That one weekend in Oakland

Back in September, I visited Los Angeles for the first time in a long time. I have been going to Long Beach almost every year for a work conference, but I never made my way up to the City of (Lost) Angels. Along the same vein, this past weekend I was in the Bay Area for the first time forever. I was trying to figure out when I was last there, and I am at a loss. Had it been ten years? More? Now that I think about it, if you add in Mississippi, I seem to be in a period of rediscovery. One of the days, I would also like to revisit NYC again. It’s been a long time since I have been there as well.


This trip was weird, for a lack of a better word, in coming together. Originally, I was going to meet my friend Samarah there, but life got in the way. I went back and forth as to whether to go anyway. In the end, down I went in a last-minute scramble with no plans, and I am glad.


My friend Pam opened her house to me, and it was such a blessing. If you read about my Ireland trip, you know about our Ireland adventure with Candy. Pam’s husband, Willie, is extra nice! Pam has an amazing patio and garden in the back of her house. It was awesome to see hummingbirds and foxes running around back there.


We had some awesome conversations about this strange thing called life. I am in a season where I am not quire sure how the many parts are going to come together, but I must remind myself that it always comes together. I feel like I am a scene in a movie where everything is suspended or frozen. Hopefully whatever the release will satisfy whatever this strange longing is.


It was splendid catching up with folks I haven’t seen in a minute. My college buddy DJ was nice enough to bring Pam and I lunch for our catch up. I went to a bar and bowling with Sam and Mark and their friend Kenny. I have not bowled in such a long time, which was evident in my bowling score, but it was extra fun. I unexpectedly ran into LC and his family at Jack London Square. The last time I saw LC was when I unexpectedly ran into he and Mark in Negril, Jamaica. The sunset there was quite amazing along the waterfront, and you know I love a working waterfront. It was good to see the Port of Oakland in action. It was especially nice to catch up with family and attend services at Center of Grace.


On Saturday, I went to the Art and Soul festival in Oakland with Pam, her daughter, and grand kids. We walked around and looked at vendors. There was also food, drink, and music. The weather was awesome. How much more can you ask for? The weather in Seattle was hotter, so it was nice getting relief from the heat! On Monday, we hit up the marina in San Leandro. I have not spent much time in Oakland, and I was able to see the China Town there, for the first time I think.


We went to this place called Lena’s one night for dinner. The food was good and the proportions gluttonous. Two people could literally split a regular plate, so I would hate to see their large plate. Sunday evening, Willie barbecued, and Pam made yummy potato salad.


Like Seattle, Oakland is being gentrified. While it is nice to see some renaissance in the area with new restaurants and establishments, it is hard to swallow communities who have lived there for generations being pushed out because they can no longer afford the area. In Seattle, people want to be close to the city. In Oakland people want to be close to the City without paying the crazy rents in San Francisco. In my neighborhood, there were these two clubs on Madison whose names escape me. I want to say Deno’s and Oscar’s? Anyway, it added a little grit to the neighborhood, but as the neighborhood changed, it was obvious that they would go by wayside. Truthfully, I was glad when they closed. I always felt weird walking past there and had been offered drugs. But then there is the side that says it was okay for them to exist in their fashion when the neighborhood was black. But when the neighborhood changed, all of a sudden, the police made more of effort to be sure that they didn’t.


I have always felt a kindredness with the Bay Area. I felt a certain melancholy as I left. Tears could start at any second. LOL! If doors opened, I would certainly make a move there. I left my heart in San Francisco. That’s a song, right? Or is it the story of my life?


The good news is that I started writing a story on my way down there. As some of you know, I wrote a story called Harlem’s Song in my early twenties. I have picked it up off and on throughout the years. Of course, the voice of the lead character, Janiah, has changed over time as my own voice changed. I would like to brush the story off in its many forms. It will probably end up being a series of short stories since I don’t have the attention span to write a novel. LOL! The short story I wrote in South Africa, Following Jane’s Advice, is part of that series. Will Janiah finally get over Damien and free her heart to find happiness with someone else? Or will her love for him remain ill fated? Will she cross paths with Stefano again? Stay tuned. Even I don’t know. Lawd Have Mercy. LOL.


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Mississippi nights (and days)

I have been trying to remember when the last time I came to Mississippi was. Certainly, over ten years ago. If I had to guess, I would say somewhere between thirteen and fifteen years ago.


It has been great seeing everyone. From my mom, sisters, aunties, cousins, and friends. I have been told more than once to not let that much time pass by again. My family is just a little zany, so I got it honestly. But we have fun. For example, my aunt was in the hospital, and we were up there reminiscing and laughing and the room a few doors down complained.


A few things stand out to me:

  • It feels so slow. Not in a bad way, but time certainly seems to move like molasses.
  • The stars. The stars are so visible here.
  • People sitting on their porches. If I were to buy a house, I would want it to have a big porch where I can have a rocking chair and watch people ride by.
  • When people are passing by or you are passing by, you wave and/or honk.
  • It’s hot during the day, but so pleasant in the morning and evening.
  • Watching lightning bugs dance across the yard is magical.
  • There are two, old “plantation style” homes that I have loved since I was little that are side to side. It was great to see them and take pictures.
  • There are more of the homes a little further down. I found out that some of my ‘blood kin” bought one of them. I was able to go inside. It was so beautiful and there is a big pond in the back and plenty of land. The home was built by a black man who looked white. When the neighbors found out he was black, he was run off, so it’s fitting that a black family lives there now. It was built in 1920, but it was still equipped with a secret room to hide people who were running away.
  • My great-grandparents had property that was 11.5 acres. My cousins bought acreage adjoining, and it is quite amazing to imagine how it looked when my great-grandparents owned it, and it had animals and a farm. It is overgrown in the back, but there is a creek back there.
  • I loved seeing the homes of two of my grandmothers (I have three…it’s complicated) and home of my great-great aunt. My great-great aunt’s house has an old portion and a portion that was added on. I have never been able to sleep in the old part. There are way too many shadows, but I can sleep in the new part fine.
  • As good of a dominoes player I think I am, older players have a way of schooling me.
  • I am confused by who some of my relatives are. All this time the woman I pictured as my Aunt Fanny is my cousin Sylvia…shush…don’t tell anyone. LOL!
  • I still have tons of relatives I have never met.


Since I have been here, I have been reminiscing about the summer my sisters and I spent here visiting my mom when I was 14.

  • That summer, I spent a lot of time with my girl cousins around my age. We each had a “boyfriend.” One night, we went for a walk (probably to look for the boys), and we ended up walking by (maybe in) the cemetery by my great-great aunt’s house. The boys scared the life out us by jumping out of a tree, and we all went hollering down the street. At some point we started laughing, and we laughed even harder when we discovered one of my cousins (who will remain unnamed – lol) peed on herself.
  • I remembered the time I almost received my first “real kiss.” What had happened was we were sitting on the bench at my grandmother’s house. I was sitting with my friend, and he starting to lean in to kiss me. I jumped up so fast, and I ran into my grandmother’s house and jumped into bed with my mom. It was a mess.
  • I can point at the spot of where the first “real kiss” happened the night after.
  • I can remember my grandmother’s neighbor peaking out at us every night to see what we were up to. She would have her hair bonnet on, and I thought it was the funniest thing ever. She was very nice…just nosy. She would also be out sweeping her porch all day keeping an eye on us during the light hours.


The stars are so visible in my small country town in Mississippi. I was sitting with my sister looking up at the stars. We began reminiscing about summers in Moses Lake watching the stars with some of the neighborhood kids. Then we started remembering other things:


  • Going far from home with our pillow cases to go trick or treating.
  • Going to pick plums from this tree near a doctor’s clinic.
  • Throwing tomato worms off a bridge onto cars going down I-90 with the neighborhood kids. One time a car came off the freeway to come looking for us, and we ran to the Green’s house to hide out.
  • We would be gone all day playing during the summer time. There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood to play with.
  • We talked about all the neighborhood kids from the Guerrero’s to the Vasquez’s to the Green’s to the Gleed’s.


Overall, I remember that it is good to reminisce sometimes.

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There and Back Again…a LTB Tale

On Thursday, I slept in. After waking up, I got up and got my suitcase organized for the flight on Friday.


I went back to Kings Park and found a nice bench to read. I think I may have mentioned that I downloaded a bunch of books on my Kindle. I had only cracked it open once. After reading for a while, I walked around the garden before heading back to the CBD. I went back to London Court before doing some shopping on Hay Street. Gaby and I went out for a meal for my last night there.

I really enjoyed Perth and part of the reason of course was visiting Gaby.

Friday, I started the long journey home. The flight to Auckland was around 5.5 hours and the flight to San Francisco was 11.5 hours. The line to clear Customs was long, but I made it to my gate about 20 minutes before boarding was supposed to start to discover the flight had been delayed 30 minutes. I am not sure how long it ended up being late, but we were number 30 in line for the runway. Yes. Number 30. It took forever. By the time we reached Seattle, I think we were very late. Then in Seattle, we had to wait for a gate. It had been snowing in Seattle that day.


I went from high 70’s/low 80’s to 30 something degrees. Sigh.


On the way home, I stopped by Safeway to get some food. Then I got home and began unpacking. I did laundry. It was about 11:00 before I went to bed. I woke up around 12:30. I meant to get up earlier, but what had happened was…


I got up and am beginning to settle myself back into the routine at home. I am glad we get to “fall back” tomorrow.


I posted my pictures. Unlike previous trips, I did note delete duplicates as I went. So there are a lot. Password is “italia”.



Rottnest Island

Today I got up bright and early to take the 8:30 ferry over to Rottnest Island. It was a place that was recommended by locals as well as travel guides. I was lucky enough to be given a coupon from an Entertainment book that gave me 25% off the fare. I will note that in looking at some of the local brochures, some of them had coupons ranging from 10% to 20% of various excursion, so they could be worth checking out.


I caught the ferry in Perth and there was also a stop in Fremantle. I was excited because I was able to get some shots of the port from the water. There was another CMA CGM vessel (I assume it is different than the one I saw on Sunday, otherwise they have very slow productivity) and there was also a China Shipping vessel at berth.


On the way there, we saw a humpback whale. I was so excited. There was a period when I dreamed about seeing whales all the time. This is my second time seeing a whale outside of dream land. The first time was a few years back.


It was a nice boat ride over. The weather was very nice. On the way there, I sat on the top level in the back. On the way back, I sat on the top level toward the front. The people in the first row on the left, got soaked . Especially the person in the first seat.


In terms of wildlife, I saw a two lizards and tons of quokkas, which were not too interested in humans. I read that Rottnest is one of the few places quokkas can be found in the wild. They reminded me of huge rats, and they have a funny gait.


I walked to one of the lighthouses and to Oliver Hill. If I had planned better, I would have worn other shoes. Otherwise, I could have walked in the trails and seen more. I would recommend bringing a backpack filled with snacks, plenty of water and sunscreen. I didn’t pack sunscreen this trip, and my skin is paying for it. The sun in this hemisphere is different than at home.


I met Gaby at the quay, and we went out for a belated birthday dinner for her. The weather was nice, so we were able to sit outside. We went Isle of Voyage. The food was okay and the service was bad. Luckily the company was good.


Excuse any typos. I will edit when I get home.

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Mandurah/Cottesloe Beach

When I got up this morning, I wasn’t sure how I was going to spend the day.


After doing a quick search on things to do around Perth, I decided to catch the train to Mandurah. The town is about 45–50 minutes from Perth by train. I ended up getting an all-day pass for $12.60. The one-way to Mandurah is $10.20, so financially it made sense. The all-day pass also allowed me to ride the buses in Mandurah.


While I am glad I went, I was a little underwhelmed by Mandurah. Possibly because I kept comparing it to Fremantle. At the train station, I knew I was looking for either the 588 or the 589 to take me to the center. I took the 589 to the foreshore. I started off at the various quays and walked to the town beach. It was okay. There was one surfer. I did a little of their “coastal walk.” I then headed into town and walked around. There is a church called, Christs Church that I wanted to visit. The church was closed, but I saw a woman priest and she let me in.


It was at that moment that I realized why I was in Mandurah. I guess I will call it a divine appointment, but I found myself opening up about some of the thoughts I was having about life. We talked for around ten minutes, but I was very encouraged after our conversation.


I made my way back to Perth. Since I had the all-day pass, I decided to transfer to the Fremantle line to go to Cottesloe Beach, and it was worth the trip. From the train station, I walked to the beach. I read it was about a 15-minute walk, but I think it was more like ten. During the summer months, they have a free CAT bus that goes between the train station and the beach. The beach was very nice and since the weather was gorgeous, there were people in the water, sunbathing or just hanging around. There was also a lone surfer.


I then made my way back to Gaby’s who was in school today.


I spent today wandering around Perth with Gaby.


We started in Kings Park. The park was original named Perth Park but was changed to King’s Park to celebrate Edward VII becoming king. Then the apostrophe was dropped. The garden is huge, over 1,000 acres, so I got a taste of it. It’s the largest inner-city park in the world. We walked, talked and had a picnic lunch. I have some assignments to do when I return home. Hee hee. There is also a botanical garden. It was a nice park and worth the visit. I may go there again before I leave.


Oh. I love the bus ride-free zone that is in the central business district. It reminded me of back in the day when Seattle had a ride-free zone. There are also some CAT buses that are free and go to areas around the downtown area. It’s a huge money saver.


After that, we were walking to the Northbridge area, which Gaby describes as being similar to Capitol Hill. When we passed by the Art Gallery, it had signage about a free exhibit about the life and photos of Heath Ledger. We dropped in to see it. I had no idea that Heath Ledger was from Perth. The showcase had video, props, his awards (included the Oscar and Golden Globe) and photos he had taken. He had a really good eye. I never heard he speak with an accent (I guess I have never seen him give an interview), but I was able to see some clips with his “real voice.” It was a good exhibit, and like I said, he had some nice photographs.


We did a stroll through Northbridge and then went to the library followed by St. George’s Cathedral, which was built between 1879 and 1888. It was quite lovely. There was some lovely stained-glass windows.


We went to Victoria Gardens, which was nice. I liked the neighborhood surrounded the park. Though it was close to the Central Business District, it felt faraway. It is also served by the free yellow CAT bus. It would be a great place to live if you worked in the CBD.


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Perth, Fremantle

It is currently early Monday morning, 6:39 a.m. Since I last wrote, I have made my way to Perth, Australia.


Saturday morning, I checked out of my hotel in Queenstown. I left my luggage, and I went for a final stroll of the city for this trip. I had not been to the Queenstown Garden, so I walked through that enjoying the nice weather. I sat along the waterfront and reflected on the beauty that is Queenstown.


I made me way to the airport, and I settled in waiting for boarding.


The flight from Queenstown to Auckland was short. The flight from Auckland to Perth was seven hours. I spent the time watching the first seven episodes of the Handmaiden’s Tale, which is quite good. I will note that the seven-hour flight on Air New Zealand (international) did not include a complimentary meal. You had to pay for it. Air New Zealand, you can do better than that. Come on. It’s a long flight and international.


I arrived in Perth, and I was met by Gaby and her sister Carla. We made our way to Gaby’s place, and I settled in and ate a late dinner with Gaby and caught up. Perth is five hours behind Queenstown, so my body was a bit confused. I had a great night’s sleep.


Yesterday, I was up early catching up on everything but blogging.


Gaby and I went to Queen’s Garden. I loved all of the lily pads in the ponds and the roses were in full-bloom and smelled quite lovely. The park was named for Queen Victoria for her diamond jubilee. It is a great place for a wedding. In fact, when we entered the park, a soon-to-be bride was timing her processional with music.


The next stop was Langley Park as we made our way to Elizabeth Quay. The park runs along the Swan River. On a nice Sunday morning, there were plenty of runners, walkers and bikers enjoying the day. The quay opened in 2016 and is a nice open space with a promenade, restaurants and art. There is still plans to do more.


We walked along Hay Street and its pedestrian area and along Murray Street, which had market vendors. We also walked up London Court.


We took the train to Fremantle. On the train ride, I was able to see the port. There always seems to be a CMA CGM ship whenever I randomly see a port. There were also some autos stored on the yard. Fremantle is definitely a port city with a vibrate working waterfront. There were also fishing vessels moored further down. In fact, the area was teeming. Partly because of the fabulous market and partly because the day we went was the blessing of the fishing fleet.


Gaby and I made our way up “Cappuccino Strip” to the market. The market was a live with people and there were vendors selling everything from food to clothes to popcorn to candles to tea. I came across an artist doing what looked like photo transfer. So I asked him, and that is what he was doing. He was transferring photos on to wood. His name is Rupert, and had been a journalist for 15 years before settling over to his passion. We chatted with him for a while. It was awesome.


We walked along the water and through the Esplanade park. The fishing vessels that are about to go out were being blessed. The city has an Italian influence and there were a lot of food vendors for Little Italy by the Sea. We walked to the Roundhouse Prison and sat by the water. The prison had two volunteers who were very knowledgeable about the prison and obviously were passionate about the subject.


We were then joined by Carla and her awesome family, and we did some more walking around and talking. There was a processional for the blessing of the fleet and there were fireworks.

We went to Carla’s house, and we chatted. The kids gave me a tour of their garden and showed me a Star Wars X-box game. Carla prepared a delicious meal for us complete with lovely homemade dessert. It was a very lovely day with an awesome family. I didn’t want the time to end.


After returning to Gaby’s, I headed straight to bed.


I have to say I loved Fremantle. It had a very strong heartbeat and vibe. The weather was lovely and there were a lot of families out enjoying the market, blessing of the fleet and the waterfront activities.

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