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Today at the pump

The Sole Prop's Sister?


Under here.

April 20, 2010

Writing About It
Tuesday. Nine o'clock, rain clouds, showers as I sat eating breakfast, the sun poking through right now, but not the kind of morning you'd leave the house without an umbrella and raincoat.

Last night was much better than the night before, the knee not keeping me awake. Still hurts, I still walk in a one legged shuffle, but it's better and better is better, always. It will probably take until the end of the week to get back on the mark, but what doesn't anymore? I'm looking forward to some form of normalcy, to get out of the hole my brain is in - no ambition, no thoughts of photographs, not touching a couple of things I've promised to write - and back to, if not clarity, then at least Oakland.

That doesn't make sense.

Sounds right, though, doesn't it?

Later. Afternoon. More sun. I'd like to get outside if I could walk any distance, but that's not in the cards. Some interesting interviews on the more left leaning Public Radio Stations this morning, one on Juarez and the overall situation in Mexico which includes our deluded drug war and what NAFTA did to the Mexican poor. Depressing to some degree, although it also makes you angry. Probably not good to live in interesting times although one aspect of “interesting times” is that they're fascinating to follow. And they can make you depressed and angry. In my case it made me order the man's book. We'll find out if it will make me even more depressed and more angry if and when I get around to reading it.

More sleep last night than the night before, but I think I can manage a nap later this afternoon. Get on the way to another day under the belt, another day closer to this knee turning around. Be nice if something in the interim popped out at me around here, something that said “get me done” that didn't require hobbling. A bit of enthusiasm and interest popping in on the way to mobility. That would be good. Good is good.

Last Sunday at three in the afternoon a Chinese American man, 59, and his son, 29, were attacked by two young men across the street from the Fox theater on Telegraph Avenue.

Evidently, while the father was parking and locking up their car, the son passed two young men on the sidewalk and one of them hit the son with no warning in the eye with his fist. When the father appeared he asked his son what had happened and hearing the story the father had become incensed and ran after the two young men to challenge them in Chinese (his English wasn't that good) asking why they'd hit his son. The two beat the father close to death - he evidently died in a coma this morning - and ran off.

This is a street corner I've walked by many times, probably at three on a Sunday afternoon. The Sears store is located across the street and down a block, the Fox theater across the street, the Fox famous for its recent multi-million dollar multi-year renovation in a neighborhood right next to City Hall. So you wonder.

You're saying it could have been you walking by that corner as easily as the father and his son?

Yeah. Very stupid for a man of 59 (or 19, for that matter) to challenge two young men on the street or anywhere else in a “rough” neighborhood. Young men (particularly) have no idea when it makes any sense to take a stand and fight; whether thinking they're being “humiliated” on a street requires a fight or a shrug and there are too many incidents of this kind where someone (usually someone their own age, older folks are supposed to be wiser) have gotten themselves killed over nothing.

I was wondering what set it off. The son made out of cultural context eye contact as they passed? There are unspoken, but well defined rules about meeting strangers on the street for anyone who lives in an area like this. Was this some kind of hate crime, the two young men just went off on a Chinese American guy for no other reason than they were pissed? Hell of a lot of Chinese Americans living in Oakland. They give the city a bit of needed class, but then my thoughts on the subject aren't shared by everyone.

If I'd been in their place and they'd spotted the camera, wanted the camera, they'd have had the camera and everything else on my person including my pants. I can come up with another camera, I have several. I can come up with another pair of pants, I have more in the closet. What I can't come up with is another head, another eye, another liver. It's hard to fault the father, what he did gives no cause for other than an exchange of words, although the outcome was fairly predictable if you live in an inner city or follow the news. Tell that to his family. Tell that to his son. His fault? The son admits he blames himself for telling his father the truth. A little mistake with a horrendous result.

A day in the life, an incident reported in the paper, one I'd never have been aware of had I not read about it Monday. You walk along as you've always walked along and suddenly, one day, something happens. Two young men having a bad hair day pass by on the street and their story boils over into your story in the form of a fist or a knife or a gun. You're waiting to catch a plane and a mountain explodes. You're sleeping in your bed when the long anticipated earthquake arrives: didn't you take that into account when you put that big heavy book case at the head of your bed?


I'm not sure. This is a recurring theme. Dashiell Hammett was asked if he'd ever heard a story that had changed his outlook and he related the story of a man - employed, married, children, job, routine, reasonably happy - who is walking down the street when a safe suspended above him breaks loose and slams into the sidewalk. One foot difference and he'd have been killed. Disorients him, it does.

Life has been predictable, life has been something of a pleasant rut when suddenly out of the blue a falling safe very nearly ends his life. So the man becomes disoriented, loses interest in his job, leaves his wife, leaves his family, starts drinking. Four years later a friend tracks him down in another town and finds he's remarried, has another child, has a steady job and his life is again “predictable”. He's fallen back into his old routine, falling safes no longer a part of his world.

So is this incident across from the Fox theater something similar? I have a book called The Black Swan written to describe the current financial mess, a “Black Swan” representing a totally unexpected, unforeseen event. Except “Black Swans”, when you count years in decades and centuries, happen all the time. That earthquake they predict for the Bay Area, for this town of Oakland. It's coming soon enough for me to think about but they don't say when and I, off in my cloud, have done little to prepare.

So how to think about this incident on Sunday at Telegraph and 17th? It's not a safe falling within inches of my head, it's just an unfortunate story about a man and his son (and two young men, this isn't going to turn out very well for them what with the surveillance video they managed to find showing them earlier on the street) who happened to have trouble at a place I've frequented before and will frequent again. I'm not sitting here shaking in my chair. It seems superficially, at least, not that big a deal. But these stories do make me think. I turn them over, look them over and put them aside. They must mean something or I assume I wouldn't be writing about it.


So you write your journal entry and, if your knee is acting up, hobble on. Here in Oakland.

The photograph was taken this last Sunday afternoon at Lake Merritt with a Nikon D3 mounted with an 24 - 70mm f 2.8 Nikkor G lens at f 7 at 1/640th second, ISO 200.