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Alice cafe in Oakland

September 17th, 2002

Upon A Wall
Tuesday. What's in a Tuesday? Get up, get on the bus, take breakfast across the street from the office (three pancakes without butter or syrup, orange juice and coffee), read the paper (Iraq says it's OK to come in and take a look around.) walk to the office to a long (but I've seen longer) day. Tuesday. Today.

I occasionally think of describing the people with whom I travel on the bus. People of means (own a mortgage and an SUV) don't ride in on the bus. I take the bus for reasons other people in my office consider amusing. They are amusing. All things are amusing after a while. There are a certain number of bicycle riders, of course, riding in from Berkeley, no doubt (bike helmets, clip-ons and the like), four of them altogether, maybe, out of an office of eight hundred; a certain number on motorcycles, all of whom are in IT; a certain number of bus riders, of whom I am one, who live close by; and the vast majority who drive to the office or drive to a BART station and take the train, never to mix with the locals.

Of course, the reason so many drive is the fact they have less than college age children and children need schools and schools don't exist in Oakland. Trust me, there are no schools in Oakland. So who are these fellow riders, in the morning and in the late afternoon, on the weekends, a Saturday, a Sunday, packed around me on my way downtown?

Plenty of old people, many Asian, as my office sits at the edge of Chinatown. Old, retired, getting out and about, shopping bags filled with stuff because, well, because it's cheap (senior discount) and it gets you (um, them) outside into the diesel fumes and the crowd. You need to get outside into the diesel fumes and the crowd. Many are overweight by more than a hundred pounds. They tend to be young to middle aged. Old people more than a hundred pounds overweight don't take the bus because they're dead of heart disease and sadness.

Some are young, women with small children in strollers, married, not married, in pairs and alone, women with tattoos and nose rings and lip rings and eyebrow rings and (did I mention?) tattoos. Some are very young, high school age and younger, many with pierced body parts. And, you know, wearing black. These you expect. Images in the making, setting themselves apart from, well, everyone. I am both amazed and understanding, but my attitude doesn't matter. I'm smart enough not to frown, I'm smart enough to know it doesn't matter, I'm dumb enough to wish them well.

Other pierced people, however, are older. In their twenties and thirties with their tattoos and their perforated bodies, old enough to have been sporting their hardware for a while. Their act is better constructed, more practiced, they're more comfortable with themselves. Where do they hang out at night? Are they married? Do they date? Silver studs romancing silver studs? Gold rings mating with gold? Turquoise splashing together in the bath? Is all this hardware an attempt to prolong a flamboyant youth? I have no idea and I'm smart enough not to ask, dumb enough not to wonder, old enough to drift off into other territories, nodding off in my seat as if my companions were characters in a movie playing upon a wall.

Is that my description? Was I always thus? A bit part actor in a big budget movie playing upon a wall?

The banner photograph was taken at the Oakland Alice Arts Center last Tuesday.