Monday, April 2, 2012

There There, Now, Oakland

This swiftly slammed out riff is for you, Oakland,
because you've had one of those raiding and killing days today.

Gertrude Stein, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1935

Gertrude Stein, most unkind, spoke of Oakland the oft-quoted line:

"There's no there there."

Lake Merritt alight, from a collection here.
Ornamentation of Oakland, from Oaktown Art

I guess she didn't know Fairyland or the cormorants and black crowned night herons, the string of lights ringing Lake Merritt glowing in a winter's fog, the eucalyptus-and-elephant-poo scent of the Zoo, the angels and bowls of fruit adorning downtown buildings, Housewives Market for lemon custard ice cream or andouille or fresh smelts, or hundreds of other marvels in what ought to be a paradise.

Oakland: in those days when I lived there: my toddler played at playing golf in Snow Park or chilled in her stroller on the path around the lake or helped me choose fresh greens on Chinatown sidewalks, rode the web of Anansi at that Fairyland and climbed a golden lion at that Zoo, longed for a saxophone in House of Woodwinds' shop window, marveled in the Paramount Theater at her first favorite film (Robin Hood with Errol Flynn and the Mighty Wurlitzer, huzzah!), ate that lemon custard ice cream from Housewives and demanded of me on the spot a song about the black crowned night heron which of course not to disappoint a two year old I composed on the spot ---

Black Crowned Night Heron at Lake Merritt from Nancy's Bird Journal

Saxophones at House of Woodwinds
--- oh, in those days of living next door to Crack Hotel on one side and Demolition Dust on the other side and hearing each night the pounding pulse of the clubs til two and the screeching and crashing and fighting of the club detritus til three and when the street fights broke out and the woman screamed in terror the cops never showed but they were there in multiples another night having a rooftop chase right into our building's trashy little garden where they put a perp up against the tree to frisk, so copshow, they were there alright, and my two year old wide eyed watching them and all their metal --- in those days I surely never thought I would one day be writing a valentine to you,

Oakland, city of cormorants.
Photo by Tadashi Tsuchida Photography

A paradise you once were to the toddler who knew the building near the swings and slides to be a castle, who made snail discoveries in the botanic garden and koi discoveries at the museum, who threw smelts to the cormorants to watch them dive and fly underwater or catch the smelts smartly out of the air and oh! Do you remember the pigeon man, and the tortoise man, there by the lake?

A paradise you could be to anyone, anytime, with your place in the sun and convenient bay harbor, your sheltering, wooded hills and your wonderful variety of humans, but for some reason, dear Oakland, you always get the shit kicked out of you.

Today was just another such shit-kicking day.

Richard Lee, Founder and
Horticulture Professor
Oaksterdam University

This morning, despite the protection of California state law, US federal drug enforcement agents raided Oaksterdam University, its cafe, its gift shop, its classrooms, and confiscated the hell out of its evidence, and also visited the home of and arrested its founder Richard Lee.

Federal Agents at Oaksterdam this morning.
Photo from KTVU coverage
While the Oakland Police were busy standing around observing, on call as unnecessary backup for the DEA and the US marshals, while all that law enforcement was busy making sure that no vicious state-law-abiding students could learn how to provide medical cannabis to patients, not far away, a gunner had a shooting spree at a small religious college, killing seven people and wounding I-never-heard-how-many more. Because cops don't prevent crime; 
people prevent crime.  

Shooting site, Oikos University, by Ryan Phillips at OaklandNorth

Yeah. That was Oakland today.
the there there.

There, there, Oakland. There there; don't cry. Or cry: go ahead and have a cry: you've earned it over and over again. Sob for the senselessness, and then, when all your sobs are dry, do what you always do: take to the streets.

CBS News photo: Federal agents turn their backs on protestors.

Occupy those streets and cleanse them with peaceable protest and sanctify them with chanting, and keep on occupying them until you have made in them the paradise you always knew, deep down, you really are.

There, there.


Update: Here's a petition to sign, asking for an end to the costly raids on dispensaries.

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