Thursday, February 28, 2008

Glad That’s Over With

West Oakland has a bad rap. Part of this stems from the very real crime problem in this part of town, and while I’ve never felt unsafe during daylight hours, people are right to be a little wary.

The other, far more unfair impression that a lot of people have of West Oakland is that it reeks. This is because if you drive over the Bay Bridge, on your way to IKEA, say, or Berkeley, as soon as you arrive in the East Bay you drive right past a sewage treatment plant.

This is not the nicest welcome the city could provide. It’s especially unfortunate because as I think I’ve said before, West Oakland has several large bakeries and a lot of that side of town actually smells really great.

Still, there’s no denying that the wastewater plant stinks. I knew I would have to deal with it someday, and today was the day. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it really only smelled bad on one side of the plant. The other sides were perfectly pleasant, but walking there felt pretty desolate. The plant is on a patch of land that is just north of West Grand Avenue, on the very last street you can turn on before getting on the freeway. Miss the turn and you’re going to San Francisco.

There were plant employees around, and a lot of cars coming and going, but oddly enough, very few other people were out strolling around the sewage treatment plant today. Even though it was a beautiful spring-like day.

There was one other person of leisure out. He pulled his car over to the wrong side of the road, parked, and started rummaging through his trunk. I was afraid he might drag out a corpse or something, but instead, he pulled out an ancient golf driver--I think it really was made of wood—and headed toward a large empty lot near some railroad tracks. There’s more than enough empty space to do a little driving practice. He didn’t have any golf balls, though. I think he may have been planning on hitting rocks from around the tracks. It’s the kind of no-man’s land where you can do weird things like that and nobody minds, or even notices.

It wasn’t a bad walk, but I’m glad it’s over with. My next neighborhood is going to have to smell better.

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