Friday, February 22, 2008

Bataan Afternoon Stroll

Lately I’ve been walking in a place I’m not entirely certain I’m supposed to be in: the old Oakland Army Base.

This area hasn’t been a working Army base since 1999. When it was open, it was a military cargo terminal. Now it seems to be devoted to civilian cargo. There’s not much to it anymore, just some warehouses and a lot of truck traffic. There are some no trespassing signs, but I think they date from the army base days. The few remaining roads seem to be open to the public; it’s just that not many people take advantage of this fact.

There are people around, but they’re working, not walking. Truckers come and go constantly, and customs officials cruise around a lot. There are several taco trucks in the area, a drug-testing facility, a container business, and one lone convenience store that feels like the packie at the end of the world.

My most recent Oakland map lists several streets on the base that don’t seem to exist anymore. In particular, there is an enormous empty lot at the southern end of the base that is supposed to be crisscrossed with streets, but they’ve disappeared completely. At least one other road is behind a gate labeled private property. All this makes walking every street a little bit of an adventure, and I’m not sure how to proceed.

The streets that do exist have great names, like Africa Street, Tulagi, Petroleum Street, and Bataan Avenue. Overall, this part of town couldn’t feel more different from the rest of West Oakland, where most of the streets are named after trees.

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