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IMG_7133Besides people, another clan of superb adapters dwell here in significant numbers

the black robed nobility of the birds   smarter than eagles, owls, pigs          cautious & bold simultaneously

painted so well and intelligently by JJ Audubon        American crows

callingwarningjoking  offering encouragement (never surrender) to their brethren  Continue reading

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IMG_7265Oakland will never be all it can, one of the greater smaller cities in the world,

IMG_7037unless its most glaring problem, its most daunting challenge, beneath its nose yet unnoticed, so habituated are we to “the way things are” (abnormal and sick),

a massive freeway (15 lanes total) tearing through its vital urban center,

once a place filled with homes, people, gardens, the voices of children,

highway #80 to borrow the local lexicon, is dealt with, decisively.

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IMG_4938Gentrification central.   A 4 story brick factory almost a full city block long at 17th and Peralta Street.  Built in 1919, lamps were manufactured here until it all went to China.  The building sat derelict, covered in graffiti for decades, until a developer sank millions into repairs, turning the building into 92 lofts for hard core urban dwellers, Continue reading

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IMG_7057IMG_7054Walk the streets enough in West Oakland, what appears?

The outline of Oakland’s future, of the future of cities, of great urban places, of humanity really, the pieces coming together in a new way because of grass roots mostly, the acts and investments of individuals, spiritual and monetary, more than anything done by professional staff, the town council, mayors, people in Congress, presidents.
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Black Lives Matter.   

One see the words, incantatory, overdue, urgent, in your face, on the sidewalk, on a banner spread across a fence, on the roof of a house, from the window of the train, in countless odd places.

The faces that give the words substance, wrap flesh around symbols, these inventions we use to communicate ideas, brimming with emotion, appear in impromptu memorials – Continue reading

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IMG_6982At the corner convenience store, beer, stacks of it, comes in the back of a pick up truck. Steel Reserve is the favorite of the best customers, no step jumpers, avid confessors of past folly among them, the people who drink continuously when not passed out.  IMG_6592

Like the gentle woman, a normal sight weaving down Mandela Parkway, a representative of the last gasp of the baby boomers, who says, buying another 16 ounce brew, her eyes sinking in the afternoon’s booze, can you pull my jacket over my shoulder, wistfully, with a vague smile. Her arm is screwed up, limp, hanging in a sling, as becomes obvious once she speaks.

Outside, the skeletal man, hair flaming white, with crazed, meteoric eyes like Cap’n Ahab, a fixture on the corner, says bro can you spare more than that for guarding the bike, after milk, overpriced by a dollar, is purchased. (The starting point these days is 2 to 5 bucks, bossy, for begging.) Continue reading

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IMG_6939IMG_6930A Cadillac limo, one that may have transported Nixon, Spiro Agnew, American staff out of Saigon, transmogrified into a conveyor belt of death spray painted gray, with plastic fixtures, the lanterns of 18th century carriages to provide a patina of authenticity, affixed.

Over the past year, this bizarre fusion of Detroit and Oakland appeared sporadically, the Frankenstein of cars, like the death riders, the Ringwraiths, the Nazgul of Middle Earth, monstrous, all its parts screeching, belching black smoke on Peralta Street, the main drag to San Pablo and fair Berkeley, home of those who howl in horror at the sight of processed food, Kentucky pate (liverwurst).    Continue reading

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Community gardens.

Places where residents not only can grow fresh produce, escape food deserts, bland super markets,

but become better citizens, exchange information, news, tips, that improve the neighborhood.

IMG_1053Through creative adaptive reuse, abandoned parking lots, of which there are many here, may be turned into wondrous places, by leaving the asphalt in place, constructing raised beds on top, removing portions to heal diseased soil as in the garden depicted here, constructed by Groundwork Providence, in Providence, Rhode Island.

009Above all, urban gardens get people away from television, ads promoting products, out of doors, away from technology, devices some stare at so long they become the Podlings on the planet Thra in Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, the poor ones unfortunate enough to be captured by the Skeksis in order to have their essence, their youthfulness, their souls, all that makes them who they are, everything splendid, sacred, sucked dry.

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058The man, a frail old mortal, tiny in stature, who circles West Oakland.  Hour after hour when the sun appears, day after day, month following month, adding to years.

Crawling at snail’s pace, steadily, inch by inch, like a caterpillar, determined, he comes down the long avenues on a beaten up go cart of the sort you see used by people encased in clouds of fat. He appears high in the 80’s, this gnome like man from Latin America, with a lithe frame blasted/shrunken by gravity.  Continue reading