Fun with Highways: Florida

We begin our tour on US 1 in Coral Gables, where it is known as the South Dixie Highway. I was actually in a pub along here on Election Night 2004, watching the results with friends and colleagues from the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC). For the most part, the election was quite disappointing – and we didn’t even get to enjoy a controversial Florida result to experience first-hand. So after a night of beers and commiseration, we turned our attention back to the conference itself, and to points north. Heading up US 1 towards Miami, we come to the rather unassuming freeway ramp that marks the start of I-95, the main north-south highway along the east coast. It’s a modest beginning for a such a major road. I-95 is an elevated urban highway through downtown Miami, as is the spur I-395 which took us over the city to the MacArthur Causeway and onto Miami Beach as A1A, one of the more oddly numbered highways in the country.

In Miami Beach, A1A continues as Collins Avenue, though the Art Deco district of the South Beach neighborhood.

[Photo by wyntuition on flickr. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).]

The Art Deco architecture of many of the area’s buildings dates back to the 1920s. One see a certain modernist quality in it, with the details of traditional architectural ornament reduced to simple shapes, but unlike mid-century modernism, such ornament (albeit more abstract) remains. The design of the buildings, the bright colors and the neon lighting are all part of the neighborhood’s character. This was a fun place for food and drink, and to access the beach (it is Miami Beach, after all). The most notable thing about beaches in Florida is that the water is warm, even into the evening. For someone who has lived near beaches in northern California, actually going into the water like this is a bit of a novelty.

The next day I ventured out on my own using public transit into Miami, primarily using the elevated rail line. I stopped at Calle Ocho (8th Street) and walked its length through the heart of of Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. The street carries the final section of US 41 towards downtown Miami. I think it was most curious to explore it because of my experience a few years earlier in “Big Havana” (i.e., in Cuba). Probably the main visual feature of the street were the frequent rooster statues along the side, including this somewhat “patriotic” specimen:

By the time I had gotten to downtown, where US 41 terminates at US 1., it had begun to rain. I did make it as far as Bayfront Park where I came upon this sculpture.

North of Miami, I-95 enters the Golden Glades Interchange along with Florida’s Turnpike, FL 826, US 441, and FL 9. As one can see in this photo, it is quite a tangled mess.


[Click to enlarge.]

From here, one can continue north on I-95 along the coast, or veer inland towards Orlando on the Turnpike. We will continue north on I-95, which brings us to Cocoa Beach. This is beach where I first experienced Florida’s atlantic coast as a child, the water, the sand, the seashells. Of course, the reason we stayed here was that it is part of Florida’s “Space Coast” and quite close to Cape Canaveral.

The epicenter of the American space program loomed large in the imagination – even though the moon landings were long over, space was still a powerful draw and the vehicles, structures and devices that made space travel possible were quite exciting to see up close and could even mask the fact that so much of this technology was on the edge and quite inaccessible to most of us. In that sense, space has never really entered into our lives the way computer technology (which also started as remote and rarified) has done so. That is a bit sad. Despite all the joking about a certain presidential candidate’s recent “moon base” proposal, I have to admit I wish we were more ambitious again about expanding into space. We never really solved the problem of efficiently getting into orbit, and thus haven’t been able to make it truly route and accessible. There are those working on this problem, on the Space Coast and elsewhere, but that is a topic for another time.

As one continues up the coast towards Daytona Beach, I-95 meets I-4, which heads westward and southward through the center of the state. It crosses Florida’s turnpike just south of Orlando and just next to the Walt Disneyworld Resort. Everyone knows Disneyworld. I had last been there as a teenager. EPCOT center was visually interesting (in terms of the buildings and structures), although it was already quite “retro” when it was completed in the 1980s. And the rides were not particularly compelling. I can only imagine it seems very dated now, but that could add to its visual charm.


[Benjamin D. Esham / Wikimedia Commons [CC-BY-SA-3.0-us (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons]

It would be interesting to photograph. But perhaps as interesting from a photography perspective is another, now defunct, theme park just down the road. Splendid China, built and sponsored by the Chinese government, was a theme park that featured scale models of famous Chinese landmarks, including among others a miniature Great Wall. The park was never popular and closed in 2003. Since then, it has fallen into disrepair and is a frequent target of vandalism. I only found out about it as a result of a 2009 exhibition in San Francisco that included photographs by Thomas Cheng documenting the decay.


[Thomas Chang. Great Wall. Splendid China Theme Park, Orlando, Florida.
Image courtesy of the CCC online gallery. Click image to enlarge.]

I-4 continues southwest towards Tampa Bay, crossing I-75. I-75 is another major north-south national highway, and south of Tampa it largely follows along Florida’s “left coast.” It does, however, abruptly turn and become and east-west highway at the northern edge of the Everglades. This is the famous Alligator Alley. Along this section of I-75 is the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge, home to the critically endangered Florida panther. There are perhaps around 200 left.

The highway cuts through the panther’s habitat, but the rebuilt version includes passageways underneath for panthers to travel safely. It also facilities the movement of other wildlife. Of course, one does find alligators along the highway.

Returning to the beginning point of our virtual tour, one can travel south on US 1 to the southern tip of mainland Florida, where it becomes the Overseas Highway through the Florida Keys. The highway links together a series of bridges and causeways through the keys.


[Averette at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

Some of the structures of this beast were part of an older railroad, and have since been replaced. But old sections remain.


[By Elkman (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

US 1 eventually comes into Key West. It makes a final right turn onto Whitehead Street, passing by the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Among the current residents of the home and museum are “Hemingway’s Cats”, who are descended from the author’s cats and many of whom are polydactyl with extra toes in their paws.


[Averette at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons. Click to enlarge.]

Hemingway was quite fond of these cats, and the museum has become a permanent home for them – we of course hope it stays that way.

Only a few blocks away, US 1 ends. This “end” assembly with Mile 0 marker is probably one of the more photographed ones in existence.


[Photo by CedarBendDrive on flickr. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)]

It probably gets stolen quite a bit, too.

Fun with Highways: New Hampshire

We continue our series this season with a visit to the Granite State. New Hampshire typifies what we think of as “northern New England.”, with a mixture of old factory towns and mills, forested mountainous wilderness and rocky coastline.


[Photo from dougtone on flickr.]

We begin on this rather oddly named bit of highway south of Nashua called the “Circumferential Highway.” It’s not really circumferential of anything, except maybe an argument. But it does connect us to a major highway, the Everett Turnpike, as we head north through the state. I actually have visited Nashua. It was (gasp!) 20 years ago when a college friend invited me to tag along with him to go up to New Hampshire and volunteer for a presidential candidate I had barely heard of named Bill Clinton. The main thing I remember about walking around the town was that it was very cold. And it also looked a bit more gritty and rundown than the some of the more recent images I have seen.

Traveling north on the Everett Turnpike we come to the state’s largest city, Manchester. The turnpike merges with I-293 and heads north along the river, passing by downtown and the old mill buildings of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company. This was a huge enterprise in its day, and apparently had the largest cotton textile plant in the world in the late 19th century. The company went under in the 1930s, but the buildings remain. You can see the rather narrow I-293/Everett Turnpike along the river just in front of the red brick mill buildings. Many have found new uses for contemporary industries as well as residential and commercial development.


[Image from Wikimedia Commons.]

Manchester is also home to the Currier Museum of Art. It’s plaza includes the sculpture Origins by Mark di Suvero.


[Photo by madame urushiol on flickr.]

It seems like variations on his “weird red thing” (aka Joie de Vivre) from Zuccotti Park are everywhere. After our Iowa article last week, a reader on DailyKos recommended a sculpture garden in Des Moines that also contains a di Suvero piece. I wonder how many more we might encounter as this series continues. The Currier also manages the Zimmerman House, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece in the northern part of the city.


[Photo by mmwm on flickr.]

New England was apparently quite a hotbed of modern architecture in the middle of the 20th century, and many of the designs make Frank Lloyd Wright’s look conservative by comparison.

An avid highway enthusiast who goes by the name “FreewayJim” on YouTube has a fun time-lapsed and annotated view of the drive north on the Everett Turnpike and I-293 through Manchester as I-293 merges back into I-93 towards Concord. It turns out this is his hometown, so he brings a bit of knowledge about what has changed, and especially what has not changed on these roads.

I-93 continues north from Concord and winds its way gracefully into the White Mountains region. Here we see the rugged northern New England wilderness, another defining feature of the state. Cosigned with US 3, I-93 continues north into Franconia Notch State Park, where it narrows to just one lane in each direction, a rarity for an interstate highway.

The park includes among other things the former site of the Old Man in the Mountain. This natural feature on Cannon Mountain symbolized the state. It is part of the state highway shields. It is on the state’s commemorative quarter. It is on the state’s license plates. And it came crashing down off the cliffs one night in 2003. It sounds like there was a great sense of loss for the state when this happened. A memorial is currently being built at the base of the mountain, which will feature large granite elements representing both the formation itself and the state’s identity.

One can leave I-93 here and head eastwards on NH 112, the Kancamagus Highway through the White Mountains. In addition to having a great name, the roadway provides scenic vistas of the mountains and forests (especially dramatic in the autumn) as well as rocky rivers and covered bridges.



[Click images to enlarge.]

It seems like New Hampshire has quite a few covered bridges. I was actually in this area once as a kid (even more than 20 years ago). It was quite beautiful, but even in summer the water in the river was cold.

Highway 112 ends at the town of Conway, which I knew sounded familiar for some reason. It is in fact because of the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire’s shelter in the town. I think I crossed paths with them once via Weekend Cat Blogging. In any case, they have some nice cats available for adoption if you are in northern New England.

UPDATE: Speaking of cats, we would be remiss if we did not head north from Conway on Highway 16 to Mount Washington. This summit has famously high winds and all around terrible weather, but it is quite an experience to visit (on that same childhood trip I was picked up off the ground by a gust of wind). Plus, they have an official observatory cat, Marty. He is one in a long line of Mount Washington cats, about whom you read more here. Marty’s predecessor, Nin, was there for quite a while and posted this article in 2007 when Nin retired.

Returning to Manchester, one can head westward or eastward on NH 101. To the west, the highway is a local road that winds its way to the town of Keene. I only learned about Keene through these great photo an abandoned factory. It seems to not fared as well as its larger counterparts in Manchester and Nashua, but the ruins are quite beautiful as a photographic subject, especially with the snow.


[Photo by Lorianne DiSabato on flickr.]

East of Manchester, 101 is a large highway heading towards the coast. It passes by Exeter, a town with a prep school that many of my college acquaintances attended. But more interestingly, the academy includes this modernist library designed by Louis I. Kahn:


[Photo by Pablo Sanchez via Wikimedia Commons. (Click to enlarge.)]

101 eventually hits the coast at highway 1A, just north of Seabrook. Although the beaches along this shore are quite scenic, I know them mostly from the history surrounding the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station. In 1977, the Clamshell Alliance staged what we would now refer to as an “occupy protest” on the construction site of the plant. Nonetheless, at least one reactor of the plant was built. If I didn’t know what it was or the dangers surrounding nuclear energy, I would actually think of it visually as a positive contribution to the landscape, contrasting with the low horizon, dunes, wetlands and ocean, as in this photo from along 1A:

And I think this sunset is a perfect way to conclude this short trip to New Hampshire.

Fun with Highways: Iowa

Our four-year civic ritual begins in its official manner today, and we at CatSynth are once again following the presidential primary schedule with our “Fun with Highways” series. Today, all eyes (or at least a great many of them) are focused on Iowa. A lot will be said about Iowa, it’s cultural and geographical stereotypes. But I would like to rethink the image of the state through my own interests, and thus begin with this image of Des Moines, the capital and largest city.

From what I can tell by looking at maps of the city, this was taken looking north from a railway bridge. Des Moines is a small city but seemingly well laid out, taking advantage of its river to visual effect. It does have a somewhat dense and vertical downtown core, and a rather interesting feature, the Des Moines Skywalk.


[By Dsmspence (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

The skywalk is a highway of sorts for pedestrians, allowing easy movement around the downtown area through elevated glass-enclosed walkways. As someone who dislikes cold, I’m sure I would appreciate it in January. The skywalk does seem like it would have had a bit of a futuristic quality to it when it was built, though not the dystopian beauty of New York’s High Line. But perhaps I speak to soon. Check out these images of a desolate Des Moines on the blog lonelystreets.com, for some beautiful images of an eerie empty city from the skywalk and elsewhere.

[By Des Moines Guy (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons]

Before leaving the city, we should also acknowledge the Des Moines Art Center, an architecturally interesting complex with pieces designed by Eliel Saarinen, I.M. Pei and Richard Meier, with three differet styles of 20th Century Architecture, but all seemingly designed to take advantage of the horizontal expanse, open space and light that have long made the Midwest an inspiring setting for architects.

Just north of both the art center and the downtown core is I-235, the main highway running through the city. We will head east to where I-235 ends at a junction with I-80 and I-35, and then continue east on I-80. I have personally seen the expanses of farmland along this nearly straight stretch of highway, with the occasional road passing overhead on via artificial mounds and the connected with a diamond interchange. We cross US 6, which once stretched across the entire country but now ends in the eastern Sierra in California. We pass by Iowa City and give a shout-out to the infamous Iowa Writer’s Workshop. The program has turned out numerous winners of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, among other honors. My own experience with the world of writing is a bit limited, but it seems very different than the world of music.

As we approach the eastern edge of the state, we come to Davenport, which among other things is home to the Figge Museum.


[By Ctjf83 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons]

The museum it itself an interesting building, and has a varied collection. But perhaps most interesting is the collection from the University of Iowa that is being temporarily housed there (after the University’s building was flooded in 2008) and displayed in the exhibition A Legacy for Iowa: Pollock’s Mural and Modern Masterworks from the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

Although it seems natural to explore the state along and east-west axis, one can also travel south to north. Indeed, Iowa has what could be dubbed a “concept highway” running north-south called the Avenue of the Saints because it connects St Louis, Missouri, to St Paul, Minneapolis. It was only designated as a single route, Iowa State Highway 27, in 2001, and mostly overlaps with other longer established routes. In particular, it overlaps with I-380 from near Iowa City northward, passing through Cedar Rapids, the second largest city in the state.


[By en:User:Interiority (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons]

Downtown Cedar Rapids was submerged in the massive 2008 floods (the same floods that damaged the University of Iowa Art Building and forced the collection to move to the Frigge). Many of its cultural institutions were damaged along with countless homes and businesses. One story of particular interest the Paramount Theater. The theater was severely damaged in the flood and the console of its historic Wurlitzer organ was destroyed. It seems so many stories with theaters named Paramount or Paradise or anything else that evokes the golden age of movie palaces have tragic overtones, but some do come back. From information provided by the city, the plans are for the Paramount to reopen later this year as a cultural center. The concept renderings of the lobby look to include the best modernist elements of Art Deco.

If anyone reading this knows more about what is happening in Cedar Rapids or any of the other cities profiled in this article, please do comment.

Dalton Highway, Alaska

With so many eyes turning northward at this time of year, we thought we take a look at the northernmost highway in the United States, Alaska’s Dalton Highway.

The Dalton Highway (Alaska highway 11) begins north of Fairbanks and extends northward towards Prudhoe Bay along the Arctic Ocean. It actually ends a few miles short of the ocean in the town of Deadhorse (what a great name!) with private roads covering the remaining distance. The southern section of the highway passes through the state’s forested interior, and on the E.L. Patton Yukon River Bridge. This is apparently the only bridge crossing the Yukon River in Alaska.

[Photo by Stan Stebs via Wikimedia Commons.]

As one gets further north, the trees disappear and highway winds its way through the sparse and undulating terrain as a narrow gravel road parallel to the pipeline. It is this landscape that perhaps most uniquely defines this road.

The stark landscape of clean rolling hills and muted greens looks quite interesting and inviting.  But it is easy to forget that it does get very cold and covered in snow and ice for quite a bit of the year, and can be quite treacherous.

The landscape flattens out and becomes more barren as the highway approaches its northern terminus near the Arctic Ocean. It ends at a very unassuming intersection at the edge of a lake in Deadhorse, as seen is this image from Google Street View:

It looks like the left turn leads into the town itself, which includes the sign shown to the left and where one can book tours to the coast.  The right turn appears to lead towards the oil installations, with street view stopping at a gate.  Interestingly, the entire length of the highway can been seen on Google Street View. I can only imagine the scene of one of the Google cars traveling alone along the road.

Alaska is one of six states in the U.S. I have not yet visited. If I do make it there, I would like to see this highway. But probably not during the winter.

Fun with Highways: The Bay Bridge Turns 75

This past Saturday, November 12, marked the 75th anniversary of the opening of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, known conventionally as “The Bay Bridge.” It is a regular part of life for many of us here, one of our main connections to the communities across the bay and a principal landmark during walks in my part of the city. It has been featured in many previous articles here on CatSynth.

The Bay Bridge is a workhorse, spanning over 4 miles and carrying an estimated 270,000 vehicles a day, making it second busiest in the U.S. after the George Washington Bridge in New York. But the western double-span is quite a beautiful structure, both as seen from the hills of San Francisco and from up close.


[Click to enlarge]

[Click to enlarge.]

Don’t let that last photograph fool you. Even though it may look like it was taken 75 years ago, it was actually taken yesterday using the iPhone Hipstamatic app during an early afternoon walk by the bridge.

It was quite an engineering feat when it was built, the longest bridge of its time and built in challenging geography of the bay.

[Image from Wikimedia Commons.]

This video (as seen on the official Bay Bridge info site) captures both the era and the engineering:

Much like the Brooklyn bridge when it was first built, the Bay Bridge towered over the surrounding architecture of the cities it connected. It is anchored in the middle to Yerba Buena island with tunnels connecting the two spans of the bridges. On the the San Francisco side, it is anchored to Rincon Hill, once an upscale neighborhood in the late 1800s that fell into rapid decline and largely destroyed in the 1906 quake. The eastern bridge was built resting on mud rather than bedrock. It was the most expensive bridge built to date.

The idea of a bridge crossing the bay has been around since the 1800s. Indeed, such a bridge was proposed by Emperor Norton in the 1870s (I think this even made it into Gino Robair’s opera I Norton). But unlike his other proclamations, this one seemed like a good idea. After that, there were many proposals, such as this one that in some ways resembles the bridge that was actually built.

The bridge proposed in this drawing connected to Telegraph Hill rather than Rincon Hill, and has suspension bridges on both sides of Yerba Buena island.  The spires also make it look like some of the older suspension bridges on the East River in New York.

When bridge first opened, it carried US Highways 40 and 50 as well as the trains from the Key System in the East Bay. The upper deck had longer ramps leading to Harrison and Bryant Streets at 5th, roughly the same as the rather long ramps at those streets today. On the Oakland side, the bridge had viaducts from Cypress Street (Highway 17) as well as San Pablo Avenue and the Eastshore Highway (US 40). The bridge now carries Interstate 80 across the bay. The railway is long gone. Gone also are the connections to the old Transbay Terminal and Embarcadero Freeway, both of which have been demolished. The area under the bridge on the San Francisco side, once a gritty industrial waterfront, is now a picturesque boulevard that is great for walking. Through all of the changes, the bridge itself has not changed very much at all…

[Bay Bridge approach, 1940s]

[Bay Bridge and Embarcadero, 1970s and 1980s. Photos from Wikimedia Commons.]

[Present day, Bay Bridge and southern Embarcadero. Photo by CatSynth]

…until now. The eastern truss span, which was badly damaged in the 1989 earthquake, is now being replaced with a new more graceful cable-stayed span. The construction has progressed to the point where the tower is in place and the cables are being hung. It is indeed a bit distracting when traveling the bridge. But I am looking forward to seeing it completed, probably around the 77th anniversary in 2013.

Wordless Wednesday: Oakland Maze

Fun with Highways: The Port of Oakland

I found this photo on Facebook yesterday while following events at the General Strike in Oakland.

More people protesting a little later….the freeway is full on their way to the Port of Oakland during the #GeneralStrike. People can’t drive….10,000 people are marching.

In actuality, it is not a freeway. But it does appear to be the point in West Oakland where Adeline Street crosses over the train tracks and becomes Middle Harbor Road, which would be en route to the port where demonstrators successfully and peacefully shut down operations for the remainder of the night. That is quite an impressive feat.

In actuality, it is not a freeway. But it does appear to be the point in West Oakland where Adeline Street crosses over the train tracks and becomes Middle Harbor Road, which would be en route to the port where demonstrators successfully and peacefully shut down operations for the remainder of the night. That is quite an impressive feat.

I unfortunately was not able to join in the events in Oakland yesterday because of health reasons, but I am planning to be out again with a group in San Francisco on Saturday. In the meantime, here is a first-hand account from fellow Bay Area new musician Myles Boisen. He plays a mean blues guitar.

Shut Down! – Occupy Oakland 11/03/11 Vol. 7

Vol. 7 in a series by Myles Boisen

Port of Oakland SHUT DOWN
Wells Fargo SHUT DOWN
Bank of America SHUT DOWN
CitiBank SHUT DOWN
Comerica Bank SHUT DOWN
Chase Bank SHUT DOWN
Union Bank SHUT DOWN
Bank of the West SHUT DOWN
Nara Bank SHUT DOWN
T-Mobile SHUT DOWN
Burger King SHUT DOWN
Walgreen’s SHUT DOWN

Highlights of the Oakland general strike:

10 a.m. As I start reading news feeds I see Angela Davis is addressing the early morning crowd at 14th and Broadway. Unconfirmed rumors come and go that the Port of Oakland is already closed, with possible wildcat strike action and trucks unable to get through.

12 p.m. I arrive at Oscar Grant Plaza. On the way over radio coverage on KPFA-FM says that Wells Fargo bank is already shut down. People are streaming continuously toward downtown on foot and on bicycles. The crowd at 14th and Broadway is estimated at 5,000 or more. With friends I tour the area, photographing banks and corporate businesses that have shut their doors due to the strike. The crowd is made up of elders, working people, union representatives, teachers, religious leaders, and schoolchildren present with their parents.

By the BART station we meet Ethel, a senior citizen who is gathering signatures on a petition to end the death penalty in California. One member of our party – Phil, a well-read anarcho-syndicalist – has recently moved to Alameda County, and Ethel suggests that he can go to City Hall to get the requisite voter registration papers. Could City Hall possibly be open today? We go on a mission to find out.

After finding a side door that is open, we are ushered into an eerie calm of City Hall by a private security guard. There is practically no one inside. Entering the Office of the City Clerk, there is once again no one around, though there is a small hotel bell at the counter. After ringing the bell for a few minutes, this Kafkaesque scenario is resolved when a woman emerges and directs Phil to the proper documents. I ask her “How’s it going today?” She gives me “the look” and replies “ask me after 5.”

1:30 p.m. Our group wanders about, taking in dance performances, rappers, signage, the bustling kitchen, the music stage, and more. We run into two stilt walkers that I am acquainted with, as well as my friend Victor Lewis who is immediately recognized by someone as being the guy from the film The Color of Fear. Victor gets that a lot.

2:30 p.m. I return to my car to find a parking ticket – my first one of the year. Damn! A bite of lunch, and I fall in with a group of musicians associated with Mills College. From there it’s off to move my car and survey downtown on my own, again taking photos of shuttered banks. There are broken windows at the Chase Bank downtown, with reports of additional vandalism at the Whole Foods grocery by Lake Merritt.

5:00 p.m. I return to Oscar Grant Plaza to try and meet a friend when I notice the march to the port is moving out. People walk briskly, excitedly, and despite my best efforts I can’t catch up to the beginning of the procession stretching many blocks in front of and behind me. We wind through industrial West Oakland with minimal police presence.

6:00 p.m. The final approach to the Port of Oakland (the fifth-largest port in the US) is by way of an overpass that sweeps gracefully over once-bustling trainyards. The top of this overpass affords a stunning vista with the iconic cranes to the west, a maze of train tracks to the north, and Oakland’s office buildings to the east. Sunset yields a golden light with its own rich photo ops. Then darkness finds most of the crowd on the move again, back to Oscar Grant Plaza, BART, or homes and family. After a final visit to OGP I see broken windows and anarchist graffiti at the Wells Fargo Bank, then return home to write and work on photos. Arriving home I read that a frustrated driver ran into two marchers in downtown Oakland, sending both to the hospital and then being allowed to go home himself after filing a report with the OPD.

2:07 a.m. As I am finishing up this post I get a call from Cherie. Police have moved into downtown and tear gas is being used at 16th and Telegraph. My heart sinks into my stomach, and yet somehow I find the energy to drive back downtown to see what is going on. Many streets are blocked off by lines of police. At 16th and Telegraph there are three dumpsters turned over in the middle of the intersection, contents spilled and a burnt trash smell. I hear that the camp is surrounded, with no one getting in or out. Walking seven blocks around the perimeter of the police-occupied area I find this is not true.

14th street is open, and there is lots of graffiti with anarchy A’s that was not there this afternoon. Windows are broken, including the Tully’s coffeeshop at 14th and Broadway which overlooks Oscar Grant Plaza. A double line of police spans the broad intersection of 15th and Broadway. Asking around, I learn from an eyewitness that “anarchist kids” had set the dumpster fires using M-80s or road flares, and that a fire was also set around an abandoned building that had been occupied. One young man named Chris had been tear gassed earlier, and was concerned about his friend who had been missing since then. I gave him the NLG hotline number, wished him luck, and returned home to write.

5 a.m. Bedtime for citizen journalists.

The presence of violence and a destructive element in our midst is deeply troubling. And I am really saddened that such a powerful, peaceful and successful strike involving so many has been stained by the anger of a few. These actions present a new challenge for a movement which is committed to non-violence. Just yesterday I wrote this: When the police turn violent, the Occupation thrives. But if Occupy turns violent (or is perceived as being violent) that will be the one thing that will bring it down. The vandalism is not widespread – just broken glass and spray paint as far as I know now – and it should be cleaned up in a couple of days. But it will now be a long struggle for the movement to effectively distance itself from a violent minority, and somehow deal with similar incidents in the future.

The phrase on everyone’s lips after the strike is “what next?” Well, what do YOU want to happen next? Get down to the Oakland GA (7 p.m. every night in Oscar Grant Plaza) and make a proposal. I can’t be at the GA on Thursday, but I know there will be a lot to talk about.

On Thursday Nov. 3 5:30 P.M. (today!) a City Council special meeting will address the police actions of 10/25/11. Council chambers of Oakland city hall.

Fun with Highways: Wall Street

Some streets take on a status beyond their physical extent. One of those is Wall Street, which is simultaneously an actual street in New York City, a neighborhood name, and shorthand for massive finance and investment industries of the United States.

Wall Street itself is quite short, and runs from South Street along the East River to Broadway. It’s terminus on the east side is underneath the South Street Viaduct (why a duck?) that carries the FDR drive to the tip of Manhattan and underneath Battery Park. The Broadway ends at historic Trinity Church. It is not a part of the city that I know particularly well. Most of my adventures don’t take me further south than Tribeca or the Brooklyn Bridge. It is interesting to look at the street names and arrangement, narrow streets with names like “Pine” and “Cedar”, “Front Street” and “Water Street” that we would associate with numerous coastal American cities and towns but not distinctly with New York (San Francisco has all four street names, as does Santa Cruz where I lived for several years). The streets are evidence of the long history in this part of the city.

The current #occupywallstreet protests are not actually centered on Wall Street, but in a park to the north along Liberty Street (officially named Zuccotti Park), just one big block away from the World Trade Center site and the new 9-11 Memorial. But things have grown since the initial encampment and march and while it was largely ignored by the mainstream media for the first couple of weeks or addressed as little more than a curiosity or object of derision. Now it appears in the news every day, and the protests themselves are growing organically. Here is an image yesterday from protesters occupying Foley Square, several blocks to the north near City Hall and the off-ramps from the Brooklyn Bridge (from the official website).

And a recent report of the massive march via Democracy Now!:

Towards the end of the video, one can see what happens as protesters approached the actual Wall Street.

If you want to support the movement but can’t make it to New York or one of the local “occupations” that have spread to other cities, you can send donations, or even order them a New York pizza courtesy of Liberatos Pizza. And we all know that New York pizza is better than what we get here on the west coast. They do recommend ordering vegetarian or vegan options, but the official “Occu-pie” looks suspiciously like pepperoni:

In the publication “Occupied Wall Street Journal”, they print a map of the plaza encampment:

I like how they label the sculpture on the plaza as “Weird Red Thing”. As reported in Hyperallergic, the “weird red thing” is actually Mark di Suvero’s “Joie de Vivre”. I quite like the sculpture, with its clean lines and curves, and red color against the grays of the Wall Street buildings.

[Photo by ElvertBarnes on flickr]

I will be visiting New York again in November, and I’m sure I will be downtown quite a bit…

Fun with Highways: California Highway 114 (?)

I find myself on US 101 at least once a week for work, heading south from San Francisco to Palo Alto. A couple of weeks ago a started noticing a new route marker in a construction zone near East Palo Alto for Highway 114.

Highway 114? I did know there was such a thing. It turns out it is in fact a define short route along Willow Road between 101 and CA 84, leading to the Dumbarton Bridge, as described at cahighways.org.  It is only about one mile long.

I was also not familiar with 109, which runs along University Avenue in East Palo Alto but is unsigned.

So I wonder why 114 suddenly became signed as a detour route during this construction project? Is it perhaps a legal requirement, or maybe it will be signed in the future?

Fun with Highways: 401 and 427, Toronto

Another listless Sunday evening, another highway interchange.

This is the bizarrely complex interchange of highways 401 and 427 near Toronto and Mississauga, not far from Toronto Pearson International Airport.  They are known colloquially as “the 401” and “the 427”, similar to way highways are referenced in southern California.

It looks like there might have been a plan to build another freeway extending due east from interchange, which could explain it’s strange configuration. It could also just be due to the fact that 401 is a huge highway. South of the interchange towards Mississauga it widens into 18 lanes divided into four sections (one collector and one express) in each direction. To the north it thins out but becomes as 16 lane collector/express system again as it approaches Toronto. This would make it one of the largest in the world, certainly larger than the New Jersey Turnpike at its widest, or I-5 south of Los Angeles.  It is also one of the “busiest highways in North America” (see this reference.)

Here is a view of the interchange looking east along the 401:


[Photo from Floydian on Wikimedia Commons.]

The 401 extends all the way to the western end of province to Windsor, just across the U.S.-Canadian border from Detroit. I have thought about a musical “401 tour” a few times, that would start in Detroit (and leave time for photography) and extend to Toronto. As such, leads on experimental musicians and performance venues along this route would be welcome.