Day Two: Berkeley

Today I’ll start with last night.  Philippe and I were standing around with our luggage at the San Francisco Airport, trying to figure out the rapid transit system (BART) so we could end up in our new home in Berkeley.  It was well after midnight Eastern Time and we were pooped.  I gazed at the empty transit booth and a row of ticket machines.  (Sigh)

I approached the machine marked “Clipper Card” and tried to make sense of screens and signs.  The mental processing was just not happening.  I was aware of a subway train purring in the station, accompanied by two items of information: “Leaving in five minutes” and “Next train in thirty-five minutes”.  No way was I going to solve the problems of the night in that amount of time.  So I let go into a slow-motion process of purchasing discounted subway trips.  We’d flown across the continent … there truly was no hurry to complete the last few miles.

A lovely woman in a transit uniform told us about the senior discount, which wasn’t available at the machine.  Only down the hall with a real live human person.  I shuffled along and scored tickets for Philippe and me.  Then back to the woman who, with a heart of gold, launched into the ins and outs of senior subway travel.  I was totally lost.  Somehow, despite all the cranial fuzziness, we ended up at our motel at about 3:00 am old time.

***

Today was a walking man’s delight.  Those cramped airline muscles got to run free.  Philippe and I had a map but I was still majorly disoriented.  “Are we going east or north?”  We ended up in a restaurant called “Au Coquelet” for breakie.  The walls were red brick, the paintings were raucous reds and yellow, and the skylights were huge.  What a gift to have natural light bathing our foreheads.  It’s so good for the soul.  A big bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese wasn’t too shabby either!  I sat there, listening to Philippe speak and hearing my own words in reply … feeling a sweet fullness.  All was well with the world.

We went seeking a health food store, and sauntered into three of them.  How strange that I have an interest in such places.  It’s not been my history.  I was contemplating the wonders of Vitamin B, Stevia and a spray for jet lag.  Philippe was a marvelous coach about such things.  For awhile he was on the phone to his girlfriend back home in Quebec and I just sat at a window table, drinking in the human beings who wandered by.  Consider the young couple and their German shepherd dog.  They flowed down the sidewalk, brimming with health, lost in conversation, smiles on all three.  And then there were two elderly women side by side – one with a normal gait and normal grey hair, and the other with a shuffle and grotesque orange hair.  Behind came their husbands – one bumping a walker ahead of him and the other protecting his bad hip.  Ahh … the contrasts of life.

Tonight was a happy meal and conversation in a Tibetan restaurant.  We watched from the window table as day faded to night.  We explored pink rice; dumplings of the beef, chicken and spinach varieties; and butter tea (yuck to the last).  A priest in India sang to us the whole time from his CD player.  On the walls were tapestries depicting the Potola Palace in Tibet, the wide open lands, and delicate flowers.  The Dalai Lama smiled from his place of honour on the back wall.  Peace.

That’s all for tonight, except to mention that I participated in an Evolutionary Collective call from a bench in Martin Luther King Park in downtown Berkeley.  Such fun to be with people of the world while people of California strolled by.

More to come on the morrow.

Day Two: Some More

This afternoon I wandered around downtown Vancouver. Turning onto Denman Street, a lovely stretch of restaurants and cool shops, I came upon a street party. “West End Car Free Day.” Huge trucks blocked the entrance, and past that Vancouverites and I walked down the centre of things. Flowing banners, kiosks selling clothes and jewellery, and info about bike routes embraced the crowd. Families everywhere, lovers in each other’s arms, kids in strollers, folks chewing on corn on the cob, one guy carrying a cactus … Denman had it all.

And then the music. The Phonics blasted us with the most danceable stuff. First my muscles twitched and then the arms got going. After that it was a full-out flurry of body parts. When the band did “Jump!” I raised my game. Right beside me a mom and her 5-year-old daughter were moving and grooving. The older one flashed me a big smile. The road was vibrating and so were my innards.

***

At the end of Denman sits English Bay Beach, with the freighters lying serenely in the harbour. Thirty-two years ago, Jody and I were sitting against one of the huge logs when suddenly the man unit got to his feet and then down on one knee.

“Will you marry me?”

My dear pre-wife said yes. Today I sat in that approximate spot and told two young bikini-clad women our story. I believe they were moved. I was.

Such a big thing, this life.