A Strange Kind of Pride

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I work in downtown Oakland, California and I took this photo a couple of blocks from my office. This is graffiti painted on the wall of a construction site. It’s funny how the graffiti depicts a rat doing the deed. Here’s another photo farther down the same wall.

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If you don’t live in Oakland you may well look at the graffiti in a very negative light and think that it reflects poorly on the city. Here’s another photo I took about a block away (in fact all of the photos I’m posting were taken in a three block area of downtown).

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So, it’s not cool to deface a storefront like this, even though it’s empty and undergoing renovation inside, as indicated by butcher paper on the inside of the windows. This particular graffiti has been there about two weeks and there has been no attempt to clean it up, which I put down to a combination of the likelihood that the people who lease the building are probably waiting until the interior renovation is done, and a sense of futility in the meantime. I’m sure they’ll clean it up before the new business opens at that location. There’s a separate question, though, as to whether it should be removed. You’ll see why in a bit. Obviously, removal is up to the property owners and the business leasing it.

If it’s not cool to deface a storefront, what about a non-street facing wall next to a parking lot?

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I think this graffiti is of a quality that it adds to the urban landscape. I have no idea whether the property owners gave permission for this, but I could imagine a business or building owner doing that. If you still haven’t migrated at all toward the notion that graffiti is ever a good thing, what about this?

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Again, I have no idea if this was approved by the building owner and/or the business. I do consider it a positive addition to the urban landscape. It’s cool to walk around this part of Oakland and be confronted by the imagination of these people, who I suspect are locals. Why do I think that?IMG_2451

This doesn’t look like the other graffiti and I doubt this was an unauthorized job. It does show that graffiti has gained a grudging acceptance in this part of town. It’s achieved critical mass, as exemplified by this…

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…or this.

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There are smaller works, like this…

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Again, I don’t know in any given instance which of these works were approved. I just know that I enjoy them when I’m walking around at lunch. One more:

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You’ll notice the “Love Oakland” on the left hand side of the frame. It seems that an unlikely confluence of societal forces are creating an unconventional art district in the heart of downtown Oakland. This is the type of thing that is unlikely as an official civic project, which makes it all the more special. It makes me proud of the region where I live.

I love Oakland.

Full disclosure: I live next door in Alameda, but I lived in Oakland for many, many years, and work there currently.

A Busy Saturday

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Is it weird to like a hospital? I would have thought so until I went to the new Kaiser hospital in Oakland. Here’s a photo of the waiting area for the orthopedics department. I’ve been going there with my daughter because she broke her leg snow skiing last February. She’s all healed up now and ready to have the rods removed later this month.

Anyway, the new hospital is beautiful; another word I would not have associated with a medical facility until now. Here’s another photo of the interior. This one’s next to the cafeteria. The photo is of a mural made up of thousands of images of Oakland residents, arranged to create a panorama of downtown Oakland near Lake Merritt.

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As inconsequential as it may seem, I think there is value to aesthetics when it comes to a medical facility. It makes going there less intimidating and reduces the stress one usually associates with health concerns. Here’s one final photo; this one is also next to the cafeteria. It shows a container of spa water put out by the staff.

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I went to the hospital lab yesterday to have blood samples taken as part of my annual physical. By the way, I really like my doctor. He’s an elderly guy with a Southern accent that sounds exactly like Andy Taylor from the classic TV show Mayberry RFD.

After the lab work, I took a smoking cessation class. Yes, I smoke. Not much; I average about 7 cigarettes a day, but still. I had quit three years ago by going to a hypnotist. I started again after my wife died of cancer. She never smoked and barely drank. Who said life was fair? I realize it’s counterintuitive that I would start smoking again after that terrible event. I don’t claim to understand it myself. The good news is that I am going to quit again.

So in the class they helped me draw up a plan to quit. One of the things they tell you to do is to let others know you are going to quit so that you are more committed to success, which is why I’m telling you this. My quit date is January 1, 2015 (I know, I know). But it’s not a New Year’s resolution, really. It’s just that I’m supposed to be doing certain things to prepare, such as to start using a nicotine patch, in advance of the actual quit date.

I plan to blog each day about my quitting experience. It should be fun.

After the smoking cessation class I went to the car dealership and bought my leased vehicle. If you read my post about the SF car show, you’ll know why. Just as I was about to leave the dealership, a few hundred protesters marched by. I had only seen the protests on TV, so it was interesting. Here’s a photo (not a very good one).

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Of course, the protesters were there because of the controversy surrounding deaths from police shootings, the most recent being the shooting of a twelve year old boy brandishing a toy pistol. The death has been ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. There’s video of the incident. I would assume that there will be an indictment in the case, but based on recent history I’m not holding my breath.

OK! I need to go buy a Christmas tree. Happy Holidays!

Loving on Oakland

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I have a co-worker who is originally from Chicago. I told him that I visited Chicago and thought it was a great city. He told me that he likes Oakland better, because in Chicago people are divided into ethnic enclaves, even if you’re caucasian. There’s an Italian neighborhood, a Polish neighborhood, etc. Since I’ve lived in California my whole life, that’s hard for me to imagine. At this point I’m going to share a somewhat non-sequiter funny picture of a concert poster.

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It’s a bear in sheep’s clothing. A riff on the California State flag.

Anyway, if it’s hard to imagine ethnic enclaves in California, it’s even harder to imagine them in Oakland, California. Oakland is eclectic. How eclectic?

I just went out for a coffee break. Down the street from where I work is a place called the Brown Coach Cafe. It is owned and operated by Muslims and the women behind the counter are wearing traditional headscarves. At one of the tables is a Caucasian woman conversing with an African American woman, next to a table with an Asian couple, next to a table with a Caucasian guy working on a laptop. The Brown Couch is right next door to an Afghan restaurant, run by Afghanis, which is across the street from a Japanese restaurant, run by Japanese, which is kitty-corner to a surf shop, run by a Caucasian surfer dude with blond hair. Two blocks away is Oakland’s Chinatown, which is as close as you can come to an ethnic enclave. People live there by choice, though, not because they aren’t integrated into the rest of the city. In fact, the current mayor of Oakland is of Chinese heritage.

Here’s a picture of a painting of Oakland’s shipping cranes that is hanging in the Brown Couch Cafe.

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It was painted by a local artist named Dave Platford.

The thing is, everyone gets along just fine. As my co-worker and I walk back to the office (we’re both Caucasian) an African American lady who we don’t know walks past us and greets us and says good morning. If you lined up various cultural niches along a spectrum, Oakland would be at the far opposite end from the words “sectarian violence.”

I’m posting this today because my last post mentioned the tragic situation in Syria and Iraq.

There is hope for this world and for humanity. Oakland is one of the places on Earth where that hope resides in warmth and comfort, nurtured by people who have come here from all over the planet.

When you are feeling down and wonder what the world is coming to, visit us. It will make you feel a whole lot better.