I used to get annoyed at the parade of people outfitted in their coolest, hippest, indiest outfits parading by on First Fridays. But the balance between art and entertainment has finally, unquestionably, been decided in favor of entertainment.
So, this time, I learned to enjoy what has become a sprawling street party on Telegraph Avenue between the Fox Theater and 25th Street.
There were women in go-go boots and mini dresses. There were old-timey jug band players with handlebar mustaches and a portable outhouse hitched to a truck. Middle-aged parents were moving their hips to Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines."
A boy no older than 10 was hustling passers-by with card tricks. He asked my boyfriend to make a wager. "How about $10 bucks?" the boy asked. The lines backed up behind the food trucks.
Oakland's art critic and perennially chic Theo Konrad Auer walked by.
Next came a longhaired man in a tuxedo shirt and red leather jacket. He had something like a flask strapped to his leather pants.
Two teenagers sat on the ground eating a cupcake.
Everyone's head turned in the direction of a girl walking by in big, fluffy boots that looked like they had been modeled from the legs of a snow white Sasquatch monster.
Later, two girls from San Jose were climbing out of a car in a parking lot -- in the same kind of Big Foot boots but in black.
They adjusted their halter tops and bikini bottoms and started walking like they belonged in one of those futuristic 1970s movies where the heroines are inexplicably dressed like they came from a prehistoric era.
The last Friday in October began at Layover, a bar at Franklin and 15th I hadn't set foot in for a year or longer.
It's hard enough to keep up with the new places opening, let alone revisiting established ones. Also, bars pose a minor crisis for me. I'm not a big cocktail drinker any more, and the straight stuff like whiskey is tricky unless later at night. Wine often is not a wise choice, and beer for me is not an option.
The first bottle I spotted was the Southern Comfort Sweet Tea cocktail mix. I panicked and ordered a glass. Turned out it had to be mixed with something. The bartender, not particularly impressed with my choice, suggested adding bourbon, if I remember correctly, and the outcome wasn't bad. But the bartender gave me an option of tasting it before committing. My boyfriend ordered a beer.
We decided to go to the 19th Street Station bar up the street.
"Well, hello," bartender and co-owner Roy Mejia said. He asked where I'd been. It had been at least a year since I'd been there. Then he poured me a glass of wine, and we got caught up on the Giants, the bar business and his chili plants (a bumper crop this year).
That night ended early, but I resolved to visit every bar in Oakland quarterly.
The night started out slow, but it was warm, and I wanted to enjoy every last minute of our autumn weather. My boyfriend and I stopped at Destino, the newest venture by restaurateur Gary Rizzo, on upper Grand Avenue.
The previous tenant, La Taza de Café, was distinctly Cuban, from the food to the drinks to the customers. Destino inherited the Latin flavor and, it appeared, most of the clientele.
Rizzo was working the floor. Bartenders were mixing mojitos. But we barely got our drinks, and I had to practically beg to pay so we could leave.
We drove next to Il Pescatore on Jack London Square. I had wanted to revisit the restaurant since new owners took over a while back. Il Pescatore is one of the few places still serving generous, stiff Frank Sinatra-style highballs.
We left and headed for Pasta Pelican across the estuary. Finding it, however, was harder than I expected. By the time we arrived, it was 10 p.m., Pasta Pelican's closing time.
"Let's give the Ruby Room a try, for old-times' sake," my boyfriend said.
The Ruby Room on 14th Street was one of our favorites about five years ago. But I had stayed away since they renovated the backroom.
We ordered a couple of high balls and settled in at the bar, then spent some time on the dance floor, which is why I always had so much fun there. Everyone needs to dance once in a while. Walking out, I felt like I had visited an old friend.