tales of an Irish Mexican in Oakland...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Scamper Expands Blogging Empire

My good friend Scamper recently expanded his blogging empire in order to transform his wit and charm into bits and bytes. Check out his take on dating rituals and prejudices...... all at Widgetestia . ENJOY!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Migration East!

I've been living in Oakland for 3 years now. I wasn't sure about migrating east after living in SF for almost 18 of my 35 years. I fell in love with the Bay Area when I was a kid. Born and raised in the warm sunny enclave of Pleasant Hill, I had a typical sort of Americana childhood, full of banana seat bikes, loquat trees to climb with the neighborhood kids and lazy afternoons skateboarding year round thanks to the mild lack of seasons for which this part of California is most famous. As a family, we would spend weekends in SF eating huge plates of pasta at Basta Pasta in North Beach or flying kites by the wharf. I still remember licking my lips to taste the salty air while running across the grass at aquatic park to watch street performers before settling down to a cinder block of Ghirardelli chocolate. I looked forward to these weekend jaunts more than any other activity. So it was with huge trepidation that 25 years later I signed mortgage papers with my girlfriend of only a year to buy a house across the bay from the city I'd grown to love more than any other. A part of me just couldn't reconcile settling back in the East bay to a place I'd become used to making fun of most of my life. Jokes identifying the bay bridge as keeping the burb rats from infesting the city were rife in my verbage while imitations of East Bay folks tendency to say "Hella" this and "hella" that made for hours of lost breath and stuttering guffaws among beers with friends. Living in Oakland seemed out of the question given my unfounded loathing and prejudice of the peoples there, coupled with my overblown sense of sophistication, intelligence and just plain open minded freakiness I attributed to San Franciscans. The internet changed all of that.
Having graduated from USF, working as a writer for the SF Weekly and eventually selling my soul to a razor toothed dot com ( to be exact) left me with a bit of cash from options. This windfall however, coupled with a runaway sense of mexican catholic guilt over spending the money on anything else but property left me exactly where I am now - a home owner of a half million dollar house in the hood. There are many good things that came from this move though. Two of which run on four feet and have a penchant for eating garbage and the third being a beautiful bedmate who can cook well enough to ensure a lifetime battle over my waistline and an intelligence that'll keep me on my mental toes till Im tucked safely in the California clay.
On top of these, there is of course something that comes with a house in the East Bay that is more rare than a taxi in SF -- a backyard. Sitting in the sun, typing or reading away in the hammock between my lemon and fig trees, whiling away the day, is by far one of my favorites activities. Who could possibly want anything more? Well maybe a tazer. The trouble with sitting in a back yard in my neigborhood is well -- the neighbors. Just as an idyllic slumber begins to settle on my work weary eyes, the unmistakable rumble so common in these parts begins to shake the figs and lemons from above to a point that it seems god is playing a hyper kinetic game of very rigged dodgeball -- me being the only target. The cause? Walter. A motormouthed stumbling fool of a man, who lives across the street in a quadplex flophouse of pot dealers and other riff raff. He believes that turning cheese filled R&B drivel past 11 on his stereo is just what everyone in the neighborhood is begging for each and every day. Even more fun is attempting to persuade him otherwise. In his drunken stupor he'll aplogize, pepper you with stories of his life (alcoholic father, mental illness, lost another job, need for more pot, life as a back up rapper for De La Soul (um ya right -- backup rapper?!), and a constant need to borrow money) and then we'll part on good terms; both satisfied that we'd come to an understanding without cops, fisticuffs or epithets. Ten minutes later -- I'm welcomed back to my property with earth shattering vibrations of more lovely R&B cheese. Ah, Thanks Walter.
Overall though -- Walter, kids with pants down to their ankles, dogs that run wild, driving more, and longer commutes, the East Bay has grown on me to a point that it's in my blood and given the choice again I'd rather live no where else. It has better food for less $$ and the people are straight up working class folks sprinkled with artists. A flavor of real life and not the glitzy, khaki pant, gap army that's invaded SF since the dot com days. That's not say SF isn't a great place -- it is at that but the East Bay is just more down to earth and steeped in a flavor all it's own. In a way we have SF and the dot coms to thank for this. Web 1.0 pushed up property and rents so high that most of the interesting artist, writers, struggling musicians, and up and coming culinary masters moved East and it's this melting pot of crazy freaks that makes me feel so at home. Oakland -- I love you.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Creative Refuse

This morning I awoke to yet another huge pit in my backyard courtesy of my 2yr old Pitbull-ridgeback mix, Libby. I've spent the last two years, since Melanie and I bought this house, transforming our backyard from a literal trash heap -- filled with sparkplugs, old juice boxes, decomposing diapers, and a carpenters warehouse worth of old nails, into our little Oakland Oasis. The previous owners of this house literally didn't pay the trash bills. They simply opened the back door, stepped onto the back porch, hucked huge trash bags full of refuse onto the .5 acre square of grass below and padded back inside, comforted by the warm feeling of a job well done. This unique take on urban refuse collection quite unexpectedly led me to one of my passions. The need to turn this trash heap into an oasis led me to try my hand at gardening.
This activity, forever associated with being shook awake at 7am on Saturdays by my Father saying,"Time for yard work!", was one of dread and abject horror for me as child. Pruning through thick desert plants filled with thorns, bugs, and scorpions did nothing to help the situation. However, now that It's my yard, it's completely different. I love it. Everything from tilling huge swaths of grass to planting delicate purple annuals, is what I look forward to on the weekends. Berkeley Horticulture and Super PayLess are my new hang outs. Happiness is dirt caked hands and jeans. It's funny how your tastes change as you grow. Things once hated are loved and things once loved are a distant memory. I never thought I had a green thumb -- in college I managed to kill an air fern (no watering needed) -- but it turns out I've got a knack for it. I might never had tried it had those previous owners not resorted to such an unthinkable a waste management scheme and thanks to my dog I always have maintenance to do. I don't condone leaving a dump in one's wake but I do appreciate having been left a palette rough enough to wake a new passion.