When I drive around the Berkeley/Oakland area on one of my annual visits to the place that was home for 40 years, I can't help but notice the re-ordering of buildings, businesses, and neighborhoods. To drive the streets and look for familiar haunts is a challenge as new configurations abound, and new incarnations of coffee houses, restaurants, and various businesses are the order of the day.
I still see the old hardware store or the stationery store that used to be there. An Italian Deli has sprung up two doors down from where one used to be. A small bookstore holds on for dear life and even though the drug store with the soda fountain intact has somehow managed to be preserved, it's changed ownership a handful of times in recent years.
I see the little Egg and Apple Press shop where I once dated that red-headed waitress with the smiling face and brilliant eyes. It's been a Middle Eastern cant for a couple of decades now. Of course the travel agency is long gone. Do they still exist?
One bakery survives, and a little parking lot is still there. It's presence makes all this reminiscing possible. Parking is 7 min. for a quarter. A nickel buys a minute a dime two more.
In place of the big Chinese restaurant, I see the Hofbrau with the Italian name that was always good for an affordable carved sandwich and a quiet place to read day or night. The little ice cream shop i gone, the savings and loan is a boutique, and the little soup place with the lovely wooden tables is an import shop with rugs hanging on the walls and shawls in earth tones visible through the windows. I graded a lot of papers in my early years as a teacher at that corner table.
Surely something has got to be the same, weathered the storm from four decades of gentrification and transition? Maybe it's the little pocket park along the stretch of Ashby Ave that rises to the hills. Perhaps the 7-11 store that sits in the same mini strip mall with the laundromat and the thrift store.
Even the bank has morphed into another one. This time there are a few empty spaces. Recent casualties and left blank until someone steps up to take a risk. It'll need to be something that is immune to online shopping or a kind of food nobody is doing nearby. Like many communities, it may just linger for awhile and be a homeless premises, in a time when buildings, like people risk abandonment from a culture in transition.