Monday, October 13th 11:55a.m.
“Are there rules against boating under the influence?” asks one of the crew.
“Probably,” answers the captain of our little vessel, polishing off his PBR as he pulls into an empty slot at the Richmond marina.
Our crew stumbles off the ship, dazed from mild seasickness and day drinking but grinning contentedly. The bow is littered with empty beer cans and we aren’t actually supposed to be on this dock, but we have a mission. We’ve sailed across the bay to Pt. Richmond to explore an abandoned warehouse that rests right on the water. We’re not very discrete as we slip past the No Trespassing signs and through the big hole cut in the fence (directly in front of the ice cream truck and afternoon dog-walkers), but we quickly find an entrance missing its door and enter the building.
This place is a graffiti temple. There are thousands of spray paint cans carpeting the concrete floor and huge tags stretching up to the ceiling, two stories up. Our footsteps echo in the hollow structure as we explore the burnt out cars, the second floor lookout, the view through the window of the whole San Francisco Bay.
After a summer full of such adventures, it is surprisingly satisfying to be looking at my own home with new eyes, looking gleefully at a landscape of fences to climb and hideaways to explore.
I’m trying to piece together enough work hours to pay my slip fee each month here on my boat, and so I’ve lately been teaching chess to elementary kids after school. One thing I’ve noticed is that I actually have no power in my position as a teacher, and yet that the students automatically see me as someone who can punish them. In reality I can do nothing worse than raise my voice, but for many of the students just the fear of my imagined power is enough to quiet them and control their behavior.
As a grown up, is it really so much different? Everywhere there are fences and posted rules and No Trespassing signs, and simply the implication of power is enough to discourage most people from going to these places. True, these signs are often put up by the same people who have a monopolization on violent force (governments and police), but often those people are not around to enforce their dictates.
In any case, it feels like good practice to me to trespass at least once a day, just to remind myself that many of the constraints in my life come from imagined powers, not real threats. The Bay Area is full of abandoned buildings, vacant lots, hidden alleyways that could be transformed into beautiful community centers, farms, venues, campsites that challenge private ownership and commercial development. And destroying the cop in my head telling me where I can and can’t go feels like a good first step.
Maybe we can even build a boat village here at the Marina…