Thursday, June 24, 2010

Discovering North Oakland

I’m still working on my walking project. I’m in north Oakland right now. Usually when I mention this, the person I’m talking to will ask what the neighborhood is like, although I think what they really want to ask is if I feel safe there.

The safety question is easy enough. The simple answer is yes. If I were part of a gang, or a sex worker, or there to buy drugs, I’d probably feel differently, but my experience so far has reminded me of west Oakland: I leave trouble alone and it ignores me, too. (Of course, I keep my eyes open and my cell phone handy.)

As for what the neighborhood’s like, that’s harder to put into words. It’s not the city’s prettiest enclave. It has a few Victorians but most of the houses are boxy little post-war bungalows. There are some abandoned houses, and for some reason, there’s more litter than in any other part of the city I’ve seen yet.

But it’s far from bleak. There are pocket parks, and community gardens, and chalked hop-scotch courts on the sidewalks—all signs that people aren’t locked in their houses.

So what’s it like? Kind of like this photo, which shows a tiny patch of flowers that someone planted and then made a protective fence around at the base of a no-parking sign: kind of rough and gritty, but not without surprise little slivers of beauty.

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