It’s kind of bittersweet. This weekend, our longtime neighbor D moved away from the 2-8. I’ve watched her kids, Bear and Unique, grow up from little kids into teenagers. Now there’s just a pile of leftover things in front of the house. Sure, D had issues: she always had a crazy boyfriend, she drank too much, and she played her music loud into the night. I always liked her, though, because she was sweet and real. She also used to give people who stopped by the garden a (probably slightly nonsensical) tour. We had some good times together and I’m sure I’ll see her around.
Her leaving made me realize how much our neighborhood has changed in the last 8 years. Bill and I took a Halloween walk last night. We stopped by a friend’s warehouse/music venue on West Grand and San Pablo. He’s remodeling the place, putting up walls and rooms, making a recording studio downstairs. He told us there are three art galleries/music venues within a few blocks. There’s a place called Produce Pro (pro-pro?) going up across the street from his warehouse. Then we kept walking to downtown, seeing a posse of scraper bike kids riding up Telegraph. The Arts High School at the Fox was putting on a play called Haunted School, and cool kids hung out on the corners. At Chinatown we considered getting dumplings at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Shanghai, but decided we should cook at home. We took BART to MacArthur so we could see people in costumes on public transportation (why do I love this? Dunno). We walked down Telegraph and went into Oasis, this relatively new middle eastern store/resto/hang out. I love this place because people can gather there (the Giants game was on) to have dinner or drink tea, or eat some baklava. The food is excellent and the Muslim community has made this their hub (there’s a mosque around the corner). Continuing down, Khalid the beekeeper and honey guy is setting up his shop a few blocks away from the Oasis. On 29th Street, a British guy (Bill thought he was Irish–maybe he was?) was putting away the sidewalk tables of his new restaurant/pub Commonwealth. We got to chatting with Ross and looked at the menu: bubble and squeak, beans and toast–classic pub food. They’re open for coffee/toast/tea in the morning and I hope to get over there soon. Then we walked under the overpass to home, and there were so many memories–the place where Bill went skateboarding and fell and hurt himself, the parking space where someone camped out for a whole year, the backyard that used to host the most outrageous parties. The billboard still advertised the County Fair, which took place in June. We looked up at the apartment building where a few nights ago a woman called to us while we huddled under an umbrella, from her window: “it’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring” and then we waved at her and yelled Happy Halloween and she waved back. Now it was Halloween and it wasn’t raining, and everything seemed to be changing, but it felt very familiar, if that makes any sense.
Back on 28th street, the monks’ pit bull was sniffing around the street. The smell of the garden–rank in places, green and fresh in others–wafted in the air. I could hear the goats nickering to their kids to come down from the stairs. Our cat Cuzzin was asleep on the couch. I spent the rest of the night reading Goat Song, and making plans for expanding the garden into the fall and winter. I want to build a greenhouse and a proper hay shed, a full-on outdoor kitchen. The other night we were making pizza in the cob oven and a guy and his lady walked by. “Is that a fire?” she asked, and I invited them in. They peered over the fence, “we have to go,” he explained and paused. “But you know, thank you for the invitation. I really appreciate it.” This is what I love about Oakland–we’re all here, figuring it out together, making a community, and inviting others to join us. So even though my neighborhood is changing–some might say gentrifying–I think it might be okay, as long as we all retain that spirit of sharing resources, expressing who we are, and prioritizing interaction with each other, all at the same time.