I have some advice for my readers today that I wish someone had given me.
If you’re going to mop with a bucket, make sure the bucket is big enough for the mop to go in and out without getting stuck in it and knocking the whole bucket of soapy water onto your living room floor.
If you’re going to hold onto those vinyl LPs from days of yore, store them somewhere besides under the bookshelves on your living room floor.
If you have dozens of photo albums that have been lovingly curated over the last 35 years, don’t keep them on the floor either. And since we’re on the subject, velvet photo album covers are just not practical.
And all those art books that are too big to fit on the bookshelf? The floor beneath it is not a good place for those either.
I guess the lesson here is not to store anything of value on the floor. But storage is scarce around here. So, maybe the lesson should be to either get a bigger mop bucket or a mop with a smaller head.
The next path on my list, if I were to go in strict order, is #29, but it’s along the Ohlone Greenway in another part of town, so I made the executive decision to do it separately on a day when I could do a big chunk of the Greenway.
My map of Berkeley and its pathways marks a part of Halkin Walk (#30) as “impassable or planned.” I couldn’t find anything that looked like it used to be a path, so I’m going to assume that it’s one of those future paths.
It was tricky finding the part of Halkin Walk (#31) that is actually built because it’s not marked at its lower end on Euclid Avenue. So I walked around quite a bit before figuring out that the steps I saw weren’t a private entrance to someone’s house. The earlier section of this path had more switchbacks than any mountainous trail I’d hiked, and in a much narrower space, producing a high number of backs and forths.
The path eventually straightens out to a continuous climb on what appear to be shortened railroad ties. Near the top, it’s not quite as steep, and a few short stretches don’t have any steps at all. It ends up on Hilldale Avenue, where the sign confirmed that I had indeed been on the right path.
From there I went in search of Keeler Walk (#32), another one on the map that is marked by hash marks indicating that it’s either impassable or just isn’t there. I thought maybe I could tell where it’s going to be (or used to be?), but my exhaustive search failed. However, on Keeler Avenue, I saw the orangest house on the planet. And I have to say, it’s even more startling in person.
Unable to conquer Keeler Walk, I descended the same path I’d taken up, which makes the Halkin Walk one of the few that I’ve traveled in both directions. (As you might guess, it was easier going down.)
During my original search for the elusive entrance, I was walking on the west side of Euclid and suddenly felt sun on my face. I turned to find an empty double lot among ultra-prime real estate that didn’t look like it had ever been developed, judging from the plant life. It’s possible that one of (or both of) the homes on either side owned the property, I suppose. Whatever the reason was, it was a welcome respite to the closed-in feeling produced by so many houses packed in together. While I stood facing San Francisco and the bay, a father with a tot in a forward-facing baby carrier stopped to enjoy the expansive view as well. I want to thank whoever it was that made that westward window possible.
Okay, I wasn’t deathly ill, but I was stuck in bed from Monday afternoon until Sunday morning. Symptoms? Achy, coughing, weak, and just generally feeling like shit. Today I actually wore something other than pajamas for the first time in almost a week, and it feels really good.
I missed many days of copyediting, a friend’s reading, a chance to sub and make some money, my hip-hop class, and a friend’s birthday bash. But I saw all ten episodes of the TV series American Crime in two days, and all available episodes of You, Me, and the Apocalypse. My original plan was to finally watch Season 3 of The Wire, which everyone else saw, like a dozen years ago, but for some reason HBO/Go wasn’t cooperating. I also played a ridiculous number of games on my phone, including one that I’m inexplicably addicted to called Trouble Brewing. I am now able to virtually brew 42 coffee drinks of varying stripes in two minutes. Don’t ask me what this skill is preparing me for. I suppose it’s more practical than Angry Birds…
Anyway, I am so happy that I’m now well enough to go out into the world. I celebrated by going to Safeway for groceries. I swear the checkers looked older than when I saw them last.
Since it wasn’t a stomach bug, I probably gained five pounds because (1) my activity level was non-existent, and (2) I ate three chicken pot pies, one of which was Marie Callender’s. I actually looked it up, and it’s 16 points in the Weight Watchers universe. For those of you who are familiar with these points, be forewarned. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, be thankful.
The one productive thing I was able to do with a low-grade fever was write my 10-minute play submission for March, which feels more like fun to me. If it gets selected for production, I may have a new working model for my writing time.
I returned to old territory today, but this time I made sure my phone (i.e., camera) was fully charged. I parked on Spruce Street and walked a loop that covered Alta Vista (#26) and Poplar Paths. I was half afraid it might rain as was forecast, but I saw nary a drop.
I climbed the steep Poplar Path (#27) from Spruce up to Cragmont Avenue first. It’s not that long, but from the bottom, you can’t see very far up, so it feels longer than it initially looks. It’s lined with ivy and other forms of greenery along the fences, some of which are adorned with colorful creatures. And near the top were some huge banana leaves that were drooping so far over the path, they would have flapped against my face if I hadn’t ducked to avoid them.
At the top of Poplar Path, I turned left onto Cragmont and walked north to Halkin Lane, which took me back to Spruce. For a while I saw no one except a few folks walking their dogs. I suppose everyone else was staying inside out of the chilly wind. But then I spied a stalwart jogger and, later, a very fit bicyclist who appeared to be in his sixties. And I found lots of interesting photo opportunities, including a semi-hidden Buddha in a bird house.
Alta Vista Path was long and not as straight as most of the paths, with three distinct sections, each with its own flavor: The first had carefully planted flowers on one side and a railing on the other. The second part was lush with ivy on a chain link fence. And the bottom of the path featured bamboo on one side and was marked by some large cacti on the other.
The path ends on Santa Barbara Road, where I walked a scant block to Montrose. There I found a wooden fence with several intricate web-like cut-outs embedded in it, an etching in the sidewalk, and what looked like a bowling ball atop a post. All of this is so close to my home, but I wouldn’t have known any of it was there had I not decided to seek out these paths.
As I turned east to head back to my car, it looked like it might start pouring any minute. To avoid getting drenched and becoming one sad puppy, I skedaddled home.
Today I drove up to Cragmont Street and parked the car, knowing that I had only an hour for my walk. I figured I’d already seen all the places between my house and North Path (#26), so why cover old ground again?
The first thing I noticed was the variety of houses. Now I know nothing of architecture, but I could appreciate the different styles represented in the neighborhood even if I don’t know what they’re all called. There were a few modern white structures with lots of windows, mostly angular; a cute gingerbread-looking house; some Spanish mission-styled abodes; brown-shingled two-story homes hiding behind tall evergreens; houses under construction; and one brick house that looked like it might crumble in the next earthquake. And then there’s the style that I refer to as El Cerrito architecture, not because they’re on a little hill (the meaning of El Cerrito) but because I’ve seen a lot of similar flat-roofed houses in the nearby city of El Cerrito.
And of course, this being California, an abundance of flora was apparent, despite it still being February. Several flowering trees were shedding big pink petals on the lawns, sidewalks, and drought-resistant landscapes. One big pineapple palm spread gloriously in front of one home. And there was no shortage of succulents.
It seemed particularly quiet. Except for one intrepid jogger, an older woman walking her dog, and two young girls playing with huge appliance boxes in their front yard, I saw hardly anyone. The North Berkeley hills is prime real estate, so I spied more than one Mercedes, but there were certainly plenty of the typical Berkeley mix of Hondas, Toyotas, and other practical gas-conscious vehicles parked in front of almost every house.
Which made me wonder… All of these big houses have at least one-car garages, and most had enough room for two vehicles. Yet on a weekday at 4:00 p.m., the streets were full of parked cars, many on the sidewalk to varying degrees. I’m sure their drivers did this to make it easier for cars to navigate the narrow streets. But it definitely encroached on the walkable space, and anyone with a stroller or in a wheelchair would find it quite frustrating. What happens as 6:00 rolls around and many people return home from work? I considered then abandoned the idea that someone was throwing a party and that’s why the sidewalks were overtaken by cars. I have to assume that this was not unusual. Does this mean that residents had more than two cars? That they’d used all their garage space for storage? Or that behind those garage doors were makeshift rental units for grad students, providing the owners with supplemental income? Or perhaps everyone has turned their garages into Airbnbs?
I had snapped over a dozen photos before I even reached my destination—there was so much that interested me between the landscaping and the houses.
North Path’s lower end is on Cragmont, and it’s a pretty straight shot up to Euclid Avenue. The path itself was probably the narrowest I’ve encountered, which made me feel more like a trespasser, so close was I to these big fenced yards. Shortly after I reached the top, my phone (and thus my camera) lost juice. I told myself I would just have to commit to memory everything I’d seen and all my thoughts, insightful as they were bound to be.
But when I returned home I had to prepare for company, and by the time I was able to write, most of the memories had slipped away. So I’ll just have to go back! And next time I will charge my phone fully before I set out…