Unique Streets Walked: 40
Miles Walked: 3.83
Street Names: Halket, Boulevard of the Allies, Niagara, Craft, Kennett, Hamlet, Ophelia, Lawn, Elsinore, Ayers, Mackey, Hodge, Bates, Frazier, Romeo, Cato, Gorman, Juliet, Whitney, Hardie, Ward, Wakefield, Oakland, Dawson Place, Dawson Street, Swinburne, Parkview, Orpwood, Bohem, Griffiths, Wolf, Childs, Edgehill, Collinson, Belgreen, Edith, Thora, Virgila, Coltart, Zulema
“Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall.”― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
The Bard of Avon must have walked in South Oakland on the morning after snow had fallen. Today was cold but sunny and clear. I crossed the Boulevard of the Allies after having some turkey chili at Panera. Normally I would try to visit a local business but anyone who has ever parked in Oakland knows that when you see a spot, you don’t pass it up.
I walked by the old Gulf Research Laboratory which was getting a new something or other. Progress.
Spying a view of my city, I walked on the streets between the Boulevard and the bluff that hangs over Interstate 376. When I went to Pitt in the early aughts, you could avoid all of the traffic on Forbes by making a quick right onto Ophelia from 376. No more, my friend. It’s blocked off and I am sure the residents are very happy about that.
Near the intersection of Ayers and Lawn, I saw a glimpse into my future…
Ignoring the No Outlet sign (those are only for cars, right?) I turned onto Ayers to see a road block.
There were footprints going down and I could have sworn there were stairs shown on the Google Map I just looked at, but I couldn’t see any from up here. I decided to go down anyways and scale the road block if I had to. Luckily, I got down and saw the rickety stairs I was looking for.
I’m not sure if these were official COP steps since they were made of wood, not cement, but they served their purpose. I found myself on a sylvan street named Mackey that looked like it could have been in the middle of a rural area.
I carefully made my way down to the valley so that I could access the stairs I’d seen. The roadway was paved but much of it was a sheet of ice. Finally! I crest the first grouping and see that a long stretch of it is a sidewalk in the woods. In the middle of this sidewalk is an intersection.
My phone map tells me that if I go straight, I’ll be on Frazier and if I go left, I’ll go out to Romeo (wherefore art?) Is Juliet somewhere nearby? Do they (star) cross? I go up and see the sky decorated with Tibetan prayer flags.
The solar path lights that line the stairs and the footprints on the snowy treads tell me that this way is traveled often enough.
I get to the top of Romeo and see it intersects with Cato Street. Where is Juliet? In the East? Actually, yes. Juliet is one-and-a-half streets over and runs parallel to Romeo. So, they will never meet. That is if Gorman Way has anything to say about it.
I took a look at maps from 1872 and 1882 and in that ten year period, the names were changed to what they are now. Romeo used to be Homer and Juliet was called Joliet.
Taking a mental history trip, I also took a trip down to Frazier Street. If you’ve never been to South Oakland, you may not be aware of the Shrine of the Blessed Mother on Wakefield Street. The Shrine was created in 1956 after two people simultaneously saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary on the hillside. The Shrine has been maintained since then and is an out-of-the-way destination you should visit sometime.
I’ve been there a few times and decided to visit again. Confident (hubris, more like it) with my memory of where it was I went down Whitney Street. It wasn’t easy and I was glad that some of the cobblestone road had a railing. I got to the end and realized I was approaching the shrine from the wrong direction. I went a bit further thinking that there might be a path to the shrine. No luck. I realized that for the first time on this quest I was in a place from which I couldn’t get to another. I just couldn’t get there from here.
I turned around and trudged back up Whitney to Frazier. Down Ward and a right on Wakefield. Now, I was seeing signs showing me I was going in the right direction.
People are welcome to visit the shrine but I saw no human footprints before me. The only visitor the Shrine of the Blessed Mary had this morning was feline.
The Queen of Peace sits next to a natural spring and has an expansive view of the city.
I looked 15 feet above the spring to see the cliff where I had been standing on my mistaken route down here.
Stacy Smith would have been talking about me on the 4 AND 6 o’clock news if I’d tried coming down that way. I might have even gotten an encore on the noon news tomorrow.
After visiting Mary, I walked back up Ward Street and explored the rest of South Oakland. The residents are mainly Pitt students but there are some holdouts left. One more interesting street caught my attention. Ledge Way is off of Griffiths which is way down Frazier. I saw the street sign, but no street. Just woods and houses all around. I looked at a map from 1923 and it looks like there used to be many more streets in this area than there are now.
Before I go, it would be remiss of me if I did not mention some of South Oakland’s most famous residents:
“Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”