I’ve lived here in Berkeley for a long time, so it feels like home to me, whenever I return. First came to this town as a college undergrad in 1982, and lived here year-round until 1998, when I first started a semi-annual migration back and forth from the Bay Area to Maui. What began as half-year stints in both places gradually gave way to longer and longer months in Hawaii, until my Berkeley stay dwindled to just a little over the two summer months of ATDP, my career workplace.
Wandering from Tolman Hall through campus and on to Telegraph Avenue this morning, the first familiar face I saw was that of a homeless woman, peeling something off her scalp as she sat on the steps of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building, at the corner of Telegraph and Bancroft Avenues. She looked positively ancient, thoroughly decrepit, sad.
Wandering around southside a little while later, ran into these punk-goth boys in People’s Park who tried to sell me home-made reggae CDs; I politely demurred, indicating my indifference to their wares. On Haste Street, bounding the park—a fire truck, an ambulance and a couple of police cars with lights flashing; EMTs aiding yet another homeless person who was passed out on the sidewalk.
Over the past eight or so years, my leaving Maui for the summer has become less fraught and sad for the kids each time I go; but for me, it has only gotten progressively more difficult. While my work remains meaningful to me, and the Bay Area largely a joy to return to, the overweening sensation remains that I would rather be at home. Life is short; children grow up quickly, they’re gone before eternity blinks an eye.
Looking back over a decade of daily web writing, I marvel at my stamina. With what fortitude I put down words and images! With what diligence, what obsessiveness!! ::chuckle:: I did not let life pass me by without comment, relevant or otherwise. I don’t regret any of it—I after all captured some of that continuum between birth and death, preserving it for posterity and the mining of meaning by whomever follows in my footsteps, whenever. Much of it was solipsistic, but that’s in the nature of weblogging. But some of it was truly shared, a genuine linking in the age of the digital, where interconnectedness occurs at the speed of light, approaching that of thought.
There were times when I knew I had to be writing about something, some seminal event, some (quite literally) earthshaking occurrence… and I knew, without a doubt, that someone somewhere was thinking the exact same notion: “…what’s Louie/Lloyd going to write about that?” Mom and dad, for starters. So when I abruptly stopped the daily weblogging practice several months ago, it was cause for slightly baffled wonderment, among a few still devoted readers of this space.
Yesterday, waking around familiar Berkeley neighborhoods, I noted either the absence, or continued presence, of the indie bookstores I so loved. The intellectual dynamism of this region remains, which is perhaps the main reason California will survive in the end. Where else will this density of talent go? Things will be recreated from the ashes of dismay, if necessary. Nothing is permanent; not even loss. Some theoretical physicists posit that our very universe itself is just in a current iteration, a new cycling over after having blinked in and out of existence uncounted times previously.
If you look at things from a certain angle, there’s a fin de siecle quality to life in America. But that perspective is prismatic—the same moment, given a slight twist of the crystal, can be perceived quite differently. Opportunity in disaster, and all that. A clear window to the outside transforms into an opaque pane of glass glass morphing into a mirror. I can’t speak of personal particulars right now, so I’ll leave it cryptic like that. But all that has direct bearing on the next year or so of my life, which is one of deep transition. For I turned 50 a few months ago and, arbitrary as that number truly is, it marked an opening, as well as a closing.