Even minus the blazing colors, fall is vivid in the Bay Area
ARE THE LEAVES turning in the Bay Area? They are here, and that disorients me. People who move to California can't stand how subtly the seasons pass; the loud, orderly progression here in New York invades my consciousness like a parade on a quiet street.
My first fall at UC Berkeley, a guy in my dorm found the late-October rain puzzling. He was from San Diego. "When's this rain gonna end?" he asked one night. "March," we chorused.
Here it doesn't turn wet, it turns cold. The weather is reminding me of January, when I moved here, when I bought gloves. And it's reminding me of October memories from Berkeley, the months when I'd settled into the school year and the warmth was just beginning to fade.
I discovered a recipe for a great Sunday evening. Take a friend to the Berkeley Rose Garden on a warm October night. Play in the playground on the other side of the street. Watch the sun set while breathing in the aroma of thousands of flowers. On the way back home, stop for ice cream.
Another warm October night, I watched jugglers outside a church off Durant. They told stories, such as "The Evil Circus" and "Please don't tell me his name is Mateo Car" and "Lying in a language I don't know to the Chief of Security of Beijing to get an exit visa."
It was on Oct. 25, 2001 that the UC Berkeley Daily Californian printed the following celebrity birthday announcement as part of Sydney Omarr's Daily Horoscope: "His 'ruling' planet, Neptune, makes him sensitive to the degree of being psychic. It turns out that Billy Crystal can make you laugh and at the same time read your mind."
(This was no surprise to those of us who saw "Analyze This.")
Also that month it was at some lunch at a forgettable, now-gone sushi restaurant on Telegraph Avenue that another student mused with me: "So, I have it from reliable sources that, in case of catastrophe, war, plague, famine, whatever, we only need a thousand people to survive. A thousand people, and the human race can go on."
"But that's only if they're in the same place. They have to find each other."
"You're right. We need to arrange a meeting place, right now!"
"Is Sather Gate good for you?"
A year later, after I'd graduated, I planned on writing a bit while enjoying a warm sunset on the campus. But I was sitting on a busy corridor and ran into two acquaintances, both of whom asked why I was on campus, since I'd already graduated.
I explained this to my flatmate as he and I walked on Bowditch the next day. We saw a mutual acquaintance. "Hi, Karthik," I said.
"Hi," he replied. "Didn't you graduate?"
My flatmate guffawed.
That October, I was a few months into my tenure at the now-closed Cody's Books on Telegraph. A guy came in wearing a Bill Simon for Governor shirt. (Simon was the Republican candidate for California governor.) He asked for a particular book about Osama bin Laden and for Peggy Noonan's biography of Reagan. I also saw him carrying Dale Carnegie's "How to Make Friends and Influence People." I'm not sure how that combination goes.
That month, I discovered that the striped-sweater-and-khakis outfit that I thought was "too Gappy" was the one that three coworkers complimented.
And on a Wednesday night in October of 2002, I experienced worse-than-usual delays on BART to San Francisco. Only midway through my trip did I find out that someone had died on the tracks at the West Oakland station. On my way back, I transferred at West Oakland. She died right there, on some spot on the tracks that I have passed a hundred times. It's sacred ground, and our machines had to keep grinding over it, the grit in their backwash sandblasting the blood away, so that I could get to my sweetie and hold him tight, as often as I can. I'm sorry.
My October memories for 2006 are so far not quite that vivid. But the colors are bright, orange and green over the cold gray streets. I don't remember the colors of a Bay Area fall. The parade here is drowning them out.
- A correction: Last week I implied that obesity leads to Type I diabetes, which is the type that most often requires an insulin pump. It doesn't; it leads to Type II diabetes, which doesn't usually require insulin replacement. My apologies.
Sumana Harihareswara writes each week for Bay Area Living. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.