Category Archives: oakland

farewell, bikey. 1998-2013.

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here is a shitty picture of me and a good picture of you, at the beginning of our biggest adventure yet–crossing state lines, living in the woods, really going somewhere. but that was in 2010. let’s start at the beginning.

my dad got you for me when i was sixteen, which was sweet of him, but i didn’t ride bikes then because i smoked too much and worked too much. my town had too many hills. i could walk to work. i could make it back up the hill on foot but not on bike. so i let you languish in the garage for two years. when i was 18 i had a change of heart. realized that one could bike everywhere. that shitty winter, you showed me the magic and fun that could be had on long island. we biked through the drive-thru and all the mcdonald’s employees laughed. i took you on the LIRR, every day, three stops, to a town seven miles away. the conductor always talked to me because of you, and didn’t take my ticket.

i got kicked out. left my family behind and moved to memphis. for the first time in my life i lived in a city. i got pretty much everywhere i needed to go with you. i’ve never known how to drive, always been dependent on other people or public transit. but with you i slogged through the humid heat, in the bike-hating south. my co-workers called you my cadillac, and i smiled and said you were better than one.

i fled back north, to philly. your tire blew out the same time the towers were getting hit a hundred miles north. i pushed you home in a crowd of weeping, panicking philadelphians. i’d spent my last dollar that day. waiting for a sketchy check to get cashed. i tried so hard to repair that hole with no money. patches, duct tape, friends’ old tubes. it just would not work. i got my money and spent $15 getting someone else to fix your flat & felt so stupid. eventually i learned how to change tubes, patch flats.

you were my favorite for so long. so many good times, too many to list here. sharon and i ran a red light to beat that snarling motorcycle and laughed in his face. amanda and i decided we were going to be social. we went to a party despite the snow but the most fun part of the evening was biking by the river singing “parentheses” by the blow. or when we rode around the whole city with aaryn and branden. i know these memories are mostly good because of the people in them, but you were there too.

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you were crappy, ornery, after tens of thousands of miles, too many lousy fixes by people who didn’t quite know what they were doing (mostly me). when i brought you into the fancy bike shop to get tuned up before our big journey, the mechanic called me at work to yell, “i can’t fix this thing. you shouldn’t be riding this. i can’t believe you haven’t gotten killed yet! you’ll never make it to DC, never.” i got my ex to pick it up for me and drop it off at a more low-end shop. got a new chain, and made it all the way to DC with only one flat tire. all the long, slow, heavy miles. we learned something then, but i’m not entirely sure what. about strength, endurance, something, maybe. i don’t know.

the years wore on. many people tried to convince me to give up on you. but i wouldn’t. then i moved to the bay area and everything went to hell with you. brakes, pedals, spokes, seat. 9 flat tires in 6 months. i bought a new back wheel because your spokes wouldn’t stop breaking. as i handed the bike guy my credit card i thought, “this thing’s gonna get stolen.” and i was right. 3 months later, it did. right out of my own backyard.

i’d promised myself, after the wheel, that i was done putting money into this shitty bike. with the amount i’d spent since moving i could’ve bought a new, infinitely nicer bike. i would borrow my housemates’ bikes when you weren’t functioning & i’d get jealous. i’d fantasize about getting a new bike, one that wasn’t so old, so heavy; one that would let me fly. remember how we used to fly?

i guess it makes sense. you were so much a part of my youth and i guess i just don’t feel young anymore. like wild dance parties will never again be a part of my regular life. like biking down the street isn’t an adventure anymore, now it’s just what i do. now it’s just how i live. now you’re in the basement and i won’t ride you again. the last time i rode you was fun, sleep-deprived, heading home from a good show. i guess you (usually) never know when something’s gonna be the end. whitney houston and jawbreaker shuffling on my headphones. i don’t remember too much about this particular ride, just that we were happy.

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oh, there’s too much caffeine in your bloodstream, and a lack of real spice in yr life.

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lately the sheen has kinda fallen off my bay area life. i’m kinda stressing about what’s going to happen to me when my money runs out & when i have to leave this cheap sublet. they both should be happening in a few months, probz around the same time. will i ever get a job? will i have to go back to pittsburgh? do i even have a community there anymore? is everything i worked so hard building completely wrecked?

i miss my friends a lot, i miss the community i had, i miss living alone, i miss the autumnal beauty and the tough-yet-sweet people. miss the crumbling charm of both the buildings and the populace. don’t miss the shitty biking, lousy food, ghosts of old memories haunting me. don’t miss the football mania or endless social anxiety.

so, i thought i’d do a photo essay about my life in the bay and point out the things that i do have here and reasons why i should be happy to be here & quit worrying. (NOTE: i am terrified to speak of good fortune on the internet. one of my weird ocd-ish tendencies. but i am trying to face my semi-irrational fears.)

1) palm tree 2) super fall fun adventure vest, found in a trashpile that also had zines, batteries, and cute patches, and makes me look like a badass (according to everyone else–i would never be so bold as to call myself that) 3) free carrots from teresino at the farmer’s market (or the “far mar” as they call it–and they also pointed out that if we were still in pgh the farmer’s market would be wearing down by now) 4) shortsleeves in late october! whoa!

5) i made these delicious vegan cupcakes for my housemates 6) who really appreciated them 7) and said thank you 8) zarah gave me these cute pirate flags and i have been sticking them in as many food items as possible

9) soy milk readily available at the diner 10) sweetheart smiling dreamily across the table 11) wearing an adorable hoodie 12) whoever dispensed the soymilk obviously has the same ridiculous sense of humor that i do (the next table’s soy creamer said “soy george”)

13) who are these people? where can i meet them? 14) paper flyers in an age of facebook, yeah!

this isn’t any real reason to stay. this is just me, at the diner. i had eaten a few bites from these giant onion rings until i realized that it looked like a C and the other one looks like an O and my initials are “OC” so i made a french fry arrow and pointed it towards myself. yeah, these onion rings are a little classier than those available at most places but i guess i can do that anywhere.

other things to consider:

a) i am endlessly nostalgic for bad times in my life

b) even when i know that they’re bad times

c) a., who has a disease that will eventually kill him, says, “oh ocean, why worry? either it’s going to happen or it’s not! you can’t do anything about it!” which i both agree with and don’t.

d) i will always long intensely for what i don’t have and what no longer exists

i was gonna write this for my zine but fuck it, it goes here. this way you can see the colors.

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sometimes i am just shocked by the beauty of this place. like, i can’t even believe that i get to live here. (ok, this was taken at the beach in marin county and obvi i don’t live there. but you know what i mean) it still feels, in some ways, like i’m on vacation, that this isn’t really my life, like my life is elsewhere and i will return to it. not that i’m living it now. but in other ways this feels like of course, of course it’s my life, it’s actually what i have been waiting for and everything else was just leading up to it.

i feel a little bit like i did when i was 19 and first moving to philly, except the exact opposite. some things were parallel: big life change, new city, big city, out of my element. but back then i was traumatized and scabby and utterly brimming with self-hatred, which was not helped at all by the mean snotty punx i was surrounded by. but now i am older and i’ve figured things out. now, when confronted with this bevy of things i don’t know, instead of feeling like, “holy shit i am so fucking stupid how do i not know all these things?” i am like, “cool, there is so much to learn! and i also have so much to teach people about other shit THEY don’t know about!” and it’s so good to feel that way. SO. FUCKING. GOOD. who would have thought that i’d ever get here?

my tarot readings that i have been giving myself all say that i am powerful. i need to access my power now. i am doing my internship with prisoners and it’s rad but it takes a lot of me. and it’s just the saddest things. can’t say them here, of course. but reading the cards, at midnight in the 24 hour laundromat, with slowjamz playing on the radio, they say that i can do it, and i believe them.

remembering to stay present, here in my body, and breathe through whatever bad things are happening in my reality and also in my mind. learning how to deal with a name springing up in an unexpected place, like a petition at work. that feeling of never being able to escape, of never getting better. one day i will be okay. i don’t know what it will take, but it will happen. i just have to keep breathing until then.

i’ve been lazy about writing. there are lots of sweet distractions and i just need a break. been pounding back kava kava endlessly. remember to breathe. i am so anxious here, even though in many ways there is far less to be afraid of. i cut off the last of my purple hair. back to work, back to reality. i look like a cute dyke/boy, although i am neither. more dyke than boy. but still, none of those.

going out to yoga. talking about hard things over indian buffet in a restaurant with a couch full of giant stuffed animals. good talks over crackly prison collect call phone lines. riding bikes in the sunshine. watching “90210” while drunk-sewing. endless quesadillas. giving tarot readings and being shocked at the team dresch reference in the guidebook, bursting into song. stacks of library books. sweet hugs. talking about where we were a year ago, and how far that is now.

leaving the house. it’s a good idea!

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so, yesterday i went out to get beer. i’d actually been out of the house all day. i was calm during two situations that shoulda been stressful (job interview, old ladiez throwing shade at the PLP) and stressed out during something that wasn’t a big deal (hanging out with punx! aaaah!!). feeling shaky. hyperventilating a little bit on BART, which i normally don’t do. needed something to take the edge off and sometimes beer is the least self-harming.

so! i drank my friend’s last beer and then headed to the corner store by myself, to get more. on the way, a boy-girl couple with an acoustic guitar sang a song about me. just about my outfit and how we were all walking down the street together. i turned around and sang, “ohmigod, i thought i was just stepping out for a beer…” and the girl interrupted and said, “follow us!” in a way that matched the tone and music perfectly. “but now you’re singing a song about me,” i sang, “and i’m so glad to be here…” we all smiled at each other and then walked in the store, like old friends. the girl kept singing that i am beautiful, but i think she was just trying to manipulate me into buying them a beer. i don’t know. it’s hard to tell.

inside the corner store they got weird. it was clear they were huge drunks and getting kinda rowdy and a little offensive. they told the corner store guy to fuck off because they thought he was charging too much and i just felt embarrassed. especially because he isn’t! i felt the need to apologize for them when it was my turn. he smiled sheepishly and said, “oh, i don’t care. i don’t know them. and you get all kinds of people in here…good, bad…” i could tell that my apologizing made him feel better, and that made me happy.

i walked home with a totebag of beer and into another sweet adventure. the night air felt great and full of possibility. it’s not too cold yet.

this is mostly a letter i was writing in my head, to amanda. but i thought i should just write it all here instead.

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i’m glad i came out here. my ipod keeps shuffling to songs about california, songs about this year being better than the last. i believe in them, because i have to.

today i went to the oakland library, which honestly made me kinda homesick because the pgh library is so fucking great that any other library anywhere is pretty disappointing. but then the library closed and i had to make a several-mile trek up to rockridge to hang out with scarin and andrew and some danish couchsurfers. biking during rush hour, oh no, right? but it was totally fine. drivers aren’t totally fucked up here, not all of them anyway. they’re used to bikers and there are bike lanes and routes everywhere and it’s so nice. about halfway through my journey i saw a house whose garden was so magnificent i just needed to stop. hot pink petals everywhere, or i guess they were more magenta, so vibrant it hurt to look. i took a few blossoms that had fallen onto the sidewalk, pressed them in my journal to mail to my girl (who isn’t really my girl anymore, but i think i can still send her flowers and have it be okay). but i just stood and stared for a while, overwhelmed by the beauty. the foliage here is so different. it makes me feel like i’ve really gotten somewhere. there’s a palm tree on my block, can you imagine?

eventually i made it to my destination and met up with everyone. we ate mexican food and then went to this lake. the sun was setting and it was so ridiculously cold (okay, like probably in the upper 60’s, but that’s cold for swimming!) but we all went swimming anyway. scarin was rocking the most amazing bathing suit, and the two danish dudes were brightly colored and hilarious. we all splashed and played and talked and it was fun, even though my fingertips were turning blue.

walking back to the car i was cold and shivery. the sunset made all of us stop and take notice. you can’t write about sunsets. you just can’t. you have to be there. but trust me, it was gorgeous.

scarin had the access code to this hippie hot tub, so we all went there. basically, some rich dude with a hot tub has given out access codes to a few respectful people, granting them access to his backyard. these people can share them with a select few respectful people, and on and on. there’s a shower and changing area and a big hot tub, non-chlorinated. the lights are on low and everyone is naked. speech is prohibited, to cut down on sexual harassment possibilities. but i think also, to make you more aware of the moment, to make it more of a space to renew one’s energy.

so. i was naked, with one of my favorite & oldest palz, and three dudes i’d met just that night, but it was totally fine, not awkward or weird at all, with anyone. strangers came and went in complete silence. the hot tub was almost too hot, even for a hot-water-lover like myself, so i had to keep getting out. there was a hammock next to the tub, and i laid on it.

the hammock! remember the hammock? [for those who don’t know, i had a hammock several houses ago {which was actually amanda’s, but i was its custodian i guess} & had to leave it behind. i was really bummed. beyond bummed. this summer, it was finally rescued. i was so excited. i’d been waiting for so long. i went over ben’s house to use it, with amanda, and within five minutes of laying in it the weathered, frayed, un-taken-care-of ropes snapped] when we fell through i tried to be cool with it. i said “at least we got five minutes” but i was angry and sad. all spring and summer, all i’d wanted to do was lay in a fucking hammock. be caressed by the breeze. feel like i was floating. and it just felt like i wasn’t going to get to do it. it felt like i was so close, but wasn’t there. like i was being taunted, or something.

and here i was. 2,500 miles from my old backyard. in this awesome hammock, naked in semi-public but feeling safe. skin warm and soft. one of the danes sighed, “there’s no place in the world i’d rather be than here, right now.”  no dogs barking or neighbors screaming at each other, which usually punctuated most of my hammocking back in pgh. i finally got my hammock time. i didn’t even know it was coming; just thought i’d have to do without. i  never could have imagined this night, this circumstance, any of it. but it happened, and it was so fucking sweet.