The 2016 MCWC Short Story workshop had a get-together on Saturday, in Oakland. Lori Ostlund, our teacher and her partner Anne Raeff hosted, and Blaze coordinated it. Blaze and Lori’s niece checked out venues and came up with the Double Standard, on Telegraph Avenue, which was perfect for the group and the weather.
If you’re in the 2400 block of Telegraph and can’t find the Double Standard for some reason, go across the street to the odd-numbered side and scan the even-numbered side’s roofline. Seriously. When you see the tops of two towering redwood trees, you will have located the Double Standard, at 2412.
This post will be mostly about the bar and Adventures in Oakland, and less about the reunion. I will say that we had thought Nyla, who lives in Port Townsend, Washington, was going to be able to attend, and we missed her; we missed Nancy who planned to attend but couldn’t make it. I would have been surprised if Doug had driven down from Fort Bragg, even in his high-tech car, and Hunter had to work. It was great catching up with the other writers. We had two picnic tables in the corner of the yard (under the redwood trees!) and there was some switching off going on so we could talk to everyone. Even so, I missed an opportunity to talk to Chivvis!
Traffic in Sonoma and Marin County was awful; once I got across the Richmond San Rafael Bridge it lightened up. Directions to the bar were excellent. I was stymied by a mound of pea gravel right at the corner of Northgate and Sycamore, where I had to turn. Good news, bad news; road repair for the city of Oakland (yay!); navigation difficulty for visitors (boo).
I parked in the 2800 block and was initially baffled by the parking spaces because they look like they’re in the middle of the street. There was a parking meter on the sidewalk; to the left of it a bike lane, then another narrow lane (street-sweeping?) and then the marks for the parking space. I nearly parked in the bike lane, which would have been bad. Next I had to figure out the parking meter, which took credit cards. It wasn’t that complicated. Parked and paid, I walked back to check that my car was locked when a Fit pulled into the space behind me. The driver waved at me, but I didn’t recognize her. She got out, a slender, elegant gray-haired woman a few years older than me. I still didn’t recognize her and that’s because I didn’t know her. She looked very pulled-together, kind of how I always imagined I would when I got old instead of how I do. “Is this the way to park here?” she said.
“I think so.”
“Does that parking meter work?”
“Mine did,” I said, at last recognizing a kindred spirit.
“I parked in the bike lane! But a man told me I’d get in trouble. How does the parking meter work?”
“I just did it, so I’ll show you.” I helped her out, since having done it a minute and a half earlier I was practically a pro.
The walk down to the Double Standard was nice. There seems to be a line of demarcation at about 25th Avenue. Higher numbers than that, and the storefronts are empty. Once you hit 25th you start seeing cafes, businesses and bars.
The Double Standard is not fancy, but very pretty, and the back yard with the trees is perfect. They don’t have a kitchen but they invite in local chefs and eateries to provide a “pop up” kitchen, and a vegan place (Nono?) was serving wontons, lotus leaf wraps and tofu bao. I grabbed two orders of won tons for the table. The filling was mushroom; warm and savory. The wrapping was not twisted or tied in a little pouch as you often see, it looked more like a pastry or a wrap, and the dough seemed firmer than usual wontons. The did not skimp on the filling.There was a dipping sauce with them that I didn’t try, but others around the table enjoyed. The lotus wrap was mostly a savory sticky rice. Inspired, we got an order of bao for the table, but I didn’t try one.
Mimi sprang for dessert; pumpkin doughnuts with maple icing. An order was one large doughnut cut into quarters. She brought back two. The pastry had a crunch on the surface and was light and airy (the lightest doughnut I’ve ever eaten) with a subtle pumpkin pie flavor. The “icing,” dolloped on top, was about the consistency of crème fraiche, not overly sweet, with a clear maple flavor. Bits of caramel corn sat on top.
I had a sidecar, and it was delicious. The lemon juice had obviously been squeezed that day, and the proportions of brandy, triple sec and bitters was ideal. The bartender used a stirrer to taste the drink. I asked him if it wasn’t up to his standards, would he have thrown it out. Yes, he said. It didn’t have fancy “call” ingredients but it might be the best sidecar I’ve had.
Many of us had to get on the road, so the group broke up about seven. There was more foot traffic as I walked back to the car; the dinner crowd coming out, I guess. As I walked past a store front a Korean-looking couple, maybe in their fifties, came out. They were talking. A young black man was walking toward us. As he passed them, they pivoted and watched him. They watched him walk all the way to the end of the block (I know this because, of course, I did too.) Something in their body language said that this scrutiny was personal, specific to that man. I have no idea what it was about.
Anyway, I’d go there again, just not a lot, because it’s a drive. Still. If you’re in Oakland and want to spend an evening at a pleasant bar, check out the Double Standard. And if the weather’s good, sit outside!