Sunday, August 2, 2015

Back in Alameda

I'm not aware of any songs about Alameda so instead we'll begin with this.

Wasn't Michael Douglas's hair something to behold? It is worth a little time going back and watching episodes of this show if you have nothing better to do and are interested in binge-watching mid-70s cop shows. And you should always be interested in binge-watching mid-70s cop shows.

Anyway, I spent the last week in San Francisco attending a conference on employee engagement at a super fancy hotel with 300 other HR and organizational effectiveness professionals (I know you're all envisioning a raging party - I don't believe I was invited to it.). Presenters included HR representatives from companies like Hulu, Tesla, Clif Bars, Columbia Sportswear, and Stitchfix. I wonder if they took a bus together from the Silicon Valley or something equally hilarious and ironic all at the same time.

Since I was attending the pre-conference workshop on Monday, I arrived Sunday morning with a plan to visit the place where the blog began - the island of Alameda. I haven't been back to California since I moved away three years ago. I keep up to date on all things East Bay through my friends on Facebook and via email but it's just not the same. July is an excellent time to visit Northern California weather-wise and part of the beauty of work travel is visiting people you know while still doing your job. That's a win in my book.

The plan was to meet my friends, Joe and Sue, at the West Oakland BART station and then we'd have a drink at Forbidden Island before going to see a show at Altarena Playhouse. This plan combines two of my favorite Alameda pastimes: drinking at a tiki bar and going to the theatre. It also meant that I got to see a bunch of people I would not have otherwise seen.

To say Alameda is a unique place would be like saying DC is a political city. I believe I once described Alameda as being both provincial and hipster. It has a old time-y quality to it that's juxtaposed with cool kid things like artisanal cheese shops, hipster parents and their ironic statement babies, and multiple apiaries. People often joke that Alameda is where "hipsters come to breed" but it's not really a joke. It's a truth. Alameda is affordable, pleasant, and just cool enough for those leaving "the city" (San Francisco) to raise their families.

I loved living in Alameda. My move to California came at a time in my life when I needed a change and I needed to be outside of the Virginia/DC area. I didn't know anyone when I moved out there and that was both awesome and incredibly scary. While I never felt at home in Alameda, I felt it was the right place for me at the time. It was close enough to my office in Oakland so my commute was never bad. There's plenty to do and lots of restaurants and coffee shops to please every taste. Altarena Playhouse is a landmark; it's one of the oldest continuously operating community theatres in the Bay Area. There's a bowling alley, tiki bar, and two decent donut shops. What more could you want in a place to live? I remember having a conversation with a friend not too long before I moved that the only thing missing on the island was a Target. Had there been a Target I would never have to leave the island (except for work). It would have been glorious.

Guess what? Alameda got a Target! And an In N Out Burger! I leave and the Target opens. Joe was kind enough to drive my past the new store as we made our way into town. Look at how pretty it is.


Of course, it's also located near my first apartment so it would have been super easy to get to and enjoy. As excited as I am for Alameda, I have to admit that I'm surprised it's there. Given that Alameda is one of those places where no matter how long you live there you'll never truly be a local, a Target seems too off island. Island residents tend to dislike chain stores of any kind but the feedback has been pretty positive for Target. That's a great thing. From what my friends told me, it's only one part of more planned development on the island. This includes redevelopment of the old naval base and additional improvements and new businesses. Change can be hard but it's also necessary to move forward.

Many of the sessions presented during the conference focused on the importance of storytelling in employee engagement. Several presenters discussed the idea that personal stories are as much a part of a company as its products and services. It's those personal stories that create the culture of an organization and make it a place people want to be. Had I never lived in Alameda, I doubt I would have started this blog and started telling my story and stories as I've done over the four years since the Island was born. Many of the friends I saw on this trip are champions of this blog and for that, I thank them. It was nice to visit even if just for a little while. Maybe next time I'll get to stay a little longer and buy some unnecessary items at Target (as one does when traveling) and have a burger at In N Out (seriously, please come to the East Coast). What's nice to know is that even though I'll never be a local, I'll always be welcome in Alameda.

I brought Angry Unikitty (from my Lego figure army) with me on this trip. I may have played tourist a bit in San Francisco. 

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