I adore Oakland. I’ve lived here for almost 30 years and I could make this entire blog a love song.
I probably shouldn’t say this, but I actually enjoyed when Oakland had a “bad” reputation, a reputation it never deserved. I loved that it was an undiscovered, unspoiled, a fabulously itself city with absolutely no pretensions – one of the best kept secrets in California.
One thing you should know about me is I’ve never worried about what people think. If I like something, I like it.
So, for all the years I heard, “What’s a nice girl like you doing living in Oakland?” I just grinned and thought, “Don’t believe everything you read. You have no idea how amazing and wonderful this little village city is.”
Well, the cat’s out of the bag now. Oakland’s been “discovered”. The number of articles written about Oakland of late is too numerous to list, including Huffington Post naming Oakland “Most Exciting City in the Country” and New York Times ranking Oakland #5 in “52 Places to Go” (can you believe gorgeous San Francisco didn’t even make this list?!). When Oakland got discovered, I mean it really got discovered!
We’re now teeming with fresh new faces spilling over from the high tech industry boom in San Francisco. The number of successful start-ups here is startling. Uptown Oakland has a new “take the top of your head off it’s so good” restaurant opening every week. And just to give you an idea of the cultural scene, we have 55 art galleries in downtown Oakland.
Even with all my world travels, this is the only city I’ve been in where an extraordinarily high percent of residents wear their passion – the number of “I Love Oakland” T-shirts you’ll see walking down the street make an impression. The love and pride the people who live here have for Oakland is fierce and palpable.
What I love most, however, is that even with the enormous influx of new residents, Oakland retains its Oakland’ness, its personality. It doesn’t have that homogenized “I’ve been shopping” look that takes over a population when new wealth moves in.
Oakland has been named “The Most Diverse City in America” and it shows. Stand in line in a supermarket and you’ll share company with an artist in dreadlocks, a corporate type, a Lyft driver, a new mother, a Chinese shopkeeper, an aging hippy, a chic Millennial, the CEO of Pandora and someone who looks like they’re in a street gang. It’s a super friendly place and you might find yourself talking to all of them.
There’s a certain kind of person attracted to Oakland. A very “think for yourself” sort. A creative type.
One thing I noticed early on in my travels is, quite in additional to their defining architecture and physical features, cities have definite personalities.
Oakland is like that kid in high school who always did his own thing, was friendly but didn’t worry about being “popular”, didn’t follow the crowd the way they looked, dressed, or thought, an independent thinker marching to the beat of a different drum, really into something, but the world around him not understanding what or why, super-intelligent about things outside the mainstream, a little geeky, the kid who turns into a gazillionnaire because it turns out what he was working on was super creative, innovative and very cool. This is the kind of kid who, when overnight success hits, it doesn’t go to his head.
This is a very fun kid to hang out with. Even before the world finally catches up to him and vindicates his unique perspective on life. This is a kid who belongs in Oakland.