Sunday, October 13, 2013
East Bay Boogie
Did I even have breakfast? Can’t say. I just know it was dark o’clock on a drowsy Sunday when I strolled through my old neighborhood, a morning after the night before Marina District, took some record shots and boogied for the Bay Bridge.
My memories of two years in Oakland and a couple more in San Leandro are really more like snapshots in my brain of punctuation points in my childhood. My only useful recollection was that we lived in a chunky apartment house on High Street in Oakland, one that I thought I’d recognize it if it was still there. I recall that we could walk to Mills College, a place that, even as a child, I knew was an enclave of privilege. And knowing our proximity to Mills gave me a landmark to use to use in my search.
Just how is a guy supposed to find the place where he lived in 1948 and, worse yet, what are the odds that an apartment house that predates World War Two even exists today? Here’s how it’s done students. Back then you had to take East 14th Street but today you take the eastbound I-580 from downtown Oakland and get off on High. I went north into a tangle of single family houses that were generic, of indeterminate age and definitely not on my High Street. So I flipped a U-turn, dipped under the 580 and, behold, two blocks on my right stood the Sunny View Terrace. I felt shock and disbelief with dollop of melancholy. I do not have technicolor memories of High Street.
Oddly, my memories of the Sunny View are of the rear alley and it’s the alley that confirmed that this was my old home. I have no recollection of the front of the building whatsoever. It’s in the alley that I fell on my head from the plumber’s truck while I was hanging upside down on a pipe and the alley's the place where some kid named Billy punctured my eardrum with a Tootsie Roll stick. And it’s Sunny View Terrace where that my dear grandmother sent Easter eggs that did not survive two weeks of unrefrigerated transit from Ohio. Ah, the memories.
My mother was a person of modest means, a divorced parent who was a primary school teacher, yet she was cultured and discerning and sought out the finer things. And though she was very much a prig and a prude, formative experiences like seeing The Lavender Hill Mob with Alec Guinness, attending Swan Lake in San Francisco, hearing Helen Keller speak at UC-Berkeley and having my first Caesar Salad at Larry Blake’s, first Welsh Rarebit at Townsend’s and High Tea at the City of Paris in San Francisco all sprung from her taste and erudition. I know those epiphanies foretold my journey in some way.