A friend of mine recently moved to the Vulcan, an artists’ collective in Oakland. Last weekend, I helped her bring stuff over, and last night, I hung with her there for awhile, and went to the awesome Thai restaurant on site. I have a feeling that I will be spending a great deal of time at the Vulcan in the future, because it is an awesome and excellent place. And, as I say, the Thai restaurant is really delicious. Normally I’d stick a food review in another post, but…just go there. The Tom Kha caused me to pause in utter silence for about a minute while I pondered the complex explosion of flavor that was going on in my mouth. Their sticky rice with mango is phenomenal. And you sit out on a little porch with a fountain and the air is rich with the smell of jasmine.
Driving up, the Vulcan doesn’t look like much. A few decaying warehouses, some colorful paint, the hint of a scrapyard. And then you start to realize that the warehouses are covered in a riot of flowers. That the scrapyard has amazing partially constructed fantastical machines that are normally only seen in the imagination. There’s a garden called Dogshit Park with a functioning piano in it. It’s allegedly in tune…I wouldn’t know, I have no ear.
Everyone who wanders by is uniformly friendly. They greet you, ask what you’re working on, comment on the weather, tell you where the party is. People hold doors open and invite you to visit their studios and pat each other’s dogs. It’s like a big friendly neighborhood of industrial artists, and every turn of the labyrinthine corridors reveals more amazing art, a hidden garden, some sort of wild work in progress. I cannot get over the friendliness. You know how in small towns, everyone is supposed to wave and smile? That only happened in Caspar, growing up…and I had forgotten how much I missed it.
Something about it reminds me of my childhood in the Tin Palace. Lying in her bed, I looked up to the tin ceiling, and I felt suddenly young again. In the winter, I know exactly what it will sound like, the deafening roar of rain on the roof. I’ve lived in a number of places since the Tin Palace, and been to countless more…but walking through the doors of the Vulcan, I almost feel as though I am coming home. Of course people would greet me, because how could I not be living there? The building seems at once fantastic and utterly familiar to me.
I can see why artists form colonies. It must be awesome to be in an environment with other artists. When I’m up in the middle of the night working here, I go wander the Island to think. In the middle of the night there, I’ll bet someone else is up too. Right now, someone is probably sitting in the garden, drinking a beer, thinking about nothing in particular.
Will I live there someday? I rather hope so.