Private Property

Fifth Street, Berkeley.

I’ve been walking past this place for years, a house on the corner of Fifth Street and Allston Way in West Berkeley. I’ve always been struck by the place’s battered look and the declaration that it’s private property. I’m kind of wondering whether this is a warning to would-be trespassers or an announcement of principle. In Berkeley, you never quite know.

Posted in Berkeley: Lost Key

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I saw the posting at left about two weeks ago on Grant Street near Ohlone Park. As part of my ongoing interest in Berkeley flier culture, it piqued my interest. I especially like the handwriting and the attempt to attach the sign to a tree with packing tape. I also noted that somebody had come by and written “thanks” on the sign, which I thought might have been an acknowledgment from he or she who lost the key. I didn’t notice when I snapped the picture that I had not captured the whole phone number.

I saw the sign at right, one of several posted in the same neighborhood, maybe a week later. I thought, “Wow, I saw those signs they’re talking about.” I took a picture, but didn’t download it from my phone right away and forgot about it. Until yesterday, when I looked at the “Lost Toyota Key” picture and went back and located the “Found Toyota Key” picture. Too bad I captured only six of 10 phone digits. I decided to call the guy who was looking for the key anyway to see if he had found it.

He had not. In fact, he was waiting for the locksmith to come and make him a new key. I told him about the (not totally amazing) coincidence of having pictures of both signs. He was excited until I told him that all I had of the phone number was “510 277.” That meant he had 10,000 possible numbers to call to find his key. I went back out to the place where I took the “found key” picture. The tape is still on the tree, but there’s no sign of the sign.

Lesson: Get the whole phone number next time.

Occupy Oakland, from Near and Far


If you don’t live in the immediate Bay Area, or even if you do, you’ve been hearing about how violent last week’s Occupy Oakland “general strike” was. On NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”–not a news show, I know, but still a place I usually think of as careful with facts, the day was summarized as one where police clashed with protesters who tried to shut down the city’s port. No police tried to stop the port shutdown, there were no clashes there, and the protesters succeeded in shutting down the port.

Here’s the way a local news commentator, who knows better, puts it: “The place for action last week was Oakland, where thousands of righteous demonstrators who believe they’ve been marginalized by those in power clashed with police, littered parks, broke windows and defaced buildings to vent their anger at the callous disregard they’ve experienced.”

Leaving for later why these accounts have gained currency–a combination of destructive, belligerent behavior by a relative handful of the demonstrators combined with the media’s natural tendency to focus on trouble wherever it occurs–I just want to say don’t believe everything you read or see (also leaving for later: the philosophical conundrum of whether you should believe anything you read or see right here).

From talking to both participants and people who covered the events that day, the vast majority of folks who took part in the Occupy Oakland strike were people bent on just one thing: peaceful protest. (Next you’ll want to know what they were protesting, and I think you’d get a thousand, or ten thousand, different versions of what brought people out there).

Anyway, here are some pictures of signs seen that day, long before the late-night miscreants (self-styled anarchists whom a friend calls “joy-riding thugs), seized their moment.

Weekend Signs of Berkeley


Delaware at Acton. I don’t know anything about the art stump. But it looks like plenty of people in the neighborhood (kitty-corner from the North Berkeley BART station) do. And the stump is associated with someone named Stewie.


Chestnut Street near Hearst. There’s enough space on the curb in front of a residence to allow two cars to park there. But that’s not to be left to chance or common sense. Hence the politely worded request (or strangely worded prescription) to barbarian drivers. We have a similar situation in front of our house. Since I’m annoyed with the daily traffic from BART patrons who use our street as a parking lot (sometimes with a pretty aggressive show of entitlement), I make it a point to park in such a way that just one car fits into the two-car space.


Solano, between Ramona and Pomona (Albany, not Berkeley). Literary exhortation from local nursery: “In the spring, at the end of the day you should smell like dirt.” –Margaret Atwood.

Roadside Attraction


Spotted on Highway 25, an otherwise gorgeous slice of California, just south of the east entrance to Pinnacles National Monument. I think it may be the first time I’ve seen the anti-illegal-immigrant cause married to the sacrifices of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A couple of things come to mind looking at the signs. It’s tempting to look at how many of the war dead–in these and other wars–arrived in the United States without their engraved invites or are the children of parents who came without papers. I’m thinking their sacrifices are still worthy.

It’s also tempting to come up with a list of all the other things the troops may or may not have died for besides “open borders.” Maybe some other night.

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Chenoa, Illinois


Chenoa’s a town about 25 miles north-northeast of Bloomington and sits at the junction of U.S. 24, which runs east-west, and Interstate 55 (and old U.S. 66). We drove through town in mid-April, headed west on 24 to pick up 55 on our way from Chicago to Berkeley. We detoured through the old downtown business district, a handful of handsome and under-used old brick buildings surrounded by low frame and pre-fab buildings. The sign was no doubt touched up or repainted altogether, since the Chicago-based Selz shoe concern apparently went out of business about 60 years ago. (Here’s a post from a blog on faded signs that talks about the company and has a few examples of old Selz signs.)

Cars, Birds


16th Street at Bryant, San Francisco. This sign (or signs) has been here for years, just behind The Double Play bar. I’ll dig up the story behind them — there’s at least one similar art piece on 6th Street, south of Market — at some later date.

[That later date is now: KQED friend and colleague Molly Samuel advises they’re by a San Francisco artist who goes by the handle Rigo 23 (if Wikipedia is to be believed, his full name is Ricardo Gouveia.) Thanks, Molly!]