Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Universe of Berkeley And Other Gratitudes

Today being my 55th Thanksgiving in California I pause to count my blessings: 51 of them with the wake up smile of Lee and ten of them with the wake up wags of Kodi.
Dear friends and loved ones are on the list too.
Yesterday turned out to be full of surprises. My kitchen cabinet refinisher arrived to complete the cabinet hardware installation. Then my hairdresser Domenic treated me to a free style. Then I treated myself to my favorite extra crispy pot stickers. Arriving home with my treat in hand I went into shock as I saw the patio gate had been left open. Kodi was gone! Damn the contractor. I screamed at his helper to help me hunt, not knowing that the young man had severe ashma. He sprinted up the hill while I grabbed the car and hailed down every walker and horse back rider on busy Skyline Blvd. Eventually the helper found Kodi visiting a neighbor's dog. My big mutt was not at all interested in returning. Kodi lunged at his arm, not breaking the skin. Dexter had the insight to rip the belt off his pants, leash Kodi and steer him home safely. Then he collapsed with an ashma attack, pants at half mast. It was a lot of unwelcome trauma, though it ended with gratitude.

Nova last night focused on the theory of multiverses, that is the scientific evidence that there exist multiple universes like our own with multiple other earths with parallel existences. The evidence offered by the astrophysicists both pro and con is intriguing. I have a personal theory that there is no room in space for another existence just like Berkeley.
I think back to the spring of '50 when I first set eyes on California. Flying down from wintry Seattle I took the train which once rumbled across the bay bridge. Every mile brought me closer to Berkeley's sunshine and flowering trees. I quickly shed my long yellow wool coat (which I bought for the trip and thought was pretty snazzy) while marveling at the UC coeds in white tennis shorts and halters. It was an instant love affair with the friendly people and the environment. On that trip I saw my first tulip tree and tasted my first artichoke. It was seven years later before I made the big move from the grey-green northwest.
Lee had recently purchased for $3M a 1920's stucco cottage at 1418 Cornell, just above San Pablo near Gilman a few blocks from where REI is now. We lived there happily for two years with three cats, hand-me-down furniture and chests of drawers made from packing boxes.
Even then Berkeley was a city of diversity which welcomed all sorts of beings, especially of the liberal persuasion. It boasted more college graduates than any city in the country. I made friends with pizza, Mexican and Chinese food and learned it was ok to discard my pantyhose and girdle and go to a restaurant. I learned to make bouquets of the pink pelergoriums that sheltered the back porch. The last time it sold that little cottage brought $650M. Imagine!
Later in life when I hung out my shingle as a psychotherapist I was lured back to Berkeley, so for twenty years I observed from my office window the comings and goings of busy Telegraph Avenue just 7 blocks from campus. I rather cherished the street vendors, the book stores, the chanting Hare Krishna's and the chiming of the Campanile.
I seldom get to Berkeley any more but Tuesday I had lunch with a dear friend at Cafe Mediteranee on College after which I set out for Berkeley Bowl, the vegetable market of all vegetable markets. A mecca for all things Berkeley. My assignment for Thanksgiving potluck dinner was fruit salad with fresh coconut. Where else could one find fresh grated organic coconut except at Berkeley Bowl? To shop there one has to first incorporate a certain attitude: camaraderie, patience, appreciation, adventure. No one there is in a hurry. Long lines at checkout counters are welcomed as shoppers discuss their produce finds with strangers. Where else can one find fifteen varieties of apples, twelve colors of melons and just as many colors of human beings. I felt my tension drifting away; even my breathing softened. I remembered my love of affair with what my great niece Darcie calls Biz-erkley.
However many universes there are I don't think there will ever be another quite like it.
It too deserves a place on my gratitude list.

1 comment:

Beth said...

"I have a personal theory that there is no room in space for another existence just like Berkeley." -- hilarious! Enjoyed this vivid journey, one of your best tales. xo BB