My commute into Oakland from Berkeley each morning took about thirty minutes door to door and, like most people’s commutes, deposited me in a different world. Most days I encountered very little traffic congestion as I traveled against the commute, but once I got off the highway the unpredictable portion of the morning’s entertainment came into play.
I got off the freeway at the top of the Oakland hills and took a surface artery road west and down, down, down. At the top of the hill near the freeway is a small, private, very good college with a campus full of Julia Morgan buildings. I’d drive past all the students, waiting to cross the street with their Kleen Kanteens and Marni jackets and REI laptop bags, and curve around their campus’s southwestern perimeter, the barbed wire fence cleverly almost-disguised by an out-of-control eucalyptus grove. Turning right I’d head southwest, and this was where the fun really began. Sometimes it was just four or five AC Transit buses stacked up, the way they do everywhere. Sometimes it was change-out-your-dumpster day. Once there was a full-on street fight, with the two contestants in the middle of a five-way intersection, taking off their jackets and shirts and just bashing the crap out of each other. At eight fifteen in the morning.
Being a child of the seventies, I immediately thought maybe they should both switch to decaf.
More often domestic disputes would spill out into the street, or a stray dog would take up an entire lane of traffic trying to decide which side of the street had the most chicken bones. But the night before this particular Friday morning there had been three shootings in the neighborhood, and a major police action was centered right at the intersection where I make my final turn, six blocks away from the school. Oakland Vice and SWAT teams were still out at 8:00 a.m. as I was making my way toward work, inching through the streets that were partially blocked by a battering-ram truck and a couple of mobile booking stations. Plus, a police chopper hovering way below the usual 1000-foot floor, and a few news helicopters further up.
The cops were wrapping things up, and many were walking away in groups of two and three, vests loosened, gear bags in hand, from what seemed to be the epicenter – conveniently, exactly where I needed to turn left. Then I saw a trio of cops coming up the street toward me, and one of them was holding a very large gun (not an understatement; I looked it up later and it was an M16, probably an M16A4). It looked just like this:
without the Marine.
I’ll post later on what you run up against when you try to search for images of guns on a school district network.
It was the largest gun I had ever seen in the wild. But he was holding it really awkwardly – with one hand, angled away from his body. Like the three cops drew straws for who had to carry it and this guy lost. Now, I’ve never touched a big gun, but I’ve never seen anyone with any weapons training hold a great big piece like that as if it had cooties.
They were walking up the street towards me, and I was stuck in the blockade traffic so I just watched them while I memorized the gun. The two cops behind Officer Cootiegun were laughing, clearly at him. Then, as they get closer, I saw pink and brown hair, several feet of it, all tangled up in the gun and all over the cop. Some of it was tufty and clumped and some of it, especially the pink stuff, trailed in the breeze like candyfloss. The officer had a faint pink hair-extension halo wafting behind him like the smell of fabulous.
Shooty howdy shucks, it DID have cooties.
So not only had I actually laid eyes on the Nastiest Gun In Oakland, but I now knew that somewhere within about 6 blocks of my classroom was a whore stupid enough to get her weave tangled up in an M-16.