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.

Death Around The Lunch Counter

The guys at the Belmont Diner usually talk about this, that and the other thing.  Yesterday it was end of life stories.

Exhibit A

Paramedics entered a semi-private room in a nursing home.  One of the women had stopped breathing.  She was put into a body bag and transported to a funeral parlour.  As staff were removing her from the bag, she stirred, breathing very shallowly.  Oblivious to the events around her, the lass was returned to her room, none the wiser.  Her roommate made the return trip to the funeral home.

Exhibit B

One of my fellow diners wanted to pay his respects to a neighbour.  He walked into the church and joined the reception line.  As he got closer to the family members, he wasn’t recognizing anybody.  Oh my … he was at the wrong funeral.  A sorrowing wife shook his hand.  “I’m sorry, I don’t know you.  Were you a friend of Bob’s from work?”  “No, I read about Bob in the paper.  We worked together many years ago.”  So said, he slunked to the back of the church, where he signed the guest book as “Fred Merkovicz” – totally fictional.

Exhibit C

One gentleman of the coffee persuasion mentioned his poverty of long ago.  Once a very unpopular man died in town.  His family couldn’t find anyone willing to be a pallbearer.  Our Dinerite finally agreed to help out.  Later the grateful relatives gave him some money.  Seeing the economic opportunity here, he had some business cards made up:  “Have funeral.  Will carry”.  Worked out fine.

Exhibit D

Amid all this hilarity came another perspective.  “I worked in India for a few years.  People died in the street.  A cart made regular rounds and picked up the bodies.  They were burned outside of town somewhere.  It was so sad.  Nobody loved them and they died alone.”

***

Just your regular twirl of words at the Diner.  Hello death.  We laugh and we cry.