Thursday, July 30, 1992

The 72-San Pablo Bus

I wrote this poem (if it can be called that) for my improvisation class at Laney College in Oakland. I was living in Richmond at the time.

I post it here not because it is any good, because it is not. (In fact, I had it up for some time and then took it down because I decided it wasn't good.) I include it because it's foreshadowing. I had no idea in 1991 that I would eventually get paid to work on information displays for the new bus rapid transit line on San Pablo Avenue... makes sense in retrospect, though.

San Pablo Avenue is marked "County Road" on the original plat map of Oakland. You can find it (a copy, presumably) on display in Oakland City Hall, as well as in Mel Scott's history of the Bay Area (The San Francisco Bay Area: A Metropolis in Perspective.) And probably other places as well.

I took the 72-San Pablo bus, an old route, 
On the County Road that's been there
Since the first Oaklanders and San Pabloites subdivided.
By historic buildings and through historic neighborhoods
In the shadows of the streetcars.

Much of it is "blight"
Much of it is "slum"
Much of it has been built over with shopping centers
   and fast food outlets and supermarkets.
But here and there, walking on the ground,
You can see the original fixtures of the city.
Sidewalks with dates, with street names embedded at the time
   the cement was laid.
Old single-family houses once at the edge of the city now 
   surrounded by it.
Tiny storefronts with apartments above them, 
   fronted with glass block and fake marble tile.
On Key Boulevard in Richmond you can still see where they 
   ripped up the tracks,
A story retained in the asphalt.
It's a tenuous connection with the past, but it's there.

The bus stops at most corners.
It stops for children and the elderly.
It stops for college students and the poor.
It stops for anyone.
It takes them where they want to go, slowly, imperfectly, but 
   it does take them.
You don't need a credit rating or an insurance payment.
You don't need to be able to walk or see or hear.
You don't need to be old enough to get a license, 
   or young enough to pass a test.
You don't need to be from a rich family and you don't even 
   have to have enough money for gasoline.

   in a suburb with no way out
   as a child without a means of transportation
   as a senior without one's health or wealth

The bus can take you. 
The bus can get you out.
The bus can make you free.