I get so frustrated with the City sometimes. Okay, most of the time. Following Oakland government as closely as I do, especially in dire times like these, can be completely maddening. I am often tempted to just throw my hands in the air, declare the City hopeless broken, and like, move to the mountains or something.
But despite Oakland’s myriad problems, this is an incredibly special place. So today, I’m going to take a step back from everything that makes me angry or depressed about the city, and remember some of the reasons I really am thankful I live in Oakland.
I was sitting on a bench at Lake Merritt when I decided to move to Oakland. dto510 had spent the day giving me a walking tour of downtown, and we ended the excursion by watching the sun set over the Lake. I was hooked.
These days, I’m very fortunate to work close to Lake Merritt, and I almost always end up sitting there while I eat my lunch. I know people complain a lot about the geese, and the smell of the water, and the general state of maintenance, and so on. And while I’m not going to claim that everything about the way the City takes care of Lake Merritt is perfect, I do think people should like, relax a little bit about all that. It’s pretty damn awesome, and sitting out there soaking in the scenery beats the hell out of eating a sandwich in some sterile office lunchroom.
So thank you, Lake Merritt, for adding natural beauty to my life every day. Even if sometimes it means I end up with twigs in my hair when I come back to work.
Before I moved here, I lived in Portland, Oregon. Everyone was always saying back then that Portland had the best public transit in the Country. WHAT-ever. The buses didn’t even run after midnight! Hello! Also, the way the system was set up required way too much transferring.
AC Transit gets me where I need to go, and I love them for that. While service to the more sparsely populated areas of the district is less than ideal, Oakland’s major corridors and commercial centers are exceptionally well served by the bus, and thanks to NextBus, the only times anymore that I end up sitting at a bus stop waiting around for one to show up are the rare occasions when I’m out and my phone runs out of batteries.
It’s always surprising to me how little most people seem to know about AC Transit’s coverage. Probably twice a month, I find myself having a conversation where someone is like “Oh, this place or that is great, but you probably couldn’t go there, I bet there’s no way to get there on transit.” And my response is usually something along the lines of “Oh no, it’s easy. Line X takes you, like, right there.” AC Transit takes me shopping, takes me out at night (and back), takes me to meetings all over the city, took me to work when I was house sitting in North Oakland in barely more time than it usually takes me to walk there, and reliably took me back across the Bay every single night for the year I worked as a pastry chef in San Francisco and didn’t get off work until like 2 in the morning most of the time.
So thank you, AC Transit, for allowing me to live easily without a car.
Another thing people in Portland liked to brag about is how they have the most parks per capita of any City in the US. Sure, maybe. They have nice parks there, and they are definitely better maintained than ours. But they also count, like, tiny circles of grass in the middle of a road as parks, which kind of feels like cheating to me.
Wev, they have a lot of parks, good for them. But we have the East Bay Regional Park District.. Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, and Redwood Regional Park kick every park in Portland’s ass hardcore. Seriously, I love that when I get tired of the city, I can step out of my noisy downtown apartment, hop on a bus, transfer once, and forty minutes later, be taking a stroll in a Redwood forest.
And of course there’s our waterfront parks. The total awesomeness of Middle Harbor Shoreline Park pretty much goes without saying, and of course has been covered extensively elsewhere in the blogoaksphere, but I want to put in a plug for a somewhat more underappreciated waterfront destination, the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline. That’s what the photo above is of, and I apologize that it isn’t a very good one. I did bring my camera along with me on a recent visit, but had foolishly forgotten to charge the battery before going, so all I could do was snap a few mediocre photos with my cell phone. But the trail along the water is just totally lovely, it’s a great place to sit and read, and if you haven’t had the chance to enjoy a sunset from Garreston Point, you need to do it soon. Breathtaking.
Access to many of the East Bay Regional Parks is somewhat limited if you don’t drive, so I haven’t visited nearly as many as I would like. In fact, one of the reasons I’m committed to getting a driver’s license by the end of the year is so I can get Zipcar and go to more of our regional parks, and more often.
But access issues aside, thank you, East Bay Regional Park District, for keeping nature just a bus ride away.
Yeah, I work at the Library. I have wanted to work there since I first moved here, and when I finally landed a job there last year, I was pretty much completely over the moon.
Oaklanders are so lucky to be blessed with such an incredible library system. Sure, the hours aren’t what I would like them to be, and the materials budget is stretched criminally thin, but OPL does a fantastic job with the resources they’re given. People are always asking me things like “Do people even use libraries anymore, you know, cause of the internet?” And I alway just want to be like “Duh. Come visit one and see.” They’re packed! In fact, one of the best things for me about being at the library all the time is getting to see so many people actually enjoying a City of Oakland service. They come for books and for research help and to watch special programs and to bring their kids to storytime and to use the internet and sometimes, just to have a quiet place to work. So much of the interaction people have with the City is just so completely miserable, it’s heartening to remember that there’s a place thousands of people come to every day and have a positive experience.
Much of the time I’m not working is spent at Oakland Libraries as well. I love to page through old local newspaper on microfilm in the newspapers and magazines room and geek out in the local documents section at Main. My hands-down favorite wifi spot in Oakland is AAMLO, with its ample supply of outlets, consistent connection, and lack of irritating music or background noise. It’s a fabulous place to get work done.
So thank you, Oakland Public Library, for supplying me with movies to entertain me, books to teach me things, DVDs of Council meetings to help me write my blog, old photos of my neighborhood to decorate my apartment, and a great environment to go get work done on my days off.
I really like to cook. Also, I’m kind of a food snob. Visiting other places and shopping for groceries always reminds me of how absurdly spoiled I am living in Oakland. I can buy quality, seasonal produce year-round, most days of the week at all the amazing farmer’s markets in the East Bay. On Tuesdays without Committee meetings, I hop on the 15 and go to the one in Berkeley, cause it really is the best. On Saturdays, I take a short walk up to Grand Lake. On Sundays, I buy the paper and head down to Jack London Square, where the food isn’t quite so great but the fresh cut flowers are an unparalleled bang for the buck. Plus it’s just a lovely place to sit and read.
When I visit other cities, people are always taking me to their farmer’s markets. Usually, they have like a small amount of mediocre produce and a bunch of craft and prepared food vendors. It’s fun to stroll around, but nothing like what we have here. Every time I feel like moving away, I remember that there’s basically nowhere else I can go and have access to this quality of food, and conclude that as long as I love to cook, I’m pretty much just stuck here forever.
So thank you, Oakland farmer’s markets, for providing me all the delicious fruits and vegetables I could ever possibly want, all year long, rain or shine.
And what about you guys? There are plenty of other posts on this blog where you can complain about your frustrations with the City. Let’s keep this one positive. What makes you thankful you live in Oakland?