To adapt Gertrude Stein's quote: "There is a there there."
(This famous saying used often to insult Oakland was written by the quotable Stein not to mock her birthplace, but rather to note that the house in which she grew up had been torn down.)
|Lake Chalet restaurant at the boathouse on Lake Merritt|
I’ve lived in Oakland twice in my life. Once for about 6 months in 1979 in my early 20s, and then again from 1990 to 1998 before I moved to Chico, Calif. Because I’m frequently back in the area, I still feel completely at home in Oakland and the East Bay.
Is Oakland a victim of character assassination? No. There are reasons behind the reputation it has. In fact, a friend and client of mine was recently robbed at gunpoint in the nice neighborhood where she lives. The problems are real. But they don't tell the whole story by any stretch.
- Nearly perfect weather
- Interesting and attractive neighborhoods
- A thriving Chinatown unknown by tourists (and even most people in the Bay Area)
- Restaurants and drinking joints of every possible sort
- Diversity that isn’t worn on its sleeve
- A beautiful in-city lake (Lake Merritt)
- A secluded and picturesque municipal rosegarden
- Outstanding trail running in the hills
- Transportation hub by sea, rail, road, and air
- Compelling history
- A downtown that is coming back from the dead
As in many other cities in our Golden State, you will see plenty of runners in Oakland - around Lake Merritt, on the trails in the Oakland Hills, in the neighborhoods – however the last running of a marathon was long ago in the mid-1980s.
That was until Gene Brtalik moved here because his wife took a job in Oakland. Lucky break for Oakland, because Brtalik, an event director with Corrigan Sports Enterprises based in Baltimore, saw in Oakland many similarities to Baltimore: an unloved "second" city that would embrace an event that showcased the city in all its mottled glory.
I heartily encourage Oakland residents to post comments with insider knowledge of what makes their neighboorhood noteworthy, good, bad, or otherwise. It could be a special coffeehouse, restaurant, or bar, a nice walk, notable views, history, you name it - just write about it.
And if you're a runner, why don't you give some thought to joining me at the Oakland Running Festival for your own self-propelled tour? In addition to the marathon, there is a half-marathon, 4-person marathon relay, and 5K.
I hope this series demonstrates that Oakland is more than a place you have to go through in order to get somewhere else.
Before the neighboorhood tour starts, I'll write a short "prequel" post about the original Oakland Marathon.
Oakland Marathon neighborhood tour - navigational links:
Forward to: "the prequel" (the original marathon)
Oakland Marathon website