A Rocking Start to the New Year!

I don’t know about all of you, but January is off to a banging start!  All of a sudden, my life in San Francisco is really taking off.

I joined a band!  Just before the new year, Adam,  my boss at Lost Weekend Video, asked me if I was ready to pick my bass up again.  He and his buddy Tony were in a band and their bassist had just dropped out.  I was really nervous at first, but they are cool guys and easy going.  We’ve been practicing hard the last few weeks and have a show in just a couple of days in the Mission.  The music is much different from what I was doing in my last band, but I like it.  It feels good to be making music again.  Wish me luck for the show!

I also got an apprenticeship with a theater company!  I applied back in November and didn’t hear anything for the whole of November so had assumed I hadn’t gotten it.  But a few weeks ago they called me in for an interview and liked my theater background.  The company is called Brava! and they are also in the Mission.  They are a women’s focused theater group, but also run a few different youth and community programs.  I start the apprenticeship next week, and it seems like I’ll be doing a little bit of everything.  I’ll get to see how a small theater is run from the inside track, and assist with shows, the youth programs, and various rentals in their gorgeous 300 seat space.  The theater was built in the 20’s as a vaudeville house, and still retains much of the art deco style.  Probably the best asset to the apprenticeship is that I’ll be able to network and get an in with the San Francisco art and theater scene that has been illusive until now.  Between that, the band, and working  at the video store, I’ll practically be living in the Mission District.

Right now it is the calm before the storm, so  last week Zac and I took advantage of his winter break  and drove across the Bay Bridge to explore Oakland.  I’ve already been to Oakland a couple of times, and wrote about it in a previous post, but Zac hadn’t been.  We looked in our California guidebook and found some things that seemed worth checking out.

Our first stop, after getting a little lost getting off the freeway, was Chinatown.  Where ever you go, there is always a Chinatown, and Zac and I love exploring them.  Most Chinatowns are really touristy and have tons of cheap crap, but the one in Oakland is more residential and authentic.  Zac and I were some of the only non-Asian people there.  It is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the US as well, dating back to the 1850’s.  We stopped at a Chinese market to grab some soy milk, and then had a good time just walking around, taking in all of the old buildings and businesses with Chinese writing.

Oakland Chinatown
Oakland Chinatown
Dragon mural in Oakland Chinatown
Dragon mural in Oakland Chinatown

From Chinatown, we drove over to Lake Merritt.  Besides being a beautiful place to walk or run, Lake Merritt is cool because it was the first designated wildlife refuge in 1870.  It is a popular haven for migratory birds.  No sooner had we stepped out of the car than we noticed geese everywhere.  As we walked around the lake, we saw more and more geese, as well as ducks, pelicans, and other aquatic birds.

Camera 360

Camera 360

The lake was very beautiful and peaceful.  Dusk was beginning to fall, and around the lake is a string of lights from the 1920’s that give a soft glow.  Besides the presence of birds, there were also quite a few runners on the path around the lake.  There is also a botanical garden at Lake Merritt that we explored, and some kind of kid’s Fairyland thing that we didn’t because it was closed.  We are also adults and probably wouldn’t have been allowed in Fairyland.  It was pretty cold and windy, but I’d love to go back on a day with nice weather and check out the paddleboats.

Secret bonsai garden
Secret bonsai garden
Me in a pavilion at Lake Merritt
Me in a pavilion at Lake Merritt
Lights around the lake
Lights around the lake

Once it was definitely getting dark, it was time to go eat.  This was a rare treat for us.  As you know, Zac and I are amongst the most frugal of travelers, and do not eat out often.  For Christmas, Zac’s friend Casey had bought us a Groupon to Souley Vegan, a vegan soul food place in Oakland.  That combination of things, vegan and soulfood, is one I did not imagine to be possible.  It was so, so good.  The restaurant was in the downtown waterfront district of Oakland, and not far from where we’d been earlier in the day in Chinatown.  It was a very cool place, with murals on the walls and family-style tables with benches instead of chairs.  I got a combo plate with my favorite soul food dishes: country-fried tofu (instead of chicken), potato salad, and mac and cheese.  It was amazing how “juicy” the tofu was and how it really did have the feeling of eating fried chicken.  Zac got a portabello mushroom burger that was delicious as well.  We also got a slice of pecan pie for desert, which was equally delicious.  Pecan pie can be hard to do vegan.  I tried to make it once but only made a mess, so the slice at Souley Vegan satisfied my cravings nicely.

After dinner it was too early to drive across the bridge without getting stuck in tons of traffic, so we decided to catch a movie.  We’d been excited about Les Mizerables since the teaser trailer was released a year ago, and it was playing at a theater near the lake.  The Grand Lake Theater is a gorgeous historic movie palace that was built in the 1920’s.  Going out to see a movie is another rare pastime for us, and I’m so glad that we went that night.  The theater is such a great place to see a movie and has such an vintage ambiance.  Because this is Oakland, the current owner of the theater uses one side of the Marquee to display thought-provoking political messages and sometimes political talks and events are held at the theater.  I also loved Les Mizerables.  It was definitely one of my favorite films this year and now won a bunch of Golden Globes!

The upstairs hallway of the Grand Lake Theater
The upstairs hallway of the Grand Lake Theater
Chandelier in the foyer
Chandelier in the foyer

It was a pretty perfect day.  All in all, we really liked Oakland.  It has a vibe that is cool, artistic, and connected in the way we thought San Francisco would be.  For now, we are well set up in Frisco, but are thinking we might head out to Oakland if we stay in the Bay area once Zac is done with school.  Until then, I’m sure we will have many more adventures.

Good Luck and Happy Travels,

Mo

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6 thoughts on “A Rocking Start to the New Year!

  1. Le Clown

    Mo,
    When I think of Oakland, I think of Jose Canseco… then I think of mullet, and steroids, and violence on women, and then I think I wouldn’t like to visit Oakland.
    Le Clown

      1. Le Clown

        Mo,
        I blame associative thinking for my misconstrued interpretation of Oakland, and for my kids.
        Le Clown

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