AC TRANSIT: Oakland
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Oakland is misunderstood land. It is very tempting for the average person to write the city of oaks off as one of those cities - you know, one of those cities - filled with the scary crack heads, gang bangers, and murderous thugs. A glorified ghetto stretched out over 78 square miles. A terrible land of squalor that was somehow never able to shake the wild west mentality of the 1800's. A lawless city that in 2009 saw an unarmed man shot and killed by a transit cop and less than 3 months later, four police officers murdered by a convicted felon.
It is a place people that most people chose to remember more for the crack epidemic of the 80's and the soaring murder rate of the 90's than for anything else the city has done or will ever do. But that is alright.
We Oaklanders might even like it better that way.
It just means that we don't have to put up with the pesky tourists San Franciscans have to dodge. Or those damn upwardly mobile elites that populate the rest of the Bay Area with their bree and wool sweaters. Instead we got real people. People with struggles. Interesting folk who fill our city with unique culture.
Sure we have seedy characters, but what interesting city worth a damn doesn't?
All that intimidation aside - we love visitors. And there is no better way to experience Oakland than by Bus. AC Transit offers the best cross section of Oakland that money can buy. AC Transit will take you up 1600 feet to the vast rolling redwood hills then right back down to the food rich Chinatown. In between you can catch a show at the Fox Theater, or see a movie at the Grand Lake Theater. And we have dope taco trucks. Still a little skeptical? Ease your way in by eating at the upscale restaurants of Piedmont Ave or the Temescal district - just watch out for the hipsters.
Now, if there is one Oakland destination that ranks above all others in terms of food, culture and all that other good stuff neighborhoods get judged on, well, it has to be Fruitvale.
Easily accessible by a dozen bus lines and BART, Fruitvale is a classic example of an Oakland gem. While it is often marred by violence and drugs - Oakland's City Attorney is currently pursuing a controversial gang injunction to bar 40 alleged gang members from gathering in public - the neighborhood is also one of the cultural hearts of the city.
In the span of a few short blocks you can experience the flavors of almost every country in Latin America. Guatemalan pan dulce (sweet bread)? 49th and International. Salvadorian platanos con crema y frijoles (fried plantains and beans)? 35th and International.
But the true wealth of Fruitvale is the incredible variety of mexican cuisine. Of the more than 25 taco trucks that line International Blvd, you can get food from most of the major states in Mexico. Tacos Sinaloa - 22nd and International - has the hands down best tacos in the Bay Area topped with all the furnishings you could ever ask for. We are talking about a place that has not one but two trucks, a pastel orange ice cream stand and a shrine to narco-saint Jesus Malverde in the parking lot . They don't fuck around at all.
Mi Grullense in front of the Goodwill on 30th and International is the incredibly close second to Sinaloa. There carne asada and al pastor will melt in your goddamn mouth.
For those of you too scared to stand around smelly parking lots whilst eating, no worries. The best place to sit down and eat your meal is located just a few blocks south at El Huarache Azteca. Enjoy the cuisine of Mexico city while a massive mural of Quatzequatel overlooks you. Its epic.
And if all of that is too damn ethnic for you, well they have a pretty dope farmers market on Saturdays from 10 am to 3 p.m.
Cathedral of Christ the Light
Amidst the square sea of corporate high-rises and office buildings near Lake Merritt in Oakland rises one building drastically different from the rest - the amalgamation of glass, steel and cutting-edge architecture referred to as the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
Constructed from 2005 to 2008 by the Diocese of Oakland in conjunction with architect Craig W. Hartman on a budget of approximately $172 million, the cathedral was erected to replace the Cathedral of Saint Frances de Sales.
Like many other buildings in Oakland, the original cathedral was damaged beyond repair in 1989's Loma Prieta earthquake.
The design of the cathedral - which the diocese claims initially faced criticism by individuals who felt that the structure's architecture was a major deviation from the standard cruciform shape of many churches - is akin to two convex planes leaned against each other to form an oculus, or eyelike shape, where the main worship area is located.
According to self-reported statistics provided by the diocese, the 136-foot-tall structure was formed out of 60,750 tons of concrete and 1,028 glass panes.
In addition to including an extensive collection of artwork, mausoleum, bookstore, conference center, underground parking complex, cafe and side chapels, the Cathedral of Christ the Light operates a clinic aimed at giving free health and legal services to those who cannot afford them. The cathedral is also the first to feature a garden dedicated solely to the victims of abuse by clergy.
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