Posts Tagged ‘Lake Merritt’

A friend of mine astutely noted a golden ticket to being crowned Mayor of Oakland. “Promise to get rid of the Canadian Geese at Lake Merritt.”


Oakland may be divided on several issues: gentrification, what to do with the Sears building, and which Farmer’s Market is the best – but the geese are common ground. Except for my friend Simone, no one has ever said, “I really do think they’re nice.”  Oaklanders (and our visitors) tend to agree: the geese cause somewhat of an issue.

True, most people are concerned about the goose-poop that a gaggle of 2000 geese create. Or about the noise. But mostly the poop.

But me? My only complaint is the geese scare the bejesus out of me. They’re about 1/3 my size, so approaching a flock of 30 of them loitering in the grass and strewn about the running path means I’m out-powered by quite a bit. My only consolation is the geese haven’t figured this out…yet.

Last week while jogging around the lake, I found myself literally surrounded by geese on all sides. Like a football player running through tires, I hiked up my legs and did a prance of sorts, praying that day wouldn’t be The Day The Geese Discovered They Had The Power. A few necks snapped at me as I cavorted through, but I reached a goose-free space safe.

This morning however, I tried a new approach. Upon spying a mass amount of feathered unfriends (but certainly not enemies) ahead of me, I made a bold, un-thought-out decision: I bent arms and lifted them to my shoulders, as though I were a T-rex attempting to impersonate Frankenstein, reprised by leg-hiking prance, and started hooting like an owl might if it ate too much pizza for dinner without a lactaid.

And it worked.

The geese parted, and the two middle aged women watching me from the other side of the goose-gauntlet cheered.





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My friend Sean and I often discuss starting a public forum style Lake Merritt blog. We see a lot of pretty sweet/saucy/sour happenings from our various comings and goings around this Oakland mainstay. Today’s image was beyond sweet: a man riding a bike with a sidecar, dressed much like Snoopy might while flying his doghouse—goggles, flying cap, leather jacket. And in the sidecar? A well trained, half-grown puppy wearing his own pair of aviator goggles, tongue hanging out of his mouth, having the time of his doggy life. The sidecar duo stopped at a red light and as I crossed in front of them, the driver removed his gloves and gave his companion some heart-melting belly rubbing.

Just another reason I never regret running the lake, but I do regret not bringing my camera.

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Oh, Lake Merritt, how I love running around thee. You’re an endless source of inspiration, conversation, and visuals I never could have dreamed up on my own. Late last week, I witnessed two octogenarians who had brought a flock of unleashed cats to the lake. These felines were roaming a small patch of grass, not harnessed or corralled by any means, just plodding around as if they were often brought outside and did not spook away.

The pigeons are becoming more and more bold, or perhaps less and less intelligent. They rarely flutter out of the way of travelers who are using feet or wheels to traverse the terrain. I’ve literally nicked two little guys during the week as I attempted to weave around their feathered community. At the last minute, they might skedaddle, but it’s always too late. I throw my arms up to protect my face (yes, I fear bird claws near my nose) and usually wind up doing a modified “running through tires” gait in my attempts to not be the newest victim of The Birds.

Stranger still? No, not the boys who sit on the lake’s edge strumming guitars, nor the saxophonist playing into the wall. Not even the two men taking turns carrying each other up the steps of the Cleveland Cascades. It wasn’t even the man who stopped me to ask for my phone number as I crossed the street (which seemed like a terrible place to get a gal’s digits). Perhaps the most strange thing I’ve witness lately around Lake Merritt was this:

Yes, a yellow snake in the grass, who was being supervised by his ultra punk/hipster mom and dad. As I ran toward the Lake Chalet, the couple opened what looked like a gym bag and pulled this hefty lady out, plopping her merrily on the lawn and then sitting back to sunbathe themselves. They were very kind about letting me share space with the slithering gal, and even offered me hand sanitizer if I wanted to pet her. She poked her head up toward me, stuck out her tongue, and then moved on as if I were not a tasty looking snack. Thank. God.


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Everyone around the lake was reading today. And it was all about love. Must be that August fog that’s got everyone in the mood.

There was the high-school looking kid deeply involved in “Long Distance Relationship Survival Guide” and the girl with “He’s Just Not That Into You” poking out of her tote-bag. Plus, as an added bonus, there was the dread-locked ninjaly attired man engrossed in “The Mastery of Love.” Three miles, three people in the midst of love-lost and hopefully, love-found.

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I feel like Oakland might be becoming the new Berkeley.

Maybe it’s the guy in the Grateful Dead T-shirt I saw jogging around Lake Merritt, or the protesters banging bongo drums while clad in purple on Piedmont Avenue. It certainly may also have been due to games of pick-up soccer on any stretch of grass that isn’t a hill, or the boot camps that keep popping up rose gardens and cemeteries. Or perhaps it’s the hipsters on their bicycles, all the STOP signs that have been graffiti-ified with “Driving” underneath the original content, the green movement that has swept the young adult population, or the hope of bringing back some love for local businesses.

The point about running I want to make is that runners are noticers. While we may have earbuds safely attached to our ears, it does not mean our eyes are not open to the people, cars, and activity around us. We’re listening to Explosions in the Sky or The 21st Century and daily watching the way the community is being shaped. We’re the first to notice when a sidewalk has been torn apart, or a new piece of road has been paved.

I think this is why I love running through cities, if not also for the mental relief and physical nature. There is also a very social reality that stems from simply taking your feet to the streets. On a trail you will see nature at its finest, but you won’t see solutions to problems, neighborhoods like Uptown coming alive, hear a bass clarinetist practicing in the park, or just the sorts of people that are your neighbors.

Runners know everyone, if not by name, by face. I know the ice-cream men who walk the park, the people I call “Oakland Fitness Club” who run the stairs at dusk, the possibly homeless guy who writes in chalk and hangs out in the same spot by the lake every day with his bike, always dressed in sunglass and tall boots like he might go fly-fishing on a whim. I even know the guys that hang out down the street from my apartment, who after work kick back with beers on the sidewalk and who always look like they’re having fun together, and the doormen and valet parking patrols to all the local restaurants.

It’s nice, this community I have without ever meaning to have made one.

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