Note: First published on Blogger on April 23, 2007
Unfolding the Map
Sal, tired of working, tired of the bickering between Remi and Lee Ann, hits the open road again, stealing out into the night and opening up a new set of experiences in California that we'll continue to explore through his first journey. So sit back, enjoy the ride, and click on the map if you want to see where we are right now.
"In the morning Remi and Lee Ann were asleep as I quietly packed and slipped out the window the same way I'd come in, and left Mill City with my canvas bag....In Oakland I had a beer among the bums of a saloon with a wagon wheel in front of it, and I was on the road again. I walked clear across Oakland to get on the Fresno road."
On the Road, Chapter 12
Sal just stops in Oakland to have a beer. In a way that's fitting, because Oakland always has been a 1) working class city and 2) the practical sister of San Francisco. If San Francisco and Oakland were represented by two people in a bar, San Francisco would be the fun one, who would get drinks simply by being dazzling and spectacular. Oakland would be in the corner quietly drinking and going about its business. Sal is looking for the dazzle, whether its on the open road, in the city, or in romance, so it's no surprise that Oakland is only good for a quick beer for him - a short rest to collect his thoughts in the length of time left in a bottle.
I have a more complicated and nuanced relationship with Oakland, because it has waxed and waned in my life. I was born in Eureka, California where I was put up for adoption. I was given over into a foster home there, but when that didn't work out, I was taken to Oakland where the agency that took custody of me farmed me out to another foster home. I first met the people who were to become my parents in Oakland. Later, when my parents adopted another sibling, it was in Oakland that the adoption was handled.
Oakland was where I went to my first major league sporting event. My former foster parent Larry took me to see the Oakland A's play baseball when I was a teenager - I don't really remember who they played. I first rode a light rail train, BART, in Oakland. My first zoo experience was the Oakland Zoo.
In the early 80s, I drove through Oakland as a college student on my way to see my former foster parents. I drove right down the main street through Oakland. My former foster parents gave me hell. Oakland had a large black population, and they held the same opinions of blacks as other people of their generation did...blacks were okay when you dealt with them individually but when you got a bunch of them together they would start shooting white people. So they yelled at me for a little while. I eventually would go on to mystify them completely by choosing to live in an inner-city, mostly black neighborhood in Milwaukee.
Despite the influences that Oakland has on my life, I still know little about it. I know that it has a fantastic little museum where a former roommate of mine works. I know where the A's, Raiders and Warriors play. I know that BART runs through it. I know it is next door to Berkeley and the University of California. It is a port city. It has a small airport which is much easier to get in and out of than San Francisco International. Jerry Brown resurrected his political career by getting elected mayor there. I know it is still primarily working class. But I never really captured the soul of Oakland like I have other cities, and I don't quite understand it like I do other cities. And I find that a little sad.
Oh, by the way, Jack Kerouac lived near Oakland himself, at 1943 Berkeley Way in Berkeley, with his mother for a few months in the late 1950s before she got tired of it and they moved back east. His original cottage is not there anymore, just a few apartments.
If you want to know more about Oakland
City of Oakland
Literary Figures of Oakland
Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau
Next up: Tracy, California