As Monday got underway in our household, my son asked if we could go to Fairyland. While I know how blessed I am to be home with both my children on Monday and Tuesday, it is critical to all of our sanity to keep them moving and out of the house. Unfortunately, until summer officially hits and the school year fades into memory, Fairyland is closed on these two days. So as my brain churned away on how to spend the morning, I thought, “maybe we can SEE Fairyland from the Kaiser rooftop garden.” The garden has been on my radar for quite some time. The overcast morning would be perfect for snapping pictures. I had to pick sometime up downtown. So, why not go look? The answer to my question turned out to be no, you can only see the Fairyland sign. Yet we had fun exploring, snacking, and watching the family of ducks come and go. Once the largest rooftop garden in the world, this oasis amidst concrete gave us a fun family park trip to kick off the week.
I have begun to remember that I really did use to enjoy history class. Perhaps its why I have recently found enjoyment in the stories of Oakland’s history. I often joke that I did not get the teaching gene that runs through branches of my family; yet maybe a branch of that gene does exist. As I have spent time becoming more aware of names I often see on signs and street posts, Peralta keeps making repeat appearances. A sunny afternoon visit to the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park left me with a stack of brochures and a series of questions, most prominent in my mind being “What will the history books say about you?” The veins of the Peralta family history run much like the creeks of the vast Rancho San Antonio, winding, twisting, and many in number. Their homestead, stretching from the eastern shores of the bay up into the hills, is the birthplace of our town; Oakland’s Momma. While today marks the official 164th birthday of Oakland, the date it was incorporated in 1852, it was the ranchero that brought the diverse culture and community to the land that Oakland now stands upon.
A historic Oakland establishment is closing on April 30th. Genova Delicatessen has been in business in the Temescal District of Oakland since 1926. A loved spot by many, patrons have lined up amongst the aisles for decades, watching the numbers tick by until they could put in an order for their favorite Italian deli sandwich. Genova has been a testament to how a business can thrive for close to 100 years; good service, good food, and a dedication to old world Italian roots. I decided to make a final trip on Monday, to brave the wait with two small children, to order a #9, and to say thank you. It was perfectly apropos that as I tried to explain to my four year old that the deli was closing and that we needed to wait our turn, he said, “but when they close the doors, who is going to open them again?”
When my host removed the chain and bolt and pushed the doors open, my breath caught. The first words out of my mouth were, “It’s stunning.” Stepping into such a grand, open, and iconically historic space is moving. To stand almost alone within it, listening to someone share its story, one of great historic value to our city, followed by even greater mistreatment and disrespect by its own, is enough to break your heart. The 16th Street station is beautiful, yet in shambles. What I would soon learn is that much of what I was looking at was actually remnants of a movie set. Once I readjusted my vision, I still saw what it could be. With the tremendous light hitting the white marble floors, I turned my mindset to one of hope, hope that someday it will once again become the grand destination it was in its past. So as I share both its history and its present, I chose to blend them together into one tone, a nostalgic twist to remind us of what could once again…be grand.
When I was a little girl, I begged my mom to take me to the restaurant in the bright pink house covered with whimsical hearts and smiling gingerbread men. Little did I know that menu items such as squab cassoulet, jambalaya, and sautéed quail were what awaited me at T.J.’s Gingerbread House. I made do with endless refills of lemonade; simply happy to be inside the pink oasis, self-described as “a fairytale come true”. While the pink exterior is long gone, this well known corner on the edge of West Oakland is bringing the fairytale back in the sweet form of cupcakes, Angel Cakes to be exact.
I tend to romanticize the past. When life feels particularly hard, I daydream of a time when existence seemed simpler. I think of picnics on rolling green hillsides, a rocking chair on a porch, reading a book by a fire. I imagine children playing freely on a span of lawn, dinner from the garden in the evening, a carriage ride to the general store. I suppose I live in denial that I could be without internet, iPhones, and Instagram. Last Friday was one of those days when the end of a hard week was a welcome sight, and the urge to spend a few hours alone on the couch came beckoning. Instead I grabbed a cup of coffee and chose to spend some “me time” at a place I had read about yet never visited. I suppose it could have been my mindset, but as I wandered the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate, I couldn’t help but think how things seem to have been so much easier 100 years ago. I think I forgot that being a member of high society doesn’t hurt.
I’m a beer girl. I always have been. Not to say I don’t appreciate a nice glass of wine, or a well mixed cocktail; but when it comes down to it, a pilsner in a cold glass is always going to be my go-to drink. At the start of the year I attended an Oakland Urban Path walk through the area of town once known as Brooklyn. I learned that Oakland has a history full of lagers and porters. From Oakland Brewery to the longstanding Golden West, our town was overflowing with producers of “steam beer.” Sadly, this part of our history fizzled out completely in the 1960’s as doors were closed and buildings were demolished. 50+ years later it is coming back. Linden Street Brewery carved the way, with respect for the working man roots of our past. Paying homage to old favorites, and reviving Oakland’s brew laden past, with a modern twist.
Today is February 26th, there are 3 days left before March arrives. I have spent just about every day this month thinking, researching, and then overthinking how to honor Black History Month. We live in a city of diversity, a city famous for its role in our country’s African American history. As an Oakland native and voice representing things I love about Oakland, I knew Oakland’s critical role in black history was an important topic which I was excited to tackle. However, I struggled with how to do it “correctly”.