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A few days ago, I caught a squirrel breaking and entering my house. The first glance I caught of him was his tail. I opened my bedroom window after burning some incense; it could’ve been the smoke that made me think it was a Davy Crockett hat on my windowsill. But then a head popped up, and a squirrelly arm reached for the window. Now as a kid I admired Snow White for her animal magnetism but I wasn’t about to let a potentially rabid animal into the house. So I spooked him just as his paw gripped the sash.

Crime in the Glenview isn’t anything the Chronicle can crow about, as much as they like to run stories about Oakland violence. Squirrel gangs (jumping on the trees, wrestling on my roof) are more prominent here than hardened, human criminals. The neighborhood is known to the Oakland Police Department as Beat 16Y, and last month we had a total of 22 “incidents.” These included 5 burglaries, 5 robberies and 1 battery. The most reported crime was auto theft and burglaries, which totaled 11. Not a whole lot considering that the city at large reports roughly 100 incidents per day. Oakland Crimespotting maps out each occurrence on the Glenview beat and others on its site. They use data released from CrimeWatch, the city’s community crime mapping database. I’m on the fence as to whether this information makes me safer. I know my Honda is one of the more popular models to steal, so I use The Club and hope for the best.

Even if the G’view is relatively safe, I do move around all parts of the city. And there are times when my hair stands on end in the most bustling of places. I felt this atmospheric tension the day a guy pulled a knife on me in Downtown Oakland, across the street from where Chauncey Bailey would fall years later. I had just picked up Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at Holmes Books and saw a man hunched against a streetlight next to my car. Just as I passed him street-side, he whipped out a blade. I could sense he was drugged out. So I ran around him and got away…only to have my brakes fail and a near-miss with a cyclist. Ah, the memories.

My most recent brushes with violence are the raccoon fights in my backyard. They tumble along the side of the house, crawl under the deck at night, and toss empty snail shells through a hole into the basement. I try to share the neighborhood with the wildlife. As for less-than fuzzy elements, I’m considering a self-defense class due to start in February. Therapist and social activist Helen Greico has taught more than 10,000 people moves like how to disarm an assailant, and will lead another course in Berkeley. She’s worked for N.O.W. and runs the B.R.A.V.E. organization with her husband. I’m sure her class would teach me to be more assertive in the concrete jungle. I’m not certain that Greico’s “get to the fight first” motto would work with the raccoons, though. They’re more brazen than the squirrels.

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The place where I lay my head used to be a laundry room. The contractor who bought the house in the late ‘80s rehabbed it and flipped it to my grandma in ‘90. Down came the ivy wallpaper and up went a backyard deck. The laundry nook extended into the master bed and bath. Insulation went in the back half to weather sun and fog.

The day my grandma moved in, she planted a redwood sapling she stole off of the side of the highway. (She claimed its place on a housing construction site was precarious.) It stands in the backyard next to the garage, many limbs taller than the Meyer lemon and pagoda trees.

The typical Glenview houses are like my grandma’s—craftsman bungalows with a twist. They’re single-family homes, some with cement stairs painted in red, with the remnants of shared driveways. These came in off the road and forked a few feet back into separate garages. And while the couple next door razed theirs, ours still (barely) stands. It has the same pueblo-style beams like the house but squats on its haunches in slow collapse. My old friend Sawyer had this to say about the garage: “There’s gotta be dead bodies under there.”

None that I’m aware of. Perhaps under the hard earth there are remnants of an old farm or the bones of some beloved ranch dog. Maybe even the camp fragments of Ohlone Indians. What I do know is that the garage used to house piano parts.

They belonged to a Chinese couple who, so the story goes, bought the house when the Glenview tract first went on the market. The husband liked to build pianos and in the front room, play an old organ. He set up an amplifier in the window and blasted showtunes onto the street. Sometimes he’d catch a passerby with a peal of the pipes; each time (said his neighbor), he’d look out the window to see if they’d bust a move.

Exactly when this neighborhood Liberace and his wife moved into the house I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll do as City Homestead did and pay a visit to the Alameda County Assessor and Public Records office. Hopefully I’ll find a sale date and a name, even if I don’t find out what organ riffs blared onto Park Boulevard. Those details are left to the neighborhood’s muscle memory.

A friend of mine emailed me to say:

“I see that your blog has a more serious, reflective tone, but I’m just passing along something from the lighter side of public policy that was posted by one of my fb friends who is also an Oaktown expat in NC.

You’ve probably already seen it, and I’m sure this is run of the mill for the East Bay, but out here I was LMAO. 2M+ hits and counting…”

Thanks for the feedback, D! In terms of this blog, I’ll work adding a little upbeat tone to my bass line. (A post called “Incidents with Squirrels” is coming soon.) The video he recommended pretty much speaks for itself: