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 queue, why don’t you? sigh

Google SF

Badge me!

I didn’t plan on visiting another office so soon after last month’s visit to Mountain View. But when one notices a Google Places tweet and responds as directed, any manner of strangeness may result. So it was that I found myself exiting the Embarcadero BART station and walking down to Google San Francisco.



I had a good time meeting other lunch invitees (the developer who likes to hack on the side; the DJ with ideas about music storage; the Spanish-language journalist and organizer), filling my plate and taking a walk around the place and pinching myself a little. I never forget that this stuff doesn’t spring into existence out of the ether.


I remember how it felt back in late July, finding myself seat-belted into a Southwest flight rolling along the runway at Oakland International Airport, my phone camera aimed out the window, my stomach gathered up under my ribcage, my inner ears bouncing like orchestra tympani, and then the juddering bounce that comes when leaping up off the ground, wings outside doing their Bernoulli thing, thick slabs of noise coming from outside and inside, and then banking slightly so that everyone on my side could look out below at the city slipping away below us, receding as we climbed up and began drifting eastward toward Colorado.

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Brand new day

MediaNews Group officers and executive management
MediaNews Group officers and executive management

I don’t know what to think. I woke up this morning, and there was a note from Amy Gahran with news I never thought I’d see, on a scale and with a potential to upend or at least slightly bend a bunch of things I’d assumed were unalterable in their trajectory.

I don’t know if John Paton’s a knight in shining armor. I don’t know what the price of his arrival is. After all, becoming CEO doesn’t mean you’re a superhero.

I need to see what’s coming. I need to how it can work. After all, Paton’s thing so far has been small and midsize papers. I don’t know how that will work here in our environment, with the on-rushing push toward regional and away from local coverage.

I need to know if his idea of “digital first” is something individual, atomized, lightweight or faceless, branded and conversation-shy. I need to know if “digital first” is more iPad apps, or a rebirth of blogging. Is it doubling down on Facebook and the Apple Store and other “safe” walled-garden platforms?

I don’t think this makes online safer here or in Denver. There will probably be more shakeouts. It likely just means a brighter spotlight shining on everyone’s efforts, more scrutiny on footwork. There is no safety. I work with people who have yearned for direction from the company for the longest time and, just as Paton arrives and gets settled in, are now on the brink of being swept out of their careers. The promised land isn’t promised to everybody.
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The price of gas

Pump'd, 7/31

Here’s the 10th picture I ever posted to Flickr on July 31, 2004. I took it with my first cameraphone, a Samsung flip-phone model on Verizon Wireless whose name I can’t remember — only that it had a camera lens built into its hinge. I think this was a gas station somewhere in Oakland, maybe the Shell at the corner of International Boulevard and 5th Avenue. I figured I’d look back at gas prices back in the day after a conversation with my mom back in D.C. I’ve been semi-diligent about tagging tank and receipt pictures in Flickr over the years.

Chevron off I-5 near Bakersfield


Up top is the view from a Bakersfield station during a San Diego-and-back road trip in March. I think that may have been a personal highest-ever-paid price. Below that image is one of today’s prices at the station just up Park Boulevard from our place.

Some city summers never end

Up on the roof

I should be sick of making everything look like this. Not everything looks like this when it is happening. It is just a setting on an app, a way to make things look washed out and slightly degraded and marginally more interesting than they were when they were happening.

[…] One side-effect of the digital turn in music culture has been our relationship to the objects that populate it. We’re more and more becoming nostalgic not for specific things from our youth, or even for our own memories, but for the surfaces and shapes of old-seeming objects, and for generalized types of memories. […]

West toward Karl the Fog

I ought to look through my Flickr archive, or my map. I wonder just how many pictures I’ve taken in San Francisco vs. Oakland. I spent a little time but I’ve never lived there. With a little diligence, I could figure it out, make a map of more moments and resonances: rooftop cookouts, birthday parties in public parks, regularly pilgrimaged hillside vistas, streetscape snapshots.

San Francisco skyline

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Limpiamos y comemos

Cleanup crew (ii) Caña Cristianos y moros con Coke hecho en Mexico at Caña

Sundays are for cleaning house. Sometimes you do it on your own when you wake up and you feel sickened enough by time’s passage, the marker of a new week and the mark of not having done something to earn, let alone observe that newness. Sometimes you welcome help, or you offer it.

And when you’re done, or you’ve moved and sweated and waited and paused and listened enough, Sundays are for getting to walk down a couple of short streets to a nearby restaurant you’ve heard of and even seen written up but never visited. You get to eat something simple and tasty, sit under unexpectedly warm partly sunny sky and talk about your year in travel, where you’ve gotten to go once you left home and where you still want to go someday.

QR aesthetics

AMC Bay Street Emeryville lobby ad for 'Martha Marcy May Marlene'

Ankita and I were going to Bay Street to see a movie, probably “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” at the Bay Street multiplex in Emeryville, and I remember coming out of the theater and seeing this promotional lobby ad. I’d not heard of “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” or its actress Elizabeth Olson, and I vaguely knew of John Hawkes. But I sure know what a QR code is.

I had to take a picture of it, as it’s probably the biggest code I’ve ever seen in public. But for some reason, I didn’t bother scanning it right there: probably my satisfaction with seeing it, and the idea that once I’d gotten back to my laptop, I could have the ease and comfort of looking it up at my own pace with a fast connection. Cool as the code use is, what does it say that I didn’t want to scan it?

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Room for improvement

Grand Lake Theater marquee on small-business parking

It’s the end of Sean Maher’s Oakland Tribune story, “Handicapped drivers outraged by Oakland’s new parking enforcement,” that sticks with me:

[…] This isn’t the first time store owners on Grand have been outraged by parking policies. Many owners protested a short-lived effort by the City Council in 2009 to extend paid parking hours from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. In 2010, many residents were outraged when they discovered that parking violations were enforced more strictly in poorer neighborhoods than in Montclair and North Oakland.

In her most recent revenue report to the City Council, Budget Director Sabrina Landreth said in July the city was then looking at a $7 million revenue shortfall, caused mostly by a lower-than-expected number of parking tickets being issued.

certain Friday nights in certain locations.