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10:11 a.m. - November 17, 2004
A foggy morning - the hills will go green after a few more days of this - and a brisk walk from the station kicking leaves as I went - after sleeping in until 5:50 - is an efflorescence, an intense and brief flurry of activity, like Fourth of July sparklers.


It was pointed out to me that kitty-corner from this location is Berkeley's medicinal-pot distributory. I've been watching the non-descript door for a while now and am curious why it is everybody who goes in appears young and what my surburban eyes labels counter-culture rather than the old, the infirm, the chronically suffering one sees on advertisements designed to garner support for medicinal use of pot. I find it amusing.

While Tuesdays and Wednesdays are long, challenging, and frustrating, I love being here on Telegraph Avenue. I'm safe behind plate glass and can watch the frenetic bustle and laconic street people plying their wares and smoking their herbs while students stream without end both ways to and from the university. Every lunch hour, my morning hot chocolate jaunt to the Mediterranean (the Med!), my morning and afternoon walk to the train station - I love being here. I think often how I've traveled another circle and ended up in a place where I once was, and can see the many differences between then and now. Then, I was working on my master's degree immersed in African languages and literatures, practiced my Swahili under trees, didn't plan so much for the future because I had entered the period for which I had planned as an undergraduate. Now, I'm an outside observer not part of the pulse that goes on beyond this window of mine, I feel foreign, vigilant, an interloper who doesn't belong on this street. More uptight, not that I was ever particularly live and let live before, but more distant from all this, like I'm a black-and-white film reel when everybody switched to color. Not here but here, not invisible but not taking up space, either.

It is pleasing to me when I walk down the street for a lunchtime sandwich - turkey on sourdough slices, mustard, veggies, no cheese please - and the deli mistress calls me sweetie and says it's time I try something new, and don't I want pumpkin soup with that, the soup she began making at 6 am and is now ready? Or when I head into the bookstores I feel springy, get a taste of memory, how I used to be when I was confident and not only knew my place but took my place and took it excitedly, and didn't walk looking down. So much has changed and not in a good way and I'm at a loss as how to change course midlife, midstream, midsomething.

As always when I've reached this point of not knowing where to go, I turn to school. It's my failsafe, my comfort zone. Last night I took out the now-old application I never sent to Columbia and fantasized about moving to New York. While I think occasionally about another master's degree rather than the Ph.D, I'm aware that this is escapism and a way to avoid the present here and now. How to re-engage with the now, with my now? These are things I think about and I come up with the most offball responses: Take an acting class, damn my fear of unknown people's bodily fluids and join a gym, return to the high school classroom to teach.

All not me, not now and likely never. But still, I think about these things.


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