Wednesday, November 10, 2010

City Limits

Yesterday I had a good walk that took me through parts of three cities in 45 minutes. This probably won’t happen again, although if it does, it will be in the next week or so, while I’m exploring the extreme northwest corner of Oakland, where it meets the irregular borders of both Berkeley and Emeryville.

North Oakland is known to be rough, and it can be, but there are some good things happening in this part of town. I am right now typing this in a café that I really like on San Pablo Avenue, one that I never would have discovered if I had not been on foot in the neighborhood.

I’m also pleased to report—well, maybe “pleased” isn’t the right word; “secretly smug” is probably closer—that yesterday I noticed a distinct change when I crossed the border from Oakland into Berkeley. The Oakland side was fine and I felt perfectly safe and at ease there. As soon as I was in south Berkeley, however, I noticed a number of large men on small bicycles going nowhere and people working on cars on the street. I also witnessed one man ask another if he could buy a single cigarette from him. I see all these as signs of if not actual illegal activity, then at least a strong gray-market economy. I was relieved when my route took me back into Oakland, and the people out on the street all seemed to be on their way somewhere.

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