First Things First: An Introduction

Map created the year my paternal grandfather was born.
Map created the year my paternal grandfather was born, 1906.

Among the many observations that can be made about the effects of internet technology and culture on the way that we interact, think, read, and write, it seems clear that online we are thinking about presentation, formatting, design, and reception alongside, even before content. How many blogs have been meticulously conceived, titled, and designed only to become dormant after one or two posts? I am certainly guilty of this. I’ve searched—in vain, so far—for the best way to share what I do, what I write, what I think with others. My first attempt, Eduhate came into being basically for the purpose of posting one essay I had written, one I’m proud of. Snappy titles don’t age well though, and attempts to post only thoroughly imagined but never completed work end in empty blogs. My most consistent writing online has actually been a series of posts for Pueblo Nuevo Gallery’s blog. The wonderfulness of collaboration and community is indeed an inspiration, and I dream about bringing it alive again with the Pueblo folks. I’ve used Twitter but was once temporarily hacked by diet-pill sellers; more than that though no smartphone and not working in front of a computer all day makes “reading” Twitter selectively sort of like watching 5 random minutes of The Wire—no context, hard to follow, so much to scroll through. Most recently, I have also tried out Tumblr (“Billie Holiday and Mister”)—posting a few longer pieces of writing and pictures of book covers, an endeavor inspired by a homie of mine. But in the end Tumblr functions like a massive work of collaboration, as posts are reblogged into the ether and the tumbling “feed” can make day-old posts invisible and irrelevant.

So after the various names and concepts, I have titled this space for thought “B-Town Thinking, Thinking B-Town” simply because that is who I am and that is what I do. One of my early memories of writing is of winning a prize for writing an essay about protecting the environment. This was in 6th grade at Longfellow School in Berkeley, CA—1990 or 1991. One of the other winners was a kid named D. I had written an essay, and he had written a poem—a rap, actually. When we received our prizes at a ceremony down at the school district offices, he performed the rap, and he brought with him a little crew of girl backup dancers: “The B-Town Dancers.” Maybe that name is a construction of memory, but so be it. These memories make up the fabric of my being, my consciousness: writing and rapping about the environment in B-Town. You don’t hear B-Town used much anymore—but it was. But then, Berkeley is in some ways a different place than it was then. Berkeley has its own mythology, in large part self-created, but it can be funny to hear people talk about how “Berkeley” they act or think, especially when they are either fairly recent transplants or are referring to a “Berkeley” that has disintegrated, even disappeared, if of course it ever existed in the first place. Berkeley is and has always been in many ways far more complex and diverse than is acknowledged by the branded version of “Berkeley.” And it is that complexity and diversity that has made me.

“B-Town Thinking, Thinking B-Town” refers to who I am and what I do. It is in part about Berkeley and what the place/idea is or was. But it is also about the intellectual legacies of growing up in Berkeley, about the particular perspective and consciousness that has taken shape within me. It is about a way of thinking and about thinking through a place. In my life, B-Town Thinking, Thinking B-Town are not choices but are as ever-present and as inescapable as breath.