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

Photo

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.

Five years later

I'm sitting in a conference room on the first floor of a building near downtown Oakland. Afternoon sunlight slants down from clear blue sky onto sidewalks and streets and windows. Buses groan and cars sigh around corners after waiting impatiently at signals.

A new co-worker was at my desk when I arrived. She didn't look anything like me, so I was worried about crossing paths with my doppelganger (or worse).

Another co-worker's recommendation of a social search engine brought me here. This LJ account was among the first page of my own results, so I figured I'd better log in and change my password and blow the dust off things.

Two towers, ten years

Toward Oakland City Center

There was a post-apocalypse theme party in honor of one Oakland Soft Rock Choir member moving out of a building and another member moving in. The party started yesterday evening and ran into the wee hours. Attendees were invited to dress up (“Tank Girl,” zombies, steampunk) but the only costume that made sense to me was to dress down, don all black, carry a Good Book (the King James version of the Original African Heritage Study Bible that my mother gifted me with for Christmas in 1993), walk up on people and ask if they’d accepted Jesus Christ as their one true Lord and savior — not that there aren’t people doing that sort of street-preaching now, just that it seems like a post-apocalyptic growth market. After about ten choir members performed a brief set, some of us wound up on the roof quietly talking. I couldn’t help noticing the Elihu M. Harris¬†federal building sitting just blocks away from us.

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Fleet Foxes

The Walkmen at the Greek Theatre

The other stroke of luck in the last two days came from a rarely used Twitter account and a contest thrown at regular intervals by a certain transit agency. I had no ideas those tickets were going to be waiting for me at will-call, honest! But there they were, and there I was, after I’d somehow parked all the way in the rear of some lot above the Greek Theatre downhill from a Hearst Avenue-intersecting driveway and then rambled downhill in the noisy dark past clumps of young adults in blankets and warm clothing taking in the genteely sublime stylings of opening band The Walkmen. “I need a ticket to hear these guys?” I thought. “Doesn’t look like it!”

Fleet Foxes at the Greek Theatre

The only annoyance? The guy squeezing in between me and his date who leaned over when he saw me and asked if I was a Fleet Foxes fan. “Yeah,” I replied. “Are you?” Ask me again if I’m a fan again, superchill beer-sipping indie-rock bro. Ask me again, I dare you, I double-dare you. Ask my Last.fm queue, why don’t you? sigh