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Posts Tagged ‘Oakland’

WMSP, Part II, Episode XI: A Burned Man

In Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Sci-Fi, Theatre on July 17, 2019 at 2:18 pm

(Ongoing series; first episode here.)

Oakland: Coroner identifies badly burned man found dead in Joaquin Miller Park
By Katrina Cameron, Harry Harris | hharris@bayareanewsgroup.com and Bay Area News Group | Bay Area News Group

PUBLISHED: February 23, 2016 at 12:20 pm | UPDATED: August 11, 2016 at 11:51 pm

OAKLAND — The coroner identified Tuesday the man found badly burned Monday morning in Joaquin Miller Park.

Reginald Richardson, 33, of Oakland, apparently committed suicide in the park, according to police.

His body was found around 11:54 a.m. Monday in the Joaquin Miller Funeral Prye, off Sanborn Drive. A jogger saw smoke from the structure and investigated the cause.

Police did not know how long the man’s body had been there before the jogger found it.

The No. 1 cause for suicide is untreated depression, a condition that is treatable with immediate help. Anyone who may be suicidal can receive immediate help by logging onto suicide.org or by calling 1-800-784-2433. Crisis experts also are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Contra Costa County by calling 1-800-833-2900 or 925-938-0725.

Contact Katrina Cameron at 925-945-4782. Follow her at Twitter.com/KatCameron91.

This article is what Jeremy shows me, silent, backstage during rehearsal. I’m sitting in my dressing room, looking at a map of Joaquin Miller Park on my phone; it’s at the exact moment I find the Pyre on the map that Jeremy walks in, holding up his phone.

“What are you doing after rehearsal?” he says, when I’ve finished reading.

“Um …”

Dude, let’s go up there tonight! It’s fucking perfect! I wish I’d known about it sooner, I’d have been reading all your recent posts right there at the Pyre!

There’s a nibbling at the back of my mind, however. I feel uncomfortable, and I’m not sure why. I’m consumed with the conflicting desires to run out of the room and to hold the Holey Stone. I take a deep breath. I push my hand into my pocket.

Snap

The memory floods back, even as I’m looking right at Jeremy’s smiling face; we’re at the Browning Monument, it’s earlier this afternoon, right after the revelation of Obi-Wan-point-five’s last words:

Browning! Pyre! Cinderella! To bring my to outfit and now become necessary!

Jeremy nods. We stand, because it’s time to head to the theatre.

Wait, what about the papers?” Jeremy says.

We turn back: there’s the satchel, the papers loose and tickled by the breeze. They could blow away at any second.

We didn’t even finish looking at them,” Jeremy says.

He leans down to pick them up and we’re on the road halfway to the parking lot when I look at his hands and he doesn’t have them. Neither do I.

We left the papers,” I say.

No we didn’t,” he says.

I stop. I have to think. I feel like I’ve walked into a room and forgotten why. I put my hands in my pocket. There’s the stone.

Don’t talk, just go.

I turn around, my hand firmly in my pocket. I’m walking. Fast.

Jeremy says, “Hey pal, where you goin’?”

I don’t respond.

Jeremy starts after me; he’s chuckling. “Now wait a moment, palsy-walsy,” his voice is weird, sing-song.

I’m jogging now, and Jeremy is getting closer. “Hey chum! What kind of a chum turns his back on his pal, chum? I thought you were my … chummy-wummy.” There’s a tight, angry grin underneath his words. I feel that if I stop, he’ll get me. I take my hand from my pocket and start to run. A thought, different from the first, jarring and too cheery, erupts in my head:

Jeremy is no threat. Turn and be so friendly!

This feels wrong and bad, an unfamiliar voice. I falter, stumbling.

Jeremy says, “Watch your step, buddy. I’m right here. Right behind you. It’s broad daylight. There’s nothing to fear.”

This stone is heavy and I want to throw it away.

The same unfamiliar voice. Like hearing someone who doesn’t know me impersonate what they think my inner monologue sounds like. The voice of an interloper. I put my hand in my pocket, touching the stone, and—snap—I’m fifteen feet ahead, sprinting. This feels right. I speed up, slipping the stone onto my middle finger like a ring, gripping it in a fist. I’m at the base of the slope, my mind on the papers. I don’t hear Jeremy anywhere behind me.

He was never there.

This thought is solid as bedrock, familiar. Not the interloper. I round the Browning Monument—

Jeremy is crouched over the papers, frantic: he’s striking two stones together, trying to make sparks. His fingers are bloody, his face locked in a rictus grin. Every couple seconds, his face crumples into a mask of sadness and pain; he puts the stones down and pulls at his pants, like he’s trying to pull them off, in spite of his buckled belt. When he does this, he’s crying and whispering, “Please stop, please stop, just stop please I’ll do whatever you want, please stop it hurts … ”

Thing is, there’s no way he can make sparks with those rocks—they’re both sandstone.

Jeremy,” I say. He doesn’t respond. “Hey. Buddy. You okay?” I say, moving closer.

His head snaps up, eyes all wrong directions, his grin a caricature of enraged lust. He looks like a creepy satyr from an early 1920’s cartoon. He says, “Every good boy deserves flavor.”

Coiled to spring, he’s younger than me, more fit. He’ll win.

Stop thinking, take action.

I step forward and touch the stone to his forehead.

Jeremy collapses.

Gather the papers, put them in the satchel, hold onto the stone.

I do this very thing, noting that there are many more papers than I thought. There’s even a leatherbound journal. Several photographs.

Jeremy groans, his eyes fluttering.

Wear the satchel. Don’t talk about it. Head back to the parking lots.

Oh fuck,” Jeremy says, “did I fall into a corn thresher?”

Not so’s you’d notice,” I say, smiling but watchful.

Wow,” Jeremy says. He stands, slow. Like … a man in his mid-40’s who doesn’t get enough exercise. Like me, frankly. He looks around, puzzled. “What were we going to do?”

I think we were going to get coffee,” I say.

Right! Yes,” he says, “coffee sounds great.”

What happened to your hands?” I say.

You shouldn’t have said that.

Jeremy glances down, laughs, shakes his head. “I dropped my camera heading into the house last night, had to dive to catch it, skinned myself on the front walk.” His words are natural, they have the ring of truth. I’m aware that if I weren’t grasping the holey stone, I’d be questioning what I just saw him doing with the stones. Taking him any further on this quest might be unwise.

Trust him. He’s got your back. Find the Pyre—tonight!

I freeze. This isn’t just my inner monologue, they aren’t just thoughts in my head. An actual, new voice is coalescing. But it’s different from the interloper; it feels … safe. Solid. Not mine, but not bad. And here I am evaluating the qualities of the voices in my head. Great, now I’m nucking futz.

Did you get the pictures?” Jeremy says.

I freeze: does he mean the pictures in the satchel?

Of the bay? You wanted to take pictures,” he says, stretching. The fog of pain is lifting visibly from him.

Oh. Yeah. Got ’em,” I say. “Let’s … go.”

Coffee,” he says.

We walk back to the parking lot, Jeremy expounding upon the amazingness of the various asses in the ensemble. I drive us to Peet’s, and the wooden bench in front is still empty.

All of this surfaces like the turning of a page in my mind. The entire picture, clear before me. We got coffee, we came to the theatre. I kept the satchel on me, and it’s tucked beneath the counter in my corner of the room. I put other stuff on top of it, you can’t even tell it’s there. Rehearsal has been is its usual self: running lines offstage, hasty scribble of blocking on pages where possible.

I don’t want to answer Jeremy yet, so I say, “Hey, here’s something weird: Bryan won’t talk to me. He walked right past me when he arrived.” Part of this is stalling, part of it is a test: does Jeremy remember last night at all clearly?

Me, neither,” says Jeremy. “Do you think he’s too freaked out by all the super-duper-natural occurrences?”

We look into the ensemble dressing room; there’s Bryan, at his station next to Rod. We head out there. I say, “Did you get home okay, Bryan?”

He turns to Rod as though I haven’t spoken, asking something about eyeliner. Rod glances at Jeremy and I in the mirror, then back to Bryan, then at me. Then with a huge single take to Bryan he says, “Oh Bryan, did you say something? I was listening to Edward’s question. About how you got home last night.”

Bryan says nothing.

Jeremy and I head back into my dressing room. “It appears he has stepped away from the path of this story,” I say.

All the more reason to go to the Pyre the minute rehearsal’s over,” he says.

I want to bow out, politely decline, vague him off until it fades away. But a thought echoes into my head, the new voice from this afternoon:

Trust him. He’s got your back. Find the Pyre—tonight!

I take a breath. I choose to trust this voice.

Yeah,” I say. “Let’s do it. But let’s map out an escape plan in advance.”

Jeremy grins and we high-five. As he sits down to “map it out,” I’m ready to misdirect: I’ve already got my escape plan. And I’m not telling him what it is.

Just in case.

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Searching for Sibley

In Uncategorized on October 7, 2013 at 7:12 am

My nephew came with my fiancee and I yesterday in search of Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. In my mind, it was in Berkeley somewhere above the Lawrence Hall of Science. I don’t trust my GPS to get me to the right spot these days, so I thought I should ignore it and ask my nephew, a Berkeley High (keyword: high) alumnus. He said he knew how to get there. So we went to Berkeley, took a right on Claremont and climbed the tiny, winding, steep streets in the fiancee’s 2010 Honda Civic until the nephew deemed it appropriate to turn left. This initial left turning was at the intersection of Claremont Avenue, Fish Ranch Road and Grizzly Peak Blvd.

Locals will know that we were wrong. Chuckle at our expense as you read further: it seemed to me that we were headed in the right direction. However, at the moment when the nephew said to turn right and we’d be there, I couldn’t help but notice that we were driving into Tilden. Not Sibley.

My first clue came from the sign that said STEAM TRAINS, before we even reached the official entrance. There is only one park with Steam Trains in the East Bay Hills: Tilden. We drove toward the golf course, ended up back on Grizzly Peak Blvd., and I realized that we were indeed in the wrong region. “Take Grizzly Peak,” I said. “Back toward that crossroads where we left Claremont. I know where to go, now.”

The fiancee did just that. I followed our progress on the GPS. It told me, eventually, that we were inside Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. I watched us drive over the double red lines of the Caldecott Tunnel. Right around the time that we reached the intersection of Grizzly Peak and Skyline, I became frustrated and re-set the GPS to take us to Sibley. Following its instructions, we then took a circuitous, labyrinthine course through the residential streets below Grizzly Peak and Skyline, eventually ending up back on Grizzly Peak, heading back to the first crossroads of Claremont, Fish Ranch and Grizzly Peak. This time, still following the GPS instructions, we turned right on Fish Ranch Road. It took us down the back side of the ridge to the Orinda side of the Caldecott Tunnel, over the tunnel to … a creepy back entrance to the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. We followed the road a little further past a parking area on what I have since learned was the eastern approach of the original tunnel, known variously as the Kennedy Tunnel, the Inter-County Tunnel or the Broadway Tunnel. Before seeing that road and getting curious about it, I had been told — and believed — that this tunnel was originally part of the pre-BART Key System.

The Key System, for those of you who don’t know, was a system of electronic trains and streetcars that served the East Bay and, to the best of my knowledge, connected with various other local electric streetcars and trains in the greater Bay Area (I’ll update this as I learn more). The lower deck of the Bay Bridge originally had two railroad tracks on the south side for this specific purpose. (My mother used to take those trains to San Francisco with her friend Barbara. They smoked cigarettes and were tres tres chic.) GM pulled some major shenanigans in the late 1950’s, basically buying the Key System through a front company, replacing its board of directors with GM cronies, and cutting back service until they’d replaced everything with buses. For a more detailed history, check here. Guess who fought this transition? Every city council in the East Bay. Guess who won?

If you’re the kind of person who likes moving pictures (and if I have whetted your appetite with all these words of electric trains), you might enjoy this short film.

So: the old tunnel is said to have been open to pedestrians after the Caldecott Tunnel opened in 1937, but closed in 1947 for safety reasons. This is fascinating to me, because I know that my older brothers were exploring the old tunnel as recently as the early 1970’s. Apparently the western end has been completely sealed — we drove right past it in our GPS-led wild goose chase — but the exact condition of the eastern end of the old tunnel remains, as of this writing, a mystery.

Attentive readers will ask the question, “How is it a mystery if you were on the eastern side of the ridge, on Old Tunnel Road?” Thank you for being attentive, attentive readers. The answer is simple: the approach to the tunnel is fenced off, as that area is controlled by the East Bay Regional Parks District. And since the original purpose of our quest was to explore the Sibley Volcanic Preserve, we parked near that back entrance and started walking up a very well-paved road.

Friends, sometimes I have trouble breathing. This was the case a ways up that road, so we turned back to the car and I talked the nephew and the fiancee into indulging me: “You have to pee, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet, let’s find the entrance I was actually looking for.” By the time we reached the Skyline Boulevard entrance to Sibley, my lungs were doing just fine. Here’s the kicker: when I reverted to the GPS for directions at the intersection of Grizzly Peak and Skyline an hour or so before, we were literally a couple hundred yards from the Skyline entrance to Sibley. Annoyed as I was at having chased the wild goose via my fuckmook GPS, I now know many things of which I was previously unaware. Thanks, Garmin! You suck, but it’s educational.

I felt amazing after our sunset hike, but the entire reason that I wanted to go to Sibley was to do some research for Notes From The Future. There is a specific entry that uses Sibley, but I had never actually been there before yesterday. I had used the Interwebs to get a view of Mt. Diablo from the Berkeley / Oakland hills, and thanks to our friends at Google Maps, I was able to get a general idea of how things would look.

Specificity is preferable to generalization. And, while we made quite a nice bit of progress into Sibley, we were forced to return to the car when the sun had set. I was unable to reach the spot I sought, thanks in large part to the educational tour led by our GPS. So I will be heading back there this week, with plenty of water for Maxwell and a camera for tasty goodness. Any local geologists care to join me? I’m just a little bit obsessed with geology and volcanology and will make you talk for hours.

[Update: Apparently there is a separate tunnel, known as the Train Tunnel, somewhere on or near Pinehurst Road. I have yet to see or even approach either end of that tunnel, but will make a point of exploring a bit next time I’m in the vicinity. Perhaps that was the tunnel my brothers explored. From what I understand, it is just as thoroughly sealed as the Kennedy Tunnel.]