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Hiatus happens. I hadn’t planned on taking a blog break but things got out of hand when my friend Johnny came to town. I won’t go into the details here but a one-day trip turned into a week. Now he’s back in Colorado and I’m playing catch-up with work.

But what a great Oakland sojourn it was. I got a chance to give my third tour of the city since last summer, when friends I had just left in Pittsburgh, PA started dropping by. Usually I start with my neighborhood of the Glenview:

here's a view looking down park blvd. toward wellington st. note that parking is a bit tight; be sure to share the curb when you visit.

here's a view looking down park blvd. toward wellington st.

here's a shot at the corner of park blvd. and hollywood ave. some of the best sunsets in town are visible from here.

here's a shot at the corner of park blvd. and hollywood ave. some of the best sunsets in town are visible from here. this is also near where the key system streetcar turned around and head back to town.

there are some great walks in dimond park. i love exploring the trails in the canyon and taking a dip in the pool, preferably avoiding the marco polo sessions in the summer.

there are some great walks in dimond park. i love exploring the trails in the canyon and taking a dip in the pool, preferably avoiding the marco polo sessions in the summer.

this is the church where bishop cummins absolved me of sin. that was right before they painted it dark orange. we called it "jesus and the giant peach" until it faded to a warm adobe beige.

this is the church where bishop cummins absolved me of my sins. that was right before the parish painted it dark orange. we called it "jesus and the giant peach" until it faded to a warm adobe beige.

here's a cool apartment building on park blvd. during the prop. 8 fiasco, there were reports of stolen anti-8 signs. luckily the g'view is also known as the "lesbian castro," so much of the signage remains.

here's a cool apartment building on park blvd. during the prop. 8 fiasco, there were reports of stolen anti-8 signs. luckily the g'view is also known as the "lesbian castro," so much of the signage remains.

look for this banner on the gna website one of these days. change is percolating.

look for this banner on the gna website one of these days. change is percolating.

One of the walks Johnny and I took will appear in an article coming out in the OakBook this spring. I wrote up three of my fave stairway strolls for the magazine. It could’ve been a book-length guide as there are many great walks in Oakland. Some are more urban than others; all are little voyeuristic pockets that make you feel like a neighbor.

For the car tour, I like to highlight the sights with a story. A running soundtrack of Bay Area funk is optimal but not necessary. When my buddy A. flies in for a week this Saturday, I’ll be sure to check these items off the must-see list:

• The tasty new restaurants Marzano and Bellanico in the G’view, and the empty space where À Côté will move very soon.
• The new cathedral by the lake that looks like a female body part (the inside, as you can imagine, is pretty awesome).
• The best Oakland taco truck on 22nd and International (press play on Roger Collins’ “Foxy Girls in Oakland” tune here).
• Mexican cookies and the transit village of the Fruitvale (my gramma B. lives in this ‘hood).
• My high school’s parking lot in East Oakland, where some dude stole my friend’s Suburban and then drove it off a cliff, magazine clips and all. (I first found out about this when I saw M.’s car on KTVU news, crashed into a house. Thank goodness no one was hurt.)
• The Coliseum (ruined by those supporting the Raiders’ return and where I love to see my A’s) and the strip by 880 (where the Matrix car chase was filmed), close to where the Oakland Tribune and Oakland Magazine reside.
• The sinewy road up Golf Links, past the Oakland Zoo, through the eucalyptus-lined drive and the entrance into Joaquin Miller Park.
• Just past the Chabot Space and Science Center, there’s a kick-ass view of the Bay. Lots of hiking opportunities around here.
• Swing back into Montclair, where I grew up before it got yuppie, and the field where my soccer team used to practice (go Maniacs). Drive by the old firehouse that closed down after the Hills Fire in 1991. I still remember what I took with me when my family evacuated.
• Take the Highway 13–24 on-ramp (love this) to West O. Cruise down 7th Street, past The Crucible, past my favorite papuseria, by Esther’s Orbit Room and the project formerly known as Slim Jenkins’ Club. Check out the sagging but beautiful Victorians.
• Head up the Mandela Parkway to North Oakland, past the annoying “Here…There” metal sculpture and down MLK. Show folks where the first Black Panther Party office opened, where my great-grandparents lived (under the BART tracks before the house was demolished), and the still standing home on 52nd where my gramma P. grew up.
• Hit up Bake Sale Betty’s before riding up 51st and into the Piedmont Ave. strip. We’ll drive through Fenton’s if we haven’t over-stuffed ourselves. Never can pass up their Black & Tan.
• Make it down past Mosswood Park (where my mom used to play as a girl) and toward Uptown, with all its newfound finery. Special visits to Oakland Fox and Oaksterdam landmarks.
• Roll by Lakeshore area, my fave commercial strip in town: Arizmendi, Lamyx, Peets, Urban Indigo, Spettro, Colonial Donuts, Maribel and my friends’ bar, The Easy. Always nice to get their sustainable cocktails on Saturday morning, when Kolin gathers fresh ingredients at the farmers market.
• And of course there’s my breakfast place of choice, Full House (Laurel district). I usually include this on a trip to Mills College, where I studied as a preschooler.
• If my visitor isn’t maxed out on historical references and foodstuffs, I’ll get us (more) ice cream at Loard’s on MacArthur before returning to my place in the G’view.

Since I’ve two other friends staying in San Francisco for the weekend, I may head to the “west side,” hopefully to the Mission or to see a new flick I’m interested in. Tomorrow, I’m checking out a new restaurant in Jack London Square area. More details on that very soon.

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I may not stack them as high as my grandmother did, but I do collect newspaper clippings. Mostly, they’re old articles from the Oakland Tribune, about installation of Lake Merritt’s “necklace of lights,” or an archival photo of the Montclair district when La Salle was just a dirt road. Some of them are bad news. My Sept. 24, 2001 issue of The New Yorker has an all-black cover, which, when held up close to the eyes, reveals two darker towers in silhouette.

It wasn’t until November 5, 2008 that I added to my small archive. At 6:00 a.m., I got up and walked down Park Blvd. to the newspaper racks outside the organ shop, and picked up the San Francisco Chronicle. The whole front page featured a smiling President-Elect and the words: “Obama: ‘Change has come to America.’” By the time I left the mingling coffee drinkers at the coffee shop and walked up the sun-lit street, I found my copy of the Oakland Tribune on my walkway. “A New Era,” the headline read. An image of Barack flanked with American flags stretched across the page. Finally. Some good news worth holding on to. And everyone wanted a copy; the Chron sold out and took special orders for additional printings. For a moment it seemed that newspapers were once again a thriving industry.

Decades ago, local writers printed neighborhood rags all over Oakland. All corners of the city had some kind of glorified newsletter that functioned like the sites in today’s ‘Oakblogosphere.’ The West Oakland Press, Temescal News, Central Oakland Eagle, Elmhurst Herald and some 59 other papers had a home on the news racks. The Dimond district had two publications (the Dimond Herald and Dimond Review) and I’m still trying to figure out from where a newspaper called simply “The Windbag” came. Remnants of these papers are on file at the Oakland Public Library. I dropped by the main branch to read some of them. Before my head got dizzy from microfiche whiplash, I recovered an old publication set in my little neighborhood. In a craftsman-like font, the masthead read: “Glenview News.”

Much of the content recorded the meeting minutes of the Glenview Improvement Club. Requests for streetlights, a new set of streetcar tracks and a neighborhood library branch started in the club and got press in the Glenview News. The Improvement Club printed their meeting minutes here, but also allotted space to other orgs. in the neighorhood. The Women’s Club, for instance, held a “Depression Party” in 1935. Such a bash could take place today, what with the economic strife we face going into the Obama era. Only the wording seemed a little, well, out-dated:

“The Depression Party presented by the Glenview Women’s Club at their Club House on the evening of Jan. 24th is just going to be one grand surprise. It will be one continuous riot of fun and laughter, with games and dancing to follow.

“Contrary to the ‘impression of the word depression’ it’s going to be a jolly evening when that old ‘bogey’ will be dragged through his own historical past and forced to yield to the glorification of better times. The party will appeal to all ages and no one can afford to miss this how of shows for thirty-five cents.”

I can’t say what a “bogey” is, but I’d say that the country has temporarily forgotten our impending depression the past few days. Party-goers in Washington D.C.—and pretty much anyone with access to a television—know that the Inauguration of Barack Obama is taking our minds off of the signs of the economic times. Oaklanders can view the ceremony at the Oracle Arena tomorrow morning and party with the East Bay Democrats in the evening. I may swing by if I get some work done (gotta find my next paycheck) because there’s no cover and plenty of music, libations and Oakland’s newly elected Councilwoman at Large, Rebecca Kaplan. And there are more anti-depression bashes going on in and around The Town. For a party catered in part by G’view restaurants Bellanico and soon-to-be neighbors À Côté, buy your tickets now for Montclair Women’s Inaugural Club. There are more Inaugural events in the Bay, some of which are listed in today’s Chronicle. The champagne toast with the Shotgun Players just may lure me away from my G’view living room.

If yesterday’s Inaugural Concert is any indication of what will follow tomorrow, the swearing in will be, in the words of the Glenview Women’s Club, “one grand surprise.” I watched the star-studded line-up (including Skyline High alumni Tom Hanks, whose belabored pauses still didn’t drain the event of its poignancy) rock Americans to the tune of hope. Stevie Wonder brought the Obamas to their feet; Garth Brooks had the crowd putting their hands in the air to make the most awesome wave I’ve seen since the A’s made the playoffs at the Coliseum; and the sight of U2 playing their MLK anthem “Pride” amidst the Lincoln Memorial brought tears to my eyes—even if Bono went on too long about “four boys from North side Dublin.”

In the spirit of the “glorification of better times,” I leave you with this picture. My niece Nora drew this Obama portrait during the concert, and I’m taking it as an omen of more good news.

nora-obama1

A friend of mine emailed me to say:

“I see that your blog has a more serious, reflective tone, but I’m just passing along something from the lighter side of public policy that was posted by one of my fb friends who is also an Oaktown expat in NC.

You’ve probably already seen it, and I’m sure this is run of the mill for the East Bay, but out here I was LMAO. 2M+ hits and counting…”

Thanks for the feedback, D! In terms of this blog, I’ll work adding a little upbeat tone to my bass line. (A post called “Incidents with Squirrels” is coming soon.) The video he recommended pretty much speaks for itself: