On May 13, 1985, the Philadelphia police with FBI support threw an improvised bomb of C4 and Tovex TR2 (a dynamite proxy) on top of a building they knew to be filled with men, women, and children of the radical Black Power organization, MOVE. The explosion and subsequent fire destroyed dozens of homes and resulted in eleven deaths, including five adults and five children, some as young seven years old. Not a single member of Philadelphia’s city government was criminally charged for their complicity in the bombings.
I’m here to meet Raphael Villet, artist and founder of Play Press Zines, based in West Oakland. He’s in Mexico City for the third annual Rrréplica Zine Fest, an international gathering of “disobedient printers” and independent presses.
I have been consistently coming to Zoe’s apartment for four years now; the first time I walked in, I was so overcome with envy of its shabby Craftsman charm (I was still fairly new to Oakland), its built-in bookcases, its gold-painted mouldings, that I turned right around, walked down the stairs back to her front door, and burst into tears.
"If people wanna drink their coffee with milk, sugar, like, whatever, just be happy, be yourself. I don’t think they have to change their whole lives and buy a Chemex and a $500 grinder. I think people should just do what they want.”
Downtown San Francisco is, like any city center, a place where sectors of society overlap. It’s the financial hub, the “Wall Street of the West,” where banks and law firms first opened after gold was found in California.
Once me and Jenny Odell actually get on the trail, it starts to feel good to be on the trail. It was borderline hectic getting up here, with a wall of traffic and confusing Google Maps directions. And the heat. We’re a few days in on a late summer heat wave. It’s usually so mild in the bay. When the temperature rises a few degrees, we feel it.
As I approach the current downtown Oakland Aburaya location on Seventeenth street, I can already see the heavy traffic of all black-clad cooks zig-zagging to and from the produce truck double parked outside. The energetic rush of pre-opening prep time is emanating from the floorboards.
The Thursday night crowd packed Oakland’s East Bay Booksellers to hear the poetry of one of their own. A framed painting of a bald bearded man hugging an even taller fish somewhere in a far away field of magical daisies looms behind and above the empty brown podium. Rows of folded chairs are slalomed by small kids and the elders eyeing them.
The final stress dream in a string of stress dreams the night before my appointment—I arrive at Modern Electric Studio to meet guest artist Astrid Elisabeth, eager for her to unveil the design for my tattoo. It is my first visible piece and my stomach is doing loopdeeloops.