A make-it-up-as-I-go-along survival guide to the Trump era
I used to call myself a writer.
Not that I made a living from it, but I have spent a significant portion of time in various writing pursuits over the last eight years, at least enough to justify my business card, I think.
I still make grocery lists–does that count?
I didn’t post anything on my blog for a whole month. I did have a fully composed piece ready to send out; but for some reason, I hadn’t published it. So, it was late, but luckily, it wasn’t one of those pieces that is time sensitive. Not like news.
Ah, news. In the last few months, I’ve desperately subscribed to more news sources to try to keep on top of what’s happening to our country. I want to be informed. It strikes me as masochistic, but I crave news more than ever, now that the news is nearly always bad and I feel as if we’re losing ground on a daily basis. One only has to hop onto Facebook or turn on the TV to glimpse basic liberties crumbling beneath our feet.
So despite the increase in reading about current events, I had not heretofore felt compelled to write about them. In fact, I rarely thought about blogging at all, depressed as I was about impending fascism. Like many other like-minded people since the recent presidential election, I’ve felt distraught, overwhelmed, and rather joyless at our immediate prospects in the good old U.S. of A.
But I’ve decided that wallowing in self-pity would mean that they win–they being the cabinet from hell, the Republican wusses who are too cowardly to rein in their party leader, the evil Steve Bannon, and of course, the Cheetoh-in-chief himself.
Last year my goal was to walk all the paths of Berkeley, and I had thought, once upon a time, that I might branch out to Oakland, Albany, and El Cerrito this year on a similar quest. But in January, when I was considering my annual resolution, I didn’t have the heart or energy to embark on such an expedition. I put off setting any goals and kept myself otherwise occupied.
Now I see what I must do to stay sane. Instead of throwing my hands up when I read about immigration bans, I can do a little research and write to my congressperson. Rather than ranting to the dog about how fascism starts with gagging the media, I will write my thoughts on Facebook to provoke conversation. As a more productive alternative to curling into a fetal position over our doomed education system with Betsy DeVos at the head, I can write a short play condemning 45’s cabinet picks. I might as well use my anger to fuel my writing. It’s more productive than sitting behind my desk and seething, right?
I recently happened upon a Robert Frost quote that struck me as a propos at this point in history:
“The best way out is always through.”
Rather than fleeing to Canada or staying in bed until this administration passes, I plan to make it through this presidency. And since I’m non-violent, I will go through it not with fists flying but with fingers flying over my keyboard.
Now I have a new path to follow. Won’t you join me?
I did it. I walked all of Berkeley’s paths in a little over a year.
The final leg of my journey was Claremont Path (#130), which is a shortcut between the end of Hillcrest Road and El Camino Real. This path was the one that was furthest from my house and was the shortest as well, basically the length of one house. It has seven steps accompanied by a railing, then smooths out to become an even sidewalk bordered by manicured bushes, a few agapanthus, and a clean white wooden fence. Walking both directions–at a leisurely pace and even stopping to take a few photos–took me about four minutes in all.
The sign that proclaims that Hillcrest Road has ended seemed like a fitting photo for my last post as a Berkeley path wanderer. A festive vestige from December made for a lovely halo.
And now for a rundown of the numbers: Although the paths’ numbers range from 1 to 140, there aren’t actually that many paths. On the official list on the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association website, 25 are listed but labeled as “unbuilt,” such as Keeler Walk (#32), which is supposed to go from Grizzly Peak Blvd. to Creston Road, but it isn’t yet open. Interestingly enough, Rose Glen Alley is one such path, but it’s mostly built; you just can’t reach the very end.
But oddly, a few numbers just don’t show up at all. For instance, listed just below Rock Walk (#33) is Vistamont Trail (#35). There’s no mention of Path #34 at all. Nor is there any evidence of paths numbered 49, 69, 113, 124, 137, 138, or 139. But there are two paths that claim the number 134: Encina Walk and Park Path.
So subtracting out the unbuilt ones and the non-existent ones, and then adding back in the extra #134, plus the mostly built Rose Glen Alley, my calculations tell me that Berkeley is home to only 108.75 numbered paths, not 140.
The 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, Berkeleysidedid 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.
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!
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.
It 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.
I 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.
On 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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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…
It’s 2017, and I guess I have the New Year blues. I have a lingering cough and low energy, and I’m not that excited about the future right now, despite my resolve back in December to use the disastrous presidential election as a motivating force to actively engage rather than fall into a passive blob of despair. Instead of feeling angry and ready to be a force for change, I want to crawl back into bed and play mindless computer games on my phone.
I feel even small burdens as heavy, and I have much to do. Yes, I’ve had some time off from my two jobs at school, which has been nice. But I’ve spent part of it catching up on my third job, part of it preparing for the big office-to-bedroom move, and the rest of it being sick.
No, that’s not entirely true; I had some wonderful periods in this two-week stretch as well. Opening stockings and eating crepes with my husband and daughter on Christmas morning was perfect. Having a lengthy long-distance conversation with my sister, Cherri, that same afternoon was wonderful. Spending Christmas evening with Dave’s sister, Caroline, and her family, playing games and drinking egg nog—that was nice. We had fun with friends on New Year’s Eve and the following night as well. And, of course, we have a foster puppy in the house that never allows us to get too down or serious, even though she’s not yet house-trained, which detracts from her cuteness only slightly.
But I’m tired. And there’s so much I’m supposed to get done now. I need to go grocery shopping, do the laundry, figure out which parents owe money to the extended care program that I direct, and plan a nice birthday dinner for my only child, who is turning 24 tomorrow.
Tomorrow I go back to subbing in 5th grade in the morning and directing the after-school program in the afternoon, while still needing to make progress on the copy-editing job I’ve taken on that’s due in two weeks.
And as silly as it may sound, I think what weighs heaviest on me at this moment is the fact that I did not succeed in my goal of walking all the paths of Berkeley in 2016. I have four to go and 2016 is over. Since I didn’t make my goal in time anyway, do I wait until I feel better? Or do I take advantage of the break in rain to go out and do it despite the multitude of projects still pending? And when will I make it to Pegasus’s annual calendar sale? That’s a tradition that I don’t want to ignore; it always refreshes me, gets me to create new goals, urges me to organize and plan in ways that only a new calendar can do.
I hate to approach 2017 with a whimper rather than a bang. I think going back to school will help. There’s no time there to feel sorry for myself, and being around kids forces me to be in the present. Besides, I got a Fitbit for Christmas, so I have to stay physically active, right?
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.
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 the 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.
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!
Oak Ridge Road is the site of some stately mansions, at least one of which still bears the fallen hopes of the recent presidential election.
From there I took Park Path (#134), which is two short staircases interrupted by a gentle footpath that cuts through ferns, flowers, and trees. At the top of the second staircase, as I neared El Camino Real, my foot kicked a round, polished rock that was unlike any others around it. The shiny gray orb bounced all the way down the steps and out into the street. I tracked it down and placed it on a fence in case it was something that escaped a child’s collection. I thought of the rock tumbler that I had as a kid, from the days of Spirograph and Silly Putty. It was magical once you had the polished rock, but it required a lot of patience for a ten-year old.
The sidewalks on El Camino Real were extremely tall on one side, probably 20 inches, definitely a hindrance to passengers wanting to exit cars and probably the cause of many scrapes and dents on car doors. On the other side of the street in a driveway was what I can only imagine is a huge concrete Granny Smith apple.
At the top of The Cutoff (#131) I met an adorable border collie mix named Riley, who was on a walk with his human. When I tried to take a picture of him on the path, he disappeared into the bushes. Camera shy? No, more likely there was a fascinating smell he needed to experience.
The Cutoff consists of two concrete staircases with railings on either end of an asphalt walkway that has a gradual decline. Along the way I saw a beautiful gate made of metal leaves.
Between Parkside Drive and The Uplands is a long skinny park, or, perhaps, a glorified median that continues all the way to Encina Place where it intersects with Hillcrest. A wide dirt path bordered by thick ivy allows one to walk between the two streets, and there are two staircases where one can cross. Riley and his companion continued on the dirt path while I veered off to take Crossways (#127) which is a straight longish climb that allows one to go directly to Hillcrest Road without meandering around the curvy streets.
The first part of the path cuts between houses and involves some climbing. The second part is flatter and gorgeous with its perfectly placed trees on either side creating a canopy and providing a colorful walkway.
After a slight jog on Hillcrest Road, I found the entrance to South Crossways (#128). This path begins at its top end as a concrete staircase with iron railings on either side but turns into a sidewalk that curves around to a street that appears to be Chabolyn Terrace in one direction and Chabot Crest in the other, both in Oakland just south of Berkeley’s border. I made the trek down and immediately came back up. Otherwise, it would have taken me far out of my way, literally into Oakland and back through a maze of curvy roads. But I’m very glad I reached the bottom of the trail because I got a shot of a stunning birch tree against the clear blue sky.
One house along this path has the distinction of having two addresses: 19 Roslyn Court and 99 South Crossways, neither of which is a street, as far as I could tell. Multiple signs adorned the edge of the property clarifying where mail and deliveries should be left, so I have to assume that there’s been some confusion around the various entrances. But it looked like a lovely place to live.