Sunday, April 27, 2014

On Leaving the House to Write (when there's coffee & an outlet at home)

Sitting in a local Berkeley café trying to find another 800 or so words to concisely, yet accurately, answer questions given me and my classmates for a school paper, I find the words are not coming. Perhaps it’s the cold I seem to have acquired standing around in the cold, wet Berkeley night. If I were honest with myself, (and I usually try to be) I would say it’s because the words just won’t come. This paper should be the easiest thing for me. I’ve read the material; I’ve looked it over twice. I’ve even asked a friend who knows about these things, and he seems to think I’m on the right track. So I'm sitting here in this cafe wondering why I'm still here.

Maybe I should go home, but then I think. If I'm a writer I need to write. If I can't write my assignment, I should still write. I'm here, in my perfect little space (if not my favorite table.)

I took a bus up here because I didn’t feel the energy to walk. Now all I want to do is lay down.. But there’s other things I want to do. So I’m left with the decision, do I just give up writing anything all-together or do I just write for the pleasure of writing? Why do I even come to this café or any cafe, several times a week, when I could be writing at home? I could easily be passed out on the couch with my laptop asleep, my cat poking me in the face with his claws, oh yeah! That’s why.

The reasons I leave our airy loft on the edge of Emeryville to trek on foot or by bus (like today) is many-fold:

First and foremost is the furry love of my life, Alexander. He is not as calm and mellow as his namesake. No, his mindfulness only extends to his need to be the center of attention at his whim. I don’t blame him. Who wouldn’t, when the time is ideal, want the undivided attention of someone endearing to them?

Cat on my lap, laptop on my knees! This is why I go to the school lounge to work on my papers! #caturday #catsofinstagram
Alexander Bunny (alias "Stinky" or "A Bun" as my friend Ed Branley calls him) sitting on me while I try and use my laptop..

Secondly, despite our having a large loft, we are forever in a state of moving in or moving out. The walls start to close in on me. There’s no door to shut and get away from anything. Referring to a book I'm reading for my current class, I find myself wishing for my own quiet place to hide away in and get away from the noise energy. Yes I could go into the bathroom and shut the door but that would only solve so much. There’s still the neighbor’s baby.. The barking dogs that bark at EVERY thing. Also there’s the fact that our bathroom just isn’t ideal for writing anything; definitely not a school paper.

Thirdly, the next thing to decent writing ambience for me is the silence. The right tone of silence depends on the individual. I like the sound of a few particular cafes. Not too loud, not too quiet, music that plays but isn’t overtly noticed. Other people like myself writing but not talking, the occasional cough or sneeze, or sound of the barista. There’s no constant grinding of beans. Occasionally, a glass or plate will rattle and remind others of the fact that real labor is going on in the background, behind the scenes. No one is taking conference calls. The local sports game is not being blasted from every available television screen. If a game is on, it’s muted.

Lastly to a lesser extent, is camaraderie of the pen. I may not know anyone in the café with me but if you come often enough you see the pattern. There’s the older gentleman working on his research. Maybe he’s writing a book, and is making scads of notes. Highlighting and writing into the margins. He orders the same coffee every morning. There’s the returning students sitting in the windows, occasionally one of their tutors will come along and help them with their calculus. There are the writers working on whatever paper that’s due, or perhaps the Great American novel. You’ll see totally unrelated people sharing a table all working in silence, all understanding that their mind is somewhere else, in various realms of academia, of fantasy, or literate passion; there’s no need to feel bad about asking one of your table-mates to use a random outlet, they get it. There’s the handful of older patrons, most likely professors or lecturers, pouring over their readings, journals, or working on their presentations while having their bagel. These are the folks that work alone, are uncomfortable putting their own sugar and cream in their coffee, the ones that puzzle over a table not properly bussed. These are the guys that worry themselves before turning and asking a nearby patron, “do you know computers?”

There’s usually no gushing teens making a fuss or having loud conversation. If a random couple come in and talk too loud, someone invariably looks at them. Not to say it’s a library, but if we all talked in outside voices, the ambience for working and writing would be shattered. We’d have to find another café. Berkeley has tons of cafes. However, once you find the "right" café for what you’re doing, and you’ve come to appreciate the mix of patrons, sound and coffee, it’s hard work to find another place. Best to keep going and support your local and your neighboring regulars of whom you may never know their names, but have come to appreciate in silent companionship.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Halcyon Commons

Most likely the smallest of Berkeley's City Parks..



City of Berkeley site

Raccoons in the Museum!

1000 Oak Street
Oakland, CA

Playing tourist and taking in a little history until I get back to class.. Spent a good time in the Art Gallery, had lunch and then took in the Museum.. and yes, they had raccoons in there. ;)


You can see the rest of my set (including food pRon) HERE

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ain't I a Woman

Tuesday I needed to be in Downtown Berkeley before dinner time. I thought to go hiking in another city park (I still want to do Mortar Rock Park!), but had a late start (yet again) getting out for my walk. So, after I treated myself to lunch, I headed over to Live Oak Park to read. Despite it being closer to a residential area and playground, it's actually a rather quiet place to just sit on a bench, read, had a snack or watch some fat squirrels acting like cats in the trees... I meandered about and found this really cool mural under a bridge there on the far side of the park..

Sojourner Truth.. "Ain't I a Woman?"

Monday, April 14, 2014

Codornices Park and Bay View with Fog

Monday's Adventure had me hiking back up to the Rose Garden with the camera and zoom lens to take some views of the Bay from the Berkeley Rose Garden and to check out Codornices Park.. I got a late start and the fog had already rolled in..
Remains of the Berkeley Pier and Alcatraz in the distance..

Fortunately the fog played no role in my day at the park..
Codornices Park
1201 Euclid Avenue
Berkeley, CA.







The park was a fun place to shoot.. lots of gnarled trees, pathways, streams and light. It's a busy park though, so it's full of noise and family and sound.. water, birds.. not so much squirrels... There's even a really great concrete slide all the kids slide down with pieces of cardboard. I made sure to keep people out of my images, but trust me, they were there!

Here's a lovely shot of the City as I headed back down the hill..
The City in Fog
Karl the Fog and the SF Skyline..

the rest of the photo set from the day can be seen HERE

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cal Day 2014

I didn't take near as many photos for Cal Day this year.. and the few I took you can see HERE

Instead I wanted to share some of the images I took of South Hall which for whatever reason, is my favorite building on campus.. Built in 1873.. it is the oldest (and only building remaining of the original campus structures.) I love how it looks like part of the exterior is corroding on itself. ;)





Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Live Oak Park

After a morning of what felt to me would be another comedy of errors.. missed meetings and opportunities, (everything pretty much worked out eventually!) I decided I wanted to try finding Live Oak Park again.

Live Oak Park

Rather than trying to retrace steps I only vaguely remembered from a month or so back.. up Vine.. turn on Arch.. no wait. hmm. Google maps had Live Oak Park straight up Shattuck, no need to wander from Peet's as a starting point, as I did last week when I got lost and ended up giving up and just meandering to the Rose Garden.

OK, so up Shattuck! Here we are.. beautiful trees, rough stone, aged wrought iron bits, the sounds of water as the creek makes it's way under the footbridges and street overpass, funked up graffiti.. all around you the sounds of kids playing in the distance (there's a center nearby, not to mention the park's in a residential area)a wide open area to sit and enjoy the sounds of birds, flowering shrubs and possibly a quiet tree to read under, (which I wish I had done).

stairs up to the picnic area



a bee sat still long enough to let me include it in the shot..

I didn't take that many but you can see the rest HERE

I will include this last shot of a grouping of trees I told my dad it looked like a family of some kind could have made a treehouse out of if they were so inclined (assuming they were of the tree climbing raccoon or bear variety):


Friday, April 04, 2014

Berkeley Rose Garden

Thursday early afternoon, I decided to take advantage of the lovely weather to explore the hidden places I never bothered with when we lived in Berkeley before.. I had come across "Live Oak Park" when walking off brunch a month or so back, and of course I missed a turn somewhere and never found it. Instead, I hike up to the Berkeley Rose Garden, which I hadn't visited in forever... not since we lived here before.

Ideally I wanted to get some practice in with the camera.. The Spouse got a new Nikon sometime last year, and I've not used it all that much, since the iPhone seems to be a bit more flexible when it comes to carrying in my pocket, and as you can see, I was able to take a photo of the lovely Bay View:

I didn't pack the larger lens, so the Nikon was pretty much useless for anything like that. I deleted many of my images because I was trying to take a view from the road or the flash was just too much for the macro I was trying to get of the flowers. I'm still not happy with the flower images... and I can't say I'm pleased with how I did on much of anything. The moss covered steps were the most amazing green.. and the fact that not many flowers were in bloom didn't matter.. there were so many layers of green!

this last one is my favorite..

I did attempt to shoot a few roses and you can see the rest of the images HERE

I probably will go back at some point to give it another go, but I've still got other footpaths and green spaces I want to explore. I'm still trying to decide if I have time to take a photography class this summer session or I should just hold out til the Fall for the classes I actually need. I like using the old Nikon but that one isn't working anymore so I'm stuck learning all these new features on the new camera, or my iPhone. Not a big deal, just may take a little time.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Of homes and blogs.. and Berkeley.

We've been officially house hunting since late January. We were looking in Emeryville (there's no homes for sale in Emeryville for our price range), all over Oakland, Albany, El Cerrito, Richmond Annex, and Berkeley. We came close to finding a place on San Pablo a couple times (in North Oakland and Albany respectively), as well a lovely condo in Temescal. We even saw a most amazing craftsman beyond Eastmont (that's in Oakland) with original 'keyhole' archways and built-ins that I fell in love with, but the neighborhood and commute was something I'd rather not think about.. but my mind always turns to Berkeley.

When we originally lived in Berkeley I used to imagine my happiness as a "big" house in North Berkeley, with a well-worn & loved porch to read the paper on Sundays, drinking coffee and nibbling a day old bagel from Saul's, relaxing with my shoes off (because that's what I do) and hearing the birds singing in the trees and the occasional car driving up the street. Then we moved to SoCal and while I absolutely LOVED living in the Historic Core (4th & Main DTLA) and everything that I had there, it wasn't Berkeley.

I can't tell you what I love about Berkeley. I can tell you what I tried to verbalize with my brother-in-law once a few years ago before we came back home, but even then I couldn't say what it was I loved about Berkeley. It was a feeling. A sense of being..

When I got off work I would stand outside on Shattuck and I feel the fog misting through the air. It wasn't Ketchikan rain, it was like someone was spraying your face from 10 miles away with some sort of Evian mist.. It was cool and clean and fresh.. and the wind would come up and blow the hair from your face. When the sun shone, it glittered like firelight off the buildings and glass. When the leaves fell, it was like Autumn in Indiana.. one of the few things I miss about living in Indiana. The sidewalks outside our apartment on Grant would be scattered with pine needles and and leaves and the crunch of Fall. I lived in my sandals. If I wore shoes at all it would be my worn out (hole worn in the soles) docksiders. Sweaters. You have to love a place where you can wear sweaters in the summer. I love sweaters.. It's like you're wearing a hug all day. I guess that's what I feel about Berkeley.. and still do. Some un-imaginable happiness is wrapping itself around my heart, it greets me when I step closer to downtown, and stays with me, like a fading light as I make my way back to Oakland.

Don't get me wrong, there are things I love about Oakland.. I love my local cafe and the galleries and the love and heart that my neighbors are putting into their community. I love that I am close to so many good things, despite not being so close to school and things and people I care about. I like that our loft is huge and airy and full of history despite a general lack of appreciation of old buildings here in Emeryville. I love many of my great neighbors who embody the sorts of things that I appreciated and miss so much from my time living in Downtown L.A. The connections and the support I had in LA are so missed here, so when we were able to find a place with history and community of people that look out for each other.. Not the same as Old Bank District at all, but close.. and very OK!

Finding a place in Berkeley should have been impossible, as we'd sized ourselves out of our price-point, (our place at OBD was 1400sq ft. and our current place is about 1200sq.) We even considered finding a small place to rent for a year while we scrounged up enough extra for a down-payment on a place that was be-fitting our size issue.. but after looking at a few apartments and realizing we'd still have to down-size, (and store all our excess furniture) I actually looked at what was out there that was under our size minimum, and managed to find a few places to check out!

As of right now, we do have a place. It'll be a long wait (for me) before we move into it, but when it happens I imagine all sorts of new experiences and new adventures will be awaiting me.. and I imagine I won't be blogging all that much about Emeryville, (if I did all that much anyway). I don't expect it would be all about Berkeley though either.. although the focus would change, of course.

As every time we move, I need to come up with a new name for this blog. I hate that the default url is my name.. but this is my main blog. One day we will no longer be on "the edge of E*ville"and instead will be living within proper distance of the city limits of a place I love very much, and the reason my heart was aching to return back to the Bay Area. I don't know what I should call this blog at that point... "Meeko on Main" worked when I was in the OBD, but I won't be moving to any Main Street... and "Meeko's Crumbs"(ramblings and meanderings) worked when we lived in Anaheim and South Park area of DTLA because I was constantly walking and meandering all over DTLA.. and finding my blogging feet.

School and things have kept me busy all this semester and I don't expect things will slow down all that much especially as I'm trying to find a niche regarding my love of history,community, architecture, books, writing, food, and a tad of photography. Unlike DTLA, I haven't found the magical blogging fairy that compelled me to attend a blogger meetup at an online friend's 100th Rate-A-Restaurant.. the day I decided I thought blogging was the neatest freaking idea ever.

I sometimes wonder (and think) that blogging is over, as is newsprint, then I see that other people are doing it still, and doing it well. Magic doesn't happen in the same ways every time, so I leave myself open to possibilities and the positive, good-natured beauty that is out there in the universe. I will be changing the name of the blog eventually.. to what, I don't know, and how often I'll post.. I don't know.. or what I'll write about, again, I don't know.. but if you're adventurous.. it could be anything. or nothing at all. Hopefully it won't really be about me, though. These personal posts are draining..

..And, I have a paper due tomorrow so I need to clear my head and focus. Oh, it's written.. it's just got too much of me in it. ;)