Sunday, August 31, 2014

Old Oakland + West Oakland with OHA and Ruben Llamas

Saturday was the 2nd to last Oakland Heritage Alliance walking tour of the summer, "Stepping Into the Past" led by author Ruben Llamas.

While these days people think of Old Oakland and West Oakland as distinctly different places, before the freeways came through they were all one continuous neighborhood. Ruben grew up in the area, and through his stories brought Oakland from pre-WWII to the 1970s back to life. His father ran a music store (and barbershop), La Ideal Music, which was at the corner of 7th and Castro, where the 880-980 connector now runs.

The walk started in front of La Borinqueña Mex-icatessen, where Tina Tamale was busy preparing for a catering job. La Borinquña is one of the oldest stores in the area, although they were forced by eminent domain to move twice for new freeways. Tina is the 3rd generation running the business; her mama still comes in on Saturdays to offer tamale and other advice, and reminisce about the old days.

Our walk took us past Jefferson Square Park, where Ruben and other area youths spent countless hours playing baseball. Ruben told us about getting his first baseball glove, playing on police-sponsored teams, and at least one broken window story. We meandered past the site of La Ideal Music and heard about the once thriving music scene in the area, as well as further down 7th Street.

A nice walk, full of people stories, which is what history is all about. If you're interested in Oakland history, I recommend Ruben's book, Eye from the Edge. He sold and signed copies after the walk, but you can also find it at local bookstores.

More pictures from the walk:

Monday, August 25, 2014

California magical (and natural) history tour

Last week K and I took a short camping trip. In the past we've done camping trips of a week or longer, but we've both been busy with work and other commitments and scaled this year's trip down to four nights. We split that between two locations, Manresa State Beach near Monterey, and Pinnacles National Park, near, well, not much of anything most people have heard of.

It was an amazing trip. Near Manresa we saw dolphins, whales, otters, California brown pelicans, quail, and various seabirds and shorebirds, including endangered snowy plovers. We also spent a lot of time just walking along the beach, watching the waves, and lamenting the the lack of bear boxes as we watched some raccoons eat the rest of our lasagne that was supposed to be lunch on day 2. After two nights there our reservation was up, so we headed to the east side of Pinnacles National Park. Our route went through historic San Juan Bautista, so we stopped to check out the mission and had a great vegan lunch at the Natural Wonders Health Food Store Deli. San Juan Bautista was also on the route of Juan Bautista de Anza and his historic journey leading some of the first European settlers to the Bay Area.

Once we got to Pinnacles, we picked out a campsite, set up our tent, and got the lay of things. It's not a big park by national park standards, but there's a lot to see. Even just around our campsite there were tons of birds to watch, including quail, wild turkeys, acorn woodpeckers, and turkey vultures. The next morning we drove further into the park and went on a short hike. A relatively short hike took us through caves that are home to several species of bats, and California red-legged frogs, and to a small reservoir where we got an amazing treat. While we sat on a rock enjoying the view, a juvenile peregrine falcon landed 10-15' from us and looked us over for a while before flying off. There are only two nesting pairs in the park, so they're even less common than the 25 or so California condors that call the park home. Seeing one is a treat; having it land next to you for a close look is unbelievable.

We hiked around more and enjoyed the views, then returned to our camp to relax during the worst heat of the day. At dusk, we got another treat as we watched a bobcat stroll 25-30' from where we were sitting. After dinner we waited until full dark. We could see a lot of stars and the Milky Way galaxy from our campsite, but the light from the campground was a bit of distraction, so we went to a nearby viewpoint where we could get true darkness. My attempts at astrophotography were OK, but I really think seeing the Milky Way live in the night sky is something everyone on earth should see.

It wasn't until we hit some traffic in San Jose that we turned on the radio and heard about the earthquake in Napa. It's always a bit jarring to return from extended time in nature to the metropolis of the Bay Area, but it was doubly so with the strange news.

Lots more pictures from the trip:

Monday, August 18, 2014

photo of the week: outside looking in

The last couple of weeks have been crazy busy with work and other commitments. While I haven't been out cycling and walking around Oakland as much, I have gotten in some Oakland-y goodness like a private Oakland Urban Paths walk (as a fundraiser for another non-profit), a trip to the Oakland History Room, a Black Panther history walk in North Oakland (post coming), dinner at The Dock at Linden Street (post coming), talked with Tina Tamale about Oakland history and my upcoming book (post coming), and a few other things, but I've had almost no time to write about any of them. This shot is returning from Alameda on Sunday. K and I went to see her niece perform as Donkey in Shrek: The Musical. It was a lot of fun, but left me wishing for a longer weekend to do more writing. This week won't see a lot of Our Oakland posts, either...we're taking a longer weekend and going camping. Oakland, country, world: please be nice to each other (for a change) while we're gone. #thatisall