Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Oakland Files

The move to Oakland has been quite an adventure. It has been about a week since Puneet and I found our way to our slice of heaven in the Bay Area. The journey was long and circuitous, meandering through Hampton Boulevard in Norfolk to Brookside Way in University Place, and we lost and found a number of things along the way. New friendships were forged, relationships were mended, and cherished possessions that had been part of our lives were bid goodbye. Such is the nature of moves: you gain some things and you lose others.

Of the things no longer with me, I do miss my BMW the most. Attachment is hard to rationalize, even harder to manage, especially when the thing in question is no longer with you. I am happy that my prized possession is in the care of someone who will preserve it to the best of their ability. It’s all about finding silver linings in situations, isn’t it…

After a long hiatus, I got on the tennis court last afternoon. The last six or so months in Norfolk, January through the end of June, helped me regain some of the lost fitness during my years at Deloitte. Tennis was a constant in my life, and I made a number of friends on the tennis courts, chief among them being Dr. Rich Ciavarra. Him and I played almost every day, for hours on end. Let me tell you something about this rare gentleman: He is 72-years old, but has the resolve and fitness of a 40-year old man. When playing with Rich, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the hours spent on the badminton court with my dad. Now that I think back to all the hours playing tennis, I attribute my desire to relive that time on the court with my Pops to be the reason for why I enjoyed tennis with Rich so much. It was as if he was a proxy for my Pops. Only time will tell if I will find someone in Oakland who is as passionate and available to play tennis as he was. Cest la Vie.

Oakland is a very bike friendly city, so I have put my newly fixed up bike to good use this past week, much to the dismay of my “poor” buttocks! My bike has a very stiff seat, so I did some research and bought a new one from Amazon finally; it arrives on Thursday. Guess what it is called: Planet Bike “ARS”! They should have added an “e” at the end, lower case and nondescript, of course! :) I cannot wait to install it on my bike when it arrives and do a test ride.

There is another side to Oakland though, and it hit me in the face a few days ago. I went looking for tennis courts on Tuesday evening after work. No car here, so I got on my trusty but painful bike, and rode around town for about 90-minutes. Unfortunately, I struck out at three spots, and I have lost faith in the veracity of information provided by a website Google ranks really highly: I first rode to a college, Laney College, because it supposedly had 8-courts in good condition. Reality: the courts had been razed to make way for a new building. Tennis courts, the first casualty of urbanization and increased student enrollment. Down but not out, I rode next to a park with 3-courts, but miscreants had stolen the nets! The nets! What does one do with tennis court nets?!

Not one to quit, or not know when to quit, I decided to try a third recommended location. After riding about 4-miles through a neighborhood that seemed to get seedier with every passing block, I finally reached the park. Much to my dismay, the park was rundown; weeds were everywhere, there were huge cracks in the asphalt and the basketball court, the basketball rims were sans nets, and the air was heavy with a noxious cocktail of spices and weed. A shirtless man was throwing a baseball at a tree, screaming incoherently every few seconds.

In isolation, none of these sights would cause alarm. In their entirety though, they made me shudder. I made an executive decision and turned around immediately. To not panic was the hardest, but I somehow managed to stay calm and transfer as much energy to my pedaling feet as I could. I weaved through a street that had a number of gentlemen sitting on their tailgate catching up on the day’s events while cat-calling passers-by. I rode past homeless people living under the freeway bridge in abject squalor. I didn’t let these sights unsettle my focus. About 10-minutes later, I was back in familiar territory, on the “right” side of the freeway corridor. Relieved to have made it this far, I paused to wonder about the circumstances—commercial, political, sociological—that had resulted in such a stark disparity between two sides of the same city. The heaviness of the thoughts dragged me down, and while I moved on to lighter thoughts once I got home, I do think that the widening chasm between the haves and the have-nots must be bridged if we are to avert an upcoming reckoning. It’s a matter of finding a way at the grass roots level, and building on up.