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Jun 01, 2018
Several years ago, my husband and I dropped our children off at a trampoline birthday party in Emeryville. We could have stayed inside and watched the kids bounce off the walls, but when free babysitting calls, one must answer! Sunshine beckoned, so we headed out on a stroll down nearby Mandela Parkway.
Though the parkway was once covered with a double-decker freeway, on our stroll we found a wide, green boulevard being ambulated by hipsters. Men in plaid shorts and fedoras accompanied women in sun dresses and clogs. Locals from West Oakland sporting hip-hop togs cycled by on fat-tire bikes. Not a few scents of weed filled the air as we walked along past a mix of factories, warehouses, old clapboard houses, and art studios.
"This is nice," I said to my husband.
"What a change since the earthquake," he concurred, "You'd never know that 40 people died on this road."
"That was here?" I said, thinking of the pictures I'd seen of a mile of flattened freeway, stretching out like a ribbon torn in thick, odd pieces.
For a moment, I remembered where I had been in October 1989. I had been at class in College in New Haven, Connecticut. News of the quake spread quickly through a student population filled with Californians. People were making calls home, nervous for news.
I looked around at the sparkling open sky above us, and tried to imagine how dark the road must have been. Probably the freeway had dominated the neighborhood like a vast, impermeable wall.
Today a light breeze hit our cheeks as a cyclist whizzed past. Nearby, the blazing sun lit up the white side of a tall industrial silo labeled "Lone Star."
"Hey, I bet you could paint that," said my husband, following my gaze. "Why don't you take a picture?"
He got a coffee at Kilovolt while I walked up and down the street, holding my phone at different angles. As usual, I took many pictures up close and then gradually moved back, remembering that people like a sense of setting. As I walked backwards, holding the camera to my eye, a classic sixties Dodge Dart wagon came into the viewer.
I clicked away, positioning the viewer in every way I could that would get both the tower and the wagon. Absently, I wondered what happened in the factory. Trucks came and went at the entrance. Perhaps the massive concrete bricks around the perimeter should have clued me in that "Lone Star" makes concrete.
"Did you get that car?" asked my husband, after we had started walking again.
"Oh yes," I said, smiling. Already I could imagine painting the scene.
We walked on until we came to Brown Sugar Kitchen, where music poured from the open door and families sat in a post-brunch haze. We peeked in the window to view tables strewn with empty pie pans and piles of chicken bones. A wonderful smell floated on the air.
I was about the step over the portal when my husband pointed at his watch.
"Guess we better go rescue the kids from too much fun," he joked.
Just for a moment, I remembered the time when he and I would have spent all day walking down a street like this, because we had nothing else to do. Back in the 90's. Right after the earthquake, when this Cafe didn't exist and the sun didn't hit this side of the street. Time had passed and brought brighter days.
I took my husband's arm and we walked back together to the trampoline mecca. Years later, I painted the scene, thinking of the luminous, lazy light and the fading smell of sweet potato pie.
Thanks for reading. To browse artwork or purchase a print of "Lone Star Concrete Plant," click here.
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