I’ve kept this photo around for a long time, but I still can’t say exactly why. It reminds me of shots of Montmartre in Paris. It’s looking southeast toward the intersection of Park Boulevard and Chatham Road, which becomes a freeway onramp at this point. The road in the front is a nameless alley that branches off Excelsior Avenue, serving a tiny block of just nine houses.

I guess the shot exemplifies the hidden treasures of Oakland, hundreds of them, visible only to those who go about on foot with their eyes open. Not all of them are about geology. On top of the geologic palimpsest, the land bears another whole layer of human history: streets and lots laid out and partially erased leaving remnants and traces, not all of which can be deciphered. The people who witnessed the changes pass on, and details vanish. It is something like geology, whose story is likened to a newspaper with most of the pages torn out and the rest burned.

3 Responses to “Oakmartre”

  1. Lizzz Says:

    a great observation–I first saw the resemblance after a Monday morning (oodles of broken bottles and high-pressure street sweepers) hike all over Montmarte, ending at the top of Basilique Sacre Coeur (and followed by a memorable and well-earned meal at Table D’Anvers).

    Try the streets above Grand Avenue near Lakeshore, especially Burke and the walkways from Grand up to Valle Vista.

  2. dmc Says:

    I live a few blocks from here on the other side of 580, and for me the shot exemplifies the irreparable damage done to Oakland’s neighborhoods by having freeways cut through them. But I also see what you mean about the resemblance to Montmartre, with the skinny hillside street, the church on top of the hill, etc. I totally agree with you about human history and geology. In fact, I think I am probably interested in geology only insofar as humans experience it and interact with it. That’s what makes your blog so fascinating — the interplay between the geologic history and the very human city that we dwell in on a day to day basis.

  3. Tommy Williams Says:

    I see the resemblance, too, and I think it’s the combination of the slender pines and the crenelated tower, coupled with the narrow alley. Or something. But I absolutely see what you’re talking about.

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