July 24th, 2009

Jack London, famous adventurer and author, invested enough of his life in the Bay Area to have a square named after him. Interestingly, the section of Oakland that bears the name of the man who wrote The Call of the Wild, is a place of respite in a city that is known as an urban wilderness. Is this irony? Maybe, but it’s certainly the bitter kind if it is. Oakland has been immortalized in recent years by rappers like Eazy-E and Tupac as a place of gang warfare and merciless violence, and there are statistics to support every word of it. Just this year, a New Year’s Eve shooting led to days and days of riots.

But Oakland is not a wasteland. There is a thriving arts community and quite a lot of natural beauty, and Oakland deserves visitors. Jack London square is a good place to start. It’s right on the water and so, although it’s kind of a haven for big chains, the very unique local scenery can assert itself loudly enough. From there, you’re a short walk to downtown Oakland, a bit longer walk from lovely Lake Anza, and practically already at Yoshi’s, which does not need my help getting known as a place for world class jazz and blues.

It’s taken me a lot of months of suggesting places to go in the Bay Area for me to tell you to go to Oakland. But the time has come. Go to Oakland, have lunch at Jack London Square, and then stay and look around a little bit.

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