A few years ago, a UFO landed on Vine Street between Walnut and Oxford. The alien passenger stepped from the vehicle. It has been suggested that the landing was calculated taking into account the location of the original Peet’s a hundred feet away.
Or, another version: Kyle Milligan, an Oakland artist, made the saucer and gifted it to George McNeil and Joanna Salska McNeil for their front yard.
George McNeil stands here with the UFO and alien. The UFO and alien are cast concrete. They do not lend themselves to being stolen.
The couple has lived in the Vine Street house for about 25 years. It was built in 1895. Vacant for years when they bought it. They took it from collapsing and neglected to lovely and bright and – quirky. The three cut-out cats on the second floor were random finds at a flea market. No story. Random find.
The front yard – a planned and well-executed jungle – is filled with objects. There is a fire hydrant that George found abandoned on the side of the street when Oakland’s Preservation Village was under construction. There are marine fixtures – cleats and bollards and a winch with rope. And there is art.
McNeil bought this tin-can robot at the Alameda Point flea market.
Before he gifted the UFO, Kyle Milligan gifted this.
Joanna is an artist of acclaim and talent. She painted the house. Herself. Pay a little attention to the colors. Really stunning.
Her art hangs in the house.
Shortly after they moved into the house and got the roof back on etc., Joanna painted this mural in the dining room, evoking a bucolic Poland. She says that she painted in the mural informed by medieval tapestries or arras.
The bottom photo also shows McNeil’s National Geographic collection, back to 1905. His mother gave him a subscription in 1964. He loves his National Geographic. He reads them. He consults them. I am enchanted with this.
She does most of her painting in an attic studio with great natural light.
The baby faces are a theme.
McNeil is a longtime member of Pile Drivers Local 34 in Oakland. He works in marine construction. These days he is a diver tender – let the younger men and women dive! We talked union a little.
McNeil is curious and inventive. He loves flea markets. He brings things home.
McNeil is fond of tolls. In the bottom photo he holds a manual rail car mover that he worked with in Seattle.
The rail car mover is used to move rail cars. Ha!
As Archimedes was quoted as having said by Pappus of Alexandria, Collection or Synagoge, Book VIII, c. AD 340, give me a place to stand and I will move the earth. So it goes with the manual rail car mover. If you need to move a railroad car in small increments, here is the tool for you.
This device was used to sharpen razor blades.
The house reflects Joanna’s artistic world vision and George’s how-do-things-work world vision – such as his collection of shoe shine kits. What a blend it is. A few photos should make this point:
Joanna collects old photo albums – with photos. They line three walls of a study. Amazing.
Little things – found things, made things – all over.
It is an old house with lots of angles and lots of roofs and pitches. McNeil has built several hides holes, including this sleeping nest for when he was working night shifts and needed a hidey hole to sleep.
There are several kid-oriented hiding places under eaves. McNeil remembers his daughter Lily and friends crawling out here – secret place!
In the backyard, the main event is a tree house.
There is a tree house. It is big enough for a person to sleep in it. Persons have slept in it.
There are lots of gauges in the tree house these days. Lots of measuring going on.
Hanging from the tree house is a giant monkey’s fist knot. The monkey’s fist knot is most often used as the weight in a heaving line.
Near the monkey’s fist is a stunning visual pun. PLEASE tell me that I don’t need to explain it. Please…
What is not to love about this house and this family?
Here they stand with a bear (temporarily named Elliott while his correct name was developed) found at the Alameda flea market.
An artist who does construction work as well and a union construction worker buy a completely beat-up old house and make it beautiful. They raise a daughter in a magical place. She makes art. He is part of the boom and bust construction world. He haunts flea markets. He loves National Geographic and hidey holes.
No wonder, I say, that the UFO chose this yard in front of this house. The alien wanted to see the best that Berkeley has to offer.
Yes, I know, we can’t discount the proximity of the original Peet’s when we analyze the alien’s choice for a landing spot. But I think that the house was a big draw.
The photos inspired my friend.
#1 – He wants a hidey hole. Can do. Just off Charlotte’s room is the perfect place.
#2 – Seeing the UFO and alien, he wants to rewatch Brother from Another Planet. Can do.
What about the photos?