Posts tagged: Berkeley

I Want My Groove Back

By , May 21, 2005

I live in Berkeley, California, which is pretty much ground zero for liberal philosophy, socialist ideology, and progressive thought in general. Yet, I see so many Berkeley residents living lavish, decadent lives while putting up what seems like little more than a front of caring for the less fortunate. Perhaps they occasionally volunteer somewhere, or dash off a check to a charity now and then, but by and large they live selfishly. I remember the patrons (and managers) at Fizzy’s former workplace who saw nothing wrong with spending $100 on a thermos or $80 on a dustpan. In fact, they seemed to revel in doing so, almost as if they needed to flaunt their wealth and supposed good taste as some misguided way of publicly defining their self-worth. And all the while they espoused the politically correct, “goodwill to fellow man” rhetoric that every self-respecting Berkeley liberal knows by heart. It seemed to be no better than lip service, but no one ever called them out on it.

I don’t pretend for a moment that I am any better. Of course, I don’t have the income of the people I am chastising, but if I did, I wonder how I would behave. Knowing my frugal and bashful nature, I doubt I’d spend money on conspicuous consumption, but doesn’t mean I would rival Mother Teresa were I suddenly to strike it rich. As it stands now, I don’t do much more than the occasional good deed. I volunteered for a time at the San Francisco Food Bank, but that was years ago. Pretty much the extent of my charitable efforts and contributions is whatever money I give to beggars, which can’t amount to more than a few dollars per week on average. Even without a massive bank account, I know I could still do better. In short, I’m no better than the folks I chastise for hypocrisy.

What you ask, prompted me to consider all this stuff? Well, as it happens, the closest residential parking to my apartment is adjacent to the infamous tract of land known as People’s Park. Because of this, I have come to know quite a few of the homeless people who spend their time hanging out at the park. One in particular, Lisa, has taken quite a liking to me. I once bought her a hot dog at Top Dog, and ever since she chats with me. Usually it’s just idle chit chat, but she has asked me a few times now to bring her some fried chicken. Yesterday I was on my way home, and knew I’d be parking by the park, so I made a quick detour to Colonel Sanders’ and bought a 20-piece bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Sure enough, Lisa was at the park when I arrived.

I wasn’t prepared for the reaction. I knew they’d be happy to get it– who wouldn’t be happy? It’s fried chicken! but the outpouring of love and gratitude shocked me. Several people hugged me. I was just glad to feed them, but they seemed to see it as more than just that, which is was what set my mind to thinking on this topic.

I realized something yesterday. Happiness is not something I can find within myself. No amount of logic or rational thought is going to provide me with the key to personal satisfaction. Since youth I have been of the opinion that the key to my happiness is centered around finding my place in this universe, and understanding how I can make the lives of those around me better. It’s about interaction, not solitude. For most of my life, I’ve been able (by circumstance or effort I can’t say with certainty) to stay happy. I’ve seldom even thought about the matter– I’ve just been content with life, and felt I was on a path towards satisfaction and success. Lately, I don’t feel that way at all. Instead, I feel more than a little bit lost. I can’t seem to figure out what I’m supposed to do now, or next, and I don’t quite understand my role in life anymore. I think that is the key right there– when I again feel I have a purpose or goal for which to strive, I think I’ll fall back into my naturally happy rhythm.

I’ve been moping and soul-searching for a couple months now. Along the way I’ve improved myself. I’ve identified and corrected many personal character flaws heretofore unbeknownst to me, and I’m working on fixing others. I still have a long way to go; I’m far from “better,” but I’m doing my best to change that. This seems like the time for it– what better time to focus on self-enrichment and personal growth than while I feel sidelined by life? Hopefully before long I’ll get back into a nice groove, and be a better person than I was before. And hopefully I won’t post anymore rambling, introspective blogs like this! Apologies!

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Ten Years

By , September 11, 2004

I’ve been ruminating about my future lately. Most of the time, I feel as if I have a solid foundation underfoot, and my life is going in the direction I want to see it go, but once in awhile I catch myself wondering if somehow I should be doing more. It’s like there is this check list of the basics in life,

significant other
family
friends
career
financial stability
general fulfillment
and so on,

and I have a nice check next to each one, and it’s allowing me to sort of coast along a little bit. Is there some way I could be doing more? Could I be changing the world around me in positive way more than I already am, if I even am doing so at all? Is it enough to have nailed down all the fundamental aspects of life, or should I be striving to “take it to another level,” or however one would say it in the Attitudinal Beliefs patois?

I asked myself– where will I be ten years from now? Will I still live here in my college apartment? Will I be doing the same job? Will I be married? Will I be a father? Just what will I be doing come 2014? Or will the Mayans have risen from the dead and eaten us all by then, so it won’t even matter? I didn’t have a very precise answer to any of those questions.

Nothing else in this world seems to stay the same, so who is to say that the person I am right now won’t also be subject to that state of eternal flux that plagues everything else. Whatever is taken for granted today could be gone tomorrow, or I may lose the things I need later on; or they might not even be there in the first place. I have no idea what I am talking about anymore.

My life is great right now, but it could probably be even better. I hope ten years from now I can re-read this blog and say without a doubt that I bettered my life since authoring it.

Today’s Question: Ten years from now. You. Well?

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Just a Perfect Day

By , August 3, 2004

Currently Playing: Lou Reed – Perfect Day

Sunny day + Long Walk + Canopy of trees overhead = visible beams of sunshine

Neapolitan slice at Arinell’s Pizza

Working the N.Y. Times Crossword while eating (sipping?) an affogato at Gelateria Naia.

Paying the extra $1.50 for the cash-strapped couple in front of you in line at Gelateria.

Comic store!

Browsing the used record bins at Amoeba Records.

Playing the saxophone over the din of the Port of Oakland

Pickup game of basketball at the Berkeley RSF.

Dinner and a movie with Fizzy.

Today’s Question: So, like what’s YOUR perfect day?

Interesting tidbit– I met a fellow who was contemplating opening a gelato shop on Fourth St. in Berkeley. He told me the tale of why Mondo Gelato is now called Gelateria Naia. So Mondo Gelato had three shops– Beijing, Vancouver, and Berkeley. The management of the Berkeley store, in true Berkeley fashion, staged a coup and broke free from the parent company. They basically took over the store, closed it, and re-opened under the new name. They had to vary the recipe for each gelato, but otherwise kept things the same. And now it is Gelateria Naia. That is neat and disturbing, all at once.

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Bowling for Produce

By , July 7, 2004

My local market has an unusual name: The Berkeley Bowl. It is named such because the storefront it once occupied was previously a bowling alley that sported that moniker. Presumably to save on the cost of a new sign, the market kept the name. I guess the name didn’t deter folks, because it became so popular that a few years ago they moved to a new, larger location; they kept the name.

Today I was chatting with one-time maguffin, and now Real-Life-Speed-Scrabble-Pal, Yale, and she told me that Berkeley Bowl has the largest produce section on the West Coast. That did not surprise me, as I have always thought that their produce section alone is the size of an average Safeway/ Ralph’s/ Piggly Wiggly/ Alpha Beta store. When I find myself away from home, be it in some Podunk town or a major city like New York or Los Angeles, and I am cooking, I feel limited by the lack of freshness and variety in the ingredients available to me. I always ask the people I’m visiting to direct me to the best markets, and am always sorely disappointed.

I seemed to have more of a point to this when I started typing this entry. Oh, I remember– because they have such a vast amount of produce for sale, I, unlike said produce, am spoiled. They have just about every style and variety of fruit and vegetable known to man in there. I have sometimes encountered recipes that call for some very obscure and esoteric ingredients, and when it comes to fruits or vegetables I’ve always been able to find what I need at the Berkeley Bowl. You name it , they have it. Why, during my last visit there I counted nine different kinds of eggplant. Nine!

The best is when I bring some arcane vegetable to the checkout line and the clerk has to stop and look it up in the voluminous registrar of produce codes. I feel warm and fuzzy inside whenever I stump a clerk, especially if it is one of the old-timers that should know them all by now. I am weird.

Today’s Question: Is there a store or shop in your area that you could not live without?

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Any Independence Day Ideas?

By , June 28, 2004

Sue and I have no plans for the Fourth of July. Usually we visit my parents, but nothing is happening at the homestead this year. What are the rest of you doing? Does anyone have a recommendation for fun things we can do?

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Birthday Oh Four

By , May 20, 2004

The best part about having a birthday is that you can make people suffer. Wait, that came out wrong. What I mean to say is, when one’s birthday comes around, one can use that as leverage to make one’s friends engage in activities which they may otherwise not engage. Especially when the “one” in that sentence is me, that is a good thing. For my idea of fun seldom intersects my friends’ ideas of fun.

As my birthday is fast approaching, people have been asking me what I want, or what I want to do, and I have not been able to think of anything. A rousing game of capture the flag came to mind, but I don’t have enough friends in the area to facilitate such a game. Plus most of my friends aren’t as in shape as I am, and would balk at physical activity of that nature, so capture the flag was quickly dismissed. One can only convince one’s friends to suffer to a point, after all, and when the distinct possibility of myocardial infarction rears its ugly head, even the best birthday party can go sour in a New York minute.

I have at last decided what I will in fact do on my birthday, and any and all of you are welcome to come over to the Tiki Room I call a living room and join in. And what, pray tell, will we do?

We will watch old horror films. Lots and lots of old horror films.

With the recent release, and my subsequent purchase, of the 1945 classic House of Dracula on DVD, I at last have a complete set of the classic Frankenstein, Dracula, and Wolfman films Universal Studios made in the 1930s and 1940s. These are all fine films, and not the campy over-produced/ under-scripted mess that Van Helsing is reported to be. Sooooo….come one come all, and spend May 25th watching Boris Karlofff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Claude Raines, Lionel Atwill, George Zucco, Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Ralph Bellamy, Colin Clive, and a host of other stars of yesteryear, act spooky.

The probable line-up for Tuesday (don’t freak, a lot of these movies are barely an hour long):

Dracula
Frankenstein
Bride of Frankenstein
Son of Frankenstein
Ghost of Frankenstein
The Wolf Man
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
House of Frankenstein
House of Dracula
The Mummy

I’ll start watching at about 1:00 PM and should finish by about 2:00 am or so. I’ll make lots of food and snacks and what not. We can wear party hats if you wish, and have cake and ice cream. Somehow I doubt anyone other than Fizzy will show up, and she’ll only be there out of girlfriend obligation. Nobody digs the old horror films anymore, but just in case YOU do, you’re welcome to pop on by.

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Bombing the Van

By , April 6, 2004

For some time I have wanted to repaint my van. It’s super old– a 1981 model– and the paint job has deteriorated over time. True to my hip hop roots I have always wanted to cover it in graffiti, and last Saturday seemed the perfect opportunity. I was DJ’ing a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in Berkeley’s famous People’s Park, which is coincidentally where I park my van. I knew I’d be outdoors all day, in full view of my ride, so I made some phone calls to some artists what that I know. While I spun tunes on one side of the court, three graffiti artists bombed the van on the other side of the court. It made for a nice addition to the games, and by the end of the day, I had the freshest van in town. Here are some pictures.

The first one is the “before” shot. Gotta’ have a “before” shot.

Before

Here is one of the taggers taping off the lights. They were very good about keeping my lights, plates, and permits paint-free.

Taping

They are getting started at last.

Starting

People walking by stopped to stare.

Passerby

Things are coming along nicely in this picture, and you can start to see the final design taking shape.

Progress

Here is the fellow on the other side doing his thing:

More Progress

Now it’s REALLY starting to come together.

Improving

Let’s check in and see what’s happening to the back of the van.

Back

Almost done now.

Closer

And at last it IS done. Here is the right side:

Right

And the left side:

Left

And the back:

Back

Def, right?

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The Hated Rival

By , November 21, 2003

This Saturday, the annual “Big Game” between my alma mater, California (a.k.a. U.C. Berkeley), and Stanfurd takes place. For more than 100 years the two schools have been fierce rivals, and besting one another on the football pitch has been the prime indicator of whether the season was a success or a flop. News of this pending football match set my mind to thinking about all the fun a rivalry provides.

Now, at first glance, perhaps that concept seems silly. After all, who wants someone competing for the same resources as you? Wouldn’t a rival-free existence be preferable? I pondered this, and came to the conclusion that while life may be easier when you have access to everything you want, and needn’t fight for it, easier doesn’t always equate to better.

Currently Playing: Joe Starkey – The 1982 Big Game Finale

The sound you hear right now (if you’ve clicked the link, your speakers are turned on, and you aren’t on some archaic dial-up connection) is the voice of Joe Starkey at his insane best, calling “The Play” that finished the 1982 Big Game. It picks up with John Elway orchestrating a last-minute drive to give Stanford what looks to be a sure victory, after which point mayhem ensues. I guarantee you will not regret taking a moment out of your day to listen to this soundbite.

Such a thrilling finish to a sporting event can excite nearly anyone, but a casual bystander probably won’t experience the same level of unbridled euphoria at hearing “The Play” as will a Cal student, alum, or diehard fan. The rivalry even allows the moment to transcend the medium– I’m by no means an enthusiastic sports fan, but I get chills listening to this clip, predicated almost entirely by my scholastic connection to the victorious team, and disdain for the defeated rival. Therein lies the magic. A rivalry gives one the chance to experience the great high of overcoming obstacles and achieving a victory over a despised foe. And conversely, unless you’re a ‘furd, you can’t feel the true level of despair and heartache that the loss brought with it. (Happily, they can, and I hope a few ‘furds are reading now, just so you can relive that moment of exquisite pain when that god-awful band of yours cost you The Axe.)

As an aside, besides the obvious best moment when Joe Starkey yells “oh, the band is out on the field!” my favorite part of the attached audio clip is the roar of the Memorial Stadium crowd a split-second before Starkey loses it for a second time. He didn’t even need to say “the Bears have won,” for the reaction of the Berkeley crowd said all.

I feel sorry for the students at Universities that don’t have an arch-rival. Even though it’s awful when your team loses a rivalry match, it’s all worth it on the days when they win. Moreover, there is unparalleled fun in preparing for an upcoming game, with hope alive in the air, and a palpable sense of anticipation amplifying every moment in the days leading up to the match, just as there is in reliving the glory of victories past.

The advantage of having a rival extends beyond the world of sports. In nearly every aspect of life it can be exciting and beneficial to have a one. The competitor pushes you to better yourself, lest you fall behind them. They become a benchmark, a standard to meet and exceed, and you become the same to your rival. The end result is two entities constantly striving to outperform one another, with both becoming better in the process.

Today’s Question: Do you have your own personal rival?

Go Bears!

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Typical Day, For Reals This Time

By , October 2, 2003

I never care much to read blog entries that chronicle someone’s day in a blow-by-blow fashion. I do enjoy amusing anecdotes from a day, to be sure, but the “I did this, then I did this, then I did this” entries don’t hold my interest. Nonetheless, today’s entry is going to be in that vein, but in a more general way, as more then a few people have asked me of late: “Peasprout, what is your typical day like?”

Well, since you asked, it goes a little something like this…

I wake up at about 10:30 am or so. I make my morning commute to work, which is really just walking from the bedroom into the office. Sometimes there may be some traffic– perhaps I left some clothing on the floor– but I usually make it to work in a timely manner.

For the next three or four hours I make and answer phone calls, either touching base about pending events or convincing potential clients to hire me, and respond to e-mails. Every now and then I fax something, and sometimes even prepare letters to send by post.

At around 2:00 I shower, dress, and head out into the world. I head down Telegraph or Shattuck and eat lunch someplace while reading the day’s newspaper. The highlight of lunch is working the New York Times crossword puzzle. Sometimes I eat gelato after lunch.

After lunch, I walk about a mile or so to Ver Brugge, a local butcher, where I buy meat to cook for dinner. I then walk what must be another mile and a half to the Berkeley Bowl, my favorite market, where the produce section boggles the mind. Finally, I walk yet another mile home. By now it’s around 5:00, and time to start cooking.

My girlfriend and I dine together most nights. After dinner, who knows what we’ll do. We see a lot of movies, play a lot of Scrabble, and generally do fun things. Sometimes we just kind of do nothing together, but it seems like something just ‘cuz it’s us; even when we’re together doing nothing it beats a trip to Disneyland. Basically, I have the world’s most wonderful girlfriend. She’s also my best friend, and hands down the most remarkable person I’ve ever known. I bet if you met her you’d think the same thing.

Of course, I relish my “me” time, in which I read, write, play basketball, or hang out with friends. A lot of that time comes later in the evening, for Fizzy sleeps earlier than I do. I’m definitely a night person. I do a lot of reading, writing, DVD watching, and work-related tasks after midnight, and don’t go to bed until perhaps 3:00 am.

And that’s pretty much my day. Not much, really. And you can see why I don’t bore you with a daily recounting of said events: I’d have no readers.

Today’s Question: What is your typical day?

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Dean Martin – Baby It’s Cold Outside

By , September 12, 2003

I realize that no one who lives in California, especially Northern California, and even more especially the Bay Area ought ever to be caught complaining about the weather, but, I mean to say– today was a really warm day. I am wishing for December, and imagining a white Christmas. As such, I am playing Christmas music.

Currently Playing: Dean Martin – Baby It’s Cold Outside

The song is not working. It’s 3:30 am, and it’s still altogether too warm. I almost wish it really *would* snow. Of course, were it ever to snow in Berkeley I’d almost certainly be the first to complain about how cold the weather is.

Dean Martin - Winter

This is a pretty adorable song. Sure there may be slight overtones of sexism and date rape, but hey– it was 1944, and if we all learned last time that the 1950s were awesome, how amazing must the ’40s have been? Plus it’s Dean Martin; he can seduce me any old time, and I ain’t even gay.

Today’s Question: Make a wish. What is your wish?

Obviously were I granted a wish right now I’d not wish for snow; but what would I wish? I’m honestly not sure. At the risk of sounding panglossian, my life right now is exactly what I want it to be. I suppose I could go all high road on you and wish for world peace or a World Series win for the Cubs, but on a personal level? I’m blessed with so much more in life than I probably deserve as is, a wish would be gilding the lily.

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