Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Monday, October 15, 2012

California, 2012, 2

In which we discover the East Bay

Few cities in California are walkable, and I'd guess most of them are in the Bay area. Berkeley--at least the downtown part--is.

It's also a place that would send the average anti-bicycling Masshole motorist screaming for the exits as the embodiment of his worst nightmare. There aren't hundreds of bikes on the streets of the East Bay, but thousands; perhaps tens of thousands. There are also cars, many cars: it's California, of course. And pedestrians, as you'd expect. Berkeley's a culturally and economically diverse city, next door to a still more diverse city, Oakland, also full of cars and bikes and walkers. And of course Berkeley is home to a state university with a student body of over 35,000. For the most part, they all get along! Most bicyclists ride with traffic, in the streets, stop at signs and lights, and have their lights on at night. Drivers rarely assault bicyclists. Pedestrians--wait for it--wait for the pedestrian light and jaywalking is as rare as snowstorms.

Having had this conversation before, and elsewhere, I cross-examined Em on this behaviour. Alas, it isn't moral superiority, she said. It's even-handed, fair, law enforcement. Drivers don't go for cyclists because they face felony charges if they do. Cyclists using the sidewalks for a boulevard or cruising wrong-way on the streets face stiff fines that are collected. Same goes for jaywalkers. It's not rocket science.

I might have known that chances of getting across the Bay to San Fran had dwindled to the vanishing point when my librarian spouse located Secret Stairs-East Bay and bought it for Em. So when we were all up, with me ready to hop on the BART and truck over to Frisco, nothing would do except that we should take one of Charles Fleming's Berkeley hikes, whether we got across the bay or not.  The compromise was that we'd try to preserve a little time by walking to a nearby route that encompasses the Cal campus, instead of leaping on crosstown buses that were a mystery to us. So we dutifully followed Route #5, conveniently starting a few blocks from the apartment, had breakfast at one of Fleming's favoured establishments, and crossed the street to enter the Cal campus. My impression is that the illustrator's map-making abilities weren't up to the author's narrative skills. We got lost within 15 minutes. It wasn't until we paid our fare to ride to the top of the Cal carillon, and procured a proper map, that we were able to match the text and the real estate.

Even though Flower Power is much in evidence throughout Berkeley, on and immediately next the campus, the heritage of the Sixties seems as welcome as that relative of yours who danced at your wedding wearing only a tablecloth and an ice bucket. It's CAL, thankuverymuch, and the only bears here are Golden.  "Berkeley" is the city Cal inhabits. This insistence seems laboured when one reflects that Cal seems once again on its way to being the goat of the Pac-12 Conference.

It's also worthwhile to remember that the Berkeley free speech movement of the 1960s would have had little attention without the tender mercies of the college administration and city authorities, who were determined to put the reaction back in reactionary. As far as the city goes, they're still at it.

Em tells me the latest issue is an ordinance banning, so help me, sitting and lying down in public places. It's going on the ballot and promises to be hot. It takes very few brain cells to figure out the discriminatory nature of the proposals. Well-dressed people lying on the grass in city parks, or taking their lunch on public benches, have nothing to fear from the ordinance--assuming they keep their designer labels in view. This is all about giving the police another weapon in the never-ending fight against homelessness.

Here in the East, we tend to think of California architecture as an oxymoron, but the Cal campus has features of interest, and variety despite its youth, compared to some East coast institutions. That too can be overdone. After  all, Land Grant colleges all got a level start. Where they took it from there was their business.

We finished #5 at Top Dog, which was a touch of the old Berkeley. Customers get a generous dose of left-wing politics with the condiments: cute.

In the afternoon we ran a couple of trip-related errands, succumbed to jet lag, and then Em was home.

This night, dinner was at Pyramid Brewery. To get an idea of the venue, Massachusetts beer fanciers might imagine Boston's Canal Street Beer Works filling all of its block. It was very much in contrast to Jupiter, whose scale is more intimate and reminiscent of a Continental beer garden.

I see by the menu online that I was three weeks early for their barleywine, so had to console myself with Thunderhead IPA, good but I have to give Jupiter an edge there.

Friday evenings at home usually slide past quiet into comatose, but that wouldn't do with last-minute preparations undone, and a daughter who is young enough to end her weeks with energy. So it's off to complete provisioning, involving a dusk and dark trip through Emeryville, the chiefly industrial city where Em works, to the nearby northern environs of Oakland.

At length, car full of groceries, all of which had to be repacked for the trip. Ever-efficient and, as a frequent flyer, sympathetic to jet lag, set the parents to repacking their own gear, then tucked us in bed.

Reprint of a blog previously published in Ubuntu Linux. Cato the Elder gained a reputation for ending every speech in the Roman Senate with the words Cartago delenda est, "Carthage must be destroyed." Hereafter, I'm substituting Linux subsidio est, "Linux must be supported." Blogger says it does, but that support seems shady at best.

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Blogger massmarrier said...

Big up on the car/bike/ped interplay (and reasons for)! You remind me of when our first son, just in primary school, visited SF with us. We lived on Beacon Hill and walked everywhere. After the first day, he told us with astonishment, "The drivers stop at the lights and let people cross!"

Yeah for civility, even if it requires cops doing their jobs well.

10:56 am  

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