Oct 2010

Dear Berkeley,

Italy is beautiful…wish you were here. No, actually that is not true. I like thinking of you there, hidden houses in the fog, surrounded by eccentric gardens…the silence of the night cut by the train wailing along 2nd Street as it heads up the coast to Oregon, the engineer leaning on the whistle, absentmindedly peeved that everyone else in the world is sleeping. The last BART train toots many blocks away and hundreds of feet below the quiet streets where the deer who have wandered down from the hills tiptoe through those peculiar back yards.

The early morning delivery trucks rumble into the fog from the sunny Brentwood farms, bringing the squeaky fresh produce to Monterey Market as the guy who lives across the street, and wears short shorts every day of the year, fires up his massive pick-up that he parks under our windows. Outside our door the oatmeal carpet, shaggy with the duct-taped hole, lays quietly in the hallway, like a slightly beat-up, but very quiet pet.

The regulars start to gather at Espresso Roma, some in pajamas, reading the paper as they stand in line for the grumpy Hispanic barista’s steaming cups of coffee as the mist slowly seeps back to the sea…..

Writing seems to be impossible with you to distract me. There is always a yoga class, a matinee to see, a trip to Costco, a dinner party somewhere. There are miles of streets to walk, your crooked sidewalks, red-painted stairs and smatterings of hundred year redwoods revealing your age. The towering Victorians punctuate blocks of adobe bungalows with riotous gardens where once cows roamed. Now Luciano does, for hours and hours every afternoon as the days slide together-until suddenly it is time to come home.

Here the faucets do not leak, the polished floors do not creak and the dishwasher stands ready to be filled and fired up. My tiny car has power steering and Giancarlo keeps the narrow street in front of our house spotless. There are no sidewalks, free boxes, garage sales, happy hour, funky cars or peculiar gardens…and no deer. The air is still and heavy with the smell of September grapes and the cranky pigs down the road.

It’s good to know you are there, Berkeley. Perhaps you could write sometime…