Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A sad day

The Cody's on Telegraph is closing. I don't even live in the bay area anymore, and that still makes me sad. I was enthralled by Cody's when I was a high school student--the sheer size and the number of books sent me into bookworm heaven. I remember a day when I was 15 or 16, wandering with a friend along Telegraph Avenue, where we bought little necklaces that said "peace" in different languages, browsing stores like Cody's and Amoeba. Finally we walked up to a coffee house, I think Cafe Strada, where I ordered a coffee drink that I didn't really like (and that probably made me sick later, as I've never coped well with caffeine) and hoped that people would mistake us for Cal students.

I'm sad to see that Cody's go, but in a way I also feel guilty. I want to support independent bookstores, but honestly, I do most of my book buying in used book shops or on Amazon. When I lived in Santa Cruz, I never entered the Borders that opened on Pacific Avenue, but continued to shop at Bookshop Santa Cruz and Logos. Now that I'm in DC, I love Politics and Prose, and I even like Kramerbooks, although it's really just not a good venue for browsing. When holidays come around, though, or there is a specific book that I decide I need, I order from Amazon.

But when I'm at home in the bay area, visiting friends in Berkeley, I love to stop in to browse and maybe pick something up at Cody's or Moe's on Telegraph, or the Cody's down on Fourth Street. I'll miss the main Cody's. Let's cross our fingers that the other shops are able to stay open.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

There was that time that the man with the Southern accent was talking loudly about how no one else was talking

On my first day of orientation at Georgetown, I met another woman who had just moved to Washington from California. “Have you noticed how much less friendly everyone here is?” she asked in a low voice. I shook my head. So far everyone had seemed very pleasant. A few of my neighbors had introduced themselves the night that we were moving things into our new apartment from our U-haul trailer. The bus driver on the route that went by my house had been helpful in explaining how to get various places. The majority of the people I knew so far I had met that day in orientation, and of course they had all be very outgoing and friendly. Earlier in the summer, when I’d visited to find a place to live, I’d had a grand time with some women I’d met in the hostel where I’d stayed, and several of the prospective landlords had been friendly and helpful when they learned I was new to the area. Basically, everyone seemed great to me.

But eventually I did begin to see the difference. It wasn’t necessarily a difference between being in a big city and being in a beach/college town. The friend who had pointed out the difference had been living in Los Angeles. The place where I really started to notice the difference was on the Metro.

The summer after college, I worked for The Husband’s aunt at a law firm in Oakland (we call that “nephew-tism”), commuting on BART from Martinez. I always had a newspaper or book with me, but most days I had at least one conversation either on a train or in a station, with someone I didn’t know. People would comment on the banana slug on my sweatshirt (um, it was a rather casual law office) or the book I was reading. They would sit down on the bench where I was waiting with a big sigh, and I could ask them, “Long day?” One day, on a crowded Pittsburg-Bay Point train, a seat near me opened up. A man in a business suit gestured for me to take it. I smiled at him and sat down. A few minutes later, as the train pulled into the Walnut Creek station, I felt someone lightly touch my shoulder. The man who had let me sit down was looking down at me. I met his gaze, and he winked at me, handed me a business card, and made his way toward the door. (I tossed the card when I got to North Concord-Martinez, but I made sure to tell The Husband about it when I called him that night.)

On Metro, there aren’t the same casual conversations. Occasionally some tourists will ask me for directions and I may chat with them for a bit about getting around, the museums they want to visit, or places to eat near their hotel. But the casual conversations with other commuters are few and far between—they pretty much only happen when buses are running late or the weather is doing something extreme . Mostly it’s not something I notice, and I don’t mind having quiet commutes.

I’ve noticed it this week, because people seem to be breaking the rules. They are talking to me. I picked up a copy of Isabel Allende’s most recent novel, Zorro. People notice the cover and say something. They want to know about the book. Is it really about that Zorro? Is it the traditional story? Is it good? On Thursday and Friday, every time I got on a train and once when I got on a bus, someone had something to say. And while their questions and comments do take me away from the book (which, like every other story I’ve read by Allende, has me totally captivated), I enjoy this chance to talk with random people. It’s occurred to me that if I want to meet new people, I should just continue to carry this book around with me, tucking whatever I’m really reading inside. But that might be weird.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Nature walk: River Bend to Great Falls

For last week's nature walk, The Husband and I started at River Bend Park in Fairfax County. I was looking for something that was more of a stroll than a hike, and that was exactly what I got. The trail from River Bend down to Great Falls was much easier than the Billy Goat Trial.

trail at River Bend Park

River Bend Park is much less popular than the park at Great Falls, and the river is wide and calm there. As we walked the trail down toward the falls (less than two miles one way) we enjoyed the views of the river, and we got to see some geese and goslings, and a great blue heron.

view of the Potomac near River Bend Park

geese and goslings on the river

blue heron

Because it was nearly sunny and in the 70s, when we arrived at Great Falls, the park was crowded, making me even more glad that we weren't walking the busier trails south of the falls. We found a picnic table (not easy, as it was just about noon) nibbled on our snack, and after a quick look at the falls, headed back up along the river.

Great Falls

Great Falls

While we were at Great Falls, we stopped in at the visitor's center, where I picked up 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, so hopefully we will be branching out a bit from Great Falls in the near future.