Friday, December 17, 2004

Enough darkness...

...for now.

Berkeley, for all its unbelievability as a municipality, has some amazing neighborhoods to walk through. Just this morning, on my way to work, I strolled down Mariposa Street. Mariposa runs in a straight line from Los Angeles Avenue to Amador Street. It is lined with enormous, leafy sycamore trees, and large stately homes from about the late 1920's to the 1930's. It's runs south by southwest through the southern edge of what was once known as Berkeley Heights. It isn't the highest part of the Berkeley Hills, and not that far removed from one of the main north-south arteries leading from downtown to the Thousand Oaks district through the Solano Tunnel. It simply feels removed. It has a stately, quiet air, never more evident than at about 7:30 in the morning. The width of the road befits the homes on either side. Houses like that need space, elbow room, as it were, or they just look like 1930's version of McMansions.

This morning, the street was somewhat misty, and the air was cold. It was very quiet. I could barely hear the traffic noise rising up from Sutter Street as cars and buses barrelled out of the Solano Tunnel. There was a contractor showing up early to work on a remodeling job, and three boys hanging out waiting for a parent to drive them to school. I had been hurrying along, trying to keep warm with my chin tucked down inside my muffler, and my hands in my pockets. Hard to walk quickly when you can't swing you arms, you know. Anyhow, after a few yards, I slowed consciously. Something told me to soak it in. Something said that the day ahead could be like any other, but value this quiet green street. Treat it as an episode of missing time. "You are no longer in the year 2004! The year is 1936. Make the most of it! It will only last until you come to the end of the block!"

It was almost true. When I turned southeast on Amador Street, it became the late Forties. Something just took me out of 1936. I began to think about turning around, wandering down to Hopkins and Sutter, and boarding the F Train to downtown and on over the Bay Bridge to SF, maybe head out to 16th and Bryant and catch the Seals against the Seattle Rainiers, after which I could repair to Tadich Grill for a cocktail and some sand dabs.

Just then, I hit an intersection further south. By this time, it was 1969 and thoughts turned to summer: older brother getting tear-gassed at the intersection of Telegraph and Bancroft, baseball at La Loma Park with P & T Maintenance playing Calvert Typesetting, guzzling endless Shasta sodas at a future blogger's house, and hearing CCR and Crosby, Stills and Nash on the radio.

Sadly, as I rounded the corner onto Walnut, I was shot back to 2004. It was still pleasant. The cold damp kept the noise down, dogs chased each other in Live Oak Park, there was hot coffee in my near future. The main thing was, it was Friday and all bets were least for a while.


Blogger Don said...

Very nice. You walk through one righteous palimpsest. Out here it's all a jumble. The years gone by do whisper here and there, out of a misplaced copse of trees or an unexplained fold in the ground, but there is no unity, and it's all subject to the destruction wrought by immediate need. Indeed, over the past two years I've watched them rip up the causeway that bore the West's first railroad, only to put in ... the tracks for a commuter train. Well, it could have been worse.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Thank'ee. Now as I reread it, I see so much detail I could've put in without any of it being a burden. All part of the practice, I guess.

Speaking of folds in the ground, I just looked at some present day photos of the Somme battle field. The trenches are just that, and they have a ghostly quality all their own, even in broad daylight. There's grass over everything, and you can imagine the rich smell of the wet earth and grass together. Then you can wonder what it smelled like at about Noon on 7/1/16.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

I sure liked this one, Harry. You'd enjoy Kansas City, I think, if you could find a season where it's not too hot and not too cold. Plenty of old neighborhoods--close to where I live is an extensive area developed primarily in the 20's and 30's, and still fairly well kept. Also nearby, and just as charming, are a couple of smallish towns created and developed in the 50's, with lots houses not unlike the ubiquitous Eichlers of the Bay Area. All that's missing are the seven-cent ice cream cones.

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