Monday, November 7, 2016

Oakland Nocturne 2016 (R.I.P Biff's Coffee Shop)

Another seemingly apolitical difference
Between then & now I hear the old folks,
Or, say, wise elders, wax nostalgic about
Is how they used to be able to walk around Oakland
More at 1AM and 2AM and felt less unsafe.

The way they talk about Oakland in 1968
Makes me almost forget about
 the cops killing Bobby Hutton, and Vietnam
but those things at least as bad today
(Sandra Bland….Tamir Rice….Iraq….)
so it sort of cancels out, but he’s talking All Night Diners
for instance….where did they go? Why did they go?

The death of those diners should be in history books,
And the way Judy talks about Oakland in 1966
Has a lot in common with my nostalgia for NYC 2000
Or the way my grandmother talks about Reading, PA. 1952

Reading: the poorest US city according to the 2010 census
Reading: the town that died giving birth to me
Reading: Taylor Swift’s hometown
(though she came out of the gates denying it).[1]

But Oakland is home now,
Even though the physiocrats give it more
Of what they call love than Reading does,
It’s got more in common with the poorest city
Than it does with New York 2000…
Indeed, the lack of night walking here
Was oppressive even before that car hit my bike.
Subways, such as they are, stopping by midnight
So you gotta drive to go out
So you drink less and more clubs shut down
And more drunk drivers zigzag on the highways
They tore down the blues clubs
(within walking distance from where he lived)
to build.

The anti-night people so normalized here—
(Wasps from the Midwest?)
stores closed then the streets became less safe
(for those cause-effect argument buffs).
Of course it’s logical.
Since the NYC business day starts 3 hours earlier,
The west coast has to open and close earlier.
It’s logical, if one accepts colonization,
Like starting school on the hottest day of the year
Coz the east coast school schedule
Doesn’t work for this climate
And the Spanish conquistadors 250 years earlier
Imposed curfew….

Perhaps you have to be an “outsider”—
A New Yorker—specifically---
Who speaks too fast (in NYC they liked that)
To find that lack of night-running subway
Is clearly part of a “kinder, gentler,” curfew
“police state” lockdown policy
As was later made brutally obvious when,
On the one exception night---New Year’s Eve—
That they allow it to run after midnight
to appease the restaurant industry lobbyists—
they murder Oscar Grant!

And I wonder if the gentrifiers
Are really happy? And even though so many
Things in this town are named after Henry Kaiser,
It’s clear the Bay Aryans are still mad that
He lured so many black people here back in the 40s
(not that he did it because he wasn’t racist)…

Meanwhile, Gov. Brown and his puppet mayor
Keep telling us, It’s gonna be more like NYC….
And each day it’s less like what was good about NYC
Less like what was even better about Oakland
In the days when Rodger Collins sang
About those foxy ladies strutting down East 14th[2]
(now called International because the urban developers
couldn’t bring themselves to call it Cesar Chavez)
while the cops run prostitute rings
but thank god for Khafre Jay & Malik Diamond
and their “invisible” (No cell phone) parties
with no whites allowed. I don’t mind
coz I get to listen to their radio show
and bring them into my classroom
at the school that they’re trying to replace with MOOCs.

[1] It’s even got a recent Tony-Award winning play
called Sweat, though Gary Adelstein’s Reading 1974: Portrait Of A City is better

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