What is it to achieve parity? My life was one of juxtaposition. A life of contrast is prone to conflict; both internal and external. As a teenager I was morbidly obese. At one point more than 350 pounds hung from my suffering skeleton. I had an epiphany and slimmed down. My skeleton suffered no longer, but my skin was empty. Loose folds sat shamefully under my shirt. To make matters worse, during my weight loss, I became strikingly handsome. My cheekbones were pronounced, my lips were thick and full, my eyes were shaped like almonds and all of these desirable…

I was just released from prison. They let me out of San Quentin and it was the first time since 1992 that I felt the breeze come off the shores of San Francisco Bay on the right side of the barbed wire fence. I needed to go back to Oakland. All I knew was Oakland. On the way out, a CO gave me a blue plastic card with the word “clipper” written on it. He said there was $20.00 on the card and told me to “get the fuck out of Marin, and stay out.” There was a bus stop…

I consider my relationship with my father unorthodox at best. It could be characterized as horrible at worst, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are moments that still linger and make me wonder what he could have been, had the dealer that dealt him his cards in the casino called life been less cruel.

My father wasn’t a free man. He was shackled by something. A tangible trauma. …

During the Bush Administration

Cuts were made.

One of the biggest cuts was to HUD.

Housing and Urban Development

Low-income housing falls under HUD.

I had an old refrigerator.

And like many old appliances, it suddenly stopped WORKING.

The broken fridge was owned by broken people.

Who made broken systems.

To break down more people.

To keep things…


We filed a request.

We requested that HUD repair or replace the fridge.

We heard nothing.

Nothing at all.

We stored food at a neighbor's house.

She ate little.

She smoked a lot.

She allowed us to keep our food with…

Every town in America has their legends, their hauntings, their myths, and we’re no different. For kids who grew up in Vallejo and Benicia, we had ‘The Ghost.’

He wasn’t actually a ghost, but a man we called ‘The Ghost.’ Everyone in town knew of ‘The Ghost,’ but despite universal knowledge of ‘the Ghost’s’ existence, very little information could be verified in relation to this man.

We knew he was homeless and we knew he frequented Mare Island, a decommissioned naval base that closed in 1996, which is ultimately what led to Vallejo’s economic deterioration.

(google image photographer unknown)

I remember going on hikes in Wildcat Canyon, a bright spot nestled in the gloom of Richmond, California.

I remember slow drives on Arlington, a scenic route to BART.

When you see the blue sign that welcomed you to El Cerrito, the nice homes on Arlington get even nicer.

You look down the hill, you can see everything.

Yet, you see nothing.

I remember the seagulls that perpetually circle the sky above

I remember the steam that rose from the towering pipes of the Chevron refinery.

I remember the novelty of the Albany Hill.

“What a strange hill,” I’d say…

I’m sitting at a bar in San Francisco.

I’m meeting a writer in a moo moo for his birthday.

I’m drinking alcohol.

I’m having a good time.

I was nervous, but overpriced whiskey sours have sufficiently snuffed my social inhibitions just enough to get me through conversations without the anxiety.

The stammered words. The feigned aloofness, poorly covering my fear.

The fear they’ll see me for what I am.

Another person without solutions.

Just critiques.


You’ve always been there.

You were there when I swallowed a ton of aspirin because your courage was needed to get me through a suicide attempt.

You were there when my best friend destroyed his mother’s house and got sent to rehab.

You were there when I felt a connection with someone, only to forget the words that connected us.

Oh, alcohol… You’ve always been there.

Haven’t you?

Sushi King is the name of the Japanese restaurant I work at in San Francisco’s Japantown. It’s a tourism hub for anime enthusiasts masquerading as its own neighborhood. Once upon a time Japanese immigrants did inhabit this neighborhood on their entry into America in hopes of a better life. The real estate costs of Japantown assure that that is no longer a possibility for anyone, Japanese or not. …

Abraham Woodliff

Bay Area native, Hip Hop nerd, literature and poetry enthusiast, freelance writer, gamer, caffeine addict. Follow me on Twitter.

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