I was sure, inside my aging body, there was a 21-year-old trying to get out. This weekend I realized it is actually a much older young person in there and it can’t handle getting out all that often.
I left town for the second time this summer, which is some kind of record for me. A girlfriend and I decided to fly up to San Francisco for the Berkeley wedding of a friend’s son. It was a fabulous combo of the best of the Bay Area and yes, their BART system is nearly perfect and amazing for getting around.
BART was clean, frequent, seemed safe, uncrowded and easy to figure out. I am reasonably fond of Boston’s T, but it could take a serious lesson from BART. And, wow, the San Francisco airport is spotless and gorgeous.
We split a taxi from SFO to the heart of Berkeley only because we had not ridden the BART before and were unsure where it would spit us out in relation to our hotel. Once there, we hoofed everywhere and jumped on the BART just blocks from where we stayed, for a seamless trip into San Francisco and later, right to the airport. Glorious! I want one down here and I want it now.
We had time to see much of downtown Berkeley that will always be an odd mix of old money, rich history, academia and indelible remnants of the hippie movement. There are grand old hotels, now sort of shabby chic like our Bay City Club (built by the same female architect who built Hearst Castle). There is also a tide of homeless folks and the regular scent of marijuana as you stroll the main streets.
You have to rather hunt for a burger but can always find raw vegetables, and there are streams of bright, young, international students hustling hither and thither. The campus is legendary and impressive.
For those who know or care, I scrupulously avoided Starbucks and got my coffee at local organic cafés or at Peet’s.
We also “did the city” and it remains a captivating place, so steeped in California’s true history. It is just a beautiful, tolerant, incredibly clever and eclectic place. Even the graffiti is funny and artfully done. I saw written in the cement, “Nothing’s wrong!” and on store sides, intricate art work. One memorable moment was hearing gunshots not far from our hotel one night. You know it’s “da big city” then.
I saw the waterfront, Ghirardelli Square, North Beach, Castro District, Golden Gate Park and bridge (which still and always takes my breath away), Nob Hill, Union Square, the Presidio and rode a trolley car. I didn’t do it all on foot, but after one or two hills, it rather felt like I had.
The wedding was under an enormous, ancient oak tree near the Cal Faculty Club and the sun shone obediently. We joined a host of happy, proud parents, friends and relatives on hand to launch the kids I had watched grow up.
I also learned, courtesy of my friend who is the master of carry-on, that I actually can pack light. I was stunned and delighted that I can simplify travel henceforth.
Now if I can get the knots out of my legs, and get a small nap, I am ready to slide into a comfy, predictable rut for a good, long while. I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco, but it thoroughly enjoyed its visit.
Filed Under: Small Talk