Diallo Neal, the focal point of this week's feature, Blind Spot, was a man who loved his machines. As a youth, there was his black bike, on which he explored Oakland's roads.
When he was a teenager, he graduated onto dirt bikes, and then motorcycles a few years later. A subscriber to Hog Magazine, he eventually settled down on a Harley Davidson. He drove a truck for a living, his sole companion on many of those treks down California's highways. When out-of-state family members visited the Bay, he drove them around on long, winding tours of San Francisco.
A year before his October 2005 death, he opened up an auto shop. He bought beat-up cars, fixed them up and sold them -- Oldsmobiles and Mustangs and all sorts of muscle cars. He'd sometimes drive as far as Hollister to get the exact part he needed. Usually, he'd test out his finished product for a few weeks before putting it on the market and starting a new project.
But the '68 Ford Falcon was different.
Diallo's son, Diallo Jr., remembers the first time he saw that car. He was standing outside Prescott Middle School after classes one afternoon. He loved when his dad picked him up, showcasing one of those souped-up rides for all his friends to see. And Jr.'s friends were always eager to see Big Diallo's newest creation.
On this afternoon, though, there came Big Diallo in a straight clunker, a bucket, a scraper. It was rusty and puke-red and sounded like a hospital patient in a coughing fit. It didn't play music. The unexpected sight sent a jolt of embarrassment through Little Diallo.
Big Diallo had bought the '68 Falcon for $1,500 from a guy on 8th Street. "Just wait 'til I'm finished," Big Diallo assured.
After that, Jr. didn't see the car for a while. Instead, he'd see random car parts lying on the living room floor. Eventually, he forgot about the Falcon. His dad usually turned the cars around pretty quickly, over a matter of weeks or a few months. But it nearly a year passed and Little Diallo had not seen that Falcon.
Then one day, while waiting for a ride after school, Little Diallo saw it ... there came Big Diallo, in a gleaming, candy-purple beauty, with 24-inch gold spoke rims, an engine that roared like a tiger and a set of slaps that blasted some old-school soul all the way down the block.
"I didn't want to get out that car," Little Diallo recalls.
That '68 Falcon would become a familiar sight around Oakland.
Big Diallo and his fiancee, Star Rollins, would cruise down the street, in colorful muscle car processions with the rest of the Oakland Falcon Boys club, which the San Francisco Chronicle once described as "East Oakland's ghetto glitterati."
"Every urban city has its signature car, and in Oakland, the baddest ride around is the Falcon," the paper wrote in March 2005.
Star and Little Diallo felt like local celebrities rolling with Diallo. People would wave and cars would honk. Diallo even made a brief cameo in "Ghetto Fabulous," filmmaker Brian Lilla's 2004 documentary about the Falcon Boys.
The candy-purple '68 Ford Falcon was not for sale. It was personal. It was the car Big Diallo planned to pass down to his son. This would happen sooner than anyone in the family could have imagined. Less than two years after Diallo first pulled up to Prescott in that beat-up old ride, he died in a motorcycle crash.