what a good way to start off the new year. i walked with a new friend, evan, from crockett to martinez.
evan studied photography, and he just sent me the link to his photos. (they are fantastic, particularly the sequence of a train passing by.)
unfortunately, i have not had a computer since just before xmas, so i am writing this post more from memory than perhaps i would like. (in fact, i have heard from friends and teachers that one has 48 hours to write field notes before they start to disappear.)
[also, i forgot to switch the auto settings on my camera again, so once again more blue-tinged photos than i would like. others have an eerily grainy quality that i like, but i still am not able to control.]
so we started walking near the c&h sugar refinery which, as i may have mentioned, was a place that inspired this walk in the first place. the machinery there is amazing, just the sheer number of pipes and vats, and the delicious smell of burnt sugar.
(i am also proud of this one as a photo, which is an interesting problem. are my photos *data* or little works of art? is there a difference? ought there be?)
this one has a building still standing on it. it is for sale -- we called and they told us $150,000. that's a lot of money for a somewhat broken, ancient dock with electricity but no running water. oh, and you can only get in (legally) by water access. that would mean renting a slip in crockett. and building a raft or something.
but i can still dream of having an artist residency here on the bay.
i also noticed that there are these pretty houses on the hill in crockett that face out towards the bay. i wonder if the noise of the train bothers them, or if because they look over top of them, they have stopped noticing the noise.
then more and more of these docks. it gives you an idea of how much the bay was once used to haul freight (just around california.) these tracks were a part of a system that included canals and ferries all around.
it has been left to rust for a long, long time.
this is the first walk that i had noticed dead animals by the tracks, but we saw this deer and a raccoon too, both clearly hit by the train. (evan got me to look at them up close, which shows how much different walking partners change your perspective.)
then we came across this little park, clearly another piece of the east bay regional park district which seems to have claimed up as much land as it can around the tracks. i think they have done a good job having their paths hug the bay and the rails -- i find this a decent compromise.
as this project has become about marginal spaces and how we use them and think about them and deal with them, this business with the park district becomes more important than one might think at first blush.
also, they left this beautiful little structure standing. this would be a great venue for the train observation deck suggested in the last post:
so this next thing is *really* interesting. it is a fishing dock, but with warning signs about eating fish from the bay. it is also maintained by the regional park district, complete with a little place to cross the rails with a different warning sign (don't get hit by a train!):
does their home-made-ness make them any different from park district's benches??
a land trust owns the hills on one side, and the east bay regional parks own the other, so it remains a tiny little hidden treasure.
railroad right-of-ways (as well as streets and other lines of travel) have often been used to lay phone, electrical, plumbing and fiber-optic connections. i found this pretty bundle of colorful wires on the ground.
people hang out here:
i can't recall if i've blogged about this already, but there is a scholar of industrial ruins in the u.k. called tim edensor, who says that industrial ruins are really important as an out-of-the-way space for people to do outlawish things. clearly, no city planner is going to support keeping an old crumbling unsafe warehouse standing in order to promote illicit activity. but i still think this is an important category of space, particularly interesting because it is produced wholly by capital divestment in a place where capital was once *invested.* the railroads are an interesting gateway into these spaces, because they certainly aren't ruins, but they do have an historic character as outlaw (hobo?) space.
on a separate note, it is *uncanny* how many people want to tell me the stories they have about hanging out by the railroad as kids. like that's what so many of us spent our teenage years doing. i still walk on the rails when i go back to my parents' house in michigan (and have written more than one poem about it.)
i really like the lines in this photo:
so then we came to this machine with wires running into a railroad "carpet" (for lack of a better word.) this is the second one of these i have seen. it is run by a solar panel, but besides that i'm not sure what it does or how it works.
people hang out on this beach, too. they build cairns (piles of rocks) and burn things. sounds delightful.
how did this car get here? there must have been a road once upon a time. it captured evan's photographer imagination.
then there were all these pipes and signs about "property of the u.s. government." evan said maybe i shouldn't be photographing them, but if i can just walk to them on the rails, then it isn't very high security, is it?
so back to the east bay regional park district -- in this bit by martinez, they own the land on the water side of the tracks! amazing, particularly when you consider the rate at which this type of land erodes. and "officially," you can only get in on one side, and from martinez. but there are no fences, only these posts.
these people were all watching the city clear a beaver dam in the creek because there was a huge storm coming (and those of you who live in california experienced it the next day.) apparently this was a big deal b/c there had been an argument brewing for some time about what to do with the beavers. the tv crews were out and everything.
in fact, i think they did quite a lovely job with this station. unfortunately, the old station is a costume shop with dropped acoustical tile ceilings. i am not sure when they built the new one, or why they felt it was necessary. my gut feeling is that a lot of towns built new stations in the last ten years to re-encourage ridership. oakland, emeryville and richmond all have new stations. the berkeley one was a restaurant but now sits empty. the fancy new richmond multimodal station has been empty every time i have ridden past it.
that's the end of that walk. i'm a bit concerned, as i am (supposedly?) writing a draft of this thesis this term, and the walk isn't done. if anyone wants to jump on board for the second half (in the next few weeks, please!) lemme know.
oh, and leave your comments.