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Berkeley Book Buying Binge - The Lyorn's Den

Sun Oct. 22nd, 2006

11:34 pm - Berkeley Book Buying Binge

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The great book buying binge, sad to say, started on Friday, when I felt like I was lacking stuff to read after coming home from work, and made an foray into the next Borders, with a vague idea of buying a paperback and having a cup of tea and then find some take-out place, and have a nice evening with food and reading. Unfortunately my control slipped and I walked out with 50 dollars worth of books. OK, who do I think I am fooling? I never regret money spent on books.

I nearly always regret money spent on fast food, though, and that case was no different. I didn't manage to communicate to the woman behind the counter at Subway that I only wanted the sub, not any awful soft drink or boring potato chips to go with it (bread and potatoes? maybe some rice and pasta to go with it?), so I ended up paying about 5 Euro for a small and rather dry sub, and was angry at myself for being hungry and incompetent.

While the hotel room has a kitchenette, it's not as easy as that. It lacks, salt, pepper, butter, olive oil, vinegar, ketchup, paprika, herbs... and I have not yet decided whether it's worth investing into the whole basketful of kitchen basics. It probably is. After all, six weeks is more than enough to munch your way through one set of them.

Also on my "to buy"-list is a thermos - currently I'm keeping the tea warm by wrapping the pot into a towel I brought from home, an arrangement which is, I fear, accident-prone - and a tea mug of decent size.

But, on to Saturday.

It had been hot on Friday, with temperatures close to 30°C, and Saturday promised to be about the same, so I decided to go shopping instead of sightseeing. First on my list of places was Berkeley, which I remembered fondly from 13 years ago, and which, I was sure, would have a good selection of bookstores without everything being spread out too far.

But first, I had to get gas for the car, which turned out to be the big intellectual challenge of the day. (Have I mentioned that the car's operation manual is still AWOL?) First problem was opening the gas tank door. Really. Because its default state is, of course, closed. And locked, regardless of whether the car is locked or not. I nearly broke a fingernail trying to pry it open, but just in time remembered the type of the car and thought, 'wait, that can't be right'. There had to be a button to open it, and it had to be within reach of the driver's seat. So I systematically went through all the buttons. The car computer allowed you to query the status of every device, but contained no manual, either. I re-set the day mileage counter, dimmed and brightened several lights, got the seat to move, opened and closed the windows a couple of times, opened and closed the hood, discovered that the car had at least two batteries, and finally found a button well hidden in the driver's door compartment which actually, with a noticeable "blopp!" unlocked the gas tank door. Yeah me.

Next was to find out what kind of gas this car wanted. Not diesel, obviously, but what kind of gas? The icons on the inside of the fuel door said, "91 or 95 octane, check the manual". Great. I checked the producer's web site instead. The American site was unavailable, the German one said 95 octane. I had the creeping suspicion that the US use a different scale, and I was right.

Fortunately, I found a lot of help at the gas station. One nice man explained that 91 octane was the highest commonly available, so by simple rules of logic it had to be good enough (I agreed), and the gas station attendant explained the whole thing about pre-paying to me. In the end, the price was about 0,56 Euro a liter. Ha! Public transport, BTW, is also inexpensive. Most things are. Groceries are an exception, but then, I always had the suspicion that groceries are absurdly cheap in Germany. (Not really complaining, I can always buy organic food at the market if I feel I'm getting away too easily...)

I felt quite accomplished when driving away from the gas station. You might say I'm easily satisfied.

The weather forecast had been right, it was hot in Berkeley, and the sky again a cloudless blue. I got off the train at Downtown Berkeley, which is Shattuck Ave., and the first gaming store was right at the BART station exit. I didn't get that second edition Deadlands I've been searching for a year, but the fourth edition GURPS Space, and I stacked up on dice on principle. You can never have enough pretty dice. The dice were manufactured in Germany. I never noticed before. Next I walked over a farmers market where they had real bread and lots of fine-looking vegetables. I already checked, but there's nothing similar closer to "home".

The next block had a comic shop, a used book shop, and "The Other Change of Hobbit". The latter was a lot different than I remembered. I wish I had my old notebook to compare, but unfortunately I left it at home. The Wikipedia entry on the store says it moved in 1993, that might explain it. Anyway, I was in hog heaven. When I finally stumbled out, my hands were shaking from having carried so many books around for so long, and I stuffed my rucksack with the merry grin of a pirate who had just robbed the Spanish treasure fleet. And as none of you, dear readers back home, has sent me a shopping list so far, it's all MINE! (cackle)

Outside, it had become even hotter. Yet, 30°C in California is not as bad 30°C at home. I do not know whether it's the drier air, or the added sense of adventure. Reading in the newspaper gardening section that this is not the subtropics surprised me. I notice that you still have OK weather, too, which is amazing, as it's the weekend of the Essen fair, and I remember it raining pretty consistently (unless, of course, it was snowing).

Even without my old notebook I was 100% certain that this was not the area of town I had visited with Ceridwen. It lacked hippies and stalls on the street selling tie-died everythings, bumper stickers, weed paraphernalia, and home-made jewelry. I checked on what passed for my map for "Telegraph Road", but it wasn't on it. So I just went by memory, and after walking a few blocks trough a quiet residential area with large-rooted trees, pretty houses and mostly expensive cars, as well as a cluster of churches, I actually found it, and it was just as I remembered, only more crowded, because it was Saturday. I had an iced tea and a cream cheese bagel in a very nice cafe, where the only other guests were a handful of students with their books and laptops. The room had brick walls and was open towards the ceiling, except for a platform where more tables were located, and in the middle of the ceiling was either the cleanest skylight I've ever seen, or it was actually open (seems unlikely, even in Berkeley it must rain sometimes.)

I bought a copper hair clasp from a street vendor, and tried on some multicolored pants in an "imported from Nepal"-store (a little too small, sigh), watched a juggler, listened to some music and enjoyed myself immensely (and got a slight sunburn). Then some kind of sport event must have ended, because suddenly people in yellow and blue were crowding the streets and forming queues in front of what must have been favorite eating places, and I made my way back to the BART station.

I would have loved to take pictures, and I actually got my cell phone with me this time, but I felt it would be impolite to start waving it at people, so I didn't.

The BART train was full of folks in yellow and blue, too, but other than your average soccer fans they behaved. It was still hot when I returned to the hotel, half an hour before sunset.

And Sunday (that's today), I looked at my sunburn, my books, and the outside temperature and decided to spend the day sitting on the sofa, reading and drinking tea.

Which I did.

On Saturday I also tried (twice) to phone Snow's sister, but I only got an answering machine. I'm going to double-check the phone number she gave me, because I'd hate to harass complete strangers.

And tomorrow our last team member is scheduled to arrive, and serious work is expected to begin.