Wednesday I played hooky from work. I started with a walking tour of Old Oakland, one of 8 free walking tours the city sponsors. I've been on the tour multiple times before, but I wanted to hear my friend John Tuttle and I still learn stuff even when I go on the same tour multiple times. One nice addition to the tour that John made was a brief trip into Pacific Coast Brewing to see their historic bar and learn a bit about how beer is brewed. I added in a bit about the history of beer in Oakland. At the time the buildings in Old Oakland were built, beer was a big deal, with multiple breweries (like the Brooklyn Brewery) and countless saloons.
We finished the tour in front of what was the 7th Street train station. One person on the walk was visiting from Canada and expressed interesting in learning more about Oakland in his limited time, so I walked with him past some murals (including the amazing new one on Alice Street), the Tribune Tower, and a few other notable locations. I left him happily checking out the pictures and displays at the Oakland History Room, and returned to Pacific Coast Brewing for some lunch.
The city walking tours are free, at 10AM on Wednesdays and Saturdays through October. They're a great way to learn about Oakland, so check 'em out.
The EBRPD park at Lake Temescal recently got an old feature back. Most people probably didn't know it even existed because even when it was running, it was usually just a trickle. Now the Works Progress Administration project from the 1930s is back to its former glory. Read more: Lake Temescal waterfall restored, flowing again.
Next time you're near Lake Temescal and looking for a peaceful spot, walk up the stairs and check it out. Although there are two freeways nearby, the sounds of the water make it a surprisingly serene location.
Meatless Monday is a concept that goes back to WWI, as a resource-saving measure during the war. It came back during WWII and through the post-war years to help feed a war-torn Europe. The modern movement in the U.S. began in 2003 when the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health re-launched the effort, with the message of "one day a week, cut out meat" as a way for individuals to do something good for themselves and for the planet.
It's a pretty simple idea. Raising meat takes a lot of resources (including one near and dear to the hearts of Californians, namely water), a lot more than the equivalent nutrition from plants. Eating too much meat can lead to health problems. So eat less meat, use fewer resources, be healthier—a win all around. While a lot of people aren't willing to give up meat or all animal products full-time, if they all ate less meat, we would all benefit. If the world consumed 15% less meat, it would be like taking 240,000 cars off the road each year.
The Baltimore public schools became the first major public school system to do Meatless Mondays in 2009; the Oakland Unified School District started in 2010. Overall the reception from the students has been positive. After tasting one dish, a 4th grader told his cafeteria manager, "I want to eat this forever!". The staff love Meatless Monday, too, and are working on expanding the vegetarian options which are available during the rest of the week as well.
The OUSD Department of Nutrition Services isn't stopping there. They've also recently started a "California Thursdays" program, as part of a USDA Farm to School program. it's all California-produced goods, many from the Bay Area. And of course, it includes some meatless options, too.
So are OUSD's meatless recipes the real deal? The Humane Society of the United States thinks so. They held a national Meatless Monday recipe contest, and while OUSD's "Yakisoba Noodles with Stir Fried Tofu and Bok Choy" recipe didn't win, it was one of the finalists and is what the 4th grader loves so much. The recipes of all the finalists can be found here (PDF), so try one out and give #MeatlessMonday a try. It's good for you and for the planet.
Saturday was a different kind of Oakland Urban Paths walk. Instead of focusing on a single area, we focused on a single person, noted architect Julia Morgan. She's best known for designing Hearst Castle, but she designed over 700 buildings in California, including some noted examples here in Oakland. OUP co-founder Dan Schulman had his work cut out for him in planning the walk, as Morgan's works are spread all over Oakland. About 50 people and quite a few dogs joined us for a longer than normal walk.
We started at the corner of Harrison and Bay Place in Adams Point. Although the building that now houses Whole Foods wasn't designed by Julia Morgan, it has an interesting history, too. It was built as a powerhouse and car barn for the short-lived Consolidated Piedmont Cable Co.'s cable car line (yep, Oakland had cable cars for a time.) Next door the Piedmont Baths used the excess heat from the boilers to heat water for their pools. The building was later redesigned into a car dealership. Dan told us about Julia Morgan's education at Oakland High School, UC Berkeley, and the prestigious École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where Morgan became the first woman to receive a certificate in architecture.
Our route took us past a number of Julia Morgan-designed houses, including several with ties to Oakland history. The McElroy House belonged to city attorney John McElroy, who is remembered with a fountain in Lakeside Park. The Joe & Rose Shoong House belonged to National Dollar Store founder Joe Shoong. Shoong and his son were generous with their fortune, and donated to a variety of causes including support for several attractions at Children's Fairyland.
Some people elected to take a shorter route back to our start, while the rest of us headed towards Piedmont Avenue. There we saw a rare example of Julia Morgan's commercial building designs, the Fred C. Turner Shopping Center. From there it was a short walk to the King's Daughters Home. It was designed as a home for incurables, which in those days included people with the infirmities of old age or strokes, as well as those with diseases like tuberculosis that they had no cure for. Julia Morgan donated her work for the design, and after her brother Sam died, Morgan's mother Eliza Morgan donated money for the special front gateway on Broadway.
The official end of our walk was in front of Chapel of the Chimes which Morgan did some design work on, and Mountain View Cemetery, where Julia Morgan and the rest of her family are buried below a modest marker. But a few diehards wanted to see the Morgan grave, so we continued on into the cemetery. We passed by the Ayer and Hockenbeamer graves, which Morgan is said to have designed the markers for, and I pointed out some other notable graves along the way, as well as told people about the Mountain View Cemetery tours given by docents.
Thanks to Dan for leading the walk and doing the needed research, and thanks everyone and everywoof who came on the walk, whether you turned back early or went all the way to the Morgan grave. Next month's walk will be in Butters Canyon, led by local historian and author Dennis Evanosky. More details as they become available.
Some notable Julia Morgan designed buildings in Oakland that we didn't visit (or we'd probably still be walking) include:
Ithought the big bookstore news was that after 13 years, the Laurel Bookstore is moving downtown. For a variety of reasons (less foot traffic since the Food Co. formerly Lucky's closed, desire for a bigger space for events, etc.) it makes sense, though it is a loss for the Laurel neighborhood in general, and a big boost for downtown.
But I discovered while I was riding around downtown on Thursday that the Bookmark Bookstore (run by Friends of the Oakland Public Library) isn't the only bookstore downtown (with no offense to De Lauer's News Stand, which also sells some books). There are in fact two bookstores already downtown, albeit very small ones.
First I ran across Wolfman Books on 13th, whose sign advertises "a wild vortex of books flying right at you". Their selection is small, but as suggested by their sign is eclectic and interesting. Their website says "E. M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore", but I'm not sure I'd fully agree with any of that besides 'interest', 'small' and 'bookstore'. When I dropped in there was a lively discussion about the nature of God and a host of other things. There was also some art on display, but I was too distracted by the books and the discussion to fully appreciate it. They've been open less than a year.
I was pretty excited to learn about one new bookstore, but they told me about another new bookstore downtown, Bergeron's Books. They're also a small bookstore, but with a narrower focus on used books, mostly fantasy and science fiction. But they have art on display that's for sale, and hold a variety of events, only some of which are related to books.
So next time you're downtown and looking for books, check out De Lauer's, Bookmark Bookstore, or one of the new kids on the block, Bergeron's or Wolfman's.
I've told some of you in person or on Twitter, but I'm really excited to announce that I'm writing a book about Oakland, called Legendary Locals of Oakland. It's from Arcadia Publishing which does local history books like Oakland's Chinatown, The Pullman Porters and West Oakland, and Selections from the Oakland Tribune Archives. The Legendary Locals titles are the same basic format with 128 pages, but are much more focused on people than some of the other series. And it's not just historical people, but will include contemporary people in Oakland, too.
Even before I signed the contract, I've been thinking about who I'd include in such a book. The hardest part is going to be narrowing it down to the 100-200 people who do get included, because there are so many interesting people who have helped shape Oakland over the years. Check out a very preliminary list of people to include on the Oakland Wiki here.
I've got a lot of work ahead, and the book won't be out until sometime in 2015. But I'd love to have your input on who to include!
Sunday was an annual event remembering the Xicana Moratorium. In 1970, Chicano activists held what became known as the National Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War and injustices that Chicanos were facing, including police brutality and systemic poverty and racism. In Oakland, there was a march starting in Jingletown and ending at San Antonio Park, the location of Sunday's event.
Sunday was a remembrance of those events, a celebration of Chicano and Latino culture, and a chance to raise awareness of current injustices. This year's theme was "Displace Gentrification, Not Our Hoods". A number of groups and vendors had booths set up, and the stage featured a mixture of music, dance and speakers about various subjects.
For me the highlight was getting to see my friend JWanderer7's band La Ceiba play, and when Wanda Cuesta Kruda joined them it was off the hook. La Ceiba plays Cumbia music, a music originating in Columbia with strong African roots.