The geo-flaneur

I’ve always been a walker. As a child I was prone to wandering off; as a teen I learned that if I walked long enough I’d arrive in another town. My legs take my head to a special place. Since moving to Oakland, more than thirty years ago, I’ve gradually transformed into a flaneur: someone who enjoys just strolling around my city, or any city, no particular place to go, free to “lean and loaf at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass.” I love to revisit Oakland’s places and watch them change along with me.

My special joy and erudition centers on our special geology. The more I see of it, the more it speaks to me. Some times it even shouts. This blog began with an urge to share what I was perceiving, and it nurtured a private dream that the urge might somehow evolve into a book. The work involved was daunting; it started late and took years of one step at a time. It was not something a flaneur would do. But last week the final text was sent to the printer, and the publisher has a page with preliminary reviews.

One of those reviewers, our own Jenny Odell, says the book “has turned me into a newcomer to my own city, but has also changed the way I will view any landscape.” She gets what it’s about.

Oakland is full of flaneurs like Jenny, and for them all I want to do is add a new dimension to their pleasures. For other Oaklanders, I hope to tempt them into the same habit. Deep down, it’s a form of citizenship.

Winter is a good time to look around while the street trees are bare. The Oakland Hills are beautiful all year round, but early winter brings them a special palette between green and brown. In Deep Oakland I say this about them: “Seen from the city below, especially from the Bay shore, the hills may seem like an even wall, or a wave of rock carpeted with woods. But look again when the air thickens with marine haze and they resolve into a series of en echelon ranges, a set of waves with profiles as crisp as if cut from paper.” This time of year, there have been quite a few days like that.

The geo-flaneur takes walks no one else would think of. I seek out the neighborhood’s eminences and declivities, its peaks and valleys. I also relish unheralded details in the views we all see.

I put in my book the geological things and places I love to visit. That doesn’t discount the joys of the everyday views: handsome buildings, landscaping large and small, the state of the sky and the season, the people along the way. I see and celebrate them too.

This city has everything.

This year marked the fifteenth anniversary of this blog. The actual date of my first post was 25 September 2007, but this year I was too busy at the time rolling through the contents of Deep Oakland to make note of it. And I don’t look back much: I’ve observed the fifth anniversary and my 500th post, and that’s about it. But fifteen years, that’s pretty good. The blog will continue as long as I do.

2 Responses to “The geo-flaneur”

  1. Michael Says:

    When will we be able to pre-order?

    [You can pre-order now anywhere you buy books. — Andrew]

  2. robinwells3 Says:

    Congratulations. I love and learn from the blog, and will look for the book.

    Robin Wells

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