In the Mix

Forget San Francisco


Farley’s and Company Migrate East and Buck the Recession

     Twenty years ago, before Starbucks, WiFi or the laptop brigade, Roger Hillyard opened Farley’s in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill. The coffeehouse evolved with shifting trends and became a San Francisco institution. Hillyard’s son, Chris, grew up with Farley’s as part of his life—and with a dream of one day opening something similar.
     Two years ago Chris Hillyard, 38, and his wife, Amy, 35, looking to buy a bigger house for their growing family. They wanted something affordable, urban and interesting and moved to the Lake Merritt neighborhood. Hillyard soon saw what was happening in Uptown and knew the time had come to start brewing up his own neighborhood storm.
     So it was that on May 1—a “First Friday” Art Murmur night—Farley’s East had its pre-launch party a short walk from Ozumo Oakland, the stylish 2008 version of former Japan-leagues baseball pro Jeremy Umland’s popular San Francisco Ozumo, and joined the trend of foodies crossing the Bay
to Oakland.
     Predecessors include Wood Tavern and Somerset in Rockridge; B Restaurant and Levende East in Old Oakland; Bellanico and Marzano in Glenview; and Barlata Tapas Bar in Temescal, to name some notables. Coming sometime are Lake Chalet in the remodeled historic Lake Merritt boathouse, plus Bracina, Bocanova and Wren Bakery, all in Jack London Square.
     On that First Friday in May, Hillyard, who could be Sean Penn’s better looking younger brother all the way down to his voice and mannerisms, welcomed guests and artsy passersby who arrived in waves. His interior was still a work in progress.
     Ozumo Oakland, meanwhile, was full, despite the evening’s heavy rain, as were near neighbors Luka’s Taproom and newbie Southern-inspired Picán.
     If anyone felt the recession, you’d never have known. “I’d say food remains the one affordable indulgence,” says Berkeley’s Tom Walton, who specializes in restaurant public relations. The sentiment was echoed by the doormen at Ozumo and Picán. “I think we’ll all benefit from each other,” remarks Hillyard, who adds that “Oakland is more affordable [than San Francisco] in terms of doing business—and you get a lot of support.”
     “The people over here are hungry for an awesome dining experience,” says Wood Tavern co-owner Rebekah Wood. “San Francisco has so many restaurants,
while here, there’s space to grow.” Wood Tavern, she says, has not felt the recession. “I think people are happy to pay for a great experience close to home.”
     “The economy has us concerned,” counters Lara Truppelli, who is working with her husband, Gar, and the city of Oakland, on Lake Chalet. Based on their success at San Francisco’s Beach Chalet, they’re
putting together what they hope will be a recession-proof package that will include a bistro, a seafood bar, outdoor dining, music and more.
     With such an emerging roster enhancing the East Bay scene, eating and partying locally rather than heading across the Bay feels like an effective way to lessen the reaches of the local recession.

—By Wanda Hennig, Photography by Lori Eanes

By the Numbers

At any given A’s game at the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum, hungry fans go through:

540 Gallons of Soda
680 Orders of Garlic Fries
760 Orders of Chicken Tenders
1,750 Saags Sausages
1,900 Orders of Nachos
4,500 Hot Dogs

—By George Shirk, Illustration by Julie Goonan

Peoples’ Pride

Introducing ‘Forrealism’

     Growing up as a mixed-race kid in the East Bay was a challenge, says painter, muralist, graphic designer and illustrator Joaquín Alejandro Newman. As the son of a Yaqui and Mexican mother and Swedish and Scottish father, “I was always feeling like I wanted to belong to different groups but never
really feeling like I belonged to one group,” he says.
     The experience inspired Newman, who studied art and digital design at Cabrillo College and UC Santa Cruz, to delve deeper into his ethnic background, incorporating his mixed heritage into his work. Newman, 36, now lives in Oakland and works out of a shared studio in Alameda. Through his art, Newman says he seeks to educate as well as challenge racial barriers and bridge cultural gaps.
     With his childhood friend Sean Nash, who is a painter and filmmaker, Newman formed a collective of other artists—including Newman’s wife, Evelyn Orantes—with mixed Latino and Native American backgrounds. The group has its own style, called Forrealism, which draws its inspiration from the indigenous art of the Americas. “We have had over 200 shows in cafes and restaurants and small galleries around the Bay Area,” Newman says of the collective, which has collaborated on a number of projects including a mural at the Straus Carpet Company on Ford Street in Oakland. “The main thrust of it is we’re ‘for real’ in the way that we approach and express art,” Newman explains.
     Newman’s artwork can be seen throughout the East Bay. Funded by the city of Oakland, he worked on a mural unveiled in 2007 at the Carmen Flores Community Center at Josie de La Cruz Park. The piece consists of four panels, including one featuring portraits of community activists Flores and de La Cruz above a banner reading “Corazón de la Comunidad” (heart of the community) while another portrays two hands cradling corn kernels below the Mayan maize god Hun-Nal.
     This year Newman collaborated with artist Eduardo Pineda and students at the Oakland School for the Arts on a commissioned mural for an affordable housing development called Fox Courts behind the Fox Theater. Through the project, Newman says he hopes students will be encouraged take a closer look at their own ethnic and cultural historic roots and heritage. Newman’s work can also be viewed online at

—By Ellen Keohane, Courtesy Joaquin Alejandro Newman

Oakland Online

From the Blog-Oak-Sphere

Blogger: Echa Schneider
Blogging Since: May 2007; former blogger at Future Oakland
About A Better Oakland: Probably Oakland’s best known independent blogger, Schneider has been mentioned in SFGate, on PBS and in the East Bay Express for her in-depth analysis of Oakland’s political issues and her sharp focus on planning and development.
How It Happened: Schneider started blogging about Oakland politics during the 2006 mayoral campaign to get her perspective into the conversation. Shortly after she launched A Better Oakland, Schneider says she became “obsessive” about the Oakland City Council. Once she started watching all the council and committee meetings, “writing more substantive posts just came naturally as I found I had more to say.”
Beat: Says Schneider, “It’s almost all policy-related stuff. I’m not really interested in personalities or gossip-type coverage.”
Goal: Improve and deepen coverage of City Hall while building an informed community. Inspire engagement with city government.
Payoff: Schneider loves the community that has formed around hers and other Oakland blogs. “All the other local bloggers and neighborhood or issue-based activists I encounter through my writing remind me that there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful about Oakland’s future,” she says.

That’s reason to read.

—By Jessica Hilberman


That Old Montclair Clock Simply Isn’t

     Newbies and firsttime visitors to Montclair inevitably find their way to the corner of Mountain Boulevard and La Salle Avenue, where they can admire the ancient, old clock and marvel that it still works. Inside Raimondi’s, at the same corner, Al Atallah must get a charge out of that every single time.
     The fact is, that distinctive, historic clock isn’t even old. It just looks that way.
     “We put it in eight years ago,” says Atallah. “I was on the board of the Montclair Village Association, and we thought it’s really not a village without a clock. So we researched it, arranged for the funding and put it in.” Atallah says Oakland’s Gill’s Electric Co. donated the electrical work to finish the installation.
      Only once has the clock failed. That was when a vandal threw a rock through the glass face. Since then, the clock has had a Polyglass face. Sure looks like old Polyglass, though, right?

—By George Shirk


East Bay enophiles likely have a cellar’s worth of fine wine tucked away in the kitchen, and a night out is the perfect time to drink it. To BYO, be sure to observe a few rules: It’s good etiquette to call ahead to check whether the restaurant allows patrons to bring a bottle and whether there’s a corkage fee. Skip the cheapest wines in your stash, and plan to buy a bottle for each one you bring. Here’s a sampling of local corkage fees, with some true bargains in the bunch.

Chez Panisse $25;   Eccolo $20;  Pizzaiolo $18;  Camino $15;  Wood Tavern $15;  Il Porcellino $15;  T-Rex $15;  Zachary’s $9;   Lo Coco’s $8;  Noodle Theory $5;  Spettro $0 first bottle, $5 subsequent bottle;  Koryo Korean   $0; Bistro Liaison    $0 on Wednesdays

—By Jessica Hilberman , Illustration by Julie Goonan


A Cheesophile Primer

     Cheese in the East Bay begins and ends at the Cheese Board Collective ( For the fermented curd straight from the hoof, this worker-owned collective is worth the trip into Berkeley, even if just for the free samples. Oh, did we mention they force you to taste before buying? That’s the best part. For those in Montclair, the source for cheesey goodness is Farmstead Cheeses and Wines (, a quaint little boutique featuring rare and specialized cheeses, such as the red-streaked Italian Umbriacone. College Avenue, or rather The Pasta Shop at Market Hall (, is another hot spot for fantastic Fog—Humbolt Fog, that is. If you prefer your cheeses in a more presentable, or dippable form, the Village Market ( offers a tongue-teasingly tasty array of cheesey spreads and straight up cheeses. The market’s cracker curios make this a perfect place to stop before entertaining.       

—By Alex Handy, Photography by Lori Eanes

Monumental Update

     Oakland sculptor Mario Chiodo’s Remember Them: Champions for Humanity monument is making steady headway, with installation in the Henry J. Kaiser Sculpture Park in Fox Square (19th and San Pablo) now anticipated for March 2010.
     This spring, the artist had just completed the first section of the four-piece, larger-than-life, $7 million bronze tribute to 25 inspirational people, among them Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela. The ambitious memorial will use 60,000 pounds of bronze and cover 1,000 square feet, stretching 52 feet wide and reaching 21 feet high.
     So far, the project’s ongoing capital campaign has raised about a third of the expected cost. The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Foundation has set up
a nonprofit initiative on behalf of the sculpture to collect gifts.       

     To make a tax-deductible donation, visit or write to Remember Them –
OMCCF, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Foundation, 475 14th St., Oakland, CA 94612-1903.

—By Judith M. Gallman, Photography by Lewis Smith

What's Up With That?

     The beautiful polished brass fire hydrant on Webster Street at 11th has a history that is as bright as its sheen. Its design, called a Model 64, was unique to the East Bay and was created by industrial designers Neil Sampson and Don Baldocchi in 1971, back when the East Bay Municipal Utility District headquarters was at West Grand Avenue and Adeline Street. John Plumb, the former secretary of the district, ordered a brass model to set in front of the headquarters, and the hydrant made the trip to downtown when the offices moved. It’s eye-catching, to be sure, but plenty of people walk right on by—even EBMUD employees. “I’ve worked here for 17 years and have never noticed it!” says one.            

—By George Shirk

Cheap Thrill

Forget Netfix for the summer.
Instead see flicks—for free!—in the great outdoors.

Jack London Square hosts Movies on the Waterfront on the newly developed east lawn of the marina from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays through August. The schedule: Dead Calm, July 9; It Came From Beneath the Sea, July 23; Big Fish, Aug. 13; Splash, Aug. 27.

Temescal Street Cinema
ends its summer run with these local-flavored films screening on the Bank of the West building at Telegraph Avenue and 49th Street from about 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.: Drylongso, July 2; 19 Arrests and No Convictions, July 9; and Migrations: A Series of Shorts, July 16. 


The Oakland Park Band

     When Phil Shoptaugh is looking for a band, he says there are certain things you just simply have to have. The accomplished Oakland trumpeter, whose credits include stints with the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Opera and who currently leads a 10-piece brass band, says he was naturally inclined to embrace the Oakland Municipal Band.
     “First, you get the best players you can,” says Shoptaugh, the musical director of the “Brazzissimo” tentet. “Then you get a conductor who knows how to present good music, and then you have to have a good venue.”
     The Oakland Municipal Band, commonly called the Oakland Park Band, performs free, two-hour concerts on Sunday afternoons in the summer. (Catch the band 1 p.m.–3 p.m. July 4 and then at the same times on July 12, 19 and 26 and Aug. 5.) Its venue is the 1912 Edoff Memorial Bandstand at Lakeside Park along the shores of Lake Merritt, and it draws top-drawer musicians such as Shoptaugh. As has been the case in the 98 years of its history, the band last season landed an excellent conductor in Cal Sate University East Bay faculty member Wesley J. Broadnax. In all, it’s pretty close to perfect for one of the longest running cultural events in Oakland. The music can be all over the place, from swing jazz to dance music, classical to standards.
      “The quality is just amazing,” Shoptaugh says, “and in the last five years, it actually got better. It’s very entertaining, and the setting in Oakland is wonderful. It’s great for people to go out on Sunday afternoon, sit on the lawn with their kids and listen to music.”

—By George Shirk, Courtesy Ron Bishop


The Den at the Fox

     We weren’t sure quite what to expect from The Den, the spiffy new lounge in the Fox Theater. Certainly the location is great, right there at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and 20th Street. From the huge picture windows that allow views on three sides, one of our party exclaimed, “It looks like the cars are going to drive right through!”
     On the evening we arrived, the whole neighborhood was jumping. Hundreds of people were out, with Green Day getting set to perform a sneak show at the Uptown Nightclub across the street, Leonard Cohen packing them in at the Paramount Theatre, a block and a half away, and Franz Ferdinand headlining at the Fox. This was downtown Oakland on a Wednesday night, mind you. It was hard to keep from blinking in disbelief.
     In The Den, meanwhile, we took a little self-guided tour, both to the upstairs bar area (!) and down, and marveled that the designers decided to leave the dozens of levers in the hallway—ingenious handles that once served as the lighting system for the whole theater but which now are merely evocative symbols of times gone by.
     There is plenty of room at The Den, particularly for the standees who can belly up to the bar or sidle up to one of many pub tables, pretty good perches for catching the live video and audio feed on the two flat-screen TVs during shows. Some, no doubt, would use these same seats to quibble, starting with the fact that on show nights, a pre-concert martini is served in a plastic cup “for safety’s sake,” assured our bartender.
     The beer taps are modest, at best, with six brews offered when we were there (for $6, even at a nonexistent happy hour), two of them standard commercial drek. The food is just acceptable, and the price on the $6 hot dog took us back a little.
     Comparing The Den at the Fox to any other lounge is pointless, given the fact that the Fox is a fantastic venue for music. And—let’s face it—who else is going to offer B.B. King just down the hallway and to the right? It’s a terrific addition to the burgeoning Uptown scene.

—By George Shirk, Photography by Lori Eanes

Media Shelf

New Releases from East Bay Authors and Musicians

Tiny Little Troubles by Marc Lecard
(St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2008,
339 pp., $24.95)
Oaklander-by-way-of-Long Island Marc Lecard is a mystery crime writer with a penchant for dark humor. His second novel follows the outrageous travails of protagonist Aaron Rogell, a San Francisco nanotech scientist and sex addict; his gutsy wife, Amanda; prostitute Aphrodite; and lowlife scam artist Pablo Clench. His cast of whackos and his raw language evoke the gritty style of literary raconteurs Carl Hiaasen and
Elmore Leonard.

Wrestling with the Angels of Democracy, On Being an American Citizen by Susan Griffin
(Trumpeter, 2008, 291 pp., $24.95)
Berkeleyan Susan Griffin, a poet, essayist, playwright and filmmaker, distills the essence of democracy in her latest book on what she terms “social autobiography.” Mixing memoir with historical context, she considers the meanings of American freedom and equality, exploring the conflict between empire and democracy by focusing on her own personal upbringing as well as the lives of key men and women from American history. Concerned that the ideals are in real peril, she suggests steps for preserving them. 

—Judith M. Gallman

Emily Bezar, Exhange
(DemiVox Records,
Roll over Kate Bush and tell Tori Amos the news: Oakland’s Emily Bezar moves up in the pantheon of operatic art-rock singers with the release of her fifth album on her own label. Over bass and drums, Bezar’s dramatic soprano swoops into a self-determined stratosphere colored by cello and violin, electric guitar, a horn section featuring Oaklander Phillip Greenlief’s saxophones, Chris Grady’s trumpet and Jen Baker’s trombone, along with Bezar’s own piano and electric keyboards. The sophisticated jazz-pop and folk of Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell are sonic touchstones, but the roiling emotional drama and classically informed harmonic complexities are Bezar’s alone.

—Derk Richardson


Speed Racer

Back to the Flats for Tracy “Racy” Snyder

     Oakland native Tracy “Racy” Snyder’s idea of fun is tearing across Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats on her mostly stock 2004 Suzuki Hayabusa at more than 150 miles an hour. She’s a modern day Burt Munro, the eccentric Kiwi speedster memorialized in The World’s Fastest Indian.
     Snyder, 42, took to the flats Labor Day weekend 2008, chasing a dream of setting a new national speed record, and this motivated fourth-generation motorcycle enthusiast who supposedly could kick-start a bike at age 9 achieved her goal, gripping her handlebars as tight as she could with helmet lifting during an intense ride to clock 171.153 mph in the Modified Gasoline “M-AG” 1350 class. She snatched the honor from J.F. Haider whose speed reached 165.742 mph on his Kawasaki and whose record had stood since 1978.
     “It was way cool. Last week was the week of my life,” Snyder says, milling around a September 2008 homecoming at the Oakland Motorcycle Club, which she joined in 1999. Decked out in heels and a Team Tracy T-shirt emblazoned with a photograph of her astride her bike, Snyder is full of smiles and still high on adrenaline from her victory as she passes out Team Tracy stickers commemorating her feat.
     Ever gracious, she downplays her skills as a motorcyclist and credits her 14-person pit crew—larger than most of the pros, apparently—and friends and family with
her success.
     “It’s all in the crew. I just got to go for the ride of my life,” says Snyder, who is sponsored by Fremont Cycle Salvage. “Everyone fell in love with Team Tracy.”
     “It was an enormous team effort. You cannot do it alone,” says Snyder’s twin sister, Andra Norris, whose children, husband and parents went along for the daredevil’s adventure. Norris fears her speed-loving, over-achieving sister will catch the speed-record bug again in 2009.
      Snyder confirms as much at the club meeting, but a few months later, the speed demon has set an even greater challenge: This Labor Day weekend, she wants to best her own record and qualify for the world record. Go, Tracy!

—By Judith M. Gallman, Courtesy Tracy Snyder

Off the Wall

A Peek at the Key Route Mural

     Time travel? It’s not relegated to the abstract world of sci-fi, at least not in Oakland. Just off Piedmont Avenue on 41st Street, the Key Route 159 is loading up for its 27-minute trip to First and Mission in The City.
     Practically every stripe of Oaklander is there, from everyday newspaper readers to get-out-the-vote volunteers. There is a clown; a commuter dashing to catch the train; a pipe-smoking gentleman with a grocery bag, no doubt having just left Piedmont Grocery; lovers kissing good-bye (or hello); an armed soldier carrying a can of petrol; a sailor; railroad workers, and a delighted little boy racing into the embrace of his father.
     There’s so much going on in Rocky Rische-Baird’s 12-by-24-foot wall mural on the side of J’s Hamburgers that all it takes is a little imagination to turn the restaurant into the waiting room that it once was.
    Standing in front of the mural, titled The Electric Life Is Safe Together, is the photographer Ted Wurm, a railroad historian whose pictures of the trains are hanging on the walls at J’s.
     And over everything and everyone is Francis Marion “Borax” Smith, the visionary behind the train route. Smith never ages here, and neither does anyone else. They all are wallflowers, in a sense, stuck in time.

—George Shirk

A Sports Leader

     For a guy they called “motormouth” in middle school, Brian Murphy seems ideally suited for his job. He’s the morning co-host at KNBR-AM, 680.
     But even a sports fanatic like Murphy never thought he’d end up on San Francisco’s leading sports radio station. In fact, when he got the call to do fill-in (Murphy was working the golf beat at the San Francisco Chronicle at the time), he told management he had no idea how to do radio. “All I’m going to do is talk like I normally talk,” Murphy says he told them, “and you guys are either going to like it or not.”
     Five years later, Murphy is as comfortable as an old catcher’s mitt in his gig as the morning co-host with Paul McCaffrey.
     But chewing the fat with fans and players is just part of this Oakland dad’s weekday lineup. He writes a Monday sports column for Yahoo and is putting the wraps on his second book, about Tiger Wood’s first year at Stanford.
     Then there’s the little “tiger” that he and his wife, Candace, are raising—a toddler named Declan who is already immersed in a world of baseball, football and golf. Expectations are high for this little guy, who already has his own putter, courtesy of a listener who works in a pro shop.
     “Poor kid,” laughs Murphy. “He’ll probably wind up being a classical pianist after he burns out on daddy’s sports.”

—By Ginny Prior, Photography by Lewis Smith


The Shape of Summer

Whether you’re a yoga buff, a hill hiker, a stroller pusher or a weed puller,  these few sublime basics will keep you moving in style.

The Perfect Pant
2956 College Ave., Berkeley

     You may not believe them, at first, but trust us: Your friends are not lying, ladies. Your butt really does look that good in Lululemon’s magical Groove yoga/jogging/chasing-children pants. Incredibly comfortable, inexplicably flattering whether you’re a size four or 14 (perhaps it’s the expert hemming, gratis?), wicked at wicking sweat, and even reversible. The only thing these pants aren’t? Cheap. They’ll set you back about $100—but you can quickly recoup that in Lululemon’s free classes. Pair them with a sleek tank in a vibrant of-the-moment hue and head to the shop for weekly bouts of yoga and Pilates.

A Foolproof Foundation

Title Nine
1374 10th St., Berkeley

      Named after a 1972 law requiring publicly funded schools to give girls equal athletic opportunities, it’s only natural that this 20-year-old eco-conscious company would provide such remarkable, ah, support to its army of loyal female customers. Meet your perfect sports bra—indeed, it does exist! Savvy staff, along with a clever barbell rating on every tag (one barbell indicates minimum support, while the aptly named “Last Resort” bra garners five barbells) make finding it a snap. With the main event behind you, you can then move on to the bonus round: adorable, flirty skorts (not an oxymoron!), quick-dry travel gear and swimwear with built-in curve appeal.

Your Dream Shoe
See Jane Run
5817 College Ave., Oakland

     If the shoe fits, well—chances are good that it came from this cozy neighborhood mainstay, where staffers have been masterfully matching first-time trotters and marathon mavens alike with sneakers since 2001. Show off your stride, answer a few questions, and you’ll be rewarded for your effort with a pair chosen from some 50 different models in stock. While you’re there, drool over the wide selection of Prana and Lolë workout gear and snap up a soft, signature T with a recession friendly (and true, anytime) message: “Run with friends. It’s cheaper than therapy.”

A Complete Wardrobe Overhaul for the Recessionista
Sports Basement
1881 Ygnacio Valley Road, Walnut Creek

     When an East Bay outpost of this easy-on-the-wallet San Francisco–based retailer opened its doors in 2007, a collective female cheer could be heard for miles. Sure, there’s plenty of stuff for men, too, but women have it particularly good at this community-oriented megastore. Whether you get your summer fitness fix by biking, hiking, running, swimming, camping, or sun-saluting, you’ll leave knowing you got a bargain on some of the best brands around, including Marika, Pearl Izumi, Sugoi and North Face.                      

—By Lauren Gard, Photography by Lori Eanes

Boom, Sweat and Fitness

      If it’s a Thursday night on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland and you hear rolling thunder, it could be the sound of people getting fit.
      Robert Wallace, 45, began studying African dance 20 years ago. Inspired by the rhythm of the drums, he developed a passion for percussion that took him on extended trips to Ghana, Brazil, Trinidad and Cuba. In each country he studied dance and drumming.
      Along the way, the Oakland resident was inspired to develop a fitness program that he calls Boom! It combines drumming, dance and rhythm—pounding, clapping, shouting and music—and a lot of people having fun.
     “Leave everything from your day outside,” he tells the capacity crowd crammed into the Pitts Martial Arts workout area up a flight of stairs half a block from Trader Joe’s. “Failure is good. You’ve got to fail big to win big,” he advises.
      Wallace encourages his students, who are men and women ranging from 20-something to 50-something, to pound loudly, even if they’re out of sequence. He also wants them to feel the energy all the way to their bare feet. He started the program four years ago, and the response has been so enthusiastic here in Oakland, north to Seattle and east to New York City that he’s designed a standing drum and is producing a DVD and will soon be marketing his Boom! fitness for home use.
     Wallace has a tennis player’s build, resembling a tall Roger Federer. He had his sites set on a career in tennis when 20 years ago an ankle injury forced him to look for a new fitness path. Now he’s set to have the world Boom!-ing.

 Find out more at

—By Wanda Henning, Photography by Lewis Smith

Hip to Be Four Square

      If you thought four square was a game only fit for the playground, think again. Every Thursday night in the Rockridge BART parking lot, “kids” of all ages line up for a chance to defend their quadrant. Holding court is 4 Square East Bay, a collective that can sling rubber balls with skill.
     Anyone familiar with four square knows you have to think fast on your feet. Players aim to keep the ball turning out of their square and try to out-maneuver their opponents with tricky moves. The action is quick and hand-eye coordination is key. But if your game is a little rusty, not to worry. The 4SEB rules say no one’s tossed out on a first serve.
     This Oakland group of urban gamers started when Sam Wong and his friends played pick-up style. But soon word spread on MySpace, and now 4SEB draws crowds to share the space with other vacant lot occupants—knights from the Society for Creative Anachronism and bike polo cyclists. And 4SEB continues to invite friends into the fold. “When we see people walking off the train to their cars,” Wong says, “we aim to recruit them.”

Join the force here:

—By Patsy K. Eagan, Photography by Lewis Smith


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