Since moving circa 2007 from the Piedmont area to East Oakland, I’ve complained constantly–about trash in the street, broken sidewalks (fell 3X and counting), gangs (according to newspapers; I’ve never actually seen any), freeway dirt floating through the window and onto my floors, hardly any trees to offer shade and oxygen. Lately, though, I’ve begun to enjoy certain aspects of the ‘hood, namely, feeling more comfortable in poverty than when I lived among wealthier neighbors.
It’s an interesting dynamic, and, I’ll hazard an educated guess, one that’s particular to life under capitalism. When those around you have more or less the same amount of money and a similar lifestyle, it isn’t quite as painful as being the only poor relation in a family of success stories. A lot of the people around here are worse off than I am. Some are homeless. I go out every morning to buy or grub ONE cigarette (that’s a whole other story; I’ve been keeping to one a day), and from every direction mothers converge wheeling strollers, their toddlers and older kids on each side: they’re on their way to the school on the next block. On most corners guys hang out greeting the families and wishing them a good day. (I fervently hope they’re the nice guys they seem to be, and not child molesters). Customers go in and out of the corner store, and if I haven’t scored one from any of the guys, I watch to see who buys smokes. On the days that I have money I buy a pack and distribute them. I’ve become one of the street regulars. I know people who’d be mortified rather than admit to this, but I like it. I feel connected. I feel at home here. It may not be much, but it’s my ‘hood.
- Life in East Oakland’s Fairfax neighborhood (photos.mercurynews.com)
- Pro-homeless pols give street people the bum’s rush (dailycaller.com)
- Homeless cafe in new neighborhood (abcactionnews.com)