the bay – inspired by the thought of my close friend leaving it

The Golden Gate Bridge is not mine. Ever since childhood, it’s been a destination only to be visited when hosting tourists, a display of beauty and riches – ‘this is where I live’ – but never a part of my life except for in the distance, though I have as much or more of a birthright to that bridge as anyone. Despite calling the Bay my home for the past twenty-five years, I feel the divide in my heart, the divide between the golden city and the cities that fall in its shadow on the East. To me, the Bay is our campus, which we occupied, where we came of age, where we wrestled with identity and finding real friends and first kisses and first protests. The Bay is our community – potlucks, farmers’ markets, usually-losing sports teams, gay clubbing, the Fox, the open mics, the vegan Thai tea ice cream. And yet the Bay makes me so angry these days – the oblivious tech industry, the constant self-absorption, the overconsumption, the lack of diversity, the self-disgust when I realize I’m just another entitled young person in the sea of entitled young people who take over Dolores Park every weekend. Not to mention our sports teams win all the time now (what’s the deal?). We like pretending we’re natives, but none of us are, really.

What can I consider mine – or in other words, what is my place? Maybe the Bay is my kitchen. My first attempts at constructing a home and a routine and inviting people into my life. The well-traveled freeways between Oakland and Pleasanton, the comfort of my parents watching the 6 o’clock news every night, walking around Lake Merritt at 9 pm on a weeknight with my roommate (rats and all), and endless conversations till dawn in living rooms everywhere. We carve our own little channels and settle comfortably into those grooves, invisible lines on an invisible map.

The cranes on the Port of Oakland are permanent fixtures on that map, silent sentinels of change that is not always good. (News came last week that Uber is moving into the Sears Tower in downtown Oakland; the relentless march of gentrification continues.) Those cranes bear witness to my own well-worn pathways across this place I call home. Maybe that makes them partially mine, even though they existed long before I was born, even though I’ve made no mark on them, even though they’ll exist long after I’m gone.


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