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.
I heard him roaring half a block to my left as I got off the freeway and rode toward Cutting Boulevard. I thought, maybe there’s a chance we’ll meet up at the light ahead. I slowed my pace, drove carefully up to the intersection and waited for the light to catch me up short. Bingo!
And right there on my left, he glided up. Staring at the signal, gasping to glimpse the green, he never noticed me reaching for my phone to capture him until the second after I’d snapped his picture. A turn of his head, a quizzical look, and then his engines roared and carried him halfway down Cutting, and I was turning off onto Marina Way, laughing at the image I was sure I’d taken away.
I’d gotten used to looking for the taco truck that likes to show up behind the newsroom bureau. But it wasn’t there when I wandered out of the office and past where I’d parked my car. I can’t remember if I decided to go all the way around or just to retrace my steps. But as soon as I made it back to the front door, I just looked up by accident, and there it was across Marina Way South! And that’s how lunch was served. I got my burrito, and the day was saved.
When they call you at home and send you to start your day at a press conference, that’s one thing. But when it’s the latest moment in a story like this, well, that’s another.
I talked to his bandmates, his mother and stepfather, his fianceé. I listened to Oakland police spokespeople. I stood outside the club where he got shot. I held my phone out and filmed tears and pleading and images.
I got a little bit of a sense of what this guy was like from the people who drove up and down highways for hours in vans with him to play punk rock in far-flung rooms to tiny, roaring crowds. When I playback what I recorded and look closer at the notes I took, that seems to be what I dwell on the most: not so much the moments he was onstage, pumping out slabs of sound or twiddling knobs on studio gear, but the times he was cracking in-jokes and balancing ambition and amiability, energy and enjoyment, and all manner of love and loves and loving.
There’s no cure for sore legs but more walking. Sure, you can be serious and talk abut rest and ice and compression and elevation. You can even joke about adding a little bourbon to the ice. But my legs figured walking were the work that might help the aches and pains lingering from last Friday’s walk in the woods. Nothing like a little labor on a day made to mark its practitioners, from Haymarket to TaskRabbit and maybe back again.
My goodness, we rolled up on Lafayette Reservoir at a little bit after 10 a.m. and the place was packed. We waited at least fifteen minutes for a parking space, and we couldn’t stop bumping and elbowing those run-strollers out of the trail path, which was just throbbing with footfalls and baseball caps and sunglasses and workout wear.
Afterward, we went and found a deconstructed burger joint and feasted, then drove home and laid low all afternoon before rallying to satisfy dire clothing shortages at the neighborhood laundromat, also humming and packed full of all-ages activity.
Today was odd, being my first day back at the gym in a minute, and a pleasant respite from what’s been way more activity out in the world than usual. I biked around my side of Lake Merritt, locked up, walked in, scanned my pass, and suddenly decided I couldn’t bring myself to one more bout of stretching. Motion of some kind is the only salve for lack of motion, which, of course, is not the same thing as stillness or even idleness.
So, to sit on the stationary bicycle, and adjust the straps and seating, and tune out the psychedelic children’s-cartoons programming on the screen, and take Jamie XX’s “In Colour” for a ride turned out to be a good and just and worthwhile thing to have done. It stayed with me that evening on my first shift back, looking out for BART Transbay Tube progress and signs of information about the Whole Foods Market beating and a cyclist’s death in East Contra Costa.
I got showered and dressed and I took her out to the bar. For the dive over on Park, I might not’ve put on a shirt and tie. Then again, I might’ve done it just for me.
She has mentioned liking rum from time to time, and not liking much else in the way of brown liquors. That just made it all the cooler when the bartender did something amazing with Bailey’s Irish Cream and cinnamon.
Me, I was easy. I liked a drink they had on the menu a year and a half ago, and I’ve just kept showing up and ordering it. Usually there are three bartenders behind the counter when I walk in, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference: any two of the three is usually able to turn it around quickly, with a high degree of quality and potency.
Excellent drinks, excellent music (spun by a vinyl-toting gentleman who started out the evening with Ramsey Lewis’ “Sun Goddess” and was starting in on the Blackbyrds’ “Rock Creek Park” when she and I left) and excellent company meant not even a fellow with the cheese-eating grin elbowing his way and his companion’s way into a chair’s-width space to my right could irritate me for long. I didn’t even get mad when the fellow tried to ask me if I was from around here. I just wish I’d had the presence of mind to tell him something like it ain’t where you’re from, sir, it’s where you’re at.
I spent three hours hugging trees. I can’t say it made me feel much closer to nature. When you’re surrounded by it, you don’t have to work that hard. As it stands, the trees were the only thing keeping me upright on the gnarled, root-riddled trails threading through redwood stands and under cool green leafy canopies. Everyone else seemed to speed past in fluorescent sneakers, spandexy athleisure outfits and clouds of conversation about image interpersonal disputes, the impact of Central Valley fracking and plans for later regional sightseeing back.
I’d brought my ask to study and ungainly Timberland boots, but forgotten to take my daily antihistamine pill, left my sunglasses back in our car, and taken nearly the full contents of one of those tiny red slimline bottle-shaped Coke cans to my face. Her laughter was the easiest I’d heard all day.
Then the can slipped out of my front pants pocket and landed about six feet below the edge of a trail we were on. She climbed down to get it, ignoring me when I said I’d do it and risking further slides, poison oak and who knows what else was in the crumbling loam. I wound up crawling on my belly in the dirt half a mile later after the mini-tripod in my other pocket decided to try and make a run for it.
We managed to clamber back down and out of the park, covered in dirt and bracing for the impact of tomorrow’s oncoming soreness. The route back home across the Golden Gate Bridge and Presidio Parkway, then along Lombard, Van Ness, Broadway, Battery and First Street to the Bay Bridge was smooth and fast. And if I play my cards right, I won’t have to anything like that home again for weeks or months.