wo – 62

IMG_9242In Tent Town beneath the bridge at 35th and Peralta, decorum is maintained. The rows of camping tents erected on concrete are flanked by outside seating areas; old couches and lawn chairs, junk tossed into the street and reconstituted by the resourceful squatters who dwell here month after month, are arranged like any suburban living room. The bridge above serves as the roof of the house, keeping out the driving rain of the Northern California winter.  Continue reading

wo – 61

IMG_7922027In Greek and Roman times, each city and town had a God or Gods that were considered guardians, or patrons.  Without the protection of these “tutelary deities,” urban places were considered vulnerable to invasion, pestilence, a decline in fortune.

The tutelary deities of West Oakland, the figures below, appeared recently, and seem to presage a new optimism, a growing faith in the future of the neighborhood. Each has its own charisma, style, and moxie.

Somehow, you know you can count on them to do the right thing.  In a world with so much violence and disorder, we need them more than ever.

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usc – 13

IMG_8382After reading on computer screens a little over two decades now and now the Kindle, it’s hard to get away from the notion that reading through a piece of plastic made in China will ever replace the experience,

booksthe tactile pleasure, the immediacy, of having a well made story in hand. Continue reading

usc – 12

IMG_0458Of all the places where one can hide from intruders on mobile devices, brush up on knowledge, sample an array of opinions, escape endless football, speak to the living and dead who are not,

PICS2 132libraries, the chief ornament of a flourishing society, are best.

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usc – 11

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The anger and resentment – a profound civic disorder by the lights of one commentator – that presents itself among so many Americans these days, like a kind of cancer on national life, which the less lofty minded among the political class feed upon for an increase in power.

guatemala05_blurHard to understand if you’ve walked alone in the dark parts of the world; the ruined streets of Havana; the destroyed parts of Managua; the back alleys of Tegucigalpa; zone 1 in Guatemala City; a hidden passage in North Africa; places where people struggle everyday to survive.

And you yourself were free to leave these wrecked and thoroughly corrupted societies, venues with no hope, books worth reading, to return on a jet serving shrimp and cocktails to the United States with a golden ticket, an American passport, in hand.

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wo – 59

IMG_8796The train terminal, a Beaux Arts structure built around World War 1, sits at the border of West Oakland. This decaying monument to the civic ambitions of people still present through architecture holds back the wastelands, a web of elevated freeways leading from San Francisco to the east. In this task, it performs admirably, demonstrating the grandeur of ruins, the way obsolete structures can adapt to changing times.

usc – 10

IMG_1199People can imagine anything and what they imagine may be true. Like the physicists at Princeton who theorize that our universe, though immense, may be a pocket universe lodged in a much greater universe where the laws of nature, the ones discovered by Einstein, Peter Higgs, don’t apply. We may be a pea in a pod, infinitely smaller than we imagined, after all.

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usc – 9

IMG_8962In The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, a book Gertrude Stein wrote to proclaim her genius, she said it was impossible to paint a human being, that no matter what one did, or how skilled the artist, a flesh and blood person appears wooden on the canvas, with their evanescent fleeting qualities resistant to being pinned down. Continue reading