Science marches on!

The three of us–Dave (my husband), our friend Peggy, and I–headed to Justin Herman Plaza via BART and arrived just as the speeches were starting. I don’t know how many people were there, but it felt pretty full. We looked in vain for the rest of our group, Indivisible Berkeley, but settled on a spot on the steps where we could sit. We figured we could join up with them later.

There were scientists, teachers, engineers, and just a lot of people who appreciate science cheering on the speakers. It’s crazy that in this day and age we have to march to show our support of science, but it was encouraging to see that plenty of folks still value it in the Bay Area.

And the Clif Bars company had people handing out free Clif Bars to everyone. Thank you, Clif Bars!

As the speeches were ending, Peggy, Dave, and I moved to the back of the plaza where we found our group with the Indivisible Berkeley banner unfurled and ready to go. About a dozen of us positioned ourselves behind or alongside the banner ready to march. And we waited. Because we were at the back, it took quite a while before we actually got to move, but we had fun taking selfies and pointing out all the great signs.

In fact, I think the signs were my favorite part of the march. So much creativity, thought, and humor went into them, and many were handmade and unique. Several used scientific language and symbols to bring home their points.

I loved one that read “You know it’s important when even introverts march.” A girl of about five years had a sandwich board-style sign on her front that read “Be part of the solution” and one on her back that read “Don’t just be a precipitate.” But I hadn’t seen the one in front and couldn’t actually remember what a precipitate was, so I was puzzled until Dave explained it to me.

I saw a sign that was just a cut-out of the Lorax, one that featured two stranded penguins, a few that read “I’m with her” and pointed to Earth, and lots that just pointed out the ways that science is a good thing. I liked the simplicity of the one that said “Hug a science teacher,” held presumably by a science teacher.

Some people, like me, were there as part of a group and proudly held banners or wore matching t-shirts. Others came with friends and/or family. A group of elementary-school children chanted jubilantly WE LOVE SCIENCE!


There were atheists and religious people there with different views of god but who marched together for science.

The dynamic duo–Bill Nye & Neil deGrasse Tyson!



Of course, as at any protest, a few people used the opportunity to spout their particular beliefs. Hence the sign held by a guy sitting on the side of the march route that claimed “9/11 was an inside job.” To which my husband, Dave, replied, “Well, the planning probably did take place indoors…”




But most of the signs were on point and even spelled correctly. And everyone was in a pretty good mood, despite looming climate change and the impending decimation of the EPA.

I saw one person in a polar bear suit and another in a brown bear suit. Luckily it was a cloudy day, and the temperature stayed in the low 60s. Otherwise, those would have been some hot bears…

Alongside the marching route was a trio portraying some of Trump’s cabinet picks, some people selling homemade baked goods to hungry marchers, and some people who preferred to watch as the parade went by rather than march in it.

We landed at the Civic Center where there were tents set up and a Brazilian dance group was just starting to perform. But we were tired, and we’d done what we’d come to do. So we found the closest BART station and headed home.

It’s tiring having to march for something that should just be a given. But if it makes any difference at all, it was worth it.



Go see Summer in Sanctuary. NOW!

Al Letson is the Peabody Award-winning host of the insightful radio show and podcast Reveal, but his show, “Summer in Sanctuary,” is not investigative journalism. Currently at the Marsh in Berkeley, Letson’s one-man show is an autobiographical account of his summer teaching creative writing to at-risk teens.

He takes us on his journey, one he began somewhat reluctantly but in the end was life changing. It could not strictly be referred to as a monologue because although he was the only one on stage, he embodied several people in addition to himself. He begins his show with a short video to introduce some of the kids he will be talking about, but he doesn’t really need to because he does a fine job playing each one distinctively, sometimes even when they’re all talking in quick succession.

The language Letson uses is often poetic, and he repeats lines to emphasize, clarify, and bring home certain points but never in a gimmicky or overdone manner.

Humor is mixed in with heartbreak, and he expresses both with raw honesty.  I admit that I did not remain dry-eyed, and neither did Letson. But his tears were not those of an actor eliciting an emotional response from his audience; they erupted naturally from the memories he was sharing with us.

This was not a passive sit-back-and-enjoy-the-show kind of theater experience–I was engaged from the beginning and hung on each of his words until it ended with a well-deserved standing ovation. I highly recommend this show.

A different kind of urban hike


img_2698The night before the march we got out the poster board and broad-tipped Sharpies in five different colors. I spent way too much time looking for catchy phrases to put on my sign. We’d heard that in New York no rulers–or anything that could be used as a weapon–were allowed to hold signs. So I punched tiny holes in mine, inserted string, and planned on wearing mine sandwich-board style. In the time it took me to make one sign, Dave had made six–enough to make three two-sided signs so that he’d have some to give away to people who didn’t have any. Dave’s two-sided ones were “Ally/No Bully,” “Resist/Fight,” and “Free Melania/No Country for Old, White Men.” Mine was “No Hate. No Fear. Everyone Is Welcome Here.”


The day began with scattered showers, so we wore our raincoats and put clear packing tape on our protest signs to protect them from the rain. I’d looked online for what to pack for a protest march, but it wasn’t actually that helpful. I already wear sunscreen every day, and I generally carry a water bottle. I honestly didn’t expect to get pepper-sprayed, so the suggestion for vinyl gloves (so you won’t spread the pepper spray via your hands) didn’t seem relevant to me. And writing your emergency contact number on your arm in Sharpie (because they take your phone away from you in the slammer) seemed like overkill. Besides, I know Dave’s number, and if I got carted off to the hoosegow, he probably would be too.

I packed some Band-aids, a portable container of hand sanitizer, an ear-warmer, and a kazoo. Dave was really smart and brought cashews. We picked up our friends at their house and headed for the North Berkeley BART station. By the time we were halfway there (near Monterey Market), we were already seeing people walking with their signs toward the station. So we parked and walked the last half-mile to the station. It was early in the day, and we had energy to spare, so why not?

We saw the lines around the BART station from the moment we turned the corner onto Virginia Street around 10:20 a.m. I wish I’d thought to take a picture, but I was focused on getting to the march. Luckily, Berkeleyside did it for me. The pic below was taken just a few minutes before we arrived there. We were so glad that we had clipper cards and got to bypass the lines buying tickets. Apparently there were still lines to board BART an hour later.

north berkeley bart 1.21.17
North Berkeley BART station @10:05 a.m. Photo courtesy of Daniel Cardozo

Once inside, the atmosphere was festive–people reading each other’s posters and discovering friends among the crowds on the stairs and platforms. I heard my name called from above the escalator and turned to see a friend who’d moved to Connecticut years ago!

photo courtesy of Berkeleyside

Unbelievably we snatched some seats in the last car of a train that was heading toward San Francisco but stopping at Oakland’s 12th Street station. Many people had stayed on the platform to wait for a train that would head further east and drop them off at the Lake Merritt station, which was closer to the beginning of the march route. But it turns out that the train that followed us couldn’t even stop at its scheduled drop-off point because of overcrowding at the station; so I guess we were lucky we’d gotten on the car we were on. With each stop, protesters piled in until we were surely beyond any capacity that train had ever seen. But everyone was kind and cheerful.

We emerged from the 12th Street station and set out to join the march already in progress. Streets were closed to traffic to allow the hoards of protesters to march down the middle of Oak Street up to Grand Avenue and along Lake Merritt. The march’s destination point was Oscar Grant Plaza (officially Frank Ogawa Plaza), where a rally would feature speakers, music, and other performers at 12:30.

img_2685It was really less a march and more a shuffle as thousands of people came together as one to take to the streets and express our deep disappointment in the presidential election’s outcome. But rather than spouting rage, we were espousing peace in a hundred different ways. The variety of signage was a testament to our boundless creativity and was evidence of our various passions. There were humorous ones (e.g., We Shall Overcomb), and the ones children carried (e.g., Be Nice), were the sweetest. Some used Trump’s own words against him (This Pussy Grabs Back!), and some relied on wordplay (Truck Fump). Some stated what should be obvious but isn’t (Women’s Rights Are Human Rights), and more than a few depicted ovaries and vaginas. I personally liked the alliteration in Viva la Vulva! As an editor, I also appreciated that 99 percent of the ones I saw were spelled correctly. And as Dave pointed out, maybe “facism” is a thing.

img_2691I was impressed by the range of people represented–women and men; infants to senior citizens; humans of every ethnicity and religion; folks in wheelchairs; some with canine companions; some with musical instruments; and lots with pink pussy hats. We were chanting, laughing, even dancing. We were all in such a good mood, so happy to be surrounded with like-minded people who might not have identical political views but who all agreed on one thing: we were mortified that Donald Trump was our newly elected president. For some, it was their first march; for others, it was the latest of many.


There were those who staked out a spots along the route and watched the parade go by rather than become part of the swarm, but we all waved to each other. Several people lined up along the Oakland Museum, and many cheered us on from the second and third stories of their apartment buildings along Oak Street. We passed the courthouse, the library, the Scottish Rite Temple, and hugged the north shore of Lake Merritt. As some marchers split off down other streets to take shortcuts to the rally, the crowds thinned enough that we were able to pick up the pace a bit.

Around 1:30, when we turned from Grand Avenue onto Broadway, I was ravenous, so we stopped at The Old Brooklyn Cafe and Bakery for sustenance. The little corner shop was filled with other similarly hungry protesters, and we all made room for each other. Dave and I got two of the last three bagels and gobbled them as we rested briefly.

img_2693On our way out of the bakery, we ran into friends who were coming from the rally. Was it over already? It was supposed to go until 3:00. They said they enjoyed the music and the dancers, but they couldn’t really hear the speeches from  where they stood. So they decided it was time to grab a late lunch and march back home.

It was 2:00, and we were four blocks away from our destination. We could definitely still make it before it was over. But if we weren’t going to be able to hear the speakers, did we still want to go? Of course, if getting to Oscar Grant Plaza was really our goal, we could have walked the one block from the 12th street station and arrived there long before the rally began. Dave’s back ached and my feet hurt from all the standing on pavement. What can I say? We’re getting old.

No, being part of the march was our true aim. We were among the thousands in Oakland and over a million nation-wide that marched on Saturday. I didn’t know it at the time, but people marched all over the globe in solidarity. We are part of a movement that is going to fight back. We didn’t need to stand at the rally to prove that.


We passed the Paramount Theatre and entered the 19th Street station, where many marchers had propped up their signs in a row as a visual record that they had been there. We waited on the platform  with dozens of others who were done protesting for the day. When the train’s door slid open, and nobody in the packed car seemed to be exiting, I asked if anyone was getting off. A voice behind me urged me to get on, so I started to step inside the car. Just then a man emerged from the crowd and pushed me angrily back onto the platform. I wish I could say I channeled Gandhi and practiced passive resistance.


But I pushed back. And I may have said a bad word. Luckily, it ended with him grumbling under his breath that I was there for a stupid reason as he brushed past me and went on his way, apparently to accomplish something more important than defending women’s rights. In my head I had a few more choice words for him, but I ignored them and made my way onto the train to take us back to Berkeley, a little shaken and steamed but too tired to care about one dissenter in such a positive group.

Once on the train, a dad discovered that his toddler had lost a shoe and nicely asked if we could all look on the floor around us. Packed too tight for people to bend over, I assumed the shoe was gone-daddy-gone. But seconds later, an arm shot up holding a tiny sneaker, and everyone around us cheered. We were a team, a force to be reckoned with, a finder of shoes, and advocates for justice. We were a part of history, dammit!

If Saturday’s protest was any indication of the passion, resolve, and cooperation we are capable of, we have a good chance of making our voices heard.

It sure feels better than doing nothing.

So. Close.


At the bottom of Willow Walk was a tiny pair of shoes.
bottom section of Willow Walk











img_2632I began on Alvarado Road and walked halfway up Willow Walk (135), which indeed featured a willow tree, as well as clover, ivy, and the bright green leaves of bulbs that promised flowers soon. It was quite a pleasant stroll that included some flat ground and a lovely set of stone steps surrounded by all sorts of greenery and even a few redwood trees.

a tree house along Sunset Trail





I broke off from Willow Walk when I hit Sunset Trail (136), which I took to the end, crossing the Berkeley-Oakland border. (That makes it sound long, but the path itself is less than a quarter-mile.) Many of the houses on the west, or downhill, side of Sunset Trail have porches or little tree houses at the top of long staircases that allow their residents to access the highest point of their properties, presumably to get the best view. Houses on the east, or uphill, side had a variety of gates and steps that led from the path up to them, some elaborate and expensive, and some simple and utilitarian.

top half of Eucalyptus Path

Sunset Trail ends right in the middle of Oakland’s Eucalyptus Path, which actually does have eucalyptus trees, but isn’t numbered because it’s not one of the Berkeley paths.

From there I had a steep climb up Eucalyptus to get to–surprise–Alvarado Road again. Alvarado is one of those twisty-turvy roads that begins in the only patch of Berkeley that’s actually south of Oakland. Then it heads north into Oakland, makes a sharp turn and crosses back into Berkeley, meanders to the south and east a bit until it turns around and heads north, re-crossing the border to return to Oakland.


I only traveled the eastern half of Eucalyptus Path, but one day I shall return to walk the western half, as well as Evergreen Path and Short Cut, both of which are close by. At the top of Eucalyptus Path on Alvarado Road is a row of mailboxes for houses whose address is Sunset Trail.

top half of Willow Walk



After walking down Alvarado Road a bit, I found the top half of Willow Walk and proceeded down to the bottom, passing Sunset Trail and continuing descending until I arrived back to the section of Alvarado Road where I’d parked. It was truly a case of all paths lead to Alvarado Road.

Don’t try any funny stuff on Oak Ridge Road. They’re watching you.



I crossed Tunnel Road (or is it still Ashby at that point?) so I could mount the Oakridge Steps (133), which begin on El Camino Real and end on Oak Ridge Road. Which I did. And because I had limited time, I came right back down.

For those of you who are wondering about the sequence of paths, I’d already trekked Park Path (134), which is why I didn’t walk it between Oakridge Steps (133) and Willow Walk (135).

a bit of greenery along Oakridge Steps

I drove to what should have been the last one on my list–one I’d skipped earlier–Claremont Path (130), but  El Camino Real was narrow with little street parking, and I couldn’t find it by driving. I will just have to go back some time and find it by foot.

So, I have only one more path to wander in order to fulfill my 2016 goal. It’s odd, but I almost feel like I can’t make any goals for 2017 until I’ve walked that last path. So I’m postponing any resolutions I may have for at least another week. Maybe longer, if it continues to rain…

Falling ill will not foil my plan

building on edge of Clark Kerr campus
Looking up Tanglewood Path


I awoke on Christmas morning with a cold and a urinary tract infection, which not only dampened the holiday a bit but also threatened my path-wandering progress.

But yesterday I was feeling better, so I ventured out to tackle Tanglewood Path (#129), which is on the southern edge of UC’s Clark Kerr campus. I parked on Belrose Avenue and crossed Derby Street to Tanglewood Road, where the western entrance is clearly marked.

Some flowers along the path

I went up the short staircase and began ascending the long straight walkway, where I passed a jogger and someone who looked like a student. To one side was a tall wooden fence with a fair amount of graffiti. To the other was a row of trees with long, narrow, smooth-edged leaves and bumpy, brown trunks hiding a chain link fence.

The end of the path becomes steep but has no steps or railing. I took it slow, not wanting to jeopardize my recovery, but I still found myself a bit winded.


At the top, the path’s north side ends at the entrance to Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, which I didn’t even know existed. It looked tempting, and it was a beautiful day, so I walked beyond Tanglewood Path onto the flatter terrain just for a bit.


I saw a hound and a human companion entering the park itself, but I skirted the edge, which was more of a border between Clark Kerr Campus and the park. I stopped before passing through a gate that not only looked permanently open but also was not attached to any fence. Despite my sparse knowledge of botany, I was able to identify a row of eucalyptus. Or would that be eucalypti?

Off to timg_2601he side in a clump of young trees were two towels draped over branches. It wasn’t near any body of water that would suggest a swimming expedition, so I think it may have been a temporary shelter for someone who had no home.

Just south of the unmarked eastern entrance to Tanglewood Path lies quiet residential Stonewall Road, where one sign warned people not to leave valuables in parked cars and another let you know you were being watched.img_2608

Returning to my car, I passed another sign. This one seemed rather silly to me, so I ignored it.  No, I didn’t ignore it–I defied it. I twirled on my toes flagrantly before resuming my walk and suffered no consequences whatsoever. So there!

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.


No signs and steps going every which way

Cedar Path

The map showed Cedar Path (#107) as the pedestrian extension of Cedar Street continuing east, but there was no sign declaring it as such, and I didn’t see it at first. I asked a man raking up leaves across the street, and luckily he knew where it was. The overgrown and seemingly haphazardly placed wooden railroad ties meander up the hill from La Loma Avenue to La Vereda Road, bordered by a fenced-off property with a narrower brick path that runs parallel to it for much of the climb.




Partway up I had to duck to avoid a huge tree branch that’s broken through the wooden fencing and insinuated itself across the path.

No sign graced the eastern entrance of Cedar Path either.

Distinctive houses caught my eye along La Vereda Road, including one almost completely covered by ivy and another for its clean, white ultra-modern lines.

I see only windows peeking through the greenery. I have no idea what color this house is painted.

img_2389Someone had thoughtfully provided a bench at the quiet intersection where Hilgard continued east from La Vereda. I wasn’t tired and so wasn’t in need of a resting spot. But I appreciated that it was there just in case.

Hilgard Avenue disappears between La Loma and La Vereda and is marked on the Berkeley Path Wanderers map as unbuilt Hilgard Path (#108). I walked a short way down what turned out to be a driveway to see if I could tell where the future path would be. No luck. So I crossed it off my list.


A little further down the road forked and a sign declared: “Very small cars only. Impassable for large cars.” To the left was a wooden bridge that led to some La Vereda addresses, and to the right was indeed a narrow street on which only limited traffic was possible.

And kind of in the middle of all that were the various sets of stairways that together comprise La Vereda Steps (#109), though no signage confirmed this. They went in all directions, from parts of La Vereda to other parts.

one portion of La Vereda Steps

I explored the many variations of routes and then walked down to the intersection of La Loma and Virginia Street, where I emerged and declared to a postal carrier I happened upon what a weird configuration of stairs I’d just experienced. He said he knew they were there but he’d never been up them.

Just south of La Vereda Steps are unbuilt paths Le Conte (#110) and Highland (#111), so I struck those from my list as well.

When I got home, I realized I’d accidentally skipped Hill Court Steps (#106), so I’ll have to save that path for another day.

I saw many of these on the ground during my walk and was charmed by them. They’re commonly called rose pine cones even though they’re from a cedar tree.