Trickles, tricks, clocks, ticks

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Today was about reassuring my mother that I wasn’t at immediate risk for a 30-foot wall of water to come rushing into Oakland. It was also about explaining how far away I live from the Oroville Spillway and the Feather River floodplain, and how many people had to evacuate, and what might happen in the next week with rainy weather forecast, water draining from a lake as fast as safely possible, and the stressed Delta levee system’s effects on the state’s drinking water prospects. This stuff is not the same as the Edgar Cayce stuff I grew up hearing about from her and going off to the public library’s shelves to bone up on out of curiosity. Today, as it turned out, was also about trickling leaks, treacherous currents and the swiftness with which a man may find himself lost in a flood.

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Asking and not receiving

Building on yesterday’s question where someone I’d never met before wanted something from me I wasn’t willing to give, even more asks came in this morning over the transom, hands outstretched and bayonets clenched and glinting between teeth.

First came one from a government agency, and that required a decision from above my pay grade. Then came another from another media outlet about something I’d filmed a while back, and that meant declining on one of several possible grounds. Then the third came from a different outlet about participation in an encounter, and that one could take a day or more to process, given how its language construes me.

I need to think about whether I’m the person they seem to think I am, and what the half-life is on the person I used to be, the person who they think they might have answered.

Declined

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I wrote about something today. Hours later, I got a call from someone two time zones away asking me if I’d give them details about a particular thing I’d written but not fully disclosed. When I told them no, they accused me of being a bad journalist. After all, why write about something if I wasn’t willing to back it up? I was polite, and eventually the person thanked me for calling back and hung up. I thought about it for a good while after. I realized I’d told them no for several reasons, but only told them about one: that I hadn’t wanted to be the bearer of bad news, at the expense of advancing things faster than other parties were willing. Another, larger reason that swum up from muddier water later on: good as librarians are and excellent as it can be to emulate their virtues, I’m not one. Granted, I’m not paid to be one. I justify what I write to my editors, but I’m not required to open my notebook to anyone who asks. This is something I need to revisit or figure out how to sit with.

Later on, I drove by the old Merritt Bakery and confirmed what I’d seen a few days earlier about the upcoming auction. Town business, man. Town business.

How the rain came tonight

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I’ve been making more timelapses lately in order to look at the world without time, in the words of that line from “The Matrix Reloaded” I’ve never quite gotten over.

I want to see what the clouds look like in the reflected surfaces of the buildings outside the one where I work, and how the light changes as the clouds shift and the hours lengthen into evening, and when the weather predicted by forecasters and expected by pedestrians suddenly starts landing on everything outside.

Then I want to see it differently, so I’ll use one app to speed it up or another to filter it in black and white and gray, because I’m greedy about options and lazy about sharing and keen on using certain platforms in certain ways.

Town business

Today, after reading a few people talking about this early-morning fire on Twitter and Facebook, and after watching a couple of videos from The Specials, I wrote these lyrics:

It's the morning after the fire on 73rd and MacArthur on the deep East Side
Everyone is bewildered and nobody saw it coming until the place got fried
Not every block blaze is suspicious
But not every flame can be innocent
When criminals parade waving contracts
And it's harder every day just to make rent One block over
there's a robbery going down
don't try to protect
The terms of the exchange
are exactly what you would expect
in this town Now flash forward years after tears run dry on the deep East Side
Abracadabra hey presto there's galleries and bistros it's been gentrified
Not every new neighbor is nameless
But not every old one gets to linger
When you're shoved by an invisible hand
And insult to injury is it gives you the finger One block over
there's a robbery going down
don't try to protect
The terms of the exchange
are exactly what you would expect
in this town Not what we mean
when we used to say
town business
It's a sad tired scene
When you get to see
town business

Goodbye Shamsher

Chairmen of the board

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I thought something might come together. I did some of the things might help. I waited to hear back. Today I learned it didn’t move forward. It wasn’t me, it was them. It’s their rules, their board, their game. I thought about these two gentlemen sitting outside the shuttered neighborhood fast-food spot. They have their own time to spend, contemplate moves, talk in between and even during if they feel like it. They could be in one park up the road, the other park up the road or the other one two blocks along the avenue, or beside the lake. But they play where they are because they like it, until they feel like doing something else. That was what made them caught my eye while I waited for the light to change at the intersection, and what gave me the time to capture them.

Public vigilance

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I go to these things because I’m happy that they can happen. I also go because I have time to drop in after getting off work nearby. Goodness knows that’s not a given. So many events slip though invites and e-mails and social-network queues. I forget: Is “it’s complicated” a possible response yet?

It’s not just the venue, where I can have a drink and look out one large window onto a main drag, or out another onto the jewel of the city skyline, ever more beautiful and obsolete. It’s not even the guests, though they’re pretty and pleasantly dialed in.

I go because I know sometime sooner than I’d like that I won’t be able to, and I’d like the comfort of having been. Was that a little dark? Well, okay then.

Not facing up

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I didn’t wind up getting to say the still, small thing I hoped to say because somehow it wasn’t time.

I didn’t say anything reckless or foolish to someone else when I thought about it because it would probably never be time.

I didn’t go to the bar where a few good people are singing songs in memory of a vivid but faint acquaintance who passed away last week.

But I did get to do one or two good things for other people, and I did get a couple of nice direct messages. That, and getting rid of the mustache and soul patch, will just have to do for today.

In time you’re gonna pay

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I started the day still thinking about a couple of difficult losses.

Then I drove up to a popular scenic route in the East Bay hills where a guy got fatally shot three years ago after breaking up a fight. His mother and sister were there as police announced a reward for information leading to a suspect.

Then I drove to the office and walked past one of the more reliably happy places and moments I know: the Paramount Theatre on Broadway on one of the monthly Wednesdays that it hosts citizenship ceremonies.

Then I got to learn about a particularly difficult request, presented with the illusion of choice, strictly as a stopgap measure and under color of opportunity.

Then I went home and ate the healthy dinner my wife made and paid some bills and petted my poor sick barely-eating cat.

Then I went to an open-mic night at an Alameda bar, where I didn’t get drink because the bartender couldn’t see me despite ten minutes at the bar, with an older guy perched on a seat insisting on shaking my hand, saying “no offense” and launching into a conversation about race, his father’s war service and bigotry toward the Japanese, and his father’s Japanese-American friend.

Then I got to listen to my bandmate’s lovely set, followed by an acoustic duo, followed by two guys on electric guitars, singing to a girl, who ended their set early when one guy whipped out a ring and proposed (to the girl).

Then, after a few more acts, I got up and sang, missing the fight that broke out next to where I’d been standing.

Then I took myself home, following and then losing the detour signs meant to guide folks safely to the highway.

Some day, all in all. I could be laid off, dead, starting all over in a new country, told what to do at work (like last year) instead of asked nicely, unable to pay bills, divorced, caught up in a conflict, unable to sing or drive or write. But I’m not any of those thing, not yet and not today.