Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Marathon of the mind

By awoodall
Tuesday, March 11th, 2008 at 1:29 pm in Oakland nightlife.

What began as an innocent foray last night to Van Kleef’s to gather some material for a St. Patrick’s Day story became a mini-marathon. I was ready to unwind a little after spending the day on a story about the bicyclist run down over the weekend. Updates were flying at me from reporters working the story faster than I could put them together. Then Code Pink decided they were going to start up their protest at the Berkeley Marine recruiting center. That was after an AC Transit bus flipped over trying get around a crash between a car and a train by Jack London Square.  The driver illegally passed the railroad crossing gate and the bus jackknifed.
So I was pretty weary by the time I got to Van Kleef’s. But the owner Peter was in top form. the guy knows everyone and plays social matchmaker like the conductor of a fine-tuned symphony. On hand were the owner and a bartender of the Oasis, which I have been wanting to visit to sample the “People’s Party.”  Then in came Peter Robertson (or Robinson?), an “affordable” housing developer with decades and well-known projects behind him. I am incapable of flipping the off switch to my curiousity-driven brain so I had to ask all sorts of questions about development, the future of the city, the market, etc.  I should have just talked about the weather and given everyone a break.
A few other minor characters entered the set, including two who nearly came to blows over Barbara Lee, Ron Dellums and Jerry Brown. Ah, politics. No finer way to heat up an otherwise civilized conversation. One guy was complaining to me about Lee’s inacessibility, which I compared to Dellums, her mentor. At least Jerry Brown was highly visible, which I think Oakland could use some more of from Dellums (visibility, that is).  But a gent sitting nearby overheard and took it as a slight against Dellums, whom he said inherited a city whose economy Brown had “run into the ground.” Needless to say, they both had a drink in their hands and I went inside while a couple stayed to chuckle at the spectacle. I thought for sure they were going to rumble. But it evidently ended peacefully. There’s only been one fight that I know of at Van Kleef’s and it was between (so I heard) two punks that didn’t belong there.
So, I left way too late but with the news that come Thursday, a bagpiper will be on hand and Bass beer will be $2 (a stunt to herald the arrival of Anheiser Busch reps). People always ask if bagpipers are wearing anything under their kilts. Well, Thursday you can take a peek and find out. At least the girls can. But I’ve rarely seen a Scotsman whose skirt I’d like to peek under.
For St. Patrick’s Day at Van Kleef’s, when we can all be Irish, the beer will be green and the draft beer $2. Cheers and for me Pionta Guinness, le do thoil.

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