A Walk In Berkeley

Approximately 7 pm, Saturday, 16 June 2001, Berkeley, California

Daniel Wilkerson

I went for a walk in North Berkeley, the Gourmet Ghetto, to get something to eat. I stop in Saul's, a Northern California imitation of a New York Deli, and look at the prices. Its easily $10 to eat dinner, even if you're cheap. I notice its almost 7 pm, so I head to The Cheese Board Pizza Collective because I know they give away what they can't sell when they close at 7. I ask the guy, "Any pizza left?"

"Oh sure, just have to wait a few minutes."

As I'm waiting, he gives us all two slices. More people are still buying, and he's giving them extra slices on the house. People continue to come in and buy pizza even though the closed sign is up. He is a virtuoso with the cutting knife and spatula, literally throwing pizza into the oven to heat. He oils another, throws probably oregano onto it, cuts it into 8 slices and spins the spatula in his hand. He is one with the pizza kitchen.

My plan was to take the pizza they can't sell, but they are still selling it, so, since I'm not poor, feeling guilty, I get in line to pay for mine. A woman is behind me who was in front of me before. "I got in the car", she says, "but I thought I might not have enough for the party, so I came back."

"Can't go home with not enough Cheese Board Pizza!" he says cheerfully, giving her a few more slices. I pull out my wallet. "You want a few more?"

"No, I want to pay for mine. You're selling out today."

"Oh, its on the house."

"I can pay for it."

"On the house. It was a reheated one. Some of these were out here and cooled off or got a little brown."

"Are you sure?"

"No problem!"

"Have some bread too, says a woman behind him who is washing up" as she gestures to a rack as tall as I am almost completely loaded with big loaves of freshly baked gourmet bread. "These have hot peppers in them" she suggests. I take a grocery bag and feel more tinges of guilt as I take two large loaves.

"Thank you".

I start south on Shattuck towards home, a mile away, eating pizza that, "reheated or a little brown", is still better than any other in the world. Quickly done, I'm just another person walking through Berkeley with a paper grocery bag. I stop in Eddie Bauer to price their socks, $6.00, but $1.50 off if I buy three! Too bad I recycled that coupon. There is a travel chess/backgammon board completely over-engineered in a beautiful shiny case, but with little tiny plastic pieces no one would want to play with: $14.00. Who buys this stuff? The clothes are OK, but clearly the brand is everything. Last time I was in Sausalito, I parked next to an "Eddie Bauer" khaki and white sport utility vehicle. I kid you not.

I pass a woman begging who I've seen many times before. She only seems to still have teeth on one side.

"Spare change?" she mouths pathetically. Here I am a rich guy with free gourmet bread passing a destitute woman.

"I have some bread", I offer hopefully.

"I don't really like bread" she says, rather self-assuredly and suddenly not so pathetic.

I stop in the Gateway computer store to watch the computer become the next jukebox. As this one song is playing on mp3.com I'm interrupted by a man with long impossibly black hair on most of his head, and none on the rest. "Excuse me" he says politely "we just want to compare the speakers." He turns it up "OK OK, I'll pay $40 for the better speakers!" gasps his girlfriend, grasping her head in exasperation and turning away.

I pick the "goth" category, never having heard it. Some pop sounding music that I rather like starts playing. I want to turn it up, but the guy with the hair turned it down in the UI, so turning it up on the physical speaker doesn't help much. I start clicking through menus. I can read from CD's, listen to internet radio channels, change the skin of the UI, anything but control the volume. I find the equalizer, and I figure I can crank up all the channels, but this seems rather crude. Finally the guy with some long hair comes back.

"You just click on this speaker icon in the lower corner here" he says. Sure enough. Some engineer I am, too dumb for this UI that any normal American can figure out now. The sales guy shows up and starts "relating" to me

"You don't look very Goth."

"Never heard it before so I thought I'd give it a try. What's Goth?"

"It's kind of like pop, these days."

"Everything becomes pop eventually it seems."

Continuing home, I pass a young man on the street wearing a rather handsome reddish curly beard and mustache to match his hair.

"Spare change" he asks with some confidence.

"I have some nice bread here."

"Let me see" I show him.

"Fresh good bread" I say "I'll give you some." After a pause he makes a bit of a face.

"I don't really like bread" he says.

As I'm crossing Bancroft and Shattuck I can't keep from laughing out loud.

© Copyright 2001 Daniel S. Wilkerson