People talk about San Francisco all the time. They left their heart there, they sit by the dock there. San Francisco is a great little city; I get it. But personally, my heart really belongs to Oakland.
I love Oakland.
I love it’s lack of pretense. I love it’s rough edges. I love the strong characters as defined by the neighborhoods within Oakland. China Town, Fruitvale (- which is Mexican), Jingletown, Temescal, the Hills (- rich, residential), Rockridge (- white, yuplandish), East Oakland (- the ‘hood), Lake Merritt, Jack London Square, Downtown and West Oakland. And that’s just off the top of my head. Oakland has it all.
Being in nap hell as we are, what with Micah mostly out of it altogether now, Mack at a regular twice a day and Moxie all over the map, I sometimes like to just put Moxie and Mack in the van while Micah’s at preschool and drive them to sleep.
It totally works.
They conk out in about half a minute, sleep soundly for an hour or two and when they wake up, we might run an errand – or not. It’s all good.
While they sleep, I like to drive around West Oakland, around the Port.
West Oakland – and the Port – are like candy for the imagination. It’s so easy for me to be in Stephen King’s Gunslinger/Dark Tower series there.
Places are empty in an echoing, the world-has-moved-on kind of way. Abandoned train stations. Rattlesnake grass leaning against walls of vibrant graffiti.
Long tongues of highway leaping down and spitting cars out on side roads.
If we were going to stay in the US, I’d probably want to try and move us to an old warehouse in West Oakland, start an urban farm like cool cat Novella did (if you are interested in that sort of thing,read her great book, Farm City, then check this site out: Institute for Urban Homesteading and definitely buy this bible: Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living).
The Matrix has roots in West Oakland – the car driving scenes were filmed off of 880. Some of those side freeways are HUGE: super wide and usually empty.
That’s how I got most of these shots, by the way – it’s so easy to pull over here and take photos. There is just noone around. And speaking of shots, I took these using Hipstamatic, on my iPhone. The Tinto 1884 lens and with the C-Type Plate Film (though there were a couple of shots that I took using the Salvador lens and again, the C-Type Plate Film).
Port of Oakland. I used to love to come here when pre-baby (and pre-Mikey) to try and get on some of those old “ghost ships” that are docked around, like so much a tangible memory. I always chickened out last minute though, scared that I’d slip and fall through some rotting boat boards, my hearing aids would fall out of my ears (yes, many of my fears involve losing my hearing aids! ) and I’d lie there, cold and dying. Or in pain. Whatever, it was all bad and dark and I’m scared of the dark too, so there you go. I always chickened out.
Local myth has it that the container cranes at the Port inspired the Star Wars Walkers. When you are there, looking at them – and George Lucas lives across the Bay – it’s easy to see how that started. He swears up and down that it was NOT SO; the Walkers came from something else entirely but you know what, George? I ain’t buying it.
West Oakland isn’t where the tourists are. Even though San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf is literally 15 minutes away from it, it’s a world apart. West Oakland is big urban soil that seeks to be sowed with seeds from your imagination.It’s an urban intergalactic fantasy land.
It’s ripe fodder for dreaming in.
So I suppose that’s why the kids nap so well there.
Speaking of driving, this is a true story that I am sharing as a part of a sponsored post for Best Car Rental Auckland Airport.
We went to New Zealand from Fiji when I was around eleven years old. We stepped off of the plane from our humid and warm adopted country to the biting, bracing air of Auckland. My parents, still homesick at times for Northern California, loved it. My brother and I, completely used to hot weather, were on the fence.
At the airport, my Dad rented a car. (At least it wasn’t a motorcycle). The grand plan was to drive to a guesthouse that we were going to stay in for a while. We were excited, it had been a while since we had driven in a car (in Fiji we biked, walked or took the bus). And New Zealand was so…new! People right there in the airport had ruddy cheeks! Yummy accents! Their money was pretty! (Fijian money is too, but still. We liked everything)
So we packed our bags in the trunk, all four of us hopped in. Seat belts on. Everything fastened. Ready to roll. You get the picture. We drove off, down the car ramp, along the little street that would lead us to the highway.
Dad turned to get on.
And immediately realized he had turned with his American instinct, driving as an American, on the right side of the road. Which means the turned directly INTO oncoming traffic spitting cars off of the highway!
How we screamed! Hairs went grey! Bowels were loosened! Curses were flung! Froth was spittled! Prayers were had!
Yes, we had a really great time. My brother and I were on Cloud 9 from that near-death escape, loving that adrenaline that was pumping through us. Mom and Dad? Yeah…well, I’m sure they’ve had better moments.
After that stint, we took the car all over the place and had a great time. Dad learned to drive Kiwi style, on the left. Maybe it wasn’t as thrilling to us as heading right into oncoming traffic on a freeway, but I’m sure it was safer.
(and yes, that’s really how NZ looks: one big huge National Park of a country. Here is a link for NZ Home Loans. You are welcome).