Friday, October 25, 2013

Alameda Haunt Your House

A mad scientist presides over his demented lab, festive revelers chat around a bonfire in a front yard, a ghost billows in the wind under a giant oak tree, and well dressed skeletons dine on the ghoulish specials of the evening…

Alameda really knows how to celebrate Halloween, and for those of us who are still in love with all things spooky, it feels a bit like being a kid again, walking these haunted streets on the magical night of All Hallows Eve.

One person who has grown up celebrating Halloween in Alameda is Patti Cary, who created Alameda Haunt Your House, a decorating contest and canned food drive that has donated over 3,000 lbs of canned food to the Alameda Food Bank.  Her intention is to continue the legacy of making Alameda the most haunted city in the Bay Area.  I was lucky enough to get an interview with Patti.  I just want to say thank you for helping to make Alameda even more of a wonderful community to live in.  Enjoy!

What do you love most about Alameda?
I was born and raised here in Alameda and to be honest, when I was little, I couldn't wait to move off the island to more exotic lands.  I've been lucky enough to live in London, New Orleans and the LA area but truly, I guess there really is no place like home.

Why do you think Alameda is so good at being spooky?
That's easy.  The architecture and the trees.  We have such a wonderful variety of homes and so many that date back to the 1800s. The Victorian era just lends itself to all things spooky and our gorgeous tree-lined streets really frame and highlight the many styles of interesting homes. 

What fond memories do you have of Halloween as a child?
Oh, my dad was a haunter from way back.  He'd build coffins with pop up vampires and string ghosts on zip lines in front of the house.  He loved getting a rise out of the kids and neighbors.  Growing up, I remember a particular house Paru St. with a witch on the front porch stirring a big caldron shrouded in purple light and fog.  I was hooked!  I looked forward to Halloween like some kids look forward to Christmas or their birthdays and...I still do!

How did you come to create AHYH?
After moving back to Alameda from New Orleans, I really wanted to bring back that magical feeling of the Alameda I knew as a child.  The island is just so perfect for haunting and I wanted to encourage folks to showcase their homes and neighborhoods and make Alameda the most haunted city in the Bay Area.  I enlisted the help of a few friends, the Boo Crew, and we've been holding the contest ever since.  In 2010 we added the canned food drive to the event and that has been another great way of getting folks involved.  Despite some ups and downs, we continue to try to build Alameda - Haunt Your House! as a fun, exciting community event.

How do you think a close and supportive community can change peoples' lives?
It's so important to know your neighbors.  We've met so many great people in town we may have never known if it weren't for the contest.  A simple idea about a Halloween contest has grown and now we are so proud to say the contestants have rallied around and have donated over 3,000 lbs. of canned goods to the Alameda Food Bank.  We have some participants who don't enter the contest but just collect canned goods and that is fantastic!  We're all connected and not just by where we live but how we live.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Once again Alameda is becoming Halloweentown!  Behold - some of the more distinctive residences on our fair island in recent years.

If you visit a haunted house that is participating in Alameda Haunt Your House, please make a canned food donation, which supports the Alameda Food Bank.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


You find the most beautiful stains in desolate places.

Spent the day with friends wandering around the abandoned hangars and seemingly endless blocks of abandoned buildings at the decommissioned Alameda Naval Base after visiting the St. George artisan distillery in Hangar One.  The distillery sits on the northern edge of the base, within view of the San Francisco skyline.  The exterior of the hangar is still rusty and weathered, like all the structures here.  Somehow it would seem wrong for the outside to be restored to a new and shiny condition, yet the interior is sleek and inviting.  Massive vats and copper stills from Germany sit in rows like glorious sculptures, the coils and tubes and vessels busily transforming fruit or grain into something mind-altering.  Jars of infused buddha hand citrons sit on the bar like some sea creature that somehow never found its way back to the watery depths.  A sign proclaims that "consumption of beer, wine, and distilled spirits may actually cause pregnancy".
And even if you don't have to go, please visit all three of their bathrooms.  You'll see why.

St. George, which has been in operation since 1982, crafts bourbon, whiskey, gin, eau de vie, rye, you name it.  They offer tastings of several of these, poured by a friendly and incredibly  knowledgeable server.  You can also take a tour of the facility and learn more about their process of making and distilling small batches of fine spirits. 

Their Mt. Tam terroir gin is the most exquisite I've ever tasted.  It contains bay laurel (Umbellularia californica), California sage (Artemisia californica), juniper berries (Juniperus californica), and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii).  It tastes like the forest.  The master distiller, Lance Winters, sounds like a mad scientist of the highest degree. His unconventional and experimental approach to creating spirits really appeals to me. He knows how to blend botanicals and fruit to make an exemplary product.  I highly recommend visiting if you can, and treating yourself to a bottle as well.  Believe me,  you will savor it. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Whisperings of Seaside Ghosts

San Antonio Avenue
Paru Street
San Antonio Avenue

Swell, 1539 Lincoln Avenue

San Antonio Avenue

San Leandro Channel and High Street bridge