I spent several Glorious Fourths in Berkeley, California. Perhaps, the most old fashioned rousingly patriotic Fourth of my life was on an old naval vessel being lovingly restored by vets and community volunteers. Watermelon was as ubiquitous as the red rust, the fireworks lit up the Bay, and we sang some old fashioned tunes. Tonight I am wrapping up a road trip in this summer home away from home with dear friends. Hope and I went for a walk around the marina. Hope and friends walked in the Blake Garden while I got to hammer away at the world’s problems with a brilliant friend.
Berkeley is beautiful.
When told we are headed to Berkeley, friends, and not just Texas friends, Southern California can be as snarky, wish us safety or wonder about us. This is absurd as Berkeley is a place and is full of different sorts of people with all kinds of views. Another Republican may be hard to find, but I went for a walk with a hard working friend of a friend who was loudly supportive of the President. Naturally this demonstrates why an anecdote is not evidence, but also why one should listen before assuming based on geography or demography.
Berkeley is walkable and, at least in the summers, very friendly. If you are pushing a wheelchair, cars will stop and wave you on. The drought California suffered came, as bad things do, with something good: the yards of the city are full of flowers and plants that fit the climate. First Pres Berkeley is looking for a new pastor, yet the summer service we attended was very full and vibrant.
Don’t get me wrong: there is a reason for the stereotypes, but I for one like the challenge. There are reminders on the back of most cars that my views are not most people’s views, but then the fog in the morning, the almost-Fall crisp air at midday in July is not most of my days either. I am not minimizing the difference, just learning from it and also enjoying as much of it as I can: the bookstores are world class.
Summers in Berkeley showed me many things. Here are three:
Berkeley curates the city and so many lovely older buildings remain.
One friend quipped that the results of 1960’s radicalism was to preserve 1950’s Berkeley. There are worse things! Cities can be too hasty to tear down older buildings.
Berkeley values gardens and greenery.
The park system is remarkable and generally free. There is a stress on original ecological systems, but a lovely rose garden.
Berkeley has glorious people.
Like many university towns, there is an expert on anything to be found everywhere. However, unlike some, there is a real city in Berkeley with Oakland and San Francisco nearby. People, God’s children, are everywhere in glorious diversity.
I love Houston, the American city of the 21st century, but a good man can love more than one city. Berkeley is smart, has some genteel decay, some obvious problems, but is fundamentally delightful.
Visit if you can.