My father used to take me and my three sisters to the Memphis Airport to watch the planes take-off and land when we were very young. He also took us on numerous road trips and taught us to be good drivers. He gave us vision and as a result we all have traveled quite extensively.
Here, I am sharing a blessed memory of my two trips to Oakland. My older sister lived there, and though I had visited her in LA many years earlier, I made to Oakland in the early 90’s. I had a lot on my mind and after calling her, she said, “Come on.”
On my flight, I sat next to a woman named Carolyn who had kind, compassionate eyes. I took that to be a good omen as we chatted because that was also the name of my dearest friend. We flew into San Francisco, and I followed by sister’s directions and took a shuttle over to Oakland to a particular hotel. I stood in the posh lobby and waited for her to pick me up. She arrived shortly after I got there, and it was so good to see her smiling face after such a long flight.
She had an apartment that sat high upon a hill that was very close to Lake Merritt. She put on some great music as we celebrated my safe arrival, and the music was distinctive. She always had the best sound systems with Sony speakers so that we could hear every instrument being played. As the former wife of a musician, good equipment was key in her life.
I do remember walking over to the peaceful Lake Merritt and sitting on one of the benches at one point. Its mere presence was comforting in itself. Later, when we got out and drove around, we did one of our favorite things to do. Second-hand shopping! We went to either a Goodwill or Salvation Army and I do remember her haggling with an employee about a price. I think he enjoyed the banter as much as she did, and I went on to pick out some jewelry pieces.
When we left, we walked over to a food truck and got some type of sandwich wraps. I do remember us walking and eating which may be a California thing but definitely not a Chicago thing. But when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Right? We were enjoying each other’s company, so I just went with the flow. The weather was great, but I soon learned that it got really cold at night though it was mild or nice during the day.
During my stay, she drove over to the UC-Berkeley area. I recall seeing the University sign though we did not go on the campus. Yet, close by, we went to a place that had hot tubs and saunas. There, we were able to really talk, and I was able to pour out my feelings. It was both cleansing and rejuvenating and a load was lifted off of my shoulders.
As she drove, I do remember seeing a huge billboard advertising the I Dream a World Traveling Exhibition. I had seen the book of photography and interviews by Brian Lanker that features black women who have made a difference though I did not see the actual exhibit. We did stop and get food in their Chinatown, and I also remember catching a bus with my niece, her daughter, as she went to her job at a title company.
I did return about five years later and by then, my sister was an empty nester living in another part of Oakland. She had her own stretch limo as a commercial driver, and it was parked outside of her small house. It was a beautiful navy-blue limo, and she took pride in polishing it and keeping it in immaculate condition.
I went with her to pick up a businessman that lived in Kentfield. As, she drove across The Golden Gate Bridge, I thought of how proud my father must be as he looked down on her. I knew to be very quiet as she maneuvered the limo across the suspension bridge. I saw Alcatraz Island sitting over to the left as we continually headed north. When we arrived at the man’s house, it was quaint and covered in mossy greenery and rather hidden away. She took him to San Francisco, and I sat up front with her.
I saw quite bit of San Francisco the second time around. I noticed the steep, hilly landscape. As she drove on the freeway to San Jose to see a cousin, I saw a house that sat so high, I thought that one would need a helicopter just to reach home. That amazed me as one from the flat lands of the Midwest. At one point, she drove to a spot by the Pacific Ocean where I saw a bunch of seals gathered on a rock. I also remember the people in the area reeling from the recent death of Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.
Though I was on an adventure, I always found time to continually reach to accomplish some of my personal goals. With her help, I found the number of the famed Wild Tree Press that was located in Oakland, as I searched for an avenue to publication. I called and spoke with the editor who was both kind and encouraging. We chatted for a short while.
I have many fond memories of those two trips. We laughed when she told me that at that time, it cost a dollar to go into San Francisco, but there was no charge to return to Oakland. That’s fine. I enjoyed it and I will cherish those times with my sister as we talked, ate and walked in Oakland.
February 19, 2022