FLY Family Dysfunction ’sixteen: Oakland

Fly is a local skate shop in Shanghai that has been around since 1999. Most of my friends ride for the shop and my good friend Edan is killing the game doing all sorts of work for Fly. He writes for SkateHere, is the GM for their retail store and organizes events at the shop. Most recently Edan wrote an article about his home town Oakland. Read on to learn about the history of Oakland and to get an inside look at a day in the life of some local skaters.

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The city of Oakland is in the northern part of California, situated in the east bay of the Bay area, and only a 15 minute drive from San Francisco. In 1906, San Francisco had a major earthquake, and many residents from San Francisco crossed the bridge and moved to Oakland. In America, Oakland has a bit of a notorious reputation for being a dangerous city full of drugs, crime and prostitution. In the 1980’s the crack cocaine epidemic hit Oakland, rose the population of blacks to almost 50 percent, and introduced a lot of violent crime to the area. For many years, Oakland was regarded as one of the most violent cities in America, and also the city with the most murders per year. However, during the 1990’s Oakland’s economy slowly recovered and transitioned into a more stable community. Despite all the violence that overshadows the city of Oakland, there is still a vibrant culture that radiates all throughout the city. The city is a melting pool of races and different cultures, yet they all coexist together in harmony. If someone came to Oakland for the first time, they may be intimidated by the graffiti, crack heads, and knitty gritty get by lifestyle of the locals. But that in itself is the exact reason why Oakland’s culture is so unique to the world. If you had 24 hours in Oakland..that just wouldn’t be enough to see everything. But for a quick glimpse into the city life, FLY Streetwear shot a lookbook in Oakland to give you perspective on the culture, and community in Oakland.

The day starts in Oakland with some food at Jack London square. Jack London was this American author who wrote many incredible novels that kids at school had to read but I never did. This part of Oakland is close to the water and supposedly was where Jack London lived when he was alive 100 plus years ago. This is also where the best diner is in all of America. The legendary Home of Chicken n Waffles, a simple combination of fried chicken and buttered up waffles, yet a staple in the african american soul food menu and a must try when you’re in Oakland. This area used to be super ghetto, and there’s always crackheads lingering around like day zombies, but is slowly getting gentrified so you’ll see a lot of happy white families taking their babies out in strollers.

Basically while we were taking pictures at this spot, some dude was high off drugs and was passed out on the floor. I asked the waiters if he was alive or dead and they responded calmly, “I don’t know”. My friends and I looked around and saw that everyone kept eating, not really paying attention to the dude passed out on the diner floor. Five minutes later, the dude was sprawled out in the most awkward way and his face was smashed into the floor. I guess someone finally couldn’t take it anymore and called the police, cause after our food came, the Oakland Fire Department came into the diner, and started performing CPR on the guy, with no response. We all definitely thought the dude died. Finally they ended up shocking him a couple times and he was sprung to his feet yelling and eyes wide open. We went back to eating these delicious ass waffles and lickin chicken grease from our fingers. Another day in Oakland…

Afterwards, I took the homies to Town park in West Oakland, which Levi’s recently renovated and shot their own look book at. I used to skate there all the time in high school when it was a run down DIY skatepark, so it was like revisiting home. When I got there, I met all the homies I used to skate with, and realized that they were MEN now, they had facial hair, was taller than me, and had more balls. Shit, when I was in high school, these dudes were still little hoodrats asking me for my board, sneakers and even shoelaces. This one dude Tamba that I met 8 years ago, just acid dropped off of everything. He used to run all the way up onto the public buses and acid drop off of them. I think he was in a thrasher vid where he acid dropped off the tallest wall at the park. But they’re the locals and have been there since day one.

East Oakland is the most impoverished and dangerous part of Oakland, but West Oakland, where the skatepark is, is a close second. It happens to also be where a lot of dope graffiti is. The graffiti scene is huge in Oakland, and there are a bunch of crews that tag up the abandoned warehouses out here. Although it’s illegal in America, I think the city turns a blind eye cause some of the art there actually makes the area look…”nicer”.

Downtown Oakland is so dope! It’s where Chinatown is, and the only area where you’ll find hood ass black dudes eating chow mein with old cantonese grandmas. It’s also getting much nicer around these parts, and is where all the hipsters like to go out and drink. But in the middle of downtown is the infamous Oakland Fox Theater, whose architecture really stands out from the rest of the buildings. There’s a lot of bands that come by and play here, and also a few plays and comedy acts. This is definitely a place to be whenever there’s a show here.

One amazing thing about California in general, are the vast amounts of taco trucks everywhere. Since California is so close to mexico, a lot of mexicans sneak over and start their own restaurants or have taco trucks in the most ghetto areas. But for only 1.50 you can eat an amazing authentic Mexican taco. I think my record was 10. The place I took my friend to was on International boulevard, which is a notorious street for drug dealers and prostitutes that runs through Oakland. There have also been taco trucks in Oakland that were busted for selling drugs out of the truck. If you asked for a “extra spicy” burrito, you would get a bag of crack. Most of them got busted by the police but I’m sure there’s a bunch that are still around in East Oakland, where even cops are afraid to go to at night.

The urban landscape of Oakland might lead to you believe that’s all there is. But travel to the top of the most beautiful cemetery in Oakland, the mountain view cemetery, and you will find an amazing view of the East bay, and also San Francisco. This cemetery was only about 3 minutes from where I used to live. During high school, we would always sneak up here and drink kegs of beer. The stoners would be left to their own devices. With a view like that, how could you not? There’s also a lot of famous people buried in this cemetery, and also the famous Bay Area rapper Mac Dre. If you don’t know him, look him up. He got shot and killed in a drive by when he was only 34. Now, all his fans go to his tombstone and leave a bunch of blunt wraps, weed, and forties on his grave. I believe this is the Oakland way of showing respect…

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