Amblin' Alameda: A Walk on the Wild Side

Amblin' Alameda: A Walk on the Wild Side

Morton Chalfy

Very early Sunday morning I got into our car and drove over the High Street Bridge into Oakland. I was on my way to meet a friend who lives there so that the two of us and his three-legged dog, Maggie, could go for a walk in the woods. The three of us got into his car and while I fended off Maggie’s happy licks we drove up into the hills to one of several ridge-top parks and got out to walk.

It’s great in the hills right now. Everything is green, vistas stretch for miles and everyone on the paths has a happy grin, and, usually, a dog or two. Maggie’s lost leg doesn’t bother her much. She scrambles up and down steep hillsides I could never manage and runs with as much abandon as she ever did with four good legs. The only difference the loss of her leg has made, as far as my friend can tell, is that she’s more aggressively defensive with larger dogs.

Small dogs, those her size and smaller, are sniffed and ignored, but larger dogs get snarls and snaps and all the signs of aggression that dogs use. My friend is trying to train her out of this attitude but so far to no avail. And so we put up with it, distracting her with treats and keeping her on leash when larger dogs are in sight. It’s a nuisance but a small price to pay for the larger joys to be found on the hills, in the woods and with Maggie for company.

The walks are good for me spiritually, physically and mentally and good for Maggie and my friend as well. And then it’s time to return home, which, after our goodbyes, (a hug for my friend and a vigorous rub and pet and lick between Maggie and me) means a drive down International Boulevard to High Street.

It’s about 9:30 a.m. on Sunday and while the Boulevard is mostly deserted I see to my dismay that the girls of the street are already out walking. They look so young and so garish in the morning light. I think of the nasty pimps who send them out trolling and the society that cannot find a way to end this exploitative slavery of girls, essentially children.

When actions a society deems vices are made illegal, actions like prostitution, drug use and abuse and still, in many places, homosexuality, an underworld of criminals quickly forms to supply the needs. We now have centuries of evidence that making an action illegal merely supplies cash and power to criminals and does nothing to curb either supply or demand. It strikes me that society’s attitudes have to evolve enough that these “vices” can be dealt with in a more intelligent and humane manner. We seem to be moving in that direction but every step forward is slow and often painfully fought over.

And then the bridge to Alameda is crossed and everything is different. Sunday morning in a clean, sleepy, quiet, safe town with the shootings, the criminality and the poor girls walking the streets left behind. But not the memories. Why do we never read of the arrest and conviction of the pimps? That question is the caption to the image of the girls.

Within the five mile or so radius of my morning outing I have experienced the beauty of nature in the more or less wild on our walk in the woods, the ugliness of the human condition that forces the streetwalkers on their walk on the wild streets, and the cozy world of Alameda where the walkers are lining up for pancakes. Joy and distress living cheek by jowl but in different worlds.