Oakland

lake merritt

Oakland is abuzz with celebration. Strangers smile at each other’s Warriors T-shirts and seem to bask in the national press that for the first time in years, doesn’t include shootings. Although not a lover of professional basketball, I got caught up in the NBA finals and the hope of a big win. And win we did. Like a new friend whose successes you take perhaps more interest in than your relationship might warrant, I was elated.

It’s been nearly five months now and my time exploring has been so remarkably rich. Oakland, Lake Merritt in particular, exemplifies the melting pot myth that has been sold to us in our school curriculums and inaugural speeches. People of all kinds come together to drink and frolic on the lawns in front of the lake.

Last weekend it was the man who walked the bike path wrapped in a 15 foot python. And although I respect his flare for the outlandish, I have come to appreciate the less conspicuous. The capoeira troupe that battles in their fluid dancelike style to live music- a message to us all that violence is illusive. The young dad, trying to maintain some level of cool while pushing his daughter in the little plastic pink car that everyone had at one point or another and usually forgot in front of their garage, left to sit full of old rainwater and moss.  So too, may it go for this little tot, but you’d never know it watching her joy at being pushed. The man who bent down on his knees in gratitude, hands pressed together at his heart, when I yielded to him at the crosswalk. The woman who sits outside of my office at a long table, as though transplanted from an expo, with various literature on why we, as a people, are doomed.  Amazingly, she manages to smile at most passerbys. What a beautiful thing: to remain kind in the face of imminent disaster.

I hadn’t expected it. The amount of love I would have for Oakland. My first few days here I was struck by the number of people representing Oakland on their shirts or hats, baby’s bibs, cars or bodies. I could relate it only to New York, where people mostly express their devotion to the city in their tenure there and the cold disdain for tourists and slow walkers. The NBA finals win has made my heart swell even more for my new home. And how appropriate. That I should find my own place in this sweet sea of people, being bold in who they are, and loving everyone around them for doing the same.

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