meeting Jenny and Jeff…

So Simon put me on the Muni to Oakland and I meet Jenny and Jeff outside the station. I had worked with Jenny at Free and Clear in 2007 and we used to go to art events. See moved to Berkeley, got a masters degree in East Asian studies, and now she is in a transition between having the degree and having a project. I do not recall her mentioning Jeff previously to this trip, but apparently they knew each other in Seattle and have some history together.

We immediately went to the Oakland Museum of California, which is a combination art museum and history of California museum. I think it is a good idea to combine exhibitions even though I do not see this often done. The way I see it is that museum space is expensive and costs can be saved by sharing space, and this is not a commercial venture which needs strong branding so why not cut expenses and work together? The result was a large building with lots to see. The temporary exhibit was a review of the sketches and working models of Pixar, which seems to have its offices somewhere in the area.

Jenny and I picked up talking where we stopped in early March of this year when she was in Seattle. Jeff seemed into this too; he grew up in Yakima, went to UW for his English degree, spent 18 months teaching English in Thailand, and is planning to go to Japan to teach next month. I was completely interested in everything he had to say. He and Jenny have been hiking and camping a lot and tripping out on the beautiful California wild places. I felt like I could relate to Jeff, because he and I had similar experiences growing up in a small town then having a revelation that we had easy access to a better life through living in a city, traveling, and accessing community amenities like parks and museums.

The museum was actually busy and for no particular reason I could tell, other than people being interested in the Pixar exhibit. One piece of novelty to me was something like a zoopraxiscope for the toy cast of Toy Story. It was a disc with models on it which, when spinning, seemed to make the models animated through a routine. Here is a video of it.

We went home and Jenny had terrific tea which I enjoyed continually. I enjoyed myself with them because they entertained my questions about Chinese culture and San Francisco infrastructure and tourism models and non-profit fundraising strategies and effective social work. I cannot really say what we talked about or when, but I can say that I enjoyed conversation with them immensely and feel like I could talk to either one of them for days because they both have opinions on everything.

Friday they asked me what I wanted to do and I told them I wanted to see Berkeley Campus and in particular the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. I suspected that I would not be allowed entrance beyond the lobby of this laboratory based on its website’s description of the place, but I had no idea that it was on the side of a hill within Berkeley’s forested grounds, surrounded by fencing, and with a guarded gate preventing unauthorized entry to the parking lot. I was interested in visiting because of Berkeley having connections to the development of atomic weapons, and because of other scientific history which has happened here, and because currently this particular lab is a center of a lot of prestigious research, and because it is the lab of Obama’s Secretary of Energy, Stephen Chu. Well, I saw the laboratory, and now I think I could spend weeks reading about discoveries of interest to popular culture which have happened here. It seems like an isolated place what with it being well into campus and sort of away from San Francisco, but I suppose some scientists want it that way.

The Berkeley Campus is a relaxing place which is close but not conveniently close for walkers to this laboratory. I checked out the reading room for the Bancroft Library and thought it seemed like a nice place to get smarter. The trees on campus are so big and there is a creek running through it. There are so many soft places to lie in the grass. And then just off campus is the street with the coffee shops and hang out spots and lots of traveler kids with dogs and guitars. The first Peet’s Coffee is here.

That night we went to see Hitchcock’s 1956 Man Who Knew Too Much at this Deco theatre in Oakland called the Paramount Theatre. The theatre was gorgeous but Oakland sure has some run-down areas. We wandered around the theatre and it is being well kept, but it made me feel bad for Oakland because it seemed that such a luxurious place was not being
used to its purpose if it is surrounded by a neighborhood which was once busy and now has shuttered businesses. The place was kind of a fantasy escape; we went in and the walls were glowing and had deep carvings which I touched all over and then we watched that asinine dated movie where Jimmy Stuart and Doris Day behaved in a contrived and unbelievable ridiculous way which I have trouble understanding that any audience at any time could have ever found convincing. I still like Day’s singing, though. When we left and rejoined reality, it seemed that the surrounding area did little to support people who wanted to chill. Jeff recommended Merritt Restaurant and Bakery as the proper place to regroup, and he was spot-on. The menu featured chicken and waffles served together, huge cakes which looked like hamburgers, and an indication that the Pixar staff supports the concept of the place by including the image of a hamburger cake as one of the merit badges for the boy scout Russell in Up. As an eating-contest enthusiast, I support the idea of attempting to eat one of those cakes. Also the restaurant had painted copies of various Western masters, so it was classy. More tea and talk when we got home! I was really digging this trip.

Sometime around here I talked to Eric and found I could meet him on Sunday. I asked for a couple of extra days with J&J and they were good to me in allowing it. Saturday morning we woke up and it was like a dream world outside. The wind was soft and the air was sweet and we walked through their neighborhood to the Beehive Market in the parking lot of Berkeley Adult School. The market had a good mix of stuff for sale and people advertising non-profit stuff and I hope it remains successful. The adult school there had great prices for advanced computer classes which I would like and seems to do good work teaching English and life skills to people who want that. There was this wonderful coffee shop across the street with a garden in back with a noisy fountain that was really relaxing. Everything was really relaxing. The neighborhood had lemon and orange trees also, and they put out a smell like fresh zest.

Later we went downtown because I wanted to see the headquarters of Bechtel, the largest engineering firm in the US and a major organizer US Department of Energy nuclear cleanup and management operations. I saw their area and they have this train car in the plaza of some sky scrapers where they keep a little Bechtel museum. This was in the Financial District, and also there we went by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals location for this area.

We went to the Mission and walked around seeing things including Clarion Alley’s graffiti and Paxton Gate’s wunderkammer and enjoying fantastic espresso at Ritual Roasters. The park across the street from the mission was all white kids with money drinking beer in the grass, so if this part of the Mission was ever Mexican the techno in the park shooed them away. I loved seeing the cemetery at the Mission!

That night we went to the night market in Chinatown and for the first time I heard Chinese opera. It was a musical style which was totally unfamiliar to me. After that we went to a rock show and I was introduced to Nobunny. I am no great appreciator of music, but I thoroughly enjoyed the singer coming out on stage in a bunny mask wearing a ball gag and stripping to his underwear during the show. He varied his music style as did the opening bands. I kind of wanted to rock out but despite the full turnout not enough of the crowd was jumping and pushing so it was kind of dangerous for those of us who were, because there was not critical mass for people slamming around to huddle in a contained way. So I got a little sweaty but not as thrashed about as I could have wanted.

So that was my introductory time to J&J’s place.

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purpose of this blog

This is Lane Rasberry's personal blog. None of the information on this blog is private, but it is personal and I have not written it with the intent to make it of public general interest. Anyone visiting this site has my permission to use anything they find here for friendly, share-alike purposes.