26 December 2006

Walking (a Little Bit of) Berkeley

Last Friday, in a trans-continental covergence of pedestrian-minded bloggers, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Jen English for a short walk in Berkeley, California. Jen has walked a good percentage of the streets out there over the last year or so, and records her thoughts at her excellent blog, Walking Berkeley. More than providing a mere travelogue or statistical summary of miles and streets, though, Jen uses the various things she sees along her walks as starting points for thoughtful essays on everything from banana trees to satellite dishes to farmers markets, expanding on the original topic and often including pertinent links and personal musings. For the two or three readers of my blog that haven't already checked out Jen's, maybe this would be a good time to head on over. Go on -- I'll wait.

Good. Anyway, our walk covered about three and a half miles over roughly an hour and a half, the leisurely pace slowed even further by my need to take pictures of everything and ask plenty of questions about the city and the streetscape (although I've been out to California a number of times in the past, this was indeed my first-ever visit to Berkeley). Jen plotted a simple route that took us from the UC Berkeley campus down Telegraph Avenue to the border with Oakland, then over to Shattuck Avenue and back to the starting point -- a big rectangle that offered us the chance to see a pretty representative slice of the city in a relatively short time, from the stores and restaurants clearly geared toward the college crowd to the residential neighborhoods at the southern reaches of the city to the downtown area. I wish that we'd had time to see (and talk) a lot more, but it was a beautiful day and the whole experience was still terrific.

It turns out that Jen and I are on the same page regarding many of the experiences we've had in the process of covering every street in our respective cities, though I admitted that I'm quite envious of her ability, as a walker, to more thoroughly take in the sights and sounds of her surroundings and have the ability to further investigate those things she finds interesting. I also wish I was able, the way she is, to dress inconspicuously and blend in more with the people around her on her walks. Naturally, when I'm out doing my Brooklyn thing I'm dressed in my running clothes, which typically (except in the coldest months) consist of nothing more than nylon shorts, a t-shirt, and running shoes. In other words, while I am certainly in the neighborhoods I run, I've never really felt of them -- I'm quite aware of my outsider status and my difference from the folks going about their morning business (especially in the warmer, stickier weather, when I'm sweating all over the place). Call it the urban runner's dilemma -- although I'll be seeing all of Brooklyn, will I actually be experiencing any of it? I'm not so convinced. Then again, walking all of Brooklyn would probably take years, and I am pretty impatient.

Overall, my taste of Berkeley was great fun. Thanks again, Jen, for the (alas, far too brief) walking tour. And if you or any of the walkers out there that I've met through this blog ever find yourselves in New York, get in touch and we can go out and see some of Brooklyn. I'd even be willing to slow down my pace a bit -- and wear real pants. In the meantime, I'll be back and running again by this weekend, so be sure to check back and see what's up.

Finally, here are some pictures from the walk. All of them (except the shot of the California Theater, which is on Kittredge Street) were taken either on or just adjacent to Shattuck Avenue.

house, berkeley

dry garden, berkeley

clean needles, berkeley

city limit, berkeley

california theater, berkeley

stay tuned, berkeley