Hipsters Vs. Homeys: Oakland YouTube Travel Guides

“Oh hell no,” the text read. “Hipster douches filming Oakland travel video outside the shop.”

This was my best friend, writing from her post behind the counter of Tattoo 13. For years, she and the fellas have maintained a comical running commentary on the goings on of the now-trendy Temescal neighborhood, knowing every event, incident and wily character within a 10-block radius. Of course, she’d be the first person I’d hear about such shenanigans from.

It actually turned out pretty good, with the bit filmed in front of the shop capturing hipster sentiment with striking accuracy. Amid the recent annoyance over the woefully narrow Cool Hunting’s Oakland Word-of-Mouth Guide, I was inspired to dig the “hipster douche” video back up, and discovered some other YouTube gems along the way. And I hate to say it, I think the douches did it best. Or at least the most forthrightly.

Cool Hunting promotes independent art and design, featuring video guides on artists, cultural events, how-tos and destinations. The most recent installment visits independent businesses and local artists in Oakland, interviewing “the people who call it home.” They hit some great, popular local spots, but there’s a problem—the video only visits a very narrow section of the population, and the city. Businesses featured are almost exclusively in the North Oakland/Temescal and Downtown/Uptown areas, and, um, all the people interviewed are white. There’s a lot more white people in Oakland these days, but not that many.

Perhaps in an attempt to be inclusive, the video includes a couple shots of non-white, non-artist folks. They exist as passing, silent figures, riding bikes and making sandwiches—almost as though on another plane. I think it’s rather telling; I’m sure there’s people who’ve moved to Oakland that interact solely with the arts/”yuppie” communities, who experience the rest of the city only in tangent, realities that intersect on sidewalks and in cheap cafes, but no where else. I’m stoked to see my city getting recognition, but sad to see the guide left out so much of the city, what makes Oakland Oakland.

On the complete other side of spectrum, I stumbled across Thizz Nation’s neighborhood guides during my YouTube quest for the “hipster douche” video. Amid Mac Dre’s ever-generous contributions to Bay Area culture (I’m not really being sarcastic here), his Thizz Nation & On Point Productions created Treal TV Series, video guides that feature notorious Bay Area neighborhoods that birthed prominent figures in the rap community. (If you’re wondering what “thizz” is, check out old high school buddy Rachel Swan’s East Bay Express article from a few years back.) Installments include North, West and East Oakland.

I’m convinced these will someday be used as important specimens in some cultural anthropological study of Oakland. These guides do a little more to reveal the history and culture of certain neighborhoods, as rugged as they may be. But of course, they are also terribly narrow, and could leave one with the impression that Oakland is filled with nothing but 20-something, hard-as-shit black guys. Murder Dubs was one of the better ones:

A stab at a more balanced portrayal is made in the endearing “Oakland B Mine” video. A trailer for a short film that will be showing on a 30-foot screen at the Oakland Airport’s baggage claim, “Oakland B Mine” is pretty damn sweet. I never thought of my city being the backdrop for an artsy dialogue-less love story, but hey, I can roll with that. The trailer features some shots of everyone’s favorite farmers market (okay, my favorite farmers market), and the bad-ass old folks that do Tai Chi by the Lake Merritt BART station in the morning. While definitely more balanced and definitely the most well-done, one could still walk away from this one with the idea that Oakland is filled with nothing but good-looking, casually well-dressed hiply ethnic types. Which is fairly accurate, but still incomplete.

Which leaves the douches. While still narrow and incomplete, their video does something the others all don’t: makes fun of itself. It doesn’t just make fun of hipsters and gentrifying yuppies, it makes fun of cheesy travel guides and the abhorrent “staycation” phenomenon. But most importantly, the video gets at some of the very real issues inherent to living in Oakland, the preposterous dysfunction that manifests in sideshows, prostitution and, yes, the smells emanating from the Lake. And while the underlying message is that Oakland is “crappy,” the video captures the kind of delusional exoticism so many fall spell to.

Leave it to the hipsters…

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1 Response to “Hipsters Vs. Homeys: Oakland YouTube Travel Guides”


  1. 1 Jackie December 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Daily, I find myself wanting to smack most hipsters upside the head and tell them to get the heck out of my city.


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Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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