Once in a Lifetime …

 

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Downtown Oakland, October 2017

I love “Talking Heads.” I love the song “Once in a Lifetime,” and the lyric, “… And you may tell yourself / This is not my beautiful house / and you may tell yourself / this is not my beautiful wife.” I remember once, I think it was in college, someone showed me the “Stop Making Sense” video, and I was blown away by the whole concert. Even though, I knew most of the songs from the radio, having it all there, and David Byrne, being David Byrne. Wonderful, simply wonderful. …

Anyway, that lyric, about “this is not my beautiful house” it’s lately how I feel about Oakland. I wrote a few weeks ago about being here for 5 years. And while that’s not really THAT long, in the grand scheme of things, it’s long for me, and it seems “hella” long for Oakland, and what’s been happening now. All the rapid-fire change that’s been happening. And I’m not sure I agree with the changes I see.

For example:

This past week, I get an email from a local business in Berkeley, the Wooden Duck, a place that I recently bought some furniture. After more than 20 years in business, they are closing up and going out of business. Because I’m on the mailing list, I got an email. Then, the SF Chronicle wrote about it — the landlord raised the rent, and they could not afford to be in business. A brewery is moving in. Another one. (Do we really need another micro-brewery?) I’m sad, because I really admired the place – the quality of the furniture, the fact that it was high-quality and not mass-produced or a chain. I’m sad that it came down to a rent dispute, and that the city of Berkeley is losing a small business, which generates sales tax revenue.

The month before, I heard on Facebook that a winery I used to go in Jack London Square is closing – moving its tasting room to American Canyon. The building it was in has been sold. I also heard of another winery, also in Jack London Square, that moved as well.

There is absolutely no question that rent – for both tenants and businesses – is an issue right now. What saddens me to the core is when long-time businesses are shut out, or restaurants, wineries, or artisans decide to make business decisions that involve leaving the area, cutting back hours, selling the building completely. Those business are closed, and shut down from the community. Or, taken for granted, prices increase, and passed along to the Oakland consumer.

When I moved here 5 years ago, the Oakland that was here is definitely not the Oakland that is here now. And I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. I see condos being built that I won’t be able to buy ever, as a single person, and new restaurants opening that are just as expensive as those in San Francisco.

So, where IS Oakland? What IS Oakland? What is special about Oakland in 2017? And, why am I still here? I don’t work in Oakland – I work in San Francisco. I don’t own a home in Oakland – I rent an apartment. I don’t have children – I don’t use the schools. If I do a tally on why stay, why leave, it kind of evens itself out. I’m here because I moved here. I’m here because my apartment is here. I’m here because it’s the alternative that I have at the moment. I’m frankly not as thrilled about living here as I was just a few years ago. I think city politicians could do a better job of “protecting” our interests, than selling out to developers — they say they’re doing it for the betterment of housing. Puh-leez. Or those Ford bike shares? Whatever.

I stay in Oakland right now, because I can’t really deal with any major life decisions. I DO like Lake Merritt. I DO like hiking in the hills. I like Berkeley Bowl. I have my spots that I enjoy. Maybe I’m just getting older. I don’t want to get older.

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Insanity – a poem

I wrote this poem almost two years ago, but was thinking about it because of multiple things happening now. …

Insanity

That night, when the curtains danced with grace, the full moon high above the pine tree in the backyard, your face full and on fire in front of mine, accusatory and loud, me, wound tight in a ball, while the cat sat motionless behind the curtains.

That night, when we first met, me: smoking a cigarette, you: in your dry-cleaned shirt, forgetting my name the next day, using the car registration to write it down.

That night, when the email appeared, from somewhere. I saw you, in one of your shirts, your hair frazzled, the cat somewhere, the actions being taken. A plan, the steps in motion, like baking bread, assembling the ingredients in a methodical way. What music would be played? What lights would be left on? Are the keys in the tray? Is the car unlocked?

Then, later, the night you went away, and me, left alone in the bedroom every night with the doors and the windows open to the fog horns moaning, the ambulances and police cars roaring by outside, the raccoons coming inside, eating the cat food, leaving their large grainy paw prints on the tile floor, and me, scrubbing the floor clean every day, throwing out the garbage, chasing off the coons with a broom at night, running into the back yard like a crazy woman with a broom handle, and finally locking the doors and windows each night.

One night, I drove and picked you up from the place. You sat beside me in the car, quiet as a stone. It felt like the calm part of water before the waves begin, calm at first, then with more intensity with each ripple, one after the other.

One night, you made a joke that we should get married and you laughed after saying it. I didn’t think it was funny, and looked at the floor instead.

One night, I found a bottle, hidden and almost empty, in the bottom drawer. I left for a walk and when I came back, you were gone.

One night, you didn’t come home at all. I closed the bedroom door, and locked all the windows and went to bed.

Five years ago …

Five years ago, I was living in San Francisco’s Richmond District. I had been living in San Francisco for seven years, in the Outer and Inner Richmond. Summer in San Francisco is windy and spring-like — it gets warmer in the fall. It gets really cold in the Richmond District where I lived — fog rolls in during the afternoon, and just sits there like a thick blanket overnight, into the late morning, when the sunlight starts to chip away at it around the Golden Gate.

I was working in Alameda, and driving a reverse commute, across the old Bay Bridge, every morning and every night. I loved working in the East Bay – especially in Alameda Point. Warm and sunny, large and expansive. Where I worked, we had a view of the San Francisco skyline, and I could walk or drive my car to watch some of the large tanker ships come into the Port of Oakland. I thought that was “hella cool.”

But then, I would drive back home, across the Bridge, and see this thick fog bank just sitting there by Sutro radio tower, and know that it would be at least 10 degrees colder, or more, by my apartment. I would circle the block several times looking for street parking, and then settle in for dinner and city life.

I love living in Oakland – I wanted to live in Oakland five years – and I am glad that I made the choice that I did. To move across the Bay and into a neighborhood that is warmer, more inviting I think, and had more to offer me than San Francisco.

Still – FIVE YEARS is a long time in a short time. FIVE YEARS has brought a lot of change to my new home. Oakland has rocketed forward from this crusty, industrial, cheaper alternative for me to something passively referred to as “hip” and “expensive.” In five years, some of my favorite restaurants and cafés have closed because they can’t afford to stay open; people I know have moved away because they can’t afford to live here anymore; this “Brooklyn of the West” is building expensive condos along Broadway that I’ll never be able to afford. The Raiders are leaving. The Warriors are leaving. The A’s are trying to build a new stadium.

Meanwhile, BART is a mess. I saw a homeless person yell in a passenger’s face the other day because she wouldn’t give him her wallet. True, this might have happened five years ago, but this type of occurrence is happening almost daily – with no police to be found.

I get nostalgic thinking about the past, and unsure about the future. All I know is I’ve been here for five friggin’ years. How did that happen? How did all the farmers markets and hikes and happy hours and who knows what else adds up to almost five friggin’ years? I guess it does.

(Thank you, Ziggy.)

BART tards and crime time

IMG_2672On Sunday afternoon, SFPD were patrolling the Civic Center BART station (not this photo) in the middle of the day, with guns at the ready. I was waiting for a train to go home, along with a bunch of folks who had just gotten out of Hamilton. (Love, love “Hamilton,” btw. If you have a spare ticket, message me!) Two people near me said, “Oh, I’ve never seen that before.” Meaning, we’ve never seen SFPD at a BART station. I said, “Oh, I’ve never seen BART police before, ha ha.” I take BART everyday to work, and everyday, it seems there is some delay due to a “police activity” and/or “medical emergency” and then ALL of the trains on the single track need to be held up for 10 to 15 minutes to wait for the situation to be taken care of.

A few weeks ago, I was on a train coming from Berkeley back into Oakland, and there was a fight on the train adjacent to me. We watched it happen through the double doors — and then some of the passengers came through the doors onto our train. The fight involved what appeared to be young kids — probably teenagers or young adults. Someone called BART police, but they don’t ride the trains. I don’t even know where they are. …

The conductor came on the speaker and said that “due to a police activity” the train would be held for 10-15 minutes. The train stopped — which meant we were waiting for BART police to show up at the next station. True to form, the train pulls up at the station, and there is a BART cop waiting to take care of the situation. Meanwhile, we all have been waiting on board with this fight happening on the train.

Is this supposed to make me feel safe, make me want to take BART?

Who is the BART tard? The kids acting up, the cops nowhere to be seen, or the announcer explaining the daily situation? … Or maybe, I am the BART tard for sticking with this system. (And “tard” is supposed to kind-of rhyme with BART.)

Crime time: Have you heard the one about BART posting crime data online? Tell me when you can find it — note: They don’t post BART stations, you need to search for them. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the next train to Warm Springs, wherever that is.

OMG: How did I become 40?

0656I’m about to turn 40. It is something on the calendar that I’ve been dreading for the past few months – past year, really. I think it’s harder for women than for men, and it’s been hard for me, harder than I thought. When I was a little girl, I couldn’t imagine being 40. I had this image in my head – as many girls do – of having this beautiful wedding, living in a nice house, and having two or three children. I often wonder what’s wrong with me, why didn’t this dream of getting married, having children, and having a nice house ever come true for me? Instead, I’ve been getting by, paying my way, sometimes scraping my way, into what I have. I know for sure that my path is different than my Mom’s or my Grandmas’, that I have opportunities they didn’t have, and I’ve taken advantage of choices and paths that have come up – taking me to destinations that have shaped me into who I am.

I never apologize for anything I’ve done. Never. Everything, every experience, every person I’ve met, have all shaped me into who I am now. I am strong, resilient (there’s that word, Dad), emotional, caring, intelligent, curious, and aware. Alert.

I’ve had my heart broken not just once but several times in the worst ways possible. I miss being in a relationship, and I keep positive, hopeful that the next date will turn into something new and great, or that the next smile at the grocery store will be magical. But love can’t be rushed. Online dating isn’t the same thing as shopping for shoes – and online dating is growing, this is something new that wasn’t around 20 years ago. I worry sometimes that I’ll be an “old maid” at 50, 60, 70, 80 – still unmarried, no kids. … And then I breathe, and let those panic thoughts go away. This isn’t 1890s Victorian society. I’m not sitting in the corner dressed in a high collar for afternoon tea, while the family negotiates on “Auntie’s” behalf.

It IS strange to me that my Grandma was just a few years older than me when she became a grandmother (42). Or that my mother was younger than me at my high school graduation (38) with four kids, and an 18-year-old daughter about to go to college.

So, I went to college, and was focused on school and journalism … and having fun … and living in San Francisco, spending time in the Haight and North Beach. Fast-forward 22 years later … and I’m in Oakland now, loving my work, and still occasionally hanging out in North Beach with my friends.

I’ve had to change careers, leaving journalism, and put myself through graduate school during the Recession. I’ve met incredible people through my second career of nonprofit work, and even more resilient clients with amazing stories that beat our own. It makes me smile to make others smile at work, to playfully flirt with a senior client, or say “thank you” to a volunteer. My work is important to me – as I spend more than 40 hours a week, plus commuting. ~

And my health is pretty good right now. That’s important to me. I eat well, go to the gym, walk a lot, yoga, and meditate. Drink a lot of water.

Above all else:

I am blessed to have the family that I have – and I love my family ~. We all got together on Saturday to celebrate this 4-0 number, and help me ease into the transition. Thank you, my lovely family, and everyone as I become OMG 40!!!

 

Great pumpkin spotted in Berkeley

I went grocery shopping yesterday at Berkeley Bowl – one reason I love living in the East Bay – and I spotted this fatty near the checkout counter:

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Looks like you can win a prize if you guess the weight. Based on the pumpkin festival just finished in Half Moon Bay – the top 10 contenders weigh between 736 lbs and 1,1910 lbs (from Little Rock, Wash.). I’m guessing 600-700 lbs.

I bought some strawberries instead and some good sparkling mineral water.

One of my favorite buildings

I love old buildings. I love old, brick buildings, 100 years old, their history, character. I wish cities would cherish them more, rather then tear them down for same-old same-old mixed-use development condos, high-end retail, or worse, Starbucks and cookie-cutter stuff that looks exactly the same anywhere. I love old architecture – a time when builders and craftsmen, and their financiers, took time and effort and love to make neighborhoods more beautiful — even if just a few extra detail.

There are so many old lovely buildings in Oakland – driving through downtown, Jack London Square, through the neighborhoods. I have some photos of what I like, and I really need to start taking more and cataloguing old buildings that I like. I have them in my head, the map in my head, what I like.

Here’s one in particular that I see all the time – all the time – very prominent on 40th and Market Street, driving to go shopping at Target or all the other shops over there. It just sits there on the corner, I wonder what is it’s history? It’s so beautiful. I would love to live there, even though it’s not really the best neighborhood.

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Here’s the history of the building – it was the factory of Toscana Bakery in 1927. A beautiful factory for bread, don’t you think?