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I’m a streetwalker – Berkeley edition

I overheard several wonderful things  while walking randomly in Berkeley. Two men- one digging through the back seat of his car, the other on the sidewalk, sidewalk man says, “Have you located the reference genome?”  I was not sure I heard this correctly when the impatient man on the sidewalk repeated his question verbatim. I don’t believe he was talking about what the man was looking for in the car, although my knowledge of genomes is somewhat limited. I think he was simply not able to contain his obsession with his work.  So Berkeley!

Then one night I was walking past Pegasus bookstore on Shattuck Ave and I saw there was a reading. I happened in just as the question and answer period began. A bearded man in the back stood up as he asked, “As we learned from Clockwork Orange, many things can be changed in the human brain, do you think this is what happened to Huey in prison?”  I believe he was referencing Clockwork Orange as a non-fiction book/documentary and had found this pertinent to the fate of Huey Newton. The author of the book/cd compilation “Hey Whitey? which is a sound history of the Black Power movement was very generous in his answer, addressing the sad impact imprisonment can have on the soul.  Paranoia and compassion are the spice of Berkeley life.

On another walk a car almost ran over my foot even though I had the light and was in the crosswalk.  I heard from behind me a sympathetic “ooomph”, a growl of disdain. It was another woman my age, walking and sharing her dismay at the car culture in general. It would be rare to hear such a sound in Anchorage where pedestrians are assumed to be criminals who have had their licenses removed.


I’m that person you recognize but you don’t know from where because you’ve passed me on the street ten thousand times. I grew up walking. It was the cheapest most effective antidepressant available in my youth. When things got real bad my mother would send me away somewhere, not to a hospital but to a relative’s home where I would explore their environment with hopes of moving away to a new life. I love a walking vacation. I talk to everyone I see on the street, usually to their dog first so they don’t think I’m too crazy. Also I feel the digital camera is like the best invention ever because I’m inspired to share all the ordinary things I was able to see with my vacation vision.


Here is the tree across the street from my friend Lee’s home in Berkeley. It’s like the tree of life, it blooms so beautifully but the bloom doesn’t last forever. The lichen is cool too also just the way it twists and turns even though it’s surrounded by concrete.

The tree of life

Lee has a beautiful garden but because I’m depressed I had to screw with it in these photos. The flowers are very warm and happy so I had to make them kind of cold and Alaska like.

Mood disordered Calla Lillies


A bright, warm flower is nice but a cold deadly one is more interesting. Perhaps that why I’ve never married. But like most people I’ve learned that interesting is fun in book club or at work but cold and deadly is not a great bedfellow. Funny is better.



trumpet of death

I know that sounds like a pretty bleak caption – trumpet of death but these things are actually quite poisonous. They are yellow by the way just in case you were thinking of offing yourself.


I can’t escape my obsession with death even on vacation but I believe everyone is just dealing with this in their own way. Here is a strange illustration as seen in a Berkeley toy store. Notice that in this toy set there can be only one winner and the other must die, your choice.

Fun with Mortality


When you go to Berkeley, you might see one thing and I another. I love walking in the neighborhoods as they have more interesting than most museums. People do lawn art well in Berkeley.

Car Art


Sometimes you just have to carve out a piece of fun in your life. Most people find squirrels a big pain but this homeowner chose not a bunny or a poodle but a rodent theme for a topiary statement.


Don't need a GPS to get to a potluck at the house with the giant squirrel out front.

Here is something you might just walk by on your walk from College Avenue to Shattuck Ave but to me it epitomizes the can do/make do attitude of the true Berkeley denizen.

Traffic circle kale!


My friend Dove’s mother planted this little gem of a garden. Can you imagine the neighbors coming out for a little dinner side or a person without food walking by for a little vitamin grab. This is Berkeley at its best – raw, free, accessible.







About polarflares

My head is so big because it has so many holes and air gets in.

2 responses »

  1. “Ooh!” “Aah!” Thanks!


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