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LOOK UP, LOOK DOWN
12 April 2011
It was as few years after I moved out of San Francisco before I thought to look up.
I had lived in the city for 18 years and moved out to go to school in Berkeley. I was back in the old neighborhood again, one block from the cable car track, three blocks from Lombard Street, the "crooked street."
It was an area I knew inside and out, the streets I had walked for years, nearly a mile to school and back, the steep hill I carried books up each week after my visit to the library, more than a mile away. I knew the homes like the back of my hand.
Until the day that I looked up. I don't know why I looked up that day. I don't even remember the circumstances. I was probably riding in the car as we drove to my parents' flat. But I looked up. And I saw how beautiful the tops of the buildings were. The frou-frou that decorated the roof tops, the cut outs, the designs cut into the buildings.
All those years of walking those streets and I had never looked up to see how lovely the buildings were if viewed from that angle. Since that day, I have tried to remember to "look up" whenever I can. Today I also realized that I need to "look down" too.
Last week when we walked to our China class for the first time, I was looking up at a building that I'd seen forever, but never quite like this.
The paint job looks fairly new (at least since we moved out of the area in 1973!), but the frou frou must have always been there and I never saw it before. Nor had I seen the interesting looking windows on the building across the street. How I'd like to have a big overstuffed chair in the window of that top apartment, looking out over Shattuck Avenue.
When we came out of the garage today, after parking the car and walking up to the China class again, I saw this on the sidewalk.
It caught my eye because it was talking about Picante, the place we had decided to go for lunch today. Then I saw that there were plaques like this spaced at regular intervalls all up the street, each with a poem or something written on it. One had the lyrics to Puff the Magic Dragon. Farther up the street was a restaurant with an interesting mosaic pattern outside the door and a little farther again was a series of blocks each decorated with some design and an ear. I had no time to investigate these things because we were headed to class, but I hoped to have time to look more closely on the walk back to the garage.
Walt also pointed out to me the top of the building next door to the Berkeley Rep Theater.
The building is not a bakery now, but I wonder how long it operated as a bakery.
The class was interesting and I even found out that I am reading a book by one of the authors that the teacher recommended...one of his books is on her list, but not the one I'm reading. I felt that I was at least readng the right writers!
On the way back to the garage I was lagging behind Walt and Char, who were about half a block ahead of me, so I didn't take time to stop and take pictures of the art work on the ground or the interesting rooftops. But I got the germ of an idea to do a photo project about things you see when you look up instead of hurrying on about your business, only looking at what is right at your eye level. I suspect that would be a fascinating project.
But we were headed to the restaurant,
a Mexican restaurant that I had seen recommended by panelists of the
local PBS station program Check Please, Bay Area. The restaurant is located
in a warehouse area, but was obviously quite popular, judging by the number of people who
were there and the booming take-out business they seem to be doing (and their guacamole
alone is worth the trip).
PHOTO OF THE DAY