The tree-sitters of Berkeley
Just as I’ve got happily dug into Berkeley, I now find myself zooming back to England for a few days. It’s for launching my Pompeii book, so I’m quite looking forward to the celebrations. As I think I’ve said before, this is the perfect book-writer’s moment: you still remember that you wrote it, you’ve got the new baby in your arms, but no nasty reviews yet. So I shall enjoy it. One of the gigs is at Toppings of Ely, on Friday, so if you're around do come along.
All the same, it seems a bit odd leaving Berkeley now I feel so settled, and equipped with all I need for life both scholarly and otherwise. No prizes for guessing that the total of library books signed out is now well over 20. But the pleasures go beyond that. They include a local Italian deli; a cheese-shop 5 minutes drive away, which is not only out of this world, but doesn’t come out with the usual foodie put-downs that good cheese shops often trade in (“surely, Madam, you’re not going to serve the Brie de Meaux with that rennet-mixed, unpasteurised chevre from Sardinia…?”); not to mention a Xerox machine which scans documents, makes pdfs and send them to your email . . .how cool is that.
We’ve even, thanks to the encouragement of the son who’s here on a visit, made it into central San Francisco. We did an inadvertent visit to the Golden Gate Bridge (which is to say we missed the turning to what we really wanted to see – namely the vast fake Roman ruin left over from the 1915 International Exhibition). The Bridge turned out to be covered in mist, and better visible from our own house on a clear day. Its gift shop rivalled the one at Stonehenge for tastelessness.
We had better luck in our search for the Grateful Dead house and one of Janis Joplin’s many temporary residences – gone up in the world since the 60s, I fear. The Dead (if they are) will be turning in their graves at the nicely painted, bourgeois clapboard. And even better was the SF Museum of Modern Art. The collection itself seemed not particularly special, but the architecture (it’s by Mario Botta, c 1995) was stunning – shiny and spacious, with all kinds of unexpected and cleverly thought out views from floor to floor. And the gift shop (always the test of a good museum . . .) was retail therapy heaven (I bought an Andy Warhol watch).
The only blot on the landscape over the past couple of days has been a pair of noisy helicopters almost continuously overhead.
Surveillance of the ‘tree-sitters’ we were told
When I was a new girl here, I had naively supposed that these tree sitters were sitting up trees to try to get free views of the football matches in the local stadium. But no. It is a Swampy style environmental protest.
Apparently the University wants to build a sports training center (plus parking lot) next to its main stadium, which will involve cutting down a grove of 40 or so trees. To save the trees, a protest group has been camped in, up and around them for some two years now – to predictable and unpredictable mixed reactions. The environmental lobby in general seems split between support for the noble cause and opposition to the general mess and misplaced enthusiasm of the camp (there are I suspect bigger environmental enemies to fight than UCB).
Anyway. Over the last few days the trees have started to be felled and today the University Police Chief negotiated a surrender with the remaining sitters (perched up a redwood) from a basket at the end of a crane.
All to the accompaniment of the helicopters, which were certainly doing their bit to damage the environment.