Monday, November 24, 2008
Spending this week by the Bay has been an eye-opener. It's always a bit strange to return to a place previously called home. Driving from here to there, noting the changes, what is still there, what is long gone. Three years down the road and some people still take their places on the street where I left them. But a new anonymity empowers. Enables me to move swiftly through layers, decades, identities, and touchstones.
Life is faster here. Nobody waits for anything. Public spaces are heavily taxed-by volume. The streets are filled with potholes; the same ones I knew; repaired, repaired again. And again. The graffiti remains unless it offends by volume.
The land is dry here. Many more browns, tans, wheatstraw yellows. The diversity remains impressive. I miss that the most. The needy take so many forms here and ambush with their emotions laid bare. The cutting edge cuts a little deeper today.
There are two places that have remained remarkably the same since I first saw the East Bay. One is a hamburger place, the other a liquor store. I see my green and white VW van in their parking lots. Even the signs, well-faded, are the same ones I saw 30 years ago.
Like all cities, Berkeley is hurting. Many small businesses, bookstores, restaurants are dead and dying. Many on the outside, moving to the outside, denying the outside, looking in. The University, sprawling and vast. magnificent and impenetrable, beckons, always. It becomes the inside of a vast hive, workers scurrying past the promise of honey.