Saturday, February 27, 2010

heading south, heading north

11:10AM. Branching out a bit beyond familiar shores: cappuccino itinerary for the day includes
  1. EON, Hayward
  2. Paddy's, Union City
  3. Caffe Sportivo, Redwood City
  4. Bean Street Coffee, San Mateo
  5. CaffeRoma, Millbrae
    And we shall see if the day's ride will be bookended by Guerilla and Four Barrel, but I don't think anyone can handle that much caffeine. Possible to make SF by sundown AND edit papers, do readings, send emails? The road will tell...

    3:17PM. It was, and is, truly, a beautiful day. Bright blue sky peeking through dramatic white and grey rainclouds, puffy, flowing, accentuating all below. Was lovely riding for a first stop at the corner mart for food, then into Cheeseboard to pick up a ginger & pear scone (nice!!) to be enjoyed with a cappuccino from Guerilla--whoops, too crowded, let's make that Fertile Grounds, where I found out running into a friend that Village Grounds has apparently folded, really too bad--beautiful riding down to the Ashby flea market at the BART station, where I got my new styling $5 pair of sunglasses, beautiful all the way to Oakland Chinatown, where I picked up a few Vietnamese sandwiches at Sarah's favorite spot where I've also started to pop up now and again, and lovely then, fully ensandwiched, fully loaded, ready for the trip. And really, when planning to ride around the bay, downtown Oakland does feel like the starting point, since that's such a well-worn path.

    So the point of embarkation was the Webster Tunnel that goes underground to Alameda, where I was poised to launch until realizing that there is no bike lane, no sidewalk, and I had to turn around, head down E 14th street to cross over to the semi-island. Looked over my shoulder, turned the bars, leaned into the pedal a bit, and

    >POP< == There goes the second spoke in as many months.

    So, having headed south, I weighed my options and turned around. Headed north, to ride another day. And look at the screen in more familiar environs.

    But, you know what?

    The clouds are still pretty darn nice.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    two degrees warmer

    3:30pm. A slight rise in the temperature, and they're out in force today. People bent over books and papers, pens in hand, lost in thought. A table of four people, lively conversation flowing and ebbing until someone gets a phone call and the traffic of words is diverted. The table next to me with two men in animated discussion about something, one tapping the other on the elbow with one hand, alternatively clasping his coffee and gesticulating with the other. The occasional table with someone just looking up, looking around, maybe noticing, enjoying the new green on the trees?

    5:18pm. I've been here now for approaching two hours. Still have conversations going on, still a rhythm to the place, but there are fewer shorts, fewer short-sleeve shirts, and voices more muffled. The blue above has been replaced, covered up with a veil of grey. Like the day couldn't decide whether it wanted to be spring or not...

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    that temperature

    There is a certain temperature at which the little yellow flowers (weeds) along the side of the roads in Berkeley just start to open up to the sunshine, while others stay closed, raised in anticipation. And that temperature must be within a degree or two of the temperature at which students decide that it's too cold to sit outside at Strada, even when white petals are falling from branches that bear new green leaves. Too warm to stay home, too cool for a t-shirt. The perfect temperature?

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    opening closing moments

    6:45pm, Local 123. I was in that in-between state, fifteen minutes before closing, when you know that no more work is really going to get done but when it feels premature to pack up and leave. That table was not easy to get, and I was loathe to give it up too soon...

    Enter the Imperial March from Star Wars, one of John Williams' master compositions:

    Yes, doesn't it make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck too? Suddenly I was transported from the cafe onto the deck of the Star Destroyer, plying my way through space with Tie Fighters all ar--

    Wait a minute, this is just a sample. What song is this? It was a rap song of some sort, with the Imperial March sampled into it. Well, cool enough. They had good taste, gotta give 'em that. So my task then became finding out just whose song that was. As of this writing, I didn't quite get there, because, at 6:49 PST, from left field or Dantooine, out rings the barista Tucker's voice:

    "Attention dear patrons of Local 123!! The time is now 6:50 and the cafe will be closing in ten minutes!!"

    She goes on in loud and animated style, the remaining denizens--that is, computer users, students with piles of books on the table, and everyone else in between--slowly emerging from their electronically-induced comas. People look around. A few smile, even laugh. Others are resolute, and remain buried in their screens.

    Tucker continues: "How can I help you make this close smooth and easy? Well, since you asked, if you would bring all your dishes and cups to this lovely bin over here on my right, we would really appreciate it."

    At this point, the two women at the next table are breaking up in laughter. I start closing windows, closing down, stretching. One person starts clapping at the barista's performance. I join in. And look over at the next table.

    Wait a minute, one of the women has a Cal sweatshirt on. I ask if they're grad students at Cal, and it turns out one is at Mills and the other at Cal. They ask about the book on my table--Mark Hansen's Bodies in Code--and it turns out one of them is really into new media as well. We talk as we pack up our stuff, and keep talking as we walk out, yelling bye to the baristas and moving into the night on San Pablo Avenue.

    A spell had been broken, and for the better. I thought about it riding home from the cafe--thought so much that I rode past the juicy temptation of Everett & Jones without even a thought of one of their signature brisket sandwiches. About the spell that is cast over our activities in 'normal' times, during the usual 'opening hours' of life, when we all go about business as usual, engrossed in screens, books, jobs, schedules, routines, and the like. Nothing wrong there, I suppose, and all very necessary.

    But it seems like a bit of a shame, along with being special, that only in the closing moments does the tempo quicken, the music change. Only then, with a deadline approaching, that people can, must, and do step out of the usual flow and let themselves be heard, feel unencumbered in turning and speaking with their neighbors, reaching out and smiling. Somehow, things have to close for others to open.

    Or maybe that's just me? Or, perhaps, just a rhetorical flourish to draw a close to this post?

    Saturday, February 13, 2010

    an external internal organ

    Nothing fancy here, more of a tweet than a post. It just struck me, riding home--and remembering back to the days of carrying my computer in a saddlebag over the back wheel of the bike--that in the backpack the computer feels something like an internal organ. Not hanging out over the pavement and liable to being knocked or bouncing off, but weighing on my back, 5 inches from my lungs, and liable to go down only if its rider goes rolling on the street...

    The computer, like a vital organ even in transit. Kind of odd.

    cappuccinos in passing

    It's been a bit of a rough spot for blogging here recently, as one of the less kind souls amongst the UC Berkeley student population relieved me of my Samsung netbook computer--not a necessity for being a nomad, for sure, but definitely needed for chronicling that nomadicity on-the-go.

    In the meantime, I've been making the trip back and forth to campus by foot on more than one occasion, picking up trash with my buddy Ray's trusty and not-yet-rusty Pikstik on more than one of those occasions, and planning my route carefully so that I'll be sure to pass by the Guerilla Cafe, mentioned first in this post.

    And while I've been there, I've been struck at just how anti-nomadic a cafe it seems to be. That is, it seems to foster actual conversations and welcome pairs and groups of people rather than the laptop-bearing stragglers like me; and, being quite food-centric (while still, I think, offering wi-fi), there is a movement and a cycling to the sense of time there that might, it seems to me, make it hard to completely immerse, detach, submerge, en-void oneself in the world of the screen.

    I say "there" since the bias written into this blog and the kind of cafe existence I lead 90% of the time push me in other directions. But I'd like to spend more time there, relaxing, eating, talking, and getting appraised of upcoming community events -- Mirrors in Every Corner, for example...

    And, dang, they make a pretty mean (smooth, that is) cappuccino.