On the TODAY show this week, Oakland dad Rob Baedeker presented a handful of tips for making conversation with strangers. “Make it about stories, not questions,” he said.
“How are you?” is a dead end conversation starter, he warned. Try this instead: “Would you rather give up gluten or caffeine for the rest of your life?” Now that's an opener.
Another tip? In a silent elevator, take a survey. Ask everyone if they've done anything they regret that day. (By a show of hands.)
Rob was kind enough to answer a few of my extremely serious questions about life in the East Bay with his wife and 6-year old daughter, Nora, whose favorite restaurants have already been documented on 510Families.com.
What neighborhood are you in and what is it known for?
We live in Montclair, Oakland. Until recently our “village” had two different one-hour photo developing shops within a few blocks of each other. So to me it was the one-hour-film-developing capital of the East Bay. It has a small-town, maybe even middle-America feel, and lots of conifers.
What's something about your life as a parent in Oakland that you think is notable to your friends back home?
We sometimes have deer in our driveway, and we can BART to San Francisco.
What's your favorite place for one-on-one time with Nora?
Lake Temescal. We go fishing for little bluegill, by the shore, with homemade poles made from bamboo sticks, or with real fishing rods — they stock the lake with rainbow trout.
How about your favorite date night?
Once a month, the Dad’s Club at Nora’s school hosts a movie night. For $25, we get to drop her off with a hundred other kids and their sleeping bags to watch a movie and eat popcorn and pizza. Then my wife and I have three hours to do whatever we want, which is usually go to dinner somewhere in Oakland, like Camino, followed by a late-night book browse at Walden Pond Books.
Tell us about an awesome kids birthday party.
Nora threw a “Star Wars Good Guys” party a couple birthdays back; she dressed as Chewbacca and had a Darth Vader piñata. This year, she went to a party where they had a kids’ science team come and give them rides on a hovercraft and teach them how to make slime.
What does Saturday morning look like?
Like when I was a kid, Saturday mornings at our house are spent watching cartoons. Though we do it on Netflix instead of TV.
If you were trapped in an elevator with 12 new-in-town parents, what would you tell them about Oakland?
We love Friday Nights at the Oakland Museum of California. They’ve got a bunch of great food trucks, wine and beer, an art project station for kids, and live music.
Where do you like to eat out with your family?
Oni Sushi in Montclair village: good food, reasonable prices, super friendly staff. They give kids chopstick holders and a little bonus sushi roll made to look like a cartoon bear face.
Help! I'm from North Berkeley! Where should we play in Oakland?
Montclair Park has a duck pond, a skateboard ramp and play structure that is a mock western town with a stagecoach.
Can you tell us about a cool extracurricular program your child has loved?
Nora loves her pottery class at the Montclair Rec Center; she's created a ton of dishes and animal sculptures, including some abstract, post-modern stuff that may turn out to be worth a lot of money someday?
What's your favorite day trip?
The beach: usually Rodeo or Stinson in Marin.
Thanks for chatting with us today, Rob! We'll be following you on twitter from now on.
Related: See the TODAY Show video clip