Sunday, June 3rd, 2007 at 11:03 am in Uncategorized.
It wasn’t a bird or a plane, but something was definitely in the air Friday. Ah, yes. It was — ta da — Oaklandish, that zany group that is still trying to polish our fair city like the diamond in the rough that it is. The polishing cloth is Oakland’s art and culture and history.
Oaklandish members remind me of benign aliens sent to protect the city from its less inspired leaders. Maybe that’s what we need: a collection of folks, each with their own special power, like the Super Friends cartoon I used to watch as a kid. Wonder Woman, Bat Man and Robin, Flash.
Okay, back to reality.
Oaklandish kick-started its summer schedule Thursday, but made a very public splash Friday night at the monthly Art Murmur. The gallery crawl is always a hoot, but Oaklandish added some zest by setting up its Mobile Operations Unit, which is an official-sounding name for a big, white camper that is the group’s roving headquarters. Oaklandish lost its building two years ago (like other such semi-rogue groups, the city shut them down over building code violations), so now its little museum/store of Oakland mementos, memorabilia and collectibles is carried on wheels. The vehicle is like a big taco truck, as one member, Jeff Hull, put it. “But instead of tacos, we serve up Oaklandish.” Take that, you forces of bland, sterile, indistinguishably uniform evil.
The group also was serving up tunes that added extra zest to the Art Murmur. In that block of 23rd and Telegraph, which often turns into a spontaneous block party outside the cluster of galleries, folks were silk-screening t-shirts — custom-made, come-and-get-it style for $5. Other tables had wares to hawk. Bodies entered and exited the galleries in a steady stream like they were going through revolving doors. A woman sat breastfeeding her baby in the Rock Paper Scissors Collective boutique. Toddlers stared wide-eyed at paintings, sculptures and intallations in the galleries. Parents gently bounced babies they were carrying in that instinctive, almost absent-minded way. A few adherents of Critical Mass showed up (the citoyens of all such spunky civic gatherings) with bicycles seemingly melded to their bodies. Everything revolved around that one block of 23rd Street, where the Oaklandish truck parked, giant speakers perched atop like mutant Mickey Mouse ears.
If I could make my own Oakland superhero I’d choose “Constant Dancer,” a real man so christened by my daughter because he is contantly in rhythmic motion where public music is to be found. Or at least, I’ve seen him twice now – at the Rebirth Brass Band gig in the Black New World club, then the Art Murmur – and he never stopped dancing. His stiff but infectiously fun spinning, bobbing, weaving around 23rd Street inspired my daughter to create a Manga cartoon character fashioned after “CM,” as she nicknamed him.
Hey, wait a minute. He was wearing a Superman t-shirt the first time I saw him and he dons a red sweat jacket. Perfect.