Considering the address — Old Oakland — Chris Klein could have picked a better name than Oaksterdam Tattoo. If he had put the tattoo parlor in Oaksterdam territory there might not have been much fuss. But putting it on Washington Street next to Ratto’s guaranteed neighbors would raise an eyebrow. And they did, according to Klein. That is to be expected when you slap the name Oaksterdam on anything, especially on a tattoo parlor. He said he still gets stray calls by people looking for the green stuff, and I don’t mean ink. But the critics have eased off.
Klein opened Dec. 18, a couple weeks after the bitchy chatter on Internet sites (“First a tattoo parlor. What’s next? A brothel?” and “Are we that desperate for businesses?”) died down. You could easily mistake the parlor for a gallery except for the sign on the window written in the A’s signature green and white swish, which does not really reflect what is behind the storefront. A Victorian-era ceiling soars above tattoo stations where “Priest” sat steadily transforming a man’s back into a riot of multicolored flora and fauna. Paintings by the tattoo artists hang on the startk white walls. There are no drunken sailors or brazen hussies, at least not this afternoon. The sidewalk was filled instead Caffe 817 patrons soaking up the wan winter sun.
Klein, a musician and artist, has kept the front area open for people waiting to turn their skin into a human canvas, as well as for entertainment on Frist Fridays. Nothing big. At least nothing like in New Orleans, which is where he moved from. Further on but not far are two more new (and evidently less controversial ) additions to the neighborhood. The white-walled Collect gallery on Broadway opened Jan. 2 with a screening of film shorts (Oh thank you great culture muse in the sky). Next up is Jan. 12.
Collect is the second storefront being filled by Leila Banijamali and Lauren Geremia. The duo’s other gallery around the corner on Ninth bears the latter’s name, Geremia Design. Together with pioneer FIVEten Studio (oh please don’t go!) the galleries and parlor create a sort of four-cornered Old Oakland art scene. Banijamali and Geremia call themselves San Francisco designers and entrepreneurs. Perhaps. But even if that is their pedigree why do they named the Web site CollectArtSF if both of their “well-appointed galleries” are in Oakland. Was CollectArtOakland taken? You might say I’m being unfair because it is the URL we’re talking about. But: Oaksterdam might be a poor choice of names for the neighborhood but at least the name reflects the city it’s in.