I dropped A. and our mutual friend K. off at Lakeshore and Lake Park avenues, about as close as I was going to get given the area’s blocked-off streets, before heading over to Uptown to meet my friend Heather at the Octopus Literary Salon. But streets coming off of Grand onto Webster were just as blocked off, for completely different reasons that only now became clear. Those cyclists that the day’s event listings mentioned that visitors could cheer were actually a thing, and in order to accommodate them, stretches of streets were signed-and-blocked off from parking, slow-moving, evil cars.
I didn’t have time to be mad at this. I just looked for someone who was leaving a spot they’d scored on 21st just west of Franklin Street, and took over when they waved and drove off. Outside, while Heather and I toggled back and forth between YouTube and lyric-sheet sites, men in spandex and sunglasses and grim expressions went whirling past the Octopus’ outside in what seemed less like time trials or some level of athletic competition and more like blind luck.
Saturday, September 19, 2015, and most of the day I’ve been lying low, but I did get out for a walk along Lakeshore Avenue and Lake Merritt, and I took a few pictures with my phone.
One picture was of a bench, and the one lovely thing about walking alongside Lake Merritt is that the lake is always on one side of you or the other, and it’s always this level horizon that you can point your camera at, and the buildings in the distance just sort of shimmer above the water.
One nice thing about the picture is it’s sunny, the sky is blue, and I managed to capture this slice of the sidewalk. I wish I’d backed up enough to catch all of the shadow of the bench. I would have had to back up into the grass and I would have risked stepping on someone’s picnic blanket, and that just would not have done.
I didn’t see any birds in the picture. They were all probably hiding out from the heat.
You know, if I’d had my ‘druthers, I would have sat down on the bench and relaxed because I left the house without my inhaler, and I could have used having it with me to just sort of take a shot so I could stand up straight and not be so out of it and needing to distract myself with pictures.
But there I was and there it was. Until next time, this is George Kelly with the best picture I took all day.
Habits aren’t habits until you start noticing you’re doing them. Maybe it’s different if it’s something pleasurable, something that requires a bit more effort than other activities, something you do with one other person or a group.
So here I am, standing outside in a public park, at least semi-willingly driving away from home on a day I don’t have to work in a newsroom, using my magic tricorder-cellphone-supercomputer in a location where it cannot and does not receive complete and total connectivity. I think the deal is that if I have to be someplace, at least I can follow tips from someone else who had a good time, and document my experience this particular maze’s twisty little turns. But the deal pleases other parties, as A. wrote someplace else today: “The only thing keeping this from being heaven is that in heaven George would be happy to be here.”
We got a bit lost for about half an hour. Rather, given our time spent and our lack of a paper map and aforementioned connectivity, we didn’t have full confidence in our directional progress. Fortunately, people who were willing to be stopped in the middle of recreational distractions were willing to reassure us in our meandering. We got the most help from a youngish, nonchalantly fit, lightly bearded gentleman in a red T-shirt on a mountain bike. If I saw him again anytime soon, I’d buy him several beers.
My editor at the West County Times, Chris Treadway, noticed that I’ve had a habit of filming my car’s travels in the hyperlapse style. Today, as he was leaving the Richmond bureau where I was working, he joked: “I expect to see a video of your drive back to Oakland!”
As I got in the car and cruised through the semi-industrial stretch of streets that separate the business park that houses the bureau from our closest freeway exit, I figured, why not?
After about 7 p.m., traffic along the Eastshore Freeway corridor cools off considerably. I was able to get back to Oakland quickly. I’d had the presence of mind to tweak my phone’s capture settings, so I wound up shooting about fifteen minutes of footage in less than six seconds.
It would have been longer, but pulling off I-580 at Grand Avenue and stopping at the traffic light for El Embarcadero meant I was right next to my gym, and my phone decided it was the right time to auto-connect to the gym’s wifi. That ended my filming a little abruptly.
I noticed A.’s text message before I left work today. She asked me to pick up a couple of things from the grocery store. Remembering how she’d flown into a minor ecstasy over a particular make and model of chocolate, I figured I’d pick some up. Having to call her and directly ask which one it was spoiled the surprise I’d hoped for.
But coming outside after shopping, I saw that a bit of the evening’s light rains were still all over our car. I figured I could capture a little bit of the view on my way back around the lake before getting home.
I started seeing the pictures on Twitter, sliding past too quickly to do much more than favorite them or just glance. Was that a landmark? How high up were they, and out of what window were they looking? If I was seeing them, then they were all on the West Coast, and likelier close by than, say, Seattle or Los Angeles. So strange to see these reminders on days the skies are clear, signs that other humans are walking around and observing this perfectly normal physical phenomena, something you can share if you just get off your ass and join in and be human for once.
By this time, everyone else had left, so I got up and stretched my legs, made sure to grab my keys and stepped outside. Not as much of a glow as others elsewhere in the Bay Area, but enough to make it worth my while. And then I heard the rumble down the tracks that told me the train was going to roll slowly past in a minute or so.
Another day working at the Tribune in downtown Oakland, watching bicyclists whiz past on two wheels good. Watching the workers install new sharrow icon lanes on 19th Street just steps from where I’d parked my car felt sadder than sad. I mean, I know I have to drive in because who the hell knows where I may have to go during my shift? But that’s the nature of the beast: breaking news is anywhere news breaks, and it isn’t tied to a location like City Hall or a particular ZIP code. I miss rolling over these streets at tire levels, keeping watch for potholes and feeling able to stop at whatever might catch my eye, exercising as much as gravity and inertia might require of me. Give me my city, let me gather what I can find without filling the air with hydrocarbons and exhaust, and treat me like the infinitely renewable resource I can be, instead of a widget in a bin, a body in a cubicle, and so on.
I would have kept filming, but I hit my phone’s space limit. Gigabyte after gigabyte, but just as I’m filming something I want to see all of? I’m just glad I noticed the sound to begin with. It was loud already with the music from the Oakland Pride stage down the block, but even from my cubicle, I could see people passing by. Earlier at one end of 20th Street by Broadway, I heard someone blasting an audio recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington speech. At the other end? Loud, fast, bass-heavy paeans.
But I noticed the guy right away, looking more tired and sensorily overwhelmed than dangerous. Then I saw the cop, and watched him warily slip his hand up to his shoulder and call for backup. And I realized all I had between me and them were some blinds and a slight height advantage, and I grabbed my phone and started filming. I thought, I’m supposed to be working, I’m not supposed to be hoping against hope that somebody doesn’t get shot in front of me for one reason or another. I go out and cover the news, I don’t look up from my desk and watch it unless it’s a championship parade or a protest going smashy-smashy against our newsroom windows!
I don’t remember praying, but I remember hoping. I watched people glide blithely past, off to wherever they’d parked or whoever they’d planned to meet. I saw police gather, surround, and step-by-step neutralize any threat or issue the guy might have posed. It would have been impressive if I still hadn’t been busy hoping nothing would go too horribly wrong, or worried every now and then that they could see me. But they never looked up in my direction, and I kept being able to see almost all of their actions even as they blocked the guy from view and the ambulance van that pulled up blocked the guy off from passersby. Then my phone ran out of space.
She woke up and wanted to go where she and a friend had been before, so we packed ourselves up and we went off under gray clouds, waiting for the traffic app to steer us to the entrance.
We parked, we made sure there wasn’t anything obvious inside that looked worth stealing, and we walked past playgrounds with parents shielding their babies from any stray ultraviolet exposure into the Stream Trail.
If I have to hike at all, let the path be smooth and slowly inclining, let the canopy overhead be high and green and waving gently, and let the mosquitos find no purchase in the air around us as we canter at a steady pace out of cell phone range, and let everyone surprised to see my skin behave kindly with smiles and nods instead of glowers and flinches.
Almost five miles later, we were done and off to the neighborhood cafe for bacon and sausage and beer and the pleasant sensation of having exerted ourselves substantially, until tomorrow’s sorenesses and aches ambushed us in our bed.
The day started peacefully, with a notice from the state and a charge to handle my car. Yes, I can get it smogged. No, ideally I’d’ve gotten it done before the last possible day. Maybe they’ll send me a notice of incomplete paperwork because of this, but I guess I’ll find out, won’t I?
Then we went off to handle errands, and on our way home, we ran into traffic on the edge of Civic Center. Blocked off 14th Street? People veering us off onto Madison, and then onto 13th Street and Lake Merritt Boulevard? For what, now? For Urban Shield, late of Oakland and now of Pleasanton, but still good for letting groups inconvenience the masses of people trying to get the hell home on a Friday afternoon.
Once I got home, I remembered my phone had an ability to do something that another phone manufacturer’s latest models were finally (en)able(d) to do. That meant it was time for me to test it, as I’d certainly ignored it up to now, and to make a fist in much the way I hadn’t been able to earlier in the day.