Without a doubt, it’s her most quoted line. Since its publication in the late ’30s, the five-word quasi-mantra has served as both commentary and condemnation of Oakland. I’m referring, of course, to Gertrude Stein’s infamous incantation, “There is no there there.”
Hailing from her Everybody’s Autobiography, Stein’s words offer not only a desultory summation of an entire city, detractors often cite the line as some kind of gospel truth that extends through tunnels and over bridges to include the whole of the East Bay.
And it’s wrong.
Stein is not just factually wrong but morally, philosophically, and, well, grammatically wrong as well.
We at the East Bay Express like to think we’ve proven Stein wrong every week since our paper’s inception in 1978. This year, like every year, we take the time to double down on the premise that the East Bay is the most dynamic, innovative and interesting place on the Left Coast by highlighting The Best of The East Bay.
A Dutch friend of mine once suggested that, “The difference between the East Bay and San Francisco is the same difference between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Tourists love Amsterdam but, in reality, the best punk rock, coffee and beer is in Rotterdam.” Agreed. Not only do we have better punk rock et al (stream the excellent doc Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk if you need a refresher), we have an inherently better attitude. At the risk of reading like armchair Zen, the East Bay does what it does so well because it’s the doing itself that provides the joy. Equal parts almanac, city guide and record book, doing this issue was likewise a joy—and we sincerely hope it is for you, as well. So there.