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The More Things Stay the Same

Turning 50 on the Isle of Style

Born at the Alameda Hospital on April 13, 1962, I did not anticipate, expect or consider I'd be celebrating my 50th birthday here on the island as well.

Boy, that time went by fast.  Seems like only last year I was skipping up to Hugo's on Chestnut and Encinal to buy my Ice Cube chocolate candies and wax lips and harassing Smitty at the liquor counter of the Chestnut Market. What?  It was 38 years ago? Oops.  

I've had the good fortune to live in some pretty cool places - London, New Orleans, Oakland. I am big fans of all those cities and visit them as often as possible but yet, at the ripe age of five-zero, here I am residing back in good ol' Funameda.

What is it about this place that keeps even the most adventurous explorers coming back for more? Hell, my mother was born here. It's a question many of my friends and I ponder. Is it family ties? Ease of island living? The Crown & Anchor (Rooster's Roadhouse, sorry)? It could be something in the water supply but my guess is it is something more overt than that. Conclusion: it's nice here. The trees ... the staggeringly lovely architecture of the varied dwellings ... the beach ... The Buckhorn (sorry, Lucky 13). The secret is out on Alameda and there's just no turning back now.

But when I bike or drive around town, I still half-expect to see the Doggie Diner on Webster with the trademark revolving dachshund head or the stuffed polar bear in the window of the sporting goods store on Park. Nice. Who else remembers that very odd children's ride in the shoe department of J.C. Penney's? You sat in a small chair against the wall and it went round and round - moving up to the ceiling and down again. Simple as that. Nice.

Despite the semi-recent boom in chain retailers, traffic and nasty politics, Alameda does seem to cling to a calming, pleasant, more manageable time in the past. It can be downright hypnotic with all the niceness. At my newfound 50, though, I must not be lulled into passivity by the gentle sway of palms and the smell of Scolari's hamburgers.

Because Alameda is an almost-perfect place to live, I must continue to use it as a base camp. I will not house hunt or shop my life away at the antique fair just yet. I will continue to travel and see what else is going on out there - over the bridges and through the tube. And while I'm traveling or living abroad, I can still tell people I'm from a small island off the coast of California. Nice. 

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Tom Brody April 24, 2012 at 08:32 PM
I remember the Doggie Diner in downtown Oakland. The Doggie Diner was located near that fork in the road, where Telegraph Avenue and Broadway branch off from each other. If anybody remembers differently, please let us know. I believe that there still exists a Doggie Diner next to the San Francisco zoo (on the street running east to west).
a94501er April 24, 2012 at 11:40 PM
@Tom, it is just the doggie diner head :) http://blogs.sfweekly.com/foodie/2010/07/remembering_doggie_diner.php
John Piziali April 24, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Doggie Diner was famous for its Western Burger, I can remember many nights standing at Doggy and watching the sun come up, that's when we would go home and go to bed. Its definatly a West End thing.
Tom Brody April 25, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Your are correct, there is no restaurant under this particular Doggie Diner head. According to Wikipedia: "The most notable feature of the chain were the Doggie Diner heads of a wiener dog wearing a bow tie and a chef's hat. After the Doggie Diner went out of business, all the heads were taken down, many being resold to private parties but one, which is on Sloat Boulevard, near 45th Avenue. On August 11, 2008, the Doggie Diner head became a San Francisco landmark."
Patti C April 25, 2012 at 02:40 AM
As kids, we weren't even allowed to go to Webster Street. When we were finally old enough to buck the rules and ventured out on our bikes, I was always particularly taken by the bow tie. For some reason, the hat made sense but the bow tie really made an impression. Fun stuff.

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