Port Gamble Trails

New article I wrote for Bicycle Paper about Port Gamble trails:



First and last post of 2014!  First published piece of journalism in a long time!  Article in Seattle's Bicycle Paper about a 'cross race in Bellingham:

bicyclepaper.com -- Cascade-Cross



toofus3.jpg by chris_rocket
toofus3.jpg, a photo by chris_rocket on Flickr.
October was lovely. Here is our pumpkin Toofus, carved by Shonna. A few neighborhood kids came by, not more than about 5 groups, but we appreciated them. Most places we lived in SF never had any neighborhood kid trick-r-treaters.  Ideally we'd like to live somewhere where people feel safe walking after dark, looking for candy in their own neighborhood rather than driving over to the wealthier parts of town.

I enjoyed raking leaves, listening to the World Series on the radio, "puttering" in the back yard like an old man. I can imagine doing the same thing many decades in the future, somewhere else, more slowly perhaps, but aware of the timeless nature of pumpkins, baseball, radio, leaves, fall.



safeco7.jpg by chris_rocket
safeco7.jpg, a photo by chris_rocket on Flickr.

Pork nachos with helmet. Never seen this one before!


safeco6.jpg by chris_rocket
safeco6.jpg, a photo by chris_rocket on Flickr.

Pork nachos!


Sabormetrics V -- The Dodger Dog

From our foreign correspondent Cris Logan:

"Whether you're a Giants fan or not, you must visit Chavez Ravine at least once. The warm weather, the pristine condition and 60s deco charm of this half-century old ballpark, the palm trees just past the centerfield bleachers. It's a glorious place to see a game.

Come hungry, but be forewarned: there are two types of Dodger Dogs at the various concessions along the concourse and available from the roaming vendors. The wise choice is always to go with the GRILLED Dodger Dogs. The steamed ones are, well, kind of shitty. The grilled, however, are a delight — and only available on the concourse. 

Grill marks on the dog, cooked to an even perfection and nestled lovingly into a perfectly steamed bun that's easily three inches shorter than the dog itself. Dress it however you like. It's just another reason to love L.A."


Sabormetrics part IV

The "loaded" Yawkey St dog at Fenway.  Mmmmm.

Sabormetrics part III

fenway_frank.jpg, a photo by chris_rocket on Flickr.
The Fenway Frank. My dad is a "mustard only" guy. He said it was pretty good. But nothing like my Yawkey Dog.


help is on the way

help_is_on_the_way.jpg by chris_rocket
help_is_on_the_way.jpg, a photo by chris_rocket on Flickr.

It's good to know that if you really get in trouble, a small red light will come on, and things will be OK.


Bart shut down, I'm okay.

city3.jpg by chris_rocket
city3.jpg, a photo by chris_rocket on Flickr.

Rough commute today... but this makes up for it.


Best serve ever ...



3rd in Surf City

IMG_6155 by tedketai
IMG_6155, a photo by tedketai on Flickr.

3rd overall in Men's B ... thanks to Ted Ketai for the Photo. Love that Santa Cruz weather. I didn't get wet once this year. Something kinda messed up about that.


client referral

This is why we do Docket Rocket. From Pat Kelly:

"If you need legal papers served, Docket Rocket has to be one of the top service companies in the San Francisco area. Docket Rocket goes the extra mile to not only serve documents at a reasonable price but also serve them according to the latest rules of the court. You would be hard pressed to find someone more knowledgeable about the way to properly file motions, serve opposing parties etc. than Chris who goes out of his way to help you get it right. I have been using Docket Rocket to handle my service needs for about a year and can easily recommend them. If you are reading this, look no further because you have already found the best."


ice skating!

Few things make me grin like ice skating. Here Cris and I enjoy the wonder that is the Oakland Ice Center. Two huge rinks right in downtown Oakland, next to 19th St BART, shopping, dining, and bars!

I'm saving my pennies from the bike shop to buy ice skates.


Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline (OAK)

A hidden gem of Oakland, this wetlands area is hard by OAK and the ballpark. I saw rafts of migratory ducks, widgeons, grebes, rails, tons of shorebirds I couldn't identify. Not a single person out there. Just me, riding home in the rain from an end-of-day delivery on Roland Way. I love these urban "brownfields." Sometimes I think, I get paid for this?


street food

OK, I'm sick of the "food truck revolution." Why is it that when I found an awesome bacon-wrapped hot dog, sold by Mexican-Americans in the Mission, the SF Health Dept ran those guys off, citing, health codes, but everyone is excited about yuppie food trucks.

Bacon-wrapped hot dog: $3
Upscale "healthy Cal-Mex" food truck burrito: $8

Photo is me enjoying street food in LA, just the way it should be.


Winning on the Waterfront

Front-lines reportage from my friend, longtime messenger, labor & cycling activist Howard Williams:

*Winning on the Waterfront*
by Howard A. Williams

On November 2, 2011, a general strike was attempted in Oakland, California, the site of America's last general strike in 1946. Perhaps with the awareness that a good defense is sometimes a good offense, the general strike was called on October 26 by the Occupy Oakland's General Assembly shortly after Oakland civil authorities and police had attempted to oust them from their two encampments.
To many, the October 26 call for a general strike in just one week seemed too audacious to be successful. After all, Occupy activists had retaken their Oakland camps only that morning and across the Bay, Occupy San Francisco was enduring a night long standoff against an expected police assault that did not happen. And the American Left has so often offered baseless grandstanding gestures that it has become reflexive to ignore them as soon as they are announced. Almost every May Day some group calls a general strike.
But it is a sign of the Occupy movement's strength that the strike call quickly began to be seen as a real contest with a possibility of victory instead of just another "leftier than thou" posturing.
In the runup to November 2, the movement's strengths would have to be utilized to overcome still real but no longer prohibitive weaknesses. In the over six decades since America's last general strike, many have imagined an overly romanticized yet limited idea of general strikes. Most people -- even radicals -- think that the goal of a general strike is to shut a city down. This is partially correct. The goal of a general strike is to shut down and then run the city. Aware that their stoppages could endanger their own neighborhoods as well as other communities, workers in Seattle (1919), San Francisco (1934), Oakland (1946) and other general strike cities made sure food and medicines were delivered. Strike committees policed their cities and crime usually declined. As those who have struck can testify, striking is hard w ork. A general strike is all the more difficult.
As a union member, I felt that not enough workers would strike to shut down Oakland. The one week deadline would be too big an obstacle to organize so many workers to stage what would be an illegal walkout.
But shutting down Oakland's seaport -- America's fifth busiest -- was a real possibility. As someone who has worked as a longshoreman and has attended their boisterous yet ultimately democratic meetings, I have seen the militancy of union port workers. And the contract for West Coast longshore workers excuses them from crossing what is called a community picket line, especially if can cause unsafe conditions. A community picket line peopled by thousands of increasingly angry, disenfranchised Americans would qualify as a reason for longshore workers to stay off work. When such a situation occurs, the union and shipping corporations seek the decision of an arbitrator who often comes to the Port to examine the situation.
And a port shutdown would be effective. Shutting down the nation's fifth busiest port for one day can disrupt product delivery in the western US for up to a week.
As November 2 approached, it became clear that what was developing would not be a citywide work stoppage but rather a series of morning demonstrations that might succeed in shutting many banks and nearby businesses. After these actions, protestors would regroup downtown in the afternoon to rally and then march to shut down the Port of Oakland. This variety of nonviolent methods not only increased the chances of success, it also allowed individual protestors to choose which tactic to use. Indeed, the possibility for victory was enhanced by each protestor’s autonomy.
Many people chose to avoid the clashes of the morning -- and thus not get arrested -- and then join the attempt to shut down the Port of Oakland in the late afternoon. Regardless of how the morning's events would turn out, many of us believed the day would be won or lost on the waterfront. As a result, thousands would wait till the afternoon to demonstrate.
November 2 dawned brightly with only a few faraway clouds in a crisp blue autumn sky. Most of the morning went well. Although some workers stayed away from their jobs and several small businesses closed in sympathy, downtown would only be shut down by direct action protests. Demonstrators were able to close most banks and many other businesses. John Robb blocked a Chase Bank, first by himself for several minutes and then with another Occupy demonstrator. After a thirty minute standoff with Chase security, they were joined by other marchers who forced the branch to close. Most demonstrators marched forcefully though nonviolently, blocking banks, other businesses and sometimes traffic. However, some vandals did attack some businesses, usually banks but also targeting pro-Occupy shops. And then, minutes later, Occupy demonstrators would show up to help clean and repair the damage caused by vandals. Other protestors put informational posters on several bank doors detailing their financial offenses.
At a Specialty's, some of their workers joined protestors to occupy the inside and chant slogans demanding, then compelling management to close the cafe.
But matters were less peaceful -- and less successful -- at a Whole Foods market. Responding to an online rumor, demonstrators marched on the grocery only to be upstaged by masked vandals who trashed the store's windows, antagonized workers, customers and protestors -- and only closed the store for a few minutes.
Nevertheless, the tactic of sending flying squads to close businesses usually proved effective if geographically limited. Out in the neighborhoods, supermarkets, gas stations and other corporate outlets stayed open. But by the afternoon, downtown branches of Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other major banks were closed along with other businesses.
The stage was set for the showdown at the Port.
The day before, the Port's spokesperson declared that the Port would stay open.
Just before 3 PM, I arrived on my bicycle at Frank Ogawa Plaza. The plaza is now unofficially but widely known as Oscar Grant Plaza in honor of the unarmed black American man slain by a policeman on New Year's Day 2009.
Thousands of demonstrators jammed the plaza and spilled out onto surrounding streets. Like Oakland's 1946 General Strike, the mood was as festive as it was militant. The plaza had been taken over since the morning and was crowded with some demonstrators listening to a speech while others were dancing to a live band. Unions had donated over one thousand lunches. But I had no time to indulge any of these pastimes. A black woman announced on a bullhorn that cyclists would ride in a Critical Mass to the Port almost two miles west. The bikers would be followed by a caravan of chartered buses and then by marchers.
I saw a friend of mine on his bike who had remembered to bring a bandanna and bottle of vinegar, the necessary materials for defense against tear gas. It was then that I realized that I'd forgotten mine. My fear of being arrested "overseas" (I live across the Bay in San Francisco) was so strong that I never gave it the attention I should have.
Just after 3 PM, the cyclists took off. Except for a squad car parked along the route, I saw no police activity as we rode through West Oakland toward the Port. We set a steady pace. The goal was to shut the Port at the longshore workers' shift change at 7 PM, almost four hours later.
I felt a sense of anticipation but little tension as we rode through the foreclosure-ravaged community of West Oakland. We set a steady pace. Some riders chanted or whooped triumphantly but most of us rode quietly yet confidently -- at least outwardly so. I had started near the back, then saw and took a chance to bust a messenger move and reach the front. Before 3:30 PM, we turned south onto Adeline Street, the road to the Port. Ahead of us loomed a bridge ascending over Interstate 880 and the railroad and then descending to the Port. I was riding a fixed wheel bike with a 45:18 gear ratio. Made by Mikkelsen in nearby Alameda, it was the perfect cycle for this rising grade.
Riders at the front soon crested the bridge. At the top, I stopped to survey the scene. Ahead of us sprawled the Port, a line of high mechanical cranes towering above twenty berths where massive ships from across the Pacific were docked. And behind stretched a crowd of cyclists surging up the bridge. In their midst a skateboarder approached. In the distance were the buses. I couldn't even see the crowd of marchers following on foot.
Briefly I savored the moment but also knew we were needed down by the Port's gates, not up on the bridge enjoying the view. Later I would hear from many others that when they reached the top of the bridge, they too stood awestruck, looking both backwards and forward. Estimates of the number of people in the day's actions vary from the police estimate of 7,000 up to 100,000.
As the bridge descends to the Port, Adeline Street turns north and its name changes to Middle Harbor Road. Along the road's west side are four gates to the Port. I stopped with a crowd that had assembled at the south gate, the first one on our route.
We milled about and some cyclists had already blocked cars and trucks from entering -- or leaving -- the gate. Some of us questioned the tactic of stopping vehicles from leaving and occasionally a departing car or truck was allowed through a gap in the line.
A squad of about twenty motorcycle cops cruised by ominously. Another cyclist and I agreed that they weren't Oakland cops. We later learned they were California Highway Patrol officers who went to the north entrance to divert traffic.
Jack Heyman, an activist longshore worker of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, arrived and with Chris Carlsson and others started to organize a picket line. Eventually, we set up an unconventional one with cyclists riding in a circle. Unconventional yet effective.
Meanwhile, other cyclists rode by toward the three other gates. The first bus showed up to escort more reinforcements to the northern gates. More cyclists kept arriving even as the first marchers appeared on the bridge.
By all appearances we had secured the south gate so I asked Jack if I should go to another one.
"You know SSA Gate ?"
"I think so. I worked over there about ten years ago."
"Good. Go over there, they need help."
SSA refers to the shipping line owned by Goldman Sachs and its gate accesses a large part of the Port. At SSA Gate, Stan Woods, a rank and file member of ILWU Local 6, took charge and in his gentle West Virginia drawl taught the crowd the technique of a picket line. We set up a line on foot. Conventional ... yet effective.
In the west the sun was dropping lower.
By now more marchers were arriving and we were coming to a consciousness of what our power could do. More chants emerged from the ranks.
"Whose port?"
"Our port!"
A huge cheer rose from the crowd when Occupy San Francisco marchers arrived to join the line.
Not everybody marched on the picket line. Most of the recent arrivals milled about in gleeful yet restrained chaos. They even seemed shy to march when some picketers called for them to join. It really didn't matter though. The picket line was long enough to block the gate and that was all we needed. Far more people continued to occupy the entire Middle Harbor Road making impossible almost any approach to the gate by outside traffic. We not only were meeting all criteria for shutting down the Port, we were exceeding them. And most longshore workers were probably enjoying this chance to have a day off for a cause most of them supported.
The lowering sun glowed in the western sky as 6 PM drew near. There was still another hour until the shift change. By now Middle Harbor Road was filled with thousands of people representing the diversity of the Bay Area. Skateboarding youth zipped by leftist elders, one of whom sported an Abraham Lincoln Brigade T-shirt. A guitarist played folk songs. Kids of all races danced to hip hop. Community youth groups such as United Playaz represented. Cyclists cruised through the crowd. Back at the south gate, a rock band set up their equipment and powered their sound system by a rider on a stationary bicycle. Clergy from an interfaith group unfurled their banner and marched on the SSA picket line. A few people carried signs saying "I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one." But I preferred the one that pointed out that "If corporations are people, then 17 year old BevMo Stores needs to wait four more years to buy liquor." Lengthy but clever. A woman wore a T-shirt stating "I teach middle school, you don’t scare me." A bearded man in a robe carried a sign declaring "The Beginning is Near." A dignified looking elderly black woman carried a sign that portrayed Harriet Tubman. Another sign urged us to "Be Excellent to Each Other." A black longshoreman wore a T shirt portraying Malcolm X with two of his daughters. “Fatherhood by any means necessary” was inscribed on the shirt. Occupy campers from other Bay Area cities showed their colors and mingled with workers in their union T-shirts. There were masked people including some with Guy Fawkes images. I didn't see any nudists.
Except for the brief drive by the motorcycle cops around 4 PM, I saw no police at the Port.
As darkness covered the waterfront, a festive air accompanied it. Chanting faded and was slowly replaced by the sounds of rock and hip hop emerging from portable sound systems. A few people sparked up celebratory marijuana. Some of us worried that such festivities might be premature and overconfident.
Well, it was easy to be confident. The shift change began at 7 PM and this time port workers were allowed to exit, albeit slowly. There was no sign of any vehicles trying to enter the Port. The crowd's continuing occupation of Middle Harbor Road and its approaches made vehicle access impossible. Whose road ? Our road !
A friend and I rode to the north gate. Along the way we passed the third gate. There, a picket line marched in the midst of a laid back crowd. We reached the north gate. Here at the northern end of the demonstration, the crowd was thinner but there was no sign of any approaching vehicles.
I rode back to my place on the SSA Gate picket line. People were saying that the arbitrator still had not ruled and that the shift change was moved to 8 PM. So we kept picketing.
One picketer, probably trying to start a chant, yelled out "Are you pissed off?"
A few people answered by rote, shouting "Yeah!" but they were drowned out by a cheerful "No!" coming from a group of cyclists and young women.
"Are you pi- what ?"
"No!" the motley group repeated.
"How can you not be angry?" he demanded indignantly.
"Because we're winning!"
We were winning and it sure made me happy but we hadn't won yet.
Shortly after 8 PM, we heard that the arbitrator had just ruled that the longshore workers were excused from work with pay.
The Port of Oakland was officially closed until 3 AM the next morning.
People cheered but it really was anti-climactic. To those of us who have worked at the Port and even to casual observers, the battle had been won almost four hours earlier when we had set up picket lines at all the gates along Middle Harbor Road. From that moment all we had to do was hold our positions. I sat down on a ledge and reflected on our accomplishment. The first thought that came to my mind was that of all the many groups gathered downtown at 3 PM, it was bicycle riders who had gone out first. At the time, I didn't really grasp the significance. I was at Ogawa/Grant Plaza on my bike and told that bikers were going out first. Not first, just first. If we'd been told to go second or ninth, it would have been the same to me. I was there waiting to do my duty, whatever it may be. But now with our major goal accomplished and the Occupy movement having won its greatest victory, I had a chance to see our assignment differently.
We bicyclists had been first.
First to ride from Ogawa/Grant Plaza. First to reach the Port and its gates. First -- along with others -- to set up picket lines. First to block big rig trucks. First to start the human movement of shutting down the nation's fifth busiest seaport.
And that awareness really did bring a tear to my eye. Having been a Bay Area messenger and bike activist for almost three decades, I realized it was probably the greatest respect our cycling community had ever received in all those years. I brushed my eyes with a silent gratitude to the Occupy movement for giving us bicyclists this singular honor.
And then I noticed how clean the air was. A large American port is a very polluted place. When the Port of Oakland is busy, each of its twenty berths is docked by a ship with heaters, refrigeration and other motors running. On every berth, next to each ship is a line of idling trucks. Outside the gates, more trucks drive up and down Middle Harbor Road. On the nearby rail yards, freight trains spew more diesel into the sky. With all that pollution, it's no wonder that longshore workers have a contract provision that might get them a few extra days off each year.
But tonight the Port and Middle Harbor Road were occupied by people enjoying a fresh, warm breeze blowing in from the Bay. And for all our faults, we human beings are still cleaner than motor vehicles.
Not long after the Port shutdown announcement, people began returning to Occupy Oakland or BART stations or other destinations. As I rode toward the West Oakland BART, I passed groups who often erupted in shouts of happiness. Even on the BART train ride back to San Francisco people kept up their celebratory and occasionally loud mood.
For all of its history, Oakland has been unfavorably compared with its elegant neighbors San Francisco and Berkeley. “Jokeland” was a familiar epithet in Bay Area conversations. In recent years, this undeserved civic inferiority complex has been aggravated by budget crises that have crippled schools, police and other basic services. But on November 2, 2011, thousands of Oaklanders and their friends marched with a confidence and purpose that met the immediate task and which can face future challenges.
Later, before midnight, a small group of masked vandals grabbed media attention by breaking into the abandoned Traveler's Aid Building. Perhaps they felt confident and wanted to ride the winning momentum. The target was a logical one if the timing was not. The group sought to use the building as a community resource. But for the first time that day, the police responded with significant force. Confrontation ensued and lasted almost till dawn. Protestors set up barricades and then set some of them ablaze. A fire was started in the building. By the time the police ousted the group, about 100 people were arrested. It is tempting and possibly accurate to suggest that a few of these "anarchists" -- as they are routinely yet unreflectively labeled by the media -- are actually police agents provocateur. But even if a few are, the bigger problem is that many are following their lead. Whether these followers are wannabe media stars, apolitical troublemakers or misguided but passionate activists, they have concluded that such tactics are functional.
The failed takeover of the Traveler's Aid Building tarnished an otherwise near perfect day of organized action and coordinated unity. Even at 3 AM the next morning, as the squad of masked vandals were doing minor arson, hundreds were still demonstrating at the Port.
Much ink and Webspace has been devoted to the actions of the media described "anarchists," including notable comments by longtime Bay Area historians and activists Davey D and Chris Carlsson. They point out that these tactics eventually actualize a losing strategy. The vandals -- those who target only major corporations -- certainly have a point: their targets are guilty of far worse than property damage. And because of that point, their targets are usually our targets: powerful examples of the Multi-National Corporate structure which have caused and exacerbated this latest, quite severe rupture of America’s economic and political system. But a few vandals have used indiscreet means to besmirch the cause of millions. A major victory achieved by thousands was hijacked by a tiny group urging a spontaneous and undiscussed action.
Their actions detracted from the movement's greatest triumph, leaving a sour aftertaste to the victory feast.
Or perhaps these masked guys might learn from those women and cyclists who when asked why they weren't angry, cheerfully answered, "Because we're winning!"

Epilogue : December 12 West Coast Port Shutdown

The impacts and internal tensions of November 2's nonviolent triumph and well publicized vandalism became a metaphor for events in the following weeks. Occupy camps were attacked nationwide and the movement again responded with audacious militancy.
This time, the movement made errors that would prove to be more consequential but again not prohibitive. On November 18, Occupy Oakland called for a December 12 shutdown of all ports on the West Coast in response to the police crackdowns against Occupy camps and in solidarity with longshore workers at Longview, Washington who lost their jurisdiction at Export Grain Terminal as well as with truck drivers organizing at the huge Los Angeles/Long Beach Port. However, the ILWU leadership opposed the port shutdown, stating that labor struggles should be led by the workers who are directly affected. While some rank and file ILWU members favored the shutdown, there was no direct reply by Occupy to the ILWU leaders’ point that longshore workers should determine the course of their resistance. And port truck drivers seemed to be split on the shutdown. Finally, there was concern that this time the move really was too ambitious. Closing down one port such as on November 2, was one matter. Shutting down the entire West Coast would be a severe test at a difficult time.
On the 12th, fewer people marched in Oakland (3,000 by one count) and many did so with mixed feelings. Some stated that they did so as a sense of duty to the movement instead of to the specific tactic. Nevertheless, a few thousand did their duty and some enthusiastically so, closing the ports of Oakland, Portland and Longview. Occupy protestors marched in Long Beach, Seattle and other coast cities but failed to shut down those ports. With more support from the ILWU, success would have been certain. People in West Coast labor and maritime circles know that when the longshoremen decide to shut down a port, it will be shut down. The fact that most West Coast ports stayed open, shows that Occupy still has work to do in developing solidarity with workers. But the movement also showed maturity on the 12th. This time there was none of the impulsive vandalism that had tarnished the November 2 victory. And demonstrations all across the country in support of the West Coast actions showed that the movement is still very active, even in the midst of holiday activity and winter weather.
Just as the victory on November 2 proved that the Occupy movement is a real political force so the stalemate on December 12 shows that it has the potential to endure the coming winter.