6.7.09

No There, There

Once again I've fallen far below my goals about posting here more often. I've been planning a long critique of Oakland culture for some time now, but I think I'm going to do the short version now instead.

The most famous thing that's ever been said about Oakland has to be Gertrude Stein's famous observation that when she got there, she found out there was "no there there." For most people not in the know, Oakland is at best a footnote to San Francisco and at worst "California's Detroit." I can't say I'd ever thought much about Oakland before the possibility of my moving out here for the summer came up, but when I did, it was often through the lens of my own childhood in those other Twin Cities. Specifically, coming from the big one and not thinking the other one had much to recommend it at all (though I've changed my mind about Saint Paul a lot in the last few years).

So of course, I was pleasantly surprised when I came out here and found that I actually prefer Oakland, in all of its decrepit, funky weirdness to its more touristed, upper-class sister across the bay. I mean, how uninteresting can a city that inspired these guys:
07-01-04-seale and newton
this guy:
n8616309_36893981_6471
and these guys:


really be?

Also, what other city would purchase dozens of Imperial AT-AT Walkers to guard the coastline?


Open Late, originally uploaded by Jeremy Brooks.


Due to my job, I've also been following a lot of great Oakland bloggers. They're saying more about Oakland culture then I ever could, so let me round this out with a few links. Living in the O and A Better Oakland are two of the very best. Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out just how awesome Oaklandish is.

2 comments:

Patrick 11:01 PM  

Welcome to Oakland. I disagree with your sentiments regarding Oakland's footnote/Detroit status.

In addition, you have also perpetuated the myth regarding Gertrude Stein's quote about Oakland. Stein lived in Oakland from age 4 to age 17. Years later, she returned to her childhood home to find that virtually everything she remembered from her youth was gone. As a result, when asked about her visit to Oakland, she stated "There is no there, there." Meaning, the Oakland of her childhood was gone, not that Oakland itself was nothing.

Zakcq 11:40 PM  

I was aware of the original meaning of Stein's quote. Whether or not it was her intent, it's come to symbolize not only Oakland, but the placelessness of that era of American urbanization. In both uses, it is not that Oakland is nothing, but that social processes and advanced industrial capitalism had rendered the city faceless. And either way, Stein was a satirist who was undoubtedly aware of the double meaning.

Also, if you'd read closer, I think you'd find that I also disagree with the sentiments you mention. In fact, I didn't even say they were mine. I said they were typical of people who didn't know Oakland.

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