Thursday, April 8, 2010

You should move to West Oakland

Reading about Oakland murders in the San Francisco Chronicle is one thing. Hearing gunshots followed by the sound of a quickly accelerating engine, and then looking through your living room window and seeing a dying man in a pool of blood across the street is something totally different.

When I was in high school, we learned about the first, second, and third worlds. Basically, capitalists live in the first world, communists with nuclear weapons in the second, and everyone else in the third. We didn't study that third world in great detail, but one property of the third world appears to bind all those vastly different peoples and cultures together in our eyes — a very low value of human life.

When we read about men armed with machetes slaughtering old people, women, and children, ferries capsizing and drowning thousands at a time, six-year-olds putting together Nike sneakers eighteen hours per day for three cents per hour, earthquakes destroying entire cities because nothing is built to code because there isn't one — we try to comprehend all this, we read the sentences, the facts, the reasons. But when we talk about it, when we look at each other's well-fed faces, and into each other's smart first-world eyes, in our work kitchens and cars and coffee shops — we come to this silent agreement that we simply don't really care.

Not because we're bad people, no, but because we physically cannot comprehend what we're saying, but because to us it makes absolutely no sense. We continue to buy lattes while all these travesties we discuss take place, and why not, because what are you gonna do? When we say these things, we don't really believe them — it's like adult fairy tales.

But here I am — situated somewhere between Pixar Animation Studios and Wells Fargo & Co. headquarters — watching a 24-year-old man die of gunshot wounds though my living room window. I don't understand — how is it that I'm preoccupied with getting a distributed Erlang application to behave correctly while a man is murdered two hundred feet away? When I tell you about this, we can pretend that we don't really care because it makes absolutely no sense, but there was blood leaking out of his head, onto the curb and down to the street — red, shiny.

Oh, and my wife and children are on their way home, with burritos, in a turbocharged Subaru, while his red shiny blood is leaking out of his head onto the curb and then down to the street. So the burritos have to wait a little, because our entire block has been cobwebbed with yellow tape.

But anyway, you should move to West Oakland! Other than an occasional murder and a mattress/boxspring here and there, it's a great neighborhood — excellent Victorian homes (you can buy one tomorrow for $80K out of foreclosure), close to BART, close to the iPad store, to IKEA, to the Trappist, to Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe, to Brown Sugar Kitchen, to the Crucible, and so on. West Oakland is going to become expensive, like, in a couple of months. All the true hipsters are already here. Hurry!


  1. This is just wrong on so many levels! Tell me why you are looking across the street and calling your African American neighbors, third world? And your definition of third world, wtf, are you kidding me, do you really think that capitalist or communist have a high regard for human life? We will have to sit down and have a real conversation with all joking put aside. And by the way, the true hipsters, are the Black folks that used to live in that neighborhood who had Jazz clubs and many other businesses.

  2. My question to you is, why are you discussing the concept of first, second and third world, while looking across the street at your African American neighbors?

  3. @Talibah: I mean no offense to you, but I think that you've severely misinterpreted Andrei's post. For starters, he's not calling his "African American neighbors" third world. He's calling the act of murder, and the murderer, third world. And as far as we know, the murderer could have been of any race.

    Secondly, I think his implication of capitalist nations is that they generally have more sophisticated policing systems- whether they work well or not.

    And lastly, regarding hipsters, I don't think you and Andrei are talking about the same hipsters. It seems to me that his line "All the true hipsters are already here. Hurry!" was pure sarcasm. I believe Andrei is referring to the modern hipster, most commonly found in San Francisco, CA and different parts of New York. From what I've seen, the majority of these modern day hipsters that Andrei is referring to are Caucasian, and often are young college students living off of their parents trust funds for them.

    You should check out the urban dictionary definition of a hipster, ( )

    In contrast to the traditional dictionary definition of a hipster, which I think is what you were thinking of.

    @Andrei: Keep up this blog. It's realistic, and raw. More people should know about it. Try and stay safe, and I hope that you'll one day be able to move to a place safer for your self and your family.

  4. @Lee, I totally understood Andrei's post!! I don't need to look in a dictionary to know who these so called "hipsters" are! The bottom line is that that term has been recycled and these young white kids that use it are no where close to hip amongst anybody but themselves. The terms first, second and third world have no place in this tragedy and as far as the sophisticated policing systems, are you kidding me or are you just an outsider? You are obviously not African American or else those words would never come out of your mouth. But, I can understand you giving props to the cops if you are one of those so called "white hipsters," who are on the front lines of gentrifying a neighborhood. No, it is you who really are incapable of understanding what was written, it was real that a young man had his life taken and that is the raw truth, but describing how his blood is flowed in the streets while discussing your burrito dinner and turbocharged Surbaru is just plain insensitive and disrespectful. I get why you don't/ and never will get it, it is probably a "hipster" thing. Pure "sarcasm," I think your so called self proclaimed "first world eyes," sees the world in a very unique yet distorted way. I just here to check you.

  5. @ Talibah and Lee
    Andrei was mourning the death of this man, not maligning African American's as "third world." Americans are so often so full of themselves that they cannot begin to comprehend how awful life can be just blocks from where we think it's cool to hang out, oblivious to the situation that's just around the corner. The ironic use of the term "third world" is intended to offend the rich and comfortable who will not face this reality and to challenge the "America, love it or leave it" assholes who abide no criticism of of "this great country of ours." And it is truly amazing that "in this great country of ours" so many people of any color are gunned down in the street, sleep on sidewalks, and go without healthcare or food. More of us need to stop and witness the world around us, confront what is wrong in our world, and wake up. Andrei's blog does all of these things.

  6. @Tim, what you need to realize is that most African Americans know this reality all too well, you are not telling me anything new! I hear and understand what you got from Andrei's article but I am telling you what I took from the article, as an African American. The real problem here is that most white folks are so used to thinking that the way they see the world is the only reality. I am not angry with Andrei, I just feel that we need to have a conversation about this event and since, here is the catcher, I am his mother-in-law, I will get a chance to do just that. Peace

  7. Смотрел ли ты фильм Grizzly Man, Андрей? Если нет, то настоятельно советую.

    PS. Это Сергей Нумеров пишет. Если не помнишь кто таков, то спроси у Егора :)

    PPS. Спасибо за песни на сайте про дом. Душу согрели.

  8. Сергей, привет! Фильм не смотрел, надо бы. Зато я про него что-то хорошее вроде читал. Вчера жена мне подарила аватар, буду его пока смотреть (недели за три должен управиться). Рад порадовать песнями, надеюсь скоро еще будет.

    Родителям привет!


  9. Твоим родителям тоже привет!

    Аватара видел дважды-- хорошо сделали. В Imax 3D, конечно, лучше всего. Сейчас, по-моему, его в Монтерее показывают.

    Всего доброго, следи за собой, будь осторожен :)

  10. I know I’m late to the party but I am a new West Oakland resident and just happened upon this blog. One thing that seems to be overlooked in this thread about the author is that he grew up in the former Soviet Union and thusly has a unique perspective on poverty, power structures, class and economy. I think perhaps Talibah falsely maligned Andrei as insensitive to the realities of poverty and the violence that ensues. He is, most probably not a stranger. My fiancé is Russian and often refers to his former homeland as “eleven times zones of ghetto.” Being an Eastern European has perhaps given Andrei an ability to see through the classic definitions of first, second and third world to be able to make a statement about how issues we Americans typically only attribute to the third worlds are actually here, in our neighborhoods. Essentially, there are no delineations, that the safety and bounty and peace we come to ascribe to the “first world” is not reality. And he implicated himself as at one point having bought into the fantasy. So Talibah, you are essentially preaching to the converted. I don’t think Andrei moved to West Oakland specifically to sit on high and call his Afro-Am neighbors anything other than “neighbors”. His post is sensitive. He juxtaposes the simple and mundane comforts of everyday (a Subaru and inexpensive savory local fare) against the extraordinary events of the tragedy of Jerrod’s murder specifically to bring it closer to home.
    The one thing that I have not seen addressed in this blog yet, is a discussion on whether or not a neighborhood can go through gentrification without displacing the current residents. Can a neighborhood be rehabilitated or is this just a fantasy as well? I see that in West Oak, the Iron Horse was built specifically to keep affordable housing in the area with the intention of providing a mixed income housing model. How does that play out? In Chicago, where I moved from, it simply does not. Property value goes up, the original inhabitants are forced or enticed out and are further marginalized. There seems to be a higher sensitivity to this cycle out west, or at least a belief in an alternative.
    And if authorial perspective matters, I am a black female.


  12. @One...... tell us about what behind your anger. tell us of your experience, whomever you are. But the CAPITALIZATION and the "whack shit" is itself whack shit.

    If you want us to understand you....tell us about where you are coming from. Be real. This is the internet. You could be 10th grader from Lafayette who sneaked into her old man's liquor cabinet and are talking through a gin haze thinking she's funny. Or you could be a woman who was raped at 13 years old by her a drug dealer behind a liquor store on Peralta.

    Until you have the integrity to back your anger with your pain, I vote for the guy form the Soviet Union who is telling us how an Eastern European from a communist country sees West Oakland.