In November, I had the great pleasure of participating as a tour guide in the Forced From Home exhibit, which in 2017 toured five different cities in the west. This provided me with a chance not only to explore a few corners of Oakland more thoroughly than past visits, but also to meet a bunch of other MSF colleagues whom I’d probably never meet otherwise, unless we happened to be in the same mission at the same time. (Which was not the case for any of the interesting and fun fellow tour-guides I met during this stop on the tour.) The exhibit itself happened just across the street from Lake Merritt, right behind the beautiful Oakland Civic Auditorium aka Henry Kaiser Auditorium. The building itself has been closed for structural reasons for more than a decade – but the outside is still beautiful.
But the most important thing the tour gave me was a chance to share a more realistic taste of what life is like for many of the patients and communities we work with, than I can do just speaking in front of a classroom or to friends when I get home from an assignment. I’m always looking for ways to capture what’s similar and what’s different, between the wealth of most US communities and what’s normal for so many people where I work. People who grew up where and when I grew up take so very much for granted that they often seem to actually believe it’s a hardship to not be able to get the next release of an i-phone the day it comes out. (I know poverty is present in the US – but even the poorest states and towns will still usually have paved roads in the town center, a public electricity grid that’s very stable by global standards, a municipal water supply, local and national governments with sufficient income to maintain a fairly reasonable level of civil order, and so on.) In any case, I spent about 10 days sharing stories and examples of what displaced people all around the world might face – and it was an honor and a pleasure. It’s interesting to sort and look back at these photos and remember the questions my tour visitors asked, now that I’m back at work in a country with something like 25% of its citizens displaced from their homes due to violence.
I’ll let the photos, of the civic center and the tour, of downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt in all their glory, speak for themselves. (Do read the titles on the small photos from the auditorium, above – you’ll find how I titled this post.) And I’ll share three public links, the first about this year’s plans for the Forced From Home tour (it’s well worth a visit if it stops near you), the second an article about the exhibit which quotes me, and the third a recent public statement relating to the work I’m doing at the moment, to keep things in context. As you know I can’t really talk about the current work on this personal blog…but public statements are public statements.
Two quite different views on two quite musical days: fairly typical vacation outing for me if I’m able to be around the Bay Area in August. I always look forward to the chance to hear some performances at the Cabrillo Music Festival, which my friends Gene & Howard introduced me two nearly two decades ago. This year I enjoyed two excellent evenings of contemporary music during the final season of their excellent long-standing conductor Marin Alsop. Day one, we drove down from SF via Route 1 for traffic reasons, and thus had far lovelier views and a chance to pick up fresh strawberries at a farm stand in the northern part of Santa Cruz county. I always enjoy that drive because so much of the west side of the peninsula and of Santa Cruz county remain very heavily agricultural, while of course the east side of the peninsula is silicon valley: economic (and visual) diversity, eh?
Day two we had a matinée performance of the contemporary Opera Powder Her Face produced by West Edge Opera in an abandoned train station right next to the freeway in Oakland. It must have been a very grand station before the rail lines were relocated to the north side of the major interstate that now runs right behind it. The opera was disturbing and quite well produced, and the train station made a great concert hall and interesting subject for architectural photography. I hope you’ll enjoy these glimpses of what I get up to given time and opportunity back home :-).