Sorry for the dead air, but I’m still alive! My flight from JFK to SFO is uneventful, but annoying. The flight is late and we sit on the tarmac for an hour, ultimately landing half an hour late. The flight is full and there is a screaming a toddler a few seats ahead of me (in business class, dafka). I am not in business class, but two seats away, gazing through the doorway into the forbidden luxuries of the entitled.
Once in SFO, I decide to skip the SuperShuttle option and travel to Berkeley via BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). With just one small roll-aboard bag, I was able to comfortably navigate through the system, arriving at the downtown Berkeley station in the mid-afternoon.
The hotel is a great example of overly optimistic marketing. The pictures on the website don’t actually lie, but they don’t tell the whole story, either. For example, the hallways are dingy, painted with an industrial putty color. The carpets are in dire need of a shampoo. The rooms are large and full of little extras, but also just slightly dingy. The window requires brute force to close. There are not enough electrical outlets, and those near the desk are ridiculously overloaded with plug adapters.
Susan meets me and we go out for a long walk. There are bold and energetic ground squirrels who scuttle up to us and wait for treats. We walk along the marina, going out onto a pier (could it really be the half mile in length that some say?) and walk to the end where we talk to a group of good ol’ boys who are drinking beer and fishing. On our way back, we pass a Japanese restaurant, in the old Benihana’s style (where the food is cooked at the table). We had a lovely meal, cooked by a Hispanic chef, and overlooking the sun setting over the marina.
I start Wednesday morning with a swim. It has been years since I did laps, and the hotel’s tiny 50 ft. pool is heavily chlorinated and too warm, but it feels good to stretch stiff muscles and reassure myself that I can still stay afloat! When Susan comes back over, we catch a ride with the hotel shuttle to the downtown Berkeley area, where we start walking. We cover a huge loop during the day, stopping in various shops, eating way too much, and gabbing nonstop. The weather is gorgeous—sunny, balmy, and comfortable for walking.
California has me grinning the moment I land. People are friendly, the air smells of eucalyptus and wild anise, and the morning fog is invigorating. The Berkeley street people are definitely more interesting than those in NYC, and the urban areas are more open, greener, less grungy. More sky If you are an East Coast fanatic, I don’t want to hear any anti-California (or West Coast) rants.
New friends, new shoes: I meet Ganesh, Susan’s nephew, who smiles sweetly and croons musically. He makes a gleeful chuckle that sounds part evil villain and part demented parrot. Another new aquaintence is the guy at La Foot, the little boutique running shoe store that has something that works for me. I try out my new Asics on Thursday morning with a run along the water. (For those of you who do not have hard-to-fit feet, orthotics, or other special foot problems, buying athletic shoes is probably a simple thing, but for me a real challenge requiring a specialty store in the States.) The run is a hard slog but refreshing.
Meetings: We meet yesterday from 9:00 to 21:00. We work through lunch and even the dinner break is business-oriented. Help!