Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sweet-Smelling Mystery Solved

I had never thought of West Oakland as a nice-smelling place until recently. My main experience with the neighborhood until now was driving past the sewage treatment plant next to highway 580 on my way home from San Francisco. You can imagine what that smells like.

In the past few weeks, though, I’ve been discovering some pockets of the neighborhood that smell great. There are a couple of bakeries near the Emeryville border that constantly smell like cake, greatly improving a blighted and even hostile part of town. (Somebody threw something at my car as I was driving home from my borderlands walk. I think it was just a crumpled-up drink cup, but still, it’s the least welcome I’ve felt yet.)

Around 14th Street and Market Street, the air also smells nice. It’s not quite as sweet as the cake neighborhood; it smells more like baking bread, and I’ve never known why.

A few weeks ago, when I stopped to take a picture of this building, a man struck up a conversation with me that cleared up a lot. He told me that this forbidding edifice is a breakfast cereal factory. They make supermarket-brand versions of several different kinds of cereals. I eat Albertson’s shredded wheat knock-off all the time. I really like it, and I’d probably eat it even if it came from Libya, but it’s nice to know I’m buying locally. And contributing to neighborhood improvement at the same time.

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