Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bringing in the old posts from the other blogging site I used:

Here's my most recent (and longest, and it rambles and has holes in the thinking, but there it is):

I love Berkeley. It is home to me. When I lived in DC and told people I was from Berkeley, I got a lot of eye rolling. People asked me if it's crazy here, if I really wanted to live there, and said that California is irrelevant and crazy anyway.

Not that Joan Didion helped much with "Where I Was From." I agree that she has a distinct and spare literary voice, and she made valid points. Yet the absurdity of the story of California's development remains absurd only as long as you isolate it. When you look at the development of any state, its history, its leadership (or lack thereof), its culture, you will without a doubt find some festering sores. Many people used the book to justify that "California is full of crazy people," making the old fruits-and-nuts joke, and wrote off the state. (Though in 2003, CA did earn $7.84 billion from the fruit and nut crops; $6.96 bil from vegetables; $7.1 from poultry-

This is a grave mistake. California holds 12% of the nation's people. Many of us are immigrants or their children and grandkids. Joan Didion tells an engaging story, but people should be aware that there's more to it, and those parts are important.

Border states are important because they often represent the first place the US interacts with the rest of the world. Yes, we're very diverse in CA. I love that about it here- there are many languages, many cultures, and it's not always easy to deal with. Obviously there are tensions and inequalities. But people find ways to connect, to communicate, or to just deal. These are valuable skills that are uniquely developed in a diverse place. You can learn these skills in a homogenous place, but you really put yourself to the test and hone your skills when you're in a place where people are different from you.

There are ideas here as well- ideas that benefit the nation as well as our communities in CA. Take, for instance, Silicon Valley; the world's largest public university system (CSUs); the new stem cell research center in SF. There are so many ideas developed here that are critical to the advancement of society. Again, of course, ideas are borne and refined everywhere, beyond and including CA. But I get tired of the whole "Californians are too laid back/get so little done" crap.

I love Berkeley because it's this wonderful little community. People who have never been here describe a place that's totally unknown to me- crazy, dirty, countercultural. Here's Berkeley as I see it:
- The place for food lovers. Some of the world's best food is here, in amazingly high concentration. You can find nearly any international and American cuisine you would like to try, and you can find it at prices ranging from cheaps to high (but for sublime food).

- People see the connection between the food they eat and the people who grow it. Berkeley holds three farmer's markets a week. People get to know the farmers and the produce. You can eat with the seasons- strawberries in summer but not in winter; squash in fall but not in summer; everything fresh and according to its season. You know it hasn't been trucked for hundreds of miles in a huge diesel truck. You know the people who picked it aren't in the hospital with pesticide poisoning (and this did just happen in the Central Valley of CA- it's unconscionable how farmworkers are often treated, which is why the increasing awareness of local food is important).

- People see that children raised on good food are healthy and happy, and that there are ways for the community to help its kids eat better. Alice Waters started the "Delicious Revolution" and the Edible Schoolyard. She replaced an old, torn-up asphalt yard that no one used with a garden that the kids maintain- and eat from. The garden provides food for their school menu. The amazing tale of how it came to be is here:

- People are dingy drivers. Yes, it's true, I bemoan the horrible driving around here. Especially in the ubiquitous Volvos. My husband's theory is that the Volvo drivers feel that the road is so scary and unsafe because in reality, they themselves are atrocious drivers. In any case- there are plenty of people who drift, don't signal, miss 'one way' signs, endanger pedestrians and bikers, speed, sit there when an emergency vehicle is behind them (this was a HUGE peeve for me in DC too). Yep, Berkeley's not perfect.

- Berkeley people can be snotty about having money. And Berkeley people can als be extremely private about their money- you can never tell.

- You can be out in the woods hiking in less than twenty minutes. You can be surfing in half an hour. You can be skiing in three or four hours. You can climb in Yosemite in five or six hours. And people around here *do*.

- Berkeley Symphony, SF Symphony, SF Opera, Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall, tons of smaller venues- after you visit an amazing restaurant, enjoy some live performances from large and small companies. There is no shortage of stories being told, and no shortage of creative outlets.

- There are lots of people who think they're 'enlightenend' because they go to yoga class, but they have deeply-held racist/classist/sexi st beliefs. Oh yeah, Berkeley's full of those, no doubt. People who think they're open-minded but aren't. Sigh.

- There's a history here that people respect. It's a history of speaking up, of learning and teaching (it's a college town with 19 Nobel Prizes) and of actively working for the poor, underserved, dispossessed, and others disowned by the mainstream. And that' s enormously important to me- to live in a place where social justice is understood- even if not always practiced perfectly, it's practiced courageously. I am proud to be in a place where in the 1980's sanctuary was given to refugees from Central America, where there are so many services for the homeless to get back on their feet, where people really make an *effort* to participate in democracy.

- People generally read books here a *lot* more than they watch tv. There are tons of independent bookstores- and they're bustling.Berkeley isn't perfect, but it's where I want to be. I want to raise my kids to participate in the Edible Schoolyard. I want them to see that loving families, no matter what they look like, deserve to be loved and supported by the community. I want to be in a place where I'm accepted, free to do the work and live the life I feel called to. That's why Berkeley isn't "Berzerkly" to me- it's home.