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The Evergreen Cemetery

The Evergreen Cemetery has nothing of the dark, morbid and ghostly atmosphere people tend to associate with graveyards or see in the movies. It is a sunlit, open space with tall palm trees and mountains in the background. It feels paradoxically full of life. At 11 am on a Monday, there are not a lot of people there. Other than me and a gardener, only one woman with bright pink neon shoes can be seen from a distance. She seems…

Remember Them, Champions for Humanity

“Remember Them, Champions for Humanity” is a monument in downtown Oakland. It honors 25 people who in one way or another fought for peace, freedom and human rights. Tall buildings and business suits are what you see from one side of it. Tent towns are what you see coming from the other, the side facing San Pablo Avenue. “What does it make you feel?” I ask a woman who is passing by. “Inspired and motivated,” she replies. We are sitting…

Lois the Pie Queen

At Lois the Pie Queen, eight tables are occupied on an early Monday morning. Nearly every table being serviced is occupied by a group of two. No one has a phone in hand—people come here to chat. Sure, they’re here for the pie and the breakfast, but mostly for the ambience. At Lois the Pie Queen, eight tables are occupied on an early Monday morning. Nearly every table being serviced is occupied by a group of two. No one has…

Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon

When I snuck a look at Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon on Yelp, it seemed to promise touristy kitsch. It’s a historic landmark in Jack London Square. The floor is sunken from the 1906 earthquake. The walls and ceilings are littered with business cards and hats, offered up by customers passing through. When I arrive in person, I order a $5 hefeweizen and sit down by two off-duty bartenders nursing a beer and a shot each. From across the…

Ghost Ship memorial mural

Smashed between an auto body shop and a building supply warehouse is a mural. Blended in with the neutral tans and whites of its industrial surroundings, the brown and cream artwork sits hidden in plain view. No people stand to view it. No one in passing cars stops to stare. If they did, they would see 36 names listed on a painting of an old parchment scroll. Those are the names of the 36 people killed when a fire ravaged…

Rickey Henderson Field

After a cold, wet winter made its presence known throughout the Bay Area, spring quickly blossomed back in the city of Oakland with its sweet, crisp smell filling the air as the birds chirp. It is the time of the year Oaklanders gear up for the arrival of America’s pastime: baseball, a game played on a beautifully-manicured diamond made of beam clay and green grass. One of those diamonds has stood upright on 45th Street in North Oakland since 2007….

Cypress Memorial Park

Three metal ladders shoot out of the ground at Cypress Memorial Park in West Oakland. They stand as a monument to the Loma Prieta Earthquake that shook the entire Bay Area on October 17, 1989. Ladders like these were used that fateful day to rescue people trapped on the collapsed Cypress freeway. For such an unforgettable display of nature’s fury, the park is small and intimate. It’s nestled at the corner of 14th Street and Mandela Parkway, and easy to…

Chapel of the Chimes

Inside the Chapel of the Chimes in North Oakland, it is quiet. The hum of daily life just outside—cars passing by, construction work, a breeze—disappears. It is the type of place where visitors whisper even though there are no rules against talking. Many of the visitors come to mourn or pay respects to a loved one, whose remains reside among thousands and thousands of others here. On this Monday morning, there are only a few visitors wandering—that’s all one can…

Morcom Amphitheater of Roses

At the precipice of spring, before the proper time of year, only a few roses bloom at the Morcom Amphitheater of Roses, though pruned rose bushes—bare, spiky, grey, brown, some a sunny red-green—line the area profusely, thorns prominently on display. It’s a clear, crisp, cloudless day: The sun shines upon an ovular green reflecting pool and small children play among rose bushes above a gurgling stone fountain. Large trees surround the garden, providing shade and camouflaging the occasional looming apartment…

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