How the week ends


This evening, the food trucks and the crowds were mostly unfamiliar. Last week there was more serendipity, warmer and brighter sunshine. I probably made fewer statements about how much more likely it was that we would need to look around for a place to live outside of Oakland. Once you notice the clock ticking, it’s hard to hear much else.

I went with the Bacon Bacon truck, picking items at random and paying with the now-going-away Square Wallet. It felt good to sit against the museum’s outside wall and watch everything.

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I love watching for moments like the dog who’s looking up and waiting for his companion to drop something on the ground. I love waiting for the food I’ve got stowed away to eat later in addition to whatever I’ve felt like eating in the moment. I love looking up at the signs overhead and seeing the wind go right through them and being able to zip up my hoodie because it’s gotten cooler than others (but not me) might have anticipated.


Most of all, I love being able to walk away once I’ve had my fill, wandering up the street toward the Lake Chalet for another vantage, another perspective while there’s still light in the sky and a lake to look across and stools to perch on while loud, dated music blares overhead on the public address system.

Hail Zubrowka

All narratives are nested dolls, tale within tale with tale told in service of faulty memory, in thrall to adventures and testament to those we’ve met. If we are lucky, we live long enough and well enough to pass on certain values and stances to those alongside whom we work and love. We develop a slightly more cosmopolitan approach to others: either a veneer of politesse to smooth over our paths, or an abiding orientation that lets us navigate through life with verve and, ahem, panache. If we are not so lucky, we find ourselves donning drab black uniforms and throwing in  with greedy hordes and warmongers. Choose alliances carefully, cultivate allegiances accordingly and carry yourself appropriately. Keep calm and lobby boy.

Dad’s bowling shirt

I own maybe half a dozen honest green articles of clothing. I lean more roward olive than a forest green or anything brighter. Still, It felt strange to notice the color showing up more and more on people as the weekend ended, like sine sporting event’s team fandom spilling over into real life. Shamrocks and kiss-mes and pubs I’ve never been to and will never visit. But my dad’s bowling league shirt, an inheritance, a literal heirloom, is different. If I’m going to join in, go along, wear a color, let me do it like this. Even if I cover it up with my faded black hoodie and black jeans and lightweight black skullie, it’s still on me, my dad’s name embroidered across the back and neatly stitched above the breast pocket, a sign of his group membership misread for and by another group entirely.

Getting tested on Black AIDS Day

Status updates that will never be posted to Twitter or Facebook:

Scrolling through two days’ worth of #BlackAIDSDay tweets within a 100-mile radius.

Slipping on a hoodie and donning a hat and lacing up boots because suddenly that is what matters when deciding to go do this.

Standing on the east side of Broadway and looking across and waiting for the right moment to jaywalk.

Watching an unexpectedly early free shuttle bus arrive at the west-side stop, pick up waiting folks and leave.

Riding on the next bus and hanging for dear life by the overhead strap and swaying on the rain-slick floor inside and amusing at least one other passenger.

Walking into Chinatown along 9th Street over puddly sidewalks and tiny pieces of red paper left over from a week’s worth of Lunar New Year fireworks.

Thinking that not everybody starts over in January, that every day can bring something new.

Banishing the thought: No new news today, please.

Passing a coin-operated mechanical horse — another new year omen — outside a shop.

Wishing idly for a smaller body to ride it and time unencumbered by appointments and quarters to slip into slots.

Crossing the street to the address of the health services center, stepping inside and riding the elevator to the third floor.

Waiting by a pair of low black leather couches after greeting the receptionist.

Greeting C., who leads you into an office and asks how you’re doing, how’s the weather, quietly building rapport from simple human interaction.

Checking off boxes to better fill out a questionnaire C. hands you.

Answering questions about your race, gender, sexual identity, sexual history, sexual practices.

Leaning in so you can see the testing materials C. opens from a plastic pouch, and the expiration date — NOV 2015 — to be reassured.

Taking the plastic wand C. hands to you and swabbing your upper and lower gums as instructed.

Handing the wand back to C.’s purple-gloved hands for placement in a container for rapid-response testing.

Sitting and talking about anime conventions, cosplay considerations, absurdities of certain Oscar-nominated movies, impermanence of weekend plans, importance of lube.

Mentioning to C. that you wanted to see how easy it would be to get tested, to know one’s results.

Listening to C. tell you how important it is as a minority, as someone in smaller circles and communities, to take that much more care given how hard the virus hits communities of color.

Not batting an eyelash at it being Black AIDS Day, at being in an Asian health care center in Chinatown, or at C.’s self-identification as half Puerto-Rican, half-Filipino.

Acknowledging C.’s skin is still the same brown color as yours.

Watching C. leave the room and squaring your shoulders and looking down at the desk in front of you and holding your breath.

Hearing C. return to the room after what seems like only seconds and say: “Congratulations.”

Citius, altius, fabulous

I’d assumed I simply wasn’t going to pay much attention to this year’s Winter Olympics. They’re twelve hours ahead of my time zone? They’re in Russia, a country that has seemed as intent on showing its ass when it comes to journalists, musicians and believers, let alone lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes?

But then I noticed today’s Google doodle and it only took a moment to realize that those are certainly colorful depictions of popular contest, but those aren’t the Olympic colors on display, but those of a certain flag. So I looked around to see how others felt about it, and most folks were pretty amused and pleased, and now I’m going to have to watch more closely just so I can see how it all plays out. Darn you, Google!

Reporting in the age of mass surveillance

I hadn’t known about tonight’s panel until Martin G. Reynolds sent out an email about it Monday, but I knew I wanted to go as soon as I saw who was speaking.

I had vague thoughts of biking up to UC Berkeley’s campus from the Tribune’s newsroom in Oakland, but they vanished as soon as I felt light drizzle hit my face when I went to unlock my bicycle a few feet from the front of our building.

Driving up from Oakland in the rain along side streets, I felt certain I was going to miss most of it. But I found a parking space a couple of car-lengths away from UC North Gate, and I managed to slip in and find a seat next to, of all people, Dean Wasserman.

Not alone

I woke up, went to work and came home. Most of the day, I was able to spend a little time listening to Mavis Staples.

I wasn’t enjoying much of what I was seeing on social media today, with people shouting out “Martian Luther King” and hashtagging #MLKDay and bowdlerizing quotes into 140-character chunks — or worse. Toss in the wake of yesterday’s football games, and the attendant foolishness from many corners rightly called out, and being outside of it seemed to make more sense than being in and around any of it.

So Mavis suited my mood: stripped-down musical instrumentation, straight-ahead lyrical testimony and those sublime, savory vocals that I got to hear live back in 2005.