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Take Me Away! Imaginary Adventures in Alameda

Ideas for fantasy vacations right here in town. Hawaii, good. Revisiting day camp, good. Switzerland, uh-oh ...

It’s summer vacation season. The office phones ring less frequently, Bay Area traffic is lighter and almost every Alamedan I know seems to be either going or just back from somewhere ridiculously cool. I am feeling just a bit sorry for myself. Other than a few random long weekends this summer, I am warehouse-bound. Our youngest is getting married this September, and without the benefit of corporate frequent flyer mileage, an exotic vacation is completely out of the question.

In this “Great Whatever-They’ll-Call-It-in-the-History-Textbooks,” I know many readers might be in a similar boat, so I thought I would come up with a few creative ideas for taking a mental holiday right here in town.

1. Declare “Hawaiian Week.” My sources say that Malia May of High Street makes custom Tiki clothing. You can order your family matching shirts and pose barefooted for a Christmas card on Crown Beach. When you get back to the house, “Photoshop” the picture to remove any recognizable local landmarks. No one will know. (If custom shirts aren’t in the budget, stop by St. Vincent de Paul or the Salvation Army and buy the ones someone else’s beer belly has outgrown.)

2. Ask a strong friend with a good back to go pick up several bags of clean white playground sand from . Rip a hole in the bags and spill the sand the length of your front walkway. Buy six Tiki torches from at Marina Village and poke them in your front lawn.

3. Pick up a bag of assorted seashells at and toss them over your left shoulder without looking where they land. (That will make it much more fun when you go shell hunting later.) If you don’t want to spend money on seashells, borrow shells from me. Hello, I’m Alice. I am a shell hoarder.

4. If you don’t have a good recipe for an exotic umbrella drink, put on a pair of flip flops and walk to for a Painkiller or a Classic Mai Tai. (Take my advice: Walking is always better than driving when traveling to a local Tiki lounge. The native police are much friendlier.

If you don’t heed the siren’s call of the tropical islands and Europe is more your thing, you might have to wait for fall. At the Fourth of July parade, someone in a German marching band handed me a flyer saying they will perform at Alameda’s for Oktoberfest. I still have my mother’s dirndl, so all I need to do is borrow a pair of lederhosen for my husband and we’re good to go. Our daughters have dirndls as well, but I will give them permission to stay home because I love them.

When I was 16, my parents took me to Switzerland, where one of my mother’s old boyfriends treated us to an evening in a local pub. The Tyrolean band started yodeling, accompanied by the sound of marbles spinning in large ceramic bowls. Much to my horror, my parents linked arms with their hosts and started yodeling along at the top of their lungs, swaying back and forth in tempo with the beat.

When I couldn’t locate my nearest fire exit, I crawled beneath our wooden table to hide. (I was certain that someone I knew from San Francisco would walk into that pub at any moment and catch my mother yodeling with her Swiss beau. I would be forced to make friends with a Federal Witness Protection Program employee so I could change my name and relocate to a small town in the middle of nowhere. Imagining that scene still turns my cheeks bright red.)

Most parents embarrass most teenagers, but a yodeling mother? Arms linked with her old Swiss boyfriend? With her husband / my father smiling and yodeling along?! Yes, really. It was that bad.

So if I scared you away from Tyrolean bands or you can’t wait for fall, here are a few other random ideas:

1. Pretend you’re on safari. Spend the day at the Oakland Zoo and come back for an African dinner at on Webster Street.

2. Paris or New Orleans, anyone? in the old Tillie’s location sells delicious beignets just like Café Du Monde, and Alameda’s climate is heaven compared to Louisiana in the summer.

3. If you’re a domestic vacationer like my husband who refuses to leave the continental States, swing by the , stare into the glass tanks and pretend you’re at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. You can bet there will be fewer tourists competing for a view of the charismatic marine critters.

My final (and I think best) idea is time travel — back to your childhood days at summer camp. On any given Thursday, buy some plastic lanyard string, a strip of leather and a bandana in the color of your choice. Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, smash it just a bit, and put it in a small brown paper bag marked with your first name in Sharpee. Add a bag of crushed potato chips and a piece of bruised fruit.

Then go sit in the sunshine at one of the wooden picnic tables at Crab Cove. Weave a lanyard or make a bookmark for your favorite person, then ask someone with a child enrolled at ARPD Trails End to take you along to their weekly family night up at Redwood Regional Park where you can sing silly songs and watch silly skits. (There are no new skits. Believe me. It will be exactly as you remember from all those years ago.)

Please comment below if you come up with more ideas. I am looking for an Alameda vacation. Take me away! I’ll send you a postcard when I get there.

Your loving columnist,

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Tom Schweich July 11, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Tom Brody July 12, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Thank you for your article on vacations, and thanks for mentioning Pagano's Hardware. Pagano's on Lincoln Avenue is a fascinating store, which markets the usual items, and also sells many odds and ends that are needed only once every 20 years or so, e.g., lawn ornaments configured to resemble life-sized rabbits or raccoons. As such, please accept the following recommendation for a cost-conscious vacation. My suggestion is to spend an hour in Pagano's on Lincoln Avenue, contemplating the goods on the shelves, finding fascination in brass fittings and other Rube Goldbergian devices, and such. After this, one should order a beret (a French hat) from Amazon.com (these cost about $25), and then one should wear the beret and have breakfast at Cafe Jolie (an excellent nearby French restaurant), and spend the hour writing postcards about the sights and sounds at Pagano's hardware. The final component of my proposed budget vacation is to send the postcards to all of your jealous friends.
Kate Quick July 12, 2012 at 05:41 PM
As I sit on the front terrace of our hotel in La Paz, I'm Reading your article and thinking, you could just take our Facebook postings, complete with photos and re post them as yours! Great writing, as usual.


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