The Baskin Robbins is now some kind of photo gallery and Colonial Donuts has been displaced down the block from its prime corner position.
31 flavors of memories. Memories of Patty and the day I got to walk her home, and hot raised-glazed early in the morning, coffee with cream and the smell of newspapers on my fingers, rubber bands in my pockets, desert boots on my feet. 501s.
Trestle Glen ends at Lakeshore and there are so many changes, but the striking reality is how well-preserved Oakland is. There are no new buildings that I can see, and I walked these streets, road my extended-forks bike with the banana seat and playing cards clothes-pinned to the spokes to make it sound like a motor. They look largely the same, the streets, the sidewalks.
I’m sure the trees are a bit bigger but not much and it doesn’t appear that many of the streets have been paved since I walked them 55 years ago.
The drive from my sister’s home in Sacramento is one I don’t need a GPS for. It’s quick and stop and go, no reason for the slow-downs except too many cars and that too is much like it was. You leave the heat around Vallejo and enter the influence of the giant cooler of the Pacific Ocean and there is fog! Nestled in the wind-shadows of the Bay.
We locate our Airbnb and it’s a gem, but we have to kill a bit of time before check in. Memories of the thousands of times I passed this very home, probably never noticed it really, a boy looking out the window of a city bus wondering how he would survive the day, would he avoid trouble, make trouble or invite it. Street surviving in Oakland. It all feels so tame now, even when I see someone who would have frightened me. Instead of trying to be invisible I ask him about his car, and he is surprised by the invasion through his mask, but I can tell he is also pleased that I crossed the line. He has created a dangerous façade, but I just look right through it and he smiles, a tiny smile, but he likes the admiration of his “beast.” Then it’s over.
We gather at Bob’s house just a couple miles down MacArthur Blvd and so many eras of my life overlap, so many friends. One from High School, others from Michelle’s life just after that time, others from College both mine and hers, friends from San Francisco and the Grove Street Hotel as we called our party palace and very welcoming home in the Haight, and friends from Shakespeare both Bay Area and Ashland and Berkeley Rep and friends of friends. It’s glorious and all seems to work.
Michelle is in a state the entire party. She is having a long sundowning and trills and wails and everyone embraces her and holds her hand and helps her to eat and embraces her with true affection and Paul and Margie embrace her and Margie finds her exact tone and wails and trills and sings with her, a pure duet and I cannot tell who is singing.
Feeling run through me like bees.
We say our goodbyes and they are less awkward than I remember goodbyes. I don’t know if it’s more or less likely we will ever see one another again but, oddly, the experience is so complete because it seems that time is a great charlatan. We are older in body, certainly, but we are no older as who we really are. We are more comfortable and calm and there isn’t a sense of climbing, or needing to impress or redress or find a leg up. It’s just… now, and that’s fine. Really fine.
Mo does the dog dance of dominance with Lola, a powerful looking pup who wants him to retain some distance. He works it out as he always does and, I assume, if he meets Lola again, it will be a pure now for both of them, no nostalgia in a dog.
We load up the car and I feel warmth but no tears, no longing because it’s all good. Michelle quiets down in the bus and all the way back to the cottage. We drive through streets, now dark, that look exactly the same to me. I stop at a 7-11 that I think was there many moons ago. I stop for some beer and German chocolate cake.
Once home, Michelle sleeps the second her head hits the pillow.