Monday, October 12, 2015

Columbus and Malvolio Are Alive And Well In Oakland

A few years ago, The Piedmont Piano Company
Moved to the part of the revitalizing Uptown neighborhood
Now being called Oakland’s “Art District”
And I walked inside and asked the owner
How he was weathering the economic crisis of ‘09
That gave local habitation and a name to
The sense of doom so many of us we’re feeling,
And he looked at me and said “the people who have money….have money.”

If he would have let me play the pianos destined to be decorative,
I probably would’ve sang the words floating silently on my screen:
Come on, gentry, I know you can do it,
Write a beautiful song or poem celebrating your lifestyle
That can win over hearts of the skeptics and homeless….

There’s this place you’re supposed to want to go. You can tell by its high-price. “You know you would if you could.” You used to be able to go there when it was cheaper, but now feel like a deer whose woods are now somebody else’s front yard. You are kinda curious about those walls: “Do the men wear makeup there, like the women wear money? Are there animals or are they pets? Do the people who felt repressed by the older regime feel freer now? Do they only feel freer when they’re allowed to repress others? Are their revolutionaries sexy and/or hilarious? Do they take off their sheep’s clothes? How sharp are their teeth? Do they eat venison? Can they accept a gift?”

My friend says it’s the introverts having finally gotten revenge on the extroverts, but, as an introvert, I know it’s more about money. Meanwhile the poor who want to be middle class and the poor who want to be rich argue. “If we didn’t spend so much time trying to be rich, more of us could be middle class.” “We only try to be rich because they shuttered the middle-class.” City-hired experts remain publicly puzzled as to why the murder and crime rates have gone up as the city has become more revitalized. Surely, it’s an accident, a last gasp of the dying old regime….

You’re selling the city, rolling out the red carpet
Smells like bulldozing in the bones.
You can make it more special, more rare
Purposely refusing more affordable housing
In order to keep the prices increasing
And others may walk into a bar
And hang their coats of judgment on a hook
To laugh with each other as if we’re creating, organizing
And the bar may not charge a cover
Or we may go to a church to make
A joyful noise unto our Lord
But we’re too loud if not yet bulldozed
By the red-carpet of invading suburbs.
Yet we’re trying to keep the wolf of judgment from the door,
The “wolf” who killed the wolves.
Surely, the rich can bring something good with them.
Surely, it can’t be all bad.
You look for a sign….any sign
You don’t see it in the call for hospitality workers
At the new Artisan Bread shop
Or any of the others on what used to be Auto Row
Across the street from the Y that used to be a church.
But surely the rich are at least……interesting.
Surely, they have a culture.
Oh, if only they weren’t so tensed up and mediocre,
And let themselves be loud,
Maybe they wouldn’t spend most of their day
Singing the gospel of cold calculation they call reason
And balance, the gospel of exclusion called glamour
And of course they all got a non-urban escape hatch…

It’s been years since I’ve been to the woods, the woods….
And if we have to think of faultlines or hurricanes
To think about nature, that’s a start
And when the 1906 earthquake hit,
Did any of them feel they could have prevented it
Had they not begun their roundup of the Ohlone 130 years earlier.
“Oh, that’s silly, the earth has shaken more fiercely before
and would again and again…..”
though it was less of a disaster
before the steel and brick structures
and the wires that fueled the fires…
And when the next one hits
(ground zero; the hospital or power plant)
and the city burns even more like Syria after a drone strike,
will any think back to the time they banished music by the lake
as in the chapter of Oakland history
From Panthers to Pandora

“Here’s a possibility door”
Uproot people, then pull the rug out
And close the door on the cold cement
The need culture
Became a desire culture
And more of a fear culture
As the labor culture
Became a consumer culture
Once they lured enough people
From the country to the city via industry
They didn’t need to seduce anymore
And the sun comes out
From behind the clouds
Just in time to set.
But, no, I don’t need your $8
6” loaf of Artisan Bread
when I can buy from the lady
down the street who once
invited me to dinner.
She wasn’t a professional
Until I told her I’d pay
If she made a couple extra loaves a week.

That’s when the glorious
“ask your neighbor” campaign began
and provided us
with some of the best dances
you’ll never hear on corporate media—
even the rich privileged enough to hear it