Thursday, May 22, 2008

The End of an Era

Two big changes are occurring this week that, to me, herald the end of an era in my life, and in the lives of many thousands of people in the Bay Area. For this reason, I'm feeling really nostalgic this week, and sad that the Bay Area has and will continue to change so much. As someone who was born and grew up here, it's always been hard for me to express to the new transplants what some of these changes mean to me, but here goes.

First, in my sleepy hometown of Alameda, which hasn't changed a whole lot since I was growing up there in the 1970s, the town's first movie cineplex is opening this month. To give you a sense of how little Alameda has changed since I was a kid, the Chinese restaurant that I used to go to with my mom when I was all of five years old is still there, near the corner of Webster and Lincoln (albeit with a different name). The corner store where I used to get push-ups when I was in pre-school is still there, as is the schools I attended from preschool through second grade. And although they've changed the name of it to 'Alameda Towne Center', Southshore Mall still stands, one of the few outdoor malls in East Bay, and I can still remember running along the planters and curbs when I was a little girl.

H. and I have, over the past few years since we moved back to Oakland, been spending more time in my hometown than I have in a long time. It's a nice place to sort of escape to when the more crowded and grittier streets of Oakland start to get dreary. In Alameda, there's usually plenty of parking (although that's been changing over the last couple years), cool restaurants and stores to visit, and a quiet vibe that makes me feel comfortable, as well as nostalgic for my childhood.

I don't think it's a stretch to say that the opening of this big new cineplex may change all that forever. Alamedans, for better or worse, have always resisted building big-box stores and large entertainment complexes on the Island, and as much as I knew that that resistance had as much to do with classism and racism (not wanting the poor Black and Brown masses to come flocking over from Oakland) as it did with NIMBY-anti-corporate sentiment, I appreciated residents' hardcore loyalty to their small-town environment, and relished the suburban serenity I could enjoy just a few minutes from my apartment in Oakland. With the new theater opening, 'downtown' Alameda and the Park Street corridor will in a few short years, completely transform into a traffic-choked, no-parking-available, suburban shopping maze, and although I'm sure I'll spend time there too, eating at my favorite restaurants in the area and watching foreign films, I know I'll also feel nostalgic for a more relaxed, more anonymous time in Alameda's history, when only residents knew where the good places were to get Thai or Chinese food or sushi, where to get your hair cut, and when you could get parking any time of the day or night without having to drive around for twenty minutes.

The second big change is that long-time KTVU anchor Dennis Richmond has retired. I know it's going to sound silly, but Dennis Richmond retiring makes me feel that, finally, in my 36th year on earth, I'm no longer a kid. Because for all this time, I could experience a sense of familiarity and trust just by turning on a newscast. I've been watching Dennis on the 10 o'clock news for as long as I can remember--when I was a little girl growing up in Alameda, when I was an adolescent living in San Jose, when I was a college student at Berkeley and beyond. He's been a comforting, dignified and consistent presence in the news media for forty years, and while I'm happy for him that he is able to retire and enjoy some relaxation after working for so long, his departure from the news room truly is the end of an era. My friend M. and I were chatting online today about how we trusted him and how, as people of color, we were proud that a Black man was up there delivering the news every night on television. We also talked about how we respected his clear commitment to integrity and excellence in journalism. He is truly one of the last if not the last truly great news anchors. I'll miss knowing that if I want to get more objective, straight-ahead news and not the 'infotainment' that passes for news these days, I can turn to Channel 2 and Dennis Richmond.

Happy retirement, Dennis, and thanks for all that you've done in service to Truth. I'll miss you.

1 comment:

elijabetgrace said...

damn...dennis richmond is retiring...he still seems so young though. i remember him almost running me down when we ran to each other while he was jogging near his house in alameda. i think i lived near him. i'm sad about the multi-plex opening in alameda. it takes away the sleepy town feeling of things. ... but i guess it's much better than the constant change happening here in korea. i wish i could afford to live in alameda when i go home.