Good thing I hadn't planned to go visit Lake Tahoe. I'm still planning an actual adventure-type trip, but out-of-state relatives are suddenly descending on the family household, so I may postpone it a short (or even long) while.
But today I took a little side trip to Berzerkeley and had a fine old time. Really, I love public transportation, when it is convenient and not crowded, and when you never have to wait more than 10 minutes for a train (both directions I walked out onto the platform and the train I wanted pulled up right then). My only complaint is that it really should go everywhere; it especially should ring the whole Bay Area (otherwise why is it called Bay Area Rapid Transit?). And if San Francisco and San Jose are the two largest cities in the area (perhaps the nation?), it's only logical that they should be connected conveniently, right?
Now if I were my friend the cool scientist grad student, I would complain about BART a lot more, because she is actually cool and goes to shows and out to bars and cool indie places all across SF and Oakland and Bk, which is a problem when the BART trains stop at 10 pm. But I turn into a pumpkin about then and really can't handle going out places like that without some backup, so BART works perfect for me and my shopping-sightseeing-lunch eating itinerary.
I also love Berkeley because you can walk everywhere (for god's sake, don't drive! The only place worse is SF! And definitely don't try to park. Ever. Anywhere in the area.) and people-watch as you wander, and the people are interesting. And not just in the subcultural (punk, goth, indie, hipster) kind of way --- they are sprinkled in with different varieties of more mainstream looks and "ordinary" people --- I just love the diversity of everything and everyone. You just don't see different looking and dressing people where I usually am.
So I got semi-lost about three different times but it was a pleasant and lovely experience (when I usually visit Berkeley I'm doing labor stuff and have appointments and co-workers, which adds stress to the whole getting-lost experience, but this time it did not matter). The city looks like it's on the grid system but it has sneaky turning streets here and there, so I found myself in a residential area with all these cool old victorian houses (some ramshackle, some well-preserved, one a vivid sky blue all over) with wild and overgrown gardens. Beautiful! So I got my architecture fix.
Then I finally figured out where they put Telegraph Ave and did some thrift-store shopping and got CDs at Rasputin Records. Very fun. I'm very ambivalent (overthinking?) about most things and while I theoretically love the vintage indie style, I usually feel very self conscious, like everyone is staring at me and laughing, when I wear anything that is not completely boring. So I may buy clothing with patterns, but then never actually wear them. I may do that this time too, but at 5 or 6 bucks per item, I won't worry like I do when I buy an expensive store piece that is a little unusual. By the time I thought of jewelry shopping, though, I had tramped around the whole place and was tired. So no shiny baubles this time.
I had delicious chicken tikka masala at a little place where you bused your own plates and drinks, and eyed the cute grad student talking at a table behind me. Or postdoc; he could have been a postdoc. I couldn't quite catch all the conversation because I was simultaneously appreciating the techno music in hindi that was blasting through the restaurant. My only regret was that I tend to eat at the same places because the food is good, but everywhere I walked I saw intriguing food options both informal and fancy.
I also toured as many bookstores as I could find (I have misplaced Revolution Books somehow --- what street is that on?). Cody's Books appears to be closed, which is sad, and Moe's for some reason made me feel oppressed and overwhelmed with the sheer amount of interesting books I know nothing about --- do you ever get that sad feeling that here is an area you feel marginally conversant about but you realize you are completely ignorant in it and have not kept up with current stuff because you are reading obscure crap for your dissertation? Seriously, I want a publishing moratorium on all new fiction and scholarship for 5 years, so I can, if not catch up, at least make a dent in my reading piles. Bleah. On the other hand, I love being in a city that has so many bookstores --- I kept seeing more and more little places as I walked.
I wanted to take pictures of stuff --- like the "Smash the State" scratched into the sidewalk concrete, or peoples' fantastic costumes, or some gorgeous gardens, or the Granola Dude sailing along on a bike against traffic, on a cell phone, loudly telling the caller, "I'm calling you while on a bike right now." But I didn't want to look like a tourist schmuck --- and explaining to passersby, "No really, I want to put pics of my day on my blog" sounds even lamer, so you'll have to make do.
And so, here I am back in Ultimate Suburbia, tired but pleased. If only I could finish my dissertation up here instead! And no, even if it was feasible, I wouldn't finish because I'd be too distracted. But I would be having fun, me and my snazzy new wardrobe.