I remember my grandparents’ garden from my childhood. I remember following along behind my grandfather, sent out for tomatoes, while I “helped” by pulling fresh cucumbers off the prickly, hairy vines. Wiping the vegetable off on my tee shirt, I chomped into it right there where I stood.

My grandfather was a staid mountain of a man. He didn’t talk much to his family; he frequently responded to my grandmother in grunts or one-syllable sounds. When he sat down to eat, he really tucked into it:  seconds were certain, thirds were not out of the question. I never knew him not to eat what my grandmother set on the table, but he drew the line at cucumbers.

When my brother, my cousins and I discovered this, we were giddy with unexpected knowledge. We were between six and seven years old and our shrill little giggles must have sounded like the munchkins in Oz. Our secret-telling was, no doubt, conducted in theatrical stage whispers. We couldn’t believe it. Grampie didn’t eat cucumbers! We had to clean our plates, but now here was this revelation.

And so at every meal shortly thereafter, we took turns offering our grandfather helpings of the cool disks marinating lightly in vinegar with a hint of sugar and generous salt and pepper.

“Would you like some cucumbers, Grampie,” we asked choking on our hysteria. In the spirit of humor moderated by solidarity, Grammie hid her smile until it wore off and even she spoke sharply, telling us to leave our grandfather alone. But it was irresistible to tease the unteaseable, to ruffle the unruffleable.

“How about a cuke, Grampie,” we asked, until finally he pounded the table with one open hand.

“I don’t want any goddamn cukes,” he thundered before slamming downstairs to his woodworking shop where a half-gallon of vodka was kept cool under the stairs.

What he didn’t know, sadly I think now, is how nicely good vodka goes down with a bit of gently muddled cucumber, fresh from the garden.

Givin’ Love

I love me a little Oaktown. Sure, we have our [oft-discussed, hard to hide] troubles. But dang! If you haven’t walked around to see the sights and feel the artistic energy that is pulsing through these streets, you are missing some fun. You are also missing cool architecture, provocative street art, and some plain old satisfying nonsense!

One of my favorite murals (of all time) has been jazzing the Uptown for about a year. I love the crazy perspectives and the way the artists, R.B. Morris III & Munir Munir, held up a funhouse mirror and captured a selection of our wicked loveliness:

While we’re on the subject of Oaksterdam (mural sponsor), it’s a special kind of city that houses a university, a museum, a gift store, in addition to several “dispensaries” and cafes with alternative menus, all in the name of medical marijuana. I find the items in Oaksterdam’s gift store window fairly entertaining:

If you start your day with NPR, you may have heard some stories by young people. They tend to be impressive, thoughtful and well-done. Chances are they were produced by Youth Radio:

I love old classic Oakland businesses like the Hat Library, which features a large selection of original hats for the ladies to wear to church and Rocsil’s Women’s Footwear, which specializes in large sizes. Makes me wish my feet were bigger! Then there’s the other classic Oakland business:

Most of what I dig about Oakland is the random street art. There are some hella creative, humorous, provocative cats doing their thing, leaving their mark in unexpected places here.

It’s hard to escape the presence of Occupy in Oakland. Here’s another voice on the subject, more to make you go, hmmmm:

There’s a lot to love on these dirty o’l streets. Seeings how it’s Friday and all, I think I’ll go out and get a little Oaktown on me. Hope to see you there.