Saturday, July 14, 2012

Everything Is Not on the Internet

On my way up to Harbin Hot Springs for my annual retreat, I decided to change the routine a bit this time.  Instead of hauling all the way from Santa Monica in one day, I stopped in Oakland to visit with an old college chum and then take a leisurely drive to the hot springs about two hours north of the Bay Area.    In preparation for this trip I searched around for some interesting night life; jazz, reggae, or spoken word in the East Bay.  After all these days everything worth doing is on the internet.  I found nothing.  No worries.  I let go of that need and surrendered to whatever happened in the moment.  

Jack London's Klondike Hut
The flow took me to Jack London Square in Oakland, CA to meet my friend. On the old waterfront of the Embarcadero in Oakland, it was long known as a seedy and blighted area.  Then major redevelopment hit in 2000.Now it is an  upscale, mixed use development:  condos, high end restaurants, bars, and hotels.  But in the nooks and crannies of this sterile world are surprises that you wouldn't expect. 

Established 1883
We met at a ‘casual’ restaurant on the square named Haven.  Outstanding seafood.   But that is not the story.  Walking over to the restaurant which is sited right on the now yacht harbor, I spied a log cabin.  Strange enough for a new redevelopment with five story buildings surrounding an antiseptic walk way around the marina and ferry berth.  Surrounding the log cabin was a crowd of maybe fifty young professionals drinking outside in a man made patio of dg and heat lamps.  They were the spillover from the bar (the First and Last Chance Saloon, circa 1883), which has been there so long that it is three feel below the current street level.  You have to step down into it to order a drink and even inside it slopes catawampus.   Very cool and real deal place.  Local writing legend Jack London spent many hours there sipping his spirits and writing.  The sole remnant of the old seedy waterfront, not a replica but a true survivor, it celebrates another time.
And the log cabin?  The Klondike Hut is authentic, well half real.  It was found in Alaska where Jack London wrote some of his famous books and half was shipped to Dawson City, Canada and half to Oakland and then reconstructed true to the original drawings.
That was not the end of the not on the internet surprises:  Walking around the new waterfront, we found a super cool bar with a four piece jazz/ salsa/ pop band.  I must have been on a jazz vibe because the next morning in Berkeley, looking for a cool spot to check my email and have breakfast I went to Telegraph.  It felt like desolation row with several new empty lots and boarded up windows.  No one around and expensive parking.  I passed and went to another excellent spot on San Pablo (see piece from 2011) but they had a line out the door.  Rolling around I happened upon the 4th st shopping area and had a coffee with wi-fi.  The next day the street was shut down for a free jazz festival.

Oakland Museum and an Ex-'68
Another non-internet surprise occurred at the  Oakland Museum of California.  Drawn by an exhibit of political protest posters of the sixties and seventies, my Berkeley radical days in mind.  As is my wont being a writer, I pulled out my pen.  “You may not have a pen out” came a voice from behind me.  I looked around and saw a twenty something young woman in the official guard’s uniform.  Stunned I inquired on the reason and in the flat tones of bureaucratese she responded, “you could damage the posters.”  Need I say more about this glaring irony.  Moving  on I shook my head and thought thank god for the Patriot Act.  We are safe from dangerous pen wielders.  Bet that rule is not mentioned on the museum’s website.

What does this mean to the reinventing Boomer?  Consider this:  Make enough plans to get your ship to sea but you don’t know what you’ll find there (think Columbus).  A common idea these days is that everything can be found with an internet search.  None of the above pleasant surprises were found on line.  I tried.  I looked.  But in vivos, on the ground stuff arises that can’t be planned.  Like the last person you fell in love with, it happens when you least expect it.  Another reminder to the Boomer: Now with the ubiquity of the internet we think we know where we are going, but keep your eyes and heart open and pleasant surprises may appear.  Are you ready?  Are you open to see or do you have blinders on?  Do you listen to your gut or your head?  Next time you make a plan be ready for surprises.