Saturday, September 22, 2012

Today, I Love Oakland

I've been living in my apartment in West Oakland for just about three years now. That might not seem like a long time to some people, but for me, it is. This is the longest I've lived in one place since first moving out of my parent's house ten years ago. Through college and the years immediately following college, I moved approximately every 10 months to a year. Always getting bored, needing a change in scenery, adapting to the ever changing flow of roommates. Several factors have played into me being so sedentary of late.
  1. I was too broke to move. After returning to the Bay Area from what has become known as The Great Mexico Debacle, I simply didn't have extra money to move. 
  2. I began living with my boyfriend, Jahsiah. We had only been together for one year before cohabitating, but let me tell you, it was a helluva year. Once you find someone you enjoy living with, that ever changing flow of roommates coming and going seems less appealing than the consistancy of companionship.
  3. The longer you stay in one place, the more work you put into making that place feel like home, the harder it is to leave.
This has not been the easiest nor the nicest place to live, though. There are a great many opinions on Oakland and what this city is all about. I won't attempt to describe them all, as that would take way too much time for me to write or you to read. The point is, West Oakland is a place that will test your resolve, and it has certainly tested mine. There are days when I can't stand this place. Police sirens, shopping carts pushed by recycle collectors, an orchestra of conversations loudly happening in front of my house, this soundtrack plays at all hours of the day and night here. Quite is a word that does not belong in West Oakland. Privacy should probably stay away as well. And then, there are the gun shots.

I remember the first time we heard them, we were sitting in our living room, watching, ironically, The Wire, an HBO show dedicated to delving into the world of inner city politics. I didn't recognize the repetitive bangs! as gun shots, but Jahsiah, who is a little more savy, threw me, and our two dogs on the floor before laying on top of us. I was scared then. I don't get scared now. I get upset when I hear them, even more upset that, more often than not, the police sirens usually don't follow the shots, because, more often than not, the cops usually just don't come.

Now, I don't mean to be a downer because the point is, for all the less-than-desirerable attributes of this fair city, there are some days where I just fucking love this place. Today is one of those days. Soon after I woke up, I heard chants of protest growing closer. I walked outside, through my garden to find a group of folks marching against violence. They were marching, with police escorts, to demonstrate their frustration of police brutality and brutality in general, committed by anyone. There were Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere signs and it was such a beautiful thing to see on a Saturday morning.

Not long after, my friend came over and I walked him to the West Oakland BART station with my dogs. He has been living abroad for the past year so while we walked I filled him in on the things he's missed out on or discoveries I've made about my neighborhood while he was gone. Bikes4Life and Revolution Cafe, the super bomb pupusa spot. All the great little businesses that are finding a way in this mad world. I said goodbye to him as he entered the BART station and I began my walk home. Whenever I walk somewhere with my dogs, I have a lot of random conversations and interactions with folks, and today was no different. People like the look of my dogs in this neighborhood. In West Oakland, if you have a dog, it's either a chihuahua or a pit bull. I fit in nicely with my two pit bulls.

Scraper Bikes, for those of you who don't know.
If all that pleasantry wasn't enough, my walk was blessed with a scrapper bike parade. Fifteen kids and teens riding bikes through the neighborhood, playing music off the back of their bikes, where they have engineered great mobile sound systems, one of my favorite West Oakland innovations. And as I was walked home, happily enjoying the lively neighborhood, I thought to myself, this is a day that I truly love this place.

Like all long-term relationships, there are good days and bad days. There are things you love about your partner and things you cannot stand, but what you learn as you endure is that there is no such thing as constant, and there is peace in that. People will change, places will change, feelings will change, and you will change. I have wanted to live in the jungles of Central America for ten years now, and the irony of life is that I do live in a jungle, I live in the concrete jungle of West Oakland. And if you can learn to not only survive the jungle, but love it, despite its annoyances and dangers, than you can learn to love just about anything and anyone. And that is a beautiful thing.

1 comment:

  1. Love it! Great post. I felt (and still feel) the same way about my neighborhood in New Orleans. Some places are tough to live in but you are rewarded when you stay.