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Our Town

Edited by Jenna Scatena | May 30, 2014 | Lifestyle Story City Life

Editor's Note: This is one of many dispatches from Oakland that San Francisco magazine is publishing over the next month, all part of our June "Oakland Issue." To see the rest of the issue's contents, and to read stories as they become available online, click here.

Barbara Lee, Congresswoman
“Lake Merritt is truly a microcosm of everything great about Oakland. Walking its path, I’m able to experience the richness of Oakland’s diversity—from kids playing at Children’s Fairyland to the seniors practicing tai chi, families walking their dogs, the wildlife refuge for endangered birds, and youths practicing capoeira.”

Janet Napolitano, President, University of California
“My favorite place in Oakland is the Saturday farmers’ market near Lake Merritt. Besides the array of produce, fruits, and flowers sold there, I love the diversity of people I see at the market and around the lake—and it’s a place where I can feel relatively anonymous.”

A-Plus, Rapper, Souls of Mischief
“Horse Hill shows the scenic beauty of the East Bay unlike anywhere else. I grew up running through the trails, riding cardboard down the steep hills, catching lizards, smoking Mary, drinking 40s, hooking up—you name it. It was my getaway growing up.”

Garrett Caples, Hip-Hop Journalist
“The Plan Bee mural, on the side of the AutoZone on International Boulevard, is dedicated to a young rapper who was murdered in 1992. It’s endured 20 years in the unlikeliest of places—these tributes tend to be temporary.”

The Reverend Michael C. Barber, SJ, Bishop of Oakland
“I love the Mountain View Cemetery, which has vistas of the bay and ‘Millionaire’s Row,’ where robber barons like Charles Crocker have their monumental tombs. Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan are also buried there. Some monuments are Roman temples or Victorian gazebos; others are Egyptian pyramids. It’s contemplative. Even the millionaires couldn’t take it with them: we’re all the same in death.”

James Syhabout, Chef, Commis and Hawker Fare
“I often find areas off International Boulevard refreshing to walk around—getting hand-cranked ice cream or the churros from Churros Mexicanos in the Fruitvale Public Market. Some places haven’t changed since I was a kid.”

Ishmael Reed, Author
“For a sense of local history and scope, I go to Old Oakland for a drink at Heinold’s First and Last Chance, where Oakland writers Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joaquin Miller, Robert Service, Ambrose Bierce, and Rex Beach used to drink. Take a good look at the mementos and soak in the history—Jack London is not the only spirit that keeps us company within these walls.”

Kreayshawn, Rapper
“My favorite place is the 23rd Avenue trainyards. If I hadn’t had the 23rd yards as a place to go and be myself or get away and think, I might have easily gotten into some way worse things that surround that area. What is a seemingly dangerous place is actually the place that kept me sane, happy, and creative.”

Anca Mosoiu, Founder and Entrepreneur, Tech Liminal
“I had my first kiss at the Morcom Rose Garden. Now it is not only beautiful and tranquil, but the community involvement and friends I’ve made as a volunteer there have helped me realize that I can make a difference in Oakland.”

Amy Tan, Author
“When I was six, I lived on 51st Street about a block from my first library, the Temescal branch. I had just learned to read, and we couldn’t afford to buy books. But here I had hundreds to choose from, and I didn’t have to take just one. I could take five—and they were free. I sat on the floor often, perusing the possibilities. There began my addiction to words.”

Richard “Scrumbly” Koldewyn, Music Director, StageBridge
“From Vernon Terrace to Harrison are steps where you can catch a view of 20th-century church domes, spires, trees, and not-too-tall buildings. It looks like you could be in northern Italy and tells of a simple grace: Here is a place where humans live apart from the madness, in harmony.”

Greil Marcus, Music Critic
“There’s not a cult of historical importance like in S.F., or a fetish over great days like in Berkeley. Oakland remains to be made in all kinds of ways.”

A.J. Griffin, Pitcher, A’s
“I like the laid-back atmosphere of a lot of Oakland restaurants—Kincaid’s, the Fat Lady, Lake Chalet, Lois the Pie Queen. I go there with my girlfriend after day games.”

Mary Roach, Author
“Ben’s Restaurant is inside a produce market, a half block and several light-years from Blue Bottle Coffee. I’ve never met Ben. Ben leaves the customer interfacing to his wife, or perhaps it’s his sister—whoever she is, we love her. She teaches us Chinese, one phrase per lunch. It’s hard to get across why I love Oakland so much. It’d be easier if you come to Ben’s.”

Originally published in our June issue of San Francisco.

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