Lake Merritt and share your deepest secrets. Yes with the ducks.
4. Four or more? Are there kids? Go to the Zoo or to an A’s game – both are close, both are cheap, both are awesome – though the zoo might have more civilized inhabitants, and perhaps some of the fans should be in … well you get the idea. For the zoo take 580 East to Golf links exit. Lemurs are really cool. A’s game take almost any Bart south toward the airport – Orange, Green, and Blue lines – they all stop there. Moneyball hey!
6-7pm Dinner
*No you don’t have to eat at 6 or 7, but you can begin to head towards Piedmont Ave. or Lake Merritt, depending on the season.

Dining in Summer:
#1: Portal Oakland
1611 2nd Ave, Oakland, CA 94606
(510) 663-7678

A great location, a great outdoor patio, interesting food choices and a great beer selection make this an easy choice for a one-day visit.

Dining any other time:
#1: Cato’s Alehouse Pub
Yes, there are plenty of great restaurants, but an old English vibe with a neighborhood feel, a sometimes very lively band, an ever- changing selection of interesting beers from all over, awesome pizza and salad options, together make this my first choice. Especially for the one day you might be here. You’ll want to come back.
After dinner:

Check the calendars (or just the marquee) of The Paramount historical theatre on Broadway. Whether it’s an old movie, a halloween costume contest (and showing of the original Vampire in B&W!), or a live Gospel Choir, you will enjoy this experience, as many have been doing for almost 90 years.

The Fox theatre is also nearby, as well as outdoor fire events at the Crucible, usually in mid-July.
Lake Merritt stroll

Lake Merritt stroll Oakland, Ca Alden Olmsted Photography

Lake Merritt string of lights at sunset, Oakland, Ca Alden Olmsted Photography

Lake Merritt string of lights at sunset, Oakland, Ca Alden Olmsted Photography

Or you can just stroll around the lake, maybe ending at Luka’s Taproom & Lounge on Grand and Broadway to reflect on your amazing day, meet a few more locals, or just watch the world go by.
If you need a true bookend to your day, head back towards the water – remember where you started? Step inside the bar next to Jack London’s tiny cabin, Heinold’s first and last chance Saloon, and imagine you just sold your first novel, a destructive, cold, hard experience that changed you forever, but you bought some gas for the furnace, you bought your bicycle back, and you bought some bread and fish for your mother. You’re a good son. Have a whiskey.
Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon, Oakland Calif. courtesy Wikipedia

The cards are available at:

1 comment:

Oakland Daily Photo said...

I vaguely remember reading they were going to take this down. I think its related to the relocation of the coroner's department. This sign looks like the same vintage as the Children's Hospital sign on Broadway and 51st.