Category Archives: rockridge

One way to spruce up those boring garage doors…

art on garage doors, slice of california, multicultural art

My girlfriend recently had to replace her garage door with essentially a large piece of plywood… a short term solution. She asked if I had any ideas for how she could “spruce it up a bit,” so I’ve been on the lookout during my travels about Oaktown to see what creative folks have done with theirs. I shared one a few weeks ago, with DREAMS.

Here’s another… and all I can say is, “wow!” It’s quite a production.

And it’s so quintessentially California I almost have to laugh. We see people of all colors and backgrounds happily integrated… even the Muslim woman and the Jewish man sit together under the tree (though not k – i – s – s – i – n – g). She’s reading Frog and Toad Together, while he reads Horton Hears a Who.

And all are living in peaceful harmony with their woodland creature friends…

painted garage, creative garage doors, funky garage doors

oakland public murals, garage door art

Diesel Bookstore ~ based on the concept of community

Next up… Diesel Bookstore on College Avenue in Rockridge.

oakland diesel books, independent bookstores oakland

I guess I should start by saying that I am somewhat biased against Rockridge… maybe it’s the demographics (one of our more homogenous pockets of Oakland) or perhaps it’s the price point (geared towards those oh-so-affluent demographics), maybe it’s the tricky parking or navigating the urban iditarod of strollers, or perhaps I’m just a bit crazy…

Whatever the case, I gleefully put up with it all to visit this wonderful bookstore (which, along with other additions like groovy vintage clothing shops, makes College Ave. actually cooler than I think it is).

Diesel is different from nearly all of the other bookstores I’m featuring in this indie series, in that they almost exclusively sell new books.  This wasn’t always the case, but when the store was remodeled a couple years ago a business decision was made to feature new materials more prominently because they seemed to sell faster than used.  There are still a handful of used books on the shelves, but for the most part, the store’s 60,000+ volumes are brand spankin’ new.

That being said, this is not the store you visit when you’re looking for cheap $1 books.  You come to Diesel for other reasons, and there are quite a few… For one thing, their space is gorgeous, befitting their slot in stylish upscale Rockridge.  The classic brick facade dresses a clean, spacious interior with smooth stained concrete floors, high ceilings, skylights running the length of the building that fill the space with natural light, and of course, their slick, well-designed, and creatively adorned book displays.  It’s simply a pleasure to be in the store.

rockridge books, east bay independent bookstores, author events oakland

Second, they’re known for their “stunning” events.  In the month of June alone, they’re hosting seven events, nearly two per week, and many feature quite renowned and/or local authors.  The next event is tomorrow night (Thursday June 3rd at 7pm) with local cartoonist & author Daniel Clowes, who’ll be discussing his latest graphic novel Wilson. Check out this recent article discussing Clowes and character Wilson… Cartoonist Daniel Clowes celebrates Oakland with “Wilson” (By Jessica Yadegaran for Contra Costa Times).  A brief excerpt:

“Lonely and self-loathing, Wilson… hangs around the coffee shops on Oakland’s Grand Avenue, verbally sucker punching strangers with whom he instigates one-sided conversations. He is rude, neurotic and opinionated.”

Sounds fun, right?! Right.

Being one of the few bookstores left in Oakland focused exclusively on selling new books, Diesel likely has more power to command attention from such noteworthy authors (and publishers).

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But when I spoke with the general manager Jon Stich and asked him how Diesel distinguishes itself from other local independent booksellers, his answer was simple.  The Staff Picks.  And this is probably the most important reason why folks come to Diesel.  Curated by a staff of avid book-lovers, all specialists in particular genres (children’s, poetry, metaphysics, etc.), the shelves are full of staff recom- mendations, neatly annotated with short descriptive reviews, many even quaintly handwritten.

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I found two of my recent favorite books (The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Juno Díaz, both of which I devoured) written up by Stich himself.  I have a pretty good idea then, that I’ll like his other recommendations.  As one of their fans on Yelp explains, it’s customer service oriented around the “concept of community,” where books loved by employees and customers are shared, producing a bestsellers list that is “way more colorful than the list the New York Times has been paid to review.”

And colorful it is… the store hosts, not only uniquely interesting book picks, but features them in artistic ways.  Playful collaged signs handmade by employees and interesting arrangements of books based on color rather than theme or author, all add to the cool-factor.

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rockridge bookstores, oakland independent bookstores

diesel books oakland, diesel books rockridge

I guess the last thing I’ll say, is probably more than any of the other bookstores I’ve written about, Diesel seems to have embraced current technology most wholeheartedly.  Stich readily admits that Amazon has hurt them as much as anyone, but Diesel’s been able to use the internet to their advantage as well.  Their website is extensive with archived online monthly newsletters, a video channel for video book projects (including reviews), up-to-date event info, staff recommendations and more… they’ve got so many little social networking widgets on their site I don’t even know what some of them are!  And of course, you can buy books directly through the website too, including e-books for the iPad.

Diesel is your modern independent local bookstore. Check them out next time you’re on College Avenue and support your local independent booksellers!

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PS – they have a nice kid’s section too (for all those Rockridge stroller pushers!)

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Running Festival Recap

So did you check it out?!?

Hopefully you did because it was a lot of fun, and I have to say I’m feeling pretty blissed out on Oakland right now.

A ton of beautiful people were out… it was a picture perfect day with our typically warmer-and-sunnier-than-San-Fran-weather… and spirits were high!  It’s hard to really recap the experience in words, so I’ll just share a few pictures and videos from the weekend…

Saturday was the Twilight 5k at Lake Merritt kickoff event. Here are a few pics… (more on Flickr).

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oakland marathon, oakland running festival, twilight 5k

I also put together a short video with folks talking about why they decided to participate…

Here are a few photos from the Marathon and Half-Marathon finishes on Sunday morning… (more on Flickr).

Oakland Marathon, Tony Torres, Winner of Marathon

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frank ogawa plaza, city hall, oakland marathon, oakland running festival

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And one more video interview with a half-marathon participant…

Oakland Running Festival!

Did you know there’s a marathon in Oakland this weekend?!? It seems like big news, as this is the first marathon being held in our city in over 25 years, but I’m surprised by how many people have no idea this is happening.

So here’s a little plug for what is surely to be an amazing event…

Oakland Running Festival

There was a great article in the East Bay Express about this history of this event (and other marathons) called Can Oakland Go the Distance? by Dan Schoenholz.

Some highlights…

Long time Oakland runners and race organizers… see the Oakland Running Festival as an opportunity to promote both Oakland and running, and as a way to unify a community that is often divided by racial, economic, and geographic differences.  Marathons are big events in many cities – New York and Boston, famously, but also Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston, and countless others – and serve as a source of civic pride and unity.  Why not Oakland?”

The festival is based on a more modern, all-inclusive model, not just for hardcore athletes, but one in which a variety of races are provided so that folks can participate at any level they choose.  It’s designed to be runner-friendly, walker-friendly, family-friendly, and most definitely, celebratory. There’s the marathon (26 miles!), half-marathon, a 5k, a kids fun run (two age categories & distances), and a four-person relay.

Strikingly different from the marathon course run in 1981 which was fast, flat, and through heavy industrial areas, this year’s course is designed to be scenic and show people what “Oakland has to offer.” The course starts at City Hall… the first high-rise government building in the U.S. and the tallest building West of the Mississippi at the time it was built.  Runners then progress through the newly redeveloped Uptown section through to Temescal, and Rockridge.  Then the route parallels the BART tracks heading up Keith & Broadway to Lake Temescal Park, and continues through the lovely hills of Montclair before entering the Dimond  District to head back down towards the flats.  Runners will then head down Fruitvale Avenue into the melting-pot district of Fruitvale, and continue along International Boulevard through the Arts district of Jingletown, and on to Jack London Square.  Tired yet? There’s still much more.  After Jack London, runners will pass the West Oakland BART station and through West Oakland, rich with African-American history.  Then they’ll make their way up the lovely redeveloped greenway of the Mandela Parkway, just up to the border of Emeryville, where they’ll hang a right and head through my neighborhood of Ghosttown.  This is so cool! They’re almost in the home stretch.  Then on to 27th Street to hit Lake Merritt and make their way almost the full circumference around, branching off at 19th street to head back to City Hall… the finish line!

Here’s a link to the marathon map, and another link for the half-marathon map.

Here’s the schedule of various events:

  • Saturday 6:00pm – Kick Off Party at Lake Merritt
  • Saturday 6:30pm – Twilight 5K at Lake Merritt (starts at Lakeview Branch Library)
  • Saturday 8:00pm – Twilight 5K Awards Ceremony
  • Saturday 6 – 9pm – Celebration Village at Frank Ogawa Plaza (live music, merchandise, food & drinks, etc.)
  • Sunday 7:15am – Opening Remarks and National Anthem at City Hall
  • Sunday 7:30am – Marathon and Team Relay Races Start (14th & Broadway)
  • Sunday 8:30am – Kids Fun Run Starts (Frank Ogawa Plaza)
  • Sunday 9:00am – Half Marathon Start (14th & Broadway)
  • Sunday 12:00pm – Awards Ceremonies (Frank Ogawa Plaza)
  • Sunday 9 – 3pm – Celebration Village at Frank Ogawa Plaza (live music, merchandise, food & drinks, etc.)

I know I’ll be out both days.  While picking up my Press Pass this morning I nearly bumped into the Mayor, the downtown unbelievably abuzz with activity.  This weekend is a great moment to show the world what a beautiful and vibrant city Oakland truly is.

Please come out to support the runners and support our city!

city hall, us first skyscraper, oakland marathon finish line, oakland marathon starting point

City Hall - the starting point & finish line for the marathon & half-marathon

More reading…

Oakland Marathon a step in the right direction by Chip Johnson

Oakland marathon builds steam with charity donations by Sean Maher

Question Everything.

It’s graffiti week here at Oaktown Art, and here is your next installment…

I’ve been wanting to feature these works for some time now, but kept hoping I would find another one to add to the mix.

Here’s the first one I found… a wheat paste on the same abandoned building as the lovely mural “May Peace Prevail on Earth” across the street from Ghost Town Farm.

oakland graffiti, question mark, yellow question mark, question mark etc, wheat paste

I found the next two in the Rockridge / Temescal area. This one seems to be painted right on the sidewalk.

oakland graffiti, yellow question mark, yellow question mark etc, ? etc

And then another huge wheat paste…

oakland graffiti, yellow question mark, ? etc., question mark graffiti

And this one is the true stunner. How in the heck did they do this?! If anyone has any thoughts, please send my way.

oakland graffit, yellow question mark, question mark etc, ? etc. graffiti

I love this campaign… it’s so simple, and yet you can’t help but wonder, and question, and think. If you’ve seen more of these around, please send locations… I’d love to go snap ’em.

Here’s another… added after a reader sent in the location. Thanks Mike!!

wheat paste, yellow question mark, ? etc., wheat paste on bart support

Oceanus ~ 1977

This one speaks for itself… simply gorgeous!  Located on Claremont Avenue under the 24 Freeway.

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I love the fact that this is a representation of our immediate surroundings… see the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown San Francisco, and Mt. Tamalpais in the background. But most of the mural depicts that which we cannot see. I wonder if the bay really looked this alive in 1977… I wonder how it looks now…