Monday, March 21, 2011

Hecka Heart Oakland

This weekend we took a break from skiing and stayed home.  Driving rain cancelled the veritable cornucopia of kid's sports - what a relief! -  and it turned out to be a real "Best of Oakland" two days.

When we first arrived in Oakland eight years ago, old friends would ask concerned:"Will you be okay there?" But there is a reason many confirmed Oaklanders wear the iconic I Hella Love Oakland t-shirt, with the more demure sporting "I Hecka Love Oakland".

It might seem unexpected to include a shelter for homeless seniors in a "Best Of" post but the sparklingly clean orderliness and warmth of St Mary's Center  impresses. (Images 1,2,4,5 by Wendy Wheeler)

Harley, 13, and his friends from school cooked a dinner of meatloaf, pasta, green salad and ice-cream and brownies, ate with the seniors, chatted awhile, laughed about sports and cleaned up.

At 4pm, the doors open to 25 seniors who eat and sleep there every night. They must turn up every night or they lose their place; they sign in, have a shower, cup of tea, watch TV, play the piano, chess, talk or tidy their bags.

During the day some help tend the front garden of fruit and veges which often form part of the meal. Inside the gates which surround the Center there is safety, kindness and sobriety. But in the morning all the seniors must leave for part of the day and what lies outside the gate is temptation for some. The bus stop and the grass square opposite offer that easy sip from a bottle, sometimes leading to a slide back full-time on the streets.

Back at our house the next day saw lots of small hands making dresses for a Lilliputlian bride and planting strawberries.

In Oakland everything grows like you wouldn't believe; despite the hammering rain my yellow abutilon and orange protea perked up, reaching for even more water. And my Ponga just keeps on curling...

That night our friend Kenny of Kenny'n'Mike wore his new Robert Graham hat while we strolled through Old Oakland and drank tamarind margaritas at Tamarindo: "If you live in Oakland" Kenny said "you have to have a hat!"

Down the road was Camino,  all rustic chic with long wooden communal tables, old schoolroom chairs - with a place in the back to hold your books -  and iron chandeliers with newspaper flowers. I had oven baked oysters with a drop of absinthe on the breadcrumbs and carrot salad followed by duck breast with chantarelle mushrooms and parsley root. (I realise it is a sad juxtoposition visiting a homeless center and a restaurant of intense and expensive plenty all in the same weekend).

Next day our old friends from London, Andy and Julie, arrived with their two handsome lads and bags of tasty treats from what they call the "naughty aisle" at Trader Joes: banana cake, choccy bikkies and caramel cookie thingies. Kevin bought Dim Sum from Oakland's Chinatown, we stoked the fire and ate for hours.

I took a photo of Julie with Harley and later we looked over photos from 13 years ago when Julie held our baby Harley, next to the Serpentine in London.

And speaking of "best of" I want to thank you all so much for your wonderful, touching, insightful and always hopeful comments and emails. To be honest, I had agonised over whether to write about Tallulah's struggles and now I'm so glad I did...

What do you hecka heart about your town?


  1. That homeless shelter for seniors sounds wonderful. What a blessing they must be to the homeless in the community. That is great!

  2. Ooh how fun, its so great that your kids get involved in community things :D idea what I love about my town XD It's pretty boring

  3. What a lovely weekend. I know what you mean about the juxtaposition, but it's so nice that your son got to contribute to his community in that special way (cooking dinner... how cool!), and that you got to spend quiet time at home, with old friends, in the garden... AND to go out for a little luxury too!

  4. i just found your blog and i'm so glad i did! i too live in the bay area, but i'm originally from CT. i lived in australia and made the trip over to new zealand while i was there for a few months, and i will never forget it - it was one of my favorite places on earth and i can't wait to get back.
    happy to find you!
    i hecka love san francisco but i hecka miss home sometimes, too :)

  5. I second the margarita this post too, each day it's something better when I stop by, thanks for writing and sharing!! ;)

  6. aww Im so glad my friend Jacin found your wonderful blog! :)

    I love that you posted all the different things about Oakland. How lovely to have a photo of your friend with your baby boy and now 13 yrs later. Love your friend's hat and those paper flower chandeliers!

    I hecka heart all of the parks we can bike through and take time together to walk on a nice day in my new small town. But I miss my home town of Philadelphia too, I hecka hearted the soft pretzels, the culture, the excitement! :)

  7. wow, we go to make supper at St. Mary's, too (on Sunday next, actually) ... and it really IS a great place, especially to bring the kids and show them that it's not all, well, dinners at Tamarindo...where Charlotte (5 yrs.) and i just returned from an hour ago, after our girls night out! Gotta keep it real here in our slice of Oakland, sistah. It really is a unique place. But i still hecka miss SF, truth be told. xo

  8. After you popped over to mine yesterday I thought I'd come to see you today. What a perfect post for me to read to get a flavour of you and your surroundings.

    There's so much that made me smile about this - the big, big smile in the first photo, your curling ponga and the naughty aisle!

  9. What a sweet and well rounded family/life. I think it is so great that you soak so much out of your weekends and are showing your kids both sides of life.

  10. What a wonderful post! Very uplifting and inspiring to get out and help the community you live in! It looks like a wonderful place to live!

  11. Jody, I always love your Oakland suggestions!! Still being new, I haven't ventured too far from Rockridge, so I'm going to be using your suggestions as my little guide to other parts of Oakland!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...