The City of Oakland is upon me;
I, upon it.
Some might call it the lameduck Bay Area City No Tourist Has Ever Heard of or Cares to Check Out, save the unconventional ones who read into a region a bit more. Sure, it boasts one of the largest ports in the United States, but this doesn’t exactly make it a city of glamorous appeal to outsiders.
Yea, O-town, as it’s lovingly referred to around the area, has a pretty negative rap for being crime-ridden. However despite a controversial reputation as the 5th-ish most dangerous large city in the US, a poorly-staffed police force, the crime appears to be concentrated in West and East Oakland. Downtown, Lake Merritt, and North Oakland districts seem to suffer less from crime. Naturally, as an American city, Oakland is highly segregated. Poverty-stricken black and brown folk are concentrated in the West and East.
This image, skewed as stereotypes always are, belies the reality. Despite a negative rep, the place happens to be extremely diverse, have one of the mildest climates in the area (often referred to as “the Bright Side of the Bay”), and, some locals would say, more artists per capita than any other in the country.
But back to where I fit in… two and one half weeks make up my existence here. I am suddenly reminded of how memories are so inextricably tied to place. I am also reminded of how lucky I’ve been – in acquiring a job that I consider regenerative, and in being able to live in a beautiful flat on a lovely street (for the time being).
This place is much less cosmopolitan than SF (the “City”), of course, but it retains a distinct character. Lake Merritt, which separates downtown on the westside with the beginnings of East Otown on the other, seems to be an endless whirlpool of joggers and runners of all classes and types; black people walking alongside white, fitness junkies doping out on endorphin rushes, and homeless folks dotting the lawnspaces. The gulls prefer the oysters, the latter nestled in vast batches right up against the shoreline; the former clever enough to repeatedly drop the oyster on the ground until it breaks, revealing the nutritious gem inside.
I find this city’s residents arguably more down-to-Earth than Berkeley’s or San Francisco’s, although admittedly ’tis only a first impression.
It does feel like living on the Edge here in Oaktown, my mortality slightly more palpable as I walk in the late hours of the morning to catch the transport to SF for work. That is coming, of course, from myself: privileged White Boy having just transferred from Real World: Ireland to Real World: USA.
More updates on this place and my little place in it, latuh!