Space Invaders Demand Answers in Oakland

One chilly summer evening as I was pedaling uphill on my solar powered scooter (gluten & emission free) I was frightened by a flashing light on my quiet non-LED-lit street and found myself gliding onto a ramp into what appeared to be a space vehicle. And I couldn’t seem to stop …

I know you don’t believe me anymore than you did the folks-played by James Earl Jones (Darth Vader and Bonnie and Clyde for the youthful unitiated) and Estelle Parsons- who claimed they were captured and tortured by little green men with bulbous heads, in the documentary which still gives me the shivers BUT nevertheless, it was TERRIBLE!

Torture by Netflix!

They offfered me some options-truth serum, hours of Netflix torture (binging on the Handmaids Tale, fr’instance) OR if I would just answer their questions I could have chocolate (76% cocoa, organic only) so long as I was believable (ha!) In other words, if I could make sense out of what they’d seen, I could go on my way after being only slightly molested. Make sense out of what they’d seen, oh, I was in big trouble, I thought to myself.

First they asked how it was that so many Americans, a people with one of the earliest public education systems, could think Donald Trump would be good for them. I’m doomed, I thought, I can’t explain that. His home state didn’t even vote for him. “Ha,” they laughed, “Just kidding, we know no one from the Bay area can explain that!” After which they deposited a non pareil in my shaking hand which I popped into my mouth before they could change their minds.

“But,” they said (they all spoke in unison and also by consensus,) “We’ve come to the Bay Area, Oakland in particular, because you all have a reputation for progressive thoughtfulness, but um, hmmm, we don’t know how to say this, there seem to be crowds of people living in tents and shacks on sidewalks and empty lots {believe it or not there are some that do not yet have luxury towers going up on them} all over this town. We haven’t observed any bathrooms, kitchens, or garbage cans where they, even old folks and kids, are now living. We’ve watched them sleeping in vans, RVs and cars that do provide some of those things, but to our surprise some men in uniform show up and steal these vehicles–and the police protect the thieves instead of arresting them.”

Vagrancy Laws or “Are there no workhouses, are there no prisons?”

“Well, yeah,” I said, ” but they get offered another type of shack with no kitchens and anyway, the people who see them everyday complain to us endlessly. They want to know why we don’t have vagrancy laws anymore.” I had to pause, the thought process behind my answer exhausted me.

“What on earth are vagrancy laws? ” the bulbous headed ones (meaning no disrespect) asked.

“Oh,” I said, “those are left over from Jim Crow days which enabled white people to maintain a form of slavery. In fact they may be a result of our old overlord’s love of punishing poverty (England, in case you forgot, we fought a war for independence from them-don’t laugh, many Americans don’t know that.) In fact it was a famous English writer who most Americans only know for treacly Christmas stories, who answered the question, where are the poor and houseless to go. His character Ebeneezer Scrooge replied, Are there no workhouses, are there no prisons?

Explain Oakland Politics or Else

Oakland Chocolate Company Truffle

“Yikes, don’t tell us tales of the old days, we heard you folks had made progress. But okay, if all that is true,” they said dangling a Blue Mountain Coffee Hazelnut Chocolate Truffle in front of my nose, “we have more questions and this time we need real answers or we’ll take this delicious fresh truffle from the Oakland Chocolate Company away and make you eat slice of…..fresh Wonder Bread!”

I had to clear my brain and hope that I could think up ways to cover for so much confusion coated in layers of bitter hypocrisy. Geez, what next?

“Okay, Ms-So-Called-Blog-Writer… we attended a meeting and read the follow-up on social media about a project for 100% affordable housing which is even now seeking funding to build all this housing-btw, why is that so hard and why is the process so laborious, ok, questions for another torture session-in a very expensive neighborhood. We were beyond shocked when so few people showed up and then just complained about the lack of parking for the new units!”

Memories of the Old Kwikway

“Well, yes, our city has new rules requiring fewer parking spaces in order to increase density and discourage driving ( I had to add that the Bank of America branch which rarely has more than 2 tellers, demanded 20 some parking spaces.) Lots of younger folks are using ride services and riding bikes and scooters and this is near a bunch of bus lines so it may work out, plus there’s lots of shopping nearby,” my voice faded as I noted that even they had arrived in private transport.

At that their bulbous heads seem to balloon above me as they practically shouted, “what’s all this talk of saving the environment then, where did all those people go!” Their voices rose, “we’ve studied your love affair with the automobile but we thought…global warming…emissions control, and all, what happened to that?” they demanded. I gulped, I had no logical answer to offer. They continued in unison and admirable harmony,”Why do they always say that housing and homelessness are their number one concerns and then bitch and moan about new housing for people which even includes very low income.”

“Well,” I stammered, “people don’t like change, the old Kwikway has been gone for years but Oaklanders still insist it should have been preserved even though they had sworn off all that greasy food long ago.”

Then the green-headed ones stared at me and proclaimed I had one last chance to earn a bar of Batchelors Hall Chocolate and asked me a whopper. “We understand that the Kwikway was designed as a 50’s style drive-in surrounded by a parking lot. Isn’t that the antithesis of everything you modern urban pioneers, whatever that is, detest or is this some nostalgia for an Oakland that never existed?”

Oakland Chocoalte Company bar

Bearcats and Affordable Housing

I had no answer for that. They just SMHed me and warned me to do some research. They told me they would be back when I least expected them and would have more questions to ask-some of which they previewed–about OPD, how Chief Kirkpatrick could hold onto her job, what the heck a bearcat is, and should they beam it and its contents up and study it?

I was left to wonder, is there a Witness Protection Progam for local political pundits who fail to fathom why Oaklanders love to proclaim all kinds of progressive ideas but then sound like any other poorly informed American when they talk about their own neighborhoods.

And no, I didn’t get that chocolate bar so I’m headed over to the nearest farmer’s market to try and assuage my feelings of fear, loathing and massive confusion in Oakland.

3 Comments on "Space Invaders Demand Answers in Oakland"

  1. Love this, Pamela

  2. Love this, Pamela!!!

  3. Out of this world! But how do you really feel?

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