Oaktown Almanac

A San Franciscan’s Guide to Living in Oakland

San Francisco is a great town but thanks to all the artists squatting in rent-controlled housing, the price of living keeps increasing. What options are there for us regular folk who need to program for a living? Well, I recently had to face the facts and moved out of my now-unaffordable place in El Mission to a new place in Oakland. Inspired by this cool KQED blog post, I decided to make my own guide to help you get acquainted with OakLand after leaving SF.

Oakland's actually not bad, as Keak da Sneak would say, “It's good, it's good like the granddaddy.” Just don't live in the bad parts of Oakland (east, south, lower north and west) and you'll be fine.

Best Places to Eat


Zachary's. Little Star is better but whatever, make do this is your home now!


Hmmm…not sure about this one. Best bet is probably just to make your own sandwich. That way it's exactly how you like it.

Best Chinese:

Rangoon Super Stars. I've never been here but it has four and a half stars on yelp/

Best Vietnamese:

Mu Me. They deliver so you don't have to go outside. The Garlic noodles are to die for. 

Best Tacos:

El Farolito. This is technically in SF, but I haven't found any good tacos in Oakland.

Best Coffe:

Well this one is easy. Subrosa, or Blue Bottle coffee from anywhere that serves it

Best Bars:

Cafe Van Kleefe. Delicious grapefruit drinks here

Where to buy things:

The Flea Market in the Ashby BART station

Where to buy groceries:

Berkeley Bowl

Where To Go:

Art Murmur - Second Friday of every month, lots of fun

Lake Merrit - lots of water here, take a dip to cool off in the scorching hot Oakland summer

Pixar - home of Shrek!

Anyway, I've only lived here in the Oaksterdam a month, but so far, it's been hyphy. Good luck and welcome to the neighborhood.

Life on the Rails

KQED's News Fix just published a killer profile on Mike Brodie, who spent years hopping freight trains and photographing others doing the same:

Brodie would spend months traveling, often sleeping on the side of railroad tracks or in the woods. Occasionally, he'd go home to Florida to visit his mother.

For years I’d come home and every time I would see my mom I would be wearing the same dirty shirt, have really bad B.O., I’d have the same pants with all the patches on them. Wouldn’t change my socks or underwear, not often, you know? So my mom just got annoyed. She was like, 'Mike! You’re such a good-looking man! Why are you dressed like this!?' And I was like, 'I don’t care!' “

Read on for more on helping out his mother, going to prison for train-hopping, his thoughts on internet fame, and living in West Oakland. (And be sure to check out his photos.)


"Crazy Legs Howard" And Other Assorted Drawings From the Oakland Coliseum

Michael Morgan's “Sketchball” comic is only a few games into the A's season, but the results thus far as been promising.  Here's what he had to say about the portrait above:

If there is one thing that fans on both sides of the Bay can agree on, it’s that Crazy Legs Howard is the best concessioner in the world!

No doubt. (And if you haven't seen Crazy Legs dance at a Giants/A's/SF Bulls game before, behold the glory of a 69-year-old rad dude working the crowd:)

Gently Scruffy Twenty-Something Funemployment Checklist

On Transit is Alia Salim's borderline perfect record of eavesdropped conversations and other such overheards on BART.  While her topics typically involve love, PA systems, and sloppy style, yesterday she captured the plans of a “gently scruffy twenty-something” who recently quit his job, conveniently rattled-off between West Oakland and 19th Street stations for everyone within earshot:

  1. Start going to yoga (again)
  2. Start brewing beer (again)
  3. Start playing guitar (again)
  4. Build up a touring bike
  5. Finish the design for his tattoo
  6. Visit friends in Brooklyn
  7. Get a one-month internship (up to three months if it were “more of an apprenticeship in something, like, artisan”)
  8. Travel for a little bit, probably South America
  9. Learn Spanish (prior to traveling, “obviously; it’s not really worth going if you can’t understand any of the culture”)
  10. Plant herbs (definitely) and vegetables (with landlord’s permission)

I’m so proud of you for doing this,” says the girlfriend, Pattagucci and hiking boots. She adjusts her head on his shoulder to better accommodate one of two whimsical pigtails. “It’s so great that you’ve got, like, specific ideas for what you’re going to do.” Then, incredibly, “How did you even come up with all that stuff?”

Admittedly, that sounds like a pretty killer summer. (But where's “exploring new microhoods” and “taking latte art classes”?)

[Photo by Allan Hough]

Oakland Now 81% More Popular Among People Who Can Afford Downpayments

Despite not existing on a zoomed-out Google Map, Oakland is a vibrant city just east of San Francisco.

With all of San Francisco's borderline callous bragging about being a “red hot real estate market” and an “economic recovery cinderella story” or whatever, it turns out Oakland is where the Bay Area's fiscally solvent trendsetters are flocking.  According to math conveniently calculated by Movoto, there were only 151 homes for sale in Oakland by the end of March, versus 797 a year ago—an 81% drop.  And when you compare Oakland to SF, Oaklands prices are increasing at a greater clip and has even less availability.

What's that mean?  Either corporate landlords are betting that Oakland fill their pockets, or Oakland Is Already Over.  Regardless, if you want to avoid rising rents and home prices in the Bay Area, you're just going to have to move to Reno.

[via SF Business Times]

And Now Let's Watch a Pack of Partying Puppets Do All The Cocaine

This video is 4 weeks old, which is practically 40 in internet years, so do excuse our tardiness, but for some sick reason, we're only now catching wind of Oakland-based The Coup's video for “Your Parents' Cocaine.”  Isn't it grand?  It has all the elements of we look for in video perfection, namely: puppets, drugs, stabbings, felt finger-banging, raining money, and kazoos. Yes, obviously, kazoos.


Digital Underground’s Giant Humpty Hump Head Needs a Home

If you're itching to desecrate some quintessential hip-hop iconography at Burning Man this year, some sketchy warehouse has a helluva a deal for you.

This giant head of Humpty Hump, used in Digital Underground's video for “Return of the Crazy One”, has been sitting abandoned in an Oakland warehouse for years, and the owner is just giving it away to whomever wants it.  What's better?  Shock G himself will have your back if you snag it, according to an email he sent to Steven Hughes:

Whoever grabs it up, please stay in touch, and when we next need it again, I’ll reimburse your transport, storage & cleaning expenses up to the current date, to either buy it back or rent it out if it’s no longer for sale. – SHKG

Here's the rundown of what you get:

  • dimensions are 12ft high by 16 ft wide at it’s base.
  • splits into 3 pieces for smaller storage or transport.
  • required an 18-wheel truck to transport and a 4-man fork lift team to move.
  • full dressing room inside, w/electric elevator that lifts out thru nose.
  • also has metal stairs inside and nose-door opens manually as well, in case of electric failure.
  • sunglasses light up and scroll circular light patterns around the rims.
  • The lips and chin double as steps to walk down to stage.
  • 50k to build; built by FM Productions South San Francisco. (they also did the giant pig for Pink Floyd. lol)

And should SF rents get too much, the head can double as an apartment.  Apparently a guy, upon getting evicted from his apartment, “lived surreptitiously in the head for several weeks before being discovered.”

Anyway, hit this dude up on Tumblr if you're interested!

[h/t Jackson West]

Get Bruised

The Bruises don’t sounds like they look like they have very many friends in art school. And guess what. They don’t. In fact, Jen Black, the guitarist and co-founder of The Bruises, filled me in on the phone this morning about her new place in Oakland where she’s living with drummer/girlfriend Tamara Waite and their dog, Snugglemuffinboogers. Very adult stuff.

Upon listening to their new album, Never be the Same, I was immediately impressed by how little it sounds like anything trendy happening in SF and other places I’ve been to. The songs are guitar-heavy, and easily influenced by 90’s girl rock, but more in a pop way than a grunge way. What I’m trying to say is, Jen plays an SG. To really drive this whole thing home, the album was produced by Michael Eisenstein (there’s a show business name!) of Letters to Cleo.

The Bruises songs are largely about breakups and stuff. Never be the Same boasts particular bummedness, presumably magnified by singer Asia Blue’s recent sobriety. But you know what? I’m into it. As Jen put simply, “Our songs are about normal emotional experience. They aren’t abstract. We kind of keep it to the point.” No weaksauce metaphors or affected apathy.

Jen went on to laugh a bit. “Actually, we’re kind of boring. We don’t wear facepaint or animal masks or anything.”

That may be true, but personally, I don’t need every band to be super cute kids in facepaint making stuff that you have to “get” in order to get.

The Bruises are great because they’re hot girls with guitars who like… forgot that they are hot girls. I like that they’re all lesbians who just happen to be lesbians. The Bruises have been playing together for 10 years, and it’s obvious, beyond anything else, that making music is their first priority.

Check out their record release show tonight at Bottom of the Hill. Dirty Ghost and some other band are opening.

Get tickets if you need them.