Better not to wander paths when it’s about to turn dark

Bancroft Steps

It was 4:45 on a late November afternoon, and it was still light out when I parked my car on Warring Street on the edge of UC Berkeley campus, just south of Memorial Stadium. My first stop, the Bancroft Steps (#114) were perfectly easy to find, even without signage at the bottom. The broad concrete steps with autumn leaves scattered along the bottom are fairly shallow and easy to climb.

Orchard Lane


Despite the sign for Orchard Lane (#115) being tangled up in greenery, I managed to find the entrance on Panoramic Way and followed it up. A jogger passed me, and ahead I saw what I assume were college students. In fact, I felt like I’d been dropped into a photo shoot for a fictional magazine, University Life.




Where the path took a little jog to the left was a bench, where I found an abandoned umbrella. I imagined a frustrated person throwing aside the contraption that had collapsed in the rain, walking home, wet and cursing.

one of the many sections of Orchard Lane


About halfway up this first leg of Orchard Lane is a historical plaque that tells you that you are in the Panoramic Hill District, rich with architectural examples from Julia Morgan, Bernard Maybeck, and other architects who are probably famous in their sphere, but I had not heard of them. It is also home to many UC professors and early Sierra Club members.


A Bullwinkle giraffe



Part two of Orchard Lane (#116) continues on the other side of Mosswood Road and takes you up, up, up to Arden Road. I saw some wonderful, whimsical art along the way, including some decorative tiles along a garden path and two Mark Bullwinkle pieces, both above gateways.


After that I had to do a some guess-work to find  Arden Steps (#118) and Arden Path (#119), neither of which were marked as far as I could see. But it was getting darker every minute, so perhaps I missed the signage. I think Arden Path was a wider, gentler incline that seemed to disappear into a residential area where houses were further apart.

img_2477I descended  the long, narrow, steep stairway that I believe was the Arden Steps, landing on Mosswood Road, where I wandered around a bit trying to find the southern entrance to Mosswood Lane (#117) but to no avail.

So I began retracing my steps and met a friendly kitty named Riley, who wouldn’t pose for a photo, but I managed to get an action shot of him walking away.img_2478

I also found an interesting street sign that illustrates just how curvy and confusing the roads are in the Panoramic Hill District. It reminds me of a sign I once saw on the Pacific Coast Highway up in Washington State that simply said that either way you went at this particular T intersection would be south on PCH 1.

When I got back to the spot where the historical plaque hung on Orchard Lane, I decided to take what was apparently the southern entrance to Mosswood Lane and see where it ended.

If you squint, you can see Sather Tower above the fence posts.

But by this time, the sun had long set, and after walking a few steps, I had to make use of my flashlight app on my phone. A wooden fence lined the path to the left, or west side, but on tippy-toe, I could see Sather Tower, or rather the outline of Sather Tower. It was really quite dark. Even with my light, I could only see a few yards in front of me, and I had no idea if the path even went all the way through, since I hadn’t been able to find the other end on Mosswood Road. It was eerily quiet except for an occasional rustling in the trees whose branches hung over the path. I began to imagine that the sounds were caused from a psycho killer hiding in the trees, awaiting his next victim. Because of course this is where a murderer would hang out, right?  Despite the fleeting thought of what the headline would look like (“Missing Woman Found Dead on Unmarked Path”), I continued, determined to follow the path until its end. Or mine.

I couldn’t take photos for the last part of my walk because it was too dark. But here’s a tile that I saw earlier on my walk.

It wasn’t really much of a path, but it did meander behind some houses until it almost reached Mosswood Road, where I’d seen my new buddy, Riley.  I looked again for a clue that what I’d been on was actually Mosswood Lane, aiming my tiny-light-emitting phone in every direction, and I saw a small sign attached to a tree reading “Public path continues 100 yards uphill.” Not obvious, but I suppose an effort was made for those coming up Mosswood Lane to direct them toward Arden Steps, even if neither was labeled as such.

I was happy to walk on the road where streetlamps helped me find my route back to my car.  I knocked out six paths in my quest of walking them all in 2016. I now have 17 more paths and 38 days to walk them. Wish me luck!

Always something to see at Albany Bulb

View of the Bay Bridge and downtown San Francisco from the southern edge of Albany Bulb

img_2439I’ve written about the Albany Bulb before and probably will again. There are multiple paths to take and many views to appreciate, which is why I maintain that it’s a quirky Bay Area treasure.

My troop on Wednesday morning consisted of our big old red coon hound, Rufus; our 65-pound fur ball with boundless energy, Ruby; and our little schnauzer/ terrier mix foster, whom we renamed Zazzie because her original name was the same as our daughter’s best friend, which would have been too confusing.

img_2440Dogs have their own reasons for loving the Bulb: the puddles after it rains, the rocky terrain, the refreshingly cold bay water, and the network of interesting trails. (Rufus also enjoys a variety of smells that I’m not even aware of.) I love it for the artwork that appears out of nowhere; for the gorgeous views; and for the opportunity to experience this unique combination of nature, cultivated park, and dumping ground for interesting and colorful refuse.



It was rather quiet. Lone shore birds skimmed the water’s surface or posed on rocks in lagoons. Single snails made their own trails perpendicular to the ones created by the park service, crossing our path more than once. A few other dogs and their human companions greeted us with nods and smiles. A dedicated jogger and a cyclist each made cameo appearances.


Ruby could not resist bounding over the rocky shore to go for a swim in the bay, while Zazzie watched from her perch img_2438beside the walkway and Rufus kept a respectful distance. It did not feel as if we were just off a major freeway, but we were. I knew the cars and semis were close by, but I couldn’t hear them. The bay glistened, silver on blue, between the Bulb and Golden Gate Fields racetracks. To the south was downtown Oakland, and off to the southwest stood the Bay Bridge and San Francisco, the City by the Bay. Such busy places all around us but far enough away to be scenic rather than noisy.


After taking in a few moments of serenity, we piled into Red Emma (my husband’s Rav 4) and headed east back to Berkeley, where we would resume the rest of our day. But for just an hour, my compatriots and I were explorers.

How To Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective

Well written and thoughtful, this piece speaks to me and should be widely shared. There has been so little of this news in the mainstream media that I feel compelled to spread this news in whatever way I can.

Transformative Spaces

14247963_10154406248820309_1976289082_o Water Protectors gather after a day of prayer and direct action. (Photo: Desiree Kane)

This piece is very personal because, as an Indigenous woman, my analysis is very personal, as is the analysis that my friends on the frontlines have shared with me. We obviously can’t speak for everyone involved, as Native beliefs and perspectives are as diverse as the convictions of any people. But as my friends hold strong on the frontlines of Standing Rock, and I watch, transfixed with both pride and worry, we feel the need to say a few things.

I’ve been in and out of communication with my friends at Standing Rock all day. As you might imagine, as much as they don’t want me to worry, it’s pretty hard for them to stay in touch. I asked if there was anything they wanted me to convey on social media, as most of them are maintaining a…

View original post 940 more words

The Real World- Theater Edition: Interview with William H. Bryant Jr. and Skyler Cooper

This looks like fascinating and important theater. Thanks,Skyler & BJ for your work, and thanks, Pianofight, for creating a place for it.

San Francisco Theater Pub

Barbara Jwanouskos interviews the creative team behind Every 28 Hours.

Every 28 Hours is a piece that was created by linking one-minute plays based on the staggering statistic that every 28 hours, a person of color is murdered by a police officer, vigilante, or security guard. This is a piece that hits deeply into the legacy of white supremacy that our culture has been built upon and asks us if we are willing to look at ourselves to build a way of living and interacting where black lives matter.

I had the opportunity to speak with two of the actors in the Every 28 Hours production here in the Bay Area. Their names are William H. Bryant Jr. (BJ) and Skyler Cooper, and I feel fortunate that we were able to connect to share their experiences working on such an intensely powerful theatrical production.

Every 28 Hours is produced by…

View original post 1,764 more words

Bumper sticker wisdom

img_2414On my way back from the dog park, I was at a stoplight behind a truck with this bumper sticker: I’D RATHER BE HERE NOW.

I loved the message. Instead of stating that he’d rather be fishing or golfing or anything else, he’s content being just where he is. He’s living in the moment without excuses, the way a dog does.

It’s so simple but says so much. Don’t complain if you’re not doing something you love; make it so you are doing what you love. And then live as fully as you can. Don’t be in the position where you’re often thinking, I’d rather be ___________ (fill in your own pastime). If you’d truly rather be doing that, figure out a way that you can! Obviously you can’t be doing something you love every minute of the day. (I mean who genuinely likes to clean their toilet?) But you can make sure you love at least part of every day.

I know that to some extent, privilege plays a part because people with more money and opportunities have more choices available to them. But there are plenty of rich people who aren’t happy either. So I think the key is figuring out what you’re happiest doing and do it as much as you can. Also have the best possible time while you’re doing it, or while you’re doing anything, for that matter.

Just a little bumper sticker wisdom to start your day. You’re welcome.

Hill Court Steps: Short, hidden & steep


I took our foster dog, Zazzie, on my walk yesterday. I think she felt special because she was the only dog who got to accompany me. Ruby walks too fast, and Rufus walks too slow. But Zazzie is just right for a Berkeley path.

The week before I had planned to walk the Hill Court Steps (#106) but got sidetracked, so I made a special trip. The map showed Hill Court Steps as between Hill Court and LeRoy Avenue. But even though I knew where it was supposed to be, I missed the eastern entrance on LeRoy. I guess I was preoccupied with discovering a school that I never knew was there.

It used to be Hillside Elementary, a public school, but it’s located right on the Hayward Fault, so the City of Berkeley sold it. Apparently it’s had a few identities, but now it’s GISSV, or German International School of Silicon Valley. Except Berkeley is not part of Silicon Valley. At least last time I checked. I guess it’s their northern campus?

in a front yard on Hill Ct.

Anyway, Zazzie and I walked down Buena Vista Way and made a left on Euclid Ave, where we saw  a squirrel making a showy dash across the street. I’m glad I had a strong grasp of her leash because she tried to bolt after it, ignoring the cars that were whizzing by between her and her prey. Whew!

We climbed the tiny Hill Court, which is not a through street and has no sidewalks. But it does have some fun decor. At the end of the cul-de-sac I saw some carefully pieced-together stone stairs to someone’s house but no sign pointing out Hill Court Steps. Hmmm…


Hill Court Steps entrance on Hill Court

We mounted the short staircase adorned with a citrus tree that was bursting with fruit, which led us to a concrete path that you couldn’t see from across the street because it was perpendicular to the first few steps and heavily camouflaged with greenery. This path would have benefited from stair steps, for it was quite steep, and the only railing was just a few feet long. We continued up the broken, shady pathway as it took a 60-degree turn to the right and then dumped us onto what looked like a sidewalk that ran between a wall of ivy and a small front yard. And at the end is where I finally saw the Hill Court Steps sign peeking up amid some tree branches right at the curve in LeRoy.

img_2423It was a beautiful October afternoon, and I had to stop to admire the colorful autumn leaves, which Zazzie took as an excuse to pee. It was a short but productive walk.

Since I’ve already walked #107, #109, and #112 (and #108, #110, and #111 are unbuilt), that means I’m ready for #113. Except no path #113 exists. So next time I’ll start with #114. I looked ahead to see if any other paths have “unbuilt” next to their names on the path list, and none of them do. So in order to meet my my challenge, I need to cover the last 36 paths in 10 weeks. Can I do it? Stay tuned to see.


LeRoy Steps: the place I heard sad news

LeRoy Steps

You never know where you’re going to be when you get one of those phone calls.

I’m on Virginia Street about to turn right onto LeRoy Avenue, on my way back to the car after walking Cedar Path (#107) and La Vereda Steps(#109) when I get a call from my sister in Oklahoma. I know immediately that it’s bad news. I head instinctively toward my car on Hilgard Avenue, which unfortunately takes me right past some noisy construction work when my sister tells me that her husband died.

I’m trying to hear her by pressing my phone hard against my left cheek while plugging my right ear.

He was at home in bed when his heart finally gave out.

My head is down, and I am power walking, first toward, and then up the LeRoy Steps (#112) until the buzzing of the power tools fades to a dull roar and I stop.

She performed CPR on him for ten minutes before paramedics arrived and whisked him away. But he was unconscious and she sensed that he had already left her. At the hospital, doctors kept him alive long enough for his daughter to arrive and say goodbye.

My sister is one tough cookie. A retired judge and the eldest of my siblings, she is usually in charge of whatever activity she participates in. She’s decisive and calm. The family member that everyone goes to for support, she’s a rock.

But now she’s grieving for her mate of the last 31 years, and I could hear the fragility in her voice. Our other sister was there with her, along with the rest of her female posse (plus her teenage grandnephew), to make sure she got something to eat and to help her with funeral arrangements.

My perch on Hilgard Avenue at the top of LeRoy Steps

From 1600 miles away, all I could do was tell her it was okay to cry. She shouldn’t have to pretend that she was fine. Family was there to help her get through it, I assured her, even though I wasn’t one of them. Her response: she was worried that if she let herself fall apart that she would never be able to pick up the pieces. I couldn’t argue with that. But she assured me she would try to get some sleep.

For most of the conversation I was leaning on a concrete structure at the top of LeRoy Steps while my sister recounted her horrific day and I feebly attempted to comfort her.  A young mom passed me descending the steps, and I hadn’t moved when she made her return trip several minutes later with a toddler. We may have been on the same staircase, but we were in different worlds at that moment. It felt strange asking my sister about her husband’s funeral while this little boy gleefully mounted the steps hand in hand with his smiling mom.

I could hear the deep weariness beneath the grief as she turned the phone over to our other sister, who assured me they would take care of her. I asked her to make sure they gave her lots of hugs before we said goodbye. And I knew she would.

The not-too-distant Campanile pealed five times in its deep tones that sound so final. Five o’clock–I needed to pick up our little foster dog from the vet before it closed. My brother-in-law was no longer alive, but there were still things to do.

In the car on my way home, I wondered briefly how I would handle the situation my sister was now in. I’ve lost both my parents, all my grandparents, and several friends, so I’ve experienced loss. But I don’t think I could face waking up in the morning without my husband/best friend/soul mate. I’m no rock.

At an intersection between Cedar Path and La Vereda Steps was this sundial.

When I was perusing the photos from my walk, I remembered the sundial I came across that was between Cedar Path and La Vereda Steps. (See 10/15/16 post.) It seemed the most appropriate photographic accompaniment for this post, not just for its symbolism for the passage of time but also for the words etched on it: “Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.”

My sister is not yet old, but she did get to spend 31 years with someone she loved, which, I suppose, is more than some people get. It’s not exactly a silver lining, but it’s something to hold onto.