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A Beat Behind: Oakland’s Native Daughter

Every Sunday morning my Chronicle and native son columnist Carl Nolte take me for a stroll over my morning coffee, through some of the most interesting nook and cranny districts of San Francisco. And while I enjoy his nostalgic guided tour of “the city” across the bridge, I always think, “What about Oakland?” We have some amazing spots, my current favorite being the Uptown District downtown.

Saturday afternoons, once the hectic weekly grind has come to a halt, the streets of the art deco Uptown District are nearly vacant, making it a prime time for meandering. Look up as you walk (from Broadway) down 18th towards Telegraph and appreciate the intricate details of the roaring architectural imaginations born out of the mid-1920s.

Walking towards the domed Middle Eastern-themed and aluminum-trimmed Fox Theater on Telegraph feels like a stroll into the bygone days of a grand, studio era Hollywood. The theater, built in 1928, has recently gone through a meticulous restoration and is now a vinyl-collecting-kitsch-hipster-hub, hosting alternative rock acts five nights a week to sold out crowds.

Just across the way, there is a shop any highbrow brainiac searching for a smart looking book to impress strangers with on the BART train back to the city must check out. Bibliomania Bookstore, named after a type of O.C.D. involving the obsessive collecting of books, offers an overwhelming and impressive range of literary works.

Once you’ve tired of marveling at the Fox Theatre’s eclectic detailed charms and found that signed copy of John Updike’s “Rabbit Redux,” it’s time for a bit of brunching. No better spot than Floras restaurant, its storefront a shiny, deep blue marbled color trimmed in silver, with the original pink and green neon “Oakland Floral Depot” sign left where an awning for Floras should be, but isn’t. So maintain your meandering pace as brisk walkers are likely to miss it.

After a brunch of huckleberry pancakes or a mushroom and braised fennel frattata, those looking to continue their afternoon of leisure should make sure to head East up 17th towards Broadway and check out another Landmark theater, the recently restored Paramount, home of the Oakland symphony and host to performing arts events that cater to the area’s more sophisticated musical palettes. Tours of the theatre are available every second and fourth Saturday afternoon.

However, if all that meandering and brunching has made you restless for a bit of ruckus, just head south down 17th to either the Oakland Ice Rink or over to 19th and the Great Western Power Company, which from the outside looks just like the old brown Southern Pacific train depot, but inside is a surprise rainbow of hooks and harnesses, all part of a premiere indoor rock climbing facility for climbers of all skill levels.

While I may not be Oakland’s “native” daughter (I have only lived here two years) I can say it is a city with a lot of under-utilized, slow strolling potential and I will miss it when I have to say goodbye and head east. That is right, my column heads to Washington D.C. in the spring. Keep reading and I will see you in January.