It might be expected that the New York Times would pick up on such high profile stories as the murder of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009, or the murder of four Oakland police officers in March. But Oakland the tourist destination for Times readers? I have to admit it was a bit unexpected. About a month ago the Times published “36 Hours in Oakland California,” which sells Oakland as a sort of multi-culti-city-of-the-future-hidden-gem-artists’ haven. Since then there has been a relative spate of Oakland-based reporting in the times that might challenge the old Gertrude Stein adage that “there is no there there.”
“36 Hours in Oakland California,” gives New Yorkers some great tips such as the Grand Lake Theater–my hands-down favorite place to see a movie by myself (or with anyone else for that matter), the Washington Hotel (my mother’s personal favorite hideaway), and the Morcom Rose Garden, which truly is a hidden gem.
Grand Lake’s Auditorium 3 (picture from their website)
Marcom Rose Garden, photo by Eros Hoagland for The New York Times
Then, just a few days ago, the Times gave us the popular “Neighbor, Can You Spare a Plum?” about fruit foraging, beginning with a profile of Asiya Wadud, a Chez Panisse alum who pioneered Forage Oakland, an organization/movement aimed at viewing urban fruit as collective wealth, with potential for community building. While Wadud and Forage Oakland seem laudable, the Times article leaves a lot to be desired. If anything it brought on the painful memory of someone harvesting my “collective wealth”–the roses in my front yard, by simply lopping off the top of all the bushes–and convinced me not to plant that plum tree in front of my house. All fruit isn’t everyone’s fruit–the law and I believe Wadud agrees–but Kim Severson, the author of the article, glosses over this point a little too much for my taste. What would Randy Cohen say???
Asiya Wadud by Noah Berger for The New York Times
But no need to get too serious, Oakland knows how to party, the Times’ bastion of style T Magazine reminded us yesterday, June 10, 2009 on their blog “The Moment.” What is a forlorn Williamsburg hipster refugee to do after the Sonic Youth show at the Fox Theater? The Moment says hit Cafe Van Kleef! The Moment’s description of the place hits the nail on the head. Van Kleef is kind of Brooklyn meets Nawlins meets Oakland–in decor if nothing else–and they do pour excellent cocktails (they often have great fresh fruit involved) but overall the place is a little to Park Slope c. 2002 for me with their earnest burlesque and cabaret, but maybe they Williamsburg kids will come and shake it up (they do serve some purpose you know).
What the Times obviously needs is a little dose of good ole Rockridge style soothing…and I’m working on it. In the mean time, you can consider co-housing opportunities in the Temescal neighborhood, or just keep track of Oakland news by setting up a Google news alert here.