.Conversations With Strangers

Random connections are the spice of life

In a previous life (aka, my 30s), I spent a lot of time in bars. Partly, because it was my job—first as bartender, then as nightlife columnist. It’s also where friends and I would go to flirt, commiserate or celebrate over a pint or a shot, often both. And because of the odd and unpredictable collection of people encountered if I ventured solo, bars were where I would delight in the sport of eavesdropping and/or talking to strangers. Then I called it research; now I call it “engaging with the community.”

My favorite types of bars were dives, pubs or neighborhood taverns, where you never knew who’d walk in. Or what the conversation would be. The East Bay is rife with bars like this: Merchant’s, Heart & Dagger, The Fat Lady, The Avenue, Baggy’s by the Lake, McNally’s, Acme Bar and so on.  

I’ve overheard fascinating tales from city officials, judges and attorneys at The Ruby Room by Lake Merritt and Uptown’s Cafe Van Kleef. I’ll never forget the insight I gained into the male psyche after listening to two dudes next to me at Ben ‘N Nick’s on College process their most questionable life decisions.

I fondly recall discussing H.G. Wells with an imposing man before he recited Shel Silverstein at Rob Dibble’s piano at The Alley on Grand. And I’ve chatted about the pitfalls of nonprofit work, the merits of psychedelics and “death by coconuts” with the regulars at Hotsy Totsy. 

Just like a bar, a magazine is a community gathering space. In its best form, that’s exactly what this magazine represents: a vibrant community with lots of personalities doing many different things, all collecting together under a common container. That’s the East Bay.

So come on in, grab a seat, and meet a skateboarder, a chef, a former cartoonist turned corporate strategist, a hard cider crafter, an FDR-inspired musician, a bagel maker, a legendary journalist and some rock climbers. Cheers!

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