Last Call in Oakland (Diptych)

There’s a bar in Oakland (which I won’t mention by name here to keep it out of the wrong ears) that has a fun tradition where the bartenders light the bar on fire when they make the last call for drinks.  It’s places like this that have shifted the tide in night life in Oakland.

Being a transplant from Los Angeles, I too went through the phase where I thought I had to go to “the city” (a.k.a San Francisco) to find down-to-earth, unpolished, almost grimy joints where unique progressive folk of all classes gather for a drink.  If that’s what you are looking for and live in or near Oakland you can join me in saying, “Forget San Francisco!”  Seriously,  its been months since I’ve felt the need to dip into the coolness of the city because Oakland IS where it’s at.   If this shot doesn’t convince you of the fact that Oakland is hot and the place to be in the Bay Area, take a walk in Uptown Oakland (on Telegraph Ave.) any given Friday Night and see for yourself.

I can’t celebrate the freshness and dynamic energy I have encountered out in Oakland nights without making a second observation lamenting the underside of the first. And that that this shot also signals another kind of last call for Oakland. For many who grew up in Oakland and the East Bay in general know that it’s been the home for communities of color who could not  afford to live in San Francisco.  Oakland’s recent renaissance has pushed large segments of communities of color out the last four years. Things are at a critical point if you appreciate property maps that illustrate neighborhood foreclosure rates.

If you happen upon this place before the buffers and homogenous modern design floods out the fun, dynamic, colorful vibe Oakland nights have to offer, look around and ask yourself whose missing as we further into the last days of Oakland as we know it.

–JMG

HTC One M8 (cell phone camera, f. 2.0/ 1/30 / ISO 125)

Diggin’ the Blues

Back in the 40s South Los Angeles used to be known for its Jazz scene. Considered the West Coast’s Harlem, this neighborhood saw venues like Club Alabama (on Central Ave. & 42nd St.) feature some of the best Jazz had to offer at the time. Back then, de facto and de jure segregation shaped the city’s neighborhoods. The Central Avenue neighborhood became a scene because places like the Dunbar Hotel was one of the only locations where traveling Black musicians could find lodging during stays in Los Angeles. Yes, even when they came West for gigs in Hollywood.  Local musicians that set themselves apart in this scene include Charles Mingus, Chico Hamilton, and even Charlie Parker (for a brief period).

Despite the objects that make evident its contemporariness, I like the timelessness quality of this shot. To begin, it’s shot on film, so you get some grain and the blacks and silvers are fabulous. Add the subject’s form and energy and you get a winning combination.  I figure she’s got a little more than coffee in that mug. I love the look of outrage coming from the lady on the left. A one in a million moment of the second she decides to cut loose.

The best part of the shot is the lady to the left checking out the dancer from head to toe with a little disdain.

— JMG

Shot on Illford 400 with Canon EOS Rebel.