Longest Nights


With a dry day and an early shift at work, and inspired by seeing our across-the-street neighbors hanging lights in their big front-yard oak, the pieces fell into place for me to put up our Christmas lights late this afternoon and this evening. Yes, the job was stretched by having to run to the store to replace a couple of strands of dead or mostly dead lights.

After dark, another neighbor was stringing lights along her porch. And some friends across the street had their full holiday show on. And just in time for the first nights of winter and the longest nights of the year.


On Hopkins, outside Monterey Market. And below, reflections in a shop window across the street. (And tonight, we’re at the end of a couple days of showery rain and the temperature is falling into — cold for here — the 30s).



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January Lights

It’s late. I was just out for a long walk with the dog. A few houses in our part of North Berkeley still display Christmas lights. I took ours down over the weekend; there’s something about late Christmas decorations on my own house that I believe advertises distraction, disarray, or laziness. It may come from a childhood memory of a Christmas tree we didn’t manage to take down until after Groundhog Day. In my big bundle of neuroses, It’s a relatively minor one.

But on the other houses around about, I find I like seeing the lights, even if I wonder why they’re still up. They never mean exactly the same thing to me here as they did back in Illinois, because somehow you need to have snow or at least a dead lawn and a blast of Arctic cold to put the lights in the proper context. We don’t have any of that here, but they manage to bespeak a mildly out-of-season yuletide cheer nonetheless. After mid-January, though, they start to say something else: maybe about a desire to hang on to some little bit of fun while we’re waiting for the sun to come back.

It was a nice surprise tonight to see the place up the way on Cedar Street that still has its modest display of flashing white icicle lights. And another house, at Yolo and Bonita, with a couple of deep blue snowflakes in the window. And a yard around the corner from that place, on Hopkins Street, that I somehow didn’t see until tonight. Someone hung a long string of red lights in a 100-foot redwood and stretched them in a long diagonal down to a house below. Rubies suspended in the night. Beautiful.

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Alpha Beta Day


What am I missing here? Any ideas? These are as handsome an A and a B as you’re likely to find gracing a holiday lawn anywhere. And maybe I should just embrace this display on that level. But I’m not getting the reference or the joke or whatever it is. I guess I’m going to have to knock on the front door and ask.

In other news, mere minutes (eight, exactly) after this exclusive picture was shot on Berkeley’s Monterey Avenue, the dog and I were walking down our street when the ground gave a little shudder and there was a deep, thundering noise; an earthquake, the first I recall hearing outside. Key stat for the event: Magnitude 3.68, epicenter about three miles to the south and east, in the hills on the Hayward Fault, up the street from the Claremont Hotel; there was a 2.2 aftershock about 20 minutes after the first jolt, just perceptible here. I’m sure the hotel guests had something to talk about (and this is the second temblor to hit up there in the last 51 hours; Wednesday evening, there was a 3.67 at virtually the same location).

We’ve Got Lights


Thom and I put up our outside lights this afternoon. The process featured a tangled extension cord — Thom undid it, using mysterious skills he learned in the Sea Scouts — and my mostly silent concern that in my 50-plus clumsiness gravity would get the better of me, I’d pitch off the roof and wind up as a 1-column, 2-inch item in a local daily as a seasonal casualty. I’m still here, and noting the concern, so the worst didn’t come to pass. In fact, it only took us about half an hour to hang the strings, and everything was lit up by dusk.

Now we’re set till that day after the first of the year when the ladder comes out and I go back aloft to take the lights down.