I’ve been working at Berkeley for the past few days, and it’s been quite a nice, thought incredibly busy, time. On the way to the hotel from the airport, I thought about how every time I go to a new place, I try and pick up the slight cultural, geographic, architectural, etc. differences.
Ooh, it’s sunny here, and look at the stucco buildings with the red roof tiles… oo, there’s a palm tree! But the more I look, I mean, it’s quite the same as any other place, maybe I’m just exaggerating. The interstate looks the same wherever you go. It’s even my old friend, I-80. The green and blue signs are all too familiar… it even has an “adopt a highway sign.” Probably some little local company or maybe even a big corporation… no, it says “Robin Williams.” Okay, never mind, this IS California.
Going along, enjoying the sights, and yes, the differences from what I’m used to, I’m amazed at the rows and rows of little buildings an apartments, thousands of these homes all lined up. It looks like Brooklyn, gone pastel.
Closer to the Bay Bridge and downtown SF, the view expands to give a true view of the urban sprawl. One hill after another covered with hundreds of houses and buildings, for as far as one can see. Now, I’m no stranger to urban landscape, but where I come from, we’ve got our own little islands of it. Not this continuous, hilly expanse. It’s beautiful and sobering all at the same time.
I arrive at my quaint little hotel, located in Berkeley’s “gourmet ghetto.” I couldn’t think of a better way to describe it. Amazing Italian, Thai, and French food on just a few blocks. There was a lovely used books store right across the street. I even ended up at the first Peet’s! And of course, there’s Berkeley’s homeless, intertwined with the locals and the tourists, Peet’s coffee in hand.
The rest of my trip was all work, and good work at that. There was a bit more exploring and lots more local cuisine to sample. Everything is vegetarian, it puts Charlottesville to shame. If I lived out here, I’d probably become vegetarian out of convenience. And the hilly streets, making the morning walk to campus a workout. Houses and restaurants are all a bit crooked on the inside when you look at them, tables not quite perpendicular and doorways cocked this way and that. Welcome to earthquake country.
It’s back to the cool and bitter East Coast for me, though I imagine that Charlottesville has a bit of heritage here on the West Coast.