It happens to all of us.

Park Closed I got caught. I was exploring, as I am wont to do, a little-visited and forgotten part of the world. This particular one used to be an old U.S Navy base on the Eastern shore of San Francisco bay: Point Molate. I was there to drop off a certain someone for her certain Dad’s birthday shark fishing trip. I don’t recommend the road unless you use it for offroading. Anyways, coming back in the slight pre-dawn I took a closer look at the rows of oddly placed, identical housing. That’s when I figured that this place was just like the Ord—an old military base that had been decommissioned and left to the elements. That’s what I thought anyways. In the Ord’s case, the place had been partially (and I do mean partially) converted into a college, where quite frankly the coolest thing to study was the Ord itself. Sure—sometimes one has to cross a few barriers to get to somewhere abandoned and cool. It’s best to take a camera in case you can’t again.

So when I found a gate along the way back to civilization, and a smallish turnoff nearby, I was lured in. I sauntered around the edge of the fence and was inside. Seems the City of Richmond has a beachfront park which they keep closed for no good reason. Beached Fences Sure, there are big signs in there nearby the splintering picnic benches and rusted-out trashcans stating “no open fires: high explosive material in adjacent area” but I don’t see that stopping my enjoyment of the place. Finding myself at the the end of the “park” I found myself in front of another gate. To get around the fence (again) it was necessary to get down on the beach and over sea-slippery rocks. Nice views down there of one of the many San Francisco bay bridges, floating away into the morning fog. It’s at this point I see that there’s a gravel path leading around the next bend—a path which is very far and very exposed. Not that there’s much traffic at this hour… but still. I make my way along the path, running some distance and notice that there’s what looks like a house after the bend. And there’s what looks like a guy coming out of the house, and it looks like he’s taking out the trash. And it looks like he sees me. Uh oh…

I turn tail. But it doesn’t really matter as this guy has a truck and to be sure now, he sees me. I’m on foot. I have blue hair. I skirted around two fences to get here in the first place.  Turns out that this area now belongs to the Chevron Oil Corporation, although I didn’t find that out right away. No… I was just asked what the hell I was doing there. I answered honestly: I was taking pictures. Caught, with Blue HairAnd I said “I just walked around. I didn’t break and enter or anything. Just wanted to see what was here.” The guy gave me a long look, and I guess that was the right answer because he told me alright, I just needed to go now. He sped on ahead to the gate and I walked along behind (didn’t really see the need to jog anymore). As I began clambering down the rocks to the sea, I heard the guy call out “you be careful now. Take care.” Of course, I didn’t really know if he meant climbing on those rocks, or going places I shouldn’t, or exploring the world in general or living my life to the fullest or whatever, so I answered back in a way that fit all of them: “Thank you. I will. Thank you.” And then I got the hell out.

City of Cannibals

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Regurgitate. Reappropriate. Reclaim. Reconnoiter. Rectify.

This is a city that eats its old. Set them out on the corner, and they’re gone. See something you want? Take it away—it’s yours. If that microwave, or TV, or refrigerator doesn’t have its cord cut that means it still works. Someone doesn’t want it, but wants it off their front curb. It’s a flea market town. You know about trash and treasure, one man and another man? What if that guy lived next door?

I’ve always had this habit. My favorite art assignment: find a box, find some stuff, put the stuff in that box. I dug in the dumpsters behind Target near my college, found a tea-kettle package and broken mirrors and a whole bunch of wire, shone a light through the whole thing. It was real pretty, and appealed to my natural cheapness frugality, also.

Number BricksLove of the abandoned, the lost, the free-for-the-taking is what got me through college. And when I say “got me through” I of course mean gave me something to do when I became too frustrated or bored with the school on old Fort Ord, and fell back to the Ord itself. My room was furnished with the 10 year-old leavings of a different institution, the Army, while my classes seemed simultaneously filled with different leavings.

I traveled abroad, and the most consistent fun I could find was exploring the drains of another country, finding little secrets and incidental items, dumpster diving with locals despite what other locals might think. Did you know there’s a drain that leads directly from the rainforest in Airlie Beach, past its campsites, underneath the main highway, and emerges directly on the beach? I miss the Cave Clan, even though I was never a member.

No surprise I should be happy in my new town, one might guess. There’s a Cathedral to tagging right on the waterfront. It’s next to the abandoned bus yard. Art cars, stock metal piled and forged onto them, are here and there. At the moment I’m on top of a street-bedframe, typing on a computer which rests on a street-desk, next to another monitor on top of a piano bench begotten from a yard sale, all for free. We got a chair at that same yard sale, then covered it in cool fabric samples glean’d from Craigslist free. We put it in our sitting room which is filled with some free plants; the urban garden down the street supplies them.

Of course there was the one occasion where, wandering down Haight street, finding a nice (different) piano bench and carrying it off, I was accosted several blocks afterward by a wild-eyed guy saying I took his bench. A little bewildered, I figured out that he’d found it earlier that day and had been trying to sell it ever since. I didn’t pay him the $5 he wanted, even if it was decent furniture. Violates the spirit of the thing.

There’s a lot of free culture, which makes that incident so unusual. More than anywhere else I’ve lived people get it. I’m not looked down on if I desire something cool in a dumpster. Even if I’m in the Financial District, businessman don’t get suspicious when I take their discarded office chair with me. These aren’t company secrets, and that’s why you put this thing out to begin with: so someone else would take it away for you. At the dump they weigh you when you get in and when you get out—if you take as much as you brought, you don’t pay anything. Give me a week and a moving van; I’ll give you an apartment another city-dweller in another city would cry over.

It’s recycling. It’s healthy. It means there’s less waste, what with everybody using everything once and twice and thrice. So what if my cabinet is the same as my neighbors’ before they found another one? A little cannibalism, a little creativity, a good city, can go a long way.