a wide shot of a crowd concert
One of the many concerts at the Fox Theater in Oakland. Credit: Azucena Rasilla

Remember what life was like before COVID-19 forced us to shut down our favorite social spaces? 

While it’s still not safe to party—infection rates remain at high levels in Alameda County—cases are slowly declining and the vaccine is helping us move to a point where things are slowly starting to reopen. With light appearing at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we asked Oaklanders about the last outings they had just over a year ago, and the things they’re eagerly waiting to do when it’s finally safe to gather.

Black Joy Parade

Credit: courtesy of Qiana Moore

The last time Qiana Moore was able to gather with friends was on February 23, 2020, when she attended the Black Joy Parade in downtown Oakland. While a relatively newer event in Oakland (it was first held in 2018), the parade celebrates Black culture and the Black experience.

“I’m grateful the last adventure I had before the shutdown was attending the Black Joy Parade. We started the day with brunch and mimosas at The Athletic Club Oakland. It was packed: every table, the bar, even the sidewalk! It’s crazy to think about it now. I’ve been attending the parade since it began in 2018, and it was great to watch the dancers, musicians, and community organizations come together to celebrate everybody and everything Black.” 

Following last year’s protests and the long-term isolation, I need to be in physical space with community.”

What Moore looks forward to the most when it is safe to meet in person is spending time with friends and family:

“I’m not sure what our new normal will be, or whether or not I’ll be comfortable in large crowds, but I look forward to attending every art and community event hosted by and celebrating Black people I can find. Following last year’s protests and the long-term isolation, I need to be in physical space with community.”

Bike party and a trip to Berkeley Bowl

Credit: Courtesy of Andy Kleiber

Andy Kleiber had a hectic day on Friday, March 13, 2020, just before the shutdown began. After work he met up with friends at Merchant’s Saloon, a bar in the Jack London District. Later on, he attended a bike party and cruised around town with friends. The most shocking part of his day was his trip to Berkeley Bowl. “I am looking forward to regaining all my casual contacts.”

90’s Experience at Jack London Square

Credit: Courtesy of Kat Ferreira

For Kat Ferreira, going through her photos recently was a cathartic experience. “Looking back at my camera roll during the 6 weeks or so before the Bay Area COVID-19 shelter-in-place order has blown my mind a bit,” she said. Ferreira’s social calendar was jam-packed in the weeks leading up to the shutdown. She had a karaoke night at the Stay Gold Deli in West Oakland (the Temescal location closed down for good in February) and she went to check out DJ Malachi’s set at the bar Hello Stranger in downtown. 

“Looking back at my camera roll during the 6 weeks or so before the Bay Area COVID-19 shelter-in-place order has blown my mind a bit.”

On February 22, Ferreira also visited the 90’s Experience, a temporary interactive and immersive exhibit located in Jack London Square. “Tons of people in a warehouse laughing and touching ALL the things up to our faces. So wild. We didn’t have a care about covid. I’m a germaphobe, and I brought sanitizer wipes and gel with me.”

As places slowly begin to reopen, Ferreira is ready to mingle with friends once more, but of course following proper COVID safety protocols. “I don’t have as much anxiety as other folks might about being around crowds since COVID19. Instead, I can’t wait for the chance to do it again someday soon.”

Perreo Zone party at BRIX 581

Juanny Depp of the San Francisco DJ and design collective Amor Digital, would normally have had a busy year playing shows. But his last gig was on March 13, 2020, at BRIX 581 in the Jack London District. 

“I personally can’t wait to get back to BRIX. I live in San Francisco, but BRIX felt like home. We’d been doing shows there for a few months, and it was like a little community.”

Mechanical bull riding at a neighborhood party

Credit: Courtesy of Chris Cassidy

Chris Cassidy last got the chance to mingle with his neighbors on March 7, 2020. 

“The last adventure was a neighborhood birthday party in East Oakland with a mechanical bull,” he said. “My wife turned to our neighbor and warned that this was likely the last party for all of us for a stretch.” Cassidy said he’s looking forward to the post-pandemic life. “The first adventure I crave madly is grilling up in the redwoods again at Roberts Regional.”

The Wood Brothers at the Fox Theater

Credit: Courtesy of Samuel Littlefield

Samuel Littlefield managed to pack three different social outings into March 7, 2020. 

“The last outing before the pandemic shutdown was a splendid walk from my apartment to Nido’s backyard via the lake, then onward to the last home game for the Roots. After a few drinks, friends convinced me to make the trek to the Fox Theater for The Wood Brothers. In hindsight, it was perfect serendipity that I was able to hit so many of my favorite activities all in one jam-packed day (and long night) as my last outing before the world changed.” 

He’s looking forward to attending a show when music venues reopen. “The New Parish, if it is still alive.” 

The Dinner Detective Interactive Murder Mystery Show at the Waterfront Hotel

Credit: Courtesy of Xochitl Espinoza

Xochitl Espinoza managed to spend the holiday weekend of February 14, 2020 with some of her girlfriends in Jack London Square. They dined at the Waterfront Hotel and enjoyed the hilarious Dinner Detective show in which actors play out a murder mystery while you sip cocktails.

“I and two of my best friends went to the show and also rented a room. We then went to Plank for drinks and ended the evening watching movies on Netflix back at the hotel.” 

Since then, Expinoza’s been working nonstop and is eager for a vacation. “I want time off when it’s safe for places to open and travel. I’ve been looking at the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Beauty’s Bagels and Oaktown Spice

Credit: Courtesy of Sabrina Ross

Sabrina Ross enjoyed the last days of her maternity leave with her newborn baby when she visited Beauty’s Bagels for lunch on March 10, 2020. Later in the day she shopped at Oaktown Spice on Grand Avenue. 

“The last outing was a little more than a year ago. Who knew it would be more than a year till such things would happen again!” Ross is looking forward to spending time with her children outdoors (her youngest, the newborn she took on her last outing, is now a toddler). “A trip to the little farm in Tilden, which we’re also very excited to have reopened.”

Phone-banking at Tamarack and dinner at Bay Fung Tong

Credit: Courtesy of Tia Katrina Taruc-Myers

Tia Katrina Taruc-Myers had a busy few final nights out with her friends and members of the Community Democracy Project, a volunteer campaign to democratize the city budget.

“My last outing was with my bestie Victoria,” she said about her dinner on March 5, 2020. We decided to go to Bay Fung Tong Tea House because we heard that Chinese restaurants were already struggling (before the lockdown). I can’t believe that’s the last time I sat at a table with someone to talk about how to make participatory budgeting happen in Oakland.” 

On March 8, she attended the last in-person meeting with the CDP team at Tamarack, a collectively run bar and restaurant downtown. 

“If Tamarack is still open, I’d love to hang out there again on a karaoke night! CDP used to go there every Thursday for happy hour, game nights, and phone-banking. Extra points go to Tamarack for being a worker-owned cooperative.”

Oakland Roots game

Credit: Courtesy of Natalie Foster

Natalie Foster managed one last family outing on March 7, 2020 to see the Oakland Roots win their first game over the visiting Michigan Stars where over 4,000 fans cheered on the new soccer team at Laney College. 

“I remember being worried about what I was reading about the virus and purrelled the kids’ hands a lot, but no concern about breathing in the crowd. It was one of those nights where being an Oaklander felt so good.” 

Foster said she’s looking forward to her first family outing to Children’s Fairyland. “First place, we will take the kiddies because I’m scared the big one is aging out.”

Azucena Rasilla is a bilingual journalist from East Oakland reporting in Spanish and in English, and a longtime reporter on Oakland arts, culture and community. As an independent local journalist, she has reported for KQED Arts, The Bold Italic, Zora and The San Francisco Chronicle. She was a writer and social media editor for the East Bay Express, helping readers navigate Oakland’s rich artistic and creative landscapes through a wide range of innovative digital approaches.