June 2013 in Berkeley California
I can see the University of California Berkeley’s Campanile Tower from my hotel room, the outline softened by coastal fog which rolled in sometime after midnight. On this cool morning, it has not yet dissipated. And I am out the door, early Sunday, walking back to campus after more than forty years. There are a few things on this visit, not many, that I want to find again, and one of them is fog. Within a block, I find something else: the scent of eucalyptus. It is the Mediterranean heat of the full day that brings the sharp scent out of the leaves – but the damp night air holds it close to the earth overnight, like a blanket. More prosaically, I can smell the extremes of urban poverty – a homeless man who spent the night in a doorway, urinating across the sidewalk. I’d rather have eucalyptus. In the deep shade of the West entrance to the campus, there is a trail ascending along Strawberry Creek.
Forty years ago I was an undergraduate liberal arts major here, one small and lost person among 26,000 students. Day to day life had an overlay of solitary worry; stretching a few dollars through the week. The price of my room at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza last night would have paid a month’s rent in 1970, in one of those shared and shabby apartments or boarding houses I could afford then. I remember being tired enough after a late shift at a residential institution where I worked then, to fall asleep on the ground in this same eucalyptus grove; head resting on my backpack. Read more…