I haven’t posted anything new from the Albany Bulb in a long time. Its been a welcome escape from my teaching, traveling and studio work over the winter months. Nico and I head down there whenever we need to blow out the cobwebs. It’s always a treat. Always changing. Its one of the best art experiences to be had in Bayarea!
The rain keeps coming down feeding the Sierra snow pack which is great for all of thirsty California and for our own local gardens and wild places. The colors and textures of the Albany Bulb are always enhanced by the rain and the gray skies. It reminds me strongly of Australia at this time of year when the Broom and the Acacia are in full bloom – Broom is a noxious weed in Australia (and here) and the Bulb boasts at least six different species of Acacia that I have seen – all Australian natives. As far as I know all of the plants on the Bulb are self-sown so that it represents the new ‘native’ flora of NorCal – a mixture of robust natives, remnant die-hard locals, and adventitious immigrants – a bit like the human population of Bayarea!
There’s lots of new art popping up around the Bulb but I might keep that for another post!
At the end of January, on another trip to the Bulb, I was reminded of how rare this kind of open space is in San Francisco or any large western city. Practically all public space is codified, sectioned off, programmed, bounded by civic codes and laws, sanitized, bureaucratized, and unwelcoming to any sort of non-official interference. The Bulb on the other hand, is an anarchic theater of improvisation and surprise.
Two years ago there was a fully staged performance of the Tempest at the bulb for a week. You had to wander around with the players to experience the whole event as it was conducted all over the Bulb. Or you could just drop in and out as your pursued your own mercurial adventure wandering about in the warm evening air occasionally bumping into the Shakespearean shinanegans.
This trip I discovered a troop of unlikely pirates constructing an ad hoc flotilla of leaky vessels using pallets, yoga mats, water bottles, rope, sticks, whatever. I watched them build a couple of craft and then launch them optimistically towards the Barbary Coast.
My friend and fellow sculptor Lawrence LaBianca sent me a link to a short film which reminded me of this optimisitc but doomed flotilla. The film made by Behn Zeitlin appeared in Wholphin #7 – a DVD anthology of engaging short films.
Voyages often end up where you might least expect. The preparation, departure, transit and company you keep is as important as the destination reached.
(Depending on your connection speed, playback will be smoother if you start the video, pause it and then let the video download completely before resuming playback)
In between the scudding storms of what will probably be the last rains of our Bayarea winter, Nico and I made a dash for the Albany Bulb. This is an extraordinary little oasis of man-made wilderness that juts out into the San Francisco Bay pointing directly at the Golden Gate Bridge.
It is the only place I know where dogs can run free off leash, swim, dig in the sand and explore the bush within easy drive of my home in West Oakland. Its a wonderful spot that is created totally from ‘clean’ construction land fill that harbors an urban forest of invasive trees and shrubs (I know of at least three species of Australian Acacia growing in profusion), a surprising assortment of wildlife (its one of the most important waterbird sanctuaries in the Bay – they must be attracted to its duck-like form!), and a constantly changing display of ‘outsider’ art; all with spectacular views of the city of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. The great little beach that is in the back of the ‘neck of the duck’ is reputed to be one of the last remnant of the original shore of the East Bay.
Every time I wander there I see something new. Here’s a sample of what Nico and I enjoyed this morning.
Something for everyone really!
Head East on Highway 80 and turn left at Buchanan St.
You can’t miss it!