Saturday, August 21, 2010

Two Cafes

Northside - Euclid and Hearst - appears to be in flux. The cafe above opened a few months ago, newly renovated. It holds the corner, a prime location in terms of foot traffic. Up the street on the same side, tucked into a single storefront, is a cafe that spills out into the street. That's probably not possible at the corner, but - as the photo below shows - it makes a difference. When La Farine opened on Solano, there was a big fuss about the sidewalk seating. I never understood why. It's one reason that cafes give life to a town or a city. (In terms of Northside's viability as a retail corridor, it seems totally wrong of the University to let Peet's to put a cafe on the ground floor of Dal Hall.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fisher Collection

94708 went to SFMOMA this evening to see the Fisher Collection, a trove of modern art put together by the founders of The Gap. The highlight for me was a remarkable "animated diorama" (I'm not sure how else to describe it) on the fourth floor. It's set up in one of two darkened, theater-like spaces along the east wall of the promenade as you walk out from the elevators. The artist is William Kentridge and the subject is Mozart's Magic Flute, which he riffs on in a memorable way. Worth the trip for that alone, but there's much else to see. (My writer friend Kenneth Caldwell reviewed the exhibit recently on his blog, Design Faith.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

1431 Arch

This is one of the older houses in Berkeley. I used to imagine it was proof that the houses near it would survive the next big Hayward fault quake, but the last big one predates it. There's an apartment building on Berryman with a witch's hat. It's an usual motif for 19th-century houses here. Is it a pattern house? It looks too eclectic, like the original owner went to town, marrying a more conventional Victorian facade (right) with something more flamboyant (left). (Note the turret dormers and fretwork above the front porch.) The house is on a steep site, with a lot of stairs to reach the first floor. Nearby houses open to the side or set their front steps sideways so the path to the front door takes most of uphill rise; 1431 opts for a grander approach.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Garage Sale

Two blocks of Arch Street, 1400 and 1500, joined forces this Sunday to hold a marathon garage sale, dotting both sides of both blocks. The motive, beside shedding stuff, was to help neighbors meet neighbors. It worked - I met several new people. Doing it all at once seemed to attract more foot traffic, too. There's an archeological quality to garage sales, exposing layers of the past. They're also anthropologically interesting, as slices of material life come into view. The act of shedding reflects different impulses - from paring back to moving on. In the New Jersey town where I grew up, an annual church sale was the prompt. This two-block event had something of that spirit.