At the corner of 48th and Shattuck in downtown Oakland, yellow moss speckles a faded blue awning. Across the street, vines creep around a beige apartment building. The mathematical symbol for infinity, sketched in blue, appears on a dusty second-story window. A security camera peers out from the corner of the doorframe. Underneath, a cable dangles from the camera to a card scanner. It is slightly askew.
Beneath the awning, showing the numbers 4799 painted in white, several hand-written notes are pinned to the door. One welcomes visitors to the Omni Commons, an all-volunteer collective “dedicated to creating an inclusive space of radical generosity.” The other is colored with streaks of purple and green crayon. It begins, “Hello Visitors! Thanks for stopping by! We are under construction at the moment…”
A white sticker on a mailbox with a drawing of a red cube is the only sign of Sudo Room’s presence. Grime and soot cake the front. Inside the community-oriented hackerspace, they host a free programming school and a group transforming MRI scans and medical records into works of art. Sudo Room’s website also invites visitors to experiment with “a giant robot arm.”
The passing traffic comes in bursts before settling into long silences. The roar of airplanes overhead punctuates the whistling of bike tires and the hum of passing cars. Two sparrows explode from a tree nestled beside the building before resting on a telephone wire across the street.
As I stood outside, a bicyclist called out. “They didn’t answer earlier. I don’t know if anybody’s in there,” she said as she whooshes past in a black and grey streak.
Several minutes later, an older woman with a silver ponytail walks briskly through the awning.
Her floral skirt rustles in the wind as she rounds the corner. Her back straightens as she waves at a man smoking a cigarette down the street. Another moment later, and she’s gone.