Wednesday, 16 June, was a more open day than Tuesday had been. After breakfast & the van ride into Berkeley, I started out on Telegraph Avenue. Although some chain stores have moved in (e.g., Walgreens), on balance it seemed on balance more independent shops & restaurants remained. To my delight, “The Med” – Café Mediterraneum – was still there. http://www.caffemed.com/ . When I lived in Berkeley, I often studied in Café Med, in part because I could go up to the balcony & smoke. Now, however, since (1) I no longer smoke; (2) No longer drink coffee; & (3) Smoking is banned anyway in restaurants, I didn’t go in, even for nostalgia’s sake. I figured I carry enough nostalgia around with me as it is.
Instead, after checking out some of the other independent shops, I went into Moe’s Books, one of the only remaining bookstores on Telegraph, along with Shakespeare’s at the corner of Dwight Way & Telegraph. Moe’s is a book-lover’s dream: 4 floors of mostly-used books in all fields & topics, mostly in very good quality, and some quite hard to find, unless one wanted a trade paperback – those were quite easy to find. Moe’s claims to be “’The best bookstore in the known universe’” according to its free bumper stickers; I took 4 & don’t have a car, so if any of you would want one, I’ll send one to the first 3 people who ask & provide your mailing address.
I could have spent several hundred dollars at Moe’s on used theology & religion books, the new edition of a progressive songbook I’ve wanted, and several books on the Women’s Movement. I limited myself to four, including one on the Desert Mothers (Christian women in the earliest days of the Church who fled the corruption of the cities to become hermits in the deserts of North Africa & whose followers wrote down their wisdom) & another titled The Radical Reader: A Documentary History of the American Radical Movement, covering documents from the Revolution through opposition to the War in Iraq and the Harvard University Living Wage Movement of 2001. Typical book purchases for my interests & my library – eighty-five percent of which is still in storage, because my apartment in Hartford is so small!
From Moe’s, I spent some time looking at the street vendors’ offerings. Lots of junk, especially junk jewelry. Some nice art & pottery. Tie-dyed t-shirts; knit hats & scarves (even in Berkeley – yes, it does get chilly there). I ended up at the vendor table selling political bumper stickers – little surprise there – & purchased several. My 2 favorites: “When injustice becomes law resistance becomes duty” – sounds very much in the spirit of Gandhi & MLK -- & “Don’t preach that right wing crap to me” – sounds very 1980’s – 2000’s. The one that ended up on the back of my wheelchair reads, “If you want peace, work for justice” – a statement the bumper sticker correctly attributes to [Pope] Paul VI, omitting the fact, however, that he was the Pope. I’m still puzzling over that omission. I do love the saying; I have several political buttons with it in different styles – white on dark green, rainbow color printing on white…
When I’d seen all I wanted to see on the first 5 blocks of Telegraph, I headed south on Telegraph toward Ashby Avenue and what once was the Berkeley Food Co-op, now a Whole Foods Market. At Russell, I turned left & headed east, toward College Avenue, through what has remained a leafy residential neighborhood of small homes and a quiet environment. At the corner of Russell & College, I went into Nabolom Bakery. When I lived in Elmwood, I often purchased baked goods there; my favorites were its apricot coffee cake, with whole apricots, and its seven-layer bars, a confection with a base of a cakey mixture, topped by tiny chocolate chips, then nuts, then coconut, then I’m not remembering what else. Both were delicious. Twenty-eight or so years later, however, those didn’t comply with a gluten-free diet. What Nabolom did have, though, were wonderful gluten-free coconut macaroons; I purchased two & later wished I’d bought several more.
One of the newer restaurants on College sits at the corner of College & Ashby, & since it was easy to find, I’ve forgotten its name. It’s also huge, with high ceilings, lots of windows & light, & 2 large rooms for meeting, reading, working on a laptop, etc. Paul Giurlanda & I met here for coffee, except I had lunch & tea & he had coffee & a pastry. Paul & I were friends from both Dignity San Francisco & the GTU where we had both been in the PhD program in Systematic Theology. Paul taught at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, a quick drive from Berkeley and had been a Christian Brother. While no longer in the Christian Brothers order, he still taught at St. Mary’s & had received tenure. So much of our conversation involved our professional & spiritual journeys. It was great to see him. He’s ventured into more esoteric areas than have I; after my adventure in post-patriarchal Feminist Goddess tradition, I’ve stayed pretty much within progressive Catholicism & Catholic spirituality, so we had a most enjoyable “compare-and-contrast” conversation. Afterwards, we both dawdled in a small religious bookstore on Ashby that offered lots of titles in all kinds of religious denominations, movements, & alternatives, everything from yoga, meditation, Hinduism & Buddhism to Goddess tradition, Wicca, & Celtic spirituality, to past-life regression, crystals, & tarot.
When I returned to Nancy’s, it was quiet; she was at work, Bill was away, & Liz & Natalia were napping. So I read for a while, checked my email & Facebook accounts on the computer, & hung out. When Nancy got home, she & I decided to go grocery shopping, so we headed for Whole Foods near Lake Merritt in Oakland. This is one huge Whole Foods store!! I was impressed! We bought some pre-prepared tamales, salad makings, & ice cream. I bought a package of gluten-free lemon-poppy seed muffins that come from Whole Foods own gluten-free bakery & was pleasantly shocked to discover that they cost the same in Oakland as they did in Hartford & Boston. Everyone had told me that prices in the Bay Area were much higher than on the East Coast. That’s likely true in some areas, e.g., housing – although housing costs in Boston rival those in San Francisco -- & the sales tax is higher. However, the food costs seemed to me to be about the same for most products, and the cost of fresh produce is much cheaper in the Bay Area for much better produce & a much bigger selection. Yet another reason to move back to Berkeley…
Back at Nancy’s, Nancy, Liz & I made & ate dinner, & I had an opportunity to enjoy Natalia who absolutely delighted me. Although much of the time I couldn’t understand her – my loss!! – she had begun to talk in words & close-to full sentences. She LOVES books & having someone read a book to her. She made up games with her toys, in which I participated. What fun!! Since I’ve never had children or grandchildren, the children & grandchildren of my friends are marvels to me, with their joy, their creativity, their intelligence, & I truly enjoyed spending time with Natalia. By the time I left, I’m happy to say that she spontaneously gave me a goodbye kiss, & that felt like truly being honored.
The next day, I’d given myself a late start since I knew it would be a long day. I had planned only one activity during the day: A “trip” to the 100% gluten-free bakery & café, Mariposa Baking Company in a rather industrial-looking building at Telegraph & 55th, in North Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood. Several years earlier, I’d discovered Mariposa while searching online for gluten-free goods, ordering its delicious gluten-free biscotti. Since then, the bakery had gone completely gluten-free, and, after over 12 years of following a strict gluten-free diet, I had to go there. The van dropped me off, & I had planned for a pick-up in an hour and a half.
While building may look industrial, the baked goods were wonderful!! For anyone who likes breads & pastries & is on a gluten-free diet – anyone with Celiac Disease or following this diet for other health reasons – Mariposa is next to heaven. Along with its baked goods, including biscotti, sour cream coffee cake, cinnamon rolls (!), brownies & several types of breads, cookies & quick breads, it offers lunch – 2 or 3 kinds of pizza, quiche, panini & ravioli. I had a slice of pizza & a cinnamon roll for dessert & would have eaten more, except I didn’t want to spoil my appetite for dinner. I talked for quite a while with the staff person at the cashier, & the manager provided me with several recommendations for a place to eat dinner. I left having bought a whole bunch of items that I planned to take home – although I couldn’t resist eating the cinnamon rolls before I got back to Hartford. Here is the link for Mariposa: http://www.mariposabaking.com/index.html . BTW, Scott picked up several of Mariposa’s dessert offerings for our Sunday evening dinner, & everyone agreed (a) they were delicious, & (b) no one would have had any idea they were gluten-free had they not been told ahead of time. Bay Area friends, please think of this when next planning a breakfast or other type of gathering; yes, the items are more expensive than supermarket pastries & breads, but you’ll be supporting a local company. Mariposa also has a kiosk in the San Francisco Ferry Building, something I remembered the following day.
I had several open hours between the time I returned from Mariposa & my evening dinner plans. That evening, I had arranged to go out to dinner with my ex-husband, Chris Ettling. Yes, for those of you who didn’t know this, I was married at one point, long, long ago, although not too far away. The story -- briefly -- Chris & I met in late 1972 or early 1973 when he was living in Brooklyn, NY & I was living in Hartford, CT. We both belonged to the same political organization, & within a few months, I moved to NY & moved in with Chris. In early 1974, we made an even bigger move, taking off for California with most of our belongings (the stuff we didn’t ship, mostly my books), & our year-old black cat Yosarrian in a VW van with 3 hippies from Columbia University. While Chris did most of the driving, the 3 hippies smoked weed & stayed stoned throughout most of the trip, & I proceeded to contract the flu & get very sick. We hit an ice storm in Arkansas that meant it took 6 hours or so for us to get across the state – and we thought that taking the Southern route would be safer in the middle of winter, since we left on New Year’s Day – and we finally rolled in to a truck stop in the Texas Panhandle at about 3 a.m. The hostess took one look at the 5 of us – 3 stoned hippies, Chris, bleary-eyed with red hair tied back in a pony tail reaching to the middle of his back, & me, sick with the flu -- & she opened an entirely new section of the restaurant for us. Chris & the 3 hippies ordered huge breakfasts – eggs, bacon, pancakes, toast, the works. Finally, she came to me. “What would you like, hon?” she asked, compassion definitely in her voice. “Could I please have a bowl of oatmeal?” I asked. She definitely felt sorry for me.
Chris & I finally reached LA; I recovered from my flu; & then we flew north to San Francisco, nearly losing Yoyo on the way. He’d been put on a flight to Oakland. We rescued him & moved in with 2 friends, also members of the same political organization, & thus began my life in CA. For a year & a half, until I became a Catholic, I worked with Chris & our friends as we did political organizing for our own group & with local labor unions, the United Farmworkers Union, anti-war organizations, & feminist organizations. After a couple of months, I took a job in a small Catholic hospital in San Francisco & later tried to unionize the clerical staff there. In August of 1974, Chris & I married, in part for political reasons & in part because we believed we loved each other. And at that time, we did. After we married, within less than a year, however, my life had changed quite dramatically because of my conversion, & by the end of 1975, it seemed clear to both of us that the relationship couldn’t be sustained. I’d moved away from and out of politics, & neither of us was experienced or mature enough to figure out how to change with the changes. We separated on New Year’s Eve, with Chris moving to a new apartment & were divorced in August 1977.
We did, however, remain in touch through the years; I knew that he had remarried & that his mother had moved from Detroit to Oakland, & he knew that I’d moved to Boston & then to Hartford. Before that move, he had taken me out to dinner, & now he had invited me out to dinner again.
Oddly enough, Nancy & Chris lived only a few blocks from one another in the same neighborhood in the Oakland hills, not far from Holy Names College (now University) & the Mormon Temple, although on different sides of the main street, Fruitvale. Even more ironically, Chris & I had lived on a street off of Fruitvale down in the Oakland “Flats” when we were together, on a small street above Foothill Boulevard not far from the Fruitvale BART Station. La plus ça change…
Although Chris hadn’t changed that much; he still looked good, younger than his nearly 57 years, with red hair – although the hair was short now. We drove into Berkeley & had dinner at a new restaurant, the name of which has escaped me, & we talked. Most of our talk involved changes in his life & family, in large part because his changes were more dramatic than my own. Altogether, we talked for over 3 hours, catching up on our lives & the lives of people we had known. Seeing him was terrific; I’m very grateful that we’ve stayed in contact through all of these years. It was past 10:30 by the time I returned to Nancy’s, & I was very glad to get into bed & go to sleep.
NOTE: CORRECTION to Part I: Although it’s not in my notes, I seem to recall that the Franciscan School of Theology (FST) building is not painted dark green; that was the color it was when I was a grad student. Rather, I think that now, it has been painted a mustard yellow color. I liked the green better.
TO BE CONTINUED – PART IV – TOMORROW…