Across the street from my office is a field. The field is next to the bay. There are no trees or bushes in this field, just dirt, dry grass, and a some ice plant. The field is occupied by dozens of scrawny-looking little squirrels who live in small holes they've burrowed into the field. Their fur is dull and gray. They all look like they're starving to death.
If you walk two blocks inland, the squirrels are all fat, with sleek brownish-red coats.
Walking to work yesterday, I saw a hawk sitting on a lamppost, surveying the field. I named him Darwin. I wondered if one bird on one lamppost could cause a species to split in two like that. The squirrels that survive out here are small and quick and blend into the background when viewed from above. The fat, shiny squirrels who stand out, and are too big and slow to find a hole to hide in when they need to, find themselves eaten by Darwin.
Through lane it laythrough bramble
Through clearing and through wood
Banditti often passed us
Upon the lonely road.
My dad worked at the Alameda Naval Air Station for 20 years. The base shut down in 1997, one year after my father passed away.
The station's old runways, a large section of land with some of the best views in the entire Bay Area, now lie unused and inaccessible behind a chain link fence. The buildings are all old and ugly and outdated. Important things used to happen in those buildings. Now those buildings are being recycled by the scavengers of our economic ecosystem. The vibrancy is gone. When you drive around the old air station, it feels like a ghost town.
The area needs redevelopment. The plan is to finance the redevelopment with a fancy, schmancy golf course and hotel. The thinking is, this golf course will have the best views of any urban golf course in the world. Rich people will come from all over and fork over all kinds of money to play there.
The golf course will have to be a links course, with no trees. Why? For one, the rich people would be paying big money to play golf in the shadow of the San Francisco skyline. You wouldn't want to block their view with some silly trees. For two, they are required to set aside an adjacent area of land for a nature preserve. If you build a golf course with trees next to a large open field with a bunch of birds, the hawks would have a field day. You'd have a bird cemetary instead of a bird sanctuary.
The wolf came peering curious
The owl looked puzzled down
The serpent's satin figure
Glid stealthily along
Lew Wolff is taking his Oakland Athletics and moving them to Fremont. You know who is going to suffer the most? The seagulls.
Imagine if you had free food given to you 81 times a year, and suddenly your meal ticket disappeared. Five years from now, we'll drive past the Coliseum area on a sunny day in June, and the parking lot will be empty, the seagulls will be gone. We'll think back on all the important things that happened in that old and ugly and outdated building, the time spent with friends and family who have moved on or passed on, and for a moment, we'll believe in ghosts.
* * *
I live in Alameda now, but I grew up in Newark, 30 miles south, not far from where the Oakland A's will be building their new ballpark in Fremont. Five days a week, my dad would trek up and down the Nimitz freeway, from Newark to Alameda and back, to bring home the meal money for his family.
I remember the area where the new ballpark will be built from my youth. There was nothing there but empty fields, and a municipal dump at the end of a long street called Durham Road.
I used to go out to that dump with my dad every once in a while. My dad was always doing some project around the house or another, and he would end up with a pile of garbage that wouldn't fit in the garbage can. So off to the dump we'd go.
When you got off the freeway and headed west on Durham Road, it seemed like you had suddenly left civilization. Durham Road existed for nothing except to take you to the dump. There were no other buildings on that road except the dump office. You'd drive for over a mile looking at nothing but empty dirt fields, until you started to see seagulls circling in the sky. Then you knew you were close.
The tempests touched our garments
The lightning's poinards gleamed
Fierce from the Crag above us
The hungry Vulture screamed
If you take a birds' eye view of the area today, things have changed. Durham Road has been renamed "Auto Mall Parkway". The dump is still there, but those empty fields have been replaced by car dealerships and office buildings. And soon, that last empty field will disappear, filled in with shiny new houses, and a fat, sleek ballpark.
It's strange, feeling nostalgic about a stinky old dump. But those trips to the dump was time spent with dad, doing guy stuff: loading, hauling, unloading.
My dad didn't grow up in America. Baseball was not much of a factor in our relationship. But when I drive down the Nimitz Freeway to this new ballpark, pull off the freeway by the old Durham Road, and see some fat old seagulls drifting over the stadium, seeking out their next meal, I'll be bonding with an old ghost once again.
The satyr's fingers beckoned
The valley murmured "Come"
These were the mates
This was the road
Those children fluttered home.