Writing isn’t a lucrative career–certainly not at my level–but it’s incredibly rewarding. I love writing and would do so even if nobody else read my words. When I wrote a novel for middle-grade kids, I was over the moon when I thought it was on the path to publication. But it never happened. My husband, my daughter, my writing critique group, and my agent read it, but it never reached its target audience. Sigh.
But being a playwright has a distinctive benefit. Getting plays produced locally means I actually get to sit in the audience and get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. It is just about the best feeling in the world to hear laughter all around you when actors utter your words (presuming, of course, that your intention was to be funny).
Tonight is a big night for me because I have several friends joining me to see my short play, “Where There’s a Will,” at PianoFight, part of SF Theater Pub‘s Pint-sized Play Festival. I have a great director, Vince Faso, who is also a middle-school drama teacher. My cast is the talented and beautiful Layne Austin, who plays Cordelia, and comically gifted Nick Dickson, who gets to be the time-traveling bard.
The rules for this festival is that all the plays must be ten minutes or shorter, the setting has to be a bar, and someone is required to finish a pint of beer during the piece. Is that great or what?
Eleven short plays are on tap (pun intended), and they range from hysterical to poignant. Some cover life’s bigger moments–a bat mitzvah, divorce, death. Some capture unlikely scenarios, such as running into Shakespeare in a bar and a pontificating, philosophical drunken llama. (In fact, there are so many different kinds of plays that if one isn’t your cup of tea, another one happens before you’ve had a chance to think too much about it! But I enjoy them all.) It’s a fairly roomy space, but because it’s not only a pub but a restaurant with tables to accommodate the dinner crowd, there is a limit to how many people you can cram into available spots. Luckily, the food is good and there’s a full bar, so we’re planning to arrive early and eat dinner while we stake out seats.
If you come tonight (Tuesday, August 23, 2016), find me and say hello! I’ll be the one beaming and surrounded by friends and family. Although I suppose with eleven playwrights represented, there may be others beaming as well…
You can still see the festival 8:00-9:30 tonight or catch its final performance next Monday, August 29. PianoFight is at 144 Taylor Street in San Francisco’. Oh, and it’s FREE!
Today I moved from the hills to another Berkeley neighborhood–the area east of what’s known as Gourmet Ghetto. I began at Live Oak Park, which is home to its own theater, a tot playground, picnic tables, and lots of green space, which provides multiple areas to throw down your blanket and read a book, eat your lunch in the sun or shade, or just get in some good people watching.
And in fact a woman was there training her dog, an older man was practicing some sort of yoga or meditation on a mat, and a guy was sitting atop a picnic table, leaning over listening to his headphones, showing way too much butt crack. I did not take a photo.
The map depicts the Berryman Path (#97) as basically a pedestrian continuation of Berryman Street, beginning on the north side of the building that houses the theater. But I saw no signage pointing the way, so I meandered a bit through the park on a path that was more winding than straight. Codornices Creek runs through the park, and one of the bridges spanning the creek was just asking me to cross it. So I complied.
The path continues beneath Walnut Street, where I had the unexpected pleasure of seeing a splendid mural of Sojourner Truth only somewhat spoiled by tags.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but despite living in the Bay Area since 1984, I never knew about the Berkeley Art Center, which I ran into while following Berryman Path. Apparently they conduct classes, have exhibitions, and sponsor family activities. I could learn how to create origami earrings, make a kite, or view artwork that uses tennis as a metaphor. (No, I don’t quite get it either.) It’s rather tucked away, so I probably never would have seen it had I not been walking. I am making a vow right now to investigate BAC more fully and take advantage of this heretofore unknown (to me) resource!
The last section of Berryman Path borders Congregation Beth El, where I think I heard the last throes of summer camp. Flat and grassy, it’s a leisurely walk that gives one a peek into the oddly shaped raised beds in the synagogue’s garden. The northern side of the path abuts a house currently undergoing major renovations. Two men stood on the roof, and several more were conversing in Spanish amid some loud machinery.
From there I walked a block of Spruce where one house was completely sealed off for pest extermination. When I hit the four-way stop on Rose Street, I turned left and headed east. The vibe on this particular walk is definitely more city than any of my walks up in the hills. After all, Peet’s (original) coffee shop is a mere block away, and the four-lane thoroughfare of Shattuck is only a block further. This was no hike in the country.
Rose Glen Alley (#99) doesn’t go all the way through, but what’s there is a wide, paved street that provides access to the garages of some houses and apartments. But it was quiet, and the only cars I saw were parked. Near the end is a basketball hoop, beyond which is a patch of grass and a short, steep drop to Glen Avenue, one that I didn’t feel compelled to scramble down.
My return route was slightly different and afforded me different photo opportunities, including this historical plaque marking the site of Hunrick’s Grocery Store, established in 1908 by German immigrant George Hunrick. It later became Rose Grocery, but it was in pretty bad shape when it closed in 1966. Now it’s been completely redone and it’s lovely, but it’s no longer a food outlet, even though it has a new paint job that declares it Rose Grocery. Huh.
Last week I took on the multi-sectioned Glendale Path (#82, #83, and #84). Since I’d stumbled upon La Loma Path (#85) earlier in the year, I was ready to walk through the upper 80s. But when I consulted my trusty path wanderers map, I discovered that though they were named, Delmar Path (#86), Parnassus Path (#87), and Columbia Path (#88 & 89 for both upper and lower parts) are as yet unbuilt. Which catapulted me up to #90, Columbia Walk. At this rate, I may just finish all of Berkeley’s paths by the end of the year after all…
We found a Little Free Library with very few books on Grizzly Peak near Hill Road, where we parked before embarking on our Friday adventure. I say “we” because my husband, Dave, joined me and brought along our intrepid pup, Ruby, and our current foster dog, Hayley.
Columbia Walk (#90) is clearly labeled but doesn’t look like a public path. Probably because the residence next to it has seemingly annexed that space into their backyard area, which is why the photo of Dave et al looks like we’re hanging out at a friends’ barbecue. The path is flat, narrow, and mostly dirt with a few stones, except for when it’s part of a bricked patio.
Columbia ends on Fairlawn Drive, where it was a short jaunt to Terrace View Park. It wasn’t strictly on our itinerary, but with two dogs, how could we pass it up? A beautiful two-level recreational area, the upper section featured swings, trees, and a concrete slide, while the lower area has a basketball court and a lush, green lawn. A lone child and mom/caretaker were enjoying some afternoon play, but otherwise it was quiet.
On a curve of Fairlawn Drive was a sign that was probably intended for traffic, but it could have been a general life philosophy.
Along Fairlawn Drive, we saw some beautiful houses and a uniquely placed bird house, designed, I suppose, to make it easier for birds to pick up their mail?
Our next scheduled stop should have been #91, Grizzly Path, but paths 91 through 95 were more paths that were named but not yet built. So we had to skip the paths named Grizzly, Summit, Avenida, Harding, and Wilson Path and go directly to Wilson Walk (#96).
Although I’d originally planned to enter Wilson Walk (#96) on its west side, we took a detour. I could see from the map that we were on the edge of university property and I sensed a spectacular view nearby, so we continued on Olympus Avenue rather than turning left at Wilson Circle. Once off the road we spied a sign warning of mountain lion sightings. Luckily our dogs were on leash. Hayley looked worried though.
Then Dave came across this radiation monitor, and it was my turn to worry. Why are they monitoring radiation in that spot? What do they know that I don’t? And who are they anyway?
Way up in the hills above UC Berkeley, we could see the Lawrence Hall of Science just ahead of us to the south; and turning right we could view all of North Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay beyond. Fog obscured most of Golden Gate Bridge, but I could still see one section jutting out from Marin County seemingly to nowhere.
Rather than turn back, we skirted the edge of the university’s vast hillside, striking through a wooded area with no trail, curious to see where it took us. That led us to an extremely narrow staircase along a fence, and then we found ourselves traversing a forest, which turned out to be chock full of burrs. We all brought home hundreds of burrs apiece, but poor Hayley–she’s so low to the ground that her whole body was covered with them. We encountered some wild turkeys that Ruby was dying to play with, but thankfully we saw no mountain lions.
We never found an actual trail, but we did eventually end up where Centennial Drive meets Grizzly Peak, and we were greeted by a sign declaring that we were entering the City of Berkeley. So apparently we were in Oakland for a bit and didn’t even know it.
Back in residential Berkeley Hills, we came across an odd bush in someone’s front yard.
From Grizzly Peak we came upon the east end of Wilson Walk and proceeded across it. Partway down the path, there’s a wooden stairway attached to a house that follows alongside the path for a bit and then ends abruptly about eight feet off the ground. I have to wonder: Did there used to be something at the end of the stairs? Or did they stop building it halfway through, deciding they didn’t want access to and from the path. I guess I’ll never know.
Wilson Way begins with a gradual decline but gets steeper toward the end. Beware: many of the nails holding the railroad ties in place protrude up from the steps, so don’t go bounding down the path barefoot. It’s a fairly short path, certainly shorter than the route we’d taken to get there. Which I suppose is the point of many of these paths–to cut across an area rather than having to go all the way around.
But sometimes it’s more fun to take the scenic route.
It seems an odd topic, I know, but it occurred to me today that within the last ten days, I’ve had three encounters with dark bathrooms.
Not dark, as in evil, gloomy, or somber–just dark as in an absence of light. Two of the incidents in question were at friends’ houses where I didn’t know the exact location of the light switch but figured I didn’t need much guidance to find the toilet, so I ventured trustingly into the dark. The other was in a public place where the lights ordinarily go on automatically, but something must not have been working.
In any case, three times seems like a lot. Especially compared to the number of previous instances when I’ve attempted to use such facilities in the dark, which is zero. Perhaps I’m just getting cocky in my old age and figure I’ve done this particular activity so many times in my life that I could do it in my sleep. (And in fact, I probably have.)
The first time I was the unwitting victim of a male who did not think it necessary to put down the toilet seat. After all, anyone who used the loo would presumably turn on the lights first. I mean, what kind of doofus goes in the dark? Luckily, I did not plop down confidently on the porcelain, so I caught myself before I ended up taking an unscheduled tushy bath.
The second time I couldn’t immediately find the light switch, but I knew basically where the toilet was because I’d used the restroom earlier when it was still light outside and electric illumination was not required. But I hadn’t remembered that the cat’s water fountain (yes, fountain–not dish) was right next to the toilet, so I inadvertently dunked my hand when reaching for the t.p. No biggy.
Today, I entered a public restroom that was designated as a women’s room, so I never thought to check whether the seat was down or up. My theory is that it had just been cleaned, since I’ve occasionally noticed custodial practice. Again, I was fortunate that I crouched tentatively and so averted a wet disaster.
So I have no tales of woe stemming from my recent dark bathroom adventures, but I think if I’m smart, I won’t risk it again. Perhaps the universe has given me ample warning, and I shouldn’t ignore the signs. I vow that, in the future, I will not blithely go about my business when I cannot see where I’m sitting. Okay, most people would just call that common sense, but I’m calling it a new rule to live by.
Maybe it’s cheating to count Glendale as three paths, but it has been assigned three numbers (82, 83, 84) for the different sections broken up by Queens Road and Fairlawn Drive. And each section is certainly distinct.
Before I reached the entrance, I spied a Cabbage Patch doll sitting on a fence tucked among the ivy. I hope she finds her way back home.
I worked my way from the bottom of Glendale Path–where Glendale Avenue ends on Campus Drive–to its top on Grizzly Peak. The west entrance is marked clearly, and the path is made of level, concrete step, and has a metal railing on both sides–so, quite the opposite of Scott Newhall Path, which I’d taken earlier.
Early on I saw a tree trying to escape from its owner’s back yard through a handy hole in the fence. Or maybe it’s just curious and wants to see what’s happening on Glendale Path. . . . Not much, actually.
Along the path I found two placards provided by an organization called Friends of Five Creeks, which apparently has been around since 1995. The first one pointed out something that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise–a small dip in the land next to the path that is one of the sources of Codornices Creek. The sign had pictures of wild strawberries and the California rose, I suppose because they could be found along the trail. But I didn’t see any. It also touted the benefits of creeks, which included managing floods and erosion, “providing habitat for wildlife, and giving people the opportunity to experience nature in the city.” Sounds good to me.
Because it’s August in the Bay Area, I saw my fair share of naked ladies. Not that kind! This is the height of blooming season for Amaryllisbelladonna, or, as I’ve always known them–naked ladies. I assume the “naked” refers to the lack of accompanying leaves. When I see a single stalk, I think it looks particularly naked.
The path looks less official and more makeshift along the middle section, sometimes using a range of materials that look as if they may have been found or donated. At one point, the fence on the north side had all but collapsed and was being supported by surrounding flora. But it was all perfectly safe, I’m sure. I survived without a scratch!
The second placard informed hikers of local geology. It compared the age of Pinnacle Rock in nearby Remillard Park to the land beneath the sign, the first being over 100 million years old, and the second being a mere one to two million years old. Which, okay, is a huge difference. I’m sure the comparison signifies something important beyond the numbers, but I’m no geologist, so I didn’t ponder it for long.
The final section began with a precipitous climb on solid concrete steps that, luckily, had a railing. But toward the middle, it flattened out a bit and turned into railroad ties and earth, surrounded by grasses, more naked ladies, and a few trees along a wooden fence. The end was less scenic, as it was a dark, narrow passage that bordered someone’s bins for trash and recycling.
I’d planned to drive to the end of Hill Road and pick up Scott Newhall Path (#79) at its northern entrance. But when I drove up to where I thought it should be, I saw only large estates with long driveways and gates, and lots of “No Parking” signs along the road. So I drove round on Grizzly Peak and parked across from where Hill Path (#66) will be one day, according to my map.
From there I found the west entrance to Atlas Path (#81), which has a wooden post showing the way rather than the standard-issue metal sign from the City of Berkeley. I followed the path as it gently meandered between houses and a few trees until it opened up to a clear, sunny patch, where I discovered an inviting bench and a plastic armchair by its side. It seemed rude not to graciously accept such an offer, so I sat a minute and enjoyed the view.
At the top of Atlas Path, I was supposed to turn left onto the part of Hill Road that lies on the southern side of Scott Newhall Path, but I saw no signage and mistakenly continued onto Atlas Place until I bumped into the edge of Tilden Park on one side and Ajax Place on the other.
I retraced my steps and followed the map, despite the feeling that I was on someone’s driveway rather than walking down a public street. It indeed ended at someone’s house, but off to the right was an unmarked path. So I took it.
A tall fence ran tightly along the left side of the flat dirt path, and thick foliage bordered it on the right, but eventually it opened up so I could see the incredibly steep hillside. And when I reached the other end, I was at the cul-de-sac where I’d driven before but couldn’t find the path. Now on foot, I searched more carefully, but I never saw anything that declared it as Scott Newhall Path. However, I did see another No Parking sign that was almost completely hidden. But take a look at the photo and tell me if you think it looks like a public passage.
I continued as the unmarked Scott Newhall Path became Hill Road again and marveled at the variety of architecture that allows a structure to be built on such a steep hillside and the design elements that make the best of that incline.
Just before the road ends at Shasta, where there’s a fire station, I saw a long line of mailboxes. It reminded me of rural postal routes one finds out in the country. I suppose it is a lot to expect of our postal carriers to wind through the labyrinth of the Berkeley Hills next to Tilden Regional Park where residences are huge, far apart, and off the beaten path.
From there I turned back onto Grizzly Peak, which would have led me back to where I began. But en route I made a discovery: Tilden Path (#65)–which I had skipped when I reached it numerically because it was marked as unbuilt–was open and completely passable. So I changed my route on the spot and headed down Tilden Path. Because I’m flexible. (I am!) A quick succession of railroad ties lined with yellow grasses turned into a flat shady walkway that was lush with ferns and bamboo. Midway through I came across a badminton net on the greenest lawn in the Bay Area I’ve seen since we’ve been in a drought. I have to assume it was that new fake grass; but it was in someone’s back yard, so it’s not like I was going to sneak through the rip in the fencing to touch it and check.
Landing on Queens Road, I saw an unusual parking space, especially in this area that has very few sidewalks and no commercial business. I assumed the resident is a UC Berkeley professor, since the campus is a short (but windy) drive from there. With its twenty-two Nobel Laureates, I suppose this is not the only sign of its kind in Berkeley.
Another reason to love our library: last night, Berkeley’s North Branch hosted the launch party for Tom Dalzell’s new book, Quirky Berkeley. Published by local Heyday Press, it is a collection of visual delights culled from the quirkiest of little cities–our own Berzerkeley. From Buldan Seka’s Giant Ceramic Freaks on Spruce Street to the whimsical steel structures of Mark Bulwinkle all over Berkeley, his book documents all those fun double-takes one experiences when walking Berkeley streets. The book is a natural follow-up to Dalzell’s wonderful blog of the same name. Rather than attempt to describe any theme myself, I am borrowing words from Heyday’s publisher emeritus Malcolm Margolin, who sums it up in his foreword so perfectly:
And then there’s Berkeley, and the pilgrimage of Tom Dalzell to what are, in my mind, shrines to the revolutionary and dangerous idea that we can build a vibrant community not by hiding our uniqueness but by sharing it with the world.
A slide show of highlights from the book ran continuously, and John Storey’s photos of selected art hung on the walls of the library wherever there was room. Besides the author, attending celebrants included Margolin, dozens of well-wishers from the community, and many of the featured artists themselves. The promotion provided by yesterday’s Berkeleyside article no doubt added to the throng of those who paid the library a visit on a Monday night.
Refreshments were served, which shouldn’t surprise me but still does because I think of libraries as sacred places unsuitable for Oreos and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Not that I don’t imbibe, mind you; I never pass up free food. . . Stacks of the feted volume were sold, and Dalzell signed each copy presented to him by appreciative fans. Since Tom pointed out two of the artists standing nearby, I got signatures from Doug Heines and Rob Garross too! Mark Bulwinkle was scheduled to be there, but we left before the merriment drew to a close, so I may have missed him.
Special shout-out to supervising librarian Jack Baur, who puts on events such as these at Berkeley’s North Branch. (No, not Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer from “24”…) You can see him behind the circulation desk in the far left of the panorama shot, sporting a ginger beard and a lavender shirt. You know, in case you want to recognize him and thank him for the lovely job he does.