Holmes Path (#25)

IMG_1159I admit that I kind of cheated on this walk. I didn’t have much time, so instead of starting from my front door, I drove to the neighborhood before starting the walk itself. But of course I went way off route before I found the right area. And I knew I was lost because the streets were all named after colleges, which meant I was no longer in Berkeley but in Kensington.

I encountered some hilly streets up off of Spruce, and the sidewalks veered in all directions. Many houses were quite a few steps up from the street. I noticed a few residences were equipped with those funicular devices that allow those who can’t manage stairs to make the precipitous journey to the street. Ramps would be so steep as to guarantee anyone in a wheelchair an ultra-rapid descent into traffic. Which might be fun if you were the adventurous sort, but it might scare Grandma.IMG_1154

On the way I passed Step One preschool with its rainbow banner, which has served North Berkeley’s three- and four-year-olds for ages.

When I stopped to take in the view, I realized I could see the Golden Gate Bridge, or is it the Bay Bridge? My sense of direction is so bad that I can’t really say…

Holmes Path

Holmes Path had treats for the eyes and ears, including the sound of trickling fountains, accompanied by a sign (prompted no doubt by our serious drought) that read “Dear Neighbors, in case you are concerned about the sound of running water in our yard, please be assured: our water feature uses 100% reclaimed water.”IMG_1161

I’m glad that I started at the top end of Holmes Path because the sign at the bottom is being overtaken by foliage, and I might have missed it.


On the way home, I happened upon some free furniture. One was a cute blue rolling chair that I considered riding back to my car, but I resisted.

It was another beautiful afternoon, and when I arrived home, my wonderful husband made me a margarita because it was National Margarita Day,* and one can’t overlook such opportunities…

*February 22, for those of you who are keeping track



A Presidents’ Day stroll

IMG_1122On a sunny Presidents’ Day I did the Acacia-Florida loop, which covers the Florida Walk (#22), the Acacia Walk (#23), and the Acacia Steps (#24). Because it was an official holiday, my husband, Dave, walked with me, and we brought our 11-month-old puppy, Ruby, and our tiny foster, Abby.

Dave & Ruby along Acacia Walk

We started from home, carefully crossing busy Colusa Avenue. Ruby was excited to be on the adventure and struggled between wanting to see and smell everything along the way and wanting to get to whatever amazing thing lay ahead.

We crossed familiar territory, and Ruby wanted to play with the dog at Great Stoneface Park, but she was on a leash, and we were on a mission, after all.

We walked up San Fernando Avenue to the Arlington and turned on San Luis, where we attempted to cut up on the Santa Barbara Path, but the end was blocked for some underground repairs, and we had to retrace our steps and go the long way around, via Southampton and the curvy Northampton Avenue.

Acacia Walk

Acacia Walk is one of the longer paths and takes you from Spruce Street up to Cragmont Avenue, home of Cragmont School. From there it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to the Acacia Steps, which are pretty much the walking extension of minuscule Acacia Avenue. Once you’ve traversed those steps, you’re right back on Spruce, where we made a great discovery–Dorothy Bolte Park!

Ruby gets a drink at Dorothy Bolte Park

The park is on two levels, with a play structure on each, connected by a concrete slide, which all four of us took. Ruby sat on Dave’s lap, and Abby sat on mine. It probably goes faster if you use flattened cardboard boxes (visible at the bottom of the slide), but it was fun enough just sliding down in my jeans.

View from partway down Florida Walk

After our play break we found Florida Walk, which is one of the steepest paths I’ve come across. It bends in the middle so you can’t see one end from the other. About halfway along, you can see the bay framed by hanging tree branches. Near the bottom, the steps are a bit difficult to manage, and I was glad that Dave had taken Ruby, who probably would have pulled me down crashing against the uneven concrete.

Abby back at home



We ended up covering quite a distance, especially since we took a few wrong turns along the way. (I was relieved to see that Dave could also get lost on those windy roads in the hills–I thought it was just me.) And little Abby kept up amazingly well, considering her legs are only a few inches long. We occasionally carried her, but I think she would have been happy to walk the whole route!


Boynton Walk & Maryland Walk a distant memory

IMG_1067I really need to be more rigid about writing about my walks as soon as I return. I truly thought I’d already written about my forays to Boynton Walk and Maryland Walk when I started in on my Presidents’ Day trek, but I hadn’t. And now it’s just a foggy recollection at best.


Maryland Walk’s steep and not quite horizontal stairs

I can say that the Boynton Walk (#20) is a short jaunt from the Arlington up to  Boynton Avenue, where you head north to findMaryland Walk less than a block away. Maryland Walk is a steep climb and, luckily, has helpful railings.  The Maryland Walk also has the distinction of being the path that is furthest north in Berkeley. In fact, if for some reason Berkeley were at war with Kensington–not that there’s any cause for conflict that I know of–Maryland Walk would be so close to the border, it might very well be dangerous.


Helpful hint: if you wander in this neighborhood and notice that the street names have changed from state names (Michigan, Kentucky, Vermont) to the names of prestigious institutions of higher learning (Princeton, Yale, Stanford), you know that you’re in Kensington.

Twitter Tips for Authors

I don’t reblog often, but this piece by Charlotte Ashlock on Andy Ross’s blog is a no-nonsense way of approaching Twitter that just might get me to try it.

Ask the Agent

 Ok. I admit it. I just don’t get Twitter.  My promotion savvy brother, Ken Ross, advised me when I was becoming an agent, that I should market myself on social media, which means Twitter. So I signed up and waited around for followers. After the first 20 prostitutes tried to contact me, I gave it up. Today we are having a guest blog from Charlotte Ashlock, who is digital editor at Berrett-Koehler Books in Oakland. She likes to tweet and seems to be having more luck at it than I had. Here’s her advice.

Use what you already know

I’ve introduced a lot of beginners to Twitter, and they always have anxiety about how to behave in this new environment.  My answer?  Use the social skills you have been practicing for decades of your life!  Those skills will serve you just as well on Twitter, as they do…

View original post 933 more words

Another small world story

SunburstI remember hearing an episode of This American Life in which the theme was coincidences. Apparently the degree to which an occurrence is a genuine coincidence depends mostly upon who it happens to. If your grandmother tells you she ran into an old friend downtown, that seems less than amazing. To you. But if you are the grandma, and you never go downtown, and you haven’t seen that friend for 40 years, et cetera–then it may feel like an amazing coincidence.

Yesterday my husband told me a little anecdote that I couldn’t even wrap my head around at first. I actually made him repeat it. It blew my mind. I told myself that I was going to write about it as soon as I finished this big project I was working on. (These are the sorts of carrots that move me forward.)

Dave received an email from a man who had read one of Mark Peattie’s books on Japanese military history, Sunburst, and loved it so much that he wanted to contact the author. After a Google search revealed that Mark died a few years ago, he set upon locating his next of kin and discovered Dave, who is his son (and my husband). He emailed Dave that he’d obtained a used copy of the book and happened to mention the inscription: “To my good friend, Bob Grove.”

Bob Grove was my dad. He died twelve years ago and probably only met Mark once. I never knew that Mark had given Dad that book, although it makes sense, considering my father loved reading history of all sorts.

So where exactly lies the coincidence? I’m not even sure. Probably the most amazing part of the story is that this reader out in the world was so earnest in his search to connect with the author of a book that he truly appreciated and that he was willing to spend some time to achieve that goal.

So perhaps this small-world story seems rather pedestrian to anyone but me.

But it still blows my mind.

A spa by any other name…


mole rat
the lowly mole-rat

Names are important. When you’re in the market for a product–any sort of product–the name is likely to influence your decision, whether you admit it or not. Would a Jaguar still be the epitome of luxury cars if it were a Mole-rat?

Some companies choose a perfectly good name, but circumstances can change a name’s ability to draw customers. Take, for instance, Isis Skin & Body. I’m sure when the marketing department suggested the name of the Egyptian beauty queen, everyone thought it was a great idea. Who could have predicted that the name ISIS would become synonymous with terror?

When I was a kid in the 70s, my mother was often on a diet. One of the many tools she used to try to lose weight was an appetite-suppressant candy that she ate with warm water. It was called Ayds. Then in the 80s, AIDS became a killer epidemic of vast proportions. Ayds the diet aid limped along for a few more years before its inevitable death.

And then there are those names that should never been chosen in the first place. From a recent Mental Floss post, I learned that in Ghana one can drink Pee Cola and a spicy gravy product called Shitto. (And English is Ghana’s national language, so it’s not something that got lost in the translation.) In the same article, you can read about Barf detergent and Fart bars.

Shakespeare (via Juliet) famously posited: a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But I counter with this: any food labeled “Shitto” is fighting an uphill battle.

A different kind of urban hike

This statue of an old-fashioned maiden was my only photo of the day.

Although this year’s project focuses on the paths of Berkeley, inspired by my January 2 purchase of the map so named, I also made a vow to walk more in general. And the opportunity arose on my first day of subbing.

Let me backtrack just a smidge. . . I left teaching 7 1/2 years ago. Okay, it would be more truthful to say that teaching left me, but that’s a whole long sob story I’d rather not relive for this post. Suffice it to say that I went from a stable 25-year career in elementary education to the glamorous offerings-aplenty world of publishing. Or maybe that was the little lie I told myself to get me up every morning.

I was incredibly lucky to land a job in publishing with nary an interview or related job experience. Since my wonderful husband hired me, I didn’t even have to update my resume. (My favorite line is that I can do what I want at work because I sleep with the boss.) Of course I have a B.A. in English Lit, which is exceedingly rare and a huge asset in the job market. (English majors not only have the distinction of being the best-read baristas, they are also prone to sarcasm.)

So, you may have heard: the publishing industry has been in decline since someone proclaimed that print was dead. And our property taxes here in Bezerkeley are among the highest anywhere. So . . .

To make up for the reduced income–and because my nemesis was no longer in charge of the lower school–I decided to see if the school where I used to teach needed subs. I filled out the paperwork, handed it in, and got called that evening to sub the next day for one of the 7th grade humanities teachers at the middle school campus.

Of course Wednesday is the day that I teach an after-school creative writing class for 3rd-5th graders at Madera Elementary in El Cerrito, so I explained that I could sub only if I was allowed to leave early in order to teach my class. It was fine.

The office staff person in charge of subs told me to wear my walking shoes because part of my day would be escorting my charges on their trip to visit their 4th grade buddies on the elementary campus, which is 1.6 miles by foot. The plan was for the 7th graders to walk over, eat lunch with their buddies, play with each other at recess, do an activity together, then walk back to their own campus in time for a 2:30 dismissal.

Except I needed to leave at 1:40 to drive to Madera, which is a mile and a half away from either campus. So I got up early, drove to the elementary campus, parked my car, and walked the 1.6 miles to the middle school campus to arrive there at 8:10, ready to get my class roster and sub plans for the day.

En route I saw one current elementary teacher walking the opposite direction  heading for work and one former middle school teacher who happens to live in the neighborhood out for her morning jog. I got lost, very briefly, when I unnecessarily climbed a steep block that led to a dead-end. Since I wanted to make up time for my wrong turn, I stopped only once to take a picture.

My first day of subbing was wonderful. In the morning the kids worked on making books out of their collections of vignettes–choosing their about-the-author photos, formatting the various pieces, printing out their pages, and gluing them together. They were kind, helpful, self-directed, polite, and respectful. Who knew that 7th graders were so great?

Then at 11:35 on an unusually warm, sunny February day, all the 7th graders and their teachers trekked over to other campus, bravely sweating up that last big hill. It was pizza day, so they happily ate outside with their 4th grade buddies and spent recess together. Afterward the 7th graders gave handmade cards to their buddies and helped them make special valentines that light up. I loved watching the older children patiently teaching younger ones and having fun.

I slipped out and drove to Madera to teach my regular class and was pretty tired by the time I got home that afternoon.

It was quite a productive day all around: between the two jobs, I earned $200 and took 12,668 steps!