A to Z Challenge

O is for Oakland

city of oakland: a major west coast port city located in the U.S. state of California; my hometown. 

I love Oakland.

It’s home to hipsters and hoodlums, the scrappy Oakland As and MC Hammer. It’s the birthplace of both Rocky Road ice cream and the oh-so-delicious Mai Tai cocktail, as well as the Black Panthers and the Chicano Movement. Top-notch restaurants and bars abound, melding and celebrating a diverse ethnic mix. It boasts the fifth largest port in the U.S.

When Josh and I decided to move out of San Francisco and head for the East Bay, we quickly agreed Oakland had what we were looking for. The weather is mostly sunny and mild with just the right mix of rain so that my garden blooms three times a year. The views of San Francisco, Marin and the Bay are astonishing. Hiking in the Oakland Hills inhaling the sweet smell of eucalyptus is inspiring and energizing. The people are genuinely courteous and friendly, chatting you up in the line at Trader Joe’s or distracting your crying toddler with a game of Peek-a-Boo.

Not quite the burbs, Oakland has real urban credibility, too, which means it has good eats, serious culture, an interesting, sometimes tumultuous history and a fair share of crime – maybe a little more than we 400,000 or so residents would like. Even so, there’s no where I’d rather live than Oakland, with its incredible Zoo at Knowland Park, the paddle boats and Necklace of Lights at Lake Merritt, the Chabot Space & Science Center, Children’s Fairyland and the gorgeously refurbished Fox Oakland Theater.

One of my favorite features about Oakland is its art scene. The city claims the highest concentration of artists per capita in the country. Evidence of this creativity abounds, not only in galleries and studios, but also in public places for all to see in an array of stunning murals. Here are a few of my favorites:

Giraphics 2
Source: oaklandwiki.org

GiraphicsThese giraffe murals are found where under I-580 where Harrison and Oakland Avenue meet. They were painted in 1983 by Dan Fontes and are especially dear to me. When my oldest daughter Ella was three and I’d pick her up from preschool, she would ask if we could go home the “giraffy way,” which meant taking the highway. We’d say “hello” to the giraffes painted along the underpass wall as we turned onto the curving highway on-ramp, then again when we merged at the top of the ramp and could see the heads of the giraffes peeking up from the support pillars through the gap between the ramp and the highway.



Source: thomaschristopherhaag.com
Source: thomaschristopherhaag.com

A Busy Day for the Medicine Man: I love this mural because of its funky, ancient, animal feel. I love the distinctive bright colors and the way it looks almost tiled. Artist Thomas Haag has painted a few murals in Oakland, but this one is special to me because it graces the wall of the Holistic Veterinary Care building on Piedmont Avenue. When our cat, Josie, was dying of cancer, we brought her here for treatment. She died peacefully and pain-free in a patch of sunlight on our living room carpet.

Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project: Every time I drive past these murals, I’m fascinated by their details and awed by the big picture. They’re located on San Pablo Avenue and Market Street respectively and are two of six murals planned for the West Oakland area. The murals are a project of Attitudinal Healing Connection and are conceptualized and brought to life by Oakland students with guidance from Art Director David Burke and different professional lead artists. The goal is to “cultivate, educate and engage youth in community issues and solutions through the power of public art.” Wow.

Source: oaklandmuralproject.com
Source: oaklandmuralproject.com

The figure in the center of the San Pablo mural seems like an angel to me. She’s perfectly placed so that the sun shines through the gap in the highway creating a beautiful halo around her head.

Source: ahc-oakland.org
Source: ahc-oakland.org

The Market Street mural was just recently unveiled and was painted by Westlake Middle School students. It is just so gorgeous and uplifting, especially the way the rainbow seems to carry music from one end and song from the other to meet under the sun in the middle.

These are just a few of the many murals in Oakland, true testaments to the unique beauty thriving in of one of my favorite cities in the world — my hometown.

I’m participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge during the month of April using the very broad theme of LOVE to carry me through the alphabet. Check out writing by other bloggers taking on the #atozchallenge at @AprilA2Z.

4 comments on “O is for Oakland

  1. Allison Forsythe

    Those murals are beautiful! (And going home the “giraffy way”? Adorable!)


  2. Don’t tell Ryan, but I hella love Oakland too… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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