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I may not stack them as high as my grandmother did, but I do collect newspaper clippings. Mostly, they’re old articles from the Oakland Tribune, about installation of Lake Merritt’s “necklace of lights,” or an archival photo of the Montclair district when La Salle was just a dirt road. Some of them are bad news. My Sept. 24, 2001 issue of The New Yorker has an all-black cover, which, when held up close to the eyes, reveals two darker towers in silhouette.

It wasn’t until November 5, 2008 that I added to my small archive. At 6:00 a.m., I got up and walked down Park Blvd. to the newspaper racks outside the organ shop, and picked up the San Francisco Chronicle. The whole front page featured a smiling President-Elect and the words: “Obama: ‘Change has come to America.’” By the time I left the mingling coffee drinkers at the coffee shop and walked up the sun-lit street, I found my copy of the Oakland Tribune on my walkway. “A New Era,” the headline read. An image of Barack flanked with American flags stretched across the page. Finally. Some good news worth holding on to. And everyone wanted a copy; the Chron sold out and took special orders for additional printings. For a moment it seemed that newspapers were once again a thriving industry.

Decades ago, local writers printed neighborhood rags all over Oakland. All corners of the city had some kind of glorified newsletter that functioned like the sites in today’s ‘Oakblogosphere.’ The West Oakland Press, Temescal News, Central Oakland Eagle, Elmhurst Herald and some 59 other papers had a home on the news racks. The Dimond district had two publications (the Dimond Herald and Dimond Review) and I’m still trying to figure out from where a newspaper called simply “The Windbag” came. Remnants of these papers are on file at the Oakland Public Library. I dropped by the main branch to read some of them. Before my head got dizzy from microfiche whiplash, I recovered an old publication set in my little neighborhood. In a craftsman-like font, the masthead read: “Glenview News.”

Much of the content recorded the meeting minutes of the Glenview Improvement Club. Requests for streetlights, a new set of streetcar tracks and a neighborhood library branch started in the club and got press in the Glenview News. The Improvement Club printed their meeting minutes here, but also allotted space to other orgs. in the neighorhood. The Women’s Club, for instance, held a “Depression Party” in 1935. Such a bash could take place today, what with the economic strife we face going into the Obama era. Only the wording seemed a little, well, out-dated:

“The Depression Party presented by the Glenview Women’s Club at their Club House on the evening of Jan. 24th is just going to be one grand surprise. It will be one continuous riot of fun and laughter, with games and dancing to follow.

“Contrary to the ‘impression of the word depression’ it’s going to be a jolly evening when that old ‘bogey’ will be dragged through his own historical past and forced to yield to the glorification of better times. The party will appeal to all ages and no one can afford to miss this how of shows for thirty-five cents.”

I can’t say what a “bogey” is, but I’d say that the country has temporarily forgotten our impending depression the past few days. Party-goers in Washington D.C.—and pretty much anyone with access to a television—know that the Inauguration of Barack Obama is taking our minds off of the signs of the economic times. Oaklanders can view the ceremony at the Oracle Arena tomorrow morning and party with the East Bay Democrats in the evening. I may swing by if I get some work done (gotta find my next paycheck) because there’s no cover and plenty of music, libations and Oakland’s newly elected Councilwoman at Large, Rebecca Kaplan. And there are more anti-depression bashes going on in and around The Town. For a party catered in part by G’view restaurants Bellanico and soon-to-be neighbors À Côté, buy your tickets now for Montclair Women’s Inaugural Club. There are more Inaugural events in the Bay, some of which are listed in today’s Chronicle. The champagne toast with the Shotgun Players just may lure me away from my G’view living room.

If yesterday’s Inaugural Concert is any indication of what will follow tomorrow, the swearing in will be, in the words of the Glenview Women’s Club, “one grand surprise.” I watched the star-studded line-up (including Skyline High alumni Tom Hanks, whose belabored pauses still didn’t drain the event of its poignancy) rock Americans to the tune of hope. Stevie Wonder brought the Obamas to their feet; Garth Brooks had the crowd putting their hands in the air to make the most awesome wave I’ve seen since the A’s made the playoffs at the Coliseum; and the sight of U2 playing their MLK anthem “Pride” amidst the Lincoln Memorial brought tears to my eyes—even if Bono went on too long about “four boys from North side Dublin.”

In the spirit of the “glorification of better times,” I leave you with this picture. My niece Nora drew this Obama portrait during the concert, and I’m taking it as an omen of more good news.


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.