Hidden Gems of Oakland
As I start typing this out, I am already feeling the anticipatory phantom vibration from my phone going nuts with texts from friends bitching at me for blowing up their spots. But you know what? Don’t care. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this list of the hidden treasures of Oakland. I am probably going to be socially ostracized by my friends for this, but whatever. Fuck it.
MIDDLE HARBOR SHORELINE PARK
Swear to god. No one is ever at this park, which never ceases to surprise the hell out of me. Perhaps the somewhat colorful nickname “Toxic Park” has something to do with it. None the less Middle Harbor Shoreline Park is a beautiful bay-front sprawl of green grass, goose shit, and palm trees, making it a much less crowded option to chill with a beer and picnic than Lake Merritt. The view of the city is fucking breathtaking and there is a weird watch-tower at the far end of the park you can walk to check out the city from a little higher up or look at the massive cargo ships slowly cruise in and out of the Port of Oakland. If you are biking to this joint, be a careful, there are lots of big-rig trucks so things can get a little hectic.
What is old and dark and covered with business cards? Don’t know? Let me help you further. Take all of the aforementioned and combine it with a guy on the ivories and BA-BOOM! You have The Alley! Open since 1933 this landmark of lush is one of the very last piano bars left in Oakland. The stories about this place are legendary and if you aren’t a total donkey, and it’s slow enough, you can maybe get the bartender to tell you about the weird history of the bar and the ghosts that live there. On a personal note, The Alley has been in my life for a long time. When I was in my early twenties, I gleefully howled along to “If I Was a Rich Man” from Fiddler on The Roof on a bi-weekly basis. Now that I am in my early thirties I have scaled back on the show tunes but I tend to take first dates to this bar because I look good in low light and the live piano makes me feel like I have my life a little more together than I actually do in reality. Gossip: there is nasty talk this place might close due to some bullshit, so go see them. Give them money. Keep them open. Thank you.
1-2-3-4 GO! RECORDS
1-2-3-4 Go! Record store on 40th Street just off of Telegraph Avenue is a little gem of a shop that has pretty much everything you want to listen to. They have a great selection of new and used music, the bulk of which are vinyl, but they also carry CD and cassette tapes. Add to that the store regularly hosts art exhibits and throws shows in their back venue-area and it’s hard to say no.
THE LANEY COLLEGE FLEA MARKET
Fuck! It’s Saturday and I need 3 mangos, a vintage fur coat, a funk record, and a stolen bike but I don’t want to shop around. Where to go? Laney College Flea Market to the rescue! Located in the parking lot of Laney Community College every Saturday, weather permitting- duh, the flea market is basically god’s own garage sale. You can find anything here if you take the time to look. That funky burned DVD vendor with a handful of records on the side might actually have the unedited liner notes 1968 MC5 “Kick Out The Jams” record you have been dreaming about (true story). In true Oakland style the Laney Flea Market shies away from being a depot for candy coated antiques and just serves it up like it is: weird, wonderful, surprising and edgy.
THE PARAMOUNT THEATER
The Paramount Theater is a remnant of Oakland’s lush era of Art-Deco edifices that punctuate the Uptown District. Opening its doors originally in 1931 this building has been hailed one of the finest examples of Art Deco design in the US. In layman’s terms: it’s mother-fucking incredible. To walk in is to step back in time- the walls are painted in rich jewel tones and the grand staircase swoops upwards. The theater itself glows blood-red and with gold scenes from mythology crawling over the walls. The Paramount has a full schedule of concerts and lectures, but hands down my favorite thing to do is go to their regularly scheduled $5 Friday classic movie nights. It’s a great excuse to get dressed up, grab a drink at one of their three in-theater bars, and feel fabulous.
THE MOUNTAIN VIEW CEMETERY
So I’m not like super super a goth, but I do have dyed black hair and I have clocked some goddamn TIME at the Mountain View Cemetery (http://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/). To stroll through the rolling hills is pock marked with famous Bay Area names: Merritt, Tilden, Shattuck, Mac Dre, The Black Dahlia. The tombs and crypts are elaborate all the way from “Millionaires Row” to the spooky crumbling ones that spill down the hillside. The graveyard is an excellent spot to crack a brew and toast the sun setting and people watch, because let me tell you, there are for hella people who cruise that place: bands doing photo shoots, joggers, people getting stoned… Also, weirdly enough, during the holiday season the cemetery broadcasts its own short-range radio show. Its Christmas music largely, which I dislike, but I don’t give a single shit. I have been trying to DJ on this station for the past 13 years, and I will continue to try to get on it and I will eventually fucking succeed- I don’t care who I have to kill.