Albany, CA - April 22/1999
Hi, I'm John Lionheart, editor for iPoet. I was on the landfill once before, in '93 or so, checking out the camping possibilities, myself. There were already people living there then. It was really wild, too, a squat free zone in a weird landscape of rubble and rebar and weeds, where I heard the cops wouldn't even go. I was attracted initially by the salvage and building possibilities that the debris seemed to offer,
but upon closer inspection I couldn't find many loose stones or pieces of rebar to work with. There's not much usuable wood, either. There are just these giant hunks of busted concrete everywhere embedded with snaky tangles of thick twisted rebar. It looks like a freeway demotion. And any sand or cement or water for a rubble laying project would have to be hand carried in here from wherever you can get water. (Note: One of recent complaints that prompted the recent city council action is that the landfill residents were somehow getting into the nearby Golden Gate Fields horse racetrack facility to use the bathrooms and get water). I had other possibilities, so I never had to try to live there. I ended up with this computer and a rented room in a highrise apartment building overlooking the landfill: see scanned photo spread below (click image for high resolution ~100K).
Panoramic View of Golden Gate Fields and the Albany landfill.
I went out that way again, last month, March 16th, after I read in a Homeless Peoples Network newsletter that Albany was considering kicking everyone out. I went out to see what was going on. That evening I met the couple who ended up giving me a terrific half-Chow half-keeshund puppy. She's a great little dog, very laidback and friendly. Perfectly trained too. ((Note: these people have more pups to find homes for, at least the 2 black sisters of my puppy, for sure). If you live in the Bay Area, and you want a really nice pup, go there, to the council circle (see map) in the evenings about 4 or 5. Ask the people trudging in and out the trailhead to the landfill, where the people with the Chows are, that you want to maybe get one of the pups. The owners (who don't want their names mentioned here) would have to meet you, of course, they are careful about who gets their animals.
PHOTO: Robert the Rabbit by j.lionheart/iPoet.

Robert the Rabbit

And, of course, you want to offer a little something in return, $20 is good, minimum, if you can afford it (and if you can't, then maybe you got no business taking on the care and feeding of a pet), and you could bring them maybe an extra bag of dog food, to boot, would be right, too - and, of course, you know, if you had been about to go out and buy some fancy neurotic purebred, you could have easily dropped $500 or more, right? You could split that with them, they've done one heck of a nice job raising those dogs and being responsible, too. They're great dogs. Anyway, so that first evening, I was a little shy. I hung out near the council pit, chatting with the puppy people, and occasionally one or another
 Robert the Rabbit on bike at the dump - photo by JL of their friends on the (I want to say 'island' - being there feels like how being on an island feels) ok, one of their friends from the island stops by and says hi, we all talk. It's Robert the Rabbit. He's a likable, talkable guy. A carpenter, he works with his hands. He looks at his hands as he talks sometimes, turning them over, rubbing at the callouses on his palms. I'm impressed with his candor. I like him immediately. (If you're out there looking for the chow pups, and you see Robert on his bike, ask him, he'll give you the grand tour.)
Robert used to be in a hippy commune, he tells me - the Third Eye Bookstore gang on Haight and Ashbury. He likes to talk, does Robert the Rabbit. He used to be Robert the Eggplant, he says, but nobody could pronounce it correctly. He says this situation here at the Albany Bulb squat reminds him a lot of what happened at the old abandoned Muir Beach lodge squat that Third Eye took over for while in the 60's. Someone passes a beer around, someone else passes a cigarette. Robert's talking about Gertrude Stein and Dr. Roland Barthes. A woman named Helen says I can print her name. Robert the Rabbit says Paul Bowles was a great poet, the original beatnik, his Paris parties were tops. He says to read, 'Three Snowballs in Hell.' Robert the Rabbit is a poet too, what do you know! We've a subject for a future story, Stay tuned, J.L.

Ask for Robert the Rabbit

. dateline: Albany, CA - 4/22/99 revised 4/23-4/24-
. Reporter: J/H.Lionheart for FEATURES