I’ve been continually impressed by the people that live and work in our sliver of Oakland. I’ve met Hollywood actors, fine arts painters, freelance writers, Zydeco musicians, energetic retirees, new parents, children’s product designers, and union organizers… and that’s just on my block. One of the many reasons I love living in Oakland is exactly this diversity of people, and I don’t just mean ethnically. We have just about every type of diversity there is other than political (go ahead, look up your neighbors’ political donations at www.fundrace.org). That means age, gender, ideology, ethnicity, profession, religion, and economics. We’re artists and professionals, renters and homeowners, joggers and strollers, optimists and cynics. We have the best lake in the East Bay, the best Farmer’s Market in Oakland, and more nail salons per capita than arguably anywhere in the world. Who else can say that?
Since moving to the Grand Lake neighborhood three years ago, I’ve wanted to learn more about my immediate neighborhood and the neighbors that comprise it. But there’s no good source for what I want to know. Thing like: What was Grand Ave like back when Buster Keaton came to the gala opening of the Grand Lake Theatre? How did Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream get started and take it’s name from our fair street? What’s Rod Dibble’s most memorable experience playing piano for the last 30+ years at the Alley? How did Walden Pond take on (and beat!) Waldenbooks in court? What interesting local musicians/artists/poets from the neighborhood are currently struggling to make it?
In celebration of our great neighborhood, I’m aiming to create a kaleidoscope of the more colorful Grand Lake personalities, historical tidbits, and anecdotes that are out there but either underreported or scattered about in various obscure locations. I have a list in mind of places to start but I very much welcome your help identifying stories worth sharing. So if you’ve got an interesting angle or a charismatic neighbor with a unique story, send me their info and tell them I look forward to introducing them to the Grand Lake community.