At AK press in Oakland

AK press warehouseI first got to San Francisco via a long drive down the highway from Humboldt in Northern California, a great trip as it goes through the mountains where some of the remaining redwood forests are to be found. I've a surprizingly strong memory of listening to a long discussion about Twitter on TWIT on my iPod touch as we swung through the hills and over bridges before coming down to find urban sprawl and vinyards. It was a sunny day in San Francisco and I spent a couple of hours wandering around before getting the BART to San Jose.  It was only a few days later that I returned to the Bary Area but this time to Oakland and Berkley as the Bay area date was to be in the AK press warehouse in Oakland and I was staying with a WSA member in Berkely.

The trip back on the BART was memorable for watching a con-man taking money off a group of five or six young men through the old guess where the pea is hidden under these shells routine.  My viewing angle was right to allow me to spot him slipping it up his sleeve each time.  The entire group were sitting just across from me and I watched them throwing money down, losing and getting frustrated. And then, slowly, one of the group was obviously becoming more and more suspicious.  Just as he braced himself to say something the con man simply stood up and vanished, he seemed to have had a perfect sense of just how far he could push things.

I arrived after dark, rang Rick and we met up and went for a pizza and beer (why did I never remember to note the beer brands!) before crashing for the night.  He was working the next day and as I'd seen from the map that we were a few blocks from the Berkely campus I decided I'd walk up towards it out of historical curiosity.  This turned out to be a great idea as it turned into a very hot day and the campus has some fantastic plantings.  I happily spent a few hours wandering around randomly through the undergrowth and buildings.  It's a huge campus that throbs with wealth in terms of both the buildings and the large amount of labour that is clearly poured into the grounds.  It has has one of those weird brass machinery globes sculptures like the one in Trinity College in Dublin and that I'd seen in the Vatican in Rome.  It's near the spot where a plaque maks the spot where the Spanish first glimpsed what is now the Golden Gate park.

I got back to discover Rick's cat was nowhere in sight in the apartment which had me worried. Had it slipped out when I left?  It was still very hot so I worked on the laptop with the door open and to my relief it turned up after a couple of hours, before he got back from work.

Oakland poster for speaking tourWe then drove to the AK Press warehouse in Oakland. Around 26 people attended the talk including, for the first time, a couple of people who appeared to have come along specifically to disagree with me - someone later told me they were from some post anarchist reading group.  Sometime after I got back to Dublin a came across a hostile posting announcing the event on a SF forum with a few people relying along the lines of lets go along and show him. To be honest although I'd picked up the hostile vibe the actual 'intervention' was pretty harmless, but I grew up politically on a diet of interventions from the likes of the Sparts.  In retrospect one of the interesting things about the North American tour was the fact that this was the only organised intervention in the 44 stops.  I'm more familiar with meetings where people come along to intervene.

I also met a few people I knew from the net at the meeting including Tom Wetzel and Andrej Grubacic but just after I got started an old face from Dublin, Jim Davis, walked in.  Now that threw me for a few seconds as although I probably knew Jim was in the Bay Area (I think I'd tried and failed to find an email address for him before my arrival) I hadn't expected him to turn up.  And also because it was in the nature of packing a lot of details on anarchism in Ireland into a forty five minute talk that you have to do a lot of simplification.  I wondered what he'd make of that but afterwards when he talked about it he seemed to think I kept the accuracy in the story.  For the curious after I was back a while I turned a recording of the talk I made in Chicago along with a set of images into a politube video so you can judge the accuracy for yourself!

After the talk we went to a pub in Berkley for some food, a few beers and a continuation of the conversation. When Jim found out I was staying another day he arranged to pick me up in the moring to show me around.  Rick has just driven me back to the apartment when I realised I no longer had my laptop!  This cause a good bit of panic as apart from the cost of replacing the laptop it had my slideshow on it and I still had the LA stop to go.  We headed back to the pub to find a very obviously relieved bar staff who had found it under the table and were genuinely worried about us having forgotten it in a very touching way.

The next day Jim picked me up and we drove up into the foothills to see the view of the bay and San Francisco.  On the way down we stopped at the tree sit that was in progress where Berkely were planning to build a statdium.  A group had taken to tree houses to stop them being cut down and had then been enclosed in a double ring of 7 foot wire fences intended to stop people supplying them.  After that we called in on a few people and had some pretty interesting conversations, I even met someone from Tiger's Bay in Belfast proving that old thing about small worlds once more.

The next day I made my way to the East Oakland Bart to catch the Megabus on what would be the long trip south to my final date in LA.  On arrival while writing the original short blog entry that was here I recorded that "I'm writing this in LA on the morning of the last meeting. I'm pretty exhausted at this point, something thats being building up this week."


More about the North American speaking tour

WORDS: Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )

  


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