Five years ago …

Five years ago, I was living in San Francisco’s Richmond District. I had been living in San Francisco for seven years, in the Outer and Inner Richmond. Summer in San Francisco is windy and spring-like — it gets warmer in the fall. It gets really cold in the Richmond District where I lived — fog rolls in during the afternoon, and just sits there like a thick blanket overnight, into the late morning, when the sunlight starts to chip away at it around the Golden Gate.

I was working in Alameda, and driving a reverse commute, across the old Bay Bridge, every morning and every night. I loved working in the East Bay – especially in Alameda Point. Warm and sunny, large and expansive. Where I worked, we had a view of the San Francisco skyline, and I could walk or drive my car to watch some of the large tanker ships come into the Port of Oakland. I thought that was “hella cool.”

But then, I would drive back home, across the Bridge, and see this thick fog bank just sitting there by Sutro radio tower, and know that it would be at least 10 degrees colder, or more, by my apartment. I would circle the block several times looking for street parking, and then settle in for dinner and city life.

I love living in Oakland – I wanted to live in Oakland five years – and I am glad that I made the choice that I did. To move across the Bay and into a neighborhood that is warmer, more inviting I think, and had more to offer me than San Francisco.

Still – FIVE YEARS is a long time in a short time. FIVE YEARS has brought a lot of change to my new home. Oakland has rocketed forward from this crusty, industrial, cheaper alternative for me to something passively referred to as “hip” and “expensive.” In five years, some of my favorite restaurants and cafés have closed because they can’t afford to stay open; people I know have moved away because they can’t afford to live here anymore; this “Brooklyn of the West” is building expensive condos along Broadway that I’ll never be able to afford. The Raiders are leaving. The Warriors are leaving. The A’s are trying to build a new stadium.

Meanwhile, BART is a mess. I saw a homeless person yell in a passenger’s face the other day because she wouldn’t give him her wallet. True, this might have happened five years ago, but this type of occurrence is happening almost daily – with no police to be found.

I get nostalgic thinking about the past, and unsure about the future. All I know is I’ve been here for five friggin’ years. How did that happen? How did all the farmers markets and hikes and happy hours and who knows what else adds up to almost five friggin’ years? I guess it does.

(Thank you, Ziggy.)

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Oakland and Brooklyn comparison – article in the NYT

A recent article in the New York Times compares Oakland to Brooklyn, N.Y. It’s a well-written article.

I do take a little offense at Oakland being compared to another city, however. Oakland has its OWN character, just as Brooklyn has ITS own character. … A few years ago, I went to New York City and had the opportunity to also visit and stay in Brooklyn. Geographical comparisons aside between San Francisco vs. Manhattan and Oakland vs. Brooklyn – I think they’re different, they have a different vibe. Oakland is a West Coast city that emulates a California style, California cuisine, architecture, history, art, and cultural diversity unique and way different than Brooklyn, entrenched in hundreds of years of immigrant history, brownstones, different values, and especially weather. It’s a superficial comparison and becoming “cliché” to compare the two.

That said, there is a growing energy in Oakland, a casual spirit, a joie de vivre if you will. Whereas there are more techies and young people making more money in San Francisco, in Oakland there are more artists and working class people, more families, more diversity. I love living here, and I love being here on the weekends.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the Oakland vs. Brooklyn comparison?