Thanks to the resounding, contradictory symphony of voices responding to my May 19th piece, I want to address them:

Dana said this is not news and that Billie Joe started here. If it’s not your idea of news, why click on it? You just made the news because of it! Congrats!

Thank you Steve, and yes, The Killers ain’t from ’round here. They played the Gilman before they were signed. Once at the Gilman I saw a band from Japan throw flour on everyone, then water, and play a gong.

It’s very cool, Steve, that you read this article and responded.

The key turn of phrase is your speculative “just yet” at the end.

The media (of which we are all important parts) has three canned narratives of Oakland: the danger city, the little engine that could, and Discount Frisco. These are all true, but you (as a patron of the arts) have better ones. The vibe in your store is great, but very different from 924 Gilman, as it should be! I was not attacking you, but musing on the irony, to me, of a clean, well-lighted place for punk, which is good and we need more stores like that, for everyone.

Dear Mary: I am absolutely NOT tearing down everyone who made it! I’m saying just one thing: we must be conscious of the way consumption, waste and architecture connect. In Oakland and throughout the Bay, there are a huge number of troubled assets, and it is not simply the banks and brokers who are responsible. I’m not just talking about blight, either: we have people who hate their neighbors, or, worse, don’t know them, blot them out, try not to look at them, as one would treat a cancerous growth. We have to beautify our spaces, because we owe it to the future to admit our ignorance to them.

Graffiti may have originated in post-war Paris or London as avant-garde, but it was modernized in New York and perfected through a worldwide collaboration of all cultures. To say graffiti is not a crime is obviously a lie, but maybe a useful one. Art is a chaotic but effective answer to chaos, and gentrification, as a form of architecture, is both an occupation (political, vocational, ontological) and a work of art.

Gentrification is taking space. But it does not need to impoverish people. It has money and power, and power gives. Every person wondering if she is a gentrifier must ask herself how she can overcome that burdensome question.

Is it by adopting a dog? A culture? A lifestyle? A child? A neighborhood? How do you give back to those who made room for you, with or without consent? Levinas wrote about the debt inherent in existence, and when the bill comes due, we must be ready, because the reward is infinite.

New York is saying we are a New Brooklyn, which to it is an enormous compliment, and ignores that San Francisco is no Manhattan. Manhattan never had a William Randolph Hearst. Oakland would normally not care at all about the New York Times, but global culture is in the air. Hip hop. R&B. Reggaeton. Soul. Electronic music.

Gentrification is not the same as race-as-color, and why should it be? Temescal has belonged to lots of people and wildlife.

It is important to retain a critique of gentrification as an artistic critique, which includes humanitarian concerns. I don’t know if there’s an OaklandLocal anthem or pledge, but I’m sure if there is it mentions inclusion and generosity to the public. Free information.

We can all take care of civic infrastructure, and must, in order to create any future beyond the negativity of mass media (which nonetheless literally belongs to us). Oakland has always had the world’s attention, just like Berkeley and San Francisco. There would be no Silicon Valley without each part.

Stevo, what is this TMZ you speak of? Do they live here? It sounds like you know people who know a lot of things. They should publish things, and then we can discuss those things in a public forum with them.

You can compare any two stretches of land, but the only way I can tell you why I compared 40th to Gilman is because I was comparing vibes, social feelings, between Temescal and West Berkeley.

West Berkeley in the 80s and 90s was kind of unplanned, sprawling, almost wistful in its polluted, faded, 99-cent-store simplicity. I remember a five-and-dime at San Pablo (the real street of Billie Joe’s debut) and Solano, and a baseball card store next door to it. People would leave the Gilman to drink anywhere, everywhere: Temescal simply could not handle that, and that’s a good thing. Density can be stressful because it increases uncertainty, but its uncertain, ambivalent, random face is a reflection of your own.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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