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[whitespace] East Bay Follies

If your last Tiazzi from Starbucks ended up on the Metreon floor, head to Oakland for some truly original distractions

By Sullivan Bianco, Tracie Broom, Michael Stabile

The Oakland Columbarium
4499 Piedmont Ave., 510.654.0123

Host to a challenging series of simultaneous 20th-century music performances every year, the labyrinthine, echoing halls of the Oakland Columbarium house thousands of little glassed-in shelves from floor to cavernous ceiling. Each shelf holds a little bronze urn or book-shaped canister, and each of these in turn holds the ashen remains of family members gone to that great human-heaven in the sky. The Columbarium, with its many mosaic tiled fountains, rounds of gardened greenery and sandy stonework arches, is arguably one of the most serene and lovely places in the Bay Area to wander alone. It's not bad for a daytime date, either--that is, if you're both fans of Harold and Maude. (TB)

Your Black Muslim Bakery
1 Airport Dr., 510.639.7490
5836 San Pablo Ave., 510.658.7080
365 17th St., 510.839.1313
143 Eastmont Town Center, 510.568.6024

Dotted around Oakland, outlets of Your Black Muslim Bakery offer up pastries and pamphlets in an effort to solidify community in a town known well for its history of black activism. You may have seen Your Black Muslim Bakery sweet rolls on the shelves of Falletti's Market on Fulton, and if you've ever had one, you know that they are heavy-duty. Seriously. (TB)

The Parkway Theater
1834 Park Blvd., 510.814.2400

The early-'90s trend of "micro-cinemas"--dens like the Casting Couch, where yups and yuppettes could guzzle merlot and (Williams-) Sonomize each other on Italian sofas during Merchant-Ivory flicks--finds an earthy opposition in Oakland's pizza-beer-house wine cinema hall. Reincarnating the spirit of SF's smelly valhalla of second-run, the unmourned Strand (now a XXX-tra funky hole), The Parkway offers wider, weirder film menu than any other Bay Area theatre, God bless it. A moppet in the morning's Iron Giant kids' show may pick up a stick of eye-liner from the previous night's Rocky Horror performance, and the kid's parent may later sit through Runaway Bride and get a Birkenstock stuck to flecked puke from the Them! rowdies a few hours before. But risk not, want not--one glance at the strange Parkway calendar is enough to defibrillate a cinemaddict who feels that SF's edgeless rep could use a liquor license. (SB)

Berkeley Steamworks
2107 Fourth St., Berkeley 510.845.8992

OK, technically it's not even in Oakland, but the Steamworks deserves mention as the only bathhouse which remained open throughout the AIDS crisis. While sex clubs and saunas in San Francisco were forcibly closed by municipal authorities, the Steamworks kept the doors open and the private rooms closed (even today, in San Francisco, unmonitored rooms are illegal). (MS)

Heinhold's First and Last Chance Saloon
56 Jack London Square, 510.839.6761

This is that bar with the slanted floor that you've heard about. A small shack with three tables and a ceilingful of nautical and pioneer tchotchkes, this landmark watering hole is the last bastion of Old World charm left in the Barnes & Nobled open-air mall that is the new Jack London Square. Armed with a stockpile of spiced green beans for the bloody marys, the bartenders are always friendly, and yes, the floor literally slants downward at about a 30-degree angle. (TB)

The Paramount Theater
2025 Broadway Ave., 510.465.6400

Golden, brassy, one of the best-kept (and best-restored) works of Art Deco architecture is the Paramount. Designed by Timothy Pflueger, the same man who gave San Francisco the eerie Alhambra and its kitschier cousin, the Castro, it is renowned internationally for its swooping steep balconies and shimmering, Moderne fixtures. Originally built in 1931, it languished late during the Cinemascope boom and hobbled into the 1960s until the Oakland Symphony designated it for resoration 25 years ago. Now a tour of the multi-purpose dance-rep-film-orchestral space, will show the high fly-space, the enormous rising curtain mechanism, and the backstage catacombs. On the way the guide may even hip you to a few phantom stories, par for the course in these buildings, however gilded. Ultimately, Oakland's Paramount is the closest thing to Radio CIty Music Hall this coast has got. Old-school decadent Bryan Ferry's upcoming appearance will consummate the nature of this fantastic theater as "another time, another place." (SB)

For more information about Oakland, visit oakland.com.

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From the November 8, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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