Friday, July 13, 2007

One More Thing

Something I didn't mention in the previous post is that, for all my bluster about San Francisco, Oakland and Emeryville (I'll get to Berkeley some other time), I have to admit that the small island community of Alameda, California is pretty insanely nice. Alameda is two islands, but I've actually only been on one of them. The other one houses the Oakland airport, so I can't imagine it's really a place worth seeing unless I'm in transit to someplace other than the Bay Area.

Ah, but the larger island is a thing to behold. A walkable & bikable community that is completely true unto itself. What I immediately noticed was how few chain stores and restaurants there were. Of course, there is a Starbucks -- but on any given night, the independent coffee shop right down the street does just as good if not better business -- and there are a couple of new shopping centers with places like Applebees and Basken-Robbins, these are so exceptional as to almost be appropriate!

Another striking thing is that Alameda's main street, Park Street, actually has the feel of a destination. Here, there are antique shops, bakeries, taquerias, bookstores, coffee shops, all come together without the precious quality that adheres to the main drag a lot of similar small communities (I'm thinking, for you Ohio residents, specifically about Yellow Springs). You'll find streets like this in campus communities, but rarely in old naval towns. I hope that as the rest of the Bay Area fills up and people look for some bit of sanity in Alameda, it doesn't get raped and plundered.

I don't know what the property value for a house in Alameda is. I did read somewhere that most of the houses are being sold to people already living in Alameda. Hopefully, this trend continues, at least for as long as it can. Because the people of Alameda seem to be among the most pleasant of the Bay. If the majority rise above middle class, it doesn't feel like it. I spend a lot of time over there, at their parks and in their shops, and the absence of a rampant pretentious appreciation of (apparent) socio-economic diversity is very welcome.

Of course, I'm still a newcomer. Perhaps all of these initial reflections are so far off-base as to be absurd, and maybe I'll come to realize this in a year. But for now, the fact that I live just over a small bridge from Alameda pleases me immensely. It has the feeling of an unknown gem. Good thing nobody reads this blog. I'd hate to be the one to give it away.