i know what you mean!

last days of summer

Posted on: October 22, 2009

Temperature soars to 76F today with very warm sunshine, white clouds, and cool breezes. I suspect this will be the last 70 before the Susquehana Valley descends into 40’s and 30’s of mid atlantic autumn. Today, York weather is on the same page with Berkeley’s weather and I relive my first autumn from the last decade.

I always go back to that first autumn in Berkeley because it is the key to my identity, the year I left home and found a niche. What really happened that autumn is quite boring in appearance. Typical too. But because it marks the beginning of my next 9 blissful years in the Bay Area, I always find myself standing at the thresh of Fall ’99 memories year after year.

First, dad made a noncommittal agreement that he would take me up to Berkeley at the end of August. Then it looked like Trung, my bf at the time, would drive me. Then the end of August approached and no one stepped up. Men. So 25 year old Chau said screw this and took a Friday off from work, rented a car, purchased a one way return plane ticket, and drove me with my 4 boxes of belongings up to San Jose to stay with her former classmate, Long. Anh Long then took us sightseeing in SF on Saturday, then dropped me off at Jerylin’s and Jackie’s apartment on Sunday afternoon, before taking Chau to the airport for her flight back home.

Chau’s bf at the time, another Long, was livid that she took off without his approval and had the audacity to SPEND THE NIGHT in another man’s home. Not something 2 good girls should be doing. *Chortle.* But somehow Chau and I were beyond caring. We rolled on the floor laughing as Chau composed an absurd email reply asking for forgiveness in an over the top tone. What a freak. Anh Long lived with his mom and sisters at that time, in the home that was better described as his family’s home, rather his private residence.

Jackie and Jery’s one bedroom apartment was still filled with Terrence’s stuffs (he being Jery’s brother), so the living room hardly had an empty space. The Southern California I left was blazing with heat, and San Jose was still sporting quite a summer. Berkeley, by contrast, was chilly at sun down and foggy. The first night in Berkeley was quiet. The apartment’s windows all looked out to the side wall of the complex next door. In the cool shadows of that first evening, the street lamp casted lonely beams through the window onto the back wall. The Campanale tolled the hours drearily like some church’s. I slept on the old couch curled up in the Costco sleeping bag Trung gave me and wondered about my love. Trung was as good as dumping me at that moment, but I was too naive to understand.

I began my apartment search a week after my arrival, not wanting to outlive my hosts’ hospitality. I found Insoon’s place after 2 weeks, and moved in by mid September. I got two jobs, one working for a professor in his Nutrition and Toxicology lab and the other, sales clerk at Radston’s down on Shattuck Ave. I took four classes from Monday through Thursday, stacking them back to back so I could maximize my work hours. There was a Lit of the Sixties class with a poet, which I loved. That class was always changing location for some reason. Some afternoon we found ourselves sitting on the grass. The poet taught me a line that unhinged my world and opened life up to me. He wrote on the board “this sentence is false.” There was a class with Bishop in which I read, among other books, Alice in Wonderland and Steven King’s Carrie. There was a lit class that satisfied the American Culture requirement where I read literature written by minority authors. I can’t remember what the 4th class was.

That first autumn in Berkeley I didn’t really know the city where I lived. I didn’t really care. I lived from one home visit to the next, ditching my Thursday classes if I could find ticket leaving on Thursday afternoon for cheap. That autumn Tram got married and Chau broke free of her long term relationship with her controlling ex. That Autumn An went to Boston and my ex moved on to the next girlfriend while I went on a blinddate with someone Insoon hooked me up. That autumn I ate Potato Bread with Safeway raspberries jam.

And everyday, from the paths leading to the back entrance of Main Stacks, I saw the blue Bay, glittering under the Golden Gate.

Not that any of these things meant much to me. At the time.



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October 2009
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