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?
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…