Monday, October 13, 2008

Mark Twain in Oakland

I've been spending some time in history rooms and museum archives trying to compile materials for a blog I want to start on the history of Country music in the Bay Area.  The academic in me has once again been awoken but this time I have to worry about copyright laws and all that burdensome kind of stuff.  

Anyway, while going through indexes in the Oakland History Room, I found this:

Turns out there was a guy in 19th Century Oakland who walked around with an arrow pointing at his head.

Well, his name was Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, or at least that's what the index claims.  I guess it looks like his profile, but how can we really know?  This kind of reminds me of that really dubious photo of Bigfoot that probably won a Pulitzer Prize or something.  I can't really offer any tenable counter to the claim that this is Mark Twain, so I have to kind of accept it.

I've always maintained that Huckleberry Finn is for boys what Jane Eyre is for girls: there are a lot of instances of fucked up human behavior that is beyond the abilities of cognition and self-reflection of young readers, but that's all overridden by the fascination with what we might get away with.  What 10 year old boy wouldn't want to spend his days fishing and, er, smoking and botching the rules proper grammar our that superiors hoisted upon us at every turn?

So that's Mark Twain at the Piedmont sulphur springs, hanging out with snooty white people.  Incidentally, snooty white people still live in the area.  It looks a lot different, and the sulphur springs have been replaced with spas that snooty white people flock to and patronize along with their ridiculous friends.  You too can be massaged and tanned and exfoliated and waxed and otherwise be completely stripped of any real, human sexual appeal that might have worked really well before you decided to make me want to kidnap you and sell you to a wax museum.

Anyway, Mark Twain famously said that the coldest winter he'd ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.  Along with Hell's Angels, Jack London, the Panthers and boozing sailors on shore leave Oakland is famous for a kick ass microclimate.  In other words, it's a fine town to get naked in.

"Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence upon society."  -Mark Twain

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