Why Oakland is Becoming Pretty Much My Favorite

2 May

One of my favorite street-art installations in Oakland. Cute!

I moved to San Francisco from the East Coast back in 1999.  In over a decade, I barely made my way across the bridge to Oakland–  probably fewer times than I could count on one hand.  It seemed like an entire world away (particularly without a car), and why would I ever leave SF when I had everything I needed right outside my door?

I was a bit apprehensive about moving to Oakland this past December, but I was ready for a change, having resided in almost every single district in San Francisco since having moved there.  Not to mention the fact that cheaper rent sounded pretty damn good, given the recent slash to my income.  So, here I am.

I have to say, Oakland almost immediately put a spell on me.  Yes, it’s true, there are some bad neighborhoods, and I am definitely a lot more wary about going out after dark by myself in certain parts of town, but I think it’s really unfortunate what an incredibly bad rap this place has received!  Aside from all of the negative stuff the media constantly focuses on, there are so many beautiful areas, a rich cultural history, a great sense of community, a happening arts scene, and let’s not forget that it is now an up-and-coming culinary hotspot.

I want to make sure that no San Franciscans do what I did and waste ten years thinking Oakland isn’t worth the trip.  So, I am starting a series of posts with brief snippets and shots from around my new home… things that make me smile on an almost daily basis.  In sharing this with y’all, I hope that you enjoy, discover, get off your a**es, and come give us a visit us sometime! 🙂


Trinh Mai: Paintings to Get Lost In (Tomorrow in SF!)

27 Apr

They Come For Me, 2009, mixed media on canvas, 40 x 90" triptych

I am absolutely infatuated with this woman’s artwork.  I came across some thumbnail images of Trinh Mai’s paintings on Facebook, and was immediately transfixed.  Upon visiting her Facebook page I proceeded to squander over an hour of my evening just scrolling through her creations one by one, completely mesmerized.  There is a dreamy, ethereal quality to her art (which includes some beautiful ceramic pieces as well) that I find extremely soothing.  Even the music on her website is calming and seductive (think sexy bossa-lounge).  I just love her use of stencils in several pieces, like this one:

Says The Crow II, 2010, mixed media 6 x 6"

You can check out her goods in person tomorrow, at a benefit for the Japanese Red Cross Relief Effort at Mina Dresden Gallery @ 312 Valencia Street in San Francisco (see below for details).

In the meantime, I highly recommend visiting her site www.trinhmai.com.

Thank you, Trinh, for allowing the use of these images in my blog.  Please keep your beautiful work coming!  🙂


Generous Janitor Made My Day

20 Apr

I couldn’t help but smile when I read this article today.

“Ten years ago, I said if I win some money, I’m going to put a track here,” said Tyrone Curry, a janitor/track and field coach from Washington State.  Tyrone hit it big five years ago when he won a cool $3.4 million in the lottery.  Not only did the man- now nearing retirement- continue to work at his local high school, even after encouragement from his wife to “go ahead and quit”, but he announced yesterday that he is also donating $40,000 to the school to buy a brand new track (his donation is being matched with a $75,000 grant).

It reminded me of a story I saw many years ago on Oprah: it was a show highlighting common, every day people who had somehow demonstrated extraordinary generosity.  Like 53-year-old Starbucks manager Mary Ann Champaine from LA, who bought several lottery tickets in 2000 for herself and her 12 co-workers, letting them know that if she won, she would split it with them all.  You know what happens next, of course….yeah, SHE WON.  $87 million, to be exact, which she dutifully split evenly between herself and her staff, amounting to over $6 million a piece over the course of their lives.

When I hear stories like this I find myself wondering- what would I do if I was in a similar situation?  Of course, I would love to think that I would keep working, I would give the money, I would share it with all of my friends.  But there is a small part of me that worries that having so much money could immediately change me, just like that.  Like somehow coming into millions would instantaneously trigger some internal hoarding mechanism, and I wouldn’t dare give away so much as a dime of my fortune.  I mean, people like that do exist.  Would I be different?  Would I still be me?

Oh, well.  My father once told me that my chances of winning the lottery were less than that of getting struck by lightning, so I have personally never purchased a ticket, not even once.  Guess it’s not a problem I need to worry about!

Any cool stories about giving big out there?

Make Way for Kwik Way!

19 Apr

Several years ago, a beloved staple of Oakland’s Lake Merrit neighborhood, the Kwik Way Drive-In, shut its doors.  The retro-style burger joint had been a local favorite, satisfying the needs of customers with late-night cravings for crispy fries and a shake, and easing Sunday morning hangovers with its deliciously greasy cheeseburgers accompanied by a side of onion rings.  It was a sad day for all when they closed, and the establishment remained vacant ever since.   Windows boarded up (an excellent canvas for graffiti, I might add), there seemed to be no sign of life to speak of.  That is, until around September 2010, when construction workers suspiciously began coming in and out of the building, and rumors started flying about a grand reopening on the horizon.

Well kiddies, last week it finally happened, and I am very excited to say that I was there!  Kwik Way’s neon green sign lit up the night sky for the first time in years, and people came out from all over the ‘hood to try out the new and improved menu.

I was a little intimidated at first, as the menu consisted not only of the traditional burger and french-fry fare, but included surprising new additions such as fried chicken, warm bread pudding, and pizza.  I went with the fried chicken, which I had coincidentally been craving all week, and my boyfriend stuck with the basics – a cheddar cheese burger and a coke.

Our review?

HELL YEAH!  My fried chicken was super fresh, the meat was juicy and fall-off-the-bone tender.  The batter was light and crunchy, and it didn’t have that bowling-ball-in-the-stomach after effect that many fried chicken establishments tend to leave you with.  The only downfall of the experience was that my boyfriend kept repeating over and over, “This is the best f****in’ burger I have ever had.” or  “These guys are doing it right!  The flavor!” with almost every single bite he took (I mean, seriously?!).  Apparently, he’s a fan.  It was awesome news and everything, but I ended up having to punch him in the arm and tell him to “hush up”, so that I could bask in the glory of my own meal.

Needless to say, we will be back.  And next time, I am bringing earplugs. 🙂

Kwik Way Drive-In is located at 500 Lake Park Ave (between Rand Ave & Lakeshore Ave) in Oakland.


This Arts Organization Needs You.

12 Apr
Less than one week after publishing the post, Magic in the Mission: The Red Poppy Art House , I received an unfortunate email from the organization’s Director, Todd Brown.  It looks like there is yet another arts organization losing funding this year. 😦  Please take a moment to read the information below (pulled directly from the email I received) about how the cut is affecting the Poppy and how you can help.  If nothing else, show your support for the local artistic community by  attending an event! Live music, poetry, dance and film, the Poppy has it all, encased in a quirky, DIY, hand-me-down-ish little package located right around the corner from some of your favorite bars and restaurants in San Francisco’s Mission District.  Every bit counts!

The Red PoppyArt House presents more than 120 multi-disciplinary performances yearly, as well as workshops, lectures, and artist residencies. Towards developing cultural stewards in local community settings, the Art House offers a site-specific hands-on training track in small-scale Arts Presenting and Street-Level Curation, as well as a weekly outdoor Family Art Forum, building stronger ties to neighborhood residents and their families. Through the interrelation of these ingredients, the Art House endeavors towards the achievement of a thriving cultural-artistic base for San Francisco, one defined as much by the multiplicity of personal and professional relationships that constitute its operation and character, as by the artistic integrity it puts forth through its programs.

At the end of March, the Poppy experienced a 50%-60% funding cut. Out of $60,000 that will take us through to next April, we are still in need of $40,000. However, we’re hopeful.

21 People on the Salary of One

The Poppy has 21 staff members, that collectively are funded by the equivalent of one professional salary!

  • In addition to these 21 inspired individuals, we have 33 monthly volunteer shifts (for events) that are staffed by our general general pool of volunteers.
  • Together, we produce 145 performances (including 6 MAPP events), 30 artist salons, 48 family art days, resident artist rehearsals, community arts meetings, training seminars, and an uncommon variety of serendipitous encounters.
  • All of this activity is accomplished for a total staff payout of approximately $60,000 annually.

How You Can Support 8 Ways to invest in the Poppy.

  1. Make a direct donation to support a core staff stipend.
  2. Host a “VIVA LA POPPY” Dinner Party at your own home, where friends pay a contribution that then gets donated to the Poppy (this could even be done quarterly!).
  3. RENT the Poppy for a weekday evening, or weekend afternoon, social gathering of your friends. (we can send you a list of rental fees for varying levels of support, as well as set it up with a live music trio).
  4. Host a COMPANY DAY RETREAT at the Poppy (Have your company/organization rent our lovely space).
  5. Sign up to make a monthly online donation.
  6. Donate Painting Supplies to our Family Art Program.
  7. Sponsor the design & construction of our NEW WEBSITE! (we are aiming to have a new website by this summer).
  8. Purchase a New Building for us! (sure, why not! we have to dream a little.)

Please consider investing a piece of your prosperity into the Red Poppy Art House and San Francisco’s cultural landscape.

Here’s How to Donate. . .

To donate, click the  Poppy Boat in the upper right. It will take you to the donation page of our fiscal sponsor, Intersection for the Arts.  Just be sure you select “the Red Poppy Art House” as the project you would like to support.Thank you for inspired support!

For us, it makes all the difference in the world. Best wishes to all of you in your adventures!!!

Todd T. Brown & the Staff at the Red Poppy Art House

Killing My Lobster Kills It

8 Apr

So, so, so very excited for Sunday night!  I know, I know… Sunday isn’t usually the evening of choice, as it does precede the dreaded Monday morning.  However, this Sunday night in particular I am going to see Killing My Lobster‘s new show, and that makes it a night to look forward to.  Some of you have never even heard of these guys, and others have likely heard the name over the past few years in San Francisco, but have yet to attend a show.  Well I am here to say, I HIGHLY encourage it.

Killing My Lobster is a comedic performance troupe based in San Francisco.  Yes, it is true, there are many “performance troupes” in the Bay Area, and even more amateur comedians floating about, and I have definitely been put through more than one show that’s made me want to jump from the theater window, but this one is different, I promise!  San Francisco agrees, voting for KML as “best comedy group” in SF Weekly this past June.

Killing My Lobster’s sketch comedy shows consist of wildly hilarious and multi-talented performers showcasing live music, multimedia performance, and zany costumes.   From monologues, to original songs, to audience interaction, their shows are consistently laugh-out-loud funny, smart, and insightful.  There is always a common theme throughout, pulled from current pop-culture and societal topics: the last show I attended revolved around the question:  what does it mean to be an “artist”?  From a musical number about a group of “arts administrators” with day jobs at Pasta Pomodoro, to an awesomely inappropriate spoof on Georgia O’Keefe‘s early years, I could barely catch my breath, I was in such a fit of giggles the entire time.  Coming up:

Killing My Lobster Reboots: Comedic vignettes for the technologically titillated.

“Hop on your hoverboard and scoot over to the Mission for our newest show, Killing My Lobster Reboots. San Francisco’s favorite sketch group serves up some serious giggle-bytes in this timely toast to technology. Highlights include the shocking truth behind the elevator’s “close door” button, the adventures of Facebook’s most notorious over-poster, and a brand new invention KML Scienticians know will change our lives forever. We’ll have you laughing so hard, you’ll HTTP your pants!”- http://www.killingmylobster.com

The show lasts through April 24th.  I tried getting tickets for Saturday night, and it was sold out, so I’d hurry up and reserve them now if I were you!

April 7–24, The Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida Street @ Mariposa, San Francisco

Rare Device, Indeed!

7 Apr

Just discovered the sweetest little store in San Francisco! Design lovers, unite and head straight to Rare Device. Their website says it best: “Rare Device is, simply, good stuff for you, your home and your kids.”  Full of modern, whimsical, and unique pieces from home decor to stationery to accessories, this is the kind of shop at which I fear I could blow an entire paycheck in just one visit!

Dedicated to supporting designers and artisans, as of April 1st, the shop also includes 3 Fish Studios, a gallery featuring up-and-coming artists on the scene.  I am loving this one-of-a kind collage featured in their most recent show!

It is obvious that the owners have really gone the extra mile to purchase products with the modern San Franciscan in mind.  On this note, their website has a very cool feature where you can filter their products by such forward-thinking categories as recycled, organic, handmade, local, independent and customizable.

It’s so über hip I can only wonder if one must don those thick black plastic eyeglasses the kids are wearing nowadays, in order to gain access to the store? 😉

Rare Device is located at 1845 Market Street in San Francisco.