Birthday Weekend, Part I: Alameda and Oakland

I had the most amazing birthday weekend!  Per the agreement with my mother, I am now 21+ while she is 29+.  We’ll have to talk to Brady to work her into the equation but right now, things seem fair.

Oakland Alley

So.  Saturday was my birthday but the whole weekend was awesome.  On Thursday, my parents flew into town and I picked them up at SJC.  I drove them home and headed into work for afternoon clinic.  I managed to sneak out a few minutes early and we went to Shellshock for the $1 oyster happy hour.  I learned something new about my Mom.  She doesn’t like raw oysters.  Oh, well, there were plenty of other delicious items on the menu.  SMS met up with us a little later since he has a real job and the four of us had a great time hanging out.  We stayed for awhile, headed back to the house, had a night cap and went to bed.

Dad’s old hanger is actually 21, but this is a nice picture of the best parents ever!

The next day, I took the day off and I hung out with my parents.  Although it would have been awesome if SMS could have hung out with us, he’s trying to build up his vacation days.  Mom, Dad and I headed to Alameda where we lived from 1987-1989.  We passed by our old house, which is in slight disrepair.   They were surprised to see it since they were told it was demolished after the 1989 earthquake.  We headed toward the runway where Dad tried to figure out which hanger was his old squadron.  He figured out that it was the one that now houses St. George’s spirits where we celebrated by having a tasting.  The spirits were good as were Dad’s reminiscences.  

Swan’s Market, full of deliciousness!

We stopped by the Alameda Naval History museum which, unfortunately, is only open on Saturdays and Sundays.  So, off to lunch at Swan’s Market in Oakland. I had never been and it was absolutely fantastic!  There are several terrific restaurants/food stands/standalone shops crowded into a larger market building.  I think Dad won the ordering competition with his incredible meatball sub but I wasn’t too far behind with an arugula/farro/cucumber/almond/grapefruit/avocado/soft-boiled egg/lemon-anchovy vinaigrette/pecorino salad.  Yum!  We both got our dishes from the Hen House and I would definitely go back!


Mom ordered a lunch set from B-Dama which was fine, but not what she was expecting.  It was a Japanese-style lunch set but with American portions.  She ordered the karage, or fried chicken, but instead of popcorn-style fried chicken, it was basically super-fried and breaded chicken wings. I wasn’t super-fond of the miso broth, which was quite fishy/clammy.

Oh yes.  All is right with the world.

Since we had already eaten plenty of food, the obvious place to go was Fenton’s, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that Dad took us to a fair amount when we were kids.  We ordered sundaes that were so good!  Afterwards, we were in a slight sugar coma but it was totally worth it!

We headed back down to Mountain View to meet up with SMS.  We hung out at the apartment for a bit before going out to dinner.  Since Mom and Dad had never been to In & Out, we decided to have our dinner there.  Mom knew In & Out as “the place Adele goes when she’s depressed her piano’s out of tune” but afterwards, she knew it as the place with Animal-style fries!

Then it was time to hit the road for Napa.  I had rented an awesome cottage on AirBnB and we had big plans for the next day.  The cottage was absolutely beautiful and an amazing place to stay.  We went to bed and we all slept very well!

Alameda: Walk Down Memory Lane

On the 26th, SMS and I decided to head out and explore.  We had our day of rest after traveling on Christmas Eve from Colorado and it was time to take advantage of what the local area has to offer.  We were going to go to Oakland to roughly follow the recent “36 Hours in…” article from Dec 2015, but when I saw the exit sign for Alameda, a wave of nostalgia hit me and I wanted to check it out.  I had lived in Alameda from 1987-1989 and I wanted to see my old school and the former Navy base.

Almost 30 years later!

St Philip Neri playground

First, we went to St Philip Neri.  I was surprised at how little I remembered in terms of the layout.  Gradually, things became a little clearer as I remembered the march from the classroom to the Hall where we had our square dancing classes (really!).  I also remembered the playground in vivid detail once I saw it from a certain corner.  The games of tag, hopscotch and my terrible attempts at tetherball made the playground indelibly etched in my mind.  One thing that really surprised me though was how small everything seemed.  I’ve heard of people talking about the perspective change in size between childhood and adulthood, but this was the first vivid example for me with respect to a place.

As SMS said, not the type of van you want across the street from a school!
Another view
Back gate, totally open!
Old house!

We headed over to the base, although I’d like to head back at some point and check out the historic Alameda movie theater and Park St shopping district.  We drove through the housing area and I managed to remember how to get to our old house.  It was still there (it was rumored to be condemned after the 1989 earthquake).  I was really surprised at how derelict everything looked.  Nothing looked unsafe but everything was so rundown and dingy- peeling paint, dirty houses, tons of stuff piled up.  It was a definite contrast to 30 years ago and pretty amazing to me that things can change so quickly.  I also looked at the tree in the front yard and I think it’s too big to climb on now.  Back in the day, it was the perfect climbing tree and we were in it all the time!

Slightly different signage than the 80s.
View from the patio of Rock Wall Winery

We headed over to the old squadrons and the runway, which is now a protected bird habitat.  The hangers are mainly commercial businesses now, focussed on booze.  There’s the Faction brewery, where we had a sampler before going on a tour of St. George’s, a artisanal distillery.

At the brewery, the sampler was delicious and the coffee stout was the best I ever had.  We picked the brewery because we were hoping the corn dog stand would open but we were disappointed since the set-up was taking them awhile.

Entrance for St. George.  I love the sign under Visitors.

We went over to St. George’s where we went on one of the best tours I’ve ever been on.  Our tour guide’s name was Andie and she was so well-spoken, informative, hilarious and very quick on her feet with witty responses and serious answers to questions that came up along the tour.  I was super impressed at her tour guide skill!

Safety first- I agree!

SMS had a sampler flight and I had a few micro-sips.  The spirits are excellent and the gins are delicious and super-flavorful and herby.  The pear liquor was probably my favorite and one I’d buy on another day.

The masher
The still
Our day was cut a little short in regards to making it to Oakland so we decided to head home and save Oakland for another day…like the next one!