Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

Someplace Else

albany bulb

A few weeks ago on a sunny Saturday, Heather and were walking around the Albany Bulb. It’s a man-made blob of “land” created from nearly a century of dumping trash in the bay. The trash stopped in the ’80s, and now it sits in between San Francisco and Berkeley, some of the most expensive land in America.

It’s a strange place. Totally unnatural, since only water is supposed to be there, but now it’s set free and wild. Palm trees sprout from in between graffiti-covered concrete. Animals I’ve never seen in the city scurry past. It feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but the city is always just over your shoulder.

It’s removed enough that there’s a kind of anarchical community there. Not exactly homeless, since they’ve built small camps, but not exactly legal, either. (Can you even own land that’s not technically land? Not the point, I guess.)

We were just walking around, exploring the place. As we passed a fairly established encampment made of wood scraps and plastic tarps, we realized there was a someone emerging from it. He came out, a man in his 50s, with a deep tan and a wary expression.

There was a moment of awkwardness. Were we invading his space? Was he going to yell at us? Maybe he was wondering if we were going to give him shit for being there? We all looked at each other with apprehension. And then:

“Peace,” he said.

“Peace,” we said back.

And that was it. Such a simple moment. Such a simple word. There was no need for fighting. Fighting was for the rest of the world. This was someplace else.


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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.