There’s an event happening today. This morning. In Oakland.
I think Maria was the one who told me about it.
She, Laura and a number of other people were planning to go. I like to go hang out with them in the next room from time to time. They’ve got this informal co-living commune thing going on in room 510 next door.
Laura and Corey placed their two beds side by side to form one larger one- Walking into the room at like any random point in the day, you’ll find like four people snuggling and cuddling in different positions on the bed, and more around the room.
Maria, Laura, Fiona, Magnus, Jakob – the general gang. They’ve also got this UWC thing going on- a good number of them were classmates at UWC Costa Rica I think.
It has this interesting communal hippie-ish sort of vibe, I think it’s interesting.
Maria made a post about the event on our student Facebook group a number of days ago.
It surprising to me how well-informed these people are, about stuff happening around. It’s like they know where to go, and they know where to get all of this cool information.
I would have never even known about this event. I’m still trying to make sense of this whole America place, but it feels like these guys already know their way around somehow.
Anyway it’s great to be able to benefit from their worldly experience and familiarity with the social scene. We’ve got a Facebook group chat for the people interested in going for this event. We’ve been planning excitedly towards it.
I am behind schedule. I am waayy behind schedule.
Everyone else left like an hour or so earlier.
I’m still trying to properly wake up.
I need to get dressed and stuff. I need to not be just getting up from bed.
It’s a CreativeMornings event.
I have no idea what CreativeMornings is, but I looked online and it seems to have a pretty cool vibe. Today’s speaker is someone called Aisha Fukushima.
I have absolutely no idea who that is either. But Maria and everyone else were very excited to go hear her speak and stuff, so I guess she has to be cool somehow.
I begin to put myself through the motions:
Out of bed, Quick shower, Get dressed, Head out.
I just got to Oakland.
Recently emerged from the subway trains that rumble back and forth across the Bay, their cranking and screeching muffled within the depths of the dull-green seawater as they shuttle between San Francisco and West Oakland.
I’m walking along a major road, looking around and taking in Oakland’s ambience. It is my first time here. It seems much less busy than downtown San Francisco, where our dorms are. The streets look neat and quiet and somewhat empty.
At some point I realise that I’m not sure how to proceed. The route to the event location didn’t feel all that complicated at the dorms- I took a few glances at it on Google Maps, and I felt I should find my way there without an issue.
Now I’m not quite sure what’s going on. I think it’s partly because I had absolutely no idea what Oakland looked like, prior. And so there’s a good amount of new information to take in.
I have the event details on my laptop. My laptop is in my backpack. I did all of the scheduling on my computer, with the dorm WiFi.
I do not have a cellular plan on my phone, so now I need to find WiFi.
I look around for a cafe.
I’m in a cafe by the road.
The waitress is a very nice Black American lady. She’s being very nice and smily and welcoming to me. Hmm.
I’m also dressed pretty fancy today. I’ve got a patterned brown Yoruba buba on, layered with a fancy tweed winter coat whose collars I’ve turned up.
Turning up the collars makes me feel very cool. It gives a similar vibe to Benedict Cumberbatch in the Sherlock TV show.
I quickly open up my computer and connect to the cafe WiFi.
Okay, what does Google Maps say I do now..
I’m subconsciously berating myself.
At the time I put on my clothes this morning, I was already over an hour late for the event. Now I’m here- God knows where exactly, trying to figure out how exactly to get to the venue.
Everyone else has been at the event for like hours now, while I’m still here ahhh—-
Eventually I get to the location.
The frustratingly elusive location of the CreativeMornings event.
I head up the stairs and walk into what looks like a reception/waiting room.
There’s a woman standing by a table- she seems to be sorting out some stuff, I’m not sure what.
I approach her and ask where the event is taking place.
She says it’s in the next room, but that no one is allowed to go in at this point. That the entry is closed or something.
I think it’s some sort of an interactive event, and so having new people join in when the participants already have a rhythm going, could be disruptive.
Now I’m even more curious about what the whole thing is about.
I try persuading her- try finding ways around the metaphysical policy wall separating me from all of the hair-raising excitement that is obviously happening in the next room.
Nope. Nada. No success. Nothing.
She insists that there is just no way to join the event at this point.
It’s too late. I’m too late.
Eventually I give up on trying to persuade the lady, and decide to head out.
The unpleasant sensation of unrealized anticipation lingers in my mind, as I walk back out into the streets of Oakland- taking in the the fresh morning air and soft sunlight, wondering what this new city is like.
I am at a restaurant, sitting at a table and doing some work on my computer.
Maria and the others are probably back in SF by now, I don’t know. I’ve been absorbed in Oakland sightseeing in the past hour or so. I’m no longer thinking about CreativeMornings and Aisha Fukushima and all of the missed excitement.
The restaurant is a really interesting one. Fancy. It’s very white. White walls, white furniture, general white theme.
It’s in the vicinity of Lake Merritt.
A waiter recently brought my order. It was a strange listing on the menu that I didn’t recognise. Felt I could try it out.
The major component of the dish looks something like cut-up sushi rolls, but it has this smooth, light brown meat thing in it, that has a tang to it.
So I’m sitting in this interesting cafe around Lake Merritt, doing some laptop stuff while nibbling on this unfamiliar dish with strong-tasting meat.
I recently left the cafe. Now I’m walking around and taking selfies with my patterned brown buba and fancy tweed jacket with upturned collars.
There’s a church nearby. I walk into it. It’s quiet. And serene.
The light streaming in through the stained glass windows gives the room a surreal, transcendent ambience. I’m walking along the central aisleway, running my fingers along the pews and admiring the woodwork.
I find the altar entrancing. I’m moving along the curves and edges with my eyes, tracing out the interesting details of its remarkable wooden craftmanship.
I don’t know how long I spend in the church.
Now I’m hanging around Lake Merritt. I think it has interesting vibes. There’s some sort of an amusement park or something nearby – I’m hanging around one of the installations. Swinging about the metal railings and generally being silly.
There’s a lady sitting by the lake. Black American. Somehow we get talking. Her name is Ameena. I’m not sure how it’s spelt, but she pronounces it “Ameena”. She recently graduated from a nearby college. I think she’s studying to be a lawyer.
It still feels somewhat surreal for me- this experience of having real-life conversations with actual Black American people. Before America, I only used to see them in movies and rap videos.
One of my high school classmates in Nigeria travelled outside the country for like a two-month holiday and practically returned as a Black American. He had the accent, the slangs, the walk, everything. Of course that wasn’t the real thing. But maybe it was like the closest experience I had prior?
Strange thing was that I think the guy’s holiday was actually even in Canada.
How do you go to Canada for two months and come back with a Black American accent? How does that even work?
We talk some more, Ameena and I. While we chill by the lake.
She looks like she’s sizing me up. I’m not entirely sure what for. As a potential boyfriend or something? I don’t know.
Looking at me from head to toe like:
“Hmm, let’s see what we have here. Hmmm”.
Looking again like:
Like she’s ticking through some mental checklist and trying to make up her mind on something.
We keep talking. At some point she says she needs to head home. It is getting dark.
I say alright. I ask for her full name, so I can contact her on Facebook. She gives me her last name. We say our goodbyes, and she heads towards what I think is a nearby subway station.
I myself will soon be on my way back to San Francisco. The air is getting cooler and the sky is getting darker. Electric lighting in the vicinity is beginning to reflect off the glassy surface of Lake Merritt.
I walk around some more, and take in what I can of Oakland in the dimming evening light.
Now Playing: Memories by Petit Biscuit
Image: View of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, from somewhere around the Ferry Building.