In a neighborhood in the hills just northeast of campus, Virginia Street climbs and twists to a dead end just above a short avenue called La Vereda Road. At the very top of Virginia, you find yourself in what appear to be a couple of private driveways. It looks like you’ve reached the top. But there’s a path with jury-rigged railings and steps, some nicely carpentered, some hand-cut into a very steep slope. Going up to the top, your way is blocked by the fence and gate above. One sign seems to invite you to go farther; another sign warning of serious federal consequences — the land on the other side belongs to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — and a heavy lock on the gate stop you in your tracks. Except for the fact someone’s going out of their way to maintain access across private property up to the gate, I’d think the gate is always locked. I’ve been up there maybe half a dozen times, have never found anyone on the street who knows what the deal is and have struck out looking online for any info. Maybe calling the lab is my next step, or maybe someone who reads this will have a key for that lock. (Below: the view from the gate, shot through my sunglass lens.)
Last Sunday, we walked a little farther down University Avenue than usual (in search of a mailbox to drop a Netflix disc into; seems like we have many fewer mailboxes than in olden times, and the ones that have survived here are covered with grafitti and in general so trashy-looking that make you wonder whether they’re in use anymore). I’ve probably been by this spot at least 100 times in the last five years, and never noticed this building. The banner is a plea from the Berkeley Archtectural Heritage Association for someone to give this house a home. As my dad would say, all it needs is a little TLC. The association had the structure, which apparently dates back to the 1880s and is of a unique (and patented) portable design, moved to this lot in 2004 from a spot about five blocks up University; prior to that, it had been a further five blocks east and south. Now, nature and the neighborhood are having their way with the place.
Read more about the house on the BAHA site (which includes some cool pictures of the cottage’s earlier moves and what the place looked like when it was first planted on this lot):
A weekend morning ritual has evolved since The Dog’s arrival in 2006: On Saturdays, we walk up to Fatapple’s, a restaurant with a take-out shop, and pick up coffee and a pastry, walk over to the local school garden for the four-legged family member to scope out the chicken coop and the squirrels, then sit in the little amphitheater next to the playground (it’s got a view out to the bay) and eat. Sunday, we’ve started walking the other direction, to a place called Fellini, on University Avenue, that has a take-out window. We buy coffee and skip the pastries, then walk down to the old Santa Fe right -of-way and circle back home. All of the above is habit-forming.
Across the street from Fellini is Ledger’s Liquor, one of the few remaining liquor stores on University. In olden times, city ordinances forbade alcohol sales within a mile of the Berkeley campus. You know the reason: the pernicious effect of drink on youth and so forth. Those laws were scrapped long ago, but their legacy — a dearth of taverns and liquor outlets and a subdued night life — remains. The big liquor market on the street, Jay-Vee, closed about a decade ago and is now a synagogue. Another place a few blocks away, B&W, which was attached to a bar and seemed to have a corner on the down-and-outer crowd, has been a vacant lot for two or three years. The stores have gone out of business mostly because surrounding neighborhoods, and the city, have become unfriendly: University Avenue liquor stores are seen as magnets for crime and trash.
Ledger’s had been around awhile when I got here in the ’70s. It was known for stocking exotic beers, which back then only meant brews free of the taint of St. Louis, Milwaukee, or Golden, Colorado. I can’t remember the last time I was in there; I’ll bet it was in the ’80s. But it’s still kicking along, though what draws my attention now is the assortment of goods advertised and the slick way they’re presented.
The message on the marquee is semi-permanent and perhaps immortal. Anyone know a source for that?