Monday, 30 April 2012

Oakland and Alameda, California

I seem to have so many items and photos that I want to share that, sometimes, I do not know where to go next. So far there has been a chronological order to the blogs but I am now at the place in my story where there are overlaps. This blog is mainly about Oakland, California where my partner lives. Naturally, I have visited there a number of times and the photos attached were taken on more than one of those visits.

Oakland is a large part of the area known as East Bay across San Francisco Bay from the city itself. South from Oakland suburbs stretch cheek-by-jowl from San Leandro to Fremont and then west to San Jose as well as north through Berkeley to Richmond.

While San Francisco is alive and vibrant, Oakland - for the most part - is depressed and the evidence of poverty is noticeable. The prime east-west street through downtown Oakland is Broadway and, underneath that street, is the BART system. If there is a prime downtown intersection I would say that it is 12th Street and Broadway as that is the location of the main bus transfer point in the city. I have waited for a bus at that stop a number of times but have never felt comfortable. Within the past year Ric has been mugged at least three times and at least one of those muggings has occurred near that bus stop.

That being said there is, for me, an 'awe inspiring' spot nearby and a beautiful place about half way between there and where Ric lives.

First, the 'awe spot' which is Jack London Square. Ric took me there on my first visit to see him in the Bay area - it is within walking distance of 12th and Broadway.

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries Oakland was a 'dry' community - no establishments selling alcoholic beverages were allowed. Also, at that time, Oakland was a major seaport and the men who worked on those ships were from countries where there was little or no restrictions upon drinking. To accommodate those men a pub was permitted  near the docks - the First and Last Chance Saloon.

Beneath that saloon are mud flats so, during the 1906 earthquake, the rear of the saloon sank by a few feet giving the interior an interesting ambiance - the floor slants from the front to the rear and, along the bar which goes from the front to the back, pieces of wood have been nailed to it to prevent glasses and bottles from sliding to the end and off onto the floor.

An even bigger curiosity for me was the fact that the young Jack London went there to write and to drink (age limits on the serving of young people were not in place then). Opposite the bar are some tables and one of them is identified as the place where Jack London sat to write his stories. I made sure that I sat there as well!

Out in front of the saloon is a sourdough's cabin, a fountain and a sculpture of one of Jack London's characters - White Fang.

South of the downtown core of Oakland is the beautiful Lake Merritt. It is of a fair size and in the shape of a horseshoe. I have walked around it three or four times and the length of the walk is just under an hour. The following are photos of the lake, nearby buildings and a small bird sanctuary.

                      Dominating the western shore of the lake is the Alameda County Courthouse

Up until a few years ago the East Bay region of California was a part of the Roman Catholic Arch-diocese of San Francisco. However, one of the more recent popes agreed to a petition to create a new diocese for the faithful living across the bay. For a number of years one of the downtown churches in Oakland served as the Diocesan Center but, now, a new cathedral stands along the shore of Lake Merritt.

                                           The new Cathedral Church of Christ the King.

                                            There are a number of fountains in the lake.

                   Much of the land that lies in the center of the 'horseshoe' is a bird sanctuary

Turning the corner to walk along the eastern shore one comes upon a weir where cormorants perch.

            Nearby I took this photo of a reflection of a parish church in the water of the lake.

This is one of my favorite photos - a conference building along the shore with a Roman Catholic parish church behind it and both buildings are reflected by the virtually still water of the lake.

Ric lives about twelve blocks from the lake in an apartment in a 1930s art deco building perched on the side of a hill.

                  Chez Reed (Ric's apartment is the one in the lower right of the photograph)

When Ric first moved away from the house in Concord he joined a workmate, his wife and little daughter in a unit in a new development at the Fruitvale BART Station. This station is between Lake Merritt and Coliseum (that being where the stadium used by the Oakland Athletics and the Oakland Raiders is located). Also Coliseum is the access point for Oakland Airport.

The complex is quite pretty and it is one block from 'Little Mexico' and a small supermarket which was fun to shop in. One morning I went to prepare my breakfast but there were no eggs in the refrigerator so I walked up to the little Mexican supermarket. I could not locate any eggs so I spoke to a middle-aged woman who was stocking shelves. I knew that she was of Mexican origin so I spoke in my very limited Spanish - "Senora, los ouevos, por favor?" Immediately she took me to where the eggs were to be found. Back at the apartment I proudly told Ric what I had accomplished. He looked at me with a look of horror and said, "Love, I wonder how you pronounced those words as the Spanish expression for male genitals is very similar to that!" Ooops! 

One evening Ric and I were on his balcony playing cribbage when we were startled by the sound of pistol shots coming from somewhere close by. As it was nearly dark outside we did not leave the balcony which was of a Spanish design with high balustrades which hid us from the view of anybody down below. However, Ric made inquiries the next morning and learned that it was some sort of 'turf tussle'.

To the west of much of Oakland is the city of Alameda - a bedroom suburb of San Francisco and home to a Naval Base. The area to the north end of that island is an older suburb while, to the south, are lovely one story brick houses which abut canals. Also, that area is served by ferries from the Embarcadero in San Francisco. When Ric worked for Lucent Technologies and wished to go into The City after work, he had a 15 minute walk to the ferry slip and twenty minutes on the boat. When he got off the boat there was a BART station about a ten minute walk away.

On a recent trip to see Ric he took me to Crab Cove which a friend had shown him. It is a lovely place. What bemused me were the rodents which seemed to be all over the place. They looked somewhat like squirrels but are obviously some other species.

                                      One of the 'critters' is up on top of the rock on the left.

                                               Two of those rodents are seen in this photo.

                        Ric is standing near a monument to seamen lost during a World War II battle.

Oakland may be, on the surface, a dreary city but - just like in most other places - there is beauty to be found.

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