Re-making home

Oakland’s had an undeserved bad rep as a dreary Detroit-like urban disaster and surely there are parts of the city that are broken down in a mean sort of way, tagged with graffiti, rusted, overgrown, down-in-the heel. 8th and Campbell, near Nikole’s house, seems to be an active corner for the sorts of trade that erode the soul. But, each area of the city has a unique feel, a diverse street politic. On balance, I have a much more ready and cheerful rapport on the streets with African Americans than most other folk.

I felt so sad on a trip into ­San Francisco, as if I was revisiting a place that had lost its appeal in the wake of endless chill and dreary Victorian predictability. Drivers are not nice. The wealth divide is painfully evident.

My own neighborhood is mere 20-minute walk to BART in downtown Oakland. Finally back on my bike, my range of travel has expanded. (Dave has the car in DC to lug equipment around.) Lake Merritt is a block-and-a-half away; it’s a lovely U-shape, the hangout of a variety of ducks, gulls, geese, egrets, runners, walkers, lovers and lonely people. Out my kitchen window I can see the sunrise over the choppy city skyline and the sunset glinting off a building I have yet to identify.

Oakland appears to support brisk business in medical marijuana, with storefronts where people can be evaluated – for a fee of course. One page of the local alternative newspaper is devoted to ads for such places. Often I smell weed on the breeze as I walk the neighborhoods.

Freeways seem to surround this area known as Grand Lake, but I don’t hear traffic. What I do hear, every night, far enough away to be soothing, is the wailing of trains? An old-fashioned sound, with a trace of melancholy, of long trips to a steady rhythm. I am glad to be home again. I have a number of heart’s homes: northern California, Kenya and Italy. Each seems to offer sustenance that I’m needful of.

Moving can be cathartic. I found it a priceless opportunity to winnow out the chaff of my life, wondering why I had carted around more than 20 boxes of files, feeling elated when I had eliminated all but seven containing the essential history of our lives together and our various business successes and failures. We’ve done a lot of living. Every “failure” makes me smile.

Moving can be hilarious. You lean truths about the weight and size of your possessions and your body’s ability – or lack thereof – to arrange those things in ways that suit your habits. Learning which way doors open and keys work and what anomalous malfunctions await discovery in appliances and plumbing. I am lucky to have adequate living space. All my possessions now in one place –only the things I need or want. And – big bonus – the apartment is flooded with sunlight from around 8am until at least 3.

This here is ATT’s “territory” for phone and Internet. A more poorly managed megacorp cannot be found.

Just recently they chirped by email: “Congratulations, you can now view your ATT bill on VIDEO.” I’m baffled by the concept.

I wonder how it long before I fix in my mind’s eyes the map of this area and know it like my old neighborhoods. I don’t mind getting lost as it generally leads to a discovery.

Moving can be comforting. Being close enough to Nikole to drop by is a big deal for me. I wanna be around to see how she does it – this life she is building. Though she is my daughter, and I rightly can be accused of bias, she is also a self-made woman moving on a compelling trajectory. A diamond being buffed by the challenges she embraces.

She recently bought a 1974 Mercedes sedan, affectionately known by its former owners and riders as “Gramps.” Gramps has character. He has refused for some time to shift into reverse. His diesel grumbling can be heard a half-block away. Occasionally banshee screams emanate from the alternator belt that is missing a tightening bolt. Original leather interior. Smoked rear windows. Character. He runs with attitude. (Update: Jesse, mechanic extraordinaire, figured that a couple of bolts tightened would do the trick and he was right. Gramps backs up gracefully and no long screams.)

I can meet every day with my WCI partner, Devin, who lives a short walk away. Face to face, we are working well and getting an increasingly complex organization on track. It’s the most fun I’ve had working since the early days of DPDO. WCI is what I must be doing ­– my path. It electrifies me.

I used to be a 49ers fan, back in the heady Super Bowl -winning days. This season I’ve been following the Redskins who are having an amazing season. Since I don’t have a TV, I go to a sports bar to watch the games. An entertaining subculture, mostly guys. I’d forgotten how commercial breaks are like artillery barrages. Manly stuff like cars and extra-cheese pizza and computers and BIG trucks. I get to overhear men’s comments on women announcers (sigh). WOOHOOing at every touchdown, I’ve found I love to yell in public.

I hope I never buy into “shabby chic,” as seems to be the jargon on East Bay Craig’s list for stuff that has seen better days and might not enjoy the benefit of “good bones.” But I like being in California again, thinking about new places to go and hobbies to resurrect.

I’m happy here.

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